Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Babul Trees

Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

As I entered the Edhi center, the decent children came to see me. I was completely different from them; the only thing that we had in common was that we were all orphans. The supervisor in charge of the orphanage introduced me to the children. “Children, this is your new friend, Kuee. She is older than all of you!” said the supervisor.

“Welcome, Kuee. You will be safe here,” said one of the children. The supervisor showed me around the center and told me how to act and what to do.

The children wanted to talk to me, but I remained very silent and alone for many days. I worried that they would mock me, but no one did: Everybody seemed to have their own sad pasts. One day the supervisor of the center said, “Kuee, the children really want to hear your story. Would you care to tell it to us?”

“I don’t have a story,” I quietly replied.

“All the children living here have a story to tell,” said one of the older girls. “Please tell us: Why did you come here? How did you get here? Where are your parents?”

I looked down at my small feet and remained silent for a few seconds. “Come on, Kuee, don’t be shy. We’re all your friends,” the supervisor said, encouraging me to tell my story.

I lifted my head and began: “I was born with a birth defect. I am not a child; my body has been stunted by this defect. I am almost 30 now, but I look like a 3-year-old. I remained at home all my life to avoid being mocked. I did not dare to play with other neighborhood children for fear of being teased or ridiculed by the other children. I couldn’t do anything normally because my legs and arms were too short and weak. Despite my deformities, my father and mother loved me; I was their only child. Kajlo, our dog, served well as my protector, guardian, and best friend for many years.

Our house, by the graveyard in Samtiya, had no walls. Thorn trees—called babur trees in Sindhi and babul trees in English, as the Supervisor told me—surrounded our house. Mother had told me once that when they came to that place only babul trees grew there, so they wanted them to stay. The graveyard isolated our house from the other houses that stood on the far side of the cemetery. Olive orchards and ponds were the beauty of our Samtiya. My father, Habib, cut the thorny branches of the babul trees, and put the branches around our house as a fence to protect us from intruders. The thorny branches made it difficult for anyone to pass. We felt happy in our little world. My father ran a donkey-cart, delivering farmers’ vegetables to the city, to make ends meet. My devoted mother, Basran, eagerly sewed quilts and coverlets. She always helped my father to run the house.

I always played games with my only loyal friend, Kajlo. One of our favorites was “Thread and Note.” I would tie a thin, white thread around a ten-rupee note and would sit by the door. Kajlo would take the note and leave it in the middle of the road. When people passing by saw it and made to grab it, I would pull the thread back. It was fun pulling the thread back as people saw and tried to grab the note. We loved that game. Our house didn’t have a real wooden or iron door; Mother had hung a quilt on the logs of the babul trees on either side. We had only single room covered with thatch, with babul logs as beams supporting the mud brick walls.

Although my parents were only 50 years old, their hard lives had taken a toll on their bodies. We had very difficult days last year. Father’s only source to earn money was delivering produce to the city of Larkana on his donkey and cart, but he had grown too old and weak to operate it. Last year Baba had a serious accident: He lost control of the donkey, and the cart fell into a ditch, breaking both of the wheels. Our life became even tougher after that.

The hard life was also wearing on my mother’s body. Her body was becoming frail and her eyesight was failing to the point of not being able to thread a needle to sew the quilts. We didn’t have money to buy enough food, and many nights we went to sleep hungry.

Father started to look after the graveyard in order to get tips from the visitors. He swept the graves, watered the little neem trees in the graveyard, and put stones over the graves. He would go there early in the morning because this was the only time people came to visit their deceased loved ones. People didn’t give him much: He barely made fifty rupees, and that was not every day. Our dire situation forced my mother to beg. She started to go door to door in the nearby village, Akil.

