My mother’s most quoted aphorism: “hard work pays off”
week, I posted some photos of my mother’s handwriting on my Facebook and
Twitter accounts. I was surprised at the amount of support and compliments I
received, especially in my twitter account. I received praiseworthy comments
even from complete strangers. This encouraged me to write a little more about
my mother’s journey of learning.
mother has a very peaceful and calm personality, but she is a woman of action
and she believes that hard work pays off. In her mid-fifties, he decided, just
very recently, to learn to read and write.
of bloody war and subsequent forced migration have deprived generations of
Afghan women from education, and for many women—especially women of my mother’s
generation– reading-and-writing still remains an unfulfilled dream.
few months ago, my mother joined a literacy centre for elderly women in Kabul
in order to fulfil her long-cherished dream of learning how to read and write.
When she first joined the centre, the class was full of elderly women, some of
them at her age while some were younger than her. As weeks passed, some of her
classmates gave up and dropped out of the centre.
25 women including my mother resolved to continue. The centre provided each woman with a Persian textbook. Before the lockdown, my mother attended her classes six days a week: four days scheduled for reading and writing the Persian textbook, Wednesdays for the Holy Quran, and Sundays for learning tailoring.
weeks before the lockdown in Afghanistan, my mother was getting close to the
end of her semester. She wanted to have a copy of the textbook, so she can
study even after the textbooks were collected from them. Therefore, she
utilized the last few days of the semester for intensive writing. She wrote 80
pages of her textbook in her notebook. She says, it took her three notebooks to
write those 80 pages from the textbook.
I asked my mother that why didn’t she ask anyone at home to have printed the
textbook for her? She replied, “If I can do something with my hands, there is no
need of machine.” She added, “Writing down all the pages was good for improving
I asked her how she could manage to finish writing 80 pages just in a few days,
she replied, “I skipped tailoring sessions, and I told my teacher that I am not
interested in tailoring, I want to do my reading and writing instead.”
My mother’s journey towards learning began when she attempted to read the Holy Quran a few years ago when my siblings, except my youngest sister, and myself were away from home pursuing our higher education.
“I looked at the pages of Holy Quran and noticed that everything written in the first page is also in the second page and the pages that follow, only in different order. That is when I felt that if I learn how to read one page, I can probably read rest of the pages as well,” says my mother.
With my mother and father working outside home to win bread, there was no patriarchy in our family.
in reading Quran, one random day, my mother asked my youngest sister, who was
then the only one at home, to teach her the alphabets. After she learnt the
alphabets from my sister, it was all self-learning for her with the rest of the
Holy Quran. She reads the Holy Quran every day for years now.
learned how to read Quran at old age, my mother gained confidence to join
Where I and my siblings stay today is the outcome of my mother’s passion for learning and her love for education. She wanted us to be educated.
the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, many Afghan families migrated to
neighbouring countries. My family migrated to Pakistan in a city called Quetta,
the provincial capital of Baluchistan. We had to leave all our belongings in
Afghanistan. When we got to Pakistan, my parents had to start from scratch.
Many of the Afghan refugee families living in our neighbourhood started making
a living for themselves through making carpets at their homes. The more people
working on a carpet, the faster it would be completed. Upon completion of a
carpet, a family could sell it right away and receive money. Therefore, most of
our Afghan neighbours had all their children involved in making carpets,
instead of admitting them to schools. Some of those families would say, “Living
as immigrants and not having our own houses is not easy, we better buy a house
first, so we don’t have to worry about the monthly rent.” For my parents,
however, buying a house was never their priority.
parents were also encouraged by our relatives to start making carpets, but my
mother did not accept this. She told my father, “We have to send our children
to school whatever it takes us. My children can only have a bright future
through education. The circumstances I grew up with, did not allow me to get an
education. I won’t let this to happen to my children as well.”
She worked with my father side by side so my siblings and I could go to school. My mother started making Mantu, Afghan dumplings, and my father would sell them. She decided to work with my father, and all she wanted was to make sure we get a quality education. With my mother and father working outside home to win bread, there was no patriarchy in our family. In fact, my father always refers to my mother as Raes, the boss. Whenever, we consult with our parents about any issue, my father always says, “We will do whatever the boss suggests.”
parents continued making dumplings for several years and eventually they were
able to open their own small café which soon got very well-known across the
city we were living in.
the time my parents opened their own café, my siblings and I also grew older
and we wanted to help them with the café. My mother, however, wanted us just to
focus on our studies. She would always tell us, studying requires a lot of
energy and time, if you do not put your energy and time on studies, you will
not perform well in your studies.”
work pressure from our café, she always made sure we ate and slept well, even
if she herself barely did. I remember, my mother would always give each one of
us seven almonds in early morning. She would say, almond is best for memory,
and by the time we returned home from school, she would always be ready with
tea and dry fruits for us.
the weekends, Mantu was in high demand. Since schools were off, my
siblings and I would also try to help my parents. However, majority of our
customers, wanted Mantu for their lunch so we had to wake up as early as
5:00 AM to prepare it, so it was fully ready for lunch. Most weekends, my
mother would wake up at 3:00 AM herself, so none of us had to wake up early.
She would say, “You all just have the weekends, where you can rest well
and don’t have to wake up early for school, I won’t let the café work ruin your
weekend sleep.” Of course, we would debate over this with her, but nobody could
ever win her. Our café was never closed. Neither on the weekends nor on any
holidays because my mother did not want us to just go to school, she also
wanted to make sure we attend English language classes and computer courses,
which required higher fees back then.
the age of 14, I was a full-time student. Mornings at the school and afternoons
at English language and computer courses. My siblings did likewise. When my
parents bought us our first computer, not many of our neighbours had any. Once
we had a computer, my parents also asked for internet cable, which required
monthly payment. Then, the same relatives who had encouraged my parents to
start the carpet business would come to our home and would request us to
connect them online with their family member or relatives who had gone abroad
for work. I still remember the passwords of all the yahoo messenger IDs I
created for their children and taught them how to use it. Some of our neighbours
regret not sending their children to school.
siblings and I really owe everything to my parents, especially to my mother,
and her never-ending patience and hard work.
days, my mother is spending her quarantine days with reading and writing. She
is happy to have a copy of her textbook even though she had no clue about the
lockdown when she decided to make a copy. My mother and her peers were supposed
to take an exam before the lockdown. My mother looks forward to hearing her
exam result and hopes to start a new semester once the lockdown is over and the