“It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again”
I often listen to this song when I miss Marium. It is just so relatable. This is my first ever blog post, and probably the hardest and the longest. As the war frenzy is on the media and another flight lieutenant died due to another technical fault in a PAF aircraft few days ago, I had to pull myself together and write down a story. I am writing this story because it gives me great courage and more power to be and to do what I want. The story is about losing a best friend that I loved and cherished. The story is about chasing your dreams, which is exactly what I plan on doing with my life now. So I am reminiscing to inspire my own self and then inspiring all the ladies out there, who are reading this.
This is a dedication post for all the women who I have been friends with, who pull me up, and, are there for me, and to Marium Mukhtiar, who is irreplaceable.
The one with the Karachi posting
Attiya, Marium and I, at Apsacs Malir Cantt.
Postings are always hard, even though I enjoyed them. One has to leave their home and friends, and amazing places that you fall in love with; in a short period of time. The settling phase in the next city is even harder, when you are dying of the nostalgia, and breathing in a new air. Such was our condition at the time Marium and I met. She got posted from Quetta to Karachi, and I came from Rawalpindi. We met at Army Public School and College, Malir Cantt, and became friends as soon as we met each other. This is a very typical scenario of children from the forces background.
Although this was a home station for the both of us, but we wouldn’t stop talking about Quetta and Rawalpindi. I remember being extremely awed by the fact that she used to play for Quetta Women football team. As soon as we found out, our houses were near, the school friendship turned into things like spending days together to night walks, from discussing and doing the homework together to being highly comfortable with each other’s siblings, etc. It was that beautiful kind of friendship people use to have when there was limited social media activities, and more real life action.
The one where Matriculation ends, and intermediate starts
Posing for a picture at a party in Army Public School and College, Malir Cantt.
Matriculation ended, and intermediate started. Quite awfully, we had to say goodbye to the group of girls we made friends with due to various reasons which included postings and shifting to other colleges, etc., and also in the next session (intermediate), we didn’t even get the same section. I was in section E and she was in section D, and we only hanged around in the break time that we had, or after the college. We went to the same tuition centre in model colony. We had this arrangement, that she would pick me up and we will go together, and then I’ll drop her back. In those rides to and from our tuition centre, we use to listen to weird songs. ‘Lucky boy- Bachna Ae Haseeno’ was our college song and still cracked us up every time we talked about it in the later days.
The one with the Trio
Marium, Mydah and I, at Mydah’s residence.
… And then we met Mydah Wasti at our tuition centre, and we loved her. We loved her so much that from two, we became three. We even named ourselves, Power Puff Girls (haha!), with different nicks obviously. Marium was Mimi, Mydah was Maddy, and I (Amna) was Amzy. The three of us were a happy bunch of crazy. Mydah was the beautiful macho kind; Marium was the quiet listener until obviously she was ecstatic about something and then she won’t stop talking, and I, well they called me ‘Madar –e–Millat’. We even got ourselves those bracelets that showed our love for each other.
The one with the twilight saga
Marium posing with the final book ‘Breaing Dawn’ of the Stephanie Mayer’s Twilight book series.
Marium, Mydah and I were avid readers. It was our alternate reality. From Enid Blyton, Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steel, to the Harry Potter series, etc. we read them all. Reading was our favourite hobby (of course they loved football too which I was in no way interested in other than the fancy stuff. ahah!). The Twilight books and its craziness at that particular time is something I cannot forget! The obsession with Edward Cullen, Jacob Black, Alice Cullen and Bella Swan was like no other. We have stayed up nights to complete the series, discussing it every day, and even watched the movies together. Little did we know that the immortality that we dig in will be achieved by one of us some day.
The one with the shifting
Marium had to shift to another place in Malir Cantt, which was her final place. Rehana Aunty, her mom, is a perfectionist. The new house went through a considerable amount of renovation. She showed me around in the new house, I was highly impressed. Rehana Aunty is a strong woman, who literally has everything under control. I have to accept the fact that as much as I loved her for the amazing strong personality, I was also intimidated, and I think everyone else was too. For a long period of time I thought she didn’t like me much, but it wasn’t the case. I was definitely being stupid.
It is a funny story, but my family also shifted to another place within Malir Cantt, because the former one had ghosts in it. And to my greatest joy, my house was near Marium’s house AGAIN, and so we resumed are walks and talks, and hanging together on a regular basis.
The one with the deepest discussions
Two Years into our friendship, we developed the sisterhood that the three of us needed. We discussed families, friends, little things, big things, life decisions, life problems, and the things like all the friends do. It is in one of those discussions, when the three of us discussed our love for the armed forces. Mydah wanted to join the army, Marium wanted to be a pilot, and me, well I knew for a fact that however much I love the armed forces I could never get in, due to the eye sight issues and the height issues, and other issues, so I chose to be a nomad even then. The ideas were not as reformed though but still there. We loved the armed forces. The whole concept of serving your country, the oomph of being an officer, the rules and regulations, the postings, we loved it all.
