the door bell rang and woke me up from my reveries. i realized i had lost ten invaluable minutes in thinking what i would do after my exams are finished. at times the only motivation to study all day is the hope that they will pass. after all it is a natural instinct of time which you can call good and bad at the same time that it somehow passes. but this fact has less deepening effect in good times than in bad climes. at those miserable moments when you see your self broken from inside and outside; when you wish for time to either come back or pass swiftly so you can forget everything that present has inflicted upon you; when you wish and can only wish, it is only the wonderful gift of nature, the hope, that keeps you living or stops you from dying livingly. i hated exams every time they happened to face me. and curse the education system of my beloved country. i had decided so many times to change the way kids are “educated” in this part of the world but at that time hope instead of producing an encouragement barked on face of my mind that its too difficult to hope for and saying this it died and vanished away to the dark abyss of my mind which contains uncountable corpses of dead hopes.
i felt too lazy to open the door and meet the unwanted visitor. i hated visitors and loved solitude. i had requested my mother and father when the circumstances were perfect that they let me live in the apartment which was let on rent since its acquisition. the tenants were leaving it and moving to a bigger place and my father was posted to another city to serve the country. my mother hesitated and raised many hazards of living alone but she agreed on my constant efforts and convincing promises. to live alone had been my dream. i never got bored with myself and the small apartment with its mystifying location, especially the bedroom. its window gave the view of the the road which was not used anymore due to the construction of an alternative route which was shorter and less poorly constructed. unexpectedly and fortunately the electricity supply was constant in this area of city unlike other areas where the electric supply company regularly shut down power supply for minimum three hours. the hope of improving that system also lied dead in the abyss of my mind. how much can i do? how much can i do on my own? probably nothing much! one cannot even reproduce on his own. we are so dependent.
i opened the door and found the postman who was there to deliver a letter to address of my apartment. amazingly there was no name of the sender or the receiver but only an address to be delivered to. i thanked him and went inside. i was amazed to know that Pakistan Post still worked in the presence of other private sector courier service providers. the envelope was medium sized, probably a letter or a document. i threw it on the table and forgot about it. time passes very fast when you are studying for an exam. you read for few minutes but an hour has passed in reality. but the same time, is painfully slow when one is waiting, when one is in agony. time is the most mysterious thing. we degrade it when we equate it with money. i gave the exams and thanked God when they were finished. the exams happened two times a year in beautiful, rosy March and dull September. these were the last exams before i had to start my official training at an accounting firm as a part of qualification. the hassle of interviews at all big firms, the tiresome tension about not getting hired at big four firms and the weather killed the temporary post-exam freedom. finally, the much awaited call came and i was declared successful in the interview at the one of the big four firms. “is this adeel ahmed?”, the man on phone said in young voice. “yes, it is!” “well, adeel you have been selected as the audit trainee at our firm, kindly submit your original documents to the Human Resource today by 1700 hours, congratulations!”
that night we celebrated. myself, irfan, hussain and shahzad. all of us were inducted in the same firm and this was wonderful news. the nights in Karachi are better than hot days. my apartment was cooler at night. i came home exhausted but not hungry at all. life is so good when everything is working out as you planned. i was too tired to go directly to offer night prayers. why would i go when i had everything i wished. had i returned home hopeless and foodless, would i not have gone straight to the prayer mat? when life does not reveal its stratagems against you and your little plans you forget Him or may be don’t care to remember Him actively and consciously. He is there in front of you closer than anything else but farther in your consciousness than anything else deserving your attention. it is when you are jobless and yearning for food that you see Him in front of you closer than anything else. as i headed towards the bed, the resort from all mockeries of life and the asylum from the mad world, i saw that envelope on the table. my phone rang as i lied on bed. it was irfan. “boy how are you? reached home safely?”, he said in his usual extravagance. irfan never said greeting like other Muslims do. hussain always met everyone with a smile and a complete perfect Muslim greeting: Asalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu. while shahzad communicated with his hands while greeting and often used the middle finger when highly vexed. he has great communication skills. he will defeat you in any debate with his inspirational quantum of knowledge and his oratory skills. but he didn’t talk all day. he spoke when he felt he should and remained silent at other times. while silent, his presence spoke a lot. he dressed wonderfully on all occasions and created in those around him a magical effect that they liked him instantly. he was one of those wonderful people i thought i would never acquaint with. i always felt lucky to have him as a friend. it amazed me when he confessed to us finally, on our (the other three of us) persistent provocation that he really liked Fara, the quiet girl whom irfan once called “the quietest bitch” (irfan referred to a girl he hated as bitch, i don’t know why) he has ever seen when shahzad was not listening. Fara was a strange girl. he covered her head with a scarf at all times but did not wear any abaya. no doubt she had a beautiful smile which was the reason shahzad had fallen for her according to me. i knew her well enough. she used to be my class-fellow when we were kids. she was exact opposite in nature to shahzad. in all my days with her, i never saw her laughing, she always smiled but never laughed whole heartedly. her face was most difficult to read, as if she applied something like make-up to hide her expressions. we used to study together in college library two years ago but she never revealed her thoughts and opinions and never talked about personal things. she shared my passion for a business qualification and we became good friends as time passed. she called me only once on my phone to tell me that her mother had died. she was not crying on phone. it seemed as if she had a soul made of steel and iron which contrasted her physical delicacy. she became even more reserved after her mother’s death. the only common thing i saw between shahzad and fara was their intelligent brains and the fact that both of them knew multiple languages. fara was a serene ocean of knowledge and shahzad a sea-storm of information. fara spoke fluent English, French , Urdu and shahzad, English, Arabic, Urdu and a little Persian. my opinion of their personalities was very high in admiration and respect.
