Gifts of a Rock-Star Mom: Dec 2015

Mom 2005
Love This Smile (Fall 2005)

We wonder about all our habits,  so much, that we learn and emulate from our parents; it’s tough to put a number on the gifts that we received.

 Sometimes, it’s the way they protect us with unquestioned certainty, sometimes it’s the way they cook a certain dish, or, it’s their voice as they sing or read, and often, it is their view of the world. It’s rarely discernible from one another; often a combination of values, virtues and habits, that make us, who we are.

You have given so much, and with such certainty and conviction, that to untangle this into a handful of things would be nearly impossible.

Some twenty-five days after your passing, I look back at our forty-eight amazing years together, and am filled with gratitude.

Not only am I glad that I met you, I am who I am, because of you.

Day I Left Bangladesh 2 Aug 1985
The Day I left Bangladesh (August 1985)
 

Resolute Conviction of Execution

You took a five or six year old boy, stood him in front of a tall building and told him to be as tall and hold his head always straight; It was confusing and intimidating.

You built 2 institutions in front of my eyes, brick-by-brick. You raised funds, and interviewed teachers, built a curriculum, and made sure that the restrooms of the schools were clean. You once told me, if you want to see how an organization is run, first go visit their restrooms!

Mummy Photo Herman Meiner
My Vibrant Mother: In her high days of building institutions (1992)

When you walked by a classroom, there was pin-drop silence except for the teacher’s monotone. They knew, that the Principal was walking by; there was fear, and respect, commingled with the knowledge that you set a standard of excellence that others wanted to achieve.

Today, my sense of conviction, of getting things done, of “moving the needle”, of “execution” must be something I have learned (inherited) from you.

With My Dad and Sister 1985
Smiling with my Dad and Sis 1985 
 

Joy, Friendship and Loyalty

It was always fun to be around you; always a sense of newness, adventure, food, debate, a sense of crisp modernity; we discussed politics, and new topics. As if the world couldn’t go stale around you.

When you walked into a room, people noticed; they wanted to be with you, seen with you. We claimed a connection to you.

You were always doing things, running things; during the Independence War, you established a school in our home; we learned with carrots, and potatoes; did art  with charcoal and crayons. You turned adversity into something meaningful.

Friendship, Joy and Loyalty

You taught me how to be a good friend; your friends are loyal to you for over 70 years. I remember, once, traveling 5100  miles, over two weeks, to see your best friend. We felt, that these friends of yours, were family.

Mom with best friends
With two best friends, Dr. Najma Rizvi and Hafiza Zaman (1987)

My friends often came to you for romantic advice, they wanted to hear from you; sometimes, they wanted you to speak to their parents, on their behalf. Everyone felt safe, and protected by you.

Sometimes, at 11 pm, you would say, let’s go for ice cream; no social boundaries; pajamas, and cramped cars.

There has always been, ice-cream and smiles in our lives.

Mom With Family 1991
Her family was her source of strength: Mom with her parents and sisters (1991)
 

Food and Wrapping Paper

A friend called recently and reminded me that he had his first home-made pizza and the Burmese dish “Khaok-Swe” at our home in the 1970s. My friends loved our home, because we had free flowing crispy samosas, hot tea and dalpuri ready to go!

You were always making these amazing, eclectic dishes – blending the North-South-Asian-Western influences in a big crock-pot. I love your tangy orange aloor dom with crispy loochi, and that mixed vegetable you made with a white sauce. Ghee flowed easily and so did cardamom and all those “exotic” spices. My college friends would send orders for your amazing Dimer Halwa, whenever I went home for the Summer.

You poured your heart and soul into food.

Your creativity and ability to blend flavors with imagination is what we admired. I see your creativity passed on to Apu (Atiya), when she pours herself into her gourmet. I know for certain, we are both foodies, because we never had a boring dish at home!

Food was a symbol of affection, love and caring. You would not visit anyone without some flower or food!

My parents Engagement Day 1962
With my Dad on the day of their Engagement (Seattle 1962)

Food was always, also served with a flair.

I remember a winter garden-party at our home in Joypahar. As those beautiful people, adorned in chiffon and pearls, emerged from their cars, I remember Kababs being grilled on one side, while the servers in white uniform were carrying out appetizers. Atiya and I, in single digits, sat in our pajamas dangling our feet from the balcony above, as if watching a movie unfold. There were pigeons released to celebrate a birthday, along with live fireworks.

You told me once, that the wrapping on a gift was just important as the gift itself; it signifies the care and thought you put into everything.

Going to Dinner with Queen Elizabeth 1985
Heading out to Dinner with Queen Elizabeth (1984)

Questioning Authority

Ford Foundation scholar from the early 1960s, you questioned norms and pushed boundaries, specially for women’s rights, even before I was born. You left your own home at seventeen, to go abroad and study. In those days, from a conservative, Muslim family, that was rare.

IMG_7208
All That Drive and Ambition! Somewhere in NA (1962)
 You came home from the US, after completing your second Master’s and wanted to change the world. You were in love, and declared it publicly – again, another first in those days.

I have heard stories of bullies and how you pushed them back, in personal and professional life. At least two Presidents of Bangladesh visited your schools and told you that they had heard of stories of your courage and standing up to your conviction.

