The snowcapped mountains blinded the eyes with their brilliant whiteness and although the summer sun had just ripped the clouds, the stubborn winter snow had not yet melted. Farjad rubbed eyes and stretched his leg and looked wide against the horizon over the hill. The early morning birds chirped a hymn and Farjad recited the prayer he learnt from grandma in childhood, the morning was no different than usual.
The young man standing tall at 6 feet with a broad chest, large feet, chestnut-haired and azure eyes trotted his way to the university 8km from home. The nearest motorway was a 15-minute walk from the village, yet the scenic view around had never let those 15 minutes seem bothersome. A light breeze bellowed ruffling his hair and he thought about the day ahead, the tempting aroma of his mother’s packed lunch was quiet distracting. Mothers! He thought “Beta I’ve kept five chappli kebabs. You can eat two and share the rest but two are just for you, look at yourself you’ve reduced to bones,” said her mother protectively, “Fee Amanillah my son,” she said kissing his forehead.
He smiled at the thought, and thought about the passion with which her mother brought him up. His father died when he was nine and he was the only child, their maternal and paternal family had been very kind and protective and never had there been a single day when he felt his father’s absence. Every evening as the family sat down for tea, his father’s mention was so profound that he felt him to be sitting beside. Farjad was blessed in all the ways possible he thought he had nothing to mourn over, except one thing.
Over the last few years he had started giving tuitions to his juniors so that he could afford his leisure’s and take up some responsibilities. The family objected at this decision and said he didn’t need to worry about earning so soon. But he realised that it was time he took up some responsibility.
He remembered his father once said that “It is only when a fledging leaves the warmth of its nest that he learns the extent his wings can spread, when you feel inside that you are strong enough take risks and board on a flight to nowhere, then don’t wait a moment.”
“Nowhere Father?” he asked surprised.
“Yes my dear, nowhere, our first expeditions should be destined for nothingness because predefined destination make us lose the liberty to feel the charm of exploration and adventures.”
The horn of the university bus brought him back from the memory realm to reality.
I wish the platform was a bit lower and close to the ground, he muttered everyday, but had grown used to it by now, he jumped on board almost stumbling, Munawar gave him a hand and pulled him up, Farjad returned a stern look irritated, “Okay! I’m sorry! I’m really sorry! I know you don’t like it, but I didn’t want you to get hurt,” said Munawar cautiously.
“I wouldn’t have got hurt, Munawar I’m not a baby!” said Farjad infuriated.
“Ok I’m sorry, man, can you relax now?”
“Yeah,” he grunted.
When settled on the seat and the initial tension wavered off, Farjad asked about Munawar’s brother who had met a serious road accident in front of his house last month and had now been on the way to a slow and excruciating recovery, he had barely missed death by inches, “Is your brother better now?” asked Farjad.
“He is better though the doctors gave us bad news last night…”
“Oh! I saw you called, sorry I dozed off early, what happened? I’m really sorry for not picking up.”
“No it’s okay, I was worried so I thought… you know, say it out.”
“What is it Munawar? You look like you haven’t slept,” said Farjad putting a hand on his shoulder reassuringly.
“Thanks for noticing, or I thought you’ll just be angry because I supposedly offended you by helping you on the bus,” Munawar fired back.
“Come on now brush it off, you know how I don’t like being treated special it kills me inside, hurts my esteem.” “You know better, then why do you bring it up everytime.”
“Farjad carrying crutches to help you move isn’t a disgrace or sign of weakness, what do you think, you hop about, people don’t notice? They don’t pity you then?”
“I don’t want to be pitied I can do everything a normal person can.”
“See! By saying that you’re insecure inside that you aren’t normal and complete.”
“Acha stop it Munawar don’t start this debate again.”
“What did the doctors say?”
“He said that, they’ll have to…”
The bus jolted suddenly and they all fell forward, Farjad’s knees buckled under the impact and he was thrown towards the wind screen.
The whole bus was startled at the sudden brake, apparently everyone was fine except Farjad who was on the floor on all fours and while the rest recollected themselves, he felt humiliated beyond imagination.
Apparently a kid ran across the roads and the driver had to push down the brakes suddenly to stop from running over him.
“Hey man you okay? Asked a fellow seeing him on the floor, here take my hand!” he said putting his arm forward.
Farjad looked up meanly and averted his gaze.
Munawar was fumbled himself saw Farjad first thing after the impact and ushered the guy aside and said, “Let me handle this.”
“Okay, why is he looking at me like that?”
“Nothing just please excuse him.”
“Here Farjad get up!” said Munawar extending a hand forward.
“Get up Farjad beta are you alright?” said the driver, “Are you hurt?”
“No I’m fine!” He yelled back.
By now a lot of students had noticed the commotion in the front and Farjad got red with both anger and shame, he pushed Munawar’s hand aside and propped up on his good leg pulling the other with his arm.
“Farj…” said Munawar.
“I don’t want to talk to you just leave me alone.”
Exasperated, Munawar grunted, “Fine!”
The day went by in silence from both sides, they didn’t even look at each other.
Munawar was very social and he kept himself in the company of his other mates, but Farjad just went by himself. Munawar kept stealing glances and seeing he was fine.
Both of them could stay like this forever but this time Munawar felt the Farjad should realise where he was wrong.
Farjad’s left leg was afflicted by polio at the age of seven, his father stood as a strong support with him through his difficult childhood days. He was an active boy who used to run around and his freedom was suddenly stolen in a lifelong disability. Munawar and Farjad were childhood playmates and they lived next to each other’s houses but after their intermediate exams Munawar’s father shifted to another locality. Luckily both applied to same university in the same major and were united again.
The last session went by and Farjad was still clamped angrily in the corner. Munawar knew better of him and just as the teacher left he went to sit beside Farjad.
to be continued...