Some stories prove that a life lived not for yourself, but for other people, can be more fulfilling than anything else you could have imagined.
Years ago, a slight and pretty girl, Rehana Khanum, lived at her uncle’s home in Wah Cantt. Her mother had died when she was just four years old, and her father, who was a prisoner of war in India, was in no position to help her. She loved going to school, but was plagued with worry for her sister, who was ill and couldn’t attend school herself, let alone get up from her bed. She was happy to pass her Matric exams, and soon after that she got married. She moved to Karachi filled with hope for her new future, but the large metropolis was unforgiving.
Her husband was the sole breadwinner of the family; he had three young sisters, a brother, and two parents to provide for, apart from his wife. When they could barely afford to support themselves anymore, the large family had to move into a small home, a two bedroom apartment in Liaqatabad. Rehana’s husband, who had only attended school till 5th grade, could never earn enough money, and ultimately had to take a series of jobs that meant that he spent years outside the country, sending whatever money he could back home.
And so at the young age of 26, Rehana had three children to look after, and she desperately wanted to send them to school, except she couldn’t afford to. That was when she decided to dedicate her life to something she believed in — a better future for her children. She began by selling whatever she had in hand, and designed a daily routine for herself. Apart from all her household chores, such as cooking for the extended family, cleaning and doing laundry, Rehana gave tuitions to young children from the neighbourhood. She also learned stitching, and began sewing clothes to meet her children’s educational expenses. She also motivated her children every day — she knew it was not enough to send them to school, she must instill in them a sense of the importance of education. From an early age, as a consequence, her children were always position holders. Things were about to get harder though: Rehana had two more children, and the security situation in the city deteriorated. When the city wasn’t safe, Rehana used to drop her children off to school every morning and pick them up in the afternoon. As time wore on, Rehana found more ways to save money for her children’s education, and soon everything the family wore, from clothes to bags, was made by Rehana. She used to walk miles to find textbooks at cheaper prices too.
But slowly, as the children grew up, Rehana began to see the fruits of her labour. The family eventually moved to a bigger apartment in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, and Rehana had the pleasure of seeing her eldest daughter become the finance manager of a textile company. Her eldest son is now working in an international ticketing software company as a sales executive and is doing well. Another son, who studied at NED University, is now based in the US and, having completed his higher education, is now working in one of the world’s best petroleum companies as a chief engineer. Her youngest son has just graduated from Karachi University with a degree in Geography.
And then there is me. I am my mother’s youngest daughter, and I have just completed my bachelor’s in architecture, from my brother’s alma mater, NED University. I have already decided what path to take in life; I want to devote my energy to education, because I know just how it can change a person’s life for the better. So this story, then, is not just about my mother, it is about all those women and men who have, like her, made a difference by educating a child.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, May 15th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