Yesterday morning Mumtaz Qadri was hanged in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.  In case that statement is provoking a question of “Who?”, allow me to refresh your memory.  In 2011 Qadri, a security guard, assassinated the man he was assigned to protect: Salman Taseer, the Governor of the Punjab.  Taseer had in the past criticised the implementation of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law. This was sufficient to guarantee his death, which was carried out in a popular shopping area of Islamabad in early 2011.

Qadri instantly confessed to the crime and claimed he was proud to have been responsible for it.  It was as open-and-shut a case as can be imagined.  Yet it was the response of Pakistani society which was the most repugnant part of the case.  Qadri was garlanded with roses, honoured as a hero, and the police motorcade which took him to and from court was showered with petals and welcomed with singing.

His trial went on for years – as ought to be the case when people are faced with the death sentence.  His appeals were turned down.  His final appeal to the President of Pakistan was also rejected.  At 4.30am yesterday morning he was taken from his cell and hanged.  The response across Pakistan has ranged from fury – from the religious parties who honoured him as a hero – to shock – from people who thought the government would never dare do something which was so plainly guaranteed to offend the religious right wing.  I couldn’t get to work yesterday as the buses were cancelled, and today my children are not going to school because all schools are closed in fear of what might happen next.

I do not celebrate his death.  I am opposed to the death penalty and firmly believe, as the poet John Donne wrote, that “Any man’s death diminishes me / Because I am involved in mankind”.  Yet right or wrong this feels like one of the most significant things to have happened in Pakistan for years and years, because it is a repudiation at the highest possible level of the virulent Islamist tendencies which have afflicted Pakistan over the last couple of decades: the growth of domestic terrorism, the increasing power of Wahhabi Islam, the marginalisation of Pakistan’s minorities, the increasingly angry and militant nature of Pakistani Islam.

Nor is this the only recent situation illustrating the changing nature of life in Pakistan.  Last November the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, gave a speech commemorating the Hindu festival of Diwali and calling for Pakistani minorities to be celebrated and accepted.  More recently the Punjab Government banned the Tablighi Jama’at, an Islamic missionary organisation, from preaching in schools.  Then the government in the Punjab passed an act making violence against women illegal and punishable by jail.  Only yesterday a Pakistani film-maker won an Oscar for her documentary about honour killings in Pakistan – the Prime Minister arranged a screening in government and has promised to do more to improve the situation.

Small steps, no doubt.  Yet somehow it feels as though the tide is beginning to turn in Pakistan.  The Army Public School attack in Peshawar which killed 140 schoolchildren marked a low point – yet we may well look back, one day, and see that it also marked the beginning of Pakistan’s redemption, as the authorities finally woke up to the peril facing the nation.

For now, we are on lockdown again, our first for two years or so, yet somehow this one feels more optimistic than usual.  Perhaps some good will come out of this gruesome murder and this sad execution.


The Lahore Literary Festival has become one of the highlights of our time in Pakistan.  It started back in 2013 when Pakistani book-lovers decided to jump on the literary festival bandwagon which has seen such festivals spring up in Asian places such as Jaipur, Karachi, Mandalay, Shanghai, and many others.  The increasing prominence of Pakistani literature on the world stage, championed by such excellent writers as Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid and Mohammed Hanif, makes Pakistan an entirely reasonable place to hold such a festival.  Moreover, Lahore, as a city with a serious literary heritage, is a logical place to hold it in Pakistan.

The inaugural festival in 2013 was one of the most encouraging events I’ve been to.  The al-Hamra Arts Centre on Mall Road was crammed with people, almost all of them Pakistani, all of them enthusiastic, lining up in orderly queues to hear people such as Ahmed Rashid and William Dalrymple speak.  We went back in 2014 when the festival was even bigger, even more popular.  In 2015 we were unable to attend, but we made sure we were available for 2016.

And the festival almost didn’t happen.

A couple of days before the festival, rumours started to fly: the government had cancelled it due to security concerns; the government had requested a change of venue; the organisers were announcing a curtailed programme; permission for the event had been withdrawn.  In the end most of these came true: the festival was reduced in length from 3 days to 2 and was moved from the al-Hamra Centre to the neighbouring Avari Hotel.  The level of security provided at the Avari was ludicrous even by Pakistani standards: practically an entire company of soldiers, an armoured car, armed police on the roof, metal detectors everywhere.  There were more Kalashnikovs in attendance than speakers.

