My only exposure to an Indian has been Uma Maheshwari, my cousin's Indian wife. We first heard of Uma when the breaking news that Irfan was marrying a Hindu girl in the USA reached us.
My cousin Irfan had gone to the Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio, to do his PhD in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. That is where he met Uma, who was doing her Ph.D in Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the same University. They immediately connected. Both have a strong spiritual inclination, were soul-mates to boot, and their intellects matched as well.
It was I who helped my aunt to choose the wedding ring in Islamabad. Uma to this day expresses her gratitude for this small act of kindness on my part.
Their wedding in the USA was attended by a large number of cousins, aunts and uncles. Then finally came the day when Uma arrived in Pakistan as a bride. I was one of the first relatives she met here. Uma still reminisces that I was the first person in the family to host a lunch in her honour, to introduce her to family members in Islamabad. I also happen to have the honour of being one of the few people in the family to whom Uma opens her heart, and vice versa.
Over a decade has passed since she joined our family... and she has never looked back.
The proverb Aasmaan say giray, khajoor may atkay applies to her initial predicament. She landed from a place like the USA right in to NWFP (as it was then called), to a conservative city like Peshawar where the chaddar was compulsory and women were not to be seen without the veil and burqa. This, in comparison to her various globe-trotting stints with her father who used to work for the United Nations, appeared to be a recipe for disaster!
Not only did Uma make colossal sacrifices -- she gave up her family, religion, country and nationality -- but she blended in beautifully with her new family. She took great care of my uncle and aunt, was the ideal daughter-in-law and sister-in-law; she has brought up her two beautiful children Hanaa Maha and Abyan Khabir according to strict Muslim norms and culture. She eventually proved her mettle when she was employed as Head of Department of Research at the Khyber Medical University, Peshawar by her mentor, patron and Vice Chancellor, Dr. Daud Khan.
From a South Indian girl from Chennai to a Ph.D from the United States to a Muslim wife, mother and daughter-in-law in Pakistan -- Uma made a flawless transition, one which our entire family has appreciated with gratitude. She is now in an even more conservative part of the world, Saudi Arabia, where my cousin is a professor at the Al.Qassim University.
Over the years I have grown very close to Uma. My own mother, who belongs to Bangladesh and had to give up her family, country and nationality due to the tragic circumstances of 1971, appreciates Uma and acknowledges her sacrifices. Both women bond together, perhaps due to a similar sadness in both their lives.
Uma visits her family in Chennai once every two years, going through all the red tape and bureaucracy that exists between the two countries. It is unfortunate that the passage to India from Pakistan even to visit blood relatives is not easy to say the least. Her mother passed away in January this year and she was not able to attend her funeral (even an emergency visa takes about a week). It was June before Uma could go home to mourn her mother's death with her father, brother and sisters.
Never has Uma come across as an alien who did not belong in this country and culture. She has opened her home and hearth to family and friends and always welcomed us with open arms. In fact whenever I felt I needed to be spoilt, I would visit Peshawar and stay with Uma and Irfan.
"I am so glad that Aman Ki Asha has created this regional and global awareness through its articles and has initiated a positive dialogue between the people of two neighbouring countries that were one before 1947. I remember Irfan telling me that we (he and I) were brought together by fate or Divine Will to build bridges between our two countries," says Uma.
The question of course remains, why do women have to give up everything in order to be accepted by the husband's family? Perhaps a day will come when all human beings are accepted just the way they are, for who they are and not for the traditions, religions or countries they were born into.
NOTE: This article was inspired by
'Iftaar with Puja' published in the Aman ki Asha page in The News, Sep 29,
by Zarminae Ansari.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw