Life as We Know It

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| This is the 183rd story of Our Life Logs |


My mother used to say that struggle is a person’s middle name. People are always struggling, if not physically then for sure mentally. I never took her seriously until I became an adult and experienced it for myself.

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I was born in Bahawalnagar, a small village near Bahawalpur city in Punjab, Pakistan in 1977. My grandfather had left my father a small house in the village and we lived there happily. My father was a truck driver and my mother was a housewife, ordinary and completely illiterate but a very wise woman.

I never liked going to school (what kid truly does?), but I didn’t just dislike it, I despised it. Since I was the only child, my parents always surrendered to my contemptible and silly demands to make me happy. So, at age 12, when I told them I wanted to quit school, they agreed. I was not aware of how important education was for me then, and I wish my parents weren’t so blinded by their love to agree with most of what I asked for.

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During my teenage years, many girls of my age were forced to get married with or without their consent, but my father refused that idea because he wanted me to be more mature and mentally prepared for such an important phase of my life.

When I turned 20, my father felt it was now time to find me a husband. He asked for my consent to begin the search. I still did not want to get married, but I saw the wrinkles growing deeper in his face and the weakness he had begun to develop, so I agreed—so I could ease his burden. I trusted my father, and I knew he would pick a man with impeccable morals. He considered four or five proposals before finally coming across the perfect man for me.

Sitar Buksh was a 24-year-old, highly educated barber who worked in the city and was the most admirable bachelor in our village. My father approached his parents and presented the marriage proposal. They accepted. We got engaged a month later and six months after that, I became a married woman—a happily married woman.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.

I left the village and moved with Sitar to Sialkot, the city where he worked. Even though it was an arranged marriage and we didn’t know much about each other, it felt like I had known him for ages. He loved me, and I loved him.

We lived in bliss for the next few years, created a wonderful life together in the city and had a daughter in 2000. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

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That was until my father died in a car accident in 2001. My mother and I were ravaged and despondent. I brought my mother to live with us in the city, so that she wouldn’t have to grieve alone. I felt like a big hole had been ripped in my soul. The loss of my father broke me out of the blissful bubble I had created with Sitar. However, in my mourning, I decided that my father wouldn’t want me to be unhappy, so I accepted that life had to move on and made peace with his death.

Two years later, just as I was moving on from my father’s tragic death, my mother unexpectedly went into a cardiac arrest and passed away, not long after our second daughter was born. Her death was a heavy blow on top of my father’s passing. It left me even more heavily broken and grief-stricken. Sitar really stepped up the plate in this rough time and helped me cope with the losses. Without him, I probably would have been broken beyond repair.

I had not completely recovered from my loss yet when Sitar’s father too passed away, though naturally. Sitar never shared a very strong bond with his parents as he was sent to boarding school as a kid, but he was still shocked and saddened by his father’s death.

Life certainly didn’t want to give us a chance to breathe, but still, we felt blessed to at least have each other’s love and support during these difficult times. After the funeral, Sitar’s mother came to the city to stay with us. We all lived in harmony and eventually began to heal from all the losses we had endured.

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In 2010, we welcomed our third daughter into our family. Once again, Sitar fell into fatherhood with great ease. He wanted our daughters to conquer the world and dreamed of them growing up to become doctors. Little did he know, he would not be present in this world to witness their successes.

It was a chilly December morning on a Saturday in 2016 when my world fell apart. The fog hung thick in the air, nearly impossible to see through. Sitar had gotten up early that morning and left at 6:30, because he wanted to get to the parlor to get a head start on a few things.

I got a call from Sitar’s phone around 7:45 a.m., but was surprised to hear that the voice on the other end wasn’t Sitar. The person told me that Sitar had been in an accident and was taken to the hospital. He had crashed into a truck and might not be able to make it.

My heart stopped beating for a minute and for a few good seconds, I fell unconscious. My mother-in-law who had just gotten up was petrified and rushed to wake me up. After regaining my senses, I remembered why I had fainted, screamed at the top of my lungs and told my mother-in-law about what had happened. Before she could react, I ran out the door, grabbed the first rickshaw (a wheeled vehicle used like a taxi) I could get and headed towards the hospital.

I was stricken when the receptionist told me that my husband had died on impact and his body was in the morgue. I didn’t want to believe her. I wanted to stab myself in the chest and end my life. When I finally calmed down, they took me to the morgue so I could see his body. He was laid in the most peaceful way; calm, but covered in wounds.

They didn’t know who was at fault in the accident because the thickness of the fog could have affected both sides. But it didn’t matter who caused it; Sitar was gone either way. He took a part of me with him that I would never get back. Devastated is such a small word to what I was, and am, without him. I miss him and our togetherness, which was, oh, so short.

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Image courtesy of Pexels.

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Without Sitar’s income, we struggled. I had been a housewife and never worked. We didn’t have a house of our own, no money for the bills, no money for the school fees and everything else. My mother-in-law was getting old and fragile, and she needed medication that I could not afford. Life got so heavy and impossible that there were days when we had to fill our stomachs with just water. It killed me to watch my daughters go to sleep hungry. I sold most of our valuables to bring food to our table, and that lasted us for a while. But school fees for my daughters were out of the question, so they had to drop out.

After months of crying and utter despair, I realized that I needed to be strong and make money for us to keep living. Problem was, I was not capable of doing anything. I didn’t have enough education to find a job—how silly I was to have quit school at such an early age. What should I do?

I decided the only solution was to figure out how to run a small business on my own. Sure, I had no experience, but with a determination to provide for my family, I started learning. I decided to be a sabzi wali (woman who sells vegetables). One of Sitar’s friends helped me set up the small low-scale business with the little savings we had, and luckily, it took off. Day in and day out.

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Some of the vegetables I sell.

Since it began, I’ve been able to make a livable profit. It’s a tiring business and requires me to wake up very early to go to Mandi to buy the fresh vegetables for a cheaper price so I can sell them for more, but it is giving me enough money to keep my daughters and my mother-in-low fed, which makes all the hard work worth it.

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My motivation and strength is my three daughters for whom I can go to any length and can cross any barrier. They make me feel alive every single day. I wake up to their faces. With them being around life seems easier and worth living. My aim in life is to give them all that Sitar wanted to give them. I know that I will get there. They will get the proper education I did not get. I have experienced a lot of losses in my life, but I believe I’ve grown stronger from it, and now I just hope to make the ones that I love—both alive and dead—proud.

 

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 This is the story of Roshan Sitar

Born in Pakistan in the 1970s, Roshan didn’t like studying when she was a little girl and stopped going to school when we she was only 12, which later made it hard for her to find a job to provide for her family after the death of her parents, her father-in-law, and her husband. To survive and create a better life for her three daughters and her mother-in-law, she started a small business selling vegetables eventually. She thinks she is progressing with every passing day and dreams highly for her children. She wants them to get the education she did not get. Roshan sometimes travel to different cities in order to buy and loom for cheaper vegetables and perhaps, sometimes, to seek a better job, too. Roshan wears a burkha, an enveloping outer garment as a religious symbol for Muslim ladies there. She and her family are still working to recover from the loss of her husband, Sitar, but are comforted in knowing he is with them in spirit.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on October 13, 2018.

| Writers: Noor Pasha, Kristen Petronio| Editor: MJ|

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