Two cultures come together in one successful marriage
Yaqoob Malik is in Charleston as part of a U.S.-Pakistan partnership program arranged by the International Center for Journalists, in Washington, D.C.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- They say that love has no boundary, color, race, culture or language. It prevails despite all such restrictions.
There is a prime example here among us: Pakistani-American cardiologist Dr. Badshah Jan Wazir and his American-born wife, Aisha Karen Wazir (her name was changed after converting to Islam), who met 33 years ago at a hospital in Philadelphia.
Badshah, an Urdu language word that means "king," belongs to the Pattan family from the a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan -- 12,000 miles from the U.S.
He arrived at Charleston in 1975 after completing his basic field of study from a medical college in Hyderabad, Pakistan. After completing his three-year residency in general internal medicine here, he received admission to Temple University in Philadelphia in 1980 to complete his two-year specialization in cardiology.
There, Aisha was working as a nurse and younger in age than Badshah. Soon, they tied the knot, as their simple marriage ceremony was held at their house in Philadelphia.
Today, they five daughters and a son.
"Really, it was a very difficult and a big step to leave the religion and teaching of my forefathers," Aisha said this week.
She converted from Catholicism to Islam before the marriage -- souring relations with her family, she said.
"My father, a coal miner, was not very hard on me, but my mother was so stuck on it," said Aisha, who is originally from Mount Hope in Fayette County.
"Before embracing Islam, I had studied it very deeply with the help of some Muslim friends and religious people," she said.
However tense at first, bitterness with her parents, who have both since died, started to soften with the passage of time and later normalized "when they saw my happy and successful married life with full privileges, liberty and respect under the Islamic norms."
Following her marriage, she went to Pakistan to meet her mother-in-law and other family members.
"My mother-in-law was so kind, humble and a loving woman," she said, although living in not very good conditions. With tears in her eyes and standing near a portrait of her late mother-in-law, she said she treated her like her own daughter, something she will never forget.
"She was illiterate but very smart -- brilliant, in fact," Aisha said. "I found Pattan a very brave, great, committed, honest, sincere and trustworthy people. Such love and affection. After that first visit, we both often visited Pakistan to meet up with family."
She said they also set up the Aisha-Wazir Scholarship Foundation for the welfare of local children and deserving students, as most people in the area are very poor.
Badshah said that before the marriage, he had received the consent of his mother and also sent picture of Aisha to her, which was she approved with good wishes and prayers.
"After I got approval, I went to Aisha's parents' house at Mount Hope to propose to her," Badshah recalled.
Their six children have branched out: their first daughter is veterinary doctor; their second is a lawyer; the third is a student of public health in Washington D.C.; the fourth is working for a heath-care company; and, finally, the fifth daughter is an undergraduate student at Kentucky. Their only son, Omar Wazir, is a medical student.
Looking back on their 33-year relationship, Badsha said: "Naturally, there was sometimes a difference of opinion on some issues, but all of it was resolved with dialogue and by respecting each other."
After their marriage, they came to Charleston in 1982 and set up a small clinic, which has now turned into a complete cardiology center.
Aisha works as the center's administrator, auditor and human resources manager.
"Really, Badshah is my king, who won my heart," she said. "No one can dare to separate our souls. We are like the moon and sun."
She hopes that their example will be a trendsetter for others loving couples who won't be barred by differences of race, region or culture.