I remember how you stood hours out in the sun to get an audience with the Holy Cross nuns to get your daughter admitted to the best known girl’s school in Dhaka.

On the fourth day of my father’s passing, you came to me and asked me to remain resolute on heading out to the US for college, even as this adversity faced us.

IMG_6358
Our Last Family Portrait Together (April 14, 1985)
As I talk to my daughters, today, I speak of your dealing with men in an oppressive country; we have learned about persistence from you and how you never took no for an answer.

Smile and the World Smiles With You

As I look through your photos, they are filled with smiles.

Mom in Hawai 1963
Hawaii 1962: Young Scholar on her way back home, full of idealistic dreams and aspirations
 You keep reminding us that life is all about smiles. Even through disasters, and wars, you kept smiling and moving us forward.

Often, people tell me that they like me smile; I know that my ability to smile is a reflection of your ever-present smile,  and acceptance of adversity with courage.

With Her Favorite People Milwaukee 1993
Love That Smile! With my sister Atiya and Brother-in-law Habib(Milwaukee early 1990s)
 I teach my children that, with a big smile, they can also make their dreams come true.

With D&S 2006.JPG
With Daiyaan and Shania (Denver 2006)

Last week, as I am describing you to a friend who never met you, my friend states that you sound more like a “rock-star”; in many ways, you are a rock-star to many.

We rarely realized this;  you’re our mother, care-giver, protector –  first line of defense. Today,  when we hear about thousands of people, whom you influenced in one way or another, mourning you around the world, I realize, I lived in the shadows of a rock-star mom.

Rock-Stars are not just musicians; rock-stars often change the world, for good.

You shared your kindness, warmth, knowledge and goodwill, freely. You provided food, and comfort to many, during the times of war and peace. Individually, you changed the world, for good.

When we met last, I said, Mummy, I am going back now and will see you in three weeks, when I am back for the holidays. You said, very crisply, Not sure if I will see you here or at another place.

Go bring your happiness, smile, joy, food, resolute assuredness to the heavens above. Can’t wait to hear, how you have re-arranged that place to meet your standards!

I will await to see you again, my Rock-Star!

Mummy Well Jan 2014
Last Time we were celebrating at our home (Nov 2013)
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20 thoughts on “Gifts of a Rock-Star Mom: Dec 2015

  1. Very inspiring and invigorating! Your mom truly has an amazing personality that motivated many many people along the way. My mom used to tell stories about your mom and her outstanding contributions to the society.

  2. Thank you Zain for bringing back so many wonderful memories about Aunti. It’s been an honor to know her and we are blessed for her contributions for the betterment of all. May Chachi rest in peace.

  3. An excellent tribute to your Mom, Zain. She was an amazing woman, touching many lives! We were neighbors for more than 25 years and she always met us with a loving smile.

  4. Words simply can’t describe the emotions flooded me with nostalgia while going through this write up. She had a great influence on all of us….what we are today…I still remember I was playing in the last bench with a rubik’s cube during class…when probably I was in six…suddenly I heard her voice ”give it to me’… I was simply tormented…but she didn’t tell me anything and returned it afterwards…only then I knew what a motherly heart and love she had for all of us behind her strict appearance. Hats off to her. May Allah SWT grant her jannah….ex student of Shaheen School

  5. I’m a ex-Shaheen, madam was our principal for a long time. At the time I spent in the school, in our children world she was like an Iron lady…….littler did we could realize then that she was managing and building a school which was in deep trouble at that time. She was so efficient in management and introduced many novel ideas (like letter grading system) that other schools started after 20 years. She was was ahead of time. Eventually she was able to put the school in the right track. Needless to emphasize that she had a soft and kind heart inside which used to appear in appropriate time.

    I wish our country could get a leader like her. Salute to her, proud to be her student.

  6. Your Mother sounds like a Rock Star to me! No quotes needed, a real shining gem of a human being! I have so many thoughts about your personal recounting of this experience that I hope someday to read a further fleshed out book that I am sure you could write.

    Yes, Smile and the world smiles with you!

    Peace to you and your family and thank you for sharing your Mom via this post!

  7. Last time Kakon and I met Chachi was in summer of this year. Although, she was bed ridden, she still had her sense of humour and made her usual jokes as she would always make otherwise, whenever I would meet with her. Chachi was like a mother to me and will always be missed. I know she is now in a better place in peace. Take care.

  8. A Rockstar indeed!

    I still remember vividly how she came to Shaheen School, when I was in class 4, and turned things around. She was an exceptional Principal, strict on the outside, but soft with her motherly love on the inside. Madam probably was my only mentor in leadership, as that was a rare quality to be conveyed in Bangladesh. I also remember her taste of music. She used to play both Eastern and Western instrumentals during our tiffin time(recess), on the school’s PA system. Her favorite was Ananda Shankar. I made a point to visit her at Hermann Gmeiner School across town one day, after my classes at Notre Dame College. I left Dhaka for the U.S. Back in 1991.

    Let it be known, that Madam is in the prayers and thoughts of all her students, now all across the globe. Thanks for sharing this wonderful lady with us.

    SALUTE!!!

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