I will tell you about one of our days. It was December 31, 2017 – the last day of the year. On the previous night, we had had nothing to eat. Mother was pretending to be asleep, covering her entire body with an old worn out sawar, a cotton coverlet. Father, Kajlo, and I were sitting in front of the fire that served as our kitchen under the babul tree. We cooked without gas, appliances, Chinese pots, or any oven. We ate meals on the pindis made out of date palm tree leaves, and we had bowls made of plastic. We burned the dried branches of the babul trees as our only fuel. These thorn trees had always been useful to us. When the Fajr Adhan—the morning call to prayer— could be heard, Mother removed her sawar. She could no longer bear to see us so hungry, so she was thinking about going to Akil early this day. “Dhia, Kuee,” she called me—our relatives called me Kuee, meaning a small female mouse.

“Ji, Aman,” I replied.

“I cannot see my slippers. Kajlo must have taken them.” Father heard us; he had the slippers on his feet. Kajlo had brought them to him to wear because his own shoes had become too worn and one of the shoes’ soles had come off. Father removed the slippers and gave them to Kajlo.

“Woof, Woof,” said Kajlo. He went to Mother and put the slippers before her feet. I saw Mother had been wearing two kamizes (long knee-length shirts) because she didn’t have a sweater. She opened her box and took another kamiz.

“Why are you taking this kamiz, Mother?” I inquired.

“I am going to wear it because it is so cold. I am going to Akil,” she said without hesitating.

“Mother, it is too early,” I said in a nervous voice.

“I’ll walk slowly. By the time I reach there, the sun will have risen,” she said with her reassuring smile.

“There might be stray dogs on the way. Dogs live in the olive orchards on the left side of the road,” I reminded her.

“They won’t harm me,” she said with a firm resolve. Father looked at her with red, teary eyes. She took a babul stick and a small torn bag. I worried people would laugh at her because she had worn three different colored kamizes.

It was almost 11 a.m. and Mother hadn’t returned yet. Commanding my body to move, I crawled to the nearby pond, diligently scanning the road to see if my beloved mother was coming.

It was a very cold morning, with a stiff breeze making the air even colder. After a few minutes, I could hear Kajlo barking in the house. This dog had spent many years with us and had faced many difficulties with us. He came out sniffing the dust to find me. “Woof, woof, woof!” barked Kajlo. He was probably asking me to get inside the house. I looked at the dog and at the road. I thought about how hard it must be for Mother to go every day to beg in Akil. Kajlo pulled my kamiz and insisted that I go inside. I didn’t move. I could only see my father sweeping a grave, collecting the fallen dried, yellow leaves from the neem tree in the graveyard.

After another hour I finally saw Mother, slowly making her way home. Her gait was measured, but her smile was infectious. I wished I could help her, and provide for my family. That day, I felt very inferior and helpless.
“What are you doing here? Get inside,” Mother said as she reached me. “Look, I have brought enough food for tomorrow, too!”

My eyes filled with tears. She hugged me and said, “Good days come after the hard days. My child, don’t you cry.”

Kajlo ran to Baba to tell him that Mother had brought food. The dog had been hungry too. “Mother, Kajlo is happy to see the food,” I commented.

“Yes, he is. He has been here for a long time,” said Mother. “Our relatives don’t feel our pain the same way Kajlo does: He understands our situation. The humans have lost their humanity, my child.”

“Why don’t you go to the relatives for help, Mother?”

“They know everything about us. I have gone to them for help many times, but they haven’t done anything for us. There is a saying in Sindhi: Crying before the blind is useless.”

“Mother, I have also heard father saying that asking for help from relatives is like asking for berries from a babul tree.”

“Yes, but these babul trees have been very useful to us, more useful than our relatives and neighbors.”

Mother distributed the food equally to everyone, including Kajlo. We ate the food and thanked God.

Our days continued like that, until one night Father got very sick. Mother took the lantern and went to Akil to call the doctor. She forgot to take her stick in her hurry. When she returned, Father had stopped breathing. Mother burst into tears, crying, “The doctor wouldn’t open the door; neither the medical store man. I couldn’t save you. I couldn’t do anything for you.”

In the morning, Mother went to get help from the people on the other side of the graveyard. She gave Father’s brother’s phone number to one of the men, and he informed him of Father’s passing away. The neighbourhood men dug a grave for Father and buried him. My father’s brother arrived from Khairpur after his burial. There were not many people in the congregation. Some women remained at our house until evening, and by the end of the day everybody had gone. My uncle left a thousand-rupee note in my mother’s dupatta and said, “It was God’s wish; we can do nothing.”

