Friday, September 22, 2017

(1) Dearest Seemi

Village Akil
Larkana, Sindh, Pakistan
June 26, 2013

Dearest Seemi,

          From the day I saw you, I have tried and wished to write to you, but when I put pen to paper, my hand would not move. I don’t know why. I remember when I saw you for the first time after our engagement. My eyes stopped blinking, and I felt tongue tied. I just kept watching you. The world around me had disappeared.

          Even though we’re engaged now, we still can’t see or talk with each other. As you know, the conventions of our society forbid men and women from coming into contact even after they are engaged. However, I don’t really think much of these traditions that exist to tell us what we can’t do.

          Though we are apart, our trust keeps us together all the time. I have always missed you. Three years ago I left home and came to the university, and since then I have often thought about you. So many girls are around me in my class, but I have always thought about you. In my lonely nights at the hostel, I go up on the roof and watch the twinkling stars and shining moon because they remind me of our childhood days: sky being the Flower House, stars being all the village children, and the moon being you. In my evenings, I often go on walks and see the sunset, the sight of which comforts me with the knowledge that my days of loneliness and isolation are ending.

          After my time at the university, I want to start a new life with you. God willing, everything will be all right.

Yours forever,

Monday, September 18, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Chapter 10: Innocence and Foolishness

Battle of the Heart and Mind
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

After a few days, the hostel management provided me with a basic room. Like many such rooms, a small cot stood by the wall instead of a bed, along with two broken desks and chairs, two energy-saving light bulbs that dimly illuminated the room, and an old, wooden two-drawer wardrobe that hardly seemed adequate for three students. Without enough drawers to keep our books and clothes separate, I kept them together in a single drawer. When I slept on the ancient cot, I felt as if I had fallen into a ditch. Moreover, water was often unavailable in the dilapidated bathrooms.  I tried my best to somehow adjust to university life, with its conflict and turmoil. In fact, I had already decided in my mind that the allure of the big university could never win over my heart. I struggled to focus my attention on my studies while longing for my family, friends, and the routine of my village all the time. Jamil happened to visit me after a few months, and he was amazed to see young men and women sitting together on campus. He expressed a deep seated concern that one of the girls might catch my eye and distract me from my studies. His main fear was that I might do the “unthinkable” by marrying someone without telling my family.

At the end of the first semester, I felt very glad to return home.  Hugging my dear mother for the first time in months, tears welled up in my eyes because I had felt so lonely. Her loving embrace always comforted me, regardless of my age. After such a long absence, I had a wonderful time with two village friends, reminiscing about our youthful days. We often went out for walks together, played a board game known as Ludo, and swam in the Indus River.

When the second semester was about to start, I could no longer stay in the village. The comfort and security of family and friends was ending and the unpleasant reality of the world once again beset me. One balmy, early August morning, Jamil took me to the bus station on his bike. During the ride, he started to talk about my future marriage prospects. “Would you marry Seemi?” he asked.

I stammered, “What? Seemi is my childhood friend—I can’t possibly marry her. And, she is . . . is . . . engaged already.”

“She is not engaged,” Jamil replied. “She’s a good girl, and you, as her friend, must consider what friendship means to you.”

I forcefully said, “Jamil! Hold on! Wait a minute. When I asked you to talk with the parents of the girl with dimples and ask for her hand for me, you ignored me! And now that I’ve entered university, you want me to get engaged!”

Avoiding my eyes, he said, “I’m your older brother, so I can decide what you should do and when you should do it!”

“Ah, stop trying to control my life!” I protested.  “Now I want to complete my education before thinking about the next step. And if I do get married somewhere down the road, she most definitely would be the girl with dimples.” I felt that my marriage should be my decision to make. No one else, not even my loving mother, should attempt to make that decision for me.

Jamil looked at me sternly. “You’re old enough now to understand that marrying this girl is just a foolish dream.”

“Whatever,” I murmured, rolling my eyes. “You’ve never done anything to make my ‘foolish’ dream come true,” I replied bitterly. “Please, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“Mother and I have come to believe that Seemi would be a good companion for you,” said Jamil biting the inside of his lip.

