The 90's decade was a decade to forget for most of my family members. In 1991 we were very young when I visited Karachi in the winter vacations with my family, which was one of the most memorable visits. My father was doing business in the city so we were quite rich in those days, city was peaceful, life was good and we were very happy. Mother was passing through an age which is probably the most enjoyable part of life for most of the women. She had no financial worries, her children were getting young, her husband was supporting her and she was probably very happy despite of her aching and swollen joints. It was during that visit when she was first time informed that she might not be able to walk or live normal life in the coming days as the disease was spreading day by day. We were too young to know or understand such situation, but I found my mother a bit unhappy even in those happy days.
The days passed, we returned back to our village. Soon the time changed, a dreadful operation was started in Karachi, and soon city of lights had turned into a city of fear. That operation had badly affected the business in the city, so our father's business was in serious loss amid the daily killings, unrest and violence. We were not much informed about the situation in Karachi as the only source of news was PTV, so we were dependent on the information from our people there or father's letters. Father's business was shut down but he never informed us, instead he cut off from family. We were worried about the safety and health of our beloved father; mother was in serious trouble as most of us were studying either in college or school. The life was getting tougher and tougher day by day. Mother never expressed her grief to us. Once in the night when I was awaken to listen to the commentary on a cricket match being played in West Indies I noticed her weeping and crying with pain. Then I realized how much pain was she passing through. I may never be able to forget that single event which completely changed my perception about life and its colors. Due to uninformed disappearance of father and bad financial conditions most of our relatives had left us. In the meanwhile father had returned to village with all the bad news of his business troubles and looting. During those days we had no means of earning other than mother's salary.
I and my elder sisters had passed the SSC, so we had to go to college but there was no college within the limits of 20 KMs, which meant we had to get admission in colleges located far away in Rawlakot city. In a city like Karachi it may not be considered as a distance but in a village it was long enough to scare us. It was a risk sending young children specially daughters to a city far away with no proper means of transport amid the financial crisis we were passing through in those days. Our mother was courageous enough to send us to college even when most of the close family members were not in a favor of this decision. In the meanwhile Mother was having a treatment from PIMS Islamabad; therefore she had to visit the doctor at least once in a month. This was a near impossible work to do in those days with such miserable financial conditions, but she never lost the courage. Those were the days, when disease had almost defeated our mother, father had returned to Karachi to find some alternative means of earning. As a young boy I had a lot of dreams to help my family and do whatever my mother wished for her family. I was very frustrated with the prevailing situation. I was no more interested in my studies, so I decided to leave the college and earn money to help my mother and siblings. But I did not manage to run away from studies as it would have ended any chance of my sisters completing their education.
My mother was in great stress and pain but she did not show any signs of frustration or depression instead she always encouraged us to do well at college. We used to leave for college very early in the morning and return very late sometimes in the evening. Despite of her ailing joint she was always there with freshly cooked food for us. She used to ask us about the day’s events and happenings, and always advised us to stay focused on education. Our financial crisis went to such extent that one by one all of the precious household items were sold to meet the daily needs. Father was passing through a horrible period of time; he again went missing as probably he was not able to face us because of his inability to help us. This time the disappearance was longer than the previous one. We were under a burden of huge debts; none of us was young enough to earn the money to return those loans.
It is the irony that in good days every one helps and support you but in bad days even own shadow does not accompany you and you are left alone. Same was the case with us mother was almost paralyzed as she was not able to walk freely or do work on her own and most of the family members had turned strangers for us. Thanks God my grandmother and Khala were always there to help us through those days and always strengthened us. My mother got another blow from the fate when she was forced to take an early retirement from her teaching job because of disease. It was in 97 when she last time went to the school on her feet, afterwards she had completely lost to the disease and had never been able to stand on her own. It was the time when all of us were in the middle of our education career amid father in disappearance and family in worst ever financial turmoil. I often think what would have happened if mother had lost the courage in those testing times?