After 14 years of moving out of Karachi, and more than 6 years since my mom and dad sold their house in Karachi, I did the unthinkable – I visited my home.
I was born in Karachi and spent 23 years of my life there. When I was about 7 years old, my father bought a piece of land to build our own home. I clearly remember the day when we all went to the plot with a black goat (for sadqa) before the construction started. I still remember the numerous visits to the construction site of our home to see the progress, the various trips with Ammi Aboo to stores for choosing tiles, door handles, light fixtures etc. and I clearly remember picking up pink floral tiles for me and my sister’s bathroom. And I also remember the first night we moved into our brand new, custom built house.
My father was an Ophthalmologist and the one thing that he wanted in his house was a clinic as a detached wing, where he could see patients after he came back from the hospital (where he worked during the day). Out of the 20 patients, he saw every day at least 15 would be free. He would not charge another doctor or a relative of a doctor, a person whose shoes indicated that he was poor and can’t afford his fees or anyone who gives a reference to ANYONE Aboo knew. So, he would walk in the home after a busy evening clinic with merely a few hundred rupees (that his receptionist handed him from the very rare paid patients he saw)– EVERY DAY!
Since my uncle (dad’s younger brother) recently passed away, I planned a trip to Karachi to see my eldest paternal aunt (phuppo) whom my dad considered to be like his mother. On my way to her house, I had this sudden urge to go and see my own home. I visit Karachi regularly, but NEVER even go close to the area, but I don’t know why I decided to take that left turn, just to get a peek at my childhood home.
Making that left turn into our street was painful, seeing everything deteriorate in the area was even more heartbreaking but I had no idea WHAT I was in for! I asked the driver to stop the car in front of the house to take some pictures from outside. I took a couple of pictures and came and sat in the car and as the driver started the car, I spotted the plaque on the wall with the house address – the same one my dad had installed. I asked to stop the car one more time just to get a closer shot of that, and I as I stepped closer to the gate to take that picture, an old lady opened the main gate.She had a look of concern on her face as to why a stranger was taking pictures of her home. I immediately understood that look and introduced myself as Dr Rizvi’s daughter and that was enough. She knew who I was. She knew my dad as he had sold the house to her son and had met them a few times. She asked me to come in which I initially declined but she insisted and I took that step in her garage (I still like to call it ‘our’ garage).
The second I set my foot in, I knew I shouldn’t have. Memories started rushing back and my vision started to get blurry with all the tears building up. I stood there for a second, took a deep breath and followed the lady who wanted to show me the house. In my head I was like, I know every corner of this house better than you do but I followed politely. I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to go the bathroom and turn to the side where my bathroom in that house was- True story!.
Entering into that house and seeing someone else living in it was the second hardest thing ever (first being my dad’s demise). I felt dazed as she kept talking to me asking about my mom, my siblings and saying praises about my dad and how sorry she was about his passing away. It was like I was switching from the past to the present within seconds. I had flash blacks like you see in movies (yep, it was happening for real) and I couldn’t hold the tears rolling down my cheeks – non-stop like water running down a leaking tap. I kept seeing these flashes of our family there, Aboo entering the door after a long day, Ammi in the kitchen, we sitting in the living room watching TV, our dog Maggi sitting at the entrance with her back leg keeping the living room door open (cause Ammi never allowed her inside and she would still sit inside but keep the door open for easy escape from Ammi’s flying slipper whenever she would spot Maggi inside).
I went to see my bedroom, which my sister and I shared, how different it looked now was just simply painful. I saw my parents room but couldn’t bring myself to enter it. I stood outside my dad’s clinic and failed to register how it looks now because all I could see was how it was when it used to be a clinic. That vision was so strong that, that’s all I could see. Around the house, I saw traces of our life there – a few wall hangings including an Ayat-al-Kursi, a broken lamp and some familiar curtains. The lady kept apologizing to me that they haven’t been able to maintain it as my parents did. I felt bad that she thought she had to explain to me, but it was heartbreaking to see how the house had become. It killed me to see how beautifully my mum had kept our home and how it felt to be almost in ruins now.I went to the garden which used to have lush green trimmed grass, a beautiful rockery, potted plants along the walls of all passageways, but now it had nothing but traces of grass and a couple of sad looking plants and untrimmed bushes. There used to be a barbed wire on the wall which felt bare now, but back in the day, there would be so many birds sitting over them. The barbed wire would not be visible at all at 4 pm when my dad would come home from the hospital to top up the bowl of the bird food that we kept in the garden.
Then I spotted a small orange plant that my parents had planted and I was amazed to see how it now has turned into a big tree! I felt a stabbing pain in my heart with the realization that someone else was now enjoying the fruit of my parent’s hard work (quite literally!)I kept breaking down telling these small things to the lady while she tried comforting me. During the 10 minutes I spent there, she hugged me three times with her eyes flooding with tears looking at the mess I was (She was the sweetest!). She insisted I have chai, but I couldn’t sit there and showed an urgency to leave. She went to the kitchen and made me a bag of whatever fruit and sweets she had in the house for me to take with me saying…
“Beityan apne ghar se khaali haat nahin jatein” (Daughter’s should not return from their home empty handed)
I broke down then and now again as I wrote this sentence.
