I am wholeheartedly thankful to all those who became mediators and helpers for making my effort possible. I, with great hope, keep my present work open for all my readers and commentators to respond it in a way they like. As a great philosopher Oscar Wild has said, ”Art’s for Art sake” and the critics like Longinus has emphasized on the sublimity of a literary work, I may break and crack all these classic standards and exhibit my potential. I’m thankful to my uncle Mr. Shakil Munshi for making me introduced to WordPress.com and thereby getting my present work published in a distinctive way. I owe all my teachers from nursery to masters for molding my career and my self socially and conceptually strong enough. I am highly thankful to all my friends and family members for their all-timesupprt and passions. I cease my monotonous discourse and let you read.
Broken roof was allowing the drops of rain to damp the floor of the house, where Bano was sitting been crowded by her five children who had lost their father just a month ago. Rashid, the eldest son, had gone to the bus station with the basket of fruits to sell so that he could get some amount of money for evening meal. Bano, at some extent, had lost her mental balance as she had been widow in her very early age with six children left. Her husband Kadir (died at 35 year of age) was a teacher in a government school. Bano, therefore, was supposed to be given some amount of money from government but not actually in a time period when she was in need of it. Second eldest child was Shanno – a girl of tender age. She was in standard 8th. After the death of father Kadir, she began going outside with her mother Bano, in search of some work for earning. The other two girls, next to Shanno, were Nasreen and Yaso who were so young and not physically or mentally fit for labor. Aziz was the fifth child – a school going boy. He was very naughty but innocent. He could hardly understand that his father was then no more. He, every evening, waited for his father to come and bring a new toy for him. The youngest was Shakku – an infant of barely six months had unfortunately been totally deprived of paternal love. Amongst the six, Rashid and Shanno could understand what orphan meant. After Kadir’s death family’s economic condition was totally collapsed, since he was the only one to earn bread and butter for his nest. Kadir loved Bano a lot and he never let her worry or work for anything. After Kadir’s death, Bano did not get much help from her in-laws nor did she expect even. Kadir’s death was a crucial time in Bano’s life where her struggle began from. Bano, according to Islamic Shariyat, was supposed to sit for four and half month in Iddat. (time duration of four and half month wherein a widow is supposed to be totally isolated from society and family because her husband has passed away) but Bano didn’t do so because she was the only one to feed her children and take care of them. Bano was not much educated although she possessed very deep knowledge of Urdu and Arabic language that she was inherited of from her mother Amama. She, therefore, began working as a housemaid from house to house. It was really not easy to up bring six children for a widow. Shanno everyday went with Bano to a flour mill to collect the flour left at the end of the day. They brought it home and made Rotee out of it.
Rashid, the eldest son, was in 10th standard. He had very well understood the criticality of his family. He burnt all his childhood and threw himself in the furnace for earning money and helping the family. He had to work very hard for the whole day. He went to bus station for selling fruits and news papers. He got enough money to get evening meal. He never kept a single pie on his pocket. He bought some Lanee for Aziz and few things for Shakku and rest of the money he gave to Bano. The only time he could study was night. Both Shanno and Rashid used to read during night under the light of single available lamp. Both Rashid and Shanno loved their family a lot and could forgo anything for it. Bano had almost forgotten to smile after Kadir’s death. She just worked harder and harder to feed her children. She had also doing work like selling Papad and washing cloths or something of that sort. The only thing she sought after was to feed her children no matter she had to be only on a glass of water. When Kadir was alive, he had kept goats and a pair of chickens. Now Bano could not afford them so had sold but kept a goat she had named it Sona. It had one kid. Aziz was mad of playing with kids. Now the milk that Sona gave had been one source of income for Bano. Even the house Kadir and Bano used to live was now on rent. Bano had shifted her self and children in a small room. Shanno, the second eldest child could very well understand the seriousness of the time. She was more mature than her age. When people heard about Kadir, they used to show sympathy towards Bano and offer for help. But Bano was the lady of self respect and she didn’t want, any cost, to spoil Kadir’s name. She was ready to die not to be helped or obliged. Bano, however, herself uneducated but she didn’t want to keep her any child deprived of education. She, despite of her poverty, didn’t want to compromise in that case. She had firmly made up her mind to edify every of her children and she was very strict and careful for their children’s school and study. She, in a regular period of time, used pay visit to the school where her children studied. Shanno and Rashid were self conscious in that matter therefore they need not be rebuked. But Aziz, he was very naughty and escapist so far so study and homework were concerned. He was in 4th standard. Yaso and Nasreen were in the same class in std. 7th and were not bad at study. They also took very good care of Shakku when Bano and Shakku had to be out side for work. However many times, Bano had to come back to home for Shakku who could not tolerate hunger and absence of hid mother Bano. In that case, many tines Bano handed over Shakku to Aapa.
