Friday, November 10, 2017

My Second Book

About the Book

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

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

Copyright © 2017 Real Publications Larkana

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Chapter 11: Innocence and Foolishness

An Empty Nest
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

Following my engagement to Seemi, I dreamt of a happy family life after completing my studies at university. In my childhood, my mother once said to me, while we were eating a meal in the kitchen together, “Rizwan, this is the same kitchen where all of your nine brothers sat with me during their childhood.” Filling the air with dense tension, she took a heavy sigh and continued, “Once they had their own wings, especially after their marriages, six of them flew away from me. Sultan, may God rest his soul in paradise, flew even before he could marry, to such a far away world from where men do not return. His suicide at the prime of his life still breaks my heart.” That defining moment, my mother’s heartfelt, deep words and sighs stuck to my mind. I had decided in my childhood that I would never fly away from my mother’s nest—at any cost. She always worried that we, the three brothers who still lived together, might fly away too.

My lifestyle changed after becoming engaged. In Sindhi culture, the man’s elders go to the woman’s parents and ask for the woman’s hand in marriage. If permission is granted, their engagement is announced and sweets are distributed. Mostly the woman’s parents don’t ask the woman if she agrees and is happy or not. They believe that they are the owner of the woman, so they can decide it themselves. However, this tradition has greatly changed in many aspects in many urban areas of modern Pakistan. Longing for Seemi, I started to compose poetry and write one-sided letters. I didn’t send her the letters because of my culture’s restrictions.

Carrying unrequited love, the university days seemed to have no end, but I endured. Finally in 2013, I reached the final year of my BS degree. I had been away for so long, I didn’t know what plans my brothers were cooking up secretly in my absence. However, I knew at least that Jamil and Irfan had unilaterally sold one part of the dairy farm to our sister, Shahnaz, and the other part to our brother, Rafique. My sister gave them her gold jewelry in return of the land, and Rafique paid 50 thousand rupees in cash. My brothers knew I had thought of establishing an academy on the farm, but that did not matter, they did not care about my dreams. I had suspected that they had sinister plans, and I was proven right.

It was in this climate I returned to my village in 2014 after graduating with a four-year degree in computer science. I was very fortunate, as jobs were scarce, that I managed to find a contract teaching job as a computer instructor for the Benazir Butto Shaheed Youth Development Program (BBSYDP) in the city of Larkana. Although it paid very little, I was happy to land my first job. I had a heavy workload, so I decided to talk to the director of the center about the pay. One day I went to his office and said, “Sir, I teach a multimedia graphics class, a Microsoft Office class, a web designing class, even a hardware class, but I am paid only five thousand rupees a month!”

“So what do you want? Shall I pay you 50 thousand per month?” he asked with his big, black lips twisted in a strange way. He must have received a huge amount of government funding for the program, but he paid his employees very little. He wore golden rings on both of his hands and ate gutka (a chewing substance more intense than tobacco) all day long in his office.

“Sir, I work more, but I am paid less!” I replied. He was an angry man, but he did realize that the pay was meager. He somehow agreed to an increase of one thousand rupees. To generate income on the side, I tutored some students at home in the evening. I charged them a small fee. Only a few students came because Junaid and Mudasir, my former students who learned English from me before I went to the university, had opened their own tutoring center.

I had a somewhat busy life, but my mind never strayed from my home life. It was comforting to know that my mother understood that I needed a wife who could wash my clothes and take care of the other things for me at home. Irfan’s wife would wash mine and my mother’s clothes, but sometimes we did it ourselves. Jamil’s wife had stopped washing mother’s clothes long ago. He rarely spoke at home. He gave everyone the freedom to do what they wanted.

Every night my mother would come to my bedroom with a glass of milk, and tell me not to study late at night, and not to stare too long at the screen of my old CRQ monitor. I would tell her how differently I would arrange my wedding celebrations. “I want to be married on the 14th of February, and I want the wedding procession to ride in horse drawn carriages!”

“You can’t arrange horse drawn carriages for all of the women, Rizwan!” she said while cleaning the pictures of Khana Kaba and the tomb of Holy Prophet (PBUH) on my bedroom wall. She had pasted the same pictures in her room, too. She had a wish to visit Mecca and Madina at least once in her life.

“Anything is possible, Mom.” I responded. “And Mom, I will play either Indian songs or English love songs instead of traditional saheras.”

My mother grinned and said, “If Irfan allows you! Well, who will understand them? Everybody will laugh at you. When in Rome do as the Romans do, Rizwan.”

I wanted to be married right away; delaying it did not seem like a good option, but my brothers didn’t worry about me at all. They were far too self-centered on their own lives and families to worry about their youngest sibling.

One evening my mother talked about my marriage with Jamil and Irfan. “Rizwan has successfully completed his degree. Now the time for his wedding has come, so I would like you to go to your uncle and ask him to decide on the wedding date,” my mother said to Jamil, releasing an appreciative sigh.

“Mother, don’t you know that I have been in debt for the past two years? That’s why I sold the dairy farm,” Jamil replied while rubbing the back of his neck. I wondered how he could be in debt, but I couldn’t think of a good reason.

Irfan added with his eyes darting around the room, “Yes, Mother. We have purchased a lot of merchandise on credit the last two years. Whenever the dealers see us in the city, they ask for their money.” Irfan had become a religious man now. He had a long beard and spent a lot of his time listening to speeches from the religious scholars. He had his group of Mulas (religious people) with whom he talked about the sects of Islam. Hakeem Ali Nawaz was the main person who had introduced this sect to our village. They believed that the people of their sect, Ahl-e-Hadees, were the only people on the right path, and that they would go straight to heaven. He had stopped listening to music and watching TV. He would often tell mother that she should change her way of praying. However, my mother continued praying the way my father had taught her.  My father had been an Imam at the village Jamia Mosque where the Wahhabis prayed. My mother had told me that he was removed from the position when he had given Hameeda’s hand to his brother’s son Izhaar who belonged to the Shia sect. I had three sisters: the oldest was Rashida, then was Hameeda, and the youngest was Shehnaz.

I didn’t worry about sects or religious matters. I just believed that God was kind, and He liked those who served humanity. I never argued whether the Shias, Sunnis, Ahl-e-Hadees or Wahhabis were right. Arguing about such matters only divided people and seemed like a waste of time to me. Instead I focused on improving the lives of people by educating them.

One night, I couldn’t sleep. The night seemed to draw on for so long that I decided to make tea and read a book. Putting on my coat, I went to the kitchen and tried to find a pot. Since all of the posts were unwashed, I started to wash one. Mother heard the sounds in the kitchen. She coughed and came to see what was going on. “I am making tea, Mom.”

“At this time,” she asked.

“Yes, I tossed and turned for a long time, but couldn’t sleep.” She told me to sit and she would make the tea. “You sit and I will make two cups. One for you and one for me,” I said to her. We could hear Jamil’s loud snoring in the kitchen, even with the door of his bedroom shut. We reminisced about the old days while I made the tea.

Taking a sip of tea to make sure it had enough sugar, I asked her, with deep curiosity, “Mother, tell me how father got removed from leading the prayers in the Jamia Mosque?”

“Actually, the village landlady (the woman who was the head of the village) called me to her bungalow after we gave Hameeda’s hand to Izhaar and asked presumptively, ‘I have heard that Molvi Bashir has given his daughter to the Shias. Is that true?’

I responded in the affirmative. ‘It means you are now Shias, too’ the landlady scolded me. ‘Tell your husband to never come to the mosque from today on before I ask Mulas to throw him out of the mosque!’ she ordered me.

