Thursday 15 January 2009

Our Stories – From Mother to Daughter

When I was a little girl I loved stories, I still do. Biblical stories, folk stories, fairy stories, any kind of story as long as it was a good one well told. My favourites though were the stories my mum told me about my family – both hers and my dad’s (my grandfathers were best friends).

These were usually told as she sat at her sewing machine faced with the drudgery of piece-work and most often with us sitting around her on the floor unstitching her mistakes (never one but a whole batch of fluorescent shirts or shiny pants). I always found her stories so fascinating: war, partition, murder, sacrifice, emigration, betrayal, friendship, skulduggery and mischief – it was all there. A back story to the characters that have populated my own life and childhood and also to their parents of whom there are no photo’s or records. My great-grandfather who was trained to fight with the gatka and gandasa but couldn’t speak up in front of his petite wife. My great-grandmother who lorded it over the local shrine and had a tongue like a double-edged blade but could not bear any discomfort for my mum who lost her own mother as a child. My other great-grandmother who was pretty but so fierce that her daughter-in-laws were terrified of her and would say “Bete mirchi kha ke janne hai” (“she must have ate chilli’s when she gave birth to her sons they are all as fierce as her”) and whose hair started turning black again when she turned 100. My straight-backed and severe grandfather who ruled his home with an iron-rod but melted at the sight of his grandchildren. So many more.

My sisters and brother never seemed as interested at the time and now don’t seem to know most of the stories. So it seems to have fallen to me, especially now that my gran isn’t here, to be the repository of our family’s history. It will be my job to tell my children and insh’Allah one day my grandchildren. But also my little cousins and my brother and sisters children. This is important to me. I hope then that the people who came before us are not then just names to those that follow us. They are real three-dimensional people with pain and joy in their lives that mirror our own. They provide us with continuity, acting as proof that we don’t come from a vacuum even if we don’t have a family crest or are not mentioned in the Domesday Book. That our faces, our builds, even our mannerisms mirror someone else’s.
I hope our children remember all of these people who have left us in their prayers

When I was a little girl I loved stories, I still do. And I’m pleased that so does my daughter.

"Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship" (Bukhari)


  1. I love stories and now that I am mother, I have started telling my little girl stories. Is so fascinating to hear how things were done back then or how my mom met my dad or how my grandfather met my grandmother! One of the reason I have my blog is so my girls can go back and tell their kids some of those little things that happen when they were growing up, I might had forgotten by then. Is funny how little incidents can become such a good story.

  2. SubhanAllah it must be a desi thing , my mum a life long achinest too often told us fictional/fiction stories religous and otherwise all about India and myths and legends there, made it all so mysctical, there is a story that i still tell my kids that mum told me all them years ago and its one they recall often .

  3. thats so beautiful to have such rich stories to pass down. i never appriciated granny tales until I was a teen and realized it made them happy to tell the stories and share their lives to those who are young enought o remeber them. I always ask elderly for life stories now.
    It's amazing you get to be the one to pass it on. If you get amitious you should write them down. I'd buy that book.

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