Mother Beloved moved to her Heavenly abode on 27 December 2008, but a part of her died a year earlier in the catastrophe that struck Pakistan on 27 December 2007 when prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed.
Benazir Bhutto used to come to her house for delicious Pakistani food, during her exile in England. Once she invited Mother Beloved for a state dinner in central London. A lot of water had gone under the bridges after 1989 and Peoples Party rescinded on its promise of â€œMuslim Socialism,â€ Mother never looked at the PPP the same way again. Afterwards, when Mr. Asif Zardari was declared the self-appointed leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, she broke all links with that painful memory, even though the whole family used to cry every time a Bhutto was â€˜martyredâ€™ in Pakistan. Mother safely stored all memorabilia, portraits and family photos with Bhuttosâ€™ visit to Bradford and never opened that closet again.
She was not educated in formal sense, yet she could read and speak basic English and Urdu in addition to her native Potohari (dialect of Punjabi). She was married, at a young age, to a young clerk who aspired to be an accountant. The couple struggled in the poverty of mega city of Karachi; she worked as a tailor to add to her husbandâ€™s meager salary as accountant. The family saved enough to send him to England to pursue education but it wasnâ€™t to be. In 1960s the educational establishments were not an easy place for a working class brown Muslim immigrant struggling to pay his fees and expenses. Mr. Qureshi started working in bus company in Yorkshire. He managed to save enough by mid 60s to call his wife and their two toddlers to England.
The dreams of the parents shifted to their children. Mother Beloved never shied from any work despite her lack of English language. She worked in garment factories and news agents among other places of work. The couple successfully raised five kids, educating them to the best of their ability. Their children became teacher, management consultant, marketing director, music producer and police officer. When Mr. Qureshi died after a sudden paralysis, Mother Beloved did not stop her â€œmission of humanityâ€. Now her grandchildren are teenagers and they remember and cry for her as a lost friend and companion.
She used to tell me, laughing â€œTariq Ali is a very good and brave intellectual but a very â€˜bad Muslimâ€™, donâ€™t follow his religion only his Politics.â€ Both husband and wife believed religiously in the social justice (of Islam) and equality, going on marches and meeting when it was not considered fashionable in Pakistani community. â€œMao Tse Tung achieved the â€˜biggest Jihadâ€™ (struggle for freedom) and the 600 million (she never revised population figure) Chinese are the true â€˜Muslimâ€™ (proletarian equality) societyâ€ who transformed their country from third world to first world status.
She used to tell me off lovingly, â€œA little rain never kills anyone, in this country it rains all the time, does this mean everyone stay in door? Donâ€™t be lazy go and do your studiesâ€. She was very proud on the day of my graduation.
Whenever she want to Pakistan, she became a fun-loving agony aunt, problem solving, talking to young and old, telling and listening to stories from poor and rich, street vendors and female lawyers alike.
In her last years, she became a sister to an English Jewish (2nd generation Swedish/French Jewish parentage) lady who had spent time in Libya during Second World War and knew a bit of Arabic. This unlikeliest of the friendships started in a hospital ward. The lady was a landowner from Yorkshire and she suffered from cancer in later years. The last trip that Mother Beloved made to Pakistan saw this sophisticated Jewish lady accompanying her to the crowded streets of Rawalpindi and Lahore. What a spectacular display of humanity and humble souls.
She would have definitely been delighted at Barack Obamaâ€™s victory; I was too far away to ask her.