Thursday, September 22, 2011


Today, I was inspired by an amazing woman.  I was curled up in the sofa sipping hot tea with my mother-in-law, when I asked her what I thought was a relatively straightforward question. 

“Amiji (Mother in Urdu), how old were you when your mother died?” I asked.
She stared into her mug thinking for a moment, and then said in her broken English, “After my first period, then she died.”  

Things started to make sense then.  Like a few days prior when I was filling out a job application for her and I asked her how old she was.  She shrugged her shoulders slightly while mumbling something about looking at her passport to find out.   Balques was born and raised as a Muslim in Lahore, Pakistan.  She had not been allowed to go to school because her family did not believe it was important for girls to receive an education.   So she begged her uncle to teach her to read and write. 

And here we were, sitting in my den enjoying our hot tea together as I began to have a glimpse of a little girl, born around the same time Pakistan became an independent country from British India. She was eager to learn, one of 5 kids growing up.  One day her mother went to the hospital for surgery, and she never came home.  A few weeks later her grandmother showed up from the village to teach Balques how to cook and clean and take care of the household.   Her father, a mechanic by trade, was a good man who loved his family, but he had to work hard to provide for them.  He never remarried.  When Balques was 18 (she only knew this, she told me, because that is what was written on her marriage license), she entered into an arranged marriage. 

The other day she said she wants to learn to read English better so she can read her grandson a bed time story.  Everything in her life is done for others – she is the epitome of sacrificial living.   The more time we spend together, the more I am burdened with a sadness of the heartache she has endured, losing her mother at a young age, the marriage that was not the romantic fairy tale of which so many girls dream.  Leaving everything she knew to move to a foreign country to be with her kids.  I wanted to delve in to her memories, to taste and smell the town she grew up in, to see her parents as she remembered them, to get a glimpse of the life of a young Pakistani girl who would come to influence my life in ways I never could have imagined.  I wanted to hold that small, lonely girl who had lost her mother, to hug her and give her a word of hope and encouragement. 

But now I just sit there, across from the women she became, strong, resilient, determined; sipping tea, asking a question here or there.  “What did you do while you lived with your husband’s family?”  “I took care of the house.  And I played.  I loved to jump rope,” she laughed, with a mischievous grin, probably imagining herself at 18, married, playing games and wondering when her husband would return from Kuwait.  “But once I was pregnant, my auntie told me I had to stop jumping rope.” 
That one comment made me realize that behind the broken English and the head covering was an amazing woman whose life reminds me to appreciate my own childhood, my loving parents, my education, my husband, kids, beautiful home, fulfilling ministry, freedom, and every little detail of life that I tend to take for granted.    

~Ashley Fazal
Ashley is the driving force behind What If Everyone.  The concept being: What If Everyone did something to help their community?  The next WIE is coming up on Saturday, OCTOBER 8th!  Go online to sign up for a project now.  (You won't be sorry, it's an incredible experience!!)

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