“What is the difference between strength and courage?” I asked.
“When you are around and it make me smile, that is strength but when you are far away, even my imagination cannot reach you, I still smile, that I call courage,” My father replied with tears in his eyes. That day I decided not to leave him alone, no matter what, but I never knew what life was going to play with me.
Life has always been an adventure and full of surprises, since childhood. I was the only child of my parents and deep down in my heart I was so glad about it. I was their center of attention. Though my parents were poor, but they never let me realize it. We were the habitats of a small village, with only two lands, one motor bike which belonged to my father, one cow and a few hens. My father was a clerk in a private school, which was exactly 10 km far from my village. For me my mother was the most beautiful person on the earth. She had long black shiny hair, a big smile on her face along with big black eyes. She even looked more attractive when she used to put “kajal and mascara”. Our home consisted of only two bedrooms, one kitchen and two washrooms. My mother always tried her best to keep those clean and tidy. Sometimes I wondered how she was able to manage so many things together, though she was quite young. She was the one in our family to wake up early, clean the whole house, extract milk from the only cow of ours, and collect the eggs from the tiny home outside our house, which was specially made for the hens by my father. My father used to help her in making the breakfast daily and seeing them working together in the kitchen, both looking at each other, having gossips and big smiles on their faces, was the most beautiful scene for me. They both taught me what the real essence of love was. They were the people who taught me to find happiness in small things.
Then comes the part, when I used to sit like a princess in front of my father’s bike. He used to drop me to my school which was quite far from my own village. I was the only female child, whom parents did not send her to the government school of village; rather I used to go to the private school. That makes me understand how much important I was to my parents and also I was well-aware of their expectations as well. They wanted me to achieve such a position, which can help the children of our village to be able to cope with the new challenges. I always tried my level best to give utmost priority to my studies. My mother never asked me to help her in household chores, neither had I bothered myself.
I used to have many friends and our favorite spot to meet was the big oak tree, located in the center of our village. We managed to play different games and the voices used to echo the whole village. Our favorite game was swinging. One of us used to sit in the rope and rest of us push her from the back, singing different folk songs. People in our village used to laugh with us, when they passed by. We used to run after each other in the long fields, filled with greenery everywhere, putting water on each other. Life was so beautiful, without any kind of sorrows. I was thankful to Allah for everything “He” gave me. I used to believe that life will be like this forever, happiness everywhere, but my assumptions were purely based on my simple experience. I never thought life sometimes also can be so harsh and cruel as well.
It was Friday, when I opened my eyes, my mother was sitting beside. Her big beautiful eyes were full of tears, but still she was smiling. That smile which was the strength and courage behind my every success. That day my board results were going to be announced and I was tensed as well, but I knew I was going to perform very well. My father kissed my forehead and took his way to my school to get my results. As I had performed brilliantly in my board exams, my father decided to send me to my aunt's home, living in a city which was very far from our village. She was the only sibling of my father. I remember she came when I was only 5 years old and after that I never saw her. I still remember how much she loved to spend most of her time with me. She brought many expensive dresses, toys, books just to count as a few. Her dressing sense was perfect. She used to wear “kameez” with pant along with a short “dupta” in her neck. I heard she married a guy and went with him to the city and never showed up herself again. Last time when she came, she told she got divorce from her husband, but neither my father nor my mother asked “why”. She stayed for only 5 days and left, but took promise from my father to send me to city for my studies. They didn’t say anything in front of her, but once she left my mother refused to send me to city.
“Don’t you remember what your sister did? She left us alone and preferred that guy on all of us. She never sent a single letter asking whether we are alive or not? But now she is all alone, she wants my daughter to go and be like her. No I will never let her go? Do whatever you want to do.” My mother expressed her last decision.
“But if she will go, she will be able to complete her dreams. That’s what we both want for her. What she will do living in the village? I don’t want my daughter to be like us.” My father sat beside my mother, who was crying.
“I am well- aware of the dreams, but all I want is to have her back here beside me, when I will be old. You tell me, will she be able to adjust herself in that environment? People there drink alcohol, smoke and many more. What if she becomes like them as well. Will your sister be able to give love like us or take care of her the way we do? My daughter means whole world to me. Please I don’t want to lose her.” My mother pleaded.
Tears came in my eyes but I managed to control them. I sat beside her, with my arms around her neck and said, “Till now you had always been my strength Maa. Now, as I am going to take the biggest decision of my life, I want you to have faith in me. Trust me I won’t involve myself in such activities, which will be a stigma to our family.” I smiled at her and she smiled back, which meant she gave me the permission to chase my dreams.