Marium went to Somiani with my family and I, and that’s where we discussed how difficult it is for a woman to be in an occupation solely made for men, but we knew for a fact that elsewhere in the world, women were pilots. She had to challenge the mind sets. She talked to her father afterwards, who was her best friend. He was a little reluctant, but didn’t say No. Of course it was a tough decision to make and it wasn’t going to work out so easily. But then, on one of the sports day, Marium came up to me and said ‘look who is here!’ and there they were, women from the armed forces, looking all beautiful in those sarees, head held high , walking briskly. Marium and I drooled over them, and she said ‘I just want to be like them’. I think that was the day she made up her mind.
The one with the first attempt
Now that we were done with our college, it was time we started thinking what we wanted to be. Marium had a difficult time making her family understand what she wanted to do, but they agreed to it. I would like to give a huge shout out to all those parents, who trust their daughters and let them be, what they want to be. Marium’s parents are truly an inspiration for people. They not only agreed upon her wishes, but also worked really hard to let her have them. She gave the first attempt. I heard all those ISSB stories of how the girl passed out after running, another girl in the hospital because she twisted her ankle, and how weird the questions were in the interview, etc. But it didn’t work out. She was one inch shorter than the required length. And for a moment or so, we thought, that was it.
The one with the NED University
In the vacations before university had to start, my father got posted again. This time only I had to leave. My family and I shifted to the city centre of Karachi. Things were changing rapidly. We had to work things out. The admission processes needed to be done. After the first attempt Marium obviously opted for NED University of Engineering and Technology. That is what every Karachi kid does. I did the same. She went into Civil Engineering, and I went into Architecture. The days following our admission; we use to talk about how cool university life was. I use to meet her when I visited the main campus, and that was about it. I still wish we met more often when we could, it’s just we were so intimidated by our parents, although we tried but it was just too far off for them, and we just didn’t force it. But in those mini-meetups and calls, I knew for a fact she was not satisfied of where she was. Civil Engineering was great, but sometimes you just don’t want to do something, because you are set on another thing.
The one with the second attempt
Marium completed one semester of Civil Engineering and decided on giving a second attempt. She needed that ‘one inch’ to get what she wanted. She had to try one more time. I clearly remember when she said, ‘I have nothing to lose. If it works out, then I’ll be the luckiest person, if not, well I am very happy at NED University as well’. BUT she worked very hard for it. She did stretching exercises and ran every single day as much as she could, until the ISSB day.
The hard work paid off. And she finally got selected as the ‘GD Pilot of Pakistan’.
The one where she leaves
You know it’s not easy to leave your family and friends, pursue your dream, yet every single one of us in our lives, does that. Men leave their homes for better careers; women leave their homes because of marriages. We all ‘leave’ at one point; some do it a little earlier though. Marium left way too early. The time, neither me nor Mydah, understood what it felt like to leave. We were all ecstatic on how great the whole thing was, but Marium had her blues. In the last call before Marium left, we discussed how our lives have changed, and will continue to do so. I gave her the assurance that we shall always be here, and in no time when she is done, we will be here, being her best friends. But I think she realized it way before we did, that it’s never going to be the same. Officers had a tough life. The initial life has barely any connections to the outside world. It was a long way to go.
The one with the long calls and separate lives
At one point of my life, the interaction with Marium was extremely minimum. I had to wait for her to either come home for holidays or go somewhere for the weekend, take someone’s phone and call me. And we have done that for quite a long time. We relied on calls. The calls included all kind of her fascinating academy stories, her amazing friends and colleagues, and all the other weird stuff, where I would oh, aww and Oh My God! And I would tell her my adventures in architecture, the ups and downs. They went on for hours. The longest call was for five hours! We had so much to talk about even those five hours weren’t enough. I mean we practically covered all our stepping stones, our fears, our likes and dislikes, everything. There is one thing I will never forget, is when I told her all my cool life happenings and she said, ‘I wish I was there with you, I miss us!’. We knew deep inside that we will never have that kind of friendship again; it will always be long calls and brief meetups. But atleast she was there. I knew she was always there, and I could count on her.
The one with the trio wedding meet-up
Didi’s (Marium’s sister) wedding was the last time the three of us met. It was back in 2013. We were so excited. Although due to exams, I could only make it to one event, the mehndi. The kind of life Marium had, she had no idea what she was wearing at her sisters events. She practically came to Karachi three hours before the event, and I think she was only here for 2 days. It was crazy! We met her after an year or so, and It was genuine happiness. After all this time, we had the same synchrony. Nothing changes when the minds have clicked, and hearts have imprints. We were sisters, and we will always be.
The one with the happy endings
Mydah was the first one to get married, and obviously, Marium couldn’t make it to the events. I had to call her up to fill in with every little detail. I missed her, we missed her. There were countless times when Mydah and I would actually pause for a moment and sigh, and wished Marium was here with us. Soon afterwards to my greatest joy, Marium also had a baat pakki (engagement). I don’t think Marium actually thought too much of marriage. But since now she had graduated, and everything was cool, so she said yes. The call following the baat pakki was all giggles and plans, and stalking the boy. With a married woman and an engaged woman, I was the only single woman, and yes I had been forced into thinking for myself too.