So, from that day onward, your father didn’t go to that mosque, Rizwan. But he joined a new mosque in a nearby village called Samtiya. Your father was planning to take me to Mecca and Madina along with him. But I had told him to wait because our children were young. But I didn’t know he would fall ill soon, and leave for the world from where men don’t return.”

My mother told me how people hated each other on the basis of sects and religion. I knew that God says that all Muslims are brothers to one another. However, in my society people had made groups and considered other groups no less than their enemies. In Friday sermons, I would often see Mulas criticizing each other harshly. I didn’t know whether my father did so in his Friday speeches or not, but it was obvious he did not believe in sects because he gave his daughter to a Shia family.

It was a cold January night. The chill had increased outside and the doorless kitchen didn’t provide us with any warmth. “Come on, let’s go to my bedroom.” As I gave her the cup of tea, I saw a scar on her wrist. I asked her what had caused it.

“It is nothing. I got a little scratch.”

“It doesn’t seem like a scratch, Mom.” I insisted on her telling me what exactly had happened to her wrist.

“Actually, one day Shabana and I were arguing about household chores. Jamil came back from the city and listened intently to us for a few minutes. We didn’t stop, so he got angry and started to slap himself with both hands. As I attempted to stop him, he bit me very hard on the wrist. He did nothing to his wife, though.”

“He might not have reprimanded her because he feared she might create serious problems for him,” I commented. Our chat continued for a long time. Mother was almost dozing, so she went to sleep.

After listening to Mother’s account of this sad event, I couldn’t sleep all night. She didn’t have any anger towards Jamil. I thought about the relationship of a mother. How easily she forgives and forgets her offspring’s mistakes.

Although the calendar showed that the month of February had arrived, my brothers didn’t make any preparations for my wedding. My brothers’ apathy toward my marriage was infuriating. At first, I didn’t say much to them. However, as I saw them turning a blind eye to me completely, I became violent. “Why in the world are you doing this to me? Why are you treating me this way?” Mother could hear me from the veranda. “You are the one in charge of the house, and it is your duty to support me in my marriage,” I said to Jamil, kicking the cot in anger.

Staring at me emotionlessly for a few seconds, he took his young son and went to his bedroom without saying anything. “You can’t turn your back on me like that!” I shouted at him. Mother came out and gazed at me with tear filled eyes. She was the only one at home who felt my pain. I came to realize that my brothers feared that my future wife and I would become a burden on them because I made only a few thousand rupees a month.

For many days I shouted at them, abused them, broke the pots in the kitchen, wept with my back against the kitchen wall, but all of this made no difference to them. One morning, I went to the graveyard and stood before my father’s grave. The sky was lively blue and the sun was shining bright. The wind pressed and pulled at my hair and clothes. I closed my eyes, and with profound sincerity, read Quls (Quranic verses) for him. I wished that I could talk to him and tell him what I was enduring. With the pained wish to find comfort in my father’s wisdom slowly building inside me, I grasped a round, smooth stone that had fallen to the ground and while returning it to his grave I cried piteously, “Oh, father I wouldn’t have faced these pains, these hardships if you were alive.” Destroyed by an oppressive sorrow, I knelt before his grave and struggled to recover my equanimity as I rose up to a full stand and gazed wistfully around at the other graves and the leaves rattling in the wind. After a few minutes, I bid farewell and exited the graveyard.
.

Trying to find a solution, one day, I told Jamil, “If you think I am going to be a burden on you, please hand over Mother’s pension to me. I will live separately and Mother will live with me.” Although the pension that my mother received was 17 thousand, I thought it would be enough for us.

His eyes shone, as if he was waiting for this moment. Without any delay he went into his room and brought mother’s pension book. His wife had been dreaming of getting rid of our mother for a long time. And maybe he was tired of taking care of the house for us for all those years. He wanted everyone to take their responsibilities on their own shoulders.

In the morning, Mother took the pension book from me and returned it to Jamil. “Rizwan, Jamil is your elder brother. He has been looking after the house since your father died. You should trust him and be patient,” my mother advised me. I turned my puffy eyes that didn’t blink enough towards my old mother, and resigned myself to the fact that I would wait for a few more months.

