When my mother heard the news of Farzana’s brutal killing, she didn’t shake her head or cluck her tongue (two of her usual ways of reacting to sensational news). She took on a stoney silence and went about her work without making eye contact or speaking to anyone for the rest of the day. My father tried to distract her with his bad jokes, but when he couldn’t even get her glance, he began to look worried and left the house on some invented errand. I endured her silence alone, feeling more alone than ever in a house that is always vibrating with energy, even at all hours.
I could overhear their muffled voices late that night from the kitchen, my mothers sanctuary. I crept to see what was happening and I saw my mother standing by the window with her head down, muttering softly. She was making du’a, her soft voice carrying a list of names: Farzana Iqbal, Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar, Khalil Ahmad, Salmaan Taseer, and countless other names I couldn’t recognise.My father sitting on a chair with his eyes closed, tears streaming down his face in silence.
I haven’t been able to sleep since that night. My father has always been a giant to me, a man whose strength could not be tested. Yet what I saw in that kitchen was a man who appeared on the verge of defeat, my mother praying off in the distance as if making du’a for her own husband’s funeral. More than that. For her entire family. But it was even more than that. My mother was not praying for her husband, or her family, she was praying for her country.
It was shocking. My parents have always been patriots of the highest degree. Growing up, my father loved to quote Iqbal any time he had a lesson to impart. My parents defended their country, right or wrong, and always believed that even during the darkness of Zia, that light was breaking through the cracks. They watched their friends leave for the UK or America, and they shook their heads and said, “just wait, they will come running home soon enough.”
Since that night, though, our house has lacked that sense of hope. My parents are quiet and slow, they seem to have aged decades over just a few short days. My father’s face is worried and stern, my mother appears in mourning. Each morning I look through the news papers for some story that I can use to reignite my parent’s natural optimism, but each day I am greeted instead with new horrors. Police chopping up bodies. Sectarian killers opening fire on innocents. And almost every day another bomb.
And yet life goes on. We close our eyes and ears. We hold onto hope, even if it is a hope that only exists in our imaginations. Like a man ignoring the cancer that is eating away at his body, we tell ourselves that we’re fine, we’re not dead yet. But unless we are willing to face the reality and take the harsh treatment needed to remove the cancer, our fate will be unavoidable. And my mother will continue to make du’a for her dying country.