Even so, it was an interesting and enjoyable event.  We heard Mohammed Hanif tear into the security arrangements with his customary satirical laughter.  I listened to 93-year-old Nancy Dupree tell the story of the destruction of the Kabul Museum and about efforts to preserve Afghanistan’s heritage.  Hina Rabbani Khar and Ahmed Khan spoke about geopolitics in a session entitled “New Great Games”, which seemed to have little or nothing to do with books but was nevertheless interesting.  Outside, in the public areas, people posed for selfies (how I hate that word!) and authors signed books.  Attendance was free and no registration was required.

The LLF is fun, and this year was no exception.  It just strikes me as sad that holding a literary festival in Pakistan is considered so risky that it necessitates the presence of half of the Pakistani army just to maintain order.

Still, we’re getting there.  Step by step Pakistan’s international rehabilitation is underway, and if that process requires the presence of a battalion of Kalashnikov-toting soldiers then so be it.  The end will, I hope, justify the means.


Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, the day on which the violent martyrdom of a Christian saint is commemorated by people buying chocolate and flowers, for reasons known only to the kingpins of Western commercial excess.  In recent years this event has been marked by increasingly nasty arguments about whether or not the day ought to be celebrated at all.  In brief, the argument goes thus:

  • The significant number of Pakistani people who look to the West celebrate it by buying roses to mark their love for their spouse, just as people do in the West. This is entirely natural for people who drink Pepsi, use Facebook, watch Star Wars, and generally look to the West for cultural guidance.
  • Religious protesters, on the other hand, see Valentine’s Day as just one more example of Western immorality, with people flaunting love which ought to be conducted privately and with modesty (and, once suspects, with a burka over its head).

Thus it was that legal notices were issued in conservative parts of the country officially banning people from selling flowers or anything else associated with Valentine’s Day – and then the startling spectacle of the President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussein himself saying that it ought not to be celebrated as it has no connection with Pakistani culture, as if the sight of a boy shyly handing a bunch of red roses to his girlfriend is a mortal threat to the nation.


All of this gave the rest of the world a good opportunity to laugh at Pakistan, which is something that everyone except Pakistanis seems to appreciate, but there is something deeper going on here.

It is the battle for the soul of Pakistan.

Pakistan has an identity crisis.  It has always had one.  Pakistan was founded as a homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent, and yet substantial numbers of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians live here; the founder of Pakistan, Jinnah, said in a speech that religion would have nothing to do with citizenship in Pakistan.  Great – except that as 97% of the population are Muslim, their voice dominates all, and it is now an Islamic Republic with a number of Islamic laws to deal with things like divorce, rape, blasphemy, and so forth.

Another identity issue is modernity.  Some Pakistanis wear Levi jeans, carry iPhones, eat at Dunkin’ Donuts, and speak English better than I do.  Others live in rural villages, farm wheat, and live as though the 16th century is just around the corner.  Equal citizens, different planets.

And then there is religion.  Many Pakistanis are liberal, Westernised, drink alcohol, do not observe the fast of Ramadan, and have probably never seen the inside of a mosque.  Others (more numerous) are profoundly religious, and model their lives in every conceivable respect on the life of the Prophet of Islam.  Some of these – a small proportion, but an increasingly vocal one – cannot abide the thought of public space in Pakistan being in any way un-religious.  Almost everything and everyone in Pakistan, religious or not, pays at least lip service to the forms of Islam.  Every bus ride or plane flight begins with an Islamic prayer for travelling.  Every rickshaw drivers whispers “In the name of Allah” before beginning a journey.  In the West we agonise about whether religion has a place in the public sphere; Islam has no such qualms.

This doesn’t bother me in the least.  Why should people not be proud of their faith?  I deeply respect my many Muslim friends and admire their devotion.  Yet what worries me is that while I’m sure the majority of Pakistanis find the Valentine’s Day ban to be laughable, almost none of them speak out against it.  A small, fanatical core of noisy hardliners, unrepresentative of the nation as a whole, have hijacked the debate.  I couldn’t care less about Valentine’s Day, but the bolshy intransigence of the fundamentalists concerns me deeply.

