By the end of March, the grand revelation to embrace life in its most crude form came upon me over tea with my teacher. Sitting on one of the sofas at Gymkhana with her gigantic oxygen tank, she asked me how my life was and if I was getting along with people. I obviously still wasn’t and she gave me one of her creamiest smiles confirming that it was fine.
This is precisely why Miss Saira Malik was there — to tell us that everything is alright, even if you have cancer. As long as God has gifted you with life, nothing is execrable.
Miss Saira was one of those teachers who could get away with taking her classes in the college lawns because she felt the weather was much too good to be missed out on. She would even buy us samosas on a rainy day. But if you missed more than four of her classes, she would maintain her insouciant aura and tell you that you were out of her course.
In my fifth semester, much to my delight, I had scored all ‘A’s except on Miss Saira’s subject. I went to the staff room to talk to her about the ridiculous ‘C’ that she had given me in the “Constitution of Pakistan” and she replied, “It’s all Miss Saira’s fault!”
She’d tell all of her girls to get rid of their ‘we’re oh-so-delicate’ attitudes because life isn’t going to be easy. She’d say this a lot!
Everybody knew Miss Saira Malik. She’d drive every day in her grey car to college and wave at a pool of girls along the way. She’d often honk at you if she saw you walking by and gift us her wonderful smile as if it was this priciest thing was the easiest to give away. That creamy, perpetual smile of Miss Malik could take your worries away and melt your frigid heart.
Miss Saira did give us a lot. Walking in her blue and white joggers, she wouldn’t hestitate to express her moral views and often guide you in how you must be in this world. “If you’re a woman, teach!” she’d say. “What’s the matter?” she’d ask if you had your poker face on.
Being able to empathise is what most of us find difficult. For Miss Saira, your loss was as painful to her as it was to you. She always had time to reply to your texts or send you a birthday message. She would like your pictures on the Facebook and make her presence known by dropping comments like “very cute” or “lovely selfie!”
It makes you sullen when you think of why she had to leave after all that she had endured.
I believe she had to leave because she prayed to God to do what was best for her. She was a teacher, which is, as someone said, the most worthy thing a person can be. She became a part of hundreds of lives, making their worries her concerns. She established love as an undistributed territory with no rules and no time limits.
You’ll find Miss Saira in memories. At her house near Jail Road where you can still smell her scent. On the lawns of Kinnaird College. In the Staff Room. In pictures. In dreams. In your morals. In your strength. In the myriad of thoughts which will follow the name Saira Malik. She’s not lost. You will find her. She’s left her path with everlasting bread crumbs for us to feed on. All we have to do is follow in her footsteps.
Miss Saira Malik, you are missed but never forgotten.