We reached the bus stop, and I got off to get my ticket. “I’ll wait for your reply,” Jamil said as he was leaving.

“Oh my God! What’s happening to me?” I sighed as I sat in the seat of the coach. I kept thinking about Seemi and Jamil’s words.

For several days a conflict raged between my heart and my mind.

My mind said, “She’s not an educated girl.”

“She’s a pure and innocent girl,” my heart replied.

“She’s not the one you’ve dreamt about.”

“At least you know her better than the girl with dimples.” This sort of internal dialog rambled ceaselessly.

The next day, in our Java programming class, the professor asked us, “How many of you chose this computer field because your heart demanded it? Raise your hands, please.” I didn’t raise my hand. I thought if I were to raise my hand, my signal would be a lie because my heart had always yearned for a bachelor’s degree in English. Pursuing Computer Science was a decision of my mind.

“Those who have chosen this field with their hearts will not only succeed in it, but will also be happy. Always listen to your heart, students!” advised the professor. The battle between my heart and mind raged on for days.

My mind said, “You love one girl and want to marry another.”

“How can you call it ‘love’ when the girl with dimples doesn’t even have a clue about your feelings?” my heart asked. “Your true love is Seemi. You haven’t realized this obvious truth because you have never given it any thought.”

“Marrying the girl you spent years yearning after will give you lifelong happiness and a sense of accomplishment.”

“There’s no guarantee that your life will be peaceful after you marry the girl with dimples.”

“You’ll regret it. You’ll always have a desire, a wish to marry the girl who was your first crush.”

“It’s not necessary that all of our dreams should come true. Sometimes some dreams, which remain only dreams play an important role in our lives making us organize ourselves better. Some wishes unfulfilled, some songs unsung, and some stories unwritten can save us from the disturbance of our minds,” my heart explained.

“Don’t be silly, Rizwan! Do not compromise on your dreams for others!”

“The happiness that comes after the sacrifice of our dreams and wishes for our loved ones has a different charm and taste,” said my heart.

“You want to escape from the stark reality of your life and want to take refuge in mere consolations.”

“You need to learn what makes you happy in every facet of your life. Seemi is that part of you which will make you complete,” advised my heart. The controversy between my mind and heart continued all month long.

On one unusual evening, with a cloudless sky, and not even a hint of breeze, I was looking for a serene place to resolve my internal battle, and perhaps, to find some divine guidance. I went to the roof of the hostel and sat alone for hours listening to the argument between my heart and mind about Seemi and the girl with dimples. I remembered the moment years ago when Seemi’s parents were leaving the village. I remembered her sad eyes, and the heartfelt promise that Seemi had made to me that she would come back one day. Her sorrowful promise had built a stronghold in my mind, and no matter what happened I could not erase that memory. Oh, how I longed to see her dark eyes, the gaze that would melt my heart, and hear her contagious laugh when we had those joyful childhood times together. I thought about my mother’s statement: that marriages are predetermined by God. I felt that perhaps Seemi and I really were made for each other. I felt that my heart wanted me to live with Seemi more than with the girl with dimples, so I decided that I would listen to my heart. I realized that the girl with the dimples was just a fantasy, a phase a young man goes through in life. However, the girl with dimples will always hold a special place in my memory.

Rizwan' book "The Reflections" is available at the following bookstores:

Larkana at:
• Sagar Book Depot, GPO Road Larkana
• Mumtaz Bookstore, Lahori Muhalla Larkano
• Rehber Book Academy, Bunder Road Larkana
• Afnan Super Mart, Galib Nagar Larkano
• Abdullah Bookstore, Bunder Road Larkano
• Rabel Kitaab Ghar, Station Road Larkana
• Noorani Bookstore, Bunder Raod Larkana
• National Book Store, Bunder Road Larkana
Khairpur at:
• Khairpur Book Stall
All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2017 by Rizwan Ahmed Memon

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


One day I brought the short story “Eleven,” written by the American writer Sandra Cisneros, to my class to help my students practice their reading comprehension. One of the assignments I gave them was writing short stories about their past experiences, just as Cisneros did in “Eleven.”
 The students enjoyed reading the story, but most of them got stuck trying to write their own stories based on their life experiences. In order to get them started, I tried to motivate them by telling them some of my own past experiences. I told them that they could write about anything that had happened in their lives at any point, whether at school, home, or somewhere else. After listening to a few of my past experiences, they had an idea of what to write. However, they were still unsure and asked me to tell them more.
 The next day, I went to class with a story I had written about one of the experiences I had talked about the day before. The students were really excited to read it! They could relate to it because almost all of them had grown up in a similar culture. It appealed to them even more than Cisneros’ story. Once they finished reading, I asked them again to write their own, personal stories. This time, they did so wonderfully!
 To further stimulate their creativity and boost their interest, I wrote the second story about another incident which I had already told them about. As before, they expressed real interest in it! After that, they asked me nearly every day to give them some more stories based on my own experiences; after I had finished writing three stories, the idea of making them into a novella came to me.
 I told my students that I was going to turn my writings into a novella: the first three stories would be its first three chapters, with more chapters to come. My novella, which I chose to call “Innocence and Foolishness,” appealed to them so much that wherever they saw me they asked, “When’s the next chapter coming?”
 I used the chapters of “Innocence and Foolishness” to create different activities, so students not only practiced their reading skills, but also speaking, writing, and listening. They focused on vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, sentence patterns, punctuation, and many other language-related topics.
 Though this novella contains many things about my life, I feel like I have left a lot out—unwritten and unspoken. I have never been able to put on paper exactly what I had gone through; it is just a kind of summary of my life, with a little bit of embellishment and creativity. Life is like a big ocean, with many wonderful, but sometimes scary things in it. It takes courage to open your life to others; at times, the task is beyond the capacity of words to express the full range of emotions inherent in all of us. “Innocence and Foolishness,” to me, is like a cemetery with graves of words in which I have buried some of my memories.
I hope that you enjoy the story and learn something new, and that it brings a positive change to your life.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Chapter 9: Innocence and Foolishness

A Tough Milestone
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

Hemayat, one of my good friends from Commerce College Larkana, where we completed our 11th and 12th grade education, was also fortunate to be selected for the prestigious, undergraduate program at the University of Sindh in Jamshoro—the city famed for its gales. When I heard the news of his acceptance, I was reminded of the depressing fact that so many of our other friends had failed the test, but they were still pleading their case with the school officials for an admission. Unlike so many of our other friends, we had managed to pass the admission test. So, with some youthful apprehension, we decided to take the long, arduous trip by coach to the university together. The eight-hour trip was relatively uneventful, except for the poor condition of the coach’s suspension that made every pothole seem like a crater. With both of us chatting about the things guys usually talk about—girls and sports—the time passed quickly.

“Have you ever fallen in love?” asked Hemayat.

“I don’t know, but I do like a girl whom I met when I was five.” I replied.

“Does she know?” asked Hemayat.

“No, she doesn’t.”

“Then it’s a one-sided love, huh?”

“Yeah. I have talked to my brothers about meeting with her parents, but they disapprove of my plan to marry her.”

“Well, to me it seems like you live in a dream that’ll never turn into reality,” Hemayat observed. Before I had a chance to reply, our chat was cut short by the rising force of a song the coach conductor was playing at full volume.

When we finally reached our destination in Jamshoro, the burly coach conductor with a bad haircut barked at us to get off. With one arm and in a single motion, he lifted our overstuffed bags full of clothes and books. Perhaps the long trip was getting to him, too. Since we were not allotted a hostel room yet, we decided to stay off campus at a nearby house owned by Hemayat’s close friend. When we put our feet on the stony earth of the city, where the campus was located, we were greeted by furious gusts of wind that fought back against any attempt to move forward—making our journey on foot into a little battle that was being pressed step-by-step. However, we didn’t mind. Our excitement and joy at having been selected made the struggle against the wind seem minuscule. We walked briskly to our new residence. The excitement of beginning a new era in our lives had created a lively, happy silence that trailed us as we marched together. We spoke a little and when we saw Hemayat’s friend’s house appear, we hastened our steps. First days are always fascinating for me, but would life at the university still be exciting after more time passes? Would this enchantment become a novelty that wears off? Those questions floated around in my mind.

The immaculately kept, moderate house where we stayed consisted of one large room where Hemayat’s friend lived alone. The first night, we neglected to use the Mourtine spray, and as a result a swarm of mosquitoes rudely interrupted our sleep. The next day, we woke up at 07:00 and prepared for the lectures on campus. To our amazement, we found the campus bus, waiting for us at the corner of the nearby intersection. With anticipation and a bounce in our steps, we got on the bus, and within 15 minutes, we entered the impressive, arched main gate of the university. The university covered so many acres that walking on the long, winding roads was tiring at first. Although we had the campus map given to us, there were so many different department buildings, that we were struggling to find the right ones. We parted ways, and Hemayat went searching for his class as I did for mine. When I entered the building, my class had already started. Using the correct protocol learned years ago, I asked the teacher for permission to enter. He warmly welcomed me in English and asked me to introduce myself. I introduced myself to the students confidently and fluently. 

After the class, one bespectacled young man with unkempt hair came to me, and said in his broken English, “Me Imran. From country what are you?”

“I am not a foreigner. I am Pakistani and I am from Larkana,” I quickly replied with a smile.

“Oh, we thinked you had a foreigner because you had speak English so well.”

His English made me laugh. He became my first friend at the university that day.

Our first day at the university flew by, and it was a great experience. The next day, the university was closed because of a protest by a national political party. Some students told us that there was great political unrest in the university, and the conditions seemed to be getting worse. I am still not sure what they were protesting about. They told us that they have seen students being killed in the political conflicts on campus. For six days in a row there were no classes, so I decided to go home. I was feeling very homesick. I missed my village, and the kids I taught. Adding to my malaise was a slight fever from the mosquito bites, and my body’s reaction to the hotel food and the new environment.

Weakened from my fever, I complained to Hemayat, “I’m so bored. We don’t have any classes. What if this happens all year long?”

“Everything will be alright in a day or two,” he consoled me. After I roamed the city taking in the new sights, a nagging doubt began to pollute the joyous and excited mood I had held earlier.

Everything which had happened until now—my fevers, my boredom, my doubts—was welling up within the depths of my body and drowning my earlier hopes and excitement. I felt as if I wanted to give in to the welling and the drowning and just drift away.

Dejectedly, I took some of my clothes and left for home. I figured I would get the rest of my luggage later on.

After a long day of travel, I finally reached home. My mother was ecstatic to see me, but my brothers had mixed feelings. I told them that I would quit attending the university. “What? What will people think?” Jamil asked anxiously. He always worried about public opinion!

“He’ll never amount to anything. Haven’t I told you this before?” Irfan added, pointing to me.

“Why do you all keep taunting him? You never went to a university. You never even learned how to use a computer!” my mother finally silenced them. I went to my room. Tired and ready to finish my day, I retired to my bed.

The next day, I went to Sir Shah Nawaz Library and met some of the Commerce College fellows who were very dejected because they could not pass the university entrance examination. I told them that I was going to quit. “No, Rizwan. That would be a huge mistake. Look at us; we feel unlucky because we couldn’t even pass the test. You are a lucky student. You must continue for your future.” I stared at them silently. There was an air of confusion and sadness.

After a long day contemplating over the undergraduate program and battling a sense of ennui, I reevaluated my decision by nightfall. I made up my mind to continue no matter how hard the situation might be. I told my mother that I would go back to university. “Why? You could continue your studies here in Larkana. This is hard on me. I don’t like you being so far away,” said my mother.

“Yes, it is tough. But if I don’t have a university degree, it will make things harder.”

“I understand. I will pray for you.”

“Thank you. If I quit, I’ll be depriving myself of a great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” I added.