Aapa was the next door neighbor to Bano. She was few years elder than Bano – a middle aged woman. She was willingly unmarried; used to wear Black Burakha. She was very close to Bano right from Bano had come there after marriage. Aapa had no one in her family. She had a sister who was married and living at a long distant. She feed her self doing embroidery work and other little business. She was Bano’s well wisher and all time helper.
Needles in a clock were indicating that it was6:30of evening and the house was getting murky.
“Coming….” cried Shanno when she heard somebody knocking on a wooden tattered door.
Shanno opened the bolted the door thinking that there must be Aapa.
“Come Aapa, please come” Shanno welcomed Aapa. Her hands were white for she was making Rotee.
“Is Bano in?” inquired Aapa giving the bunch she was holding to Shanno.
“Yes, Aapa” Shanno accepted the bunch.
“Ammi” cried Shanno. (Ammi is a typical Muslim word for mother) “Aapa has come”
“Bano?” Aapa’s voice was law when she was taking her slippers out. She went inside.
Bano was covering her head with a long white piece of cloth reading the Quaran (a holy book of Islam). Aapa, finding Bano busy in ‘Tilavateh Quaran’ (reading Quaran), sat down the floor. Aziz came running and sat in Aapa’s lap for he knew Aapa had got Lanee for him he liked. Aapa loved Aziz a lot. Aziz ran out snatching Lanee from Aapa’s hand. Aapa laughed with his quick impish departure.
“Good that you came Aapa, how are you?” said Bano uncovering her head. She kept Quaran on a higher place and sat beside Aapa. Shakku was sleeping in a cradle.
“Bano” said Aapa “I have brought some more order for Papad (a chapatti shaped slice made of wheat edible either fried or baked) today for you and few things for Shakku I just gave to Shanno.
“Aapa, you are taking lot trouble for us” Bano’s face was down.
“Bano” Aapa broke her line before Bano could say something more “You are making me feel ashamed telling this.”
Bano’s face was still down and hands busy were with Tasbih.
“Aapa” Shnno’s voice. She had brought a glass of water for Aapa.
“God bless you” spoke Aapa taking glass of water.
“Bismillah…” Aapa murmured before drinking water. (Bismillah is an Arabic word that means “I begin with the name of almighty Allah”)
“Shanno” Bano’s orderly voice for Shanno “light the lamp and call Aziz in side, its going to be Magreeb soon. And where is Rashid?”
“Yes Ammi I just do it. Bhayjan has gone to collect money for today morning he’d gone for selling newspapers. …must be coming now” reply came from Shanno.
Bano nodded her head and again her lips were murmuring with Tasbeeh in hand.
“Azi…… z….” Shnno’s loud call to Aziz. He was still playing out side.
It was just going to be a month that Kadir had passed away so naturally the clouds of sorrow were visible on Bano’s face. Now were only Bano and Aapa sitting in a room. Shakku was in cradle.
“Bano” Aapa’s voice was low. She held Bano’s fingers. “Did you talk to the principal of the school where Kadir worked for your widow pension?” Aapa’s interrogative.
Before Bano could respond, Shakku cried. Bano went close to the cradle and gave little push.
“Alla…. hu…, Alla…. hu …., Alla…. hooooo” Bano sang lullaby to keep Shakku calm and slept.
“Yes Aapa, I’d gone there” Bano answered to Aapa’s query.
“What did they say?” Aapa’s another question.
“They said the entire procedure will take at least a month to be done” She was trying to keep Shakku calm.
“Still a month? Didn’t you talk about your condition now?” asked Aapa with care and worry.
Bano, in reply, just nodded her head negatively that meant No.
Aapa knew Bano very well. She knew that Bano was never going to plead, therefore she didn’t prolong the topic. It was sharp 6:50by wall clock when Shanno entered in the room with a lamp lit in her hand. Again the silence was cracked. It was Aazaan (the call of Allah) in the mosque nearby.
“Allahoo Akbar, Allahoo Akbar…..”
Trio – Bano, Aapa and Shanno covered their head. It was a respect symbolically given to Aazaanby women.
