The early morning breeze was calm as it usually was these days, the sky spread out clear, bright and blue, spring had freshly peeked in this week, flowers danced with the rhythm of the wind, the crisp morning air scented with sweet fragrances and a golden hue dazzled all that it set on…life rejuvenating all about.
The daylight bathed the room and its warmth gently caressed the little eight year old boy's eyes,
Its morning I guess thought Ahmed. With his eyes still shut he shielded the glare with his arms, he felt warmer than usual, Ahmed felt tired; he had wept to sleep last night; and just as he was getting up a burning feeling flashed through his stomach. He turned over with pain.
"Ahmed Baba wake up, look the day is peeping and you're still in bed!" said Zainab, his caretaker, entering the room to see Ahmed crouching at the side.
"Come on get up, Your Highness!" she said drawing the cover off of him.
Zainab used to call Ahmed "Your Highness" just to tease him as he was usually very delicate and touchy about matters, as she would say; he had a royal air around him.
"What's the matter, Your Highness?" she sensed Ahmed wasn't well; he never bothered her to get up in the morning like he was doing that day. Every morning Zainab would chant "morning" and he would get up in a blink of an eye.
Zainab sat down beside him and felt his forehead. It was very warm,
"You have a fever dear" she said with concern. Turning him over towards, her she caught a look at his eyes they were red and puffy
"Ahmed, what's wrong! Tell me, you've been crying all night haven't you?" She asked anxiously
"I heard Rahim Akka, he was telling Mumma that you'll be leaving for your village next week" cried Ahmed between tears.
"Oho!" said Zainab "So that's what it is! You should have at least asked me sweetheart!" she said with a faint smile.
Rahim Akka was the gatekeeper as well as the driver of their house. He was Zainab's paternal uncle and had brought her up after her father's demise. Zainab was getting married to her cousin and was to leave for her gaon in a week or two. Her mother had died upon her birth and when Zainab was 13 her father also passed away. Zainab's family had served Ahmed Baba's family for generations. Bibi sahiba who was Uroosa Begum treated Zainab as a family member. Not only did Zainab take care of Ahmed but she was also his best friend, more like an elder sister.
"Look here Ahmed", she said lightly turning his face towards her. "You know why I have to go. Don't you want your Zain-aapi to be happy, hmmm? Tell me."
"I just don't want you to leave me alone", he replied with another wave of tears swelling in his eyes
"I'll come around every month or two Ahmed and my best buddy would write to me everyday won't he?" She rubbed her nose against his and tickled him tenderly under the chin,
Ahmed giggled weakly, "Zain-aapi I'll get so lonely without you."
"You won't be lonely! You have your friends, mumma and your Abu jee will be here in a day or two", she said trying to cheer him up.
"Mumma never has time for me and Abu jee will probably go back for his meetings "in a day or two", mumbled Ahmed pressing on his end note.
Uroosa Begum, Ahmed's mother was the CEO of a mega textile firm; at a young age she had achieved the greatest. The night before, she had arrived from a business trip to Thailand, and early that morning she was rummaging through her stack of papers, scattered all over the table in her study space.
Zainab softly knocked at the door
"Bibi sahiba", she said in an under tone and stepping in the room. No response.
"Bibi sahiba", she repeated more quietly fearing not to disturb her mistress
"Hmm" said Uroosa Begum, her focus still between the papers
"Bibi sahiba, Ahmed baba is not feeling well" said Zainab a bit louder now.
Uroosa Begum looked up, still thinking about her file.
"Why what's wrong with Ahmed….hmm…" she said staring at Zainab with a blank expression
I remember keeping the file on this desk last night, she thought
"I think he has a fever", said Zainab
"I'm busy right now", she replied, lacking the slightest hint of concern. "So…Zainab, the doctor's number is listed in the diary, call him, he'll have a look at Ahmed", she said looking intently at the wall in front of her.
That file is so important the business delegation would be arriving any moment and the proposal has vanished into thin air. I'll call Maria; she must have a copy in her PC, Uroosa Begum wishfully thought.
She anxiously tapped her fingers on the table as the caller tone resounded in her ear.
"Hello! Maria do you have the copy of the proposal, the one we were to put forth to the delegation today?" she said finally.
"I'll check ma'am", responded her secretary promptly.
Few excruciating minutes later,
"Yes' ma'am!" Maria replied assertively. Uroosa Begum breathed a sigh of relief,
"Thanks Maria! Have it printed; I'll be there in half an hour," Uroosa Begum replied in a rush.
Zainab had turned back to find Ahmed baba standing at the kitchen entrance "Ahmed baba why are you out of bed? You have a fever dear."
"Mumma is home?" he inquired
"Your Highness………Mumma is home but she is a wee bit busy so we'll meet her in the evening," she said wrapping her arms around him and moving him towards his room, Zainab felt Ahmed was quiet warmer than she had last checked him.
"Zainab is Ahmed sleeping or awake?" Uroosa Begum asked thoughtfully, with her hand on the main door knob,
"Bibi sahiba I made him lie down. Just so you know I have also called doctor sahab," she responded.
"Okay, I'll go check on him, you tell the driver to keep these files and bag in the car", said Uroosa Begum putting her things down. She turned around and quickly went up the staircase.
She peered into to the room finding her son wide awake looking at his side weakly, the creak of the door made him sit up,
"Zainab baji I was waiting for…" he didn't complete his sentence on seeing that it was Mumma not Zainab
"Mumma! Sorry I thought it was Zainab Baji," he said sitting up straight with a forced grin on his face.
"What happened to my sweetheart": she said sitting down beside him. "Doctor Uncle will be here and he'll check why my prince isn't feeling right okay!" said Uroosa Begum with reassurance.
"No Mumma I'm alright," said Ahmed trying to sound valiant.
"Umm……Mumma I was wondering if you could stay with me please Mumma……..only for today" he said with a quiver in his voice and eyes full of longing
"My Jaan, Mumma has to go to office today its very impor………"
The cell rang in her pocket; she lightly touched the device on her ear with her free hand
"Yes", she said looking side ways.
"Madam it's me Maria"; came the reply.
To be continued...