There are some people who surpass the realm of fame and success. They are forever immortalised by virtue of who they are and what they contribute to the society. Bajia was such a person.
I remember her larger-than-life personality when I first met her as a child. Visually she was a petite lady, but her intelligence, mental strength, physical energy and determination was way beyond her size. She was always dressed in an immaculate but simple white sari and chapals. No fancy jewellery or designer handbag, no false airs, she was real and approachable. She made you feel like she had known you your entire life, even if you met her for the first time.
When I was a five-year-old, my mother and sister, Nazia tried their level best to get me to participate in Sohail Rana’s TV show for children, Kaliyon ki Mala, but failed. It was finally Bajia who convinced me with her unassuming charm and a little packet of sweets. I remember she took Nazia and me to Pakistan Television studios in Karachi for the very first time. I am till date thankful to her for that.
I lost touch with Bajia when we moved to London. But when I returned many years later, I met her again at the time of Nazia’s wedding. She told my mother,
“I only came because it’s my granddaughter’s wedding.”
I did not see Bajia for quite some time after the wedding, until I met her again at the Sindh Governor House. I was Honorary Advisor to Governor Sindh at the time and she held the post of Advisor to Chief Minister Sindh. She told me,
“Beta please come and visit your old Bajia when you have time.”
The next day, I promptly went to her office. She was surrounded with opportunists wanting to somehow benefit from her new governmental post. Seeing me, she told the others that her beta is here and asked them politely to excuse her until tomorrow.
When they left, she sat with me and asked me why I looked so upset.
“You should be happy that God has also given you the position and opportunity to work for the province of your birth.”
I confessed that it was the other way around; I could not accept what I saw around me. There was lot more wrong than right. The undeserving seemed to be gaining strength and the deserving were shunned and left to suffer. What is one supposed to do?
She smiled and told me not to worry about it and let God be the judge of whether they were doing right or wrong.
“You should stay the person you are. Use your energy to spread positivity, rather than fight the people who spread negativity in our society. Ignore what they are doing, just focus on what you can do to help the people who actually need it.”
During the next three years, Bajia and I would meet frequently, talking and reflecting over things. I learnt so many things from her wisdom. Unfortunately, when I returned to London, I lost touch with her for a while. A common family friend in London informed me that Bajia was severely ill, so I rushed to Karachi to see her.
I was told that she refused to stay in the hospital and rested on a makeshift hospital bed at home. She looked very frail and had a drip extending down her arm. I was warned that she may not recognise me due to her condition. The attending nurse told her,
“Zoheb sahib has come to see her.”
She opened her eyes and stared at me, as if she didn’t recognise me. She then held my hand and whispered,
“My beta, how are you?”
The nurse was surprised that she acknowledged me. I could not hold back my tears, as I could not bear to see the lady who had been the source of my inspiration for so many years, now look so helpless. Deep down I knew that it may be the last time I would see her again which made me feel even worse. I left Karachi with a heavy heart.
The dreaded news finally came. Renowned Playwright Fatima Surayya Bajia passed away.
Is that it, was she just a playwright?
Many never knew her beyond this, hence I feel special that I got an opportunity to see her greatness. She was truly an institution. She may have left us, but has left behind a legacy of great writing and extensive social work. Her kindness, sensitivity and passion to be a good human being is something that we all as Pakistanis must endeavour to keep alive. Rest in peace our dear Bajia.