My Precious

“I’m all yours,” her Precious claimed. She kept looking at the sight being offered to her eyes, as if it was all she had. She felt so complete, so ecstatic with the presence of Precious. Otherwise, the world was a dull, dismal abode for her. “You’re mine, all MINE,” she whispered as she embraced the ‘Precious’ being one more time.

Little Ella was unfortunate in the manner that she had no parents while growing up. She lost them to a car accident when she was just seven and had since then been living with her maternal Aunt and Uncle. They loved her almost just like their own daughter Tia who was a year older than Ella. Well, almost. Sometimes Ella could perceive the bitter reality that Tia is always given the more conspicuous and prominent kind of love. The love her aunt and uncle had for Ella was subtle and often suppressed by the dominance of their feelings for Tia. Ella learnt not to complain; it was enough she was being fed and clothed and educated under their roof. What’s love compared to these needs? Nothing, she always convinced herself.

Love works in mysterious, incomprehensible ways. While Ella was acting quite sensibly for her age, being only in her early teen age and keeping a lookout for love, it found a way to penetrate through her strong defence. Love conquered her in the form of that exquisite and enticing pearl necklace. It was brought for Tia of course, from abroad, by her father. She offered Ella to try it on as a courtesy and as soon as the delicate thing touched her milky, smooth skin, everyone could see that it was made for Ella. Tia could not part with her invaluable, exorbitant present so easily but she was tactful enough to act generously in front of her family. So she kindly offered Ella to share it with her. Little Ella was foolish enough to accept the proposal without any hesitation. If only she had not.

The necklace undoubtedly elevated Ella’s beauty and glory. It was like a charm for Ella; she considered herself to become invincible after wearing it. It empowered her to soar high in the skies of self-confidence and endowed her with a unique kind of elation. If she was not wearing it, she kept feeling as though something significantly vital was missing from her life. The absence of the necklace would make her unbearably grouchy and edgy. It had become her most supreme and precious possession. That’s how it got the name; Ella would run her sleek, long fingers over her neck, feeling the strong sway of the necklace and murmur, “My Precious.”

Little did poor Ella know that Love is barbaric and merciless. It indulges you in a sea of deep obsession and crapulence for the Beloved. You are swiped off your feet by one, single, mighty blow of love and it may take a whole lifetime to stand upright again. Love is a mirage, a façade and nothing more. It extends its vapoury shadows like solid, robust iron towards its victims; the wretched creatures cling to them considering them sturdy and secure. While in fact the shadows are nothing more but mere mists of derisive, cynical suffering, the prey of Love are phantasmagorical; caught in between the logical mind and the loving heart.

Tia being more fortunate and the original owner of the lavaliere, easily noticed Ella’s obsession and conveniently felt jealous of her. She abstained Ella from wearing the necklace ever again, claiming that it was solely hers. Ella felt like the ground had been snatched away from beneath her feet and her lifeline has been cut.

 The deception of Love was over; it had unveiled itself to her in all its ugliness and hideousness. Love blinds you, provides you with the false yet tempting delusion that something or someone belongs to you. Slowly and painfully, it dawns upon you that you could not be any more mistaken. Despite all your logical arguments and brainy, rational thinking, you lose. You forfeit in front of Love’s cunning, convoluted trap. You are broken, you are shattered and you accept your defeat. But how on Earth do you learn to continue living your life without your Precious?


Ten Hours To Live

“Wait for my text”, he had told her and she obeyed; may be because she had no other option. There is always an option; we are all familiar to this cliche. Yet sometimes, despite all the possibilities and choices presenting them to us, we choose the one that is the most difficult and exigent. That is the one that holds the key to changing our lives forever too.

She met him at the coffee-house. She had noticed him on the very first day he entered there; there was something about him that made her keep looking at him. Probably your eyes, she later admitted to him about how impressed she was of him at the first sight. He would always smile and teasingly comment, “Do you X-Ray all the strangers in a similar manner?” leaving her just scowling at him. Little did she know then that first impression was going to beset her entirely.

It was one hour since she had been instructed to wait. If only he had chosen another punishment, she reflected to herself. Dangling on the rope of wait was something she despised and yet had to endure frequently. He had not meant to punish her; making her wait was just a way to let off some steam caused by certain heated arguments exchanged between them. Nevertheless, it was a punishment for her. Sometimes things seem to be perfectly in your grasp but in reality it is a mirage; what you consider to be held tightly in your fist is slowly falling off, leaving you empty-handed at the end of the day. She checked her cell phone, another hour has gone by, she thought and heaved a deep sigh.

The clock seemed to have stuck or had its arms glued so that they would travel slowly. She bore every passing second as a heavy burden inflicted upon her fragile being. Each moment took ages to pass. Her eyes continuously flicked over her cell phone’s screen hoping that it might blink with his name, but deep down her heart she knew it was not going to blink. Not so soon anyway. The little light of the phone’s screen could have been enough to brighten her day, to lighten up her smile but she must suffer. She must writhe with pain for it is what a smile costs. With one lingering glance, she placed the phone over her dressing table and began to get ready for the evening.

