As narrated by Aara:
A tear falls as I turn over to the next page…I can’t stop laughing when I’m a few more pages down . A huge smile spreads across my face…and anger makes me frown incessantly.
I couldn’t believe, looking back at so many memories- that we’ve done this, we’ve been through this…this was us!
This book had come to an end at the right time. Or almost the end rather. Every time that I had tried to speed it up, something or the other in life, would slow me down. I’d be writing pages upon pages in my mind- but I never had the time and sometimes, the courage to put it down. Perhaps that too had a reason. And as I put it down to take a breather, the reasons stood out before me, as though I’ve missed it all along. A realisation, an understanding. We knew all too well that time waited for no one, that the duration of life was simply unknown to us and we couldn’t change that ever. That whatever happens in life, doesn’t happen without reason, without a purpose. That Allah gives us second, third and fourth chances too. Not only to be happy, because He gives us happiness everyday, even in the smallest of things, but also to rectify, to learn, to challenge, to dream, to grow.
We make mistakes knowingly and unknowingly and we think nothing of it until years later, and as I think about that I am drawn back to something that I had learned at Taleem recently. That regret over past actions is also a form of acceptance from Allah Ta’ala, when we are ashamed of things that we have done, when we can’t find happiness in those memories anymore, when we seek forgiveness just thinking about it. We are not perfect, but if we don’t learn from our mistakes, then we are the biggest fools.
A panic gripped my heart as I understood that I had much to do, too much in fact.
As narrated by Riza:
“Are you sure about this?”
Aara stared at her house for a few seconds before she answered…”Yeah…I’m sure, it’s time”
And so we moved the last few boxes into the truck and welcomed the new occupants of Aara’s newly renovated house.
“Thank you so much once again”, Mrs. Khan said warmly, ” And for renovating it to make it completely adaptable to our needs”
“It’s only a pleasure”, Aara smiled
Looking up at the house that Zoheb had built for her, I felt a strong sense of pride. She was finally letting go. We all knew that he would always be in her heart, but the way in which she would previously hold onto this house made me wonder if she would ever get out of her inner grief.
And how too.
She had renovated the entire house to suit the needs of its new occupants, whose duas would always be with her and the man who built it for her. As Zoheb always wanted, laughter would resound in it, children would run through its long corridors and out onto the lush green lawns with dancing daffodils awaiting them with open arms. “Amaanat”, the new name of Zoheb and Aara’s home, would now be a sanctuary of hope to abandoned babies and toddlers.
“You have truly done alot for him Aara”, I said reassuringly
“Not even half of what he’s done but it’s not even about that, I do it because it makes me happy”, she smiled
“Hai Aara no crying?? Who is this superhero and where is my friend???”, I teased
Aara rolled her eyes at me and picked Hana off the swing.
This whole renovation idea came out of the blue. It was barely two weeks ago that she had summoned all of us together at her place, including Maariah and Immy on Skype…
“So I am almost done with our book, hence the little get together”, Aara said with a straight face, “but there’s more”
I looked at Laeeka, wondering if she knew what else was coming but she just shrugged her shoulders in response.
“I was just thinking that in like maybe 20 years from now, our kids will go on a road trip too and it probably won’t be Cape Town”, she smiled. But it wasn’t a normal smile, it was an ulterior motive smile….
“Hah never!”, Nemo said without thinking
“I’d never allow my girls to go on a roadtrip alone sorry”, Immy said quickly
“But you proposed to their mother on a roadtrip remember?”, Aara said sarcastically
I bit my nails quietly, knowing where this was headed. It’s not like I didn’t feel guilty about it eventually, I mean I was the darn orchestrator of the first road trip!
There was a round of silence as no one dared to speak.
“You know guys..the other night while I was re-reading the book, it struck me, amongst a few other things, that we were wrong, no matter how much we can try to justify it…the bottom line is we were wrong. We can’t change it but we can atleast ask for forgiveness for it”, she said softly, “I mean the proof is in the pudding…none of us would approve of our children going off on their own…imagine what our parents must have thought?”
“I could be wrong, maybe you already feel bad about it, maybe you’ve already been asking for forgiveness well before I even realised it..but it’s bugging me and I can’t let go of it”, she said with her head down
“I understand what you mean Aara…”, Zainab said, “and there’s no moderation about it. But life was such, we were younger and we didn’t really think much about it..I know that I didn’t, hell I didn’t even know what I wanted from life…I guess when you have kids, your perspective changes, as we get older we realise how stupid we were”
“I have thought about it many times..fair enough we learnt alot but it was still wrong”, Nemo nodded
“But we learn from our mistakes right..we won’t make our kids do the same thing”, Arshad agreed
“And I just feel like shit because it was all my great idea”, I said aloud
After that everyone began consoling me saying that we were adults and no one held a gun to our heads but Aara was right, and I think that deep down everyone had felt the same way at some point during these past few years especially as all of us had turned our lives around to some extent.
As much as I felt bad right now, I also felt good knowing that all of us thought the same. It meant that there was hope for all of us…
“Reez I didn’t mean to hurt you”, Aara said, looking at me, ” we were all in it together”
“It’s cool A I know what you mean”
After a round of dessert, Aara asked for our attention again…
“My inlaws will be here soon”, she said, “I’ve decided to give up the house”
“As in this house?”, Maariah asked
We all knew what this house meant to her, even though it worried us that she lived alone most of the time when her parents weren’t there.
“Yup, this house”, she said, as she looked around, “This beautiful house…and before you ask…I’m going back home”
I would miss them terribly, we all would. But we understood her need to move back home and hoped that perhaps one day she would come back. I didn’t know if she would settle down in Durban permanently or even move to New Zealand because she was so tight lipped about everything these days.
Aara seemed to be on a new road of self discovery, perhaps writing about everything helped her in more ways than we knew…
As Zoheb requested in his will, she had given his manager first preference in purchasing his company and then took all of the money from its sale and built masjids in Zoheb’s name. She didn’t keep a cent from it for herself or Hana.
She had requested that her inlaws be present when she left, and had made her father in law, Maaherah’s husband, Nemo and Sahal, trustees with regard to the legal issues of the house and it’s new purpose.
She seemed to be doing things too quickly though, and I hoped that she wouldn’t get up with a shock one day soon and think that she had made one huge mistake…
As narrated by Aara:
I took a last walk in a house that had been my home for the larger part of the last seven years. Never did I ever imagine giving it up and it took a lot of courage to go through with it.
But the look on Mrs. Khan and all those children’s faces made me realise that I wasn’t wrong in my decision. Homes made in this world are as temporary as our lives are. It made no sense for Hana and I to live in a huge house all alone when there were so many children who had no parents, living cramped up in a small space and charity was the best way that I could preserve Zoheb’s legacy…
As I ran my fingers across the white walls, my heart found a strange contentment. We underestimate ourselves, we underestimate the strength that is given to us.
We grow to understand with time that change is mandatory to our existence, that our existence is a test that we need to pass. That every person in our lives, linked to our lives, had a right over us in some way or the other, be it through an act of kindness or a relationship.
That we must walk ahead, we must soldier on.
That life doesn’t stop.
That it was time for a new chapter.