Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Timkey | Part 4 | Blind Obedience

Recap of part 3: Timkey’s elders stopped her from going outside the home. She was given a white burka to wear if she ever needed to go out. Timkey was becoming increasingly sadder as the restrictions on her life grew more and more each day. One evening, it started to rain and Timkey couldn’t help herself and joined the children who were playing in the puddles on the ground. She closed her eyes and twirled around with her arms spread out.

Proceed reading part 4 only if you agree with the following:
Terms and Conditions
Copyright © 2018
by / Real Publications Larkana
All rights reserved. No part of this publication 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/publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews. For permission requests, write to the author/publisher at the addresses below.

WARNING: Violation of any rules of RPL (Real Publications Larkana) is a criminal act, which will result in lawsuit and huge fines. 

All the ideas and scenes contained in this novel are the products of the author’s creativity and imagination. The religious concepts discussed in the novel do not represent the author’s personal or any other particular person’s views. These chapters are uploaded by the author himself on his Facebook wall and his blog exclusively for his fans and readers. The author has the right to remove them any time. If these chapters are saved or distributed by any person other than the author, it is considered violation of the rules of the author’s publication company, RPL.

Timkey | Part 4 | Blind Obedience
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

Engulfed by a cloak of torrential rain, the grime, heat, anxieties, and tension that had encrusted themselves on my body like a layer of pollution were finally washed away. In that moment, while being held by rainwater, I was enshrined in a sanctuary that hid me from my burdens. The rain had soaked my hair and was pouring from my braids, and my dupatta had become heavy and was pushed to the earth. My mind and my senses, having been entranced by the deluge of heavenly water falling down on me, were utterly unaware that my cousins had become fixated on staring at my body through my white, cotton kamiz, which was becoming ever more diaphanous. “Timkey!” shouted Aman Wadi. “Don’t be immodest! Cover yourself with your dupatta properly!”

I couldn't ignore Aman Wadi's voice. It was like a quake, collapsing my watery sanctuary, cracking my heart, and cutting it with deep jagged crevices. As my senses returned to the world outside my brief respite, I noticed that my teenage cousins were staring at my body curiously. I took my dupatta and covered my body, feeling embarrassed and ashamed. “Timkey, go to your room and change your clothes,” my mother ordered me.

I worried about what Aman Wadi would say to me. After changing my clothes, I took the broom and went to the kitchen to sweep the floor and wash the dishes. No sooner had I finished my cleaning chores, when Aman Wadi came with the wet dress that I had removed a few minutes ago. “Aman Wadi, I will put them in the laundry myself; I just hung them out to dry,” I said to her.

“These clothes are too thin and tight for you! Let me get rid of them,” Aman Wadi said angrily. “We are Muslims and Muslim women must cover their bodies properly.”

I lowered my head and became silent. She approached the kitchen fireplace, where a small fire was feeding off of some cow dung. “Are you going to burn them?” I asked with trepidation, latching onto the dress.

“Take your hands off, Timkey!” my grandmother ordered.

“No, Aman Wadi. I promise I won’t wear them ever again. Please don’t burn them,” I begged.

She pushed me and I crashed into the plates that were piled up for washing. The stack of the plates fell to the floor and many of them shattered. My mother ran to the kitchen after hearing the sudden crash. Aman Wadi took the dress, which she had wrapped up tightly into a ball, and thrust it resolutely into the fire. My breath stopped, and I silently hoped that the protective waters that had been sent from the heavens earlier would be able to preserve the kamiz as it experienced its terrible, fiery test. My hopes amounted to nothing. My favorite dress was burning right before my eyes. My heart too was aflame. As my dress shrunk in the flames, gradually withering into a blackened, worthless mass of a garment, the once living flesh of my heart was burning and shrinking into a hardened clump of despair and simmering, silent outrage. Although thick, heavy, monstrous tears fell from my quivering eyes, not even their combined weight would be enough to smother the flames.

Mother came in the kitchen and said to Aman Wadi, “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“If I don’t teach her, who will?” said Aman Wadi obstinately. “You must not spoil her so much.” Aman Wadi warned, putting her hands on her waist.

Aman Wadi defiantly left the kitchen. Shouting at my mother, I uttered, “Why does God want girls to live a limited life, Mother?”

“Stop, Timkey!” my mother said, in a low voice.
Shouting at my mother, I uttered, “I can’t play outside! I can’t go to school! I can’t watch Indian or English channels! I can’t wear my favorite clothes…Argh!”

Mother looked at me in astonishment. I shouted at Mother.  “Why can’t I live my life the way I want to, Mother?”

Mother’s eyes widened in amazement. Women never spoke like that; it simply was not accepted behavior. Mother didn’t have an answer. She looked at me for a moment. I felt I was too angry and unconcerned about being rude and disrespectful to my mother. I lowered my tone and asked to her, “Mother, don’t girls have the same hearts and feelings as boys?”

Mother avoided my eyes and left the kitchen. I knew I shouldn’t have spoken to Mother that way. I felt really sorry. I wiped my tears and gathered the broken dishes. Uncle Arbaaz came to the kitchen walking with his hands folded behind his back, shoulders slouched forward. He looked around at the mess of dishes and the burnt clothes. He gave me a stern look as always, disapproving of most things.

At night, Pinkey said, “You have put your doll in the box for so long, Timkey.” I didn’t say anything to her.

“You are treating your doll like your elders are treating you,” Pinkey said to me, while fixing her doll’s hair. I looked at her and said, “No, I just didn’t have time.” I brought my doll box and removed my doll from it.

“She still looks sad and heartbroken,” Pinkey said.

I was about to do my doll’s hair when my mother came into our room. “Timkey, your father has come back from the mosque, so go and make a cup of tea for him.”

After I made a cup of tea, I went to my parents’ room. As soon as I reached the door, I eavesdropped. Mother said to Father, “When I was a young teenager, I never dared to even speak loudly to my parents. But Timkey, she is beginning to question and think!”

“Question? Question what?” Father asked her.

“Why the girls are treated the way they are!” my mother replied.

“What do you mean? All of us should be assertive about our core beliefs. I will talk to Timkey,” Father said to her.