I told my husband that I went there and he was upset that I shouldn’t have and that I should get out of there ASAP. He had suggested earlier that we should buy it when my parents were selling the house. I didn’t understand it back then because Aboo was alive but my husband probably knew this pain, having been through it himself. Though I had already physically left the house before he told me to, I don’t think my soul did.
Since I have come back, I feel unsettled. I feel I need to own that house again, I feel the need to have the ‘Dr. Hasan Rizvi’s Eye Clinic’ board there. I know these are all worldly things and all and people move on and heal. But I feel that maybe I don’t want to. My dad built that house, ran a free clinic and I need to somehow continue his story. It shouldn’t end there with his death. It’s also the first time ever in my life that I regret not becoming an Ophthalmologist.
I have been questioning us living abroad for a better future of our own kids, but what about the lonely elders of the family. Every house I visited (mamoo, chacha, phuppo), all of them are empty with all their kids settled aboard. They have maids and servants taking care of them but what breaks my heart the most is that every house had a toy box which had toys for their grandchildren when they visit once a year.
I am not as patriotic about Pakistan as my husband is, but I do know what he means when he says Pakistan is our identity and it’s probably time for us to give back to our country – just like my father did.
I am currently in a messy state of mind, trying to figure out my own feelings, trying to find my purpose in life and so much more. I feel that turn I took to my home may become a turning point in my life – who knows!
14 thoughts on “The Left Turn That Turned EVERYTHING Around In My Life!”
Excellent article Bano. Made me cry too!
Work towards this goal it can be done collectively.
I am very rpoud of you and you artistic and careing spirit. Love you.
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Love u too ❤️
A big hug for you, dear. I would suggest letting yourself feel what you are going through. It is part of your collective grief at losing both your father and your childhood home. Don’t rush it or ignore it. Give yourself time to mourn.
Slowly your heart will heal and the answers you are looking for will surface. May they lead you to a happier and peaceful self, InshaAllah.
Sending lots of Duas and love your way.
Signing so for that’s what Najla calls me.
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Thank you so much for the love and the duas . I really appreciate it. And glad u singed with such apnaniyat 😘
The line ‘betiyan apne ghar se khali hath nahi jatin’ brought tears to my eyes as well 😞 beautifully written baji. I could feel all your emotions as i had been through the same situation as well. Except in my case, our house was demolished here in qatar. The house where i grew up. Although after shifting to new house, i still used to go back there before it was demolished and re-live the memories. Now i pass from there everyday. Theres nothing much to see now except few trees and ruins.
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Thank you . It’s always hard letting go of things related to your childhood.
This made me emotional & brought tears to my eyes. I can exactly relate to you as i had been through all this few years back. Happy memories hurt the most…but we know there is no going back. You can carve the same childhood memories for your kids to cherish in the future…just give yourself more time. And let that grief come out.Its a phase, emotionally very draining but im sure life will take you to more fulfilling horizons.
Wow, what an emotional visit. Thank you for sharing with us. What a nice lady to shwo you around your own home with such sweet memories. I was crying reading your post!
Old days, memories, tears, emotions, everything in the post.
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This was a beautiful piece to share. I can relate with all these feelings at so many levels. No matter where we live , a part of us will always be at ‘our real home’ with our parents . Its only after marriage i have realised , each time i leave Pakistan ….I leave with a very heavy heart.
oh bano 💔 big hugs!
This is so heat-felt. I am in tears. I am going to tell you something that not even mu husband knows – yet. I am going through the same phase in life. Raised in Jeddah, and now living in Canada I never felt that ‘dharti’ pull me so intensely as it did during and after my last visit in Nov. 2017. I think a part of me knew as long as my parents are there, I will always belong. My parents moved to Canada and are with me now but I still feel something inside me is calling me to return to Karachi, to I owe so much. I never visited the desolate apartment that I and Ammi renovated around 12 years ago because I knew I will be heart broken. Perhaps in the next year or so, I will do just that. Thank you for sharing this. I was meant to read it.
Made me.cry…..exactlyy our story….my parents are alive Alhumdulilah but reading your article thinking i might have to go thru this at some point breaks my heart….so soo relateable when you said endless trips to choose tiles and other stuff and also its said to see our elders live all alon and get older…..i sometimes wonder this is one of those things that no one tells you about life that it will be so difficult to see your elders get old….may Allah give your father highest place in jannah amee.
The way you wrote it was so poignant. Reminds me of someone I love dearly who was forced to leave his home and see it get sold. I pray you and your siblings become a source of sadaqa e jariyah for your father. May Allah swt give him the highest rank in Jannah. Its easy to see from your words what a wonderful family man and human he was.