Next day morning, Rashid was running with a bunch of newspapers in hand, from one bus to another. He was offering a newspaper to every new face he saw. He had kept a plastic cover in his armpit to protect the bunch of newspapers from rain since half of June had passed and it could be raining at any time. He’d nothing to keep himself safe from rain. Suddenly he felt some drops of rain falling. He immediately ran and settled himself under the nearest shelter and enclosed the newspaper in a plastic cover. Rashid used to keep books with him. Whenever he got time, he started reading; no matter wherever he was. He took one book out from his Khadeebag. ‘Social Study – Std. 10’ was printed on its cover below which Rashid had written his name. Rashid took lot of care of his books. He was reading and also selling news paper whensoever any passer by demanded. He was standing under a roof where beside people were waiting for bus to come. He was reading history part (his favorite). Suddenly his concentration was disturbed by a child. He was crying and pleading to his father to get a new bicycle. He would just be of 7 or 8 years.
“No… I want it, want it” child was crying when he uttered these words.
“Keep quite my child – don’t cry. Don’t, don’t” his father was cajoling him and wiping the tears from his fat cheeks.
Rashid was unblinkingly witnessing the scene.
“Listen, listen tome.” said father when his son was still crying.
“No….. no, I want” child’s voice was on high tone.
“Ok, beta when we’ll reach home, I’ll buy you a new bicycle. But we can’t it now na?!?!mmmm???”
Father was trying hard to get his son convinced
“Promise???” this was a very innocent question by the son to his father.
“Pakka promise” (Definitely) father took a big chocolate out of his pocket and left lifting his son on his shoulder.
Rashid had enclosed the bunch of newspapers in plastic cover but the book he was reading had held a drop of tears. Yes, Rashid’s eyes were wet. In no time, he sunk in memories and went back to past. The words of his father Kadir pulled him back. He visualized the scene in his subconscious mind. Kadir had given him a promise a year ago.
“When my clever son Rashid will come first, I’ll buy him a newly launched bicycle” Kadir’s words for Rashid a year ago.
“…of read color???” asked Rashid with smile on face.
“Yes, chilly red” Kadir had said with glow in his eyes.
“Yeeeeee…….” shouted Rashid with joy. Kadir had kissed Rashid and given him a tight hug.
“He.. Give one” Rashid was dragged back to now when somebody demanded a news paper. Rashid gave him one. He was still crying. Nobody noticed because it was raining. Tears mingled with rain.
Yaso and Nasreen were enjoying rain out side the house. First rain and Aziz inside! No way. There was no limit of his joy when he too was welcoming rain and getting him self wet and muddy with Yaso and Nasreen. Shanno was helping her mother to shift the house hold things in a corner where they could be safe from rainy water. There were tins of wheat and utensils and other little crockery, flour in a plastic sack and vegetables enclosed in a cloth to keep fresh. There were other things that should necessarily be in kitchen. Roof was damaged from many places. Bano had kept Shakku’s cradle in a safe corner and covered it with a long rainproof cloth. Shanno was holding the falling water in an old plastic jar. Aziz, Yaso and Nasreen were splashing water to one another and dancing out side in a compound.
“Yaso, Nasreen” cried Shanno “Ammi is calling you now. Azi…z, you too. Get in”
She was keeping the books in a secure place. Children and the first rain; therefore who out of trio was going to pay attention to Shanno’s cry! None.
“Look, look, look, my boat…” Aziz was shouting and showing to Yaso and Nasreen a paper boat he’d made.
Bano took the goat – ‘Sona’ in with its kid. Shanno came out with an umbrella to pull the trio in. Shanno too wanted to enjoy rain she couldn’t.
“e….e…..e…… go…..ne” Aziz sang in rise and fall tone when his paper boat sank.
“Shanno” Rashid’s call to Shanno. He had come back to home after day’s hard work. He was all wet. He was holding some food in hand he had covered it with plastic. His payjama’s ends were folded up and legs were muddy. He was sneezing and shivering of cold.
“Bhyjan ca….me” Yaso and Nasreen were happy with Rashid’s arrival when they shouted with joy. Aziz went close to Rashid and demanded Lanee. Aziz began jumping to catch the bunch full ofLanee. Rashid never forgot buying it knew Aziz. Rashid lifted Aziz on his shoulder and started dancing with Yaso and Nasreen. Shanno took the bunch of food from Rashid hand and ran inside holding umbrella.
“Rashid Bahyjan, come inside. You will get flue” Shanno’s call came from inside, loaded with care and worry for his elder brother. But for Rashid, dancing with those three was first priority. He really loved them a lot. After half an hour of dance party, Rashid got the trio convinced to get in. he dried him self and sat beside Shanno who was preparing hot ‘kava’ for Rashid. (his favouirite)
“Hmmm… testy” Rashid praised kava offered by Shanno as he ever did.