Speaking about our family, my mother said, “Did you know that your uncle has given Seemi’s hand in return for a girl for his son, Ayaz?” In Sindhi culture, many families give a girl in marriage and take a girl from the other family in return.

“No! Really? So Seemi is engaged now?” I asked, a slight tremble in my voice revealing my shock and sorrow.

“No, the boy refused to accept her hand after Ayaz’s engagement.”

“That’s not fair. Now I see why Seemi was worried the other day.”

“Yes. He shouldn’t have done that. He shouldn’t have agreed to the first proposal. But now that his sister is engaged to Ayaz, he refuses to accept Seemi’s hand. Seemi is worried because it might damage her reputation,” said my mother.

“I hate this give and take system in our culture. I don’t know when women will have their equal rights in this male-dominated society,” I sighed. “Oh, my poor childhood friend, Seemi.” I don’t know why I felt so sad after I heard about her situation. I felt a burning pain in my heart that ate through my body like waves crashing terribly on a shore and gradually devouring the land itself. I wished I could do something for her.

My mother went to sleep as it was late at night. I walked out of my room to look at the starry sky. I could hear the eerie sound of an owl hooting in the neighbor’s tree. That day, I felt that there is no purer love in the world than a mother’s. She always wants to see her child happy. If she had the power and authority, she would do anything to make her child happy. I wish women at the very least had basic rights in my society.

The next day, the 8th of January, 2010, I left once again for the university with renewed ambition. On the way, I thought to myself that opportunities don’t come knocking every day. And I reminded myself that a great goal requires hard work and consistency in order to be achieved. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Chapter 8: Innocence and Foolishness

Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

I felt that I was walking on a path bathed in light, so I never worried or looked back. I always had faith that those around me cared about my well-being, but, unfortunately, I was eventually proven wrong. It was too much to expect that my three brothers—Jamil, Papoo, and Irfan—would ever change.

With our family elders’ permission, Papoo married a girl among our relatives in the village, and Jamil was engaged to Seemi’s older sister, who lived in the city. Desiring to make more money, my brothers were considering starting a new venture in the city as well—a general store. “Looking after buffaloes is a tedious job compared to running a shop,” Jamil tried to convince Papoo. “Why don’t you open a shop in the city? Our father’s house has been rented out for a long time, so you can live there while you run the shop.”

Papoo was ambivalent. His mind was trapped between agreeing with Jamil and longing for life in the village. Forcing himself to be dedicated to either option was proving difficult. After a few days, they rented a shop in an underdeveloped area because there were not many shops in that neighborhood. They thought their new shop would succeed there. During the day, Papoo would run the shop in the city, and at night he’d return to the house that our father had purchased back when he was still alive. I had once been to the city house with Jamil when he went to collect the rent. It was an old, two story house that needed some repair. Since Papoo decided to become a store owner, he could no longer tend to the buffaloes, so he sold them.

The long summer days passed by, and, thankfully, I was about to complete the 10th grade. Jamil and Irfan continued to run their general store in the village, and Papoo continued to run his store in the city. After two years, Jamil got married to Seemi’s older sister, Shabana. On his wedding day, he threw a big party with all his friends and relatives. Hundreds of people, from different walks of life, attended the wedding. The party must have cost him a fortune, for he spared no expense. Since Jamil was in charge of the house, it was not customary, or acceptable for someone to ask about the cost of the wedding.

Jamil’s wife was a proud and strong-willed woman, who threatened the peace and tranquility of our home. Thankfully, everything, for the moment, went smoothly at home. I was cautiously optimistic that it would continue. I was eagerly teaching and working on my English and computer skills, and my brothers were also happy with their lives. I knew that it was only a matter of time that soon Shabana would show her true colors. Jamil never payed any serious attention to how Shabana mistreated my mother. He firmly believed his wife to be a perfect woman. He was busy enjoying life and making money.

Upon realizing I could speak English and use a computer, Jamil became excited about my skills. He proudly told everyone in the village, “Our brother speaks English and can use a computer.” He introduced me to all of his friends who came to the shop. I had to force myself to smile when I met strangers. I hated meeting strangers and wasn’t very sociable. One day, a boy came upstairs while I was drawing flowers on the walls of my study room and said to me, “Rizwan, Mulan Jamil is calling you to the shop.” I knew that new introductions awaited me.