“yeah, i am doing good. reached safely and easily. who will rob me or kill me? i am so insignificant,” i said in a sleepy tone. “i know you are so but the money you carry is not!”, irfan commented, “ you remember that fara girl, the quietest bitch?” “yeah i do and stop that non sense, she is a respectable friend,”said I, exasperated.
“she got hired in the same firm.”
“oh really? i didn’t know that.” I knew that.
“well now you know”
“you called me for that?”
“ yeah i thought her admirer must know where she is”
“you should have called shahzad then”
“o should i have?”, he said in a funny voice. irfan thought i liked fara too.i don’t know about that. men kill the truths they don’t want to have a life but truth always reveals itself, sooner or later. in physics or abstracts, the truth does live.
“okay enough! go away you filthy creature and let the nicer ones sleep.”
“see you around, philosopher! bon voyage for your journey to dream-land”
“calling me a philosopher! see you around jackass!”
after i disconnected the phone, suddenly i craved for a bath. if mother had been here at this time she would not have let me take a bath at this hour of night. she would say, “you will get cold adeel.” she believes i have weak immune system and i am always vulnerable to flu and fever. after the bath, i felt very fresh and made tea for myself, the thing which i mastered in making. i have a natural ability to make good tea. as far as cooking other things is concerned, i can make something to kill my hunger, that’s it. no natural abilities in that department.
now i was sleepless. i thought about the night prayers and thought about the television and Christian Bale movie on HBO at the same time but with more intensity. and i planted the seed of procrastination by turning on the TV. the cable network was off, “probably the load shedding”, i said to myself. i walked lazily towards the bed, disappointed, and lied down.
the light yellow paper was hard, crisp and unusual.it had great width and length as if it were made of three landscape sheets glued together. the writing, very neat and italicized. it was written with blue ink which didn’t smudge at all. probably a very fine pen was used. the letter was not very lengthy. the closely joined letters, smallest spaces between words and empty space of width of three fingers at end of the page showed the writer’s intention of writing a lot but an inability or loss of words or change of mind or the feelings and emotions made it impossible. it was written by Fara:
i am quite sure you remember your old companion of boring studies. although we were taught by the same teachers in same rooms during past two years at business school i never had a chance to sit with you and study again like the old days. i know i changed my behaviour towards you after my mother’s death, don’t think of me as a rude soul, no i was not. you have been a great friend to me. i wish to tell you that i am extremely sorry for my attitude in last two years.i know how you must have felt at my strange disposition and mood. human beings are strange adeel. i am sorry i am too. life has been strange to me and i have become a fallen leaf. the purpose was lost, the destination blinded when my mother died. she was part of my body, one of the chamber of my little heart which has suffered so much since its first beat that it must be looking like that great tree Prometheus, albeit its only 22 years old and not 5000, if i could only look into it. she was my confidant, a very close one. so close that she knew what i thought, what i felt and what i believed. she only gave birth to me but i thought a part of me, a tiny fragment of my brain was still inside her which made her wander through my mind. she knew me adeel, more than i know myself, more than i will ever know myself. she taught me how to be strong like a rock against the complexities, confusions, miseries,melancholies and maladies that life injected into a human being and that ramified in his frail existence to its roots. she taught me how to look and find the hopes, chances, opportunities, happiness, satisfaction and harmony which the faith constructs into a human being and that grow in his tough soul to its roots. she was the vision of my eyes and i am blinded after her. i cannot see a thing. its been two years, i know, since her departure but the effect she had on me is so profound and deep that the memory of her life and absence of her lively support in my being has never allowed me to stop shedding tears. her smile, oh adeel, when comes before my close eyes at night makes me feel the loneliest living thing on this planet, lonelier than the little oasis in the great Sahara, which no one has ever found. i am so broken and irreconcilable after her.even the greatest physical pain will not equate with how my shattered inside feels. did i ever tell you that my father left us when i was five? i did not, i know. did i tell you that my father knew that mother has cancer when he left us? did i ever tell you that he never returned after that? did i ever made you feel that i am the saddest person on earth? There was no tear mark on the paper, anywhere. she was my shelter, although i should have been hers. but she did not give me a chance. she went away into the sunless land of reality, the death. why is the human soul placed in a fleshy body? can it not exist alone? why are we so dependent on a bag of bones and meat? why are we exposed to the incurable diseases? the blood, the liquid can it not flow always? the cells, can they not be normal? why are some things impossible in this world when capabilities of a human soul limitless? i have always hated that 25th alphabet in English language. this despair i am expressing is exactly what my mother never wanted me to feel or express.i am denying her teachings. a third year since her leaving this impossible world is about to end.time flies. they say it heals. it doesn’t. i wish there were thirteen months in a year. the thirteenth one to be called “Remember” just like November and December. in the month of Remember, one could relive one’s favourite month of the year again. and adeel you know what i would have done then? i would have lived all my life to collect those Remembers and relive them as years spent with my sweet mother.Now there was a tear mark on paper, not hers but mine.
Adeel, when i used to go home after our study sessions together, she saw in my eyes the twinkle which you never saw. she knew how i felt about you, but you did not. she loved me but may be you did not. This line made the hair at back of my neck stand up and my heart took a somersault inside my chest. when she was dying she took my hand and told me to promise her that i will live my life as God and his Prophet(PBUH) wanted a woman to live. i changed because i had to keep my promise and you were a hindrance. A Hindrance to my promise with my MOTHER. I am sorry adeel!
I woke up next morning and found the envelope lying on the table in same position since last week, still untouched. i went to the bathroom and looking into my eyes in the mirror, i smiled and a tear formed in my eyes.my throat dried. that was just another page from books of my numberless dreams. that was the moment i fell in love with Fara.