Shanno just gave a carrying smile in reply. Rashid quickly finished kava and stood up coughing a bit to clear his throat. He took a small plastic bag out in which he’d kept an amount of money he earned today. It was 75 rupees. He went close to Bano to give her that amount. Bano was standing in a corner. She had covered her head with a black piece of cloth. She had opened a big old wooden sandook and was standing there. She had bent her head.
“Ammi” said Rashid. The amount he was holding.
“Take this Ammi and keep saved. Now it’s a monsoon. This roof is quite damaged and needs to be repaired now. I’ve talked to Rahim (a mason) too. He said that he would come and repair this on a reasonable rate”
Rashid took pause and sat near the cradle. Shakku was in. Rashid gave a kiss on Shakku’s forehead and gave a little push to cradle.
“Ammi” Rashid looked at Bano to tell something but he didn’t proceed. He found Bano absolutely numb. Bano’s face was not visible. Rashid felt that Bano was holding something. He could sense her sobbing.
“Ammi, you are crying?” Rashid’s voice was low.
Bano didn’t reply. She was holding an old photo-frame in which a very old photograph was fit. It was Kadir’s and Bono’s; when they had gone to the Taj Mahal for the first time after their marriage. Before Rashid could see it, Bano wiped her tears and kept the photograph where it was. She closed the sandook and took money from Rashid to keep it in a wooden cupboard.
“Ammi” as Rashid began to tell something, a familiar voice interrupted the suffocation. It was Aapa on door.
“Come Aapa, come” said Bano, spreading a chatai on floor. Both Bano and Aapa began talking as always. Rashid left from there.
Next day was a Friday yet the school was off due to heavy rain on last night. Aziz was happy not to attend school and so was killing time by playing marbles with his friends of his age. It was not raining but the roads were too rough and muddy to walk. The sky might any time drop
“Get in Aziz” shouted Shanno as she always used to.
“Today is a holiday” a quick answer came from Aziz while he was playing marbles.
“But who will go for Namaz; today is ‘Jumma’ (Jumma means Friday. It’s a holy day of Islamic week), c’mon, get in and take bath, see Rashid Bhayjan is ready” said Shanno when she was collecting clothes from wire as it might rain any time. Aziz gave no response and and continued playing.
“Wait, am going to call Ammi” Shanno sweetly threatened.
“a……a…..let me play for a while” pleaded Aziz.
“Aziz” a call came from inside. It was Bano’s voice loaded with anger. Aziz took his tongue out, threw the marbles and ran inside in no time for taking bath. Rashid was ready. He was wearing white Jabhbha and Salwar with white cap (topi). Rashid was very much fond of keeping himself neat and clean. When Kadir was alive, he used to give Attar (a type of nonalcoholic scent) to Rashid to apply on clothes every Friday. But now Rashid had given it up.
“Bhayjan” Shanno’s voice for Rashid. “Why you look so worried? What happed?” It was inscrutably rhetorical yet subtle question (in Rashid’s absence) yet Shanno asked. She was very quick at sensing Rashid’s anxieties. That even Rashid knew. He, therefore, never kept any secret any shared everything with Shanno. There was not much gap between them.
“Tomorrow is my result of prelim examination. And you know Ammi. She is…” Rashid took a pause of a second and said, “I’ve worked hard but still…” Rashid remained incomplete and looked at Bano. She was, like every Friday, busy in ‘Tlavate Quaran’
“Bhayjan, don’t worry. Allah will do all good. And you’ll surely pass with good marks. I’ve faith. And I’ll pray to Allah and I know he will never ignore me” Shanno’s words were fully loving, carrying and confident.
“May it happen as you say” Rashid took a long breath and left for Namaz.
Sky was cloudy when it was 5:30at evening. Yaso and Nasreen were busy in doing their homework. Rashid was, as usual, not at home. Shanno had gone to distribute Papad. Bano was giving push to cradle Shakku was sleeping in; she was sitting besides the cradle. Aziz was sleeping in Bano’s lap. Bano had covered her head with white cloth. Her fingures were busy with Tasbeeh.
“Bano..” a familiar voice of Aapa.
“Go Yaso and open the door” Bano’s mild order to Yaso. Yaso ran and unbolted the door. Aapa came in. She first gave Lanee to Yaso and Nasreen.
“Oh ! the devil is sleeping !” said Aapa laughed finding Aziz sleeping. She lovingly touched his head. Cradle Shakku was sleeping was sleeping in was moving slowly. It was causing noise due to not properly being oiled that audible.
“Aapa, tea will suit you? I just come with a cup of tea. Told Bano and as she was getting up, Aapa hold her hand and made her sit.
“No, Bano. Nothing.” Said Aapa. Today she was looking very upset.