“Tell him I am busy,” I said to the boy. He left, but shortly returned, with a stern message from my brother.

“He insists you come down,” said the boy. I went to the shop and discovered three obese men who looked like businessmen on a mission. I greeted them apprehensively while trying to force my mouth to utter “How do you do, sir?”, to each of them. They asked me about my studies. Fighting against my reluctance, I briefly talked to total strangers about my studies. I didn’t like to boast about my skills. Jamil went on, telling them that I was planning to attend the university in the future.

Having become fed up with meeting such people, I confronted Jamil that night, “Your friends are not my friends. I no longer want to meet any of your business acquaintances. Being able to speak English and use a computer is not a big deal to me. Please do not embarrass me by forcing me to hug and shake hands with people I don’t know at all.” I thought he probably would feel upset, but I didn’t want to be treated like a showpiece. I had a tendency to live life according to my own rules.

After that day, Jamil somehow changed his attitude towards us. His wife also stopped helping my mother with household chores. She would even argue over household issues with my mother. I remained silent while the heated talks between my mother and sister-in-law raged. I thought Jamil would make his wife understand, and everything would be all right. I hoped that peace and tranquility would return to our home.

When I was about to finish 12th grade, Irfan said to Jamil and our mother, “I want to marry Papoo’s sister-in-law.”

“That would be great!” said Jamil in an excited, loud voice. He probably thought that with another new woman in the house, his wife would not be burdened with the household chores.

“I want you to go to them immediately, and ask for the girl’s hand for me,” Irfan told them. “I will get married in a few years, but for now I just want to get engaged.” Irfan’s urgency showed that he wouldn’t wait for years after the engagement.

My brother was very happy to go to our relatives to arrange for Irfan’s betrothal. Within three or four days, Irfan was betrothed. “I want Rizwan to choose a girl, too,” my mother said to Jamil and Irfan.

“My fiancée’s sister, Papee, is the best match for him,” Irfan blurted out excitedly. I had never even thought about the girl he was talking about. Irfan thought that his fiancée would feel more at home if her sister were with her.

“Yes, who could be better than her?” said Jamil and my mother in unexpected unison. “We hope you will agree with our decision.”

“Well, you may be right,” I replied with more than a little trepidation. “She is a good girl, but I have never given her any thought.”

“You should give her some thought. You should get engaged to her; she will be a good life partner,” said Jamil.

“What is your choice?” asked my mother. I told them about the girl with dimples that had been in my dreams.

“What? Are you crazy? They are not close relatives. They will never give you her hand,” said Irfan raising his eyebrows.

I stared at Irfan, “Why won’t they give me her hand? I am a good-looking guy and above all, I am getting a good education. Who would be a better choice from our family?”

“You don’t know what life is, or how to deal with it. We know what is best for you,” said Jamil in a soft tone.

“And you don’t earn enough money by teaching a few kids. You’d rather live on our money,” Irfan added while rudely gesticulating.

My mother listened to my brothers silently. “You should obey your elders, Rizwan.”

“Mother, why not go to them and just ask?” I begged her.

She looked at me softly and said, “Your older brother is in charge of the house, so he should agree first.”

Knowing that I was never going to agree with them, Jamil said in a thoughtful manner, “Alright, we will go to them.”

After that day, they never talked again about my engagement. In return, I never mentioned it either. I thought that maybe it wasn’t the right time.

After just a few days, Irfan told my mother and brother that he wanted to get married. Within three or four days, the marriage date was decided. Every day, Irfan played love songs on our old family tape recorder at full volume. Within a week, he got married. During this period, I was taking my intermediate examinations.

