A Tribute to Apa Jan
One of my earliest memories of Apa Jan was in Islamabad when I was around 12 years old. I had gone over to see her and, as always, she hugged me affectionately. I inhaled her scent – a fusion of cigarettes and perfume.
Later that day, I was walking past my father, when he stopped me- glaring suspiciously. “Have you been smoking?!”, he asked. I denied this ridiculous accusation and wondered why he would think so. That was the moment I realized Apa was to blame! I did not think to give the explanation to my father, but instead, proceeded to strategize how I could avoid such circumstances in the future. To this day, I always carried a small perfume bottle in my bag, which I would religiously spray on myself after I left Apa Jan’s room.
My visits to Apa Jan never failed to amuse me. She demanded I lose weight when she saw me upon my return from my first year of university; we had numerous conversations about finding me a life partner who she insisted she must approve of before I make any final decisions; not to mention, her standard question (which was really more of an exclamation): “kaun lay kay jai ga iss motti ko?” (who will take this pearl away?); and several discussions about how I need to be less naïve and a little more chalaak (clever) if I want to survive in this world.
While Apa’s family was well aware of her sagacity, anyone who met her acknowledged her breath-taking beauty. The Hal Bevan portrait that her grandchildren have shared on Facebook is only a fraction of Apa’s glamour- a mere hint of her compelling green eyes.
Petmans painting has depicted Apa in her prime, which I never personally experienced. Thus, I have painted my own portrait: Apa perched on her sofa, legs hanging limply, cigarette-pinched lips, lowered gaze towards her Urdu newspaper- a stack of magazines on one side, an old-fashioned radio on the other. I am warmly welcomed with green eyes, a beaming face and a whiff of fragranced cigarette smoke. This is how I remember Apa, in all her glamour and charm, and of course, the tête-à-têtes that I associate with this scene.
During our conversations, Apa would often tell me that daughters are the greatest gifts from God, whilst admiring her own daughter’s unwavering love and support. She would express her gratitude towards having such accomplished children, considering she never received the quality education they did.
Today, I want to express my gratitude. Thank you, Apa Jan, for being a part of all of our lives. Although you have departed (99 years, 5 children, 11 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren later), you have left behind three entire generations through which you will live on and be celebrated. I will always be the 12 year-old girl who you once nearly got into trouble, and you will always be my great grandmother who taught me love and resilience.
Here’s to you, Apa Jan! Celebrating you today, and everyday!