Her phone vibrated as she drank the last sip of coffee before leaving for work–it was a message from her mother.
“My Dear, Recite all quls and blow on yourself to prevent negative energies of others affecting you and nazar.”
Even with all the years of her mother texting, she often wrote messages like letters. The message was mixed in with various emojis of love, worship and flowers. There are always flowers. Considering their most recent conversation, nazar was on top of her mother’s mind. Right now, Seher must do everything possible to protect herself from the evil eye. With her aunty visiting from Pakistan, Seher’s mother was especially sensitive of the information publicly shared in the house. During their last conversation, her mother insisted that Seher’s father ought to be more conscious when talking over the phone since all calls are obviously over speaker phone and anything discussed is no longer private with out-of-town company. Her mom went on to advise Seher to confirm her father is in his room before she shares her life updates or talk in Spanish.
Considering that her daughter had been an eligible bachelorette for many years with still no serious prospect of marriage, Taheera, Seher’s mother, was certain there was some curse placed on her innocent child. When Seher would visit home, her mom would spontaneously blow on her after reciting sacred passages from the Qur’an. One time, before she left for her best friend’s wedding, Taheera spit over both of Seher’s shoulders after she took a photo of her.
“That’s gross Ammi, why would you do that?”
“It’s not gross, it’s to keep off the evil spirits,” her mother quickly retorted.
It was always like this. Seher wondered if this was a result of some unhealed childhood trauma that no one in her family could ever fully celebrate whatever happened in life–as if a dark cloud always lingered in the abyss at the sight of a colorful rainbow. One such example was when Seher got into a highly-coveted graduate school program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. When Seher found out, she was sitting at the desk in her lousy office at City Hall. She screamed for joy and immediately called her best friend. Since she would be traveling to Pakistan in a couple days to meet with her parents and family, Seher had decided to wait until she was there to tell her mom in person.
A couple nights into her trip, Seher and her mom went for a post-dinner walk.
“Ammi, I have exciting news to share,” Seher began. She could see her mother’s eyes light up. Immediately, she had a sinking feeling that her mom was expecting news very different from what she was about to share.
“I got into Harvard.” Like a balloon, the air slowly deflated and Seher could practically see her mother shrink. How could joy and sadness co-exist? “Wrong H,” Seher thought–Ammi was looking for “husband”..not “Harvard”.