“So still angry on me for nothing?”
Farjad inside wanted to reconcile but the alter ego was kicking in strong, he won’t make the first move he thought but I’ll ease out as soon as he says he’s sorry. Thought Farjad.
“I won’t say sorry this time,” Farjad looked alarmed as if he read his mind.
“I won’t,” said Munawar in a matter of fact way.
“I know you want me to say it, but I won’t.”
A sheepish smile cracked at the corner of his month.
Munawar tried not to smile and forced frown, “I know you better than you know yourself.”
“You knew and still you left me alone the whole day.”
“I didn’t ask you to be a hermit, you were free to mingle with anybody you liked.”
“You know I don’t.”
“I know that you ‘don’t’ but it’s high time you should Farjad, this can’t get going, you should change your attitude. That guy was just trying to help you get up, first you yelled at him for nothing and then you made a scene out of nothing wobbling up and insulting me.”
“I didn’t insult you!”
“Yes, you did! I felt very humiliated.”
“I felt humiliated, why the world has to pity me!” said Farjad infuriated.
“Stop shouting,” Munawar interjected sternly.
“Listen here Mister you know what the actual problem is? You pity yourself so much that you think the whole world is pitying you, if I fall down here right now, 10 people will come forward and help me, ask about my well-being, does that mean they are mocking me or in your case mocking your disability, I’ve told you times and over that for once start looking at the world through different eyes.”
Farjad sat their silent looking at his palms and rubbing his finger over the lines on his hand, “Why?” he asked himself.
“Don’t ask why,” said Munawar reading his thought, you are blessed and you know that, this one disability is not to be ashamed of, it’s not a contagious disease that you isolate yourself from the world like that.
The walls around you shouldn't isolate you. You build walls around and no one can breach them unless you leave crevices ajar. Or there is an air that quietly invites them, you unconsciously give them way. And naturally closed doors are things that stir curiosity. “Farjad looked up and smiled, “How do you do that?”
“Read my mind.”
“Well I have a hyper sensory apparatus that catches singles exclusively from this channel,” he said punching Farjad hard on the arm.
“Come on move I know you need to relieve your bladder too right now.”
“Shut up! Munawar, you’re dangerous!” said Farjad taken aback.
“Come on move, Farjad or else…” he said sticking his tongue out animatedly.
The days are getting longer, summer has finally made way. They walk towards the bus stand, students were boarding onto the coaches of their areas.
“Yeah the sweet scent of summer, Ah! How romantic,” said Munawar melodramatically.
“Romantic,” chuckled Farjad, sarcastically.
* * *
Munawar walked past the bus stand and turned towards the car parking area.
“Hey, where are you going? The bus is about to leave,” said Farjad.
“Umm I called the driver here, we’re going to the hospital, I called up your mother, and you’ll be staying with me tonight,” said Munawar walking backwards with his face turned towards Farjad, “Stay there I’ll bring the car here,” and turned around.
There is something seriously wrong, thought Farjad a little worried, a pang of guilt clumped his throat. Munawar was trying to tell him something about his brother this morning but he couldn’t complete because of him. The 90s wagon with a snooty green number plate, stopped in front of him, the driver hurriedly left his seat and opened the back door for him.
“Salam Sir jee, how are you doing?”
“I’m fine Raheem baba, how are you?” he said putting his good leg in first.
“Munawar,” said Farjad as soon as the car started, “I’m sorry, I really am you were trying to tell me and I am so selfish to…”
“Oh please! Don’t get so emotional it’s alright,” said Munawar trying to lighten him up, “I need you tonight,” he said in a quick serious tone.
“What’s wrong Munawar,” said Farjad a little alarmed.
“Bilal has a surgery this evening, doctors are amputating his left leg,” said Munawar with a quiver in his voice.
Farjad felt a cold lump swell in his throat and crawl over his chest suffocating him. He looked into Munawar’s eyes and knew the pain he had been going through.
I’ve been such a selfish fool. He thought.
