I still remember it as if it was yesterday. We were visiting our relatives and my Dad pulled me to another room and pointed his finger towards my aunt’s graduation photograph.
“I don’t want anything else from you except this,” he said.
In her graduation photo my Aunt is holding her degree and smiling. The epitome of academic success leading to a thriving career.
I realized maybe fulfilling my father’s dream for me would be my way to pay him back for doing so much for us four.
My father always ensured we were protected and educated. Coming from a Pakistani society, sometimes people feel sorry for my parents. They have only four daughters and no son. Often my Dad was challenged and questioned on why he was spending so much money to raise us and to get us educated. He always said he’s only helping us for a better tomorrow. He spent without counting, without thinking and without ever expecting a pay back.
Unfortunately, I ended up being the black sheep of the family. The more money he spent on my education, the worse results I ended up with. I was a below average student for most of my life and the turning point was my O-levels when I landed up with mostly C’s and D’s.
Then one day I questioned myself. What am I doing wrong? Is it me or is it the fact that I am not into what I am studying? That reflection made me realize this fact – I am not a science student.
I conveyed my message to my family and made them understand that I am better off in Arts and Commerce. I ended up doing my intermediate in a different zone.
And what do you know…I ended up with distinctions in TWO subjects and overall 7th position in Sindh board.
Fast forward – I did my BBA and secured a job in a great logistics and shipping company with the name of AP Moller Maersk. I started from scratch… scanning and punching documents.
However, I had dreams. I still remembered the hope in my Dad’s eyes when I was a child and he told me his dream. I wanted to fulfill it. I kept growing and working hard, from the documentation handler to client customer services, and later to team leader. To me there was no full stop and there was no limit. I wanted to reach the skies.
In 2012, I met an amazing man who wanted to be a part of journey in reaching to the stars. He was supportive and understanding. His humor made me light hearted (and light headed! ) and his smile melted me. I decided to settle down and we got married in a great ceremony my parents arranged for us. This was all in a matter of just three months after meeting for the first time.
We flew to Thailand for our honeymoon. We walked around at midnight and saw an Indian restaurant. I picked biryani for me and my husband ordered some kebabs for himself. Soon after that I started feeling weak and sick. I ended up fainting the days we walked around a lot.
In a matter of 6 days I lost 4 kg. What’s wrong with me? I wondered as I cried myself to sleep. I thought I was unable to survive at my in-laws. Even my father blamed my health issues on my not being to adjust to my new surroundings. In 1.5 months I lost 14 kg. With time as my health deteriorated, I became more and more anxious. I was withering away. So was my new life. My career which was my priority was failing with my health issues and my personal life was a mess. I was severely depressed.
Finally, a month later I realized nothing is working on me. The more I ate, the more weight I ended up losing. It was like I am constantly eating and drinking water and spending most of my time in washroom peeing (I had terrible bladder during that stage).
Finally I had some blood tests done. I had an alarming high level of blood sugar. It was 624 mg/dl at that time. I was only 27 when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes – a chronic illness in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin and a patient is life time dependent on injecting insulin in order to live. I was devastated! I saw everything breaking right in front of my eyes. I miserably cried to my father as I said, “But, Abbu, what did I do wrong to deserve this? I was even growing in my career. I just started my new life and now everything is falling apart.”
My Dad looked back at me and said, “You will continue to grow.” His eyes had the same belief which he had when I was a kid and he pointed at the picture.
His belief gave me hope. I decided to fight back my illness and become stronger than the disease I had.
It took me a year to be back to normal, both weight wise and internal health wise. I worked hard on improving my diet and my lifestyle. I worked hard to be the person I was, the journey only made me stronger. Now when I look back I realize I became a person made of steel. I fought with crazy blood sugar low episodes, memory losses, high blood sugars and pricking myself four to five times a day to ensure my sugar levels are normal. To an outsider it was a story. To me it was a battle.
Somewhere in 2014, I got an opportunity to work as a regional manager in Shanghai, China. It was a promotion and big achievement. My husband decided to support me and travelled with me to China. Thankfully, he also landed up having a great job and it was a turning point in our lives.
We decided to expand and have a baby. God supported us and I conceived almost as soon as we planned. It was hard; I did everything alone abroad. I was tired and my blood sugar was a mess.
I got placenta previa. That, along with my diabetes, made my pregnancy extremely high risk. I ended up bleeding profusely during the 7th month of my pregnancy and was rushed to hospital. I ended up delivering in the 8th month of my pregnancy. It wasn’t easy but like I said, I have become a person made of steel. Nothing shook or shattered me. Nothing…
I met Nayel, my baby after 10 days of his birth. He was in NICU for the first 10 days of his life and I was battling my way back to life after delivering him. When we finally met, he was everything I dream t of, and more.
I wanted to do everything for him but I feared how my career would be after his birth. I decided to install cameras in my home and leave him with a nanny. After interviewing approximately 12 nannies, I came across a wonderful and polite woman who looked motherly to be my son’s nanny from 9-6 when I am away for work. Her salary was half of what I earned, but I wanted to do it for myself and my family. At work, I monitored him and I felt impatient until I could meet him again.
I came to accept the fact that I will always be a mother first before anything else. Work became secondary, Nayel became first priority. Despite that, my immediate boss and other peers started commenting on how focused and how great my work has become ever since I rejoined after my maternity leaves. It was as if I was unstoppable!
When Nayel was 16 months old, I was offered a position of Global Program Director, the highest operational level position for a key client. I immediately accepted it with proud smile and misty eyes. My husband, parents and my son rejoiced and I felt they are proud of me. Their pride made my life better. I was a happier person.
Moving on today, I live a hectic life with my illness, my toddler, and the demands of living abroad, but I have no complaints.
My parents are still an essential part of my life. I ensure to give them a call daily. I visit them twice every year and spend most of my savings visiting them. It’s worth every penny – home is where Mom and Dad are!
I am 30 years old now and I think I have ensured to brighten my father’s eyes with the unspoken dreams he saw for us. I have made him proud in his life and that is the least I could do for all that he and mom have done for us. We, his four daughters, are now all stable or on our way of pursing our dreams and his smile couldn’t be more bright.
This article is written by Hira Kamran Kazmi