For the past four years, Jamil had spent very little time at the shop because he had gotten a government job as a Junior School Teacher (JST) before I had entered the university. Irfan was dealing with the shop alone and was growing very strict in religious matters. Jamil was Wahhabi, so they both had different ways of praying. I didn’t know who was on the right path, but I knew one thing: God forbids this type of division.

I prayed the way I learned during my childhood from the Qur’an teacher, who was Wahhabi. However, I never considered others to be wrong. I thought it would be better to worship God in peace no matter which way. Irfan would often tell us that unbelievers would say to the Prophet that they were not going to leave their old ancestors’ ways, and that we were acting like them. Irfan’s sect members advised him to separate from Jamil and practice his sect without any restrictions. They had also enticed Guddoo the same way. Guddoo was my brother who died of a drug overdose when I was in my second year of the university. Sultan was younger than him, and he had committed suicide when I was in the second grade.

One morning in January, Irfan spoke to Jamil, “You do not spend your fair share of time in the shop. Also, the shop has become empty because you have not been bringing in merchandise. If you don’t spend reasonable amount of time at the shop and bring in more merchandise, the shop and whatever merchandise that is in the shop, will be mine. And I want to part ways! You take the city property and I’ll take the village shop,” he said to Jamil.

“You can’t take the city house from Papoo! He’s been living there for years now,” said mother.

Irfan went on and let the cat out of the bag by stating: “We have purchased two plots of our own!”

“Two plots!” I said in amazement. I didn’t know this, and neither did our mother. It now became apparent why they said that they were in debt for the past two years.

“Well, whatever. Nobody is going to get separated. You are the only three remaining brothers living together. Your other five brothers are already gone, and I don’t want you three to be broken apart,” mother said sorrowfully.

Jamil didn’t say a word. He thought the city property had more value than the village shop. Above all, his wife always wanted to live apart from us, so he wanted her dream to become reality. He had become sick of mother’s arguments over the household chores. He wanted to send his children to better schools in the city where he would no longer have to listen to mother’s complaints about his wife.

I reproached them very harshly, using every bad word I could think of. I told them that they wanted to make their wives happy, and wanted to leave mother and me high and dry.

“You can have Mother’s pension,” Jamil added, chewing gum now. I made a rude gesture with my fingers spread apart on one hand at Jamil. In Sindhi culture, this gesture is very insulting. It’s like pointing your middle finger at someone in western countries. That very morning Jamil arranged for a tractor to move his luggage to the city. It was as if he had arranged everything beforehand. Mother kept crying and begging him not to move, but he paid her no heed. His wife seemed to be on cloud nine. Their young, innocent children didn’t know their parents were going to put them in a cage.

Night began to fall; the sparrows went silent in the nearby tree. Mother was still crying. I feared Irfan would ask me to provide our own food from the next day on. I kept comforting mother. “All of your other sons are separated; it is not a big deal now that Jamil has left, too.” I knew this comment meant nothing to her. No mother would want her children to be divided like this. Jamil was dearest to her. She had seen days of poverty and prosperity with him, and she believed he wasn’t that bad, but that it was his wife who had made him act this way.

In the morning, mother implored Irfan not to argue with me and let us be with him since I wasn’t yet married.

“You can live with me on certain conditions,” he said. “First, you will have to give me eight thousand rupees every month for the food you will eat. Just food, for all other things you will spend your own money. Things like: cold drinks, milk, washing powder, shampoo, clothes and things like these…”

I was astonished to listen to his demands, but I didn’t say anything to him because I didn’t want mother to be hurt more. Mother and I agreed without any hesitation.

Jamil and Irfan told everyone that I was an immoral and ungrateful boy. “Rizwan insulted his elder brothers. Is that what the university has taught him?” That was the question on everyone’s lips.

