Some people stay in your subconscious through out your life and inspire and encourage you in ways you never fully understand. They become part of you even when they practically don’t exist in your life. Ms Shehla Arshad became part of my journey when I was in primary school. I and my family often spent our summers at my grandmother’s place in Karachi. I remember Ms Shehla and her mother visiting us. She is a relative from my mother’s side. My mother had told me she was highly qualified and was a teacher at a reputed private school.
The first few times I met her made me realize that she was different. She was simple, decent and hard-working. And she didn’t gossip! I despise people who gossip! She was elegant, yet smart but in a classy kind of way! She wore no make up except for a soft shade of lipstick. I remember her wearing clothes of subtle hues of pinks, or lavender or greys. I often noticed the footwear she wore were mostly from EBH.
What fascinated me most about her was that she was a working woman, a teacher! It was my ambition to become a teacher too. So, I kind of looked up to her as my role-model! Not that I knew it at that time. I was basically really impressed with her. Also, Ms Shehla’s first cousin, who happens to be my uncle’s wife talked endlessly about cooking, marriage and childbirth and speaking to Ms Shehla felt refreshingly normal. I decided she would have something unique and useful to offer to the world!
I never knew her as a person ( I still don’t know much about her ) but whenever we met, she left a pleasant impression on my mind. I started believing that the reason she was so agreeable was because she was a teacher and not a housewife! Not that I hold anything against housewives but I admire women who are energetic and enterprising and who work outside their homes to deliver to the society something of value, something that extends beyond themselves. And I found Ms Shehla was a glittering example of such women!
As I grew up, I continued hearing from my mother that Ms Shehla was a cultured lady, polite and courteous and minded her own business. Not only was her outlook simple, she was from within a simple, uncomplicated soul. I witnessed this myself when a few times I met her. I found that she was humble and kind. She was educated and her education reflected in her manners and her style.
My secret admiration for her kept on growing and I aspired to know her like she was some kind of a celebrity. Many times when she came to our place to meet my uncle’s wife, I spoke to her but not enough to know the kind of person she was. She often talked to me about my education and the college I went to. Once when I was doing BBA, she visited us. She somehow thought that I was an expert at Maths and I told her I was the opposite. 😛 At another time, when I had started working, she asked me about my school and the subject I taught. Such small conversations we had and for a very little time but they left a positive and lasting impression on me.
At my workplace I often tell my colleagues about her. Whenever my colleagues say that my passion for teaching would waver and probably decline once I get married, I quickly give them Ms Shehla’s example. That she has been working since ages! She worked when her children were small and she works even today when all her children are going to university. I think this is the part I love most about her. While most women in Pakistan rely on their husband’s income, and even whine when their husbands can’t meet their expenses, Ms Shehla chose a distinct path and became an equal partner when it came to work and responsibilities.
One of the finest aspects of her character is that she is tender and genial and makes you feel completely at ease. She doesn’t seem to be those ladies who pry or intrude on people’s privacy. I think this is one aspect of her personality that I totally adore.
Only recently, I decided to search her on Facebook. Upon finding her I found inexplicable joy. I felt that Facebook would help me glance at her world. I also wished to meet her in person. The glimpses I have had of her in all these years have remained vivid in my mind.
While she continued to be my inspiration, I never thought I could really get to know her. And then only yesterday, totally out of the blue, Ms Shehla visted us and took me by surprise! It was the first time I skipped the formalities and got to know her beyond the little I already knew. Her children accompanied her too. I discovered they were all bright students. It was a delightful moment. I felt elated! I was in high spirits! Meeting Ms Shehla and getting to know her was like a dream come true!
Written By Shumila Malik