I am probably the only Memon among my peers who knows his date of birth. I have my original birth certificate (in Gujrati, which I can read with the greatest difficulty), so I know that I was born on the fifth of September in 1944. I have lived seventy six long years and there are times when I feel that I haven't accomplish much and it wouldn't have made much of a difference if I had never been born or had died in infancy.

For some reason, some of my deeply religious relatives stopped wishing each other "Happy birthday" for the flimsiest of reasons: as it is a Western custom, it is un-Islamic. But there are still some who call me to wish me all the best. There is one friend of sixty years who sends me a birthday card through email, but this year he seems to have forgotten, even though I chatted with him yesterday as well as today. The poor chap hasn't been well, and was due to be admitted to hospital today, but it has been postponed to tomorrow as he had to take further tests due to his mysterious fever for which his doctors can't the cause. He's had the fever for more than a month now.

So, as I reflect on my past, I can't help thinking that I didn't expect to live beyond forty when I was a teenager. Those years were tough; I was always afflicted with sinus and nasal allergies, besides being stricken with malaria a few times. One year I was so sick I missed an exam in my third year of engineering college. 

The missionary school I went to had employed a doctor who told me I wouldn't be able to become a parent if I didn't take the tonics he prescribed and sold (he lived in a flat where he examined his patients and sold them medicines). That doctor himself never married and was found one day with his throat slit. He must've been fifty or thereabouts.

A cousin of my father visited Karachi before I was engaged to be married and told me (in the presence of many relatives) that if I ever got married, my wife would ask for a divorce within three years. He was a dentist in Bombay who had fathered fourteen children. He had studied palmistry and he used to look at the palms of fellow passengers in the bus and would tell them things they liked to hear (like, "You are very confident" or "You have a great future"). Of course I didn't take his warning seriously, as years of reading had made me able to recognize fraudsters and charlatans like him. 

So, as I begin my seventy seventh year, I'm deeply pessimistic about the future. I know I don't have long to live, but I feel sorry for my children and grandchildren. The future of the planet is bleak; if it isn't destroyed by nuclear bombs, pollution or deadly viruses will do the job. As for myself, I have not been able to do much for my progeny to remember me more than a couple of years after I'm gone. Perhaps a descendant of mine will look through what I've written, and think that I must've been a person worth knowing and talking to.