This is a special post on Mothers’ Day. The obituary of Mrs Aziza B Qureshi, the mother of Fun Da Mental frontman Aki Nawaz. A celebration of Mothers’ Day and Mother Beloved’ s services to PPP, Bhutto family and Pakistanis living in UK.
Mother Beloved was born in undivided British India; she could have got her British Passport on that criteria alone. She was a proud Pakistani but her favourite film was “Mother India”, that movie by Communist Muslim film director Mahboob became the “manifesto” for her family.I memorised the whole screenplay, dialogues and songs etc(well not all of it but you get the picture).
Mother Beloved moved to her Heavenly abode on 27 December 2008, but a part of her died a year earlier in the catastrophe that struck Pakistan on 27/12/2007 when an alleged Islamist suicide bomber killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Afterwards, when Mr. Asif Zardari was declared the self-appointed leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, she broke all links with that painful memory, even though the whole family used to cry every time a Bhutto was ‘martyred’ in Pakistan. Mother safely stored all memorabilia, portraits and family photos with Bhuttos’ visit to Bradford and never opened that closet again.
She was not educated in formal sense, yet she could read and speak basic English and Urdu in addition to her native Potohari (dialect of Punjabi).She was married, at a young age, to a young clerk who aspired to be an accountant. The couple struggled in the poverty of mega city of Karachi; she worked as a tailor to add to her husband’s meager salary as accountant. The family saved enough to send him to England to pursue education but it wasn’t to be.
In 1960s the educational establishments were not an easy place for a working class brown Muslim immigrant struggling to pay his fees and expenses. Mr. Qureshi started working in bus company in Yorkshire because of his educational background. He managed to save enough by mid 60s to call his wife and their two toddlers to England.
The dreams of the parents shifted to their children. Mother Beloved never shied from any work despite her lack of English language. She worked in garment factories and news agents among other places of work. The couple successfully raised five kids, educating them to the best of their ability.
Their children became teacher, management consultant, marketing director, music producer and police officer. Their generosity did not have the limitations of caste, race or religion. They helped many deserving students and strangers in time of need without expectation of rewards or gratitude.
When Mr. Qureshi died (in his prime) after a sudden paralysis, Mother Beloved did not stop her “mission of humanity”. Now her grandchildren are teenagers and they remember and cry for her as a lost friend and companion.
She used to tell me, laughing “Tariq Ali is a very good and brave intellectual but a very ‘BAD Muslim’, don’t follow his religion only his Politics.” Both husband and wife believed religiously in the social justice (of Islam) and equality, going on marches and meeting when it was not considered fashionable in Pakistani community.
“Mao Tse Tung achieved the ‘biggest Jihad’ (struggle for freedom) and the 600 million (she never revised population figure) Chinese are the true ‘Muslim’ (proletarian equality) society” who transformed their country from third world to first world status.
She used to tell me off lovingly, “A little rain never kills anyone, in this country it rains all the time, does this mean everyone stay in door? Don’t be lazy go and do your studies”. She was very proud on the day of my graduation. She would have definitely been delighted at Barack Obama’s victory; I was too far away to ask her.
Benazir Bhutto used to come to their house for delicious Pakistani food, during her exile in England. She invited Mother Beloved for a state dinner in central London, where both female prime ministers were the hosts. A lot of water had gone under the bridges after 1989 and Peoples Party rescinded on its promise of “Muslim Socialism”, Mother broke all ties with PPP.
Old Raj Kapoor ,Dilip Kumar movies,Mother India, Noor Jehan ,Mohamed Rafi and Lata Songs from Indian movies and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan devotional fusion music was the staple entertainment in the household. When one of the children became a punk rock musician, Mother used to joke “First singer in a high religious family” and “what clothes are you wearing and long hair like tramps”, (of course all in good humour).
Whenever she want to Pakistan, she became a fun-loving agony aunt, problem solving, talking to young and old, telling and listening to stories from poor and rich, street vendors and female lawyers alike.
In her last years, she became a sister to an English Jewish (2nd generation Swedish/French Jewish parentage) lady who had spent time in Libya during Second World War and knew a bit of Arabic. This unlikeliest of the friendships started in a hospital ward. The lady was a landowner from Yorkshire and she suffered from cancer in later years.
The last trip that Mother Beloved made to Pakistan saw this highly sophisticated Jewish lady accompanying her to the crowded streets of Rawalpindi and Lahore. What a spectacular display of humanity and humble souls.
My dear Mother Bradistan, may you have lots of rest in your Heavenly Home. Amen.
Dil Nawaz is a blogger, a CriticalPPP supporter from ‘Bradistan’ (Little Pakistan) Bradford UK.