Bimillahir Rahmanir Raheem
“ Seema, this is Suleman Saap.” I turned around, trying to understand why my father was looking at me with such expectation. “Oh..kay.” I nodded and I could see my father colour up in annoyance. “Ismail’s father.” “Oh.” I mumbled as the penny dropped. Ismail was the son of my father’s many friends,who my father was keen on making a son in law of. We stood in awkward silence as I didn’t show any enthusiasm for meeting my prospective father in law. My father glared at me and I knew I’d be in for it later on. “Chalo, never mind, I think she’s still distraught over her sister leaving home.” Suleman Saap said kindly. That was unexpected. And he discreetly moved my father away from his glaring contest with me.
I moved away to the huge window overlooking the garden that led to the forest. I suddenly just wanted to be alone, just with my thoughts. I recalled Ismail vaguely, he was a quiet boy with green eyes,kind of handsome but he seemed studious and rather boring to me. He would not even look directly at me when he came to visit my father. I shrugged thoughts of him off easily as a leaf is tossed away by the wind. I didn’t want to settle with someone who couldn’t even string two sentences together in the presence of a lady, pffft. But l didn’t know,that in this family,who we marry was not our choice.
Out of the mists of my thoughts,someone with a confident laugh and raised eyebrow emerged and I smiled spontaneously, whistling as I left my seclusion,clutching my giddy feeling,my own secret.
“Beti, Did you read Esha?” “Dadi, I’m tired. I’ll read tomorrow.” “ Did you eat breakfast today Seema?” “Yes.” “Why didn’t you eat it tomorrow? You could have left it out too.” Where was Dadi going with this? “Our Salaah and Zikr is food for our body,no matter how pretty we can make ourselves look on the outside,if we don’t feed our ruh,souls,it’s getting rotten and ugly on the inside. Allah gives us everything even though we disobey Him,every breath we take,yet we feel it is the greatest bathroom to make wudhu and pray?”
I trudged wearily to the bathroom,I couldn’t say anything back to Dadi, we were brought up to listen to our elders even when we didn’t like what they said. My own parents did not pray. My granny had only began recently and I constantly found her crying over that, I could never understand why she wept more over her missing prayers for all her life and when my father couldn’t be bothered to,her only son,she cried more over that then when my Dadaji passed away. I asked her once about that. She said, when she lost Dadaji,she had only lost one person but losing your salaah was worse than your entire family and all your wealth. And her children and grandchildren were be-namaazi and she couldn’t handle that. Sometimes when I woke up in the middle of the night,disturbed by a dark dream, I’d find her on the musallah,reading her missed prayers and weeping like a baby that refused to be pacified. I couldn’t understand the depth of her pain, it was a pain beyond the physical.
That night I couldn’t sleep,so I sat at my window. Gazing up at the bright constellation of stars decorating a velvet sky. Suddenly a movement below in the garden caught my eye. It was Saleem! As if he could sense someone watching him,he paused and looked up,spotted me and waved. Slowly,I raised my hand and waved back.
I don’t know where I suddenly got the guts to do this , or what spurred me on,but I creeped down the sleeping form of Dadi and past the rooms onto the landing ,slowly opened the door and stepped onto the dewy grass.
“What are you doing here?” He whispered “What are You doing here at this time?” “I came to start my chores in the yard so I could leave early tomorrow, I have to go to see my mother,she’s unwell.” He explained simply. “Oh.Err.” I was stumped, I could never imagine waking up this early to do work. “So.Seema, why are you here?” He repeated with a slight smirk. I mumbled something and he laughed softly. “Don’t make excuses Seema, you came because it was me,if it was anyone else in the garden,would you have come?” He softly challenged. I looked at him in silence. I was irritated with him because he was right, I came like a moth drawn to a fire, a fire that would one day burn me perhaps.
I looked down,feeling humiliated. “I rather go.” “No,stay. I was just teasing, I’m glad you came,seriously. Do you want to give me a hand with this?” I nodded. For the first time in my life,I did menial work,the time and effort flying ,while I helped him to clean up from the remnants of the wedding. My father wanted the garden to be spotless tomorrow morning.
“We’re done. Shukran Seema… you’re a really nice person under that fancy façade… You’re not like most of the girls that are uppercrust, I never expected you to agree to help me. You better go in now, I don’t want us getting in trouble.” I nodded and with a strange reluctance,I crept back in,quietly closed the door and went upstairs. I went to my window and saw Saleem leaving the garden gate when he suddenly paused, turned and looked at me,I saw his smile all the way here and replied with one of my own. I heard a sound behind me and someone angrily asked
“What are you looking at?”