Call Me:

We met in Lahore by accident. I was a strapping  young  officer and she a petite medical student and we fell head over heels in love with each other. Soon after our engagement, the war of ’71 broke out and I had to leave for East Pakistan. Both of us knew what this might mean and we were overcome with darkness and fear. Not long after, I was captured and became a prisoner of war. We had no means to communicate and the only things I was left with were a photograph and the ring she’d given me on the day we were engaged. I can tell you, these two objects became my most priceless possessions in the Indian Prisoner of War camps and to keep them safe I risked everything. But that is another story. Finally the Indians did come around to realizing  their importance in my life, and against camp rules I was allowed to keep them. Her first letter reached me after nearly a year, courtesy ICRC, and I read it hundreds  of times over including the post office markings and the address. I didn’t care about the prying eyes of the military censor departments  reading it as just another letter to a PoW. One would have to be irreversibly committed to really sense the meaning and impact of each word in that letter. On repatriation we were married. That was forty years ago.

She is a complete “oriental” woman in every sense of the word. Deeply attached and possessive, very sensitive, dependent and trusting  to a fault and  adorably vulnerable ; a being one would always like to have by one’s side and would give anything to protect. She has been like a masterpiece of Sadiqain held tightly with both hands for fear of dropping it. To care for her and our children has been such a delight; to be with her and have waited for her, has been a pleasure worth the universe many times over. Years went by, we aged and our two children grew up into wonderful adults. In them, I always searched for reflections of their mother’s great qualities, her outstanding  appearance  and most of all, her grace. I have continued to marvel at her immense sense of duty and ready humanity , and her instinctive sense of the other’s moral worth. One score on which she switches  off her radars is religion and those who peddle it. Many a times I have seen her literally whispering  into God’s ears, with tears running down her cheeks particularly after our daughter’s marriage broke up. Many times I would overhear the intimate way she would beseech Him. I have never seen devotion so  pure, so innocent and complete.

She has been showing continuous signs of fatigue and deep hurt after the utterly undeserved break up of our daughter’s marriage. I have often seen her praying in the dead of night with her exquisite forehead on the prayer mat for hours, and I have never dared to console her for fear of disturbing her communion -in- solitude. I know she is slowly dissolving with grief over the plight of our child and grandson. It is a slide that I am so powerless to prevent but I will go wherever she is going, all the way.

We were in Murree after a particularly heavy snowfall when she slipped over frozen ice playing with our grandson. I saw her land on her right knee and though she got up quite quickly, the knee was hurt  and probably a vital tendon ruptured. What was then unknown to me, was that it also delivered a nasty jerk to her backbone. It has been many years now that both her knee and back hurt badly preventing her from bending forward or negotiate a step more than  a few  inches high. Her determination is absolutely magnificent despite the sudden attacks of excruciating pain. We have collected all known physiotherapy gadgets from around the world, potions and balms of every description for her. Most reluctantly, she agrees to let me do the laundry, to wash her feet as she cannot bend, and to bandage her knee as her backache prevents that too. Her health appears to be visibly eroding and she suffers it all in silence. I know that above all, it is the thought of our grandson growing up without his father and the unyielding sorrow of our daughter’s loneliness which consume her mercilessly. She is becoming more and more vulnerable and we travel towards the twilight of our life. I find it utterly unimaginable to be gone leaving her alone or be left without her. Quietly, as she prays in her solitude, I pray in mine; that when it is time to go we go together.

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