Friday, May 24



It feels fantastic to experience an approach of kindness and love, once in a while. For a human heart is made that way I guess; it appreciates the beauty of genuine care within.

“Assalam U Alaikum, Mama.”

Here in Quetta, I’ve gotten used to a couple of things that seemed funny just a year ago… as I should.

‘Mama’ is a term of endearment or respect the natives here use for an older man. Balochi/Brahvi language and Pashto feel so familiar now, even more than Pahari (the language spoken in Azad Kashmir); these have been rooted within me for years, though I only know a few words in them that I come across often or phrases their traditional songs have gotten me used to.

No one’s proud of me for that more than my parents since they believe I’m doing a great job adjusting here.

“Waaaalaikum Assalam, Baba! Khush ho?”

While ‘Baba’ is an endearment I’ve heard only coming from ‘Nashtay walay Mama’ in my hostel. He uses it so often, for everything and everyone almost.

“Allah Ka Shukar. Mama aj Nashta apkay saath karungi.”

Oftentimes, when a series on Netflix feels more intriguing to watch while having a fried egg with dangerously desi layered paratha, oozing with ghee and a cup of tea, I’d kill the desire by leaving my phone on my bed before making my way towards the not-so-functional mess of our hostel to have breakfast.

All just so I can have a friendly chat with our “Nashta Banay walay” Mama.

Mama is one of those kind-hearted souls, the ones you often worry about. They are a blessing, and they are wonderful, yet they are rarely aware of their own fragility or needs. Those that learned their role was to give to others and be generous at all times. He is one of them.

I’d often catch him struggling to read the newspaper for any signs of Quranic verses before he places his parathas on it.

Sometimes, he’d come across an illustration or photo of a silhouette of a woman being beaten or a child being abused, and he’ll ask me to read the article and let him know what it says. “Astaghfirullah. Allah sab ko apnay hifz-o-amaan main rakhay.”

I remember last year, just a few days after I had come to this hostel, I found him tearing off a piece of newspaper that had a picture of Quaid-e-Azam (R.A) and Liaquat Ali Khan, carefully making sure their photo wouldn’t get torn in the process before he placed his parathas on the other piece of the paper.

The next day, that piece of paper, with Quaid and his companion, was taped on the greased wall of our mess.

It’s really hard to find a patriot here in this corner of the country. No offense.

“Mama, ap chorain sab. Ajayen, pehlay nashta karlein.”

And then, he’d smile and say that he has already had his second cup of Kehwa-chai.

And when he makes ‘doodh-wali’ chai, he’d make sure I have it since I might’ve expressed my love for ‘doodh-wali’ chai a couple of times in front of him. Upon asking him how much would it be for a cup of tea, He’d shake his head.

“Baba, Chai ka khair hai. Main apnay liay bhi banata hun, Jo Baji ata hai, usko bhi pila deta hun. Chai ka kia hai…”

And then, there are times when it gets pretty ‘hectic’ for girls to climb down the stairs to get their breakfast so they’d just call him to bring it to their rooms instead.

This is quite infuriating for me since these doctors, they’re constantly on foot for six to eight hours straight during their hospital duty.

But no, coming to the mess just downstairs appears to be more ‘hectic’; why not ask an older man who can barely carry the weight of his shoulders to climb upstairs?

And the worst part is, Mama wouldn’t say ‘no’. I’ve fought with him over this a couple of times, and asked him to charge them extra money for delivering it to their rooms.

But he says it’s his job. He thinks it is when it’s not.

“Khair hai, Baba. In Bajion ne sara din waisey bhi haspatal main kharay rehna hai.”

Last two weeks, Mama and I’ve been having breakfast together daily; with small conversations on either national affairs or just the weather.

I fell sick two days ago, only to get up to a cup of chai and a paratha placed near my bed. My friend explained Mama sent it for me since he said he noticed I hadn’t been showing up for breakfast for two days.

See? People like him, they feel good when they give and so they keep on giving. Not knowing that the others are just getting used to their kindness instead of being grateful.

Yet even an ocean needs rain and rivers to give back to it, and, as endless as their kindness appears to be, as much as they appear to benefit and be happy from giving, they need managing by those who love them; they need to receive as well as to give.

They need their own kindness reflected back to them. The care they give others must come back to them as care.

Last year when we were about to retire back to our homes for winter vacations, I told him I was going back since the mess closes up for these two months.

No gas connection.

Strange? Yeah, I thought too. Sui gas isn’t being commercially exploited by the only province that is giving it off. Although he still thinks just because I’m from Kashmir I live there too.

“Is baar yahan bhot baraf pari thi.” He had said.

“Mama, hamaray Kashmir main bhi itni hi parti hai. Bal kay wahan ki to bardasht hojati hai. Yahan to khushk sardi parti hai.”

Offended, he turned to me, with a straight face and said.

“Baba, wo Kashmir hamara bhi to hai.”

His words were so welcoming, I almost forgot what it felt like to be anywhere far from home.



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