“No Khala, you can’t!” Zulfikar screamed and I ran down the passage to find my mother with dazed eyes and a knife in her hand. I felt like someone punched me in the gut.
“Can’t what ?” Ammi asked confused and Zulfikar coloured in embarrassment. He had mistaken a simple domestic action,for a possible suicide attempt. As she proceeded to the vegetable basket, he slowly backed out of the kitchen. Avoiding my gaze,embarresed.
I didn’t blame him for thinking that my mother could do something like that. After my father was brought home …to be buried,Ammi, flitted through the house,cleaning it non stop until there was nothing left to be cleaned,as if she was trying to erase him from our lives.
And on some days, she cried like a baby,falling to the floor,screaming in anguish,till my own pain receeded & embarrassment set in and Zulfikar would come and pick her up and help her to the bed. But not once,did he make us feel ashamed of our grief. Army families were expected to be stronger than everyone else, your grief is supposed to be stoic and hidden.
When I was alone&in the silence of the night,I screamed&cried,but no one heard,my face buried into my pillow. How would I go on?
Little did I know,that He would never let me bear a burden,I couldn’t carry.
I stepped into the misty morning, as I opened the door that led to the balcony. I made a beeline for the garden patch Zulfikar made me plant, I watched it daily. Today I spotted some green sprouts and it made my heart soar. Signs of life.
“Your cousin thought I was going to kill myself back there..”
I jumped. I didn’t see my mother on the porch swing, looking pale but different. I was taken aback,my mother hardly spoke since the past two months.
“I haven’t let you grieve for Abbu,have I Johara?”
I was dumbstruck.
I wondered what was happening. My mother never spoke like this.
“Life is precious bachi, no matter how far I’ve gone ,I always remembered how my mother said suicide is a terrible sin,that’s why, no matter what I went through,I would never think of ending my life. She said,it’s a terrible sin to end this gift of life,that someone who did it,will be punished over and over in the same way… because it’s only the right of Allah to end our life,our story.”
I listened intently&realised my mother actually Did contemplate suicide but what her mother taught her,stopped her.
“And I realised,I haven’t taught you anything,or given you anything to hold on to.How will you remember me… ? How?”
I looked away because we both knew the answer to that.
She stood up and crossed over to me,took me in her arms in a fierce hug. For the first time in my memory.
“My daughter,my bacchi,your father taught you more than some fathers do in a long lifetime,I hope you understand that,only now ,I do. He was a man amongst men.”
She held my hand and walked with me down the steps,thinking she would lead me to the rose garden,I went along but only when we passed i,I dug in my heels.I was not going there!
Ammi pulled my hand harder. “Come on Johi,it’s for your own good.”
“No! You told me do so many things&Iistened Ammi! Don’t take me there at least! Don’t!”
And my scream of anguish rang across the vast space widening between our home&us.The mist swallowing us up.
nb;Suicide in Islam is forbidden as it is the haqq of Allah alone to terminate our journey,if circumstances and depression overtakes one,read La Hawla wa la quwwata illa billah 100 times,daily,as well as reach out to someone deeni&trustworthy.