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A River of Hope and Nostalgia

"The only thing that kept me going was knowing that I wasn't alone."

-Naba Maryam

Author: Stuti Ajmera

August, 2021

I remember the day my mother and I sang old Hindi songs at the top of our lungs in the hospital. For a split second, everything was back to normal. It felt like things were going to be just fine.

It was the Summer of 2012 when we found out that my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. My entire family was devastated. We did our best to spend all the time with her. But despite the rigors of chemo, radiation and a double mastectomy, she never stopped smiling. I wondered how she did it. Undoubtedly, she is the strongest person I know. She was cancer-free after a two-year battle, but, to our dismay, it relapsed in 2015. It hit her harder the second time, and she succumbed.

Naba with her Mother

Things rapidly changed once she wasn’t around. I knew I had to be strong, not only for my younger brother and father, but also for myself. Previously, my father was not very involved in our lives, but after my mother died, we became extremely close. Ours grew into a close-knit family. We connected with one another and supported one another no matter what happened around us.

My mother has always supported my education. She was my biggest motivator and always pushed me to excel. The day after she died, I had an exam and I was crying because I couldn’t go and give it. My teachers had to come home and make me understand that that was the time to grieve and not worry about my studies. But I did give the next exam the very next day because I knew this is what my mother would have wanted. I knew she would want me to keep moving to achieve the greatest heights possible.

Throughout my life, my teachers have been a guiding light for me. They once told me, "Naba, whatever happens to you, you can set an example through it." and that is exactly what I did. I made certain that I was not limiting my opportunities because of something that had happened to me.

Naba with her brother and father

Since my father was born an Indian Muslim, the first thought that came to his mind when my mother passed away was that I must get married. I knew I wanted to continue my studies but at 18, I reluctantly got engaged to a childhood friend. I had to fight a lot of people to keep from getting married. I ended the engagement three months before the wedding date and was accepted into Jamia Millia's Sociology Honors programme.

In the year my mother was cancer free, I once showed her my first poem. She told me to keep doing it because she loved it. When I think about it now, I may not like what I wrote back then, but the confidence my mother instilled in me took off. Once I started writing after that, I didn’t stop and as a result, “Truthfully Divine” was born.

Truthfully Divine by Naba Maryam

It is a collection of my very own poems. These are poems that aren't just about me, but about everything I see; they're a synthesis of all the emotions I'm experiencing. My ultimate dream was to become an author, and I'm getting closer to that goal by preparing to release my second book very soon.

The absence of my mother left a void in my heart but it also made me the person I am today. When she was gone, all eyes were on me, and I was made responsible for everything. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that I wasn't alone. I had a history, but I'd moved on. I read inspiring stories that helped me cope and gave me hope that there was still something to look forward to.

I know I will encounter problems but moving on doesn’t mean forgetting it. It just means learning to live with it and finding happiness in whatever you have. And somewhere down the line, I might just find myself staring at the sky of possibility and humming to those old hindi songs again, just for old times’ sake.

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