As narrated by Sahal:
I looked on in fascination as Mr.Patel scooped Hana into his arms and posed in front of Frodo’s house for a selfie! Like dude, the man went from nougat to yogurt in no time at all! Lol..that was a bad comparison but you get my drift right? This was a man who could give Sauron a run for his money! And a pinch on the arm from Aara was enough to make me stop those thoughts there and then! I couldn’t help it though, I felt as though I was Aragorn walking through these awesome sets in Hobbiton! This is definitely the highlight of this trip, this and Aara ofcourse.
For the first time in a long time, I am seeing my sister so content and it made my heart swell with joy. All these months I kept thinking that the restlessness was because of her loneliness but I realized after Mr.Patel had melted, that the restlessness was just him and his family. Aara had achieved for Zoheb, what he couldn’t in his lifetime, and for me, that was the biggest tribute that she could have ever paid to him.
I missed him a lot. He was much more than a brother in law to me and in the years that he and Aara were married, we had only good times together. Even when I was getting married, it was Zoheb who stood by me, calming my nerves and motivating me all the way. But that’s life, and we all have to go one day.
I think it doesn’t really hit you, and we don’t understand the gravity of it until it actually hits home, making you realise that there is no guarantee, we could go at any time. I was lucky to have a wife like Kauthar who understood my need to be there for my sister in this time and to stand with her for however long it was needed.
Seeing them like this today though, put my heart at ease. She was strong enough to stand on her own again, strong enough to be alone.
We were leaving the day after tomorrow, without Aara,much to my parents dismay but I would reassure them that she’s in good hands. Sometimes , something has just got to give and then just let it flow and she was like that too, like an untamed river that no dam could hold back, you just had to allow it to break its banks and keep on flowing until it reaches an ocean where it can lose itself in…
Wandering through life’s little lanes,
Leaving footprints of my presence,
Smiling, laughing, making memories,
But when the hour arrives when everyone heads home,
I pull my coat a little closer and soldier on…
The wind whistles in my ear as I walk passed lit up homes resounding with the warmth of family…
I have made it this far, I will carry on…
Not all who wander are lost they say,
And under the lonely night sky, I am reminded that I am one of those.
As despair inches a little nearer,
As another piece of my heart chips off,
As another tear threatens to fall,
It rains so much that it pours.
I drop my coat and allow myself to get drenched…
Soaking in it…
Revelling in it…
Because when blue rain falls from the skies tonight..every drop reminds me that if you are there..then I am home..
Three Months Later:
As narrated by Nemo:
I rang the doorbell and waited. Did I make a mistake in coming here?? Would she be angry?? Should I turn around and make a run for it while I still can??
I was going to, until I heard the sound of Hana’s laughter and my feet refused to move.
“Can I help you?”, a middle aged lady dressed in a blue uniform asked me as she opened the door,but before I could answer, little Hana appeared from behind her…
“Papa!!”, she squealed in delight, clasping her tiny, chubby hands together
You know when they say, the cherry on the top, or the rainbow after the rain…that’s exactly what this moment was, because all the heartache, pain and anguish that I had ever experienced was eclipsed by this single, beautiful moment…and all resistance crumbled, as I scooped her up into my arms while she smothered me with sloppy kisses. I could feel tears well up in my eyes and I furiously batted them away, should anyone else see me like this.
But someone else already did, and his reaction surprised me.
“Naeem, what a pleasant surprise”, Mr.Patel smiled, as he extended his right hand towards me, gripping mine in a firm handshake
“Mr.Patel”, I nodded after making salaam to him,” I’m sorry for coming by unannounced, I was actually going back to South Africa from Detroit and this little girls face made me take a flight to New Zealand instead”
“Oh don’t be so formal”, he chided, “it’s wonderful that you’ve come, we’re all family there’s no need to be sorry”
I smiled because it was the sane thing to do but yoh…how on earth did this man change???
“Pappa!”, Hana giggled over and over again as she ruffled my hair
“Aara told us that Hana is very attached to you, but I didn’t know that it was this bad”, Mr. Patel chuckled
I smiled warmly while Hana stood on the seat next to me and continued “styling” my hair.
“I got you something”, I remembered aloud, and bent down to reach into my bag. Because this New Zealand stopover was so random and unplanned, I had to rely on the Duty Free shop to bring gifts for my princess. We had missed her first birthday milestone because she was here, and even though I knew that Aara was dead against celebrating birthdays, I couldn’t help but get her some gifts.
“Me?”, Hana asked, her eyes widening
“Yes for you”, I laughed
“She’s talking already?”, I asked Mr. Patel. Aara did mention the last time that I spoke to her that Hana was saying a few words but I thought that they were muffled words or like baby sounds or something, and a knife plunged into my heart, as I realized just how much I had missed…
“Like a little parrot!”, Mr. Patel laughed
“Nooo Dadoo”, Hana said shaking her head and making all those cute black curls dance on her head
“Yes Dadoo’s laddu” he laughed again
This was like too much to take in! the last and only time before this that I had seen this man, he was as arrogant as they come! I guess children have that effect on even the hardest hearts…
I didn’t realise that one of the gifts that I had picked her was a glitter kite and madam was turning it around non stop trying to figure out just what it was!
