Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
(Recap- Johara,now all grown up, is rediscovering her mother through her diary.)
I traced the pattern on the pillow with my finger,almost reverently after Aunty had left my room.
“Take this Johara. I hope soon a little head will be sleeping on what his grandmother made.” Aunty said with a soft smile. I knew what she was trying to say, she wanted my husband and I to have a future,filled with hope,with children,with a promise of a tomorrow.
My mother had embroidered this. I could imagine her fingers nimbly working over it, her childhood dreams,captured and woven into this forest scenery. I tried hard not to be attached to this fleeting dunya, I knew the price of sentiment. I had always tried,ever since I was 9 and learnt the hard way that things are not so important as people and memories.
Possessions held you back.
In the end,eventually no one actually remembers all you did and said but they do remember the way you made them feel.
My last memory of my mother made me hold onto her diary. Hoping ,with time, I would heal from the fractured,distance we had between us. This pillow came to me unexpectedly,something stirred within me, a longing for the mother I hardly seem to know. Soon he would be back… it had been a month since I had opened her dairy …the weight of her words crushed me but in order to move forward,I had to make peace with my past. I pulled open my draw and gingerly opened to what seemed a few months after her marriage to Saleem.
I hurried to the door, it seemed whoever was on the other side,was very enthusiastic or impatient. My smile faded as I opened it and there stood my neighbour, Nusaybah.
“Sorry Seema,were you expecting Saleem?” She asked sympathetically. I nodded and to my embaressment,tears filled my eyes unexpectedly, making kohl run down my face, I shuddered looking in the mirror, it was a good thing Saleem hadn’t arrived ,I didn’t want to look like a panda bear infront of him.
“He’ll come soon,inshaaAllah he will make it for Eid.” “But Eid is in two days time Nusayba, if he didn’t get off today, how will he make it?”
She shifted silently with no answers and held out a basket for me. “Papa sent this for you ,he said it’s your first Eid away from home and if Saleem doesn’t make it,then you Have to join us.” I was about to protest and say no but the thought of Eid alone… filled me with a tide of emptiness,the chances of Saleem being home for Eid seemed less likely by the minute. “Tell him shukran,I’ll come. What can I bring?” “Don’t worry to bring anything ,except yourself and a smile! Make dua,he will come. Acha,I’m going now. Are you fasting tomorrow?”
“Fasting? but it isn’t Ramzan Nusayba? Why would we fast…” I murmured. ‘ We even should fast out of Ramadhan, fasting on the 9th,wipes away all our sins of the year,subhanAllah, how easy Allah made it for us to get His maghfrah. Little actions,big results.”
Wow, I never knew that. I opened the basket and found a set of salwar kameez,it wasn’t in the gaudy fabric but a soft,pastel cotton that I would have wore back home for Eid but I knew that for Nusayba and her family,it would have taken a toll on their money to get this for me. I was so touched that I even forgot about Saleem for a while.
Evening brought it’s own set of chores and after I milked the goat,tied up the animals and picked up the clothes, I tiredly boiled water for some hot chai.
I never expected this life after marriage. I never knew how difficult responsibilities were or that you can’t be the same free,selfish unencumbered person when you’re single. I thought of my family and the Eid preparations that must be going on at home and I felt a pang of longing.
Eid arrived and after I dressed in the outfit they had gifted me,I arrived at Nusayba’s home which was ringing witht the sound of the talbiyah. It created an electricfying atmosphere! I looked out of the window, a few carcasses were already hung and about a dozen goats were left. Nusayba smiled at me cheekily, “I bet you don’t have the guts to cut one yourself.” She knew I couldn’t resist a challenge like that and she also knew how I mutilated a chicken the first time that I had tried to debone one, I’d never forget Saleem’s horrified expression when he opened the pot lif that night!
“Let’s make a deal, I’ll cut but you guide me.” And that’s how I found myself with a super sharp knife over a goat,almost palpitating but trying to keep my hand steady.
Nusayba’s father shuffled over to us.
” Remember beta, when you place the knife over the animal’s neck,we must think we are placing the knife on the neck of our nafs, make a niyyat to give up sin. This qurbani isn’t just cutting an animal but for us to remember what Ibraheem AS and his family sacrificed and what we need to do.”
“Did you’ll give it water to drink? Pet it too, make it at ease,this animal is giving it’s life so we can fulfill our duty to Allah,the least we must do is show kindness to it. Chalo,Bismillah Allahu Akbar.”
I was on a high after I successfully slaughtered the goat and helped with skinning, and pleasantly tired. As I was getting ready to leave,there was a knock on the door. I heard someone call out for me, “Seema!! It’s Saleem!” And I flew down the passage, into his arms, and all the tiredness,dreariness of my chores,the days of being apart and missing him, all was worth it. Because it meant,being with him.