And that is the battle for the soul of Pakistan.  Today it is about red roses; tomorrow it will be…

We sat in the restaurant having breakfast.  This is one of my favourite meals of the day when done in proper Pakistani fashion: delicious parathas, fried circles of dough enriched with ghee, and puris, deep-fried dough puffs as light as air, with spicy omelettes and chickpea curry.  Everything was fresh and hot and we washed it all down with sweet yoghurt lassi and Kashmiri tea.


Then I looked out of the window and saw three girls watching us through the plate glass.  With their pale skin and piercing eyes they had to be Afghans.  Their dupattas were wrapped tightly around their heads and they stood in silence, unmoving, watching steadily as I helped our daughter finish her drink, holding the straw so she could sip the last bits of lassi from the glass.  They looked similar enough to be sisters, aged perhaps 5, 7 and 9.  The oldest held a scruffy sack over her shoulder.  They would spend the day scavenging through the bazaars of Islamabad, collecting old bottles and rags to sell for a few rupees.  The restaurant’s cook, seeing them staring at us, started to shoo them away.  Perhaps he thought they would put us off our breakfast – and besides, Afghans are not popular in Pakistan.

I beckoned the waiter over and asked him to send breakfast out to the girls.  He nodded, smiling, and called to the cook to start preparing food for them.  A few minutes later a package of food was pressed into their hands and they were shooed away.  I had assumed they would eat it themselves but no, it was safely stowed away to be taken home for the family.  One of them, the oldest, smiled shyly as she skipped away.

Later, when we left, I saw the girls scampering away from our car in the car park.  I looked, surprised, and saw three stars which they had drawn in the dust of the rear windscreen.  Three stars scrawled in the dirt, a tiny fragment of beauty in a world in profound need of restoration.  The girls skipped away laughing, and, rounding a corner, were gone.



I pushed open the door of the shop and walked in.  The transition was startling.  Outside was a busy road with minibuses, trucks and rickshaws clattering to and fro, creating the noisy backdrop which features in all of my memories of Pakistan.  Next to the road was a muddy pavement, puddled with water and deeply rutted, and then was the shop, a plate-glass thing of wonder.  It was beautifully clean, air-conditioned, and well lit.  It was a housewares store and rows of lamps, sinks, toilets and bathtubs greeted me, all impeccably clean.  This was where wealthy Pakistanis come to decorate their homes.   A smartly-dressed attendant came straight over to ask if he could help me at all.

“I need some tiles” I said after we had salaamed back and forth for a bit.

“Just this way, sir” he said and led me to a corner of the shop lined with tiles of every conceivable colour and design.  These ones were from Germany, he said, and these from Switzerland, and these from Turkey, and these from China, and which would I like?

I asked for the prices.  My purchasing decisions in life are generally dictated more by price than by design, and I’m glad I asked because the price of these tiles was high.  I tentatively asked if there was anything cheaper.

“Well, yes” he said hesitantly, “we do have cheaper ones.  But they’re Pakistani”.  He shrugged apologetically.  After I persisted in asking to see them he grudgingly took me to a separate display of local tiles which were just as beautiful as the imported ones but for a fraction of the price.  I bought some of them – but only after insisting repeatedly that they were fine for my needs.  I know that shop-keepers will automatically try to upsell their products, to make as much money as possible from a transaction, but this felt different.  It was as though anything locally made was inferior, shoddy, not worthy of my attention.

Pakistan has an inferiority complex.  It is baffling.  I appreciate that the country faces challenges and is maligned in the media, but the criticism levelled at Pakistan by its own citizens is bizarre.  Wealthy people will only purchase imported products, turning their noses up at anything local.  Pakistani people will sometimes criticise Pakistani people, insisting that most of them are crooks.  A mechanic once told me that everything could be found in Pakistan, except for “an honest person”.  And then there was the security guard who told me that Pakistani people couldn’t be trusted – yet as he himself was Pakistani I wasn’t sure whether I should trust that statement or not…

Yes, Pakistan faces problems – but it also contains some remarkably friendly people, some stunning scenery, the best fruit in the world, some of the best pottery in the world, and an automatic hospitality of genuine warmth.  I just wish more Pakistani people would feel proud of themselves and of their remarkable, fascinating country.

