“Shahnaz changed after her husband’s death…”
Daim is in class four in our school in Lahore. He is 13 years old but his height is only two-and-a-half feet. His parents were getting medicine for him for his height but last year his father died of a sudden heart attack. His mother is illiterate and there is no source of income for herself and three children.
Daim’s mother, Shahnaz, comes from a large and very poor family. Pakistani society is very patriarchal — the birth of a son is considered a blessing and the birth of a girl, a curse. When Shahnaz turned 19, they got her married. She gave birth to her first son, Daim, and the whole family celebrated. Shahnaz was esteemed and pampered. Later came a baby girl and then again, a boy. Then Shahnaz lost her husband. She had no education and had never been out of her house even to buy daily vegetables; she was stunned that she was all alone. She could not go back to her family — she had lost her parents and her two brothers told her clearly that they could not take care of her and her three kids.
People who thought Daim’s mother was lucky because she gave birth to two sons now say she is bad luck for the family since she gave birth to a dwarf and her husband died.
Shahnaz changed after her husband’s death; she does not speak much. She is mostly in her room with her youngest son, who was born a few months after her husband’s death. Our teacher said that Shahnaz has closed her whole self within herself, burying her desires, wishes and ambitions with her husband in his grave. At the same time, she is very protective of her three children. She cooks and cleans for the whole family without complaint.
Thank God the extended family came to her rescue, though they could only take care of the basic needs like food and clothing, not medicine. Daim’s aunt contacted us for help, and we approached a friend of our Loretto Community, Dr. Muhammad Babar Cheema, president of MAC (Muslim Americans for Compassion), who introduced us to one of his physician friends in Pakistan. Daim has started getting injections for his physical growth.