I was shunned in my own village. My village friends stopped talking to me. All the villagers looked at me with strange eyes and made hurtful comments as I went to the city. They even stopped sending their children for tutoring. Once I bumped into three students of mine. They had books in their hands and told me that they were going to Mudasir and Junaid, my old students, who had started teaching when I was in the university. “Why did you stop coming to me?” I asked them.

“Sir, I want to come, but my father says you are a western-minded person who doesn’t respect his elders,” said the first boy. “I am not happy with the new teachers, but my brother forces me to go to them. He says you are ill-mannered,” said the second boy. “And my uncle says you are an unbeliever, sir, and that you do not have a religion,” said the third boy. I stood looking at them with strange feelings. “Sorry, sir, but we have to go now.”

“Yes, please go and learn something new today. Never stop learning.” I replied.

I felt I had been thrown into a well of worries by my brothers, and I couldn’t get out of it. My brothers’ injustice had taught me what can make one’s life difficult or easy. What makes it easy is the love and support of friends and family, and what makes it difficult is their carelessness and hatred.

Marriages in my culture were only possible with the involvement of men. My mother and I could not do anything. Instead of happy wedding songs, all I could hear was mother’s weeping, which hurt me greatly every day.

I was dealing with circumstances I had never expected. Since I was the youngest son, my happiness was very important to my mother, and she constantly worried about my marriage. In her weakened condition, she would walk slowly to my brothers’ houses to ask them to support my marriage. They all denied her, saying that it was not their problem. My brothers’ careless treatment of us had ruined our happiness.

One February evening the wind was scraping trash into the corners, mother came very slowly from the street. “Are you okay, Mom?” I asked.

“I am okay. I just have pain. Pain everywhere. Such is life for an older person,” she weakly said. “Pain in my knees, pain in my mind, pain in my heart…”

“Where did you go?” I asked her pressing her legs.

“I went to Shakeel to ask him to go to your uncle and support your marriage.” She went silent after saying this.

“Did he agree?” I asked.

“No, he said the same thing as your other brothers: ‘it is not my problem’. I got very angry at him and said to him, ‘you have seven children. Your wife died while giving birth to your 8th child. And hardly a year passed that you forced me to go to different people to find a woman for your second marriage. How unjust you are in Rizwan’s case!’” She burst into tears. “Rizwan, if your father were alive, we wouldn’t have seen such days.”

“God will help us. Don’t worry, Mom. God will help us,” I consoled her. That day I promised myself that I will never take a single penny from my brothers in my life.

I would often comfort my mother by saying that I didn’t want to be married now, and that the date God had destined for my marriage was still a little further away—maybe when I got a better job. During those days, I realized that brothers can never take the place of a father.

A kind of hatred was developing in my heart for my society where torturing a mother was nothing, but making a rude gesture at an older person was ill-mannered. Where snatching people’s rights and dividing them was right, but raising one’s voice against injustice was wrong. Where judging others was easy, but feeling their pain was difficult. Where people did not live by their scriptures and made them fit their own worldly interests. Where people broke relationships because of wealth.

My mother’s birds all flew away and she had an empty nest with an inexperienced, young bird who didn’t know much about the world. She was pinning all of her hopes on me now, and I had promised myself that I will fulfill her wish to visit Mecca and Madina before she, too, leaves for the world from where people don’t return.


I didn’t know whether I would swim or sink in the hot water of my society, but I decided to face everything. I decided that I wouldn’t do like Sultan had done. I had my mother’s prayers which gave me the courage to fight.

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All Rights Reserved
RizwanAhmedMemon.blogspot.com

For more of Rizwan Ahmed Memon's creations, please buy his published books: “The Reflections” and "Innocence and Foolishness".

For more information, please contact the author at RizwanAhmedMemon@gmail.com 


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,
Rizwan


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.

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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
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RizwanAhmedMemon.blogspot.com

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

Prologue

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.