Who Is She?

Never Let Go

She carries you around for months
She brings you into life
She holds you when you need it most
And makes sure you survive

She loves you with no strings attached
She is your first true love
She shivers when the cold sets in
Makes sure your hands are gloved

She keeps leftovers for herself
She feeds the best to you
She sits patiently by your side
When you’re ill with a flu

She is the only ray of hope
She shows you what is right
She pulls you up when you’re in blue
And brings you to the light

She is your friend when you need one
She mentors you through life
She lends her shoulder to lean on
When things don’t turn out right

She works hard for you night and day
She ensures you advance
She sacrifices all her life
To give your life a chance

She meets your infinite demands
She helps you make your mind
She pushes all her hopes aside
And leaves her dreams behind

She safeguards secrets within her
She is the one you trust
She can be tough on you sometimes
Never is she unjust

She’s always close-by even when
She may be miles apart
She’s known as mommy, mom or maa
And lives inside your heart

– Yousuf Bawany, July 2015

NOTE: Being a mother is one of the most demanding jobs yet doesn’t pay a dime; our children should be able to recognize her role in shaping up their lives and learn to respect her. This poem is for my kids so when one day they ask their mother, “What have you done for us?”, this can serve as the perfect answer and also help them understand her true value.

I dedicate this poem to my mother and all the mothers out there. I love you maa!

Parenting for Dummies: The First Trimester

What goes on in the labor room, stays in the labor room. Some progressive hospitals let the dad into the labor room to enjoy (seriously?!) the whole 360-degree birthing experience, but more often than not, the dad and the couple’s close relatives sit in the waiting area, praying for the health of the mother and the baby. Just like in the movies, the father-to-be can clearly be distinguished from the lot as the one pacing the entire length of the dimly-lit corridor, biting his nails (or indulging in some alternate idiosyncrasy), waiting for the nurse to come out with some good news; a scene straight out of a silent movie. It could be hours, even days (God forbid), till you hear from the hospital staff, and when you’ve given up all hope, a nurse sporting blood-splattered scrubs (the source is better left unnamed) bursts out of the labor room screaming, “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” (or a boy). What follows is nothing short of a miracle; the silent ambiance is ruptured with shrieks of joy and cries of “Mubarak Ho, Mubarak Ho!” (meaning Congratulations). From my personal experience and fairly recent induction into daddy-ville, a possible sequence of events that follow include:

  1. shedding a tear (or two) of relief, or even a full-blown outburst (believe me; no one will judge you)
  2. seeing the baby for the first time
  3. shedding a tear (or two) of joy – again; no judging
  4. checking on the mother’s health
  5. sharing sweets with everyone
  6. seeing the baby again
  7. your mother and your mother-in-law arguing over who she resembles
  8. saying the Azan (Muslim call for prayers) in the infant’s ear
  9. seeing the baby some more (you just can’t seem to get enough of her)
  10. having some more sweets (Pakistanis will be Pakistanis)
  11. shortlisting baby names (if you haven’t decided on one yet)
  12. meeting your wife together with the baby and crying some more
  13. giving the baby something sweet to taste (honey, in most cases)

And then the baby comes home, bringing with it, two invisible companions (who are very real in every other sense) named “Sleepless Nights” and “Ceaseless Crying”. You have no choice but to welcome them into your humble abode; no compromises. Waking up at hours unheard of somehow becomes routine. People at work mock/pity you as you walk into your office with bulging red eyes. You seem to be running to the doctor every time the baby sneezes. You used to think your wife was high-maintenance; well guess again! The formula milk and the diapers, the cleaning wipes and the bouncers, the bottles and the sterilizers, the rattles and the swings, and loads of other things-that-shall-not-be-named, don’t come cheap; and don’t even get me started on the filthy expensive vaccinations. But wait; there’s another intruder that creeps into your life and needs no invitation; “Postpartum Depression”. Your wife’s mood swings, an essential part of her hormonal imbalances, may drive you to the edge and back; tears of joy might turn into a crying frenzy on how she would be a terrible mother. In her defense, after what she’s gone through, she deserves a breakdown or two (hmm… make that a hundred). As a loving husband, you must hold her hand through all the highs and lows, and make sure she knows that you are there to support her no matter what.

The last paragraph should pretty-much sum up your life for the first three months after the baby’s birth. But as soon as the baby crosses over into her fourth month, most lucky parents (myself included) see a visible change in their lifestyles. The baby becomes more responsive, starts cooing, even ga-ga-ing at times, might even recognize you, bestow you with a smile or two, and seems to settle down into a sleeping pattern. Sleeping for four (maybe even six) hours isn’t just a dream anymore. Life somehow seems much more settled. There are a few outbursts, a tummy-ache here, a little gas there, but all-in-all, you feel blessed after having gone through what you have in the early days.

My daughter is a little over five months old now and she keeps getting more adorable every second. I can barely restrain myself from taking a bite off of her cheek. There’s so much she has to offer, be it a sincere smile, or a gentle caress, but more than anything, she has drastically changed my perceptions on learning; it’s NOT a one-way street as perceived by most new parents. Read my other post entitled What my five-month old taught me for further details.

NOTE: Being a father, I’m writing this article from a dad’s perspective and from my own personal experience. Even though it has a lot of religious and cultural influences, you may be able to relate to most of my experiences.

