My Guest Post on Motherhood: The Final Frontier (Plus Preview of My Mum’s Vermicelli Pudding)

ami and me MTFFIt’s been an absolute honour for me to have had the opportunity to write a guest post on Motherhood: The Final Frontier, for one of my favourite bloggers / friends, a British girl (former pop-star) who blogs anonymously from California about her life as a mum. She inspired me to write a short piece about my mother. In Missing Person’s Report , I write about the difficulty in coming to terms with the fact that one’s mum has aged; I still see her through the optic of a young child.

This post is dedicated to all the wonderful Mummies out there.


Missing Person’s Report

Has anyone seen my Ami (mother)?

5′ 5″ with hair the colour of ebony. The finest ebony which is found in East Africa. Still. Shiny. Beautiful. Front strands often highlighted in slivers of bronze.

Her skin, glossy and creamy like cappuccino.

She goes out a lot in the evenings with my father, for a night out in Georgetown, DC. A few nights ago she wore a white Biba jumpsuit cinched at the waist with a purple belt. Gold Charles Jourdan sandals, with a matching clutch. Eyelids dusted in shades of lapis lazuli by Mary Quant. Lips glossed, her high cheekbones highlighted a pearlescent shimmer. Surma (kohl) from Pakistan, lining her deep-set eyes. Hair parted down the middle.

I stood next to her as she sat in front of her vanity, applying surma in her eyes from a small, intricately carved antique silver bottle. It belonged to her grandmother. Her mother’s mother. I watched nervously as she used her hand to effortlessly glide the needle-thin surma applicator through her shut eye; opening it to reveal a coal dust-like outline. Like the eyes of women from the Bronze Age. Every summer we went to Lahore, my grandmother would send this surma bottle to the village to have it refilled for her daughter with this onyx dust.

That night, Ami came to my room to tuck me in. I could smell Joy by Jean Patou, the smell that was only my Ami’s. She was winsome and lithe. And beautiful. But I feel Ami disappeared, soon after.

I never filed a Missing Person’s Report, as I am rather confused.

The lady I now see in my family home wears pressed black trousers, a bit loose. I am quite sure this older lady is Ami, but I tell myself, Ami would never wear those trousers. This lady also wears a loose-fitted ivory pullover and flat, black Ferragamo loafers. “Those resemble orthopaedic shoes, the kind I saw in the Farmacia near the Piazza del Popolo,” I think to myself. Her grey hair is dyed auburn and parted to the side. A bit papery and wispy at the ends. The same high-cheekbones and deep-set eyes as my Ami’s. “But my Ami has ebony-coloured hair,” I tell myself.

This lady doesn’t cook much. She stopped cooking after her separation. But on Eid, she makes aromatic rice for me, with those caramelised ribbons of onions which I love. I have to pick out the cloves, I dont know why she adds them in. That day, she also makes a pudding with vermicelli, sugar, full-cream milk, cardamom, almonds and raisins. She stirs the pot on top of the stove all day, waiting for it to become thick and creamy. She serves it to me in a little teacup to drink. To taste before she takes it off the stove. As I greedily sip the hot, creamy, sweet pudding, I nod my head. She always uses special sundarkhani raisins, from Iran.

This lady drives very slowly. I often peer out the window to see her pulling out of the long drive-way, forwarding and reversing a few times. “Not like my petrol-head Ami,” I tell myself. Ami used to drive me down Collingwood Road in our suburb of Washington, DC. The road curved up and down, up and down. She would drive fast till I got butterflies in my stomach and almost threw up my french fries from the McDonald’s Happy Meal.

I love this lady. She answers my calls even when she is driving or when she is asleep at 5 in the morning, when I have forgotten the time difference between Rome and Washington. She buys me an Eid and birthday gift every year, no matter where in the world I am, and gives it to me when she sees me. She teaches me what humility is. She keeps a glass jar of cardamoms next to the tea bags in the kitchen whenever I go home to visit. She knows I like a pod in my tea. She buys Trader Joe’s whole wheat waffles and keeps them in the freezer for me when I visit. Sometimes she forgets the maple syrup. But I slather them with raspberry jam and butter instead. When she sits on her chair to pray, I watch her hands. I recognise them from my childhood. From that day when she applied surma in her eyes. Now they are like putty and soft. She doesn’t sit on the musallah (prayer rug). She tells me it makes her ankles hurt. When she removes her hands from her face, after prayer, her eyes are always wet. I know why. I want to tell her I love her.

I love this lady but I want to ask her, “Have you seen my Ami?” She used to wear blue eyeshadow and jumpsuits, her glossy, black hair resting on her slender back. I haven’t seen her since.

Where did she go?

I shall be posting the recipe for my mother’s vermicelli pudding this weekend.