“What a waste!” she exclaimed under her breath as she stepped into the brightly lit house that hosted the evening’s party. As she checked her phone and made her way slowly into the main hall, she could not feel but a little exasperated. It had been seven long hours since he had last heard from him. Nonetheless, she composed herself and managed a smile as she spotted her friend in the far corner of the hall, seated on the overly decorated stage. Her childhood bestie was getting engaged that night. She hugged her, praised her elegant attire for the event and tried cracking a joke or two to tease her before securing a seat at the end of the hall. She did not want to mingle; the reason being his absence. He was supposed to accompany her tonight.

How lame and useless it seems to participate in someone else’s happiness when you yourself are dying inside? It appears to be quite silly to congratulate someone when you are in the state of mourning and longing. The fake smile, that she had to pass to people to convince them that she was enjoying herself, required utmost and paramount effort. Nine hours gone, she noticed sadly as her wrist watch struck nine p.m. The unending wait continues.

As she stepped out of the car and walked towards the door, she was shocked to notice that it was already unlocked. Burglars? She was horrified by the thought. Or him? This thought was not less terrifying. After the entire wait and the yearning, she was slightly dreading to face him. What if all the fighting and accusing starts again? The mere thought of it was agonizing. Mustering up her courage, she took short, uneasy steps towards the lounge. No one here, she observed and went straight towards her room. The clock struck ten as she opened the door to her haven.

He was standing there, waiting for her. His eyes met hers and as their gazes locked into each other’s, it was as if the time and everything that moved with it, stopped. She looked at him, first angrily, then dejectedly and lastly complainingly. “You look beautiful”, he remarked as he paced slowly towards her. She crouched towards the corner away from him, avoiding him. He acknowledged her complain and held her firmly in his arms. As she succumbed to his strong yet comforting hold, she murmured, “These ten hours were the hardest to live. Yet they seemed too crucial, too vital to be lived, for at the end of them, YOU were waiting for me.” “I’m sorry I put you through such an arduous task of waiting, it won’t happen again I promise,” he reassured her soothingly. Her lips curved into a lively, charming and precious smile. She had survived the long hours and was HOME finally.

A Walk Down The Memory Lane

The phone was continuously ringing and nobody seemed to care to answer it. Mumbling with irritation, I paused the movie I was watching, put aside my laptop and got up to answer it. My mother had also approached the phone; I gave her an angry look, complaining with my eyes about this disturbance in my relaxation session of the weekend. “Hello”, I said casually, answering the phone. What I heard next was something that etched itself on the walls of my mind and will reside in my memory for the rest of my life.

I could hear the sobs and suppressed crying of someone on the other end; it was a woman’s voice. I got nervous, thinking it might be a wrong call. “Hello?” I exclaimed again, this time a little louder. “He’s no more, he’s no more”, said the woman’s voice, which with some difficulty, I recognized to be my Aunt’s. “What do you mean? What …?”I began, but was interrupted by her lamenting tone. “He has left us forever, your grandfather”, she informed me as she tried to compose herself. I could barely breathe, my gaze turned towards my mother and I started looking at her in disbelief. My mother, obviously sensing that something was wrong, snatched the receiver from my hands and held it to her ear. I turned my back towards and muffled my cries with my hands as I heard her let out a heart-tearing wail upon receiving the tragic news of her beloved father’s death.

My recollections of my childhood trace their way back to my grandfather’s house with its tall mango tree and the wide lawn full of different varieties of plants that bore conspicuously coloured flowers. I used to keep playing with my cousins the entire day there, oblivious of the scorching sun or the heavy rain. Grandpa would place his chair under the cool shade of the mango tree and enjoy our follies and mischiefs. He would also warn us against the scolding session of our mothers if we were on the verge of getting into a fight. I used to enjoy the fact that he belongs to our ‘party’, he would always team up with us against the wrath of our angry mothers.

When we were exhausted after continuously playing whole day long, we would sit in a circle around grandpa’s chair in the afternoon. Then one of us would ask him to tell us about his earlier life and his experience in military service. He would tell us that how he got orphaned when he was barely six years old and was dependent on his relatives who then raised him up. He then joined the army after his education was completed. His eyes sparkled as he recounted his tales to us.

It is all still crystal clear in my mind like it was just yesterday when I sat in his feet with my arms tucked onto my knees and listening to him intently. He told us how he had faced so much as he took part in a war. He enlightened us with the terrors and horrors of war and described the struggles that were involved for survival. It all seemed to be playing like a movie in front of our eyes as he had an eloquent way of narrating his stories.

We all grew up and got involved into our own lives with busy, hectic schedules of studies and hung out around with friends in the spare time. I myself had evolved into someone who typifies the common teenagers. I had less time for family and was more concerned with my own study pressures and social gatherings. I had almost no time to spare to sit and chat with grandpa. Although I felt bad about it, I did not practically do anything to rectify it. Then something happened. It was an incident that opened my eyes to the blessing that God had bestowed upon me in the form of grandparents.

My grandmother passed away a year before my grandfather’s death. I was close to her as well and was deeