- 09 Feb - 15 Feb, 2019
- 08 Sep - 14 Sep, 2018
I was 12 years old and got admitted into a boarding facility in Murree. We belonged to Lahore and lived in a posh area. My father had an export business and usually lived abroad. He would spend very less time at home and therefore, sent me to a strict educational institution to keep me disciplined. But I hated him for one day only.
It was a cold Sunday morning in March when I was dropped by my parents at the boarding school. We had started travelling at night and reached the school at nine o’clock. We were served with hot breakfast in the dining hall and it was not long before my father announced to leave, as he had to catch a flight at night. I started crying and did not let my mother go. My eight-year-old younger sister also held me tight. Considering our hue and cry, my father promised me that he will come back after three months to take me home for summer vacations and then it will be totally up to me whether I want to return to this place or not. It made some sense, so I let my family depart with a heavy heart.
My first day at the boarding school was tedious. We spent a busy evening and were briefed about life in school, the dos and don’ts and how our next five years will revolve around a whistle. At lunch and dinner, we were served with food which I had never tasted before. I made up my mind that I will not return here after the summer break. I had already started my countdown.
On the first night at the boarding school, we were tucked in our beds and lights were switched off at 10 o’clock. I was wiping off my tears and trying to sleep when an someone shook my shoulder and told me that the warden has asked to see me. I was surprised but got out of the bed, searched for my slippers in the dark and followed the messenger. The first thing I saw in the warden’s office from outside the window was uncle Yousaf who was my father’s stepbrother. I had never liked him. He was always mean to us. But he was our only family member in the city, so we often got to see him on special occasions.
I entered into the warden’s office, which was adjacent to our dormitory. I shook hands with uncle Yousaf and looked inquisitively at the warden. Our warden Sir Amir was a middle-aged man who always has a fatherly smile on his face and saw us with loving eyes. He told me to sit. Then very softly, he said that I will be going back to my home with uncle Yousaf.
“Right now?” I enquired.
“Yes,” he responded.
“Why?” I asked again, and this time uncle Yousaf responded to my question.
“Your parents have met an accident while going back from Murree and I have come here to take you home.”
Pleased at what I had just heard, I asked uncle Yousaf if I could get my bag.
The warden told the messenger to accompany me and help me pack my belongings. It never occurred to me, not even for a second, that the accident could be serious or my parents could have died. I did not even ask uncle Yousaf about my parent’s condition. I was only happy that on the very first day I was getting out of this hell.
My journey back home after a day’s long excursion at Murree was least adventurous. It was dark outside and I kept sleeping throughout the ride. The next day, however, changed my life forever. I was left alone in the whole wide world. My parents and my little sister did not survive the accident. I did not have any grandparents alive and most of our relatives lived in India, as they did not migrate to Pakistan after independence. I felt broken to the core. There was no one to comfort me, hold me tight or even tell me that everything will be alright. I was only a child and my soul had been shattered. The worst, however, was yet to come.
The family court declared uncle Yousaf as my guardian and caretaker of all the assets. After taking possession of everything, uncle Yousaf sent me back to the same boarding school. I was given some pocket money and was told that my school fee for three months has been deposited, so I need not to worry about the finances. After becoming my guardian, uncle Yousaf shifted to my home. He told me that I can come back to this house during vacations. Uncle Yousaf’s driver drove me back to Murree. This time, I did not protest. I quietly went back to school.
Three months passed very quickly and it was time for summer break. I had received a couple of calls from uncle Yousaf in the first month but then there was no contact. Before the start of vacations, Sir Amir asked me about my plan. I told him that I will go to my home and will come back to school after the break, for sure.
School had made transport arrangements till Rawalpindi for all the boarders who were not being picked up by their relatives. School bus dropped few students at airport and many at the railway station. The bus then dropped me along with a couple of my class fellows and few seniors at an intercity bus terminal. School administration had already got us tickets so we waited for our buses. My bus left the terminal at six in the evening and reached Lahore at 11pm. A senior who had accompanied me from Rawalpindi got me a cab and gave the driver my residential address in model town. The driver looked at me suspiciously but the senior asked him to take me straight to this address in a rather firm tone.
It was almost midnight when I rang my home’s the bell. I was expecting Fazal chacha to open the gate. Fazal chacha was working for us since before my birth. He was an old man who was our chowkidar-cum-gardener and always spent the night at our home. I did not know much about him or his family but I had never seen him absent at night from the main gate. Therefore, I rang the bell again.
to be continued...