Note: This was originally written for Dawn’s blog:
When I was little, I began noticing the difference between my Pakistani Punjabi mommy and the quintessential white American mother. Kyle’s mom was cool according to elementary-school standards: She’d sport her shades, stand by the SUV and wait for Kyle to leave the playground without showing much eagerness to see the kid. My mommy? Well, she was a different case. She would meet me after school as though I just returned from a warzone. She would be waiting by the glass door with a second serving of lunch for me in a bright shalwar kameez. By the time everyone asked me, “Hey, is that your mom?” I changed my ethnicity from Pakistani to Mexican to Eskimo.
Years flew by and I morphed into a haphazard mixture of contrasting cultures. I looked brown, I thought white. To me, the ebullience, warmth and instant bonding in the Punjabi culture was overwhelming. I found a certain comfort in the aloof environment of domestic white life. Mom, however, wouldn’t approve of such an approach. That was when I began feeling the strength and beauty that Pakistani mothers have. Today I am proud to tell everyone that not only am I a product of American values but I also follow and cherish the traditions of my forefathers. But that’s not the focal point of my post. Today we’ll be skimming through a few of the many habits our mothers display.
And we love them for it.
If you ever want to know how fast your mother can run, simply say, “Ammi, salan jal raha hai” and presto! Pakistani mothers win my admiration for the skillfulness they display during house chores. I almost thought there was a secret Olympic game for our moms where they race each other to the kitchen to save karahi gosht.
Polyglot Mommy and Her Colorful Scolding:
In our house, we sisters had understood the pattern of our mother’s anger. When we grew up, we realized that it is pretty much the same in other Pakistani households. The difference, however, may remain between the numbers of languages chosen. You must be confused by now. It’s simple. A Pakistani mother usually has escalating levels of anger and the intensity can be understood by the language she uses to snub you with. We understood that English was our mother’s colonial manner of teaching us a good lesson or two. By the time she reached Urdu, we knew her anger had increased to a higher level which meant that we were in semi-serious trouble. But when she chose Punjabi, we knew that hell had been unleashed on Earth.
(It could vary for every Pakistani though. Sindhi, Pakhto and Baloch mothers follow the same method.)
Hyperboles are accepted and practiced in our culture to hilarious extents. Deep down inside, every Pakistani child knows that once those golden words are uttered, he or she is effectively immune to all sorts of punishments, ear-pulling, duties and, most importantly, school. Those golden words are: “Mumma jee, mai beemaar houn.” As soon as a Pakistani mother hears that, her tough-love mechanism falls down to zero and her unconditional protection system wakes up. In addition to her unquestionable love and concern, there’s something else that is evoked as well: Exaggerating the ‘beemari’ to dangerous extents only because she loves her little one so. But by the time we were above 10, our smart mother no longer acknowledged our golden words and we were sent to school briskly.
Pakistani mothers know that Pakistani children have supernatural amounts of energy and zest for life. That’s adorable until it’s 2 ‘o clock in the morning and their story doesn’t help the kids drift off into slumber-land. What do they do? They chop up the fairy tale to one-third of it, spice it up with suspense and add the legendary warning: “Jinn baba agaya, aankhain band karo!” It works for the first six times but then we know what’s going on and thus, a cynic is born.
Jokes aside, Pakistani mothers are tremendously optimistic, beautiful and resilient women. Regardless of their ethnicity, education or creed, they remain a cogent constituent of our society because they bring us up in a country like Pakistan. I will always respect the mothers who choose to protect their children from the economic woes and political lunacy of this country. To raise a daughter in a patriarch’s heaven is indeed a painful task but our mothers do it efficiently. Many of them place their children as top priority whilst neglecting themselves. I dedicate this post and the laughter generated by it, to every Pakistani mother or mommy-to-be (you know you’re going to do the same things ammi did) and to their prosperity. Surprise-hug them today!