I keep remembering the funny things my parents used to say and do.
Here are some of my favorites:
"Aboo, how do you stop over population?"
My father is a deep-down socialist since he studied and started working in the 60s.
As a Pakistani diplomat, he served in places like Algeria, Tunis and Afghanistan.
That period was characterised by the optimism of independence from colonial masters
and the hope for self determination, progress and development. He was deeply
concerned with development in the post-colonial context. He firmly believed that
scientific advancement and investment in education, health and infrastructure
was the key. Besides development, he had studied English literature in Government
College Lahore at a graduate level and would love to share his love of English
poetry, drama and novels. And lastly, he had a fascination for physics and chemistry,
too. Being a deeply spiritual person and one of the Ahamdi faith, he was
interested in complementing his religious beliefs with science. I guess he really
managed to nurture our faith in a supreme rational God through intellectual
means i.e. God has created an infinite and awesome universe and our
advancement of scientific knowledge of this awesome universe is
only proof of God's existence.
What did it entail for my brother and I as ten-year olds? He artfully distilled
Shakespeare's plays into short stories before we went to sleep. One of his
favourites was King Lear. He also told us stories from the Quran. I remember him try
to explain "fuzzy logic" to us. But one of my absolute favourites is him explaining the
problems of Third World countries and what should be done about it.
He sat us down and went through the chronic issues such as over population,
de-forestation, and big military expenditures at the cost of health and education.
I was trying to keep up and interrupted him to ask him how could people
stop over population: "Aboo, but don't children come from God?"
He looked at me quizzically and just started shaking his head,
disappointed that his child was such an idiot! It didn't cross his
mind that he had jumped to population control without even going through
the birds and the bees talk.
"We're getting a guest from Pakistan?"
It's three kids in our family and my brother and I are exactly a year apart.
Our baby sister came about a decade later when we were in
So how did our parents break it to us?
My mother was too embarrassed to tell us directly, so our father
sat us down and gave us the news:
"A guest is coming to stay with us!"
"We're getting a guest from Pakistan? Who? Who?"
My father realised that we would never get it so he actually told us that
we were getting a little brother or sister. We were so happy to hear it!
Our father also got pretty excited and nicknamed the baby "New - It."
The "It" was because we didn't know whether it was a
boy or girl.
My mother was in the next room the whole time, too embarrassed
to tell us she was expecting a baby.
We called my little sister "New-It" until she was born.
"She looks like a monkey!"
So, when our baby sister was finally born, she had a lot of hair on her forehead,
of all places! My brother took a look at her and pronounced that she looked
like a monkey. My father said, "YOU look like a monkey!"
My father loved talking about old movies and one of his favorites is "Bhavani Junction."
It's set in Lahore during the British Raj. Lahore is the city where my father studied and
he's always romanticised it. He loved this movie and especially how beautiful the
leading lady, Ava Gardener, was. I think he even showed us the movie, which we
really did not undersand, and was extolling Ava Gardner's beauty.
My brother quipped: "but she's ugly!" My father immediately said, "YOU're ugly!"
My father took things too personally.
"WHY is she so small?"
After my little baby sister was born, my friends came after school one day to take
a look at her. I was in grade 5. One of them took a look at her and remarked,
"she's small!" My mother picked up the phone to call her doctor and demanded,
"WHY is she so small?"
My parents hired free labour to baby sit their new baby and went to a concert
Michael Jackson came to Bucharest, Romania for a concert in the early 1990s.
It was part of his world tour. This coincided with my little's sister's arrival. We had
been listening to Michael's Jackson new album and going crazy over every song.
It was the only cassette that played in the car and on my player in my room. But
guess who went to his concert? My entire class and my parents. My brother and
I were asked to sit home and baby sit our baby sister.
I have still never forgiven them for this.