One Saturday morning we took the kids to the Golra Sharif train museum on the outskirts of Islamabad.  The first difficulty we faced in this task was finding the museum at all, which is more difficult than you might think.  Very few tourist attractions in Pakistan are actually signposted or labelled, and only the major ones have websites with visitor information on.  Google Maps came to the rescue, indicating that the museum was in the E-11 sector of Islamabad.  We duly drove in that direction, arrived in E-11, and started driving down the Golra Sharif road. IMG_20160116_1205419_rewind

Somewhat remarkably we found it first time, although we had to stop by a police checkpost to ask directions from the friendly policeman sitting outside.  Several dozen speedbumps later, we arrived outside the museum and parked.

The museum is actually part of the Raj-era Golra Sharif train station which is still a functioning facility, seeing traffic every day as trains rattle through from Peshawar en route to Rawalpindi, Lahore, and eventually Karachi.  The waiting room has been converted into the museum’s main attraction: a collection of railway artefacts from the early days of the railways of the Raj.  Glass cases containing lamps, uniforms, tools and other memorabilia line the walls.  Unusually for Pakistan these are all well labelled in both Urdu and English.  Chief among the attractions (for my 6 year old son, at least) is a gun rack containing original Raj-era rifles – possibly Lee Enfields, although I am not an expert.


The musem’s sole attendant was only too happy to give us a guided tour.  He was friendly and well-informed about the history of the station and of subcontinental railways in general.  This being Pakistan, we were welcomed to handle the exhibits and were even given a brief lesson in how to load and fire the rifles.

The next-door room contained a remarkable collection of original furniture including some of the infamously-named “Bombay Fornicators” – easy chairs with extended arm rests for impromptu naps.  The room also featured an original Raj-era punkah or fan, a wooden beam suspended from the ceiling with a large square of linen attached.  When a rope attached to the beam is pulled the linen swings back and forth , fanning the room with cool air.  It was remarkably effective and an insight into how people managed to beat the heat before air conditioning was invented.


The main attraction was found further down the station platform: an original locomotive attached to two carriages which were used by the last Viceroy, Mountbatten, and Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, during a trip from Karachi to Lahore.  Incredibly, the lights and fans are still functioning; my kdis enjoyed lying on the bunk beds and examining the kitchen in which food was prepared for these two remarkable men.  It is fascinating to see such historical artefacts up close; in the UK they would no doubt be enclosed behind glass doors.


We spent time wandering up and down the platform admiring the beauty of the ancient banyan trees which give it shade, and wondering at the signs advertising chai for sale, complete with Hindi script.  The museum is a window into the past, truly a fascinating place.  We tipped the museum guide – there is no charge for admission nor for the tour, but it seemed appropriate to thank him for helping us appreciate the museum – and made our way back home.

Sometimes it seems as though it is impossible for a week to pass without a confrontation between the worlds of Islam and Christianity.  My family and I came to Pakistan to be ministers of peace, yet peace between these two faith movements, whether in Pakistan or elsewhere, is proving to be a rare and precious commodity.

It is not so much the headline-grabbing atrocities of Islamic State that worry me, though goodness knows there are too many of them.  What worries me is that the fear and mistrust between Muslims and Christians is percolating down to every level of society: in government circles, in the media, and onto the streets of every city in the West.  Battle-lines are becoming entrenched at a very personal and local level.  This is deeply concerning, since it is at precisely those levels that this division needs to be healed.


One recent example of this is the case of the Wheaton College Professor who is facing the sack for wearing a hijab to class and claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  This thorny issue raises its head again and again and has become something of a litmus test for anyone working in Christian-Muslim relations, a divining rod for either religious intolerance or wishy-washy liberalism, depending on how you look at it.

So what do I think?  Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?  My answer is simple: which Muslims?  And which Christians?

After all, this is a debate in which complexity is scorned.  We all want an easy answer, a glib articulation of our belief, an opinion which can be defined in a single Facebook update, and yet the complexity of the question is too vast to contemplate.  There are around 2.2 billion Christians in the world and perhaps 1.6 billion Muslims.  Are we honestly saying that all Muslims have the same belief?  Or, for that matter, all Christians?  Are we really so arrogant as to presume that we can gaze into the head of every single Muslim on the planet to determine how they conceive the nature of God to be?