“Why don’t you take her out into the yard and fly it,.. Aara, Maaherah and my wife are gone out but they will be back soon”
I smiled in appreciation. I was scared to ask him where Aara was in case he got the wrong idea because this was so awkward as it is!
Hana was walking too, albeit a little wobbly, but she held onto my hand firmly, as the helper led us into the garden and what a garden it was! We settled down under one of the trees and I began opening up the kite while Hana held onto my leg. Every time that I looked down at her, she would have this huge smile on her face as she repeatedly called my name playfully.
I swallowed the lump in my throat because I would have to go soon, as much as I didn’t want to and once again, I would be left with only memories of her.
When the kite was finally ready to be released, we sat down in the middle of the garden and let it go.
“Me me me!!”,Hana squealed delightfully, and so I placed the control in her tiny hands and guided her. Her laughter and happiness filled my hollow soul with peace and tranquility after what seemed like ages. And it seemed like “me” was her favourite word because she would say it every few seconds!
“May Allah Ta’ala make whatever sorrows you may have in your life, fly away just like this”, I said silently, “and may He always fill your life with more love and happiness than your heart can contain”
It is said that a parent’s dua carries a great amount of weight, and even though I wasn’t her biological parent, I knew that my Rabb knew what was in my heart when it came to Hana.
“Can you see how it’s flying? Up up up!”, I laughed
“Well it can’t fly down now can it?”
I rolled my eyes before turning around to face Aara, without hesitating , without contemplating, without anything at all.
“Only you”, I grinned
“Mamma!!”, Hana said happily, as she jumped from my arms straight into Aara’s, gave her a quick hug and insisted on coming back to me!
“Traitor!”, Aara teased and it only made Hana hold me tighter!
“I think she thinks that traitor means you’re going to take her away from me”
Aara smiled and took the kite from my hands…”I haven’t done this in years”
“I didn’t even know that it was a kite until I started taking the presents out from my bag”
“This was very sweet of you by the way”, Aara continued, while flying the kite, “she’s been missing you a lot…asks for you every day”
Okay THAT just made my day!
“Hana asks for Papa everyday?”, I asked Hana sweetly
“Tell your Mamma to come home already then you don’t have to miss Papa”, I said to Hana, hinting at Aara
“Nice try”,Aara laughed
We stood outside for another hour, with Aara refusing to give up the kite, and Hana and I made mud castles and ate cupcakes and tea that Mrs. Patel and her helper brought out for us.
Hana put up the biggest fight to let go of me so that Aara could bath her, and held onto me until she fell asleep.
“This is my que”, I whispered to Aara, as I put Hana down
I smiled a little…”Yeah I have to check in at my hotel, but I’ll come by in the morning before I leave”
“You’re going back tomorrow?”, she whispered
We made our way out of Zoheb’s old room, where Hana slept peacefully, and went downstairs.
“Thank you so much for allowing me to spend time with Hana”, I said to Mr and Mrs. Patel gratefully, “if you don’t mind I’d like to come by in the morning before I leave”
“I’m sorry but you can’t”, Mr. Patel said with a straight face
I was so stunned, that I didn’t dare looking at Aara or at any of them, I just looked down.
“Unless you stay for supper atleast”, he smiled
I protested but they wouldn’t take no for an answer, and as one can imagine, Hana was over the moon when she woke up and saw that I was still there!
Supper was not at all how I had expected it to be. Instead, it reminded me of how we were back home! Maaherah just nodded, being in pardah now and never uncovered her face for the entire evening. Her husband Zubair was quite chilled out and was actually good company! As for Nani, she was still as chirpy as I remembered her being and she sat next to me throughout supper.
I watched Aara interact with Zoheb’s family, I watched how Mrs. Patel smiled at her and held her hand when she spoke, I watched how Mr. Patel doted on Hana and I could see how much he respected Aara, I watched how Maaherah and Aara chatted discreetly and laughed at jokes that they wouldn’t share with any of us- just the way that she does with Laeeka, Zainab and Maariah. I watched and I wished that Zoheb could have seen this, I wished that he could have been here, I wished that he could have been a part of this, minus me, because this is what he wanted. For his family to be together.
“You did good”, I said to Aara, before I jumped into the car that I had hired, “he would be so proud”
Tears filled her eyes in gratitude, she blinked and nodded.
I smiled and sighed. “If I had a dollar for every tear that you cried, I’d be richer than A.K. Moolla”, I laughed, trying to make her laugh
Aara laughed through her tears, and I was happy to see that there was nothing lingering behind her laughter anymore, she was content, she was satisfied.
Momo was right, she was a warrior, she didn’t know how to take no for an answer, she didn’t care who was looking or what people would think.
But someone was watching, and someone was thinking.