Being a mother is discovering strengths you didn’t know you have, and facing fears you didn’t know existed. This could not be truer in the case of supermoms from the Dawoodi Bohra community, who have overcome all odds while raising their children. This Mother’s Day, we salute the spirit of Dr. Fatema Ismail Jetpurwala, and Tasneem Causar Motiwala for their never-give-up attitude and courage.
Dr. Fatema’s son Husein was born 37 years ago, with Cerebral Palsy, a set of neurological conditions that affect movement. At the time physicians too, were not well-versed with the condition, which made Husein’s options for treatment limited. As a mother, this broke her heart. But determined to ensure her son gets the right treatment, she visited several international libraries, based in Mumbai and spoke to doctors to learn more about his condition. Growing up, Husein’s speech was impaired, his movement affected, and he was unable to carry out even the most basic tasks.
Following her research, and having spoken to several advisers, whom she calls fairy godmothers, Dr. Fatema decided to educate herself, in order to reach out to her son. She enrolled in college, and completed her B.Ed in Special Education, followed by a MD in Homeopathy. During this time, Dr. Fatema struggled having to balance her home and professional lives, but her determination to see her son’s condition improve, kept her going.
Armed with multiple degrees, she used her knowledge to empower her son, by talking to him, and teaching him how to carry out daily tasks on his own. Her efforts soon paid off, and Husein learned how to speak, identify shapes and colours, and much more.
As a result of her efforts, today, Husein too is a Homeopathy doctor, as well as holds a MBA in Health Care. He has also had the honour of meeting former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and former President Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. On the personal front, he is a loving husband to Arwa, and doting father to four and a half year old Zahra.
Dr. Fatema’s efforts in raising Husein are evident with him being 100 per cent independent, to the point that he is able to travel long distances by himself and effectively communicate with anyone. She rightly says, “The key is positive parenting. Children are quick to pick up feelings and moods from their parents, and by staying positive, it can make all the difference in their lives.” She holds the dream of setting up a centre that can help parents and children with similar needs. Along with her son she’s also involved in path-breaking research, which on culmination will change the face of homeopathy treatments. “With Maula's blessings and the support of my husband, I’ve come this far. I can only express gratitude for whatever we have achieved as a family, and it is now our life's mission to help others similarly,” she says.
In case of Tasneem Causar Motiwala, when her son Aziz was born 19 years ago, he was severely underweight, which posed a serious threat to his survival. Coincidently, he was born during an auspicious time in Ramadan, which cemented Tasneem’s faith in the fact that her son would survive. As per Dawoodi Bohra customs, chhatti (naming ceremony) needs to be carried out six days after a child is born, and despite her son’s condition, Tasneem went ahead with the ceremony, as she believed it would bless him.
As she watched her son grow, she observed that he was unable to sit up or walk, as there was no muscle growth in the lower part of his body. With little to no financial and emotional support, she made numerous sacrifices to get her son the treatment he deserved. Just one of her sacrifices, was giving up the comfort of travelling by taxi and taking the bus to meet his medical expenses.
In what can be called nothing short of a miracle, Tasneem had a dream where she saw Maula reassuring her that Aziz will be fine. The very next morning, her son sat up on his own, which reinstated her faith that she should not give up. Around the same time, Tasneem too took unwell and underwent a surgery, which made managing family affairs all the more challenging.
Aziz’s life changed for the better when the family relocated to the UAE. He enrolled at a school which was sensitive to his needs. A speech therapist who was working with him showed Tasneem the right way to teach him to talk, and he soon became fluent in English.
As a dyslexic patient, Aziz required special attention and education. However, the school he was in was not very receptive to his requests, and on Tasneem’s insistence, she landed a job as a remedial teacher. Through her job, she was able to reach out to many more children with similar learning disabilities, and make a difference in their lives. Today, she has touched the lives of as many as 75 students, and changed them for the better.
Thanks to Tasneem’s persistence to teach Aziz as well as other dyslexic students, they were all able to get an education and excel in their chosen fields. Today, Aziz has joined the hospitality industry and is interning at a reputed resort in Dubai.
Such women are a testament to the unfailing faith and positive attitude that mothers exude, especially in the face of adversities.