“One part of her felt really sorry. However, there was another part that felt glad for finally standing up as a young adult wanting to make her own choices. From her childhood, she has always wanted to become the author of her own life. But, this is not easy for most women in our traditional society,” Mother added.

The tea was getting cold, so I went into the room and served Father the cup of tea. Father looked at me strangely, but he didn’t say anything.

The next day, the clouds had cleared up. It was a warm day. When Father was going outside, he said to me, “Timkey, girls mustn’t talk to their parents like that. God says in the Qur’an to treat your parents well. In Islam, treating your parents disrespectfully is one of the biggest sins.”

“I am really sorry, Father. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

I hesitated to say anything to Father, but mentally I was bitterly complaining about the harsh treatment I had received. To me it seemed as if Father followed the religious beliefs that the Imam of the mosque taught him with a blind faith, never questioning or thinking for himself or in front of others. How he reacted and behaved would always be in accordance with the tenets of his Murshid Saeen, the scholar in our village, who was followed by many people like Father. I thought that God was kind and he loved all human beings, including girls.

I decided that I would never again speak harshly to my parents, no matter how badly they treated me. I thought that whatever I was going through God knew about it; maybe he had written my fate to be no different than the millions of other girls in Pakistan, who were deprived of their rights.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Timkey | Part 3 | Caged Heart

Recap of part 2: As Timkey was leaving for school, Aman Wadi stopped her at the door and told her that she was too old to go to school. Aman Wadi snatched Timkey’s school bag from her and told her to stay at home and learn the household chores.

Proceed reading chapter 3 only if you agree with the following:
Terms and Conditions
Copyright © 2018
by / Real Publications Larkana

All rights reserved. No part of this publication 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/publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews. For permission requests, write to the author/publisher at the address below.
WARNING: Violation of any rules of RPL (Real Publications Larkana) is a criminal, which will result in lawsuit and huge fines.

All the ideas and scenes contained in this novel are the products of the author’s creativity and imagination. The religious concepts discussed in the coming chapters do not represent the author’s personal or any other particular person’s views. These chapters are uploaded by the author himself on his Facebook wall and his blog exclusively for his fans and readers. The author has the right to remove them any time. If these chapters are saved or distributed by any person other than the author, it is considered violation of the rules of the author’s publication company, RPL.
Timkey | Part 3 | Caged Heart
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

The next day, early in the morning, it started to drizzle lightly. As usual, Uncle Arbaaz didn’t go to morning prayer, but instead he watched Indian channels on his colorful 19” TV while drinking his favorite hot tea. Since my parents were religious, we didn’t have a TV nor a satellite dish, so we could not watch Indian movies or listen to our favorite songs. Father sometimes listened to his old radio. We sometimes watched TV with our cousins when Aman Wadi wasn’t home. Father came home from the mosque, partially soaked from the rain. He came into the kitchen, dripping all over the floor, and sat on the low divan. “I think it will rain heavily today. It’ll be good for the crops,” Father said matter-of-factly to Mother.

“Yes, we must be thankful to God,” Mother dutifully replied.

“Timkey, go to the mosque for your Qur’an lesson. All the neighbourhood girls had arrived as I left the mosque,” Father said.

“Yes, Father.” Pinkey and Waseem arrived on time with their Qur’ans covered in white linens in their hands. All three of us headed to the mosque for our lessons.

After the Qur’an lessons, Waseem suggested that we go to our favorite shop and buy some berfi. He had five rupees that Mother had given him. Upon arriving at the shop, we noticed that Uncle Arbaaz was standing in the shop with his desi rooster on his left arm. He looked at me with stern eyes and a frown on his face. We quickly left the shop after buying berfi and took a short-cut home.

A few minutes later Uncle Arbaaz came home and said to Father, “Molana, your daughter roams around the street. People stare at her with dirty intentions.”

Father looked at me and him. “You must not let your girl go out and if she has to, she must wear a burka. By the way, she has also completed her Qur’an long ago,” Uncle said.

Fearing the outcome, I left the room and went into the kitchen. “You are right. Timkey shouldn’t go out. She has grown up now,” Father said to him, with a deep sense of recognition.

That very day, Father went to the city and bought a black burka for me. “Timkey, come here,” Mother called me. “Try on this burka to see if it’s your size.”

I couldn’t refuse her, or say anything to her because Father was standing there. I didn’t want to wear a burka. Hardly had I put the burka on, than Aman Wadi came. “Arbaab, would you give your daughter a black burka? It is against my rules.”

“Chachi, Timkey is a young girl, so a black burka suits her,” my mother said to my grandmother.

“Neither I nor my granddaughters wore a black burka. We all wore white burkas. And so shall Timkey!”

“But, Mother,” Father wanted to say something, but he couldn’t.

“People don’t take their eyes away from a woman wearing a black burka on the street,” Aman Wadi added.

Father became silent and said, “You are right, Mother. I’m going to return this and will buy a white burka for her.”

Azeem was listening to them and looked at me. I had put my head down and was not looking at anybody. It was my life, but I hadn’t any chance to decide anything for myself. I was like my doll who couldn’t say a word.

From that day on, I wasn’t allowed to go outside. I felt that I was put in a cage whose iron bars were too hard for me to break. My days had become empty and my heart didn’t seem to beat. Pinkey and Azeem felt sad for me. It was inevitable for most of the girls in my society.

It had been a month since I had seen my friend Popri. I had become very sad, and morose. One evening, all of a sudden, it started to rain. All the children of our house were standing on the floor of our house playing in the puddles. I couldn’t help myself, so I joined them. I spread my arms with my face up to the sky. I closed my eyes and let the raindrops fall on my face. Uncle was listening to a sad song on his TV at a full volume. I opened my eyes for a moment and saw the sky was crowded with dark, grey clouds, and there were only a few lines of light that vanished in no time. I closed my eyes again, and twirled around with my arms spread. I felt that the rain was washing away all my sadness.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Timkey | Part 2 | Colorless World

As Azeem saw his father Arbaaz arguing with his uncle, Arbaab, he went to call Timkey and Pinkey, who were playing with their dolls in the street with their friend, Popri. Azeem told Timkey that their grandmother, Aman Wadi, was very angry at Timkey’s mother. Arbaab asked his father to divide their property, but he refused. Arbaaz was getting angrier, so Timkey’s father left to avoid the arguments.

