A year of firsts

May 15, 2022

Reflecting on the loss of your life

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oday marks the first death anniversary of a man who in life was larger than life: Tahir Wadood Malik, my dear husband, known amongst his loved ones as TWM.

It’s a day I’ve dreaded, through sleepless nights and agonising days. But it has arrived, as a reminder of the horrifying two and a half weeks we experienced together after being diagnosed with Covid-19, till the last message I received from him before he was put on the ventilator.

He never returned. Since then, life hasn’t been the same for me. The days and nights aren’t the same, home isn’t the same, our pets aren’t the same.

He was not a typical fauji with a broad chest and a thick mustache; he possessed a very sensitive heart. He was a man who had the patience to hear the opposing views and argue with logic. He was a living encyclopedia of history and culture, who’d go into a trance every time mystic music was played. He was a voice for those who had lost their loved ones to terrorism. He was also “Uncle KFC” to kids!

We often say that life leads us where we least expected to go. Widowhood is one such territory. From the minute you’re widowed, people expect you to feel, behave and react the ‘socially acceptable’ way. They preach and try to mould you, your appearance, and your state of mind as per their norms. They don’t understand that the iddat period is meant not only to confirm whether you are pregnant but also for you to process grief. It can last longer than the prescribed four and a half months. Sometimes the grief can last an eternity. They claim that they are with you but soon will fade away from the picture, abandoning you with piles of official documents, societal pressures, in deep legal waters, and wading through a patriarchal system, especially if you are beginning to take charge of things.

We often say that life leads us where we least expected to go. Widowhood is one such territory. From the minute you’re widowed, people expect you to feel, behave and react the ‘socially acceptable’ way. They preach and try to mould you, your appearance, and your state of mind as per their norms.

In this turmoil, you try to start living your life, because that is the only option. You start doing things for the first time without your beloved. This past year has been the year of such ‘firsts’ for me. This fact makes the period all the more difficult. Memories can drain you — emotionally and physically. As you wash the bed sheets which he last slept in, and clean the toothbrush he used, and feel his clothes hung in the cupboard that still smell of him, and the last cigar that touched his lips… these things become permanent for you.

Sadly, very few friends understood how much it hurt, and fewer still said that I should take the time I needed to move on with life.

You go through stages of grief without really recognising them. The unfortunate part is that there aren’t any support groups to speak of. So, you are expected to bemoan and grieve briefly, and then snap out of it, because the very people who lent you a shoulder to cry on have tired of listening to your sob story or having to repeat their part over and over.

They will also judge you if you try to return to life. If you have a child, you’ll be told that you should feel blessed, without realising how difficult it is to be a single parent. As for those who are issueless, they are expected to thank God, as if not having a child makes moving on in life any easier.

My experience has been no different. Soon after his death, I received a call from a friend based in Dubai. She said, “You cannot live there any longer. Tell me how we can get you out of there.”

I did not take her concern seriously, but today I do understand what she meant.


The writer is a freelance journalist



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