Thursday 11th August 2011, 6:30 P.M.
Saddar was too crowded today. It was already getting late. I took the Rs. 100 change from the cashier, which was all the money I was left with, picked the shopping bag and rushed out of the store. The unusually humid August and the hassle I have been into since morning had turned me into a sweating shower by now. Despite of that I was excited. Very excited. My Ali was going to be happy today. He will not be disappointed with me anymore. He will not have to face any insult now. He was upset with me since quite long. I picked a small sized 10 rupee national flag for the upcoming independence day only to give him an additional surprise.
“Tower, Numaish, Tariq Road, Stadium, Nazimabad, Lasbela, Golimar.” The loud husky voice of the last 4-N bus conductor announcing his arrival hammered my nerves. I jumped towards the back door and climbed into the already cramped male compartment. I did not know for how long my sore legs will have to bear the pain of standing in the bumpy bus. But my pain overcame with the thought of the minor mental relief I had managed to achieve. Ali will not be crying tonight. Clenching the shopping bag tightly in my fist, I was peacefully lost in my thoughts, oblivious to how many people had stepped on my swollen foot by now, until I was jolted by a loud explosion. Within moments, I could feel myself floating in the air and crash-landing on a hard rocky surface. It was dark then.
Thursday 11th August 2011, 6:55 P.M.
It was very dark. Lying on the rocky surface, I was trying to gasp. My body was pierced and stinged from too many places for me to figure out. I could feel my flesh tearing inside. The red liquid oozing out of my body was burning my skin. I did not know what had happened and what was going on around me. I could smell burning flesh and I could hear loud sirens and horns close by. I tried opening my eyes. My vision was blur but I could see the shopping bag lying beside me quite clearly with its contents scattered outside. The garment in the bag which was white and crisp when I bought it, was now in tatters stained red. I tried to reach out for the garment to pick it up. I knew Ali was waiting for it. Just as my fingers touched the fabric, I felt I was being lifted off the surface. The shopping bag and its contents went out of my reach. I could feel them getting farther. I wanted to scream and protest but I did not have enough strength. The next moment I was lying in what seemed like a vehicle. I could not take it anymore. I was being transported somewhere. What would I say to Ali? I could see his swollen wet eyes as I closed my mine.
Thursday 11th August 2011, 7:30 A.M.
“This is not fair Baba. I get insulted everyday. I will not go to school tomorrow if you will not get me a new uniform today.” Ali complained and commanded me with an innocent anger in his eyes.
“I will get it Ali. Didn’t you hear me? Why do you have to repeat it again and again? I yelled while looking down into the morning paper which I was not really reading. Perhaps, I was too embarrassed to face my eight year old.
“You come up with excuses everyday. I hate being insulted.” Ali protested and I could sense the shakiness in his tone.
“Ali dear. Get ready for school. I will scold your Baba so that he gets you a new uniform today.” My old mother consoled her beloved grandson and signaled me to follow her in the kitchen.
“Ma, I have not got my salary yet.” I started ranting about my usual problems as soon as I stepped into the kitchen. “My last month’s pay has been spent in grocery and utility bills. How can I….”
“Ahmed.” My mother cut me off in the middle with a sigh. “I can understand all that. I have one thousand rupees saved out of your father’s pension. Get him a uniform and get me my medicine. Everything will be okay. Don’t worry.” My mother consoled me.
“Thank you Ma. I will leave now.” I bid her good bye in a state of paranoia. I did not like the feeling of using my father’s pension that his widow was using to finance her medical expenses to share my burden. As I stepped outside my house, I could see Ali waving off his mother from his school bus. As my eyes caught a glimpse of the yellowish ragged sleeve of his uniform that he had been wearing for the past two years, I felt sorry for the poor kid. After all, his demand was legitimate.
Friday 12th August 2011, 12:00 P.M.
I was back home lying on a mat in my lounge. I could hear people crying around me. Although I was free of all physical pain now, my heart was weeping as I saw Ali who was still sitting in his old faded uniform wrapped around my body. If there was anyone wearing a crisp white garment, it was me. I could not remember the last time I wore a newer, whiter, cleaner dress. I could not get Ali his new uniform but Ali was not complaining about it today. He was not complaining about anything today. Perhaps he knew he will not be insulted by his teacher anymore. Perhaps, he might not need a uniform at all now. Perhaps he would not be going to school now.
“I will not go to school tomorrow if you will not get me a new uniform today.” Ali’s words echoed in my ears as my face was being covered and my body got lifted to be transported to my last place. I am sorry Ali I could not get you the uniform. I am sorry but you will not be able to go to school tomorrow. You might not be able to go to school ever. I am sorry.
An edited version of this write-up was published on Express Tribune Blogs dated 21st December 2012.