Proceed reading Part 2 only if you agree with the following:
Terms and Conditions
Copyright © 2018
by / Real Publications Larkana
All rights reserved. No part of this publication 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/publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews. For permission requests, write to the author/publisher at the address below.
WARNING: Violation of any rules of RPL (Real Publications Larkana) is a criminal act, which will result in lawsuit and huge fines.
All the ideas and scenes contained in this novel are the products of the author’s creativity and imagination. The religious concepts discussed in the coming chapters do not represent the author’s personal or any other particular person’s views. These chapters are uploaded by the author himself on his Facebook wall and his blog exclusively for his fans and readers. The author has the right to remove them any time. If these chapters are saved or distributed by any person other than the author, it is considered violation of the rules of the author’s publication company, RPL.
Timkey | Episode 2 | Colorless World
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

The day came to an end, and the twilight faded into darkness, but Father still hadn’t come home. I was sure he must have been at the mosque. As usual, Father returned late at night after Uncle Arbaaz had gone to sleep. Pinkey and Waseem had fallen asleep, without listening to a bedtime story from Father. Father often told them stories of the prophets or other Islamic stories. They loved the story of prophet Joseph. I saw Father and put my dupatta on my head. “Abu, you are very late. I mean… Shall I bring you a meal?” I asked hesitantly.

“No, thanks. Tension has killed my hunger,” he replied. Mother heard his voice and woke up.

“You have come home,” Mother said to Father. “Were you in the mosque?”

“Yes. I don’t have a moment of peace in this house. Father’s stubbornness and Arbaaz’s greed, wanting to own all the land, has snatched the comfort of my heart and mind,” Father said to Mother.

I brought his food, put it before him on his cot, and started doing my homework. I often read books late at night. “We shall give them everything and leave this house,” Mother said to Father.

“I am also his son. At least, he must give us some land to build a house on,” Father replied with a sigh.

“Yes, but your Father won’t do that. And your brother, he wants to hoard all the property without sharing anything! As if he will take it to the grave,” Mother said with scorn.

“Father just doesn’t want us to be separated. It is Arbaaz and his wife who can’t get along with us. Father understands us, but Mother—she just cares too much for Arbaaz.”

“Let’s leave it to God. I fell asleep waiting for you and didn’t offer the night prayer,” Mother said to Father and went to take ablution.

“Timkey, how is your school coming along?” Father asked me, slowly eating his food. He didn’t normally ask about my education. I doubted that he even knew what grade I was in.

“Very well, Abu. I got an A on a math test. Next year, I will be in the 9th grade.”

“If you need anything, let me know,” said Father.

“Abu, my uniform has become worn out. I was wondering if you could purchase fabric for my uniform and Mother will sew it as usual.”

“Okay. I will buy it for you tomorrow.”

“Abu, I also need a box of crayons. I want to color my drawings.” Father agreed to buy me crayons, too. He finished his meal, and I finished my homework, so we both went to sleep. Mother was still praying as I was closing my eyes.

The next day, Pinkey, Waseem, my three cousins, and I prepared for school. When we were all about to leave together, Aman Wadi asked us to wait at the door of our house. “Timkey, how old are you?” she asked me, rubbing her chin.

“I am 13, Aman Wadi.” I replied. “And I am in grade 8,” I proudly told her.

“Aren’t you too old to go to school now?” she asked. I remained silent. She approached me and snatched my bag from me. “Children, you go to school. Timkey won’t go to school.”

The earth shook under my feet as I heard this. She was going to do with me what most people do to their girls in rural areas of Pakistan: Stopping them from attending school. “No, Aman Wadi. Please give me my bag.” I protested. “I have to go. I am going to be late.”

“You won’t be doing a job or anything like that when you grow up. You are a girl. You must learn what girls need to learn,” she replied. Mother saw us and ran to me.

“Chachi, please give the bag back to Timkey,” my mother implored my grandmother.

Aman Wadi refused to give the bag to me and shouted at my mother. “Who are you to send her to school?! I am still alive, and in this house my rules are followed.” Father came out of the room when he heard Aman Wadi shouting. Father asked us to go into our bedroom.

My cousins all looked at us. I started to cry. Pinkey took her bag off from her shoulder and put it in front of Aman Wadi. Pinkey feared she might scold her, too. Aman Wadi looked at her and didn’t say a word. Aunt Fariha sneered at us.

All the boys in our home went to school, but I was forced to stay home. That day Pinkey also didn’t go to school out of fear. From that day on, I wasn’t allowed to attend school. Aman Wadi insisted that I learn cooking, sewing, and various forms of needle work. I wished that there was a rule in Pakistani government to send all girls to school and not stop them until they get at least a Masters degree. Father sent Pinkey to school because she was still in grade 5, and Aman Wadi didn’t mind.

Mother taught me how to cook wheat meals and make some puddings. One day, I went into Aman Wadi’s room to retrieve my school bag back. At night, I looked at each of my books one by one. Each book was my unfinished dream. Aman Wadi had not snatched mere papers which were in my schoolbag, but in fact, she had snatched my heart’s dreams and songs. When I took my drawing book and saw that some sketches needed coloring, I felt that my world was grey, like the drawings in my book.

My world had become colorless and routine. Now I was one of those millions Pakistani girls who couldn’t finish even grade 10. I looked at the sky which was grey and cloudy. The moon struggled to shine through them. I felt lost in my grey world like the moon. That day and moment when Aman Wadi snatched my school bag from me would never be erased from my memory, and my dream to get an education will always remain alive.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Timkey | Part 1 | Sewn Lips

Proceed reading only if you agree with the following: 
Terms and Conditions
Copyright © 2018
by / Real Publications Larkana
 All rights reserved. No part of this publication 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/publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews. For permission requests, write to the author/publisher at the address below.
WARNING: Violation of any rules of RPL (Real Publications Larkana) is a criminal, which will result in lawsuit and huge fines.
All the ideas and scenes contained in this novel are the products of the author’s creativity and imagination. The religious concepts discussed in the coming chapters do not represent the author’s personal or any other particular person’s views. These chapters are uploaded by the author himself on his Facebook wall and his blog exclusively for his fans and readers. The author has the right to remove them any time. If these chapters are saved or distributed by any person other than the author, it is considered violation of the rules of the author’s publication company, RPL.
Timkey | Part 1 | Sewn Lips

Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

In late May, 2000, my seven-year-old sister Pinkey and I were playing with dolls in the street under our favorite siris tree when we heard our father, Arbaab, and my uncle, Arbaaz, shouting. We lived in Akil, a village in Sindh, a province in Pakistan. Having heard them argue almost every day, this was nothing new for us. Their shouting and bickering had seeped into the ambiance of our everyday life. So, like a grizzled veteran who had become inured to the unusual, we experienced the arguing in the same way we experienced any other everyday occurrence: as an unremarkable part of life. We continued playing with our dolls while waiting for our friend Popri. That day we were going to marry our dolls with her dolls. While playing with the dolls, we ate candies that tasted like soap. Pinkey loved these candies. Popri’s brother, who was going home, lingered for a moment and asked, “Why don’t you come to our home anymore?”

“Our grandmother, Aman Wadi, forbids us,” Pinkey replied. He had a parrot perched on his shoulder that repeated Pinkey’s words: “Aman Wadi, Aman Wadi.”

“I have made a new swing for Popri. Please come someday, and try it out!” Popri’s brother said while leaving. We asked him to send Popri. After some time, Popri finally arrived at the street corner with her doll box in her hands.

“Are you ready?” Popri asked us.

“We have been waiting for you,” Pinkey replied.

Slowly, Popri took out one doll from the box, smiling broadly.

“Where is your second doll, the groom for my bride doll?” I asked Popri with a puzzled expression on my face.

She looked at me and said in a flat intonation, “I lost it.”

“Meaning Timkey’s doll can’t get married today!” commented Pinkey. “And if Popri doesn’t find her groom doll, maybe Timkey’s doll will be alone for her entire life because we don’t have any other male dolls!”

I became a little sad and imagined that my doll felt miserable too. Her groom wouldn’t come to her on her wedding day. My doll had long hair like mine and she was also taller than Pinkey’s doll.

Just as we performed the marriage ceremony for our dolls, Azeem, our cousin, came running towards us. “Timkey, Father and Uncle have started arguing with each other again today,” he said, putting his hands on his knees and gasping. I quickly took my doll as I prepared to go back home.

Pinkey looked at me worriedly and said, “Timkey, do you think Uncle and Grandfather will kick us out of the house this time?”

“No. Baba Haji won’t let them. It is just that they can’t help arguing over their wealth,” I replied. I was two years older than Pinkey; my brother, Naveed, was one year older than her. My cousin Azeem was just a month younger than me. As for my two other cousins, Naeem and Kareem, Naeem was the same age as Pinkey and Kareem was the same age as my brother Waseem. My father and uncle had gotten married on the same day, so us children were almost the same age.

Wiping sweat from his eyebrows with a handkerchief, Azeem said, “Aman Wadi is very angry at your mother.” All of us children called our grandmother Aman Wadi, senior mother, and our grandfather, Baba Haji, the one who went to Mecca for pilgrimage. Pinkey and I quickened our steps and didn’t reply to Azeem. Entering the house, we saw another everyday scene: Aman Wadi shouting and scolding my mother, Muskan.

As we entered the oppressive, loud, biting presence of Aman Wadi, we curled our heads inward desperately attempting to make ourselves small and unseen. But, with a vision as keen as a hawk hunting for mice in the field, Aman Wadi focused her attention on us and called out to us forcefully. “Hey, hey, wait! You black girl. Where did you go? Were you playing in the street again?” she asked loudly as her eyes focused on me because I was the eldest. My mother, my siblings and I were a little darker. My grandparents and Aunty Fariha and her children were white.

Abject fear gripped us so tightly that our lips couldn’t utter a word, as if someone had sewn them together. Our grandmother continued scolding us for a minute or two. She didn’t forget to say the Sindhi proverb, “Rann ruly ta bhuly, mard ruly ta khuly.”

It could be translated as, “If a woman wanders, she will go astray. If a man wanders, he will gain experience.” This was a proverb she quoted every time we ventured outside. We were too young to question the gender roles in our society, the emphasis was on obedience and not understanding.  

Mother asked us to go to our room. “Aman Wadi doesn’t allow Popri to come to our home and she forbids us from going to her home as well. If we can’t play in the street, then where can we play?” asked Pinkey. I took my embroidery and started working on it, ignoring whatever Pinkey might have uttered. My younger brother, Waseem, came and sat beside me.

My father and uncle kept arguing with my grandfather, and my aunt, Fariha, and my mother with my grandmother. The house seemed like a battleground from the depths of hell. Their hatred was like the hatred between rival nations, like the animosity between many Pakistanis and Indians. Each person had become their own country and was fighting viciously to advance their territory. Their words were like barrages of artillery and their bodies were like menacing walls covered in barbed-wire. No one dared to approach them and no one escaped the furious blasts of their outbursts.

“Why don’t you distribute the property, Father? It is better to live separately than be together and fight like enemies every day,” my father said with a tired voice to my grandfather.

“You’ll separate my land and money over my dead body!” Grandfather stubbornly replied.

“Yes, we need to get that black bitch out of here. This Mirbaharyani has ruined our peace since the day she came,” added Grandmother referring to my mother, Muskan. My mother was an ethnic Mirbahar, a Sindhi-speaking tribal group. My grandparents and Aunty Fariha were from a different tribal group known as Soomra. Once my mother had told me that Father had married her because he did not want to marry into a Soomra tribe. My mother always felt like an outsider in this home. I drew to the window and kept gazing at them.

