At the beginning of this month we have lost our beloved Dilara Khaled , my Mejho Mami to cancer. Mejho mami was a very kind, big hearted and graceful lady. After coming to the USA, I think Mejho Mami is the only one and Mama also with whom I would video chat for hours besides abbu ammu. She would show me the house, her plants and antique collections, the garden and I would show her my paintings, my illustration project and the research that I was doing. I’ll deeply miss her, her smile, her laughter and her warmth towards me.
This illustration story is in honor of my Mejho Mami, Dilara Khaled, who believed in the beauty of life and this project.
Written by Kirsten Gudgeon, Illustration by Zeenat Nahar
“On clear nights like these, she feels free from the heat and pressure of reality. The light fabric of her dress moves in the wind as she stares at the vast sky. The stars always seem brighter away from the vineyard tresses.
She used to be scared of the dark. She would be wide-eyed, moving swiftly through the cold morning to find her father as he worked in the barn. She would hear clanking of metal, crackling fire and the crickets chirping. Each pound of the metal would strike in her ears but she would run toward the warmth. Her father would be shaping horseshoes, ash on his arms and face, the glow of the fire lighting his dark eyes. He would smile when she walked in, and tell her to stay back for safety. She would sit on a barrel, reading a book aloud, her father stopping to correct a word or two. When she couldn’t sleep, she knew she could find him, working with the fire. It never occurred to her that her father’s capable hands could slip, hit the metal wrong, make a spark jump away, catching the hay, instantly catching and leaping into the nearby bales. Her father was always so fast; catching her from falling out of a tree, rushing the horses from their blazing stalls. There was yelling, galloping, crackling wood, cries from family for water, wet blankets; “QUICKLY!” She wasn’t allowed near the barn. Her face was hot with sweat and tears that the fire blasted from her skin. The cold breeze whipped her hair around, numbing the heat. Her uncle told her to go inside, to her room, to be safe. How could it be safe when everything was so hot? The blankets on her bed, the air around her room, even her breath.
She breathed in the night air, shaking the memory. Now she liked to walk outside, past the new barn, past the vineyard, up toward the plateau where her father taught her about stars. He would sit behind her and point up at the sky. Each star burned so brightly, they showed blues and purples hidden in the black. “Those colors wouldn’t be there without those fires,” he said.
“But you said fires are dangerous.”
“Yes, querida, they are. But after a fire, brighter colors show in the new growth, which is the most beautiful thing to see…”