As narrated by Riza:
Choices. Every single action is the result of a choice. We choose to do things, whether willingly or not, some with consequence, some without. Some leave you satisfied, some burn your soul..And every choice that we make, no matter how small, carves itself into the giant book of history and that thought sent shivers up my spine. For we are defined by the choices that we make, we are remembered for the choices that we make…
It wasn’t easy carrying out the wishes of a friend who had passed away. And to say it aloud too, was just as difficult. But what are we here for? It’s not how much we owned financially, nor is it how long our lives are.. No… It’s how we lived, how we made a difference, how we treated people, how we honored our deen, how we took care of the people in our lives that were bound to us in a world that we don’t even remember, how we fulfiled our responsibilities, and the list goes on…
Beautiful words that I had once read filled my mind…
“Rasulullah (Saws) mentioned in a hadith that those souls who knew each other in the realm of souls (alam e arwah) would find and know each other in this world too, and those who developed animosity in that realm would dislike each other here as well…and that is why, when you meet certain people, you’re suddenly overcome with a feeling that you know them from somewhere or that you’ve met them before. And maybe this also accounts for those moments when your heart misses someone you’ve never met, because your soul is yearning for those souls and waiting for them to show up in your life here in this world…”
What a wonderful feeling it was to know that we had all had the same connection or better before we reached this world. What a wonderful feeling to be able to meet and make memories in this world too with a hope that we will have eternal friendship in the gardens of Paradise Insha Allah. It was something that kept me going, something that gave me the strength to stand here in this meeting today.
How long would our time be here, we didn’t know. Who would go first, we didn’t know. But it was our duty to care for those they left behind so that we could meet them one day knowing that we had honoured our promises to them.
“When Hana was three days old, Zoheb asked me.. asked us… to take over legal custody of her on paper if ever this day should arise” , I said calmly , ” and I never thought that it would, but it has ”
” What a load of rubbish!!! ” , Mr Patel hissed
“He’s right” , Akbar said, as he stood up and handed them a copy of the agreement, “Riza is her legal guardian, followed by Imraan and Arshad should anything happen to him. They meet the legal criteria, you’re welcome to investigate but this is airtight”
My eyes met Laeeka’s earnestly. I hadn’t told her because I didn’t think that I’d be forced to do this, I didn’t think that Zoheb’s parents would actually want to snatch Hana from Aara, and when she looked at me,I knew that she understood. I just hoped that Aara would. Hana was hers and only hers and I had no intention of taking her from her. But right now, it had to look that way or all of Zoheb’s efforts would go in vain.
“You promised me that I could have her! “, Maaherah said to her father angrily , ” you promised me! ”
A “look” was shared between them…there was something that we were definitely not seeing…
“I will take you to court on this you know” , Nasir Patel said to me confidently
“On what grounds? You have had no contact with your son for years, you disowned him and his family, which court of law is going to stand by you? ” , Akbar asked with just as much confidence
I fidgeted with the cuff of my sleeve uneasily. This man was just not backing down!
Immy produced his badge and walked up to the Patel’s lawyer.. “Hand me that recorder or I will have no choice but to arrest you.. You are well aware that it was clearly stipulated that there would be no recording of this meeting and you are in violation of that”
I wanted them gone… Out of here. I wanted things to return to some kind of normalcy. In this one hour they had succeeded in turning our lives upside down. Their vicious intentions had forced us to hurt a friend, a mother, a woman who had recently lost her husband.. One, who by the look that seemed to freeze in her eyes , stabbed my heart repeatedly.
Aara.. full of life Aara, sat as still as a statue against the cold white leather couch. Too stunned, too shaken, too frozen to react.
I wished that it never had to be this way and even though I knew that somewhere within themselves, The Patel’s knew that this was done only to secure Hana and that I would never take her from Aara… I hoped that they wouldn’t make me do what I really didn’t want to do.
But that hope was to be short lived.
As narrated by Arshad:
I moved towards Aara and sat down next to her on the carpet. She was in shock, deep rooted, sudden shock. What could one broken person possibly offer another? But I sat there nonetheless, whispering to her that everything would be okay, that she should trust us, that we were only doing this to help her, the way that her late husband wanted us to.
But Aara was numbed. Except for the tears that seemed to fall with a mind of their own from her swollen eyes, she just stared blankly into the carpet.
The lounge was an uproar…it was a verbal disaster. Everyone argued with each other. Aara’s parents understood that Zoheb had only did what he thought was logically correct to protect his daughter and keep her with her mother, but Zoheb’s family heard nothing of it. They threatened, swore and argued. Ironically, their only son had passed away, death could come at any time..did they not fear that death could take them just as swiftly in the heat of this moment?
There was a wide open gap in our group, a missing piece that would never return. A circle that would never close again, How would it? He was a huge part of all of us..in life..and in death…
“Alright”, Mr. Patel said, standing up and closing the single button on his blazer, ” As this meeting is over, you should fulfill your part of it immediately, I’m sure that you’re well aware of the technicalities and implications of the agreement”
I lifted my hand to my mouth. Hana was his granddaughter for crying out loud! Was vindictiveness more important than an innocent child who needed to be with her mother? Was it more important than a young woman who was widowed just weeks ago?
Riza hung his head and didn’t lift it until Mr. Patel opened his mouth yet again…
“And don’t worry, it’ll reach us…the updates that is”
I looked at Aara, who now rocked herself back and forth in the dreaded anticipation of something that we knew was coming…
“Laeeka…”, Riza whispered with tears in his eyes
Laeeka was beside herself with remorse..she bent down in front of her friend, her sister and kissed her on her forehead. Except for Zoheb’s family, there was not a single dry eye in the lounge…
Aunty Salma wrapped her arms around Aara as Laeeka, with a nappy bag slung across her shoulder, carried a sleeping Hana into the lounge. This innocent child who was oblivious to what was going on around her, was still lost in peaceful slumber.
I had never seen Riza sob the way that he did when he knelt down infront of Aara, apologizing, promising her that it would be okay, asking her to trust him…it was too painful to watch…
We had years of friendship between us, from campus to our working adult life, to our marriages and our children. It was almost a lifetime. Would this drive an irreparable wedge through it?
As Riza and Laeeka stepped out of Aara’s house, it was as though Hana could hear her mother’s heart breaking, she began crying…she cried, we cried…and Aara broke down completely..
She ran to the door, not caring about anything or anyone. She darted, dropping the wooden box that she clutched in her hand, knocking over the porcelain vases that lined the dainty coffee table…to reach the cries of her daughter. Tears poured down Laeeka’s cheeks as she silently pleaded with Riza to let her give her to Aara and with even more tears running down his cheeks, he shook his head slowly.
Aara held onto the closed door of Riza’s car, trying to console Hana through the window , while Nemo and Zainab tried to hold her back. Each one of us broken, distraught…appalled.
Watching her hands slip off the glass, watching her frail body become almost limp…
And when Riza’s car was out of sight, she clung onto Aunty Salma and cried in sheer agony, her words completely inaudible, her body shaking. Shrugging off anyone who tried to calm her down, shaking off every hand that was placed on her shoulder…she curled herself into a ball, held onto her mother and cried..
And when she cried, everyone cried with her. It was unbearable seeing her like this, it was unbearable being in this situation.
I could feel the hammer of life smash down upon all our hearts in a single and violent blow…
And I found myself wondering…would she ever be the same again…would any of us ever be the same again?