Mother stared at Aman Wadi, but didn’t react much, respecting Father’s instructions. Father had become religious fanatic in contrast to Uncle Arbaaz. In addition to that Father followed local customs and was often misguided in many ways by the Imam of mosque. He had grown his beard and regarded his parents as God-sent visionaries. Father always apologized to Mother for whatever Grandmother said to her and asked Mother not to retaliate. Aman Wadi often criticized Mother for giving birth to only one boy. She praised Aunty Fariha for giving birth to three boys: Azeem, Naeem, and Kareem.

Uncle Arbaaz was getting angrier and more violent, so Father walked away quickly to the street to let the situation cool down. He seemed worried and angry. Father was seven years older than Uncle, but he often ignored Uncle’s unkind words and tried not to argue to keep peace in the home.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Last Breath

Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

My son, Wajdan, had given me two different kinds of medicine that claimed to induce a deep, relaxing sleep, but after taking both, I still didn’t feel the slightest bit drowsy. My chronic back problems had flared up, and I couldn’t even bend down to touch my own feet—a problem that comes with old age. Living at home was very lonely; hardly anyone would ever talk to me. This loneliness had only added to my health problems. “Now lie down on your bed, Kurara, and let the medicine take effect,” my son said while leaving the room. “You won’t be alone anymore; I have spoken with the manager of the local nursing home. They will probably come to take you there tomorrow,” he said, closing the door.

I silently shook my wrinkled head in resigned affirmation, thinking to myself, “A nursing home sounds good.” I was sick of the loneliness I felt at home, so going to a nursing home would somehow alleviate my loneliness, I thought. Taking off my thick, heavy glasses, I looked into the large oval mirror on the dressing table, and placed my glasses in their usual spot. The closed off room was as silent as a graveyard, and felt completely disconnected from the city of Karachi outside, whose streets were bustling with activity. The silence was like a venom gradually devouring the already tattered fabric of my heart, and the oppressive height and weight of the surrounding walls closed in around me like the ravenous mouth of some cruel lion preparing to swallow his prey whole.

I looked in the mirror at my pale, longing eyes that had become starved in their desire of many years to see Rubab and the streets of my native village. Overwhelmed by my desire to see her, and the oppressive atmosphere of solitude, I collapsed on the bed. As I feared, the same flashbacks happened again: my memories of Rubab flickered like a film to which I alone was its audience, the echoes of cries resounded noiselessly in the background of my mind, and my old, native home gradually surfaced before the eyes of my consciousness.

The medicine appeared to be useless even after an hour—I kept tossing and turning. However, far more effective than any medicine was that terrible, painful venom ruthlessly biting at my heart. The anguish it inflicted was a burden that I desperately wanted to share with someone so as to win some relief from its relentless onslaught. But, in that moment, my loneliness, disease, and desire trapped me in an isolation deeper than the solitary flights of a hawk hunting for its food. My son, Wajdan, didn’t have time to listen to me even though I had so much that I wanted to tell him.

The lights of Karachi didn’t amuse me at all. On the contrary, my weak eyes ached from the bright lights. The shopping malls, parks, and zoos had lost all their charm for me after the craze of youth, wealth, and lust had died down, and after realizing how much injustice I had done to Rubab. This city seemed well-suited for only rich, young men—not for a decrepit 75-year-old person like myself. I only ventured to the street downstairs. The long, winding stairs were difficult to descend, but I often felt suffocated in the house, and the open air was my only respite. I would sit by the street and watch people pass by. I felt lost in this busy city; my heart weighed heavy with regrets.

Somehow the night passed, and early in the morning the home cook brought my breakfast. “Dada (grandfather), eat your breakfast and get ready,” the cook entreated. “Today you are going to the nursing home.”

I didn’t say a word with hardly enough time to finish breakfast and change my clothes. My son came and said in a soothing voice, “Kurara, don’t worry. I’ll visit you every weekend. If you need anything, feel free to ask the worker or the cook. I’m leaving for work now; they will help you with everything.”

“Dada, why does your son call you “Kurara?” It is not a good word for father,” said the cook.

“It means old,” I replied tiredly. “Am I not obviously old?” The cook looked at me wordlessly.

Shortly thereafter, a van came with a young doctor who stepped out of the van saying, “Asalam Alaikum, Baba (father).” His warm, humble way of greeting touched my heart. He approached me and touched my feet and said, “I’m late, but I have finally come.” He spoke as though he had known me for ages. I kept looking at his face which resembled mine in the days of my youth: round with reddish lips. His hair was black and wavy, and his body was tall and sturdy like mine in my youth. However, his smile seemed more sincere than the one I used to have. “Baba, let me help you get into the van,” he said while tenderly taking my hand. His treatment of old people was kinder than mine when I was his age. “Don’t worry about anything. I’ll take all your stuff and put it safely in the van,” he said as he handed me my walking stick. He was more respectful towards me than my own son, I mused. 

The young doctor took me to the nursing home, a three-hour drive through the thick traffic of Karachi. My new four-bed room seemed to be a little cozier than my previous lonely single-bed room. “This is your bed, Baba” he said, helping me sit on it.

Near my bed was the bed of an old woman who sat in a wheelchair. “Ada, how do you do?” she asked, smiling; her face was full of wrinkles.

“How do you do?” I replied.

My back pain was increasing, so I didn’t talk to her much and lay on my bed.

While I was less lonely at the nursing home, every day I remained lost in thoughts of Rubab. I could picture her clearly in my mind, sitting on the bed wearing her bridal dress. Almost a month passed, but my son didn’t come to see me. The young doctor, however, came to see me every day.

“You seem to be brooding over something all the time. Would you mind sharing it with me?” asked the woman in the wheelchair, noticing my constant silence and sadness. “I have also observed no one visits you.”

“My son is a banker, so he is often busy. He will come one day,” I replied crisply.

“Everyone gets sick of old people. It is a hard truth,” she said. Then I returned to my silent state.

Days kept passing, and the roommates and I exchanged a little dialogue every day. I wanted to talk to the young doctor; I didn’t know why I couldn’t. One day I asked the woman, “The young doctor who looks after this nursing home—What’s his name?”

“Rohet. He is a Hindu.”

“A Hindu?”


“I don’t know why he feels like my own family.”

“Yes, he is a kind man like his mother, Rubab.” My eyes shone as I heard that name. I put on my glasses quickly and got closer to the woman.

