A few journeys and experiences in life have such a gargantuan affect on a person's perspective and outlook on a multitude of concepts that were ingrained, not by anyone in particular and without any specific intentions in mind but just due to the natural flow of life. This past month has been such an amazing journey for me personally. Bitten by an imp of nostalgia! The best part about the whole experience has been that the emotional whirlwind that has accompanied it was totally unexpected.
I visited Pakistan in September 2014 after approximately 4 years seeing many a hardship, ups and downs, and laughter and glee on shores afar. It was an absolutely amazing trip with Ahmed meeting his grandparents for the first time ever, experiencing that overwhelming vibe of reassurance and fulfillment from the General, seeing my mother who at one time had become extremely fragile, emotionally and physically, as hands-down the smartest and wisest of the family and pretty much the sole reason why we've survived as a unit these past 39 years and the penultimate ending to the trip with the whole family reuniting after almost a decade when Umar decided to tarry down for a 10 day getaway.
While there, it occurred to me to inquire about where all our family photographs were. One thing that I've found lacking in Australia is that visual connection to my past, and especially now that we've been blessed with Ahmed, the void and it's gaping existence had become vast bordering on being dreadful and hurting. Anyway, fortunately I found all of them stacked and rusting away in Dad's old file cabinets; standard 32-leaflet photo albums, innumerable black and white pictures with groggy hand writing at on their backs - attempts at upholding a fading family history - and decorative photo albums. These were pictures dating back to the 40's up till the dawn of digital cameras in my family in 2004-05. All in all, we're talking about 2935 pictures encompassing the evolution and progression of my family through the toughest of times to where we are now. Alhamdulilah, Allah has been very kind to us! I wasn't really aware of the magnitude of the task I was undertaking i.e. digitizing the entire family photographic catalogue - a job for which studios charge thousands of dollars; business idea for my budding entrepreneur friends right there!
So, it's taken me almost a month and a half to complete the entire scanning process. This has been by far the most fulfilling and satisfying job that I've ever committed to, and achieved. Safe to say that I've lived my parents' lives through pictures. From pictures encompassing my father's life before marriage, the insight into which has been utterly special - shots that reiterate the importance and potential of following one's dreams and the relentless efforts in achieving them; he is a living embodiment of this sentiment - to his subsequent marriage to Mama and setting sail to their journey together into a world filled with uncertainty and challenges unforeseen, I've had a very real glimpse into it all. As children, I don't think we're ever able to relate to our parents. We only ever see them as these grown-up super-humans capable of fixing any and every ailment faced; the thought of them being children or teenagers at one point at time in their lives doesn't even begin to cross our minds - that's the level of our self-indulgence and preoccupation with ourselves, or that's just being human I guess. The impotence of not being able to relate to their (parents) lives is one of the biggest reasons children grow up with deep antipathy and grievances directed towards them; it's plain simple intentions misconstrued - if they did screw-up, I'm pretty sure it wasn't out of malice.
This gig has molded a different nerve in me. I'm not sure how but there is a foreign presence which wasn't there earlier. Maybe time and further reflection will iron out the incomprehensible elements in my thought process, or not. No matter what, I'll forever hold whatever I've gained out of gazing into my family's past very dear. I've become overwhelmingly emotional throughout my journey and definitely have shed a tear or two in the process, rest assured not out of sadness even though it did accompany a certain brand of melancholy, but purely out of joy and elation seeing my parents' dreams gain opacity albeit hiccups but then where's the fun without the crippling family histrionics!
My source of enlightenment has been a month long scanning of pictures. By the time Ahmed grows up, he'll have absolutely no connection with my life in Pakistan in a very similar fashion to how I didn't have a clue of what my father's life had been like until I started this crazy task. So basically, this laborious lugging around has been in hopes of preserving family history in order to give an insight in to our roots to the cubs of the family when they come of age and if ever they'd be inclined towards garnering some sort of understanding of our origins.
There's nothing more than I'd like to tell my parents that they've done an absolute gem of a job at raising me and providing me with the best of opportunities so that I could somehow come into my own - thank you for everything Mama and Abu, I love you.