khala bibi passes away

my mother’s sister, my khala rehana sarfraz malik, passed away yesterday. my mom and her four sisters were all beautiful women everyone said, each in their own way, but i always thought khala bibi was particularly charming. elegant, meticulously coiffed and dressed, with a captivating voice that reminded me so much of my own mother. many years ago, when my son was still a toddler, khala bibi spent two weeks with us in west hartford, connecticut, and we had a lovely time together. we went shopping, ate out, and talked all day. she made delicious haleem and got us mango and kulfa ice cream from the local desi store. i took her to mark twain’s house and once, when i was busy with a job interview, aitezaz took her and two of my friends from IBA who were also visiting us to gillette castle state park for a barbecue. what i remember most fondly are the late night chats we would have after everyone went to sleep. i asked her about her life, about being a young woman who lived on her own for a while (back when it wasn’t the norm), about marrying my khaloo, an older man and a widower – the love of her life. she had three step-children when she got married and then two sons of her own. she flourished. my uncle worked for the united nations and was posted to turkey for many years (in ankara, i believe) and khala bibi grew to love that life. she learned turkish and would speak to local officials in their own language. she became an outstanding hostess and a true partner in her husband’s consular work. it was a charmed life, but it didn’t last long. my uncle died unexpectedly in his sleep at a relatively young age, and my khala lived the rest of her life on her own. she was amply provided for and safe, she had her kids and later her grandkids, but she missed her gregarious, big-hearted husband and the lively, cosmopolitan life they had lived together. she was a devoted wife, mother and grandma, a strong woman who had to be stronger on account of what life threw at her, an engaging presence who could pull people into her orbit with ease. may she rest in peace, as she’s finally reunited with her beloved husband. inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

[khala bibi with some of her siblings. she is the young woman standing on the left]

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