Streaks of sunlight streamed in through the red velvet curtains. Lost in her thoughts, Sameera was busy scribbling away in a diary.
“The lonely rose,
Jolted in misery and gloom,
Darkness all around,
My fate is never to bloom…”
She loosely constructed some verses of poetry to empty out the cries of her aching heart. She could no longer bear it. “Why are my prayers not answered? Why am I destined to never achieve what I desire? Why?” There were so many unanswered questions circling inside her mind. She had racked her brain on the monthly budget this time to manage saving for a few extra things she wanted. Three new sweaters and a pair of sandals for Bilal, a new dress and handbag for herself, a cutlery set and a few other accessories; the list of things she had made will have to be postponed for yet another month. Bilal, her two year old son was down with fever and all her savings ended up with some clerk in the medical stores.
Sameera could picture her sister in law, Raheela, boasting about her tableware. She could imagine her friends swaggering about the attire of their children. “Oh! I choose the best for my chipmunks! Sadaf so wanted this frock and I didn’t have the heart to refuse.” She recalled one her friend’s remarks. Anger, frustration and self-pity stewed inside her heart. The poor soul thought about how she would feel out of water among all the other fishes as they discussed their shopping sprees. Sameera would just have her lips tightly closed. She had nothing to tell. At times, the others would quip about the number of times they had seen their comrade in the same clothes, carrying the same handbag and wearing the same shoes. Their memories were sharp enough to remember what she wore months back in the wedding of a distant cousin.
“Why??” she mumbled aloud. “Life is terrible!” Sleeping on the bed beside, her husband could now hear the sound of muffled cries. He knew his wife too well to wonder what must have gone wrong. He, with the caring nature he had, tried his utmost to provide the best for his family. However, the winds were bitter and despite all his efforts the needs in such a society never end.
A tiny finger tugged at the end of her shirt. “Kids will never let you sit in peace”, Sameera sighed and turned to the darling face. It was Bilal wanting to cuddle in the heavenly spot that heals and comforts; his mother’s lap. Overcoming her previous feelings she started ruffling his curls and rummaged for the thermometer. Alhumdulillah, after copious wakeful nights, Bilal was now recovering.
“I am going to meet an old friend of mine, Sameera. It has been a long time since I met him. Do you want to come along?” Asim asked as he was getting ready to leave the following day.
“I don’t want to ruin another evening with a snooty woman boasting around me. I’ll just stay home I guess.”
“She won’t be that way I hope. I’ve heard her to be very simple.” He assured.
After a quiet twenty minute drive, the three of them arrived at the gate of a fairly old but well-kept house. Brother Ismael welcomed them inside. His two sons whom she assumed were identical twins jumped up and down in excitement, they wanted to shake hands with a sleepy Bilal. Sameera was lead inside as the men settled themselves in the guestroom. All the while the woman in her was doing the same job she detested. Those eagle eyes scanned everything in the house from top to bottom; the furniture and their polish, the curtains and their rods, the carpet and upholsters. Nothing was as grand, as new or as perfect. However, the house-keeper deserved an extra mark for neatness. A plump little lady greeted her as she entered the lounge. She was holding a baby in the other hand. “Whoa!” Sameera exclaimed instinctively. The sofa had sunk as she tried to sit down. “Oh I’m sorry! You may take this chair over here; the kids have broken the sofa springs!” Asiya smiled and offered an arm chair. Sameera noticed that the baby did not appear normal. He was a mentally disabled child.
The table had been set for tea beforehand. Spicy egg sandwiches, biscuits and a delicious looking cake were waiting to be tried over. The host poured out tea as the two of them introduced. A vigorous tête-à-tête followed; it was all about children, food, family and the town. All the while the woman was patiently tending to the child, as well as her two naughty twins who kept interrupting from time to time for a biscuit, or to tell that daddy needed something.
“How old is your daughter Asiya?” Sameera asked inquisitively.
“Five years.” She replied with a smile. That warm smile looked as if it was fastened to her face.
“Hmm…I feel so sorry for you Asiya. I see you are having a real tough time.” said Sameera.
“Sorry? There’s nothing to be sorry for. Ahumdulillah! I am so blessed. I have food in my fridge that can last for more than a week, I’ve a ceiling over me to safeguard and I have a loving family. There’s everything I can ask for. And this dear little daughter over here, she is the greatest blessing of all. She reminds me of Allah! What if in her absence I never turned to Him, never prayed to Him and just cascaded away in the luxuries of this world?
I know what you mean though; at first I felt the same. But then, it was a small incident that changed the whole perspective. It was as if someone took my dust covered glasses and rubbed them sparkling clean.”
Asiya paused to take a lavish sip of tea. Sameera was listening intently. “I was waiting for the bus one evening.” She continued. “My eyes fell on a shabbily dressed lad probing through the garbage bins. His face and hands were covered in dirt. Wash his face, change his clothes and he was as charming as a prince, with the beautiful blue eyes that he had. He was stunningly handsome, I repeat. All of a sudden the boy shrieked with joy. I kept looking on; he had found some rotten fruit to eat. I most unconsciously followed him to his so called home. I don’t know what to call it; it wasn’t even a proper tent, just a few tattered pieces of cloth tied together. More than fifteen people were living there. All of them dressed in rags, eating leftovers thrown in the garbage and fighting like chickens over stale bread. Obviously they had no beds, no kitchen ware, there was nothing at all! I’ve seen poor people all my life but that instance just crept inside my heart and decided to stay. Being a teenager, I was in those days craving for a new cell phone, but seeing them made me forget all about it. For days these people stayed hooked on my mind. I thanked Allah for all that He blessed me with. It is true; sometimes in life we are so busy looking uphill that we forget the view below us….”
Sameera listened quietly as she reflected on her own state. The forlorn heart that lied inside her was in such dire need of this reminder. “Yes”, she thought to herself, “the sweaters can wait; the older ones are still as good as new. The new cutlery set I wanted was just a luxury. The dress Mama gave me last month will suffice for the upcoming wedding…” she was reviewing her list. This was not a list of needs; it was a list of wants. She reminded herself of all the bounties she had been blessed with, they were immeasurable! Contentment and bliss engulfed her heart.
“Alhumdulillah, indeed you are right.” She replied with a nod.
Sameera blinked away a tear that had crept up silently. Do I really not have enough? Or was I being ungrateful?
[This story won in the Islamic Writer's Alliance Islamic Fiction Story Competition 2013. http://islamicwritersalliance.net/ifwnr_adult_2013.html%5D