Farjad lost words to reassure his best friend. He just looked long and hard into his eyes, Munawar looked away and said, “ I don’t know how to console him when he wakes up tomorrow morning perhaps you can tell him it’s going to be okay, living this way. Farjad why did I have to live this pain a second time?” he said breaking into sobs.
Farjad’s mind went blank, he knew Munawar to be the most optimistic and jolly person he ever met. In the face of the gravest adversities it was Munawar who picked him up and pushed him towards life. Seeing him so broken was shattering in all the ways possible.
Farjad remembered how Munawar went silent the first time he was diagnosed with polio and then after days of confinement in bed and depression, his father one evening took both of them to a river bank for fishing. They had the best day of their lives, he remembered his father sitting in the middle and both of them at his sides, he said with wisdom reflecting over the moisture of his eyes, “At times against the strong winds, at times amidst the roaring tides, we move on against the barriers in life. It takes courage, what we move against shatters the will into million bits; but yet we hold on to the ground and gather our strength from within, with care, every fragile piece of our broken entity is weaved with love. We all have our reasons to live life, it’s just about looking at life in a positive way, it is the heart that reaches out to the other heart. And then the soul: cold as stone, drained and lost gets wrapped by warmth. The colour pours in; life revives.”
At that time they were too young to understand the philosophy, Farjad’s father died but his words got engraved in their hearts and like seeds of wisdom that blossomed with time.
Munawar looked out of the window aimlessly, he didn’t know finally how to express it to Farjad, all his childhood and youth Munawar had encouraged and uplifted Farjad’s spirits and convinced him that disability wasn’t a thing to be ashamed of but now, something inside didn’t just feel right and he didn’t know how to put it in words.
“Hey mate”, said Farjad breaking the long pause, “He’ll be fine, he will be fine,” he repeated though his tone had the most prominent shade of unsurety.
“Munawar are you listening?”He nudged him patting his thigh.
Yeah said Munawar looking blanking into Farjad’s eyes, then averted his gaze and started rubbing his hands.
“Do you believe in miracles?”
“Hope for one.”
The both looked out of the window and the scenes quickly changed from one to another as their car drove by, but in their heads the picture was still, a question caught up at two different angles.
It’s harder to accept it for Bilal than it was for Farjad.
All these years perhaps Munawar never truly realised the depth of my suffering and now he really feels what it is like. Farjad thought feeling as if a thorn is piercing his heart.
The family gathered around Bilal who was unconscious from anesthesia, they all hymned a silent prayer and bid him leave as the nurses took him to the operation theatre.
Munawar’s eyes welled with tears and Farjad patted his shoulder wordlessly. The evening had turned over its blanket of a dark starless night. Farjad and Munawar stood at the adjoining balcony and looked into the space around them, both caught up in a rushing surge of new found emotions.
Hospitals are an eerie place; happiness and sorrow all at one place. One by one the lights around lit and the silence between them doesn’t seem to break.
Farjad’s mind resonated with the words Munawar always said to buck him up every time he lost hope, now saying them back to Munawar didn’t feel right.
Was their friendship just a vague picture of tepid emotions or over the
years they were just superficially tagging along, but that couldn’t be true, or could it be?
Munawar broke the silence after an hour of gazing into thin air, “I know what you’re thinking Farjad,” he said, his voice hoarse from being quiet so long. “I know after these many years you have questioned my friendship or rather the essence of our relationship, I have nothing to say in my defense, I have always felt your pain Farjad, but what I’m feeling now is entirely different. I never realised there would be a difference of emotions. I just didn’t know until this happened. I’m sorry Farjad, perhaps now I truly understand how hard it must have been for you.”
Farjad listened to every word, and each word nailed his heart into agony, it felt like the things that supported you for so long and in the end they were never yours all along. This one instance had ripped the roots of their friendship but then his inner voice mocked at him once more, did it even have roots?
The need to say something in response was strong but he simply had nothing to say, if he kept quiet it would hurt Munawar and push him into more guilt and pain. After a long pause Farjad said, “It’s alright mate, let’s pray Bilal gets better,” with a reassuring smile.