“Rubab? That is a Muslim woman’s name,” I added with astonishment.

“I don’t know,” my elderly roommate replied. That’s what she told me when she came to visit this nursing home last year. But why are you so curious?”

I stepped back to my bed and said, “It is strange, you know! A Hindu woman has a Muslim name.”

“It is not that strange,” said the woman. “After all, there are many mysterious things in this world. For example, what can be odder than having offspring who send us to these nursing homes?”

I intently observed Rohet as he went from bed to bed visiting each elderly person in the nursing home. When he came to me, he said, “Baba, I will sit with you for a while. I know you want to talk to me.” He took my hand and asked me to walk outside. He asked me about my back pain and sleep schedule.

I then replied, “I am happy here. My happiness increases when I see you. I don’t know why.”

He smiled and looked into my eyes.

“If you don’t mind, may I ask you something?” I said in a tentative voice.

“Not at all. Please ask,” he replied encouragingly.

“You are a Hindu, but your mother’s name is Rubab, which is a Muslim name.”

“Yes, my mother is Muslim. I am also Muslim. It is just a name that my father gave me.”

“Your father gave you a Hindu name?”

“He is not my actual father. He raised me. I mean, he did more for my mother and me than my biological father.”

“I don’t understand,” I replied, wanting him to tell me more.

“My mother once told me that she tried to commit suicide for some reason after the first night of her marriage. Feeling desperate, she actually jumped into the Rais Canal in Larkana. She was saved by Dr. Lal Chandar, the person who brought me up. My mother told me that her husband was not only unfaithful, but also physically abusive and violent. Well, it is water under the bridge and a story long past. We don’t know anything about that man now.”

After hearing Rohet's story, I finally realized why it felt like he was my own family and why he seemed to resemble me so much: He was my own son. Coming to this realization,  my hand, which Rohet had held in his hand, started to shake. My whole body started to shake after hearing it. “Are you alright?” he asked.

“No. I am feeling cold; please take me back to the nursing home,” I replied brokenly. The words crumbled to pieces the moment they left my mouth. I did not know how Rohet managed to understand me. My back was hurting so much from the shaking that it was almost like I was attempting to lift the sky itself with every breath.

Rohet, helping me back inside, had me lie down on my bed and put a bedsheet on me, but still I was shivering. He brought two more sheets and put them over me, but they did little to help me. It was early March, and I was shivering as if it were mid-winter. The realization that Rohet was my son rocked me to my very core. Rohet stayed at the nursing home late at night until I fell asleep.

The next day, he came early and asked me about my health. I didn’t dare look into his eyes that day. I felt so ashamed of myself. I wondered how ashamed he would be of me if he knew that I was his father.

“How many siblings do you have, son?” I asked him. Rohet smiled because I had never called him son. I always called him “young doctor.”

“None, Baba. Mother never married after she left her husband’s home,” he replied while checking my pulse. “You’re fine now; just a little low blood pressure. I have prescribed some tablets; the nurse will bring them.”

I think Rohet sensed that I had something to do with his life story, but if he did suspect, he didn’t ask. I was relieved that he didn't, I wasn't ready to admit my wrongdoings. He probably didn’t want to hear anything more about his mother’s sad past. The days continued to pass and my longing to see Rubab and seek forgiveness was increasing now that I knew she was alive and within reach. I wanted to seek forgiveness from her before my last breath.

During Rohet’s visits, I kept asking him about his life and his mother. Rohet didn’t know much about me, his biological father. Even after all my cruelty, it seemed Rubab had never complained about me. She had not told her son the complete story of his cruel father. I felt I was not only guilty of harming Rubab, but also Rohet. I wanted to tell him the truth, but I did not dare to tell him in person. I decided to write the whole story in a notebook and ask Rohet to take me to Rubab at least once before my last breath. 

That evening, I asked Rohet to provide me with a notebook and two pens. “Are you going to write your autobiography, Baba?” he asked with a soft smile.

“Yes. But do not try to read it until I finish it,” I said firmly.

“Okay. I will be waiting. I am sure it will be interesting!” he said with a fading smile.

“Son, I am worried about one thing,” I said looking down.

“What is it, Baba?” he asked with a tension on his face.

“I feel you will hate me after reading my autobiography!” I said lifting my head and looking at him.

“No, I will not. What makes you think that?” he asked. I remained silent.

“Son, promise me that you will like me the same way after reading my autobiography.” I pleaded. He gave me his word.

By now he had to have known that I knew a lot about his mother. I was doing a horrible job of hiding it. He still didn't ask me anything about her, however, which was very curious, but perhaps he was simply respecting my privacy, or better yet did not want to disturb my declining health any further.

The next day, I started writing my story:

“It was the summer of 1992. On the day of the wedding ceremony of my brother, Hyder, my father had arranged a separate dinner party for village women in the city. My mother had forgotten her night-time glasses at home, so father sent me to the dinner party with the glasses. While talking to my mother, a fairy-like girl with reddish cheeks, hazel eyes, and dark hair arrived. Her eyes were a gorgeous ocean, deep enough to drown you in their beauty.

“Jalal, this is Mrs. Nihaal. And this is Rubab, their first daughter.” My mother introduced her to me.

“Asalam-o-Alaikum,” Rubab greeted me gently. Her greeting was extremely enticing, and quickened my pulse.

“Rubab, Jalal is the second son of Mrs. Khuhro,” Rubab’s mother said to Rubab.

“Yes. He wants to study law in the near future,” continued my mother.

“Nice to meet you,” Rubab said gracefully.

“It is great to meet you. Do you study anything?” I asked her.

Rubab looked down. Her mother replied, “No, she doesn’t. We don’t let our girls get higher education—just up to grade ten. It is the rule in most Mirbahar families. Rubab, go and chat with the other neighborhood girls,” her mother commanded. I left the dinner party because males were not allowed.

Rubab seemed very docile, but a pure beauty. I had always treated beautiful girls as “sex toys.” I wanted to have Rubab on my bed as soon as possible at any cost.

