“Johara?tum yahaa? You’re here? They’re looking for you inside.” Zulfikr said,pushing aside the leaves of the dry,golden brown chinaar tree.
“They are? “ I sprang to my feet.
“Not really, they just wondered where you are because it’s tea time.”
I sat down. I looked down at the sketchpad I had and consciously covered it. I saw Zulfikr look at me sideways. “Tum teek toh hain?Are you ok?”
I didn’t know what to say. How could I complain of my own parent? Unlike my counterparts in the west, we were brought up with tehzeeb and adab, grace & etiquette. We would never raise our voices to the people that brought us into this world,or slam a door in their face or yell,that we hate them. I often encountered foreigners on our trips to the Dal lake & I was always shocked by how western parents seemed afraid of their own children & would hurry to pacify and please them.
Little did I know,in half a century, the effects of the west via the TV&technology ,would change the akhlaaq of children towards parents.
In later years, I would learn how Allah put the obedience of parents,next to His obedience. That is how much He values the bond a child shares with his or her parent.
“You’re still the same pleasant girl,but I know something’s wrong. Like someone switched a light off?” Zulfikr said. How did he know how I felt? I tried to hide my heartbreak& carry on. I’d catch my father look at me worriedly or my mother lower her eyes but not before I saw guilt colour them.
After a week of pretending to be okay. My parents went back to normal &stopped going out of their way to make up in different ways for what I overheard in the garden.But my heart still ached. Badly.
Zulfikr,though,even then,noticed and it punctured the dam in me.Hiccupping&sobbing,it all tumbled out of me. “I just want my mother to l..love me!”
Zulfikr was quiet for a while and perhaps he thought I was being a silly child. I traced the rose tree I had drawn in my pad.
“Johara… you know… after your brother Ebrahim was born, your mother fell very ill and Samiha Kala, your mother’s domestic help, looked after him,right down to feeding him. Major Ilyaas is Samiha Kala’s son. They grew up side by side,they were foster brothers. Then I was born& I would come for holiday here,to my Khala’s place and the three of us would do everything together.
I still remember Seema Khala,running out of the balcony towards us and hugging all of us. She’d call us the three mice. Those are my first memories. And they’re beautiful.I was very happy here.I even used to complain to my mother that Seema Khala loved me more than her because Khala would entertain our every wish.
Then one day all three of us went inside the kitchen,looking for something to eat. Khala had just left the kitchen to get something&there was a pot of Kheer on the stove,the handle was jutting out& I mistakenly knocked it. “
He swallowed at this and wiped the tear that escaped him.He looked away,cleared his throat and dove back into those pained memories.
“The milk was boiling hot and it went flying,all over Ebrahim. Uptil now, I sometimes still can’t sleep,hearing his agony ridden screams and how his skin…Johara…it just ..some of it…just melted! Khala came running in to see this horrific sight, by the third day.He passed away.He was only seven. Seven years old. Ya Rabb.” He drew a breath shakily
And I saw 17 year old Zulfikr,sob like a baby. It seemed ,he was carrying this for a long,long time.
“Khala didn’t want to see my face after that&she fell into a deep depression. Then we got the news,you were born &we came to visit, Seema Khala told my mother to keep me away from you as she didn’t want me to kill another of her children.We never came back since then. Until now,I met your father at the border&alhamdulilah he told me to try and join ties again. So here I am. As hard as it is. See there Johara? Look at those leaves? The wind just blows it away.And see how it flies in the wind,because nothing is weighing it down. Let your heart be a leaf in the wind. And you’ll always be okay. Your mum loves you but remember her heart isn’t in your hands,its in His. Let go& trustAllah alone.She’ll see your value one day”
Could I let all my pain fly like leaves in the wind?
“You know,my parents never told me any of this,not even how Ebrahim passed away.”
“Arreh kya ho raha hain?What’s going on in here?Party without me? Looks more like a funeral.”
Zulfikr glared at Major Ilyaas who had burst into the herb garden. Motioning him to be quiet.
I glanced at Ilyaas,who was always smiling& laughing and wondered how come I was never told about him… and why he left our home?