Battery-operated Ears

With the recent advancements in bio and nanotechnology, we can now safely assume that we will have at least some easily replaceable body parts in the future, if required. Prestigious institutions put in billions of dollars in this research just to make life easier for people in need of such prosthetic organs. But this article’s not about that; I put the enticing title to this entry to hook you in so that you’ll end up reading it (and hopefully get a few laughs). So do I have your attention now?

Women tend to fall sick a lot, so I had to take my wife to the doctor (yet again). My mom was really worried about my wife’s health so she tagged along. Funny how I find the finest insights into life at the doctors’ – this visit was no exception. This particular doctor (let’s call him Dr. Abe) has a clinic in a relatively posh Karachi locality and runs a very successful practice providing care to the rich as well as the poor. He is one of those kind souls who unselfishly hands out his cell-phone number to his patients so that they can get him when they need him; surely one of the few doctors who does justice to his Hippocratic Oath.

Dr. Abe is a highly intelligent guy with a keen sense of diagnosis, which makes him really good at his job. The only downside of visiting him is the condition of his clinic; it is in such bad shape that a makeshift clinic in the middle of the Congo jungle would seem like a palace. The walls are a drab shade of brown which, believe it or not, is the tolerable aspect of the clinic. In most places, these walls are stained with dried liquid spills in red, white, green and black (makes you wonder what goes on in there) and the stain-free portions (one can only imagine) are plastered with advertisement material from various pharmaceutical companies. If those walls could talk, they’d scream,  “Oh for the love of God, please get me a new paint-job and wash these filthy stains off of me”. Moreover, these walls are paper thin and as Dr. Abe talks really loudly, so everyone in the waiting area is privy to the doctor’s diagnosis even if the patient inside is talking in hushed tones (if you have a “special” problem, Dr. Abe is NOT your man).

So back to my story! When you stand are about to enter the clinic, you see two doors; one marked “Ladies” and the other marked “Gents”. I peeked inside the ladies door and happened to see a man sitting inside with his wife (or sister or mother – who cares?), so since I had two ladies with me, I squeezed into that section too (and also because the patient-in-question was a female; duh?!). As soon as we entered the clinic, the first thing that hit me was the stench of antiseptic and sickness (if it has any particular odor) that never fails to make me nauseous; the second thing was the wailing and screaming of a child from inside the doctor’s office. Dr. Abe (who, as I mentioned earlier, is quite a loud-mouth) was heard saying, “Beta kuch nahin hoga; tumko pata bhi nahin chalay ga” (meaning: Son, nothing will happen; you won’t even notice it).

After a few moments, a stout short bearded man came out of the doctor’s cabin holding the child-in-question’s hand. The screams had thankfully turned into sobs and a chant that went something like, “Abbu please, main nahin daalnay doon ga isko” (meaning: Please daddy, I will not let him put it inside me). The context was totally lost on me as I had not been privy to the doctor’s full diagnosis (having arrived just moments before the father-child duo came out). The child was not more than five or six, and he seemed to be in a lot of pain. My wife gave me a look that was filled with pity for the child. My mom said, “Bechara kitni takleef main hai. Pata nahin kya howa hai usko?” (meaning: The poor child is in such agony; I wonder what happened to him). The father’s exit was the doctor’s assistant’s cue to enter his office. He came out with a weird looking contraption designed for extraction (something out of a SAW movie – no wonder the kid was so scared) of something or the other and a huge flashlight. The assistant beckoned the dad to follow him into the adjoining exam room, which acted as a push-play on the child’s scream player; and there we were again. The kid went on and on saying, “Abbu please nahin, nahin, please nahin, isko mana karain” (meaning: “Daddy no, no, please, no, no, tell him not to).  I could vividly picture the father trying to console and coax his son into letting the assistant extract whatever he was supposed to extract from wherever (mysteries, mysteries…. ahh).

My mom apparently had heard something I had not (another insight – female hearing is way better than ours), thereby solving part of the mystery and shedding some light on the child’s plight. She said, “Beta, is ne kaan main kuch daal diya hai” (meaning: Son, he has put something in his ear). Although I am not a parent myself, I can very well imagine the pain a parent feels when his offspring is in pain. The child’s unceasing screams ticked Dr. Abe. He was well into his next consultation but he apologized to his other patient, stormed out of his cabin and with a determined look on his face, walked straight into the exam room the child was being held hostage in. Dr. Abe said, “Iska sar pakro, aur aap iskay pair pakrain. Isko hilnay nahin daina.” (meaning: You hold his head, and you hold his feet. Do not let him move); this triggered a series of no’s from the child (something very annoying) and within an ear-shattering scream that would scare the ghosts of Spooksville, this whole episode came to an end. The weird extraction thingy wasn’t as painful as it looked (we could only assume) as the screaming suddenly stopped and the child’s sobs (and countless sighs of relief) were heard by everyone in the clinic.

Now the final piece of the puzzle – what was in the child’s ear? Again, Dr. Abe and his loud-mouth came to the rescue. In fluent memoni (a language spoken by some Pakistanis who migrated from India), he said, “Kan main sanni wari battery wiji gini howi gharyal ji” (meaning: He had put a small wrist-watch battery in his ear). With that and a prescription for the residual pain, he handed it to the child’s father and said, “Yeh battery to kharaab ho gai hai; ek nai la kar de dijiye to main kaan main daal doon ga. Phir iska kaan sahi kaam karay ga” (meaning: This battery is drained; go get a new one and I’ll put it in his ear so that his ear can function properly); and everyone burst out laughing.

Moral of the story: No matter how much pain and suffering you have around you, there’s always time to share some laughs.