Pakistanis are an annoying race. We think so deeply about what other people think of us, and we’re quick to jump to conclusions about everyone.
Pakistanis love dissing white people. My uncle (who studied abroad in England and travelled the whole world) would sit there, in his little town in Pakistan under the recycled humid air the ceiling fan is whisking around the room, and talk shit about white people.
”These people have no sense of family or family values! We take care of each other and our parents and our families at least.”
I’d imagine he filled my dad’s impressionable ear with this nonsense before my dad left for Ireland back in 199whatever.
The very first white neighbours my parents had didn’t drink and smoke and had this thing going where they minded kids around the area for free. My parents bonded with them very quickly. I soon became a regular child-to-be-minded with this lady and her husband. We left the town after my third birthday, and that was that.
Now, the lady is now minding her husband’s 100 year old mother.
On our way out of the area, we spotted the 100 year old lady opening her 1996 registered Suzuki. We knew her back when we lived there, so we went up to her to say hi.
”I’m not really supposed to remember things anymore,” she mumbled as she hugged us in succession. ”But I’m glad to see your faces again. Come inside, let me show you something,” she turned around, left her car door wide open and hobbled back inside. At this stage, it was clear she was off her rocker, but we played along.
She took us into a room facing the back garden, just off the kitchen. It was cluttered. The wall surrounding a fireplace was PACKED and I mean PACKED with cards to congratulate her on 100 years of life.
She pulled out two printed sheets of A4 with a poem on each. Her own poems. She handed one to my sister and I and asked us to read it.
They’re pretty solid for a hard of hearing 100 year old woman. Pretty insightful, she wrote about the struggle of being 100.
”When will I get to die?” she asks us.
”God forbid, it’s just not your time yet! You need to make it to 101!” I say back to her. ”What’s the secret, so?”
She smiles like a child with something to hide.
”You know how the doctors always tell you not to have sugar? I have three spoons with my tea, that’s two cups in the morning, and four with my bowl of porridge. That’s 10 spoons before noon!”
She was such a delight. In her eyes, she had guests and she had to entertain. She brought us to see her cat, showed us where he slept.
And let us go.
Our lives are the same. White or brown. We have the same values of love and family. It’s somewhat inherent.
And now we roll back twelve years.
It’s the third of July, 2005. I wake up on a mattress on the floor of our new house in Dublin, in what was to be my room for eight years. I’m eight years old and that was an uncomfortable sleep also due to the fact our window did not have curtains.
My father strolls in, the gentle footsteps wake me up. I don’t get up. He comes to me and tells me in his controlled, damage control voice that my cousin who was something of an older sister to me has just lost her father.
At eight, death was still a pretty foreign concept. This would start what I call the series of unfortunate deaths in my mother’s family. It was the closest to the grim reaper I have ever been, there at eight years old.
I really don’t remember my uncle. He was my khalu, or mother’s sister’s husband. I just remember him to be a very kind man. He was a gentle giant, loving without being soft. A true gent. Hilarious too, even for us English speaking goray kids.
But he was a father to my cousin, the older sister I never had. And for that, it stung, at eight years old.
It stings even more now.
It’s been 12 years since we moved to Dublin. All of the love from the country made us who we are now. But it’s also been 12 years since we lost a great man.
Life, living and death. We live it the same, in the East or West. It’s all the same.