“What happened Aapa? Everything alright?” inquired Bano when she sensed something hidden on Aapa’s face. Aapa had never been so tensed before.
“Actually, my elder sister Amina” Aapa’s voice.
“Yes, yes, what happened?” Bano’s response before Aapa could go further. Bano stopped pushing cradle.
“She is hospitalized”
“Allah” Bano voice with long breath.
“… and I have immediately been called there. Therefore I’ll have to go. I am here to give you the key of my house. You can use it any time. I might not come for the next ten to twelve days”
“But, Aapa…” Bano had to take a pause.
“Listen its going to be heavy rain in next two days, I suppose. And am leaving today night only.”
“ Aapa, my I help you in any manner? Should I come with you? Rashid and Shannon can look after here.” Bano’s offer to Aapa.
“No, no, no.” said Aapa raising her hand, “You have responsibilities here. Children can’t handle it alone. You don’t worry and stay here.”Bano responded with words unspoken to Aapa but grief was visible over her face.
“I’ll not be at home for the next I don’t know how many days. Quarane Mazid shoul’d be kept closed for these many days. I hand it over to you so that it can remain being read and I can save myself from sin. Take care of your self and children.” Aapa gave kiss on Aziz’s forehead with saying, “Good that Aziz is sleeping otherwise he might not let me go” True it was that Aziz was too close to Aapa. He often used to play in Aapa’s house, many times take meal with Aapa, Aapa too loved Aziz like her son.
“Ok! Yaso, Nasreen, will you take care of your mAmmi?” asked Aapa to both the girls.
“Yes, we’ll. Aapa when will you come back?” asked Yaso and Nasreen to Aapa in unison with eyes wet.
“Very soon my dolls, very soon” Aapa gave tight hug to both the girls. Even Aapa had griped her tears, was a reality.
“Alright Bano, I should leave” Aapa, in these many years, was first time going away from Bano and children. Even when Kadir was alive, Aapa was as close and helpful to Bano as now. But now when Kadir was no more and Aapa had to go was more painful for both.
“Take care Aapa. And let me know about there by letter as you reach, if possible.” proposed Bano and both embraced.
“Yes, I’ll try” Aapa handed over the key of her house and left. Aapa prayed for Aapa’s sister to bestow her with good health.
It was Saturday morning. Rashid was running breathlessly. He was holding his result. He was barefoot and running with a bullet speed. Today he’d got more Lanee for his Aziz, Yaso and Nasreen. He’d specially bought Shanno’s favorite sweet for her. Naturally he had got good marks. He was too impatient to reach home and show his result to Bano and Shanno. Today distance from school to home was longer than always. He was waving his result in his one hand up and shouting. Finally, he reached.
“Ammi….., Shanno……” He came close to the door which was bolted from inside. He had run fast and was hurriedly breathing that was audible. His perspiring face was dropping water. His lips had turned dry. He was tapping his palm on a wooden door. He again cried and called Shanno but he was answered by heavy silence. But that did not divert his attention.
“Shanno, O….. Shanno….., open the door. Where’re you? Come fast” Rashid was on door holding result, Lanee and sweet. His breath was up. He was so excited to show his result to Bano. He sensed Shanno inside unbolting the door. The door was finally opened.
“Shanno” Shouted Rashid with joy.
But in no time, his joy converted into silence and his smile disappeared when he saw Nasreen on door unexpectedly. She was crying, she could utter only a word wiping her wet cheeks. And it was “Bhayjan”
“What happened?” Rashid sat down to ask what she was crying for. Nasreen hardly opened the door for him knew Rashid. Nasreen couldn’t answer for she was speedily sobbing. She just held Rashid’s finger and led him in. Rashid went in and there he found Shanno sitting on floor. She never used to sit so. She had tightly pressed her left shoulder with right hand palm. She was sitting absolutely speechless. Her left shoulder was seriously injured. And it was continuously bleeding. Rashid lost his temper; he was deeply shocked and shouted like thunder when he saw Shanno like that. This time his shout contained something else. He threw his result and things he was holding in a corner and sat beside Shanno. He was with words unspoken. He had already begun crying. Before he asks what had happened, he took his long muffler out (seldom he used to put on) and tightly rolled it over to Shanno’s shoulder. The blood coming out didn’t cease.
“Shanno” Rashid’s sobbing words, “how did this happen” asked Rashid restlessly.
Shanno was with head down on her knees and was not ready to answer. Rashid affectionately put his palm on Shanno’s head and asked,
Rashid’s question was followed by Nasreen’s and Aziz’s tears. They were too crying. Rashid could make out nothing. He didn’t even notice that Bano was nowhere around.
….to be continued