As narrated by Nemo :
I fidgeted with my fingers for the umpteenth time in the last ten minutes. I was, sadly or not, not one of those people who knew how to console someone who had lost a loved one to death. And what made it harder, was the fact that that loved one was also one of my own.
Amidst all the people who were present, I felt numb and lost. Almost out of place.
It was already three days since Zoheb had passed away and I still didn’t have the courage to console Aara. I didn’t have the strength to look into her hollow eyes, I didn’t have the strength to reach out to her when I heard her cries down the hallway. I didn’t have the strength to tell her that with time things will be easier, I didn’t have the strength to stand in front of her. Cowardly if you must, but I was only human and I wasn’t sure if my saying anything would help her or aggravate her.
After I had left Istanbul, I had returned to Detroit with a renewed energy, a zest for life. Seeing them happy in the flesh, made me want to be happy. I soared. I was flying. I was creating waves within myself. There was no need to lock away the old me or to change, but to be a better version of myself , one who has learnt and carried the lesson proudly on his shoulders.
Not everything had to be forgotten, for some things like love come only once in a lifetime. Just like how there is a big difference between loving someone and being in love with someone, there is a difference between being in love with someone and wanting them and being in love with someone and not expecting anything in return, ever.
And even that changed somewhat when Aara fell pregnant. I had cried tears of joy and sadness but it was expected. And to my own surprise ,something sealed shut in me when Zoheb sent me a picture of little Hana just minutes after she was born. Their family was now complete.
Emotional blackmail ensued from Aara, asking me to come home for three things. Eid, Hana and Samoosa Runs. She had cried during (an orchestrated ) Skype call and used every excuse under the sun to make me agree. And I did. How could I say no? It was time to move on and I welcomed it.
I slowly made my way upstairs, stopping to look at the cute decor on the walls. Their hand prints…All three of them. Funny sayings and memories written by hand on the bright yellow canvas themselves. This was once a home filled with the colours of love and happiness and it showed in every little corner.
I knew that Zainab was with Aara and it was better. It would make it easier.
As I made my way to the bedroom at the end of the passage, a subtle whimper caught my attention. I stopped and listened… and impulsively followed the sound to the room on the right. The door was slightly ajar and sunlight poured through the big windows.
I slowly stepped in…and immediately caught my breath. Tiny crystal beads adorned the colourful ceiling, rainbow coloured curtains fluttered gently with the wind and in the middle of the room, in a white wooden cot…was the source of the sound. I peered into it slowly and carefully, already knowing who it was but reminding myself at the same time that babies and me was a total no go.
“Hi” , I whispered sheepishly, “what are you doing? ”
Dumbo! I was such a dumbo! She is four months old what could she possibly be doing!
Hana silently stared at me for a few seconds before she broke out into a beautiful smile, taking me by surprise. She continued with her baby sounds ,looking between the colorful ceiling and my face every few seconds.
I had only met her once before this, a week ago , a day after I had landed in South Africa. And I smiled remembering that day.
All of us were together right here in this house, partaking in a fantastic iftaar after ages. Well for me that is, after all, home food was home food and nothing could compare to it!
I was blown away by the awesome menu that the ladies had put together and was even more surprised by Zoheb and Immy’s surprise! The two of them had whipped up delicious desserts AND dhaiwaras as part of their treat for everyone.
Riza’s twin scamps and Immy and Arshad’s rascals had already given me a headache, when Zoheb insisted that I carry Hana. I was all out to protest when Aara shot me a killer look, silencing me and I reluctantly obliged.
I looked at Hana’s face properly for the first time. Her striking resemblance to her mother had me dumbstruck, I mean everyone says that babies look like so and so and I didn’t really care but this was so….so….so there ! She cried nonstop, probably traumatized at being carried by an already traumatized person and I quickly handed her back to her father, happy to have my hands free again.
“She’ll get used to you ” , Zoheb laughed, and comforted her by humming to her and rocking her in his arms
“Fatherhood suits you ” , I said honestly
He had smiled and nodded….
The way in which he whispered to her, smiled at her, comforted her…that image would stay with me forever. And I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be a good father someday…
I looked into the cot again and this little one was going crazy with excitement and so I looked up at the ceiling with her….It really was so beautiful.
“I wonder whose idea this was little Aara ” , I said while looking up
So what if I was talking to someone who didn’t know what I was saying. It actually felt good talking to a baby rather than an adult!
And she laughed so energetically this time, that I noticed the set of deep cut dimples in her plump cheeks…immediately answering my question.
My heart warmed immediately, surprising me more than anything else and I pulled the closest chair to me and sat beside the cot. Nope, I wasn’t quite ready to carry her again. And I started telling her a story…
‘Once upon a time, there was a prince who had come from a far off land…and no one knew then, that he was going to change everyone’s life forever…’
‘Do you want to know what his name was?’
And baby Hana, who was now all smiles yet again, showing off the set of dimples that she had inherited from her father..almost acknowledging what I had asked in agreement
‘Yes, you know who I’m talking about don’t you’, I smiled….’his name was Zoheb’.