My father was a police officer, and people feared the Khuhro family because of their power. I thought I could use this fear in order to capture Rubab. Though I was just 22, I had already slept with five women. Rubab seemed to be more beautiful than any of them. I didn’t know how I could sleep with her, but I could not check my blinding desire. My father’s power had lessened my fear for the consequences of my actions.

Within a week, I collected some information about Rubab. She never went to the city alone, so it was impossible to kidnap her. She didn’t have a mobile phone, so she couldn’t be embroiled on phone in the net of my unrelenting lust. There were only two options for me: either arrange an attack on her home at night or marry her.

I shared my feelings with my friends who often arranged for prostitutes in a hotel. “I met the hottest girl any of you have ever seen. I just want her to be in my bed as soon as possible,” I said to my friends. I told them everything about Rubab’s family. “She belongs to a Mirbahar family and she has a brother, Gulab. He works in the guava orchards in winter and cuts wood in the summer.” My friends suggested that I give Gulab money. We decided that we would invite him to the Otaq (a place where men sit and chat).

The next day, Gulab came and greeted us nervously. “Saeen, is everything alright? You have called a poor man to your service.”

I looked at him with wide eyes. “Your sister has grown up and I have heard that she is still not married!”

“Saeen, she has just completed tenth grade. It is a matter for our elders to think about her marriage,” Gulab replied.

I didn’t know what to say, so my friend said to him, “Jalal wants to marry your sister, so make arrangements without any delay. This marriage will be a secret. His parents want him to marry a rich girl, but he wants to marry a girl from a poor family. He believes a poor, simple girl will prove to be a good wife, compared to the rich girl. He believes his parents won't force him to marry the rich girl if he has already consummated the marriage, and maybe have a son on the way before they learn about it. Your sister will not live in the village; she will stay at Jalal’s house in the city.”

I looked at my friend and was amazed to hear what he said. “Tell your parents to keep this marriage secret for about six months.” Gulab seemed hesitant. “You will be given a lot of money,” my friend added.

This sparked interest in Gulab’s eyes. “I will tell you my parents’ decision tomorrow at this time,” he said.

My friends told me the rest of the plan after Gulab had left. “What a tangled web we have woven,” I said to my friends. I was so lost in the madness of my lust that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Gulab returned the next day and said, “I have made my parents agree to your conditions. Who can be a better husband for our sister than Jalal? We have decided to make this marriage happen as soon as possible.”

It seemed to me that Gulab’s family was poor and they probably thought that Rubab would be living the life of a rich wife if they gave her hand to me. They didn’t have a clue of our plans. “That’s great. This marriage will take place on Saturday next week in the city,” I said to him and gave him two lacs. “Keep it secret! Saturday evening at this time a car will be sent to you. Do not bring any relatives. Just your family.”

Everything was going as we had planned. The car brought Rubab’s family to the house which we had rented. It wasn’t my house. We had bribed Mulla, a religious person who performed the Nikah tradition. “Puta (son), Rubab is a young girl and very shy. I have made her understand everything. Please don’t be quick or angry with her. Let her take time to understand the things of married life. I’m sure she will prove to be a good wife.”

“Yes, Aman (mother.)” I said to her.

By 9 pm. Mulla and my friends had left, and Rubab’s family stayed in a room. I went to the room where Rubab was waiting for me. “You are a such a hot girl,” I said to Rubab. I had said the wrong thing, but I didn’t realize it at that time. “I couldn’t sleep well after that day when I saw you at my brother’s wedding. I had to marry you to fulfill my desire. Girls are nothing to me, just ‘sex toys’.” Worried and pale, she looked at me. I started to take off my clothes. She became nervous. “I cannot wait anymore. Take off your clothes!”

She started to cry. “There is no need to cry; you’ll enjoy it.” I forcefully took her clothes off and started to kiss her…

By midnight, I had become too tired, so I just lay on the bed beside her. I told her the whole plan that we had made to sleep with her.

“You have destroyed my life, my whole family. I believed my parents, and acted upon what they said,” Rubab cried. She kept weeping. She wept so much that I thought she might flood the whole house with her tears. A seemingly endless rain poured from her eyes. I thought she might never stop.

In the morning, Rubab’s family was amazed to see Rubab so distraught, but she didn’t tell her parents anything. I think she didn’t want them to be worried. She probably thought that they wouldn’t be able to bear the injustice done to her, so she kept quiet. Her family decided to leave for the village. “I will come tomorrow to see Rubab,” said Gulab.

In the evening, I called my friends over. “I didn’t sleep at all last night. You’re not gonna believe this: I did it five times,” I said to my friends. “Tonight it is your turn!” Three of them decided to go to Rubab that night. I didn’t feel bad at all. It was what we had decided. Pleasure before all else! I told Rubab that she would be dealing with my three friends that night.

Rubab’s tears had dried. I could tell she was thinking about something, but I couldn't figure out what. I thought nothing of it. What could she possibly do? “We will be back by 8 pm. Don’t worry about anything,” I said to her. My friends and I went out to drink some wine. We locked the door to the house.

We came back at almost 10 pm. The door of the house was locked as we had left it, but Rubab was nowhere to be found. She had somehow climbed out the window and ran away. We tried to look for her on the road, but we couldn’t find her.

The next day, we told Gulab that Rubab had run away. Poor Gulab was beside himself, crying, “How could you do that, Rubab? You have dishonored us.”

My friends and I told him not to tell his parents anything, otherwise they would not be able to bear such a degrading act by their daughter. We told him to say that she was very happy in her new house and didn’t want to come back to the village and that Jalal would move to Karachi with Rubab very soon.

I continued giving money to Gulab for some months. When I moved to Karachi for my education, I didn’t go to the village anymore. Rubab’s old parents kept lying to the villagers saying that she is married and lives in the city of Karachi. I married one of my classmates after completing my degree.

I didn’t hear any more about Rubab or her family. I had a son after a year. I didn’t continue my studies after my graduation in law, but my wife went to the US for her doctorate degree after seven years of marriage – leaving Wajdan with me. However, she never returned to Pakistan. We had never gotten along very well, so I did not miss her very much. I hoped that she was doing well, even though she never sent me any signs she was even alive. I assumed she must have found a better life for herself in the US. I studied law, but I never practiced justice. I couldn’t even justify my actions against Rubab. Money and my sex drive had made me blind.”