“I need you here Farjad,” Munawar felt like a child pleading to stay close afraid of the darkness around.
It broke Farjad, he nodded positively and squeezed his hand comfortingly, “I’ll be here for as long as you want me don’t worry.”
“I don’t want him to become somebody I’ve tried to mend all these years… I don’t want him to become you,” he said.
* * *
As summer made way, children came out to play in the evening and mother’s stood out into the terrace to watch over them. Father’s had a stroll around the neighborhood and some gathered together to discuss the socio-political situation of the country over tea.
Farjad woke up from his evening nap with a stiff back and stiffer legs, he felt nauseatic.
Baba came into the room, he
pulled off the covers and snuggled beside him.
“Buddy it’s been all day in bed, let’s play football, the weather outside is great,” he said tickling his chin.
“But baba I can’t play now my leg is crippled,” said Farjad with tears flooding his eyes.
“Aray, no tears didn’t I tell you before, we must be patient when Allah tests us and brave boys don’t cry over little things. I taught you to play with two legs now I’ll tell you how to play with one. Get up boy.”
Munawar came over every evening and spent time with Farjad. He loved Farjad more than his own siblings, and most of the day was spent with him too.
“Now my young lads we have a mission, and that is ‘mission one-legged football’,” announced his father cheerfully. “Munawar come here,” he motioned.
“Let’s do an experiment. Remember the three-legged race you two won at school. Both nodded getting a hint and a little excited for what was about to happen.”
“How about the three-legged football match against your uncle,” he said to Munawar gleaming.
They both giggled at the thought and brought their legs close. The match started, first it took them effort to synchronise but over the week they found a new motivation and practiced all evening long.
After a month of tumbling over and scratching and bruising each other, they bonded well into the act and recovered their lost smiles.
Munawar and Farjad rejoined their neighborhood team and they too welcomed them warmly. They won many matches together and after one particular match which was the last Farjad played before his father’s death, Baba sat them together and said, “Munawar is your best friend. Some matters of the heart have more weight than legs do.”
* * *
Mother called me the next morning, she inquired about Bilal’s surgery. I told her it went well but the real challenge will be when he gets conscious and how well he accept the drastic change in his body. Everyone was more vexed about that.
“I’m praying for them all, it is hard time, accepting is the most difficult part, either you break to it or either you overcome. I remember the time when you got diagnosed, it would had broken me if your father wasn’t along and Munawar has always been a good friend helping you along,” she said thoughtfully.
Farjad had just been inflicted by the bruise of a truth so harsh and devastating to accept he couldn’t find anything to respond to her mother’s last sentence.
“I’m praying too,” he murmured.
“Take care Ammi.”
“What is it my child? you seem upset, I know how you feel but I believe since you’ve been through this you should know better and help them overcome these harsh times, our grievances connect our heart and empathy is a gift,” she said.
“Yes Amma, you are right, but sometimes the reality is not so simple, those we always thought to be empathic towards our pain had only pitied us all along,” said Farjad with a sigh, Munawar’s last sentence ringing in his ears painfully. Was the entire brotherly bond meant to be lost?
“Arey beta, nobody ever pitied you and if you mean Munawar did then, you’re wrong, I can tell for sure… your mamoo came over last night, he’s not feeling…”
Farjad cut her across, his mother’s words sounded distant in his mind against the throbbing pain that seared in his head.
“Amma I’m tired, I’ve been up all night, I’ll talk to you later.”
“Okay beta, but don’t let a misunderstanding…”
“Yes Yes Amma, Allah Hafiz.” Her mother realised he was restless at the moment “Take care, my love. May Allah be with you.”
Farjad let the phone slip from his palm onto the bed with a thud, he laid back and closed his eyes, I wish I don’t ever get up again.
* * *
Munawar came rushing into the house early in the morning; they had given their matriculation exams and were waiting for their result to come out.
to be continued...