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'Messages from my Mother'

Writing: Zainab Mohsin

Illustration: Zainab Mohsin

I was talking to my mother about my first year as a student in Edinburgh when I was back home in Karachi over the summer, and realised that all the little reminders she would message me from time to time had a greater impact on me over the course of that first year than I’d initially thought. I wrote this little piece after a friend asked if I was ever truly prepared to go and live in a place I’d only ever read about or seen on screen.

Mera bacha, remember how hard you’ve worked

Of course, ma

I doubt I’ll ever forget how much I hated school

How I spent most of my time reading and learning things they wouldn’t teach us in class

How strange it felt when everyone else seemed to move on but I stayed put in that

little blue chair.

Mera bacha, remember it won’t be easy being alone

Well it’s not like I’m not used to it ma.

You’ve spent weekends upon weekends watching me sit in bed

or help you around the house or reorganise all the bookshelves

Because you know those people made me feel embarrassed to be myself.

Mera bacha, remember that you’ll definitely stand out

I know ma.

As proud as I am of having this hair this skin these eyes

Of being raised in colour and light and music

Of being given a name that means so much

I know people can’t help but ask where I’m from or

Why my English is so good or

How I ended up here.

But that’s alright because I want them to know who I was raised to be.

Mera bacha, remember how proud we are of you

Not many of us get to do what we want when we leave home at eighteen.

Not sure how, but I know all I want to do is make sure you don’t

ever regret letting me do this.

I want both of you to smile when people ask about me,

I want him to get excited when his friends ask about his older sister.

Ma, remember that by the end of this

I’m going to make sure that I’ll leave here with

a robe and cape and memories full of smiles.

Your smiles, my smiles, the smiles of people I’ve met here.

Please remember that despite all we hear from other people,

What people say to my face when I walk around thinking I can’t understand

How even when the most well-intentioned people slip up,

You’ll see everything you keep reminding me of will make this worth it.

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