An ode to Pakistani mommies

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.

Curry Olympics:

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.)

A Pakistani Mother’s Point Faible:

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.

Excellent Storytellers:

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!


66 thoughts on “An ode to Pakistani mommies

  1. i want my mommy with me now :(

    wonderful post. times are changing, so is the role of a mother in 21st century but all said and done, a mother-child relationship singularly remains the most amazing relationship a person can ever have.

  2. Good one.
    And btw, looking at your blogging track record for the past few months, i’d say you’ve broken some record of yours with two posts in two days!

  3. Mehreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen! This is exceptional :) With just the right amount of substance, respect and humor. Your mother must be proud of you. While reading this I planned to name my daughter after your name. Hehe :$ =p

    1. Oh my. I’ve heard this the third time now. Mehreen’s a boring name, don’t you think? Maybe one day I’ll read stories to children including yours. Now that is something possible and highly preferable.

      You’re a cutie.

      1. Nah it isn’t. Een’s suffix adds beauty to a name, methinks. Maheen, Mehreen, Sameen. Beautiful names these are.
        Yeah, even bed-times stories’ character should be taken over by CyberPrincess, Nagging fans and in irrelevant cases; the idiotbox chanters may be. =P

        Offtrack I am, sorry and thank you =P

  4. Who’d better know the importance of mum than somebody who is living abroad without his mum. Missing my mom after reading this post :( At the beginning, i thot u wont hav fully kept up the respect aspect as it is difficult to do so concurrently wit humour. Inspired though, u’ve kept it up while giving with some gud laughs. Thumbs up!

  5. Mehreen, that was an excellent post. I couldnt stop laughing when I read the Olympics part.

    Amazing writer you are!

  6. well done meenu! very well worded! hilarious yet very realistic also. great observation, we want more of it. all powers to you marinu! :)

  7. Awww awww awww. Ok I must stop aww-ing now.
    Yes, it is admirable how mums give up everything to bring us up.
    I don’t think we value them enough.

    Am I allowed to think the yellow fish on the blanket are adorable? ^_^

  8. hahahha, if i fight with my mommy in English she takes offence. “angrazi na lafz we bolyay tey tarapur uttari mounay marsaan!”. (trans: “you speak one more word of English and I will take off my shoe and hit your face with it”)

  9. I must say very Awesome. I am a Punjabi too and one thing I need to point out here is that Punjabi mothers have good sense of humour too specially when they speak in punjabi.
    Lmao! Yes…And when they are angry and they start speaking in punjabi is also hilarious at times :) But definitely, a sign of trouble! :)

  10. Good post – Mothers have an important role to play – a child’s well-being and shape for the future is made by the mother.

    However – the mother of today is different from yesterday – today’s mothers want best of both world: a work life and a family life. Although this is possible the energy of a mother is split into two interests thus causes problems at different levels.

    Nevertheless an important topic and one which needs to be respected.

  11. salute to pakistani mothers for raising up with these formulae. it worked. we didnt wear pampers. didnt watch toy story, werent beaten by sticks but still were raised wise and neat. mogambo khush hua.

  12. …and now you have made me cry.

    You know even if you choose to not write anything (other than scribbling love messages to Robert Pattinson on bathroom stalls) after this. You Are So Going to Heaven.

  13. hahaha so true, my mum is also Pakistani Punjabi… when she was really miffed she would (still does) use the phrase ‘ bas eh din dekhaun vastey tussi jammey sii?’ (where you born to show me this day?) and when we were younger the scariest one was ‘baaz aaja! ahlendey tere peo nuN!’ (behave! just wait till your dad gets home!)

  14. hmm….wow….what a post.

    Long time…I was looking for something to read a good read and was wondering from blog to blog…and here I am….though the post was lenghty but it kept me tangled…
    Mother…I think is a topic on which we can talk and discuss anytime and as long as we want to…

    Good post !

  15. it’s just so well written and holds complete truth, i believe every Pakistani who has been raised by a Pakistani mommy can easily relate to it.

  16. Mehreen, you’re a wonderful writer, and awesome daughter to be posting this!
    I luurved the Karhai Gosh Olympics.. so truee, & ” Jinn baba aagaya, so jao so jao!” ROFL … :D

    Our Super-Mummies deserve big hug everyday!! Also, u’ve just added a fan to ur cart.

  17. Very well written, and it certainly generated the much needed laughter required in these times of stress & unrest. Thank you.

  18. Mommies at the other end of the border aren’t very different. :)
    Reading your posts, I wandered to a diverse territory…beyond borders words can reach…a hole in the web of time!

  19. I don’t really know what more to add Mehreen. People have said it all. :D
    I love your doodles, finally some doodles I can relate to. And the shouting in Urdu> Punjabi and the jin babas in stories, it’s so true. Heheh. Another great post, funny,respectful and well-balanced.

    p.s. have I told you how glad I am that I stumbled across your blog. Love the way you write.

  20. Love everything about this post! Pakistani mamas as excellent storytellers? Yes! Pakistani mamas as curry olympic runners? Even yesser!
    On a side note: I watched your gawaahi productions/collaborations. Tears! I sent it to my sister and though we are both adults now, we collectively licked our childhood wounds.

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