“ I don’t want you to play with Ilyaas or to hang around him Johara…”
I was busy drawing a field of snow capped trees and I looked up. “Okay Ammi.” I replied,puzzled.
My father walked in at that moment. “Seema.” He said disapprovingly and we knew he heard her instruction. “Johara,can you just tell Zulfikr, I want some firewood?”
I immediately agreed and left the room.
“Seema, she is just a child& you want to indoctrinate her with this caste nonsense already?If it wasn’t for Ilyaas’s mother, you…We..we wouldn’t have had Ebrahim with us probably&I would have lost you too.”
“That was her job&she was getting paid for it.”
“You know she went beyond her duty in caring for you both.Why must you always see the worst in people?Never,ever positive! Never happy! ” And for the first time in years,my father exploded. He slammed the door shut & left the house in a storm.
How odd,those same hands that wash our dirty dishes,clean our entire homes, get rid of Our dirt, we look at them with disdain?
How sad, that we have a rotten attitude to our workers and drive them away from Islam.
Sometimes,the domestic worker can be old,yet we allow our children to rude to her and call her by her first name.
Remember,this is often a source of difficulty&unhappiness in the home,even if the worker is non Muslim,if we make their heart pain,then it will affect us &our children.
We are good as we treat those at our mercy.
I looked up at my mother,who looked shocked at my father raising his voice at her. And quietly retreated to the balcony.
The snow was starting to melt. Perhaps I could show Zulfikr &Ilyaas, the secret spot where I sometimes saw wild animals flit pass.
“It’s really beautiful here! Amazing!”
I felt so proud that I was the one to make them discover this place. Basking in the attention, children thrive on.
“Let me show you where Ebrahim and I used to go when Uncle gave us work and we wanted to escape.“ Zulfikr said smiling. We followed him up a cliff. I was surprised. I didn’t know this led to anywhere.
Out of breath,I reached the top,behind them. And was stunned. There was a little stream running,lush flowers grew wildly around it and there was a swing hanging from a tree.
“Our swing is still there!” Ilyaas exclaimed,surprised and I saw nostalgia colour his face.
They both moved towards it ,as if in a trance&without a word being said, I knew, they were thinking of when they would play with Ebrahim here.
While they both got busy trying to fix the swing, I followed a lilac butterfly until I was out of their sight.
“Where is she?” Ilyaas asked
“Just down the bank.” Zulfikr nodded in my direction
“I don’t think she can hear me.”
But I could.
“You know … I used to come here… when.. Aunty Seema would get upset.”Ilyaas said in a low voice.
“She didn’t like the fact that her workers child was playing with her high born son or the fact that we were foster brothers,frustrated her.”
“Ilyaas… I didn’t know it was so bad.”
“She would sometimes tell me to play with my own kind. I was small but it hurt. When my grandfather passed away&we had to go back to our village,I promised myself,no one would ever look at me like scum again. And Alhamdulilah,Uncle never did. But just being here,after all I went through and achieved, it took one look from her&I felt like that dirty,unworthy,low class servant’s child. “
“Ilyaas Bhai, I want you to remember, you’re very far from that now. Very far. You’re Major Ilyaas man. Getting there wasn’t easy.” Zulfikr said only as a best friend could.
“And I had to hide my roots to get to the top. Do you think they would have given me a promotion,if they knew my low class roots?”Ilyaas said in a bitter voice.
And from Zulfikr’s silence. I knew Ilyaas was right.
That August, I grew up&older way beyond my years. Learning about the way people think&the shallowness of man’s heart. I walked back towards them,when I heard this…
“I’m surprised that Seema Khala has such an issue with caste,considering that she was married before..Uncle,she ran off with the worker’s son. And they had a child.”