  1. Shayma, what a lovely and beautiful photo.

  2. Hi, I’ve arrived from MTFF. LOVE your blog. I’m a Brit living in France (!) who loves to cook. France isn’t fond of hot spices so I’m hoping you’ll post some interesting curry-inspired dishes! I am utterly useless at Basmati, so am going to try your method. I’ve tried several ways and always end up with sticky porridge glue-mess.

    Your writing is beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for visiting me – I shall have a good nosey around your blog now. xx

  4. @Azita Many thanks, for visiting and reading.

    @Jo Thank you so much for your kind words. The French may not be fond of hot spices, but how lucky you are to live in such a beautiful country. The cheese, the wine, the seafood, the pastries-the list is neverending. I shall be posting a simple chicken curry recipe soon, in the New Year when I am back from my winter vacation in Pakistan.

    @Weebirdy Thanks so much- big fan of the weebirdy blog. have a long shopping list from your etsy page already.

  5. Shayma, I’m so glad you’re enjoying my blog! By the way, I’m eagerly waiting your vermicelli pudding post – I’m wondering if it’s similar to the Eid milk we drink at home at all, which is hot, has vermicelli, slivered almonds, saffron and cardamom?

  6. @Fatima Thank you, yes, the dish is similar, it is called shiir khurma (Dari) or savayyan (Urdu). We don’t add saffron, though.

  7. That’s interesting – I don’t know what we call it, I’ve always known it as ‘Eid milk’ (though, since we grew up in the West, my mother also makes it at Christmas). I find the way recipes travel and the variations they end up with along the way really fascinating.

  8. a wonderful post – really enjoyed reading it

  9. I love the way you write (and cook!).

  10. Wonderful post. And so true. All of it!

  11. @Aysegul Thanks for your comment on my friend’s blog regarding my post.

    @Saju So glad to see you’re blogging again, missed your lovely Ismaili recipes. Thanks for the kind words.

    @Jamie Many thanks. x

  12. That was a beautiful beautiful post Shyama. Have a great 2010 you and your Mom

  13. Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT food blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

  14. Hey, great blog…but I don’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me, please 🙂

  15. Shayma… Mom forwarded me your website and I really like the article you wrote about Aunty … can relate. You have a good eye for detail and I like your website!

  16. Dear Shayma:

    This post made me cry several times.

    As a mother watching her children grow up, I recognize the play of love and memory.

    I have a feeling that you are not the only one who feels there’s a Missing Person.

    Maybe Ami, like me, looks in the mirror and asks, Who is that person? Do I really look like that? Well, yes, I recognize the eyes…

    I don’t know what Ami looked like years ago, but she’s gorgeous in the photo above. (As is her daughter!)

  17. I love this piece and like Lorraine it made me cry – cos my Ami died in May 2008 and I miss her every single day even tho I had her for 53 years. What worries me is that all these great mamas are such hard acts to follow!

  18. @BongMom Thank you for visiting and for reading this post.

    @Swain Thank you.

    @Steph Thank you- I have now added the RSS subscription ‘chicklet’ to my blog- it’s on the upper right hand corner.

    @Shamyla Thanks ever so much. Love to you and your mum.

    @Lorraine We’ve already exchanged lovely words via email, but I wanted to thank you again for reading this and writing such a loving comment about my mum. She’s the kind of person who doesn’t complain much, I am sure she sees a changed lady when she sees her reflection. x s

    @Rita Thanks for your heartfelt comment. I am sorry you lost your Ami-you’re very lucky to have had her for so many years. Big hug.

  19. I think you expressed yourself as eloquently as is possible in words;especially about such an expansive topic as one’s own mother!

  20. Totally made me weep. My mother passed away in 2011. I would embrace with joy all the changes that your Mother will go through. I wish my mother had a chance to become an older woman.

  21. I only just read this post of yours and I love it… Thank you for sharing such beautiful yet intimate thoughts..

  22. Great reading your blog and scrumptious recipes. Wonderful to see the passion in your cooking and presentation. Was just looking for some recipes and someone mentioned your blog. I love the little film. Do share the recipe. I make something similar but the orange rind I have never used, seems interesting. Will definitely try it.


  23. What a wonderful blog…
    Amazing !!! 🙂

  24. A lovely reflection.

    I lost my lovely mother last month, I am sad to say. She died suddenly and unexpectedly, but without pain or distress and we were all able to be with her for her final day as she slept peacefully, before the night carried her away.

    My mother was a good cook and I learned my love of good food and my pleasure in cooking through her. She was adventurous and liked to try new things, but had good judgement about when to leave well alone. I have inherited her delight in wandering around markets, and something of her talent for making excellent use of whatever happens to be around in the kitchen when called upon to improvise.

    My father, my sisters and I miss her terribly: my parents were just approaching their 64th wedding anniversary when she died. But my sisters and I had over 50 years of love, guidance and delight with her, and we consider ourselves to be so lucky that we did. Although she never did give me her recipe for split pea soup – always much nicer than mine and I could never work out why!

    Thank you again for your beautiful post.

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  26. Thank you.

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