Do I worship the same God as the blood-soaked footsoldiers of Islamic State?  Absolutely not.  The question itself is repugnant.  The nature of the God they serve is as far removed from that of Jesus Christ as the east is from the west.  But what about my friend Saira, a devout Muslim who organises her local youth to clean up rubbish in her area and organises inter-faith events, at significant personal risk, to heal communal tensions?  What about the Muslims in the UK who filled sandbags and organised food donations for those affected by flooding?  Or my landlord, who pays for vegetables to be grown in his garden and leaves them for the poor to collect so that they can eat? I sometimes feel as though these Muslim men and women are better Christians than I am.

Or, to look at the question another way, do all Christians worship the same God?  Donald Trump claims to be a Christian, yet his gun-toting, selfish, hateful idiocy is hardly redolent of the fragrance of Christ.  The KKK claimed to be Christians, as did Fred Phelps, he of “God Hates Fags” notoriety.  Yet so do the Catholic nuns who run a leprosy hospital in Rawalpindi, and Pope Francis who washed the feet of Muslim immigrants, and St Francis of Assisi who went to the Egyptian Sultan to preach peace during the height of the Crusades.

I believe in the uniqueness of Christ.  I do not believe that all religions are the same.  Yet it is foolish of us to think that Islam is homogenous, that everyone bearing the name “Muslim” has beliefs identical to everyone else.  Is it possible that some seek to follow the same God as me?  Not only possible, I believe it is certain.  Jesus commended the faith of people as implausible as Roman centurions, tax collectors, and Samaritans (who, let’s not forget, were the enemies of the Jews).  In this debate, as is so often the case in the collision between Islam and Christianity, we need to recognise complexity, act with compassion, and have the mind of a Christ who transcended narrow boundaries.

Sorry if you were expecting a single sentence answer…


I rolled up to the traffic light and stopped.  The engine rumbled quietly as it idled.  By the side of the road a beggar girl was waiting: a small, thin waif, perhaps four or five years of age – exactly the same age as my own daughter whom I had just dropped off at school.  My daughter was probably playing in the garden by now, or inside learning the alphabet, or singing songs, or painting, while this little soul was standing bereft by the side of the road.  She, and hundreds of girls and boys like her, spends her days tapping on car windows in the hope of receiving a few rupees which they can take back to their parents, or to the avaricious gang leaders who run begging cartels like some ghastly business of destitution and deceit.

She saw my car and came walking over.  I rooted around the floor of the car.  As a rule we try to avoid giving money to these kids since it goes straight into the hands of the gang bosses who organise beggars.  Instead, we try to keep a stock of food items inside the car to hand out – packets of milk, juice boxes, individual packets of biscuits, that kind of thing.  The rule seems to be that money goes to their bosses but anything else can be kept – and it is both heartening and soul-destroying to see how a five rupee pack of biscuits can make the faces of these precious kids light up.  A packet of biscuits or a small juice box is really a drop in the ocean, quenching their thirst or sating their hunger for a couple of minutes, but what else can we do?  We have six jobs between us as it is and simply cannot do anything more for them except hand over a bit of food and a few kind words.

But not this time.  We were out of food: no milk, no biscuits, no juice boxes, nothing.  Not even any small banknotes; anything larger than 50 rupees would be noticed by someone else and it would be taken from her.  I looked at her with sorrow in my eyes.  Then, suddenly, I noticed something on the floor of the car: a cheap plastic toy from a Happy Meal that one of my kids had enjoyed the previous day.  I picked it up and handed it to her.

Her eyes lit up and a smile creased her face in two.  She looked at it with joy and then back at me, before tucking it into a fold of her clothing.  It occurred to me that this tiny, cheap plastic trinket, toyed with for a few seconds and then lazily dismissed by my own kids, was probably the first toy she had ever owned in her life.

Then the light turned green, the car behind me beeped irritably, and the beggar girl receded into my rear view mirror.


We had just got to the end of a meeting in the office when the room started juddering.  It felt as though a large truck was driving down the road outside.  Then it got worse.  My friend looked up at me with wonderment in his eyes and said “It’s an earthquake”.

