Thursday, March 5, 2015

(9) THE LUCK-STRICKEN

                Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

It was March 3, 2005. I was reading a novel when someone called at the door saying, “O Molvi Bashir wo!” I understood who it was by the voice and the name he used while calling. He used the name of my father. I answered him, “Aayo.” which means ‘coming’ in Sindhi. He called two or three times. His name was Haji Gul, a cobbler who wandered the streets mending the shoes of the villagers. He asked me if there were any shoes that needed repairing in the house. I went and brought some shoes that my mother had put aside to be repaired. After he had fixed the shoes, I asked him, “How much money do I owe you?” “Whatever, any amount,” he replied. He repaired shoes for the villagers and took very little money from them. In his youth he wasn't poor and mentally unstable. However, he became so when he lost his wife and son.

Even though he knew my father had died many years ago whenever he came over he would call out my father’s name. I feel like he invoked my father's name deliberately. I felt a kind of happiness when I heard my father’s name. Perhaps, the cobbler also felt good when he used the name. My mother had told me that the man was very dear to my father.

The village children often teased Haji Gul. They threw stones at him, so he mostly used to sit under the trees at Padhro, which was an area near the park in the village. I used to cross that area when I would come back from school during summer. I often found him lying on the earth with a palm straw bag under his head as a pillow. He kept thread, needles and other shoe repair tools in the bag.

In those hot summer days, he found comfort in the dense shadows of the trees. Many times I wanted to sit with him there and chat, but I never did because of the villagers. My mother often told me about his life. According to her, he was a prosperous man. He had two sons.

Once he went to Mecca for pilgrimage with his family. His wife went missing during that trip. No one could find her. The villagers said she had run away with an Arab man. Only God knows what truly happened, but the loss of his wife was devastating for him. He came back to Pakistan with his sons. He had barely recovered from the sorrow when one of his young sons was run over by a donkey cart. His son died. This is when Haji Gul lost his senses.

Since that day, happiness turned its back on Haji Gul. His tears dried. He stopped taking baths, changing clothes, and talking to others. Under those trees he talked to himself, laughed and wept.

Eventually I finished my education and after four years I returned home from university. I had attended university in Jamshoro. For many days I hadn’t heard anyone call “O Molvi Bashir Wo”, so I asked my mother about Haji Gul. She told me that he had died two years ago.

Still, that call echoes in my ears when I read novels in the morning or during summer evenings. In life, we are surrounded by many people who have great stories to share. If we look beyond their faces and deep into their eyes, we can get a sense of their tragedies. If we pay close attention to their voice, we can feel the pain in their hearts. Instead of making fun of these people, we should learn from their lives and actions because life can bring difficulties upon any of us
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