I didn’t like crowds of people, but of course I attended his wedding, which was held as a traditional Nikhah ceremony. All of our relatives and his friends had money garlands in their hands. Everybody was beautifully dressed. I congratulated him, and he was very happy on his wedding day. I, somehow, felt surprisingly detached. I wished I had been engaged that day. The innocent face of my dream girl came before me as I saw his bride. I thought how beautiful the girl with dimples would look in her wedding dress. Deep down in my heart, I was hurt by how my brothers treated me.

I saw Seemi beside the bride. I felt that she looked at me with eyes that had something to tell me. I just gazed wonderingly at her as if I were seeing her for the first time. Flashbacks from our childhood started to pass before my eyes: How we would gather berries in the Flower House, put our feet in the canal, and trick the old man at the shop. In that huge crowd of people, she also seemed as detached as I was. Looking at me, perhaps, she was also remembering about the days we had spent together. Sad violin music was slowly playing in my heart. I sighed while staring at her. She had grown into a beautiful, young lady. Her moles on her right cheek had added to her beauty. Her dark hair had grown long, and elegantly framed her innocent white face. In the kind and cruel mill of time, we had lost our foolishness and spontaneity. I felt that we were happier in our childhood. It was a time when we didn’t have any worries, and we were free to choose what we liked and free to go where we wanted.

The wedding was over, and after a few days my exams came to an end—everything returned to normal. Irfan and Jamil continued to run the village shop and lived their lives happily with their wives. Papoo went his way, claiming the city house and shop belonged solely to him now. They got busy in their lives ignoring my feelings. They thought I was only born to study.

I sometimes pleaded with my mother about meeting with the parents of the dimple-faced girl, who had arrested my heart. She always told me it was in Jamil’s hands. I wished I were free to choose my life partner, too. It was my life; I should have the right to decide. I thought it would be useless to talk to my brothers again. They knew what I wanted, but they deliberately turned a deaf ear to me. I started to prepare for the university entrance examination.

By that time, they had children of their own and they became even busier with their lives. They never talked about my engagement. During the hustle and bustle of those days, I realized that if people’s hearts care not for others, relationships have no real meaning and will never last. I realized the importance of financial independence as well. I learned that people decide matters important to them very quickly. However, when taking into consideration others’ feelings, their attitude is not the same. I was selected to attend the University of Sindh Jamshoro as a Computer Science major, and Jamil willingly helped me throughout the process and told me that he would pay my university expenses. Maybe I was a little ungrateful, but I thought that sending me to the university, which was about four hundred kilometers away from my hometown, would give him one more way to brag about me with his friends. I wanted him to be proud of me, but not like that.

The atmosphere created by my mother and Shabana at home was sometimes peaceful and sometimes as wrathful as a war. With hopes and dreams, and a longing for the girl with dimples, I left home for the university. That day I came to learn that money can get you many things, but sometimes it doesn’t bring peace to your heart.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Chapter 5: Innocence and Foolishness

The Geometry Box
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

While casually walking to school one foggy morning, I wondered what I should say to my primary school teacher if he asked about the geometry box again. Mr. Nasrullah was our teacher. He was a one-eyed man with mustache. He wore long, loose kameez and salwar. I decided to tell him the truth, even if it’d cost me a beating.

Mr. Nasrullah asked all of the students that hadn’t brought their geometry boxes and drawing books to stand. In a gruff voice he shouted at me, “I told you not to come to school without them!” I meekly responded that my brother had only given me enough money to just buy the drawing book. Seeing that my teacher was not impressed with my first excuse, I quickly told him that my older brother said I wouldn’t need the geometry kit.

“You all have to buy geometry boxes, and they are available at my shop,” said an adamant Mr. Nasrullah. “Look at Abbas and Asif. They have already purchased the boxes from me!”

“Sir, I will purchase one tomorrow,” I replied to the teacher as I shyly looked down at the drawing book on my desk.

“You all must have a geometry box by tomorrow. I will not accept any excuses,” he said glaring at all the frightened students. Then he asked us to sit. He started the lesson by deftly drawing an olive shape on the board for all to see. “Does this olive drawing look beautiful?” he asked the students rhetorically.

“Yes, Sir!” replied all the students in unison.