I ended my autobiography in the notebook there.

Three days later, Wajdan came to see me. “I’m really sorry. I couldn’t tell you. I went to the US because of an emergency. Mom tried to commit suicide by jumping from the second floor of her apartment. She was in a coma for almost two months. She finally died. Uncle Anas, one of her best friends she had been living with, gave me this letter for you. He said it was her last wish to somehow send this letter to you. I didn’t inform you because I knew you couldn’t go there.”

I silently listened to him and he put the letter in my hand. Rohet came and they got engaged in conversation. I put the letter under my pillow to look at later.

At night, I opened the letter:

“Dear Jalal,

I cannot find the words to start this letter. My pen shakes and my tears wet the paper. Now that I see my death approaching, I don’t want to die with regrets and the truth dying with me. I want to tell you a secret that has made me ashamed of myself for years.
Your son, Wajdan, is not your son. He is the child of Anas – our university classmate. I had an affair with him before I married you. After marrying you and owning enough of your wealth, Anas and I made a plan to move to the US. I didn’t come here for education.

If possible, please forgive me. I cannot say enough how severely this pain in my conscience has been weighing me down. I cannot forgive myself for this. I want to punish myself, I cannot live anymore with this regret and the torment of my conscience. I am going to end my life, but before my last breath, I wanted to seek forgiveness from you and tell you what I had done.

Eternally sorry,

After reading her letter, I wondered at how the universe works. I wronged someone else’s family and someone else wronged my family. I pondered over God’s predefined rules: as you sow so shall you reap.

The next day, I said to Rohet, “Son, I want to meet your mother. Will you take me to her just once, please?”

“No problem, Baba. I will take you to my home this very evening.”

In the evening, Rohet and I went to his home. As I entered the home, I smelled the same fragrance of the perfume that Rubab had applied on her wedding night. I stayed at the door of the veranda. Rohet approached his mother, who was coming from the room, and touched her feet. “You are home early today?” she said.

“Yes. Someone has come to meet you,” replied Rohet. Rubab looked at me from a distance. She had worn hijab (veil), and her hands were covered by gloves. She seemed to have grown religious. She recognized me at the very first glance. She took some steps towards me very slowly, gazing at me through her white glasses and taking her gloves off. I feared she would slap me or spit in my face out of her severe anger, and Rohet would have me expelled from the nursing home. As she reached me, Rohet said, “Mother, this is Baba. He has lived in the nursing home for the last eight months. I am sorry I have never asked his actual name. I just call him Baba.”

“He is your Baba, Rohet,” Rubab replied to him, still gazing at me. Rohet didn’t seem to understand what she said in that simple, pregnant sentence. He appeared baffled by her words.

“I will be back after I take a shower. Please sit and chat,” Rohet said to us, quickly changing the subject and leaving for his room.

Rubab slowly moved her hand towards me for a handshake while saying, “I knew you’d come eventually!”

I saw the same ring that I had given her on the Nikah day on her finger. I didn’t feel pure enough to shake her hand. I felt myself so polluted that I didn’t dare to touch a woman who was as spotless as an angel.

She took my stick, held my hand in hers, and asked me to come inside. I sat on the sofa, and she went to bring a glass of water for me without my asking. She had grown so old that her hands were shaking as she served me the water. I looked at her from head to toe. She seemed to be still as pure as I had seen her at my brother’s wedding.

I drank the glass of water and remained silent. She gazed at me for a while and said, “Forgive me for leaving your house. I could have remained your ‘sex toy’ forever, but I would rather die than be that toy for your friends. I jumped into the canal, but I was saved by an angel, Lal Chandar. This person has never tried to even touch me, ever. I told him that I am the property of someone else and that I am married. He is a Hindu, but respects humanity more than a Muslim.”

She was referring to me. I was a Muslim, but I didn’t respect humanity. I always used people for my own pleasure and benefit.

She continued, “The only person who has touched me in my life is you. Rohet is your son. I became pregnant after that night.”

I silently listened to her. I hadn’t words to say anything; the only sentence that I could utter was: “Can you forgive me, Rubab?” Tears suddenly poured from my eyes. This was my moment to finally receive the forgiveness I had been longing for. “If you will forgive me, I hope God will also forgive me,” I said. I was nearly sobbing by this time. I didn't know what I would do if she could not find it in her heart to forgive me, but I knew that I wouldn't forgive myself for what I had done.

She took my hands gently and put them on her eyes. “The prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said, ‘If I were to order anyone to prostrate to someone other than Allah, I would have ordered the woman to prostrate to her husband.’ As God forgives you for what you have done, so shall I. You are my worldly God. I will be yours until my last breath,” Rubab said.

I burst out sobbing. Finally, I had been forgiven. The feeling I was experiencing was bittersweet. On one hand, how could she have forgiven me after committing such an atrocious act? On the other hand, I was unbelievably grateful that she was so kind-hearted and wonderful that she could find the room to forgive someone even as cruel as I had been to her. I did not deserve her kindness. Rohet came rushing toward us with a look of understanding. He asked us not to cry. His mother, sobbing told him that his father at last had come to her.

“I want to spend the last days of my life with Rohet and you, Rubab,” I said to them.

“I want to live with you too, and I want you to take me back to my village, to my mother’s home.”

“I’ll take you back to your home, and tell everyone that you were pure and you are still pure.”

The next week, we left for our village. Rohet came with us, but would return to Karachi to look after the elderly people in the nursing home and to read my autobiography that I left in the notebook for him. I couldn't have asked for a better ending.

After a month, Rohet wrote a letter to me and told that he read the notebook and that he forgave me, even after all the horrible things I had done. “If my mother can find the room in her heart to forgive you, I can too,” he wrote. Rohet was very kind like his mother, maybe he realized I had changed and was no longer like my younger self.

I thought God had forgiven me too because he gave me the chance to seek forgiveness from Rubab and Rohet. Now I could truly be happy.

Copyright © 2018
No part of this publication 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 publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews. 

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