"Yes Maria!" answered Uroosa Begum with alarm.
"Ma'am the delegation has arrived, they are waiting in the conference hall," informed Maria from across the line.
"Okay Maria I'll be there in… 15 minutes," she answered looking at her watch.
"I'll be home soon," she told Ahmed and gave him a quick hug, patted him and kissed his forehead affectionately. Zainab came in at that moment.
"Zainab take care of him," she said to Zainab and left the room.
Hamza is luckier than me, thought Ahmed about his friend, his mother never left his bedside when he got ill.
All my life I've struggled, worked so hard to achieve where I am now, the sleepless nights, the sacrifices I've made. I know Ahmed needs me. I'll come back to Ahmed I'll give him time; thought Uroosa Begum.
There was guilt always creeping inside Uroosa Begum, the guilt of not being a good mother. Her work meant everything to her, her life long dedication and intense passion; she couldn't just leave it all. Uroosa Begum felt as she had never breathed freely since Ahmed's birth as she tried to juggle her time between Ahmed and work but just could not do justice to Ahmed. With each day that went by, the air grew thicker and denser around her as if suffocating her.
I love Ahmed, I love my son; she thought convincing herself.
"So little chap, what troubled our Prince this time," asked Dr. Khalid humorously, placing a thermometer under Ahmed's arm.
Dr. Khalid had been Ahmed's pediatrician since the first day he was born. Dr. Khalid understood Ahmed's sensitive nature; whenever Ahmed got upset or bothered about something he would run a fever.
"I'm leaving for my village next week… I'm getting married," said Zainab shyly.
"Oh! So Mr. Ahmed doesn't want Zain-aapi to go, does he?" Asked Dr. Khalid gazing into his deep brown eyes. Ahmed nodded innocently.
"Well Mr.! For that you'll have to meet Zain-aapi's groom hmm," said Dr. Khalid pulling the thermometer out and looking at it carefully through his glasses; the mercury was almost touching the high mark.
"Whoa!" exclaimed Dr. Khalid, "You're running a really high fever."
Turning to Zainab, he instructed, "Zainab beta get some cold packs and a glass of water," he said while looking for something in his bag.
"Ahmed beta open your mouth wide," he asked putting a tongue depressor in his mouth.
As soon as Dr. Khalid place the tongue depressor, Ahmed pushed his hand back and jumped off the bed, ran straight into the bathroom and started vomiting all over the floor. Ahmed's bout of vomiting lasted over half an hour. Any thing, even water, which Zainab tried to give him, came out and she stood behind him, stroking his back from time to time.
"Ahmed Baba now you're okay?" asked Zainab worriedly, cleaning him, after a while.
"Zainab baji", murmured Ahmed weakly, and suddenly he tumbled towards the floor. Unconscious.
"He is alright Zainab don't worry, have you called Uroosa Begum" said Dr. Khalid emerging from the ward into the waiting area.
"Yes, I called her but she's in a meeting perhaps – I left a message," said Zainab with a hint of despair in her voice. "what happened to Ahmed?" she inquired nervously.
"Nothing serious, don't worry he's alright, our Prince has taken your departure too much to his head, I'll have to talk about this with Uroosa Begum," said Dr. Khalid stroking her head reassuringly.
The conference hall was dark with only the shaft of light from the projector filling the screen ahead. Madam Uroosa was in between the briefing of the proposal when Maria entered the room after a faint knock.
"Madam kindly could you excuse me for a moment?" she said sensing that it was the most inappropriate time to distract her.
"Yes Maria. Anything important?" said Uroosa Begum with a tone of skepticism.
"Madam it's an emergency!" said Maria, now red in the face, as so many heads were turned to her.
"Okay," she said.
"Thank you very much for your attention," she declared to the committee, "Mr. Zubair our Executive Manager will brief you further."
Uroosa Begum felt the floor slip from beneath her and her heart sink to its depths. Her mind raced with all sorts of horrible thoughts. Ahmed just had a fever this morning – and now he was in the hospital.
This is the limit Uroosa Begum, a voice in her head said, what sort of mother do you call yourself, you're not even worthy to be a mother, your work means more to you, doesn't it? You never knew what your son is going through!
"Driver, drive faster!" her voice shaking with fear and anguish, told the driver.
"Sit down ma'am," said Dr. Khalid.
"But what's wrong with Ahmed?" she asked restlessly.
"Nothing serious, as I told you earlier."
"Ahmed is a sensitive child and as a mother you know better…" said Dr. Khalid.
Uroosa Begum sensed fresh tendrils of remorse twine around her heart.
"Zainab is leaving in a while and Ahmed feels insecure, I talked to him into this after he gained consciousness. I was surprised when I realized that there wasn't any pathological reason behind his condition – rather it was psychological. Children are like fragile waters; the slightest strain sets ripples in their little hearts. Children illustrate their fears and worries in their own way. At times they cry, become rude or cranky and stubborn. But Ahmed is far more sensible than children of his age, he tries to render him self as strong. He doesn't express like other children; he let his fears sublime inside and they afflict him every hour – it has damaged his health. If you have noticed Ahmed has lost quiet some weight in these few months time – he looks paler than usual."
"Ma'am I'm nobody to tell you what to do and what not to do but consider this as my request – give Ahmed your time, free him out of the dark shadows of insecurity that linger over him. He needs you more than you realize."
To be continued...