I didn’t know what to say.  Nobody has ever trained me in how to respond to a major seismic energy transfer happening under my feet – a worrying omission in my upbringing, I know – and for the first few seconds we just sat there jolting back and forth, wondering what to do.  Then it got worse.  The room was really moving around quite a bit.  My friend looked at me again and said, “Do you think we ought to go outside?”.

This struck me as a good idea.  If a building is going to collapse it seems prudent not to be inside it at the time, and we duly walked outside and into the sunshine.  There, a small crowd of people stood around looking concerned.  Many of them were calling their friends and family to find out if they were ok.  The trees around us were being jolted back and forth, while the tall metal lamp-posts on the newly-constructed Metro Bus route were swaying back and forth to an alarming degree.

It is profoundly odd to feel the ground move beneath your feet.  We take it for granted that the ground stays still – not an unreasonable assumption; it generally does exactly that – so to feel it shuddering back and forth, bucking up and down to a noticeable degree, was weird.  This, after all, is the foundation for buildings, for roads, for us when we walk and drive, for everything we do, and to have it moving was disturbing.

The shaking eventually stopped.  I tried to call my wife but the mobile networks were down.  Eventually we got in touch via WhatsApp and she told me that she was fine, and was standing in the street with the kids wondering what to do.

I jumped on the bus and went back home to be with them.  On the way every person on the bus was talking about the 2005 Kashmir earthquake which killed over 70,000 people.  Everyone in northern Pakistan has a memory of this awful event: a relative killed, a house destroyed, an entire village slipping into the river.  We later found out that this earthquake was of the same magnitude as the 2005 event but happened much deeper underground – a fact which saved most of northern Pakistan from unimaginable destruction.

That night we went to bed grateful for our safety.  Then, at 4am, our son came into our bedroom, wide-eyed and anxious.

“Daddy, is the earthquake going to come back again?”.

My wife and I have four children, and three of them were born in Pakistan.  All three of them were born in the summer, which demonstrates a lack of good timing on our part.  Being pregnant, I am reliably assured, is no picnic, and the discomfort of lugging around a swelling belly is made significantly increased when it is forty degrees outside, and humid to boot.

It was with a sense of relief, therefore, that we pulled up outside a private clinic in Islamabad for the birth of our fourth child, my wife feeling happy that she would at least be relieved of the burden of pregnancy, and I was also feeling happy that I would be relieved from worrying about whether the baby was ok.

Pregnancy, after all, is something rather miraculous, and in many ways rather strange.  The sense of love for the child-that-is-to-be is powerful – and yet in the early stages it is an odd love, for an anonymous blob of tissue, tiny and helpless, growing silently and invisibly in the womb.  During each of our pregnancies I have found myself wondering what the child will be like, what it will look like, how it will laugh and cry and play – and all this at a stage when it consists of little more than a bundle of cells buried somewhere inside my wife’s tummy.  It is also an anxious love.  We are desperate for our babies to thrive, to develop normally, and even in the West this cannot always be taken for granted.

We walked into the clinic feeling relieved, therefore, but also anxious.  The various stages of medical assessments and preparations came and went, and my wife was prepared for surgery.  I put on scrubs and went in to sit next to her in the operating room.  And then, a few minutes later, came the sound of my son’s first tentative screech.  I started crying.  I always do.

Later that day, while my wife was recovering, I took my son in my arms and went for a walk down the corridor to comfort him.  The corridor was lined with women, mostly mothers or mothers-in-law of the other women who had come to the clinic to give birth.  They looked up at me silently as I passed.  There is a barrier between men and women in Pakistan, a barrier of culture and honour.  I would not talk to a woman in the street, even if she were a friend of my wife’s.  It would be awkward for both of us.  I have not even met all of my wife’s friends; some of them I have never even seen with their hair uncovered.  So when the women in the corridor looked up at me it was with the usual sense of silent curiosity.  They would not speak to me, nor I to them.

But then the saw the bundle in my arms, swaddled in blankets against the fierce air-conditioning, and the barrier broke down.  “Mashallah” said one as I passed, “Praise God”.  Then a second echoed her, and a third, and I walked down the corridor with a foolish grin on my face, accompanied by the faint whispers of Pakistani grandmothers quietly praising God for the safe arrival of my son.