People Who Shape Our Lives: A Tribute to My Great Grandmother - by Faiza Zameer

Man is a social animal and cannot live a reclusive, secluded, and anti-social life. He has to interact with other humans to fulfill his daily activities and duties. During this daily interaction, he comes across many people, some of whom are familiar and some strangers. They all leave an impression and effect on the mind and character. Many leave a lasting lifelong, positive or negative impact.


I have also come across hundreds of people in my life, starting from my childhood till now, when I am in my professional life. During these different phases that I have gone through, some people have either left an indelible positive or negative impact, influencing my personality, character, and behavior. When the thought of the people who left a negative impression comes to my mind, it brings a bitter taste. But, the opposite is there when I remember the people who influenced me positively and a smile comes on my lips.


Many people judge us not from their personal experience but from hearsay, and naturally, their behavior is biased. My belief is not to act upon hearsay but rather judge a person upon my own interaction with them.


Since our childhood, many leave a mark on our personalities; they include teachers of montessori, school, college, and even university. There have been friends and foes also from these institutions, with some we are able to maintain contact while some got lost in life’s business and then, there are those about whom we don’t even want to think and have that toxic and sour taste in our mouth.


But the strongest influence on the personalities and character of most people is made by their parents. The same is the case with me, but in some cases, it's the grandparents who leave a long-lasting impact on the personalities of their grandchildren.


I will discuss the personality that influenced my mother the most. She comes from a family where relationships, especially close relatives, mean a lot and are given a lot of attention and respect, both paternal and maternal, i.e., grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. She lived in a joint family but a small one, including her parents, siblings, and paternal grandparents. This does not mean that she was not in touch with her maternal family; rather, her mother always tried to balance her maternal and paternal family.


Her maternal family was as influential as her paternal family. However, the person who carved her character in many ways was not so much her mother but was her paternal grandmother - her amma.


She is the eldest child from both sides of her family and received a lot of attention and a lot of pampering.


Let us come back to her amma from whom she learned a lot of useful things, both moral, ethical, and practical. Her amma was her first cooking teacher whose recipes she still uses, maybe with a little bit of change, depending upon time and availability of things. She also learned basic sewing and stitching from her amma, which later on became her hobby, and she used to stitch and embroider her clothes as well as ours. Her amma taught her a lot about Iftari items which is a very important affair during the blessed month of Ramazan.


The moral and ethical lessons which she learned from her amma have left an indelible mark on her personality. I will only mention a couple of them later because I will write more, and they will never end. Her amma never went to any school but was highly learned when it came to religion. She also taught her Urdu, Persian, basic Arithmetic, and English by her learned and educated brothers. Her amma was able to read and write Urdu and a little bit of Persian, and her love for education was so much that after the birth of my mother and her siblings, she forced my grandmother to re-continue her education. As a result, my grandmother did her Master's in Urdu, started her second Master's in Islamic Studies but left it. My grandmother also completed three teacher’s training courses, i.e., Primary Teacher’s Training, Arts Teacher’s Training, and B.Ed. Her amma was extremely happy every time my grandmother passed any of her exams. It used to be an occasion to distribute mithai (sweetmeat).


Her amma used to tell her about the lives of different Prophets at night when she asked her to tell her a story. Her amma had no knowledge of Cinderella or Snow White; as a result, my mother's knowledge about Islam and religions before Islam increased.


Her amma used to say that we must not find fault in others because it is the easiest thing to do. Rather, we must try to find positive and good things in a person. In her amma's words, “You are able to see what is in the bag of deeds of a person as it is on their back, but you cannot see what is in your bag of deeds''. For this, one has to take a look down one's own collar. Another of her amma's advice was to hide the weakness of others, and Allah will hide your weakness on the Day of Judgment. My mother doesn't remember her using a single negative word for anyone in her life. No matter how rude or insulting anyone was, her amma had only love and care for all.


I have hardly come across anyone who has personality traits like her amma. My mother shared with me that her amma never felt insulted in doing any work by herself, no matter what it was.


Her death left a huge void in my mother’s life, which is hard to fill no matter how much she has tried. She is there in my mother's daily prayers and is a part of her life. May Allah bless her with the highest place in Jannat (Heaven) and raise her status. (Ameen).


There is much more to her personality but let us end it with the prayer mentioned above.


Although she may no longer be a part of my mother's life, she will live on as my mother has taught my siblings and me all the good things that her amma taught her, and I will pass the teachings to my children. And, in this way, amma will forever be alive in our hearts and memories.

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