The one with the last call
Mydah went to France after the wedding. Marium was at Mianwali. I was the only one in Karachi. My childhood best friends were a thousand miles away from me, and it was sad. It’s a clichéd but I had recurring dreams of meeting Marium and Mydah, hugging them and talking all night. I literally thought that they were my thesis blues, things were not going okay, or maybe I just needed them. I texted Marium to know how she was, she replied me the usual way. When I couldn’t reply her back, she called me up. I had exams and thesis, so I didn’t talk much but I promised her I am going to call her back, and we shall talk for hours, because I had so much to talk about. Little did I know, that was the last time we were ever going to talk.
The one where she died
Mid-way between my exam, I couldn’t remember anything, and I knew something was wrong. Even my professor asked me if I was okay, but I couldn’t say much. As soon as I got out of the examination hall, I had several miscalls from a friend who is also in the PAF. I called him back, and he told me, she was gone.
I sometimes imagined how it would feel like to listen to a death news. It was nothing like I imagined. I didn’t want to believe it, and I was praying inside that as soon as I get home, I somehow find out, it’s not her. And you know how I finally accepted what had happened, I spoke to my mother. My mother pulled me up, and took me to Marium’s home. In these years of friendship, my family was also as connected to her, as I was. As I entered the house and Rehana Aunty saw me, we both just broke into sobs, hugging each other, telling ‘Marium stories’. And that’s where I finally accepted it. She is not here anymore.
The one with the last meeting
I must say, the burial was beautiful. She was in a deep sleep. BUT everyone else was in utter chaos. Deaths shake you up from the inside. I was going through the same chaos in my mind. With her voice and laughter ringing in my ear, the happenings in the present, and the non-stop crying because of the memories rewinding in my head, and since the time had stopped, the numbness was deafening.
I finally met her though, just not alive. I said my goodbye, but she didn’t reply.
There is something that broke my heart when I was at the funeral, and that was how media was trying to get the best footage for their ratings to get high. They were practically being mean to the mourners watching the burial. I literally wanted to slap a guy, and scream at him, because I was getting so frustrated with his ‘getting the perfect angle talk’. We were mourning, and they were being inhumane. I didn’t see any empathy in any one of those people standing there, doing the coverage. It was like they were taking away my right of mourning, they were ruining my goodbye, and I know for a fact that I will never forgive them for this (I Don’t Care if that’s emotional).
The one with her happily ever after
‘Shaheed ki jo mout hai, woh Qoam ki Hayat hai’
Death of a Martyr is the life of a nation
Let’s face it, we all have to die, one day, and we’ll lose everyone we have as well. This life is so short, that I actually wrote a post on 8 years of my life with Marium (not as comprehensive as I wanted it to be, but oh well). But today, I am happy, and not just happy, very happy. Marium made me proud of being a woman. Marium is a Shaheed, who won the immortality. She did everything she ever wanted to do, and left this world in peace. Marium is a true warrior.
And So she got her happily ever after…
Although not like she imagined it, but Allah had HIS plans for her. With the whole Pakistani Nation proud of her, women looking up to her, parents dreaming to have a daughter like her, Marium made her name as a woman, as a fighter pilot, in this patriarchal society. She did what she wanted to do, not caring about anything, and pursuing a career which was male dominated or traditionally affiliated to masculinity.
Here is something I would like to add for all the women out there, who are reading this. Your motive in life should not be just to get married. Marriage is beautiful, but that’s just a part of life. You need to do what you want to do. All the right people will accept you for who you are, and what you do. When you have lived a life that you wanted, you’ll be at peace with yourself and like a friend of mine once said to me,
‘It’s easier to die, when you know you have lived.’
The one where I felt cheated
There are somethings that I never said out loud but now I think I should.
Don’t hate me when I write this but I have seen the struggles Marium went through when she became a GD pilot, and I bet every person in the air force goes through the same struggles, but losing her to a ‘technical’ fault doesn’t give me much of peace inside my heart. For someone who was as dedicated as Marium was, to fight for our nation, to be on the battle ground, a technical fault just isn’t a logical explanation to a fighter’s death. I don’t know what the Pakistan Air force is doing. Like I mentioned before, another flight lieutenant died a few days ago due to the same ‘technical fault’. I feel for his family and friends. I don’t understand why the Pakistan Air Force has such aircrafts? Why don’t they maintain it well enough to have minimum technical faults? If it was once in 5-10 years, it would have been acceptable. But it has only been 10 months.
And to the Pakistani Nation, whoever is reading, Marium was a Muslim Pakistani. The debates on whether she was a sunni or shia, either a hazara or a sindhi, or whether she was a shaheed or not, etc etc, were extremely saddening for all the people who loved her. Claiming her and defaming her with all those swear words, either for your own benefit or for the sake of just being cool, was extremely low of some people and literally broke our heart. And I am mentioning this, not because I am a pessimistic weirdo, or because I cannot see how much the beautiful people of Pakistan praised her, but because this is the exact mind-set that stops people from being what they want to be. Let’s just be happy in this extremely short life that we have, and spread peace!
Thank you everyone who took the time out to read this amazingly long post. I had to pour my heart out, because I was literally bleeding inside. This made me feel lighter.