Father’s death caused Mother a great deal of sorrow. She was broken-hearted and was becoming weaker and weaker every day. Her eyesight was rapidly declining, and she could no longer walk to Akil. Although she never wanted to, she went into the neighborhood to beg for food on the other side of the graveyard. I collected the small, yellow fallen flowers from the thorn trees and put them in a plastic bag, which Kajlo took to my father’s grave. My uncle never came to see us or pray at father’s grave.

It had now been two years since my father died. Mother’s eyesight was now completely gone, so she had to go to the neighborhood with the help of a babul stick. One day, she didn’t come home for a long time. I was terribly worried because Mother had left in the morning and she didn’t return by evening. Kajlo constantly barked. The neighbors found mother dead in a pond where she had fallen, hit her head, and drowned. The villagers phoned my uncle. My mother was buried, and the next day my uncle took me to Khairpur and had me admitted into this orphanage. He didn’t allow me to take Kajlo with me.”

“You are a very brave woman,” said the supervisor.

“Yes, very brave. You’ve had a harder life than all of us,” said the children in the center.

“Children, this may be the saddest story I have heard in a long time. There are rights for neighbors in Islam. I try to live by one instruction that a saint gave me: Love thy Neighbor.... We are commanded to take care of those less fortunate than us. It is hard to believe that people live in such abject poverty in Pakistan. For relatives not to help Kuee’s family is unthinkable to me. How the world has changed!” said the supervisor. "We have all fought our battles, and the battles with hunger have been the toughest. Kuee has very bravely fought both the battles of hunger and disability.”

All Rights Reserved

For more stories, purchase Memon’s books:
“The Reflections” and “Innocence and Foolishness.”

The books are available at all bookstores in Larkana, Khairpur, and Sukkur.

You can also order the books by courier. For more information, contact at below addresses:
Whatsapp: 03433846385

Monday, December 18, 2017

Winter Vacation Offer

Real Publications Winter Vacation offer for students includes 20% off on all Memon's books. This offer expires on 31 December, so buy your favorite books for your friends and family today.

Now available in Khairpur Mir's

Real Publications Larkana

Now offers Memon's books in Khairpur Mir's.

Books' Titles: 1. The Reflections 2. Innocence and Foolishness

Available at: 
1. National Book Stall, Punj Gulla Chok, Khairpur
2. Niaz Bookstore, near Civic Center, Khairpur
3. Memon Bookstore, Punjhatti Chowk, Khairpur
4. Pak Book Stall, near A-Section Thana, Khairpur
5. New Khairpur Book Stall, near Jamia Masjid, Khairpur


Friday, November 10, 2017

My Second Book

About the Book

Innocence and Foolishness
is a collection of prose and poetry divided into three sections: the first, a 12-chapter memoir; the second, 14 letters which author wrote to his fiancĂ©e; and the final, a selection of 65 poems by the author. This book was published in Pakistan on November 15, 2017, by Real Publications, Larkana. Memon’s books are available at different bookstores throughout Pakistan. To check our list of distributors, please visit the “Distributors” page on Memon’s blog. If you would like to become a distributor of Memon’s books, please contact us by using the numbers given on the “Contacts” page in this book.
Memon’s books can also be sent to readers via a courier service. In order to receive the books by mail, please get in touch with the author. Also, if you would like to use the books in your school or coaching center, the author will give you a special discount. You can contact Memon on mobile phone, Facebook or email. All the contact information is provided on the “Contacts” page.

Book Name: Innocence and Foolishness
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon
All Rights Reserved: Rizwan Ahmed Memon
1st Edition: November, 2017
Copies: 1100
Book Title by: Rizwan Ahmed Memon
Composer: Rizwan Ahmed Memon
Publisher: The Real Publications Larkana
Price: Rs. 200

Copyright © 2017 Real Publications Larkana