December 1964 - September 2015

Fehmida Januwalla: Feisty and positive till the end

Fehmida Januwalla

I have been asked by the Januwala family to say a few words about Fehmi today. It is difficult to limit the number of words, so please bear with me.

Fehmida Januwalla was born in Mombasa, the daughter of Zehraben and Ismailbhai Mandviwalla. She was the only sister to her two brothers, Iqbal and Arif. All three were lovingly brought up by the parents as well as their uncle Amirbhai and aunt Aminaben Mandviwalla. Fehmi married Aquil Januwalla in 1989. Their two children, Alia and Khaliq were born in Kenya, before they moved to Canada in 2000.

Fehmi took on her disease with her signature feistiness, humour, her skillful ability to make friends and most of all a positive outlook. She was resolved to fight, to try everything possible and would give the oncologist or heart specialist an earful if they were not prepared to do the same for her. Along her journey we would learn of all the people she met - her caregivers and Wellspring fellows became her personal friends. She and others at a treatment clinic dubbed themselves the ‘Club Med’ girls, where they were treated to cocktails, as a joke to make their ordeal more bearable. She would recount stories of fellow patients with such compassion and empathy, as though her own was pale and insignificant in comparison. She never failed to count her blessing in the direst of circumstances.

More personally, Fehmi and Aquil were part of what we called a gang of friends with a number of other families who are present today. Our lives were intertwined intimately as we celebrated milestone events such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, cricket matches and ghazal evenings to name a few. Fehmi never said no at any chance for entertainment, often she was the instigator. Today, each of us wonders how we will ever attend a live show or binge watch a pakistani drama or Netflix or enjoy a picnic without the sweetness of her presence, her laughter and sharing with her those experiences. What of the daily texts? How to fill this void?

Fehmi's family, your grief is overwhelming, as you ponder the future without Fehmi.

Zehra aunty, tamari ramuji chhokri chali gai. Amaru dua chhe ke tamne Khuda sabar ape Koi maa ne avo divas na jovo joye. Ame tamari taklif samji sakhe chhe. Inshallah, tamne sabar avi jaa se.

Arif and Iqbal, it seemed every time Fehmi so much as sneezed, you were able to appear in an instant, beating time and distance challenges from Nairobi and the UK What better love can a sister ask from her brothers? May you find consolation and solace. We extend our condolences to Lena, Zara, Sarah and Farooq.

Aquil, you were her husband, friend, and warrior. Fehmi defied her prognosis extending her life way beyond the doctors’ decrees, thanks to your tireless advocacy, nourishment and nursing. You took on your new role as the medical gladiator in your stride, as though it was the most natural thing to research molecular biology, food chemistry and drug administration. While the days ahead seem bleak and empty, have faith my friend. We will laugh once again, though it may not be as loud. And knowing how bossy Fehmi was, you will always feel her presence, whether she commands you to rest and slow down or asks you to not talk so loudly! (Fehmi being the organised and always-prepared person she mailed Aquil a piece on "grieving".)

To Fehmi's children

Parveen and Raheem, Fehmi was torn at Rubina's untimely passing away in 2006. With her usual resolve, she did her best to fill her gap, worrying over your needs, sending you off to school and partaking in your life. Parveen, as you so rightly said, she was the glue that bound the family. She has taught you the value of love and loyalty. That will carry you through the dark days.

Alia, Fehmi's daughter, friend and hero. Fehmi delighted in your accomplishments. She did not want you to stop for a moment in your pursuit of your dreams. Your travels to Lebanon, India, Europe were her portal to the world. She was happy to experience life through your eyes and all your senses.

Khaliq, Fehims' eyes lit up in amazement and joy as your artistic talent developed. Your acceptance to the program was a source of such happiness, her illness was forgotten for a while. You will always remain Fehmi's baby. Even as she saw you off to Ottawa last Saturday, she fretted over your meals, your clothes and whether you will miss home too much.

Alia and Khaliq - more that anything else in the world, she wanted you to be happy and together - always. She has shown you the way. Her energy and determination runs through your veins. As you succeed and thrive in life, her spirit will celebrate and cheer you on, all your life. I promise you that your current gloom is no match for Fehmi’s optimism and sunny outlook to life.

I will end with a quote from Eckhart Tolle, in whose teaching Fehmi found much solace: "Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”

Thank you.