It took us two days by bus to reach the city. My aunt was at the bus station to pick me. She hugged me so tight that I was unable to breath at first. I never understood her affection for me. My father was supposed to leave the same day, as he already took two days leave. While he was leaving, tears were floating in his eyes. “Always listen to your heart and follow it “beta”. And don’t forget out there, there is a place and people who have so many expectations from you. May Allah help you with your journey?” This was his last words and he left. I wanted to cry and asked him to stop, but I couldn’t. Aunt held my hand and asked me to sit in her car. That was the first day I experienced sitting in a car.
Everything was new to me, even my own aunt. She lived in a very large bungalow. I won’t call that as home because there was no one except few servants. They were even not allowed to speak to me, nor to aunt and that seemed weird. There were several rooms on both sides of the corridor. Aunt showed me all the rooms, but there was no one living there. My room was at the last right corner of the corridor. I opened the room and for a while I was unable to speak. This was the same room, I dreamt of. Blue walls, blue curtains, my pictures were hanging on the walls, teddy bears and minions everywhere. A big mirror at the corner of the room, cupboards and drawers were full of fancy dresses and shoes. For a while I felt like I am a princess. Though my aunt house was really big, but it never felt a home to me. Back in my village, we used to live in a very small house, but there was love, affection and laughter everywhere, which my aunt home lacked.
I took admission in one of the finest Universities of the City. First, I felt so uncomfortable to see girls wearing shorts, hanging out with boys, smoking and what not. My aunt was a fashion designer, so I myself used to wear very branded clothes, but I never tried wearing shorts, neither my aunt asked me to do so. Sometimes I found my friends fighting with each others on small issues. Such issues which can be solve in a minute. Staring at them, I always remember those days where I used to tease my friends and they stopped talking to me. To make them talk, I used to request my mother to make “Alu Paratha”, which used to be our favorite. With the last bite of the Paratha, it doesn’t seem we weren’t talking for a day. How much care and respect we used to give to each other.
I had good friendships with other students, but not to the extent where I could tell them, how lonely I feel when I get back from University, how much I need someone to join me in lunch or dinner, how much I miss talking about the fields, the games which I used to play and how much I truly miss my parents' taking care of me and never leaving me alone. Though my aunt was around me, but I never tried to make such relationship with her where I could share everything with her, because she had so different life style. Most of the times, she used to travel several places inside the country as well as outside. I was all left alone, recalling those advices of my mother not to forget who actually I was. I really wanted to let them know how it feels when one is so close to her destiny and her parents aren’t with her. I tried to ask my aunt to send me to my village on vacations, but every time she pretended to show herself busy. I alone couldn't travel, as I was not even aware of the roads properly. I never preferred to go outside and discover the places, though aunt asked me hundreds time. At times I even stopped asking her to send me to village. During my vacations, I kept myself busy in kitchen cooking with the servants, chatting with them, reading books, writing poetry and tried to connect to those people who could help me to build a school in my village.
And then the day comes, for which I waited for four long years. People say time flies, but in my case it seemed to take centuries to complete my Bachelors. By then, I had enough qualification to start a school in my village. I was able to raise funds with the help of media, friends and obviously my aunt to construct a school which would follow the modern education system. Deep down in my heart I was really happy, as I kept the promise of my mother and my father.
Finally it was the day I was going to see my parents after a very long time. I was scared a little bit that my mother will not talk to me as I didn’t go to see her once, but I was confident that she will talk. I felt I was truly happy after such long time. I imagined how the people of my village will react when they will see me. How much happy they will be, when they hear about the school. I wanted to meet my friends in the same spot of the oak tree. I wanted to tease my father by saying that Maa is more attractive than him. I was so busy with my own world that I even noticed we reached the village, the place where my heart lies. I felt the air when it touched my face. I smelled the soil and they all were the same I left them, but there was something which was not right. I didn’t see a single person, even a kid outside in the field or in the streets.
The whole village was quiet and it haunted me inside. When the car stopped outside my house, I saw people were running here and there. I noticed them for a while and jumped out of the car. My heart started to beat so fast, as it almost planned to come out. I run into the courtyard, where people were gathered in a circle. My mind was blind. I went towards them. What my eyes saw, it was not suppose to be like that. I had saved so many stuffs to share with that person, whom I missed the most and now she refused to even talk to me for the rest of my life. She didn’t even wait for me to hug her once. She didn’t wait to see her daughter call her “Maa” just one time and she passed away and left me and my father all alone in the world, with her memories.