“This will look even more beautiful in the future. I will tell you how once you all have purchased the geometry boxes from my shop.”

Mr. Nasrullah asked us to draw the olive in our drawing book. I liked drawing it; it was interesting and fun. In the evening, I opened the jar where I saved my pocket money. I counted all of the coins one by one. I had fifteen rupees.  I went to Mr. Nasrullah’s shop. “So your brother finally gave you money to buy the geometry kit, huh?”

“No, Sir. I am going to buy it with the pocket money that I’ve been saving for two months,” I replied with a soft tone. “How much is it, Sir?”

“Only twenty rupees!”

I grew worried and told him that I will have to buy it in another two or three days because I had only fifteen rupees.

“No problem. I will give you a discount of five rupees. Tomorrow never comes,” he said as he quickly took money from my hand. I brought the geometry box home and hid it in my school bag. I feared my brother might get angry upon seeing the geometry kit. At night, I took it out of the bag and checked every single tool in it. I didn’t know their names, especially the one that looked like it had legs and some kind of needles. I could only recognize the standard, unsharpened pencil with an eraser sitting on top of it. I was curious to know how to use the other tools in the kit.

The next day was chillier than the day before, so my mother told me to just wash my face instead of taking a bath. I wanted to take a bath because I had dandruff in my hair. I took a shower with cold water from the hand pump. However, it warmed up after a few minutes as more water flowed through. Before I left for school, I put on my lucky half-sleeve sweater. Mr. Nasrullah always said that it was a lilami (cheap) sweater and that he had better sweaters available at his shop.

All the students were showing their geometry boxes to each other. They all had the same size and color boxes. It was obvious that they had purchased them from Mr. Nasrullah’s shop. As the teacher entered the class, he asked the students who didn’t have geometry boxes to stand. Nobody stood; they had all somehow purchased the geometry boxes. Even the poorest student of our class, Nadir, didn’t stand. The teacher was very happy. “Abbas and Asif, go to my home and bring lasi and roti for me,” he said it every morning to them. He then looked at the olive shapes on each student’s drawing book.

“Now that you have purchased the geometry boxes, I want to tell you how you can make this olive drawing look more beautiful. Actually, if we fill it with colors, it will look more beautiful. And you know what? The colors are available in my shop.”

I got tense as he said the sentence “The colors are available in my shop.” I knew he would force us to buy them. I didn’t have any pocket money left, and I was sure my brother would say I don’t need them. Every day Mr. Nasrullah ate his breakfast in the classroom. After eating breakfast, he would read the newspaper, and leave for the city to buy the merchandise for his shop on his old bike.

Our teacher made us stand every day and scolded us for not buying the colors from his shop. Everyone else had purchased the colors within a week. I still didn’t have the colors. I thought about the geometry box that had been long-forgotten by the teacher. He never talked of the geometry boxes after we purchased them. I didn’t want to be embarrassed every day, so I decided that I would sell my favorite duck.

I told my mother that I am going to sell my favorite duck. She said it was a beautiful duck that laid eggs, so it was a shame. I didn’t tell my mother why I was doing so. I purchased the colors and it was fun to fill the olive shape. Mr. Nasrullah never talked of colors after I purchased them. All the things he had made us buy were just sleeping in our bags. The promise of summer vacation made me feel relaxed. I wouldn’t have to hear the phrase “Available at my shop” for at least two months.

“Dear students, the summer vacation starts on the first of June, so I have to give you some work for the holidays,” said the teacher. “There are times table booklets available at my shop. Buy them and memorize the times tables during the holidays.”

In my culture, birthdays are not celebrated much. I wished I could’ve gotten all these things as my birthday gifts. We all were happy to go on vacation on our last day of school. Mr. Nasrullah said, “I don’t like vacations much. Well, if you need anything during the holidays, you know everything is available at my shop.”

Hoping to learn how the tools in the geometry box were used, I kept the box in my school bag from primary school to high school. Unfortunately, no teacher ever talked about the tools. When I asked some of the teachers, they silenced me by saying the tools were not for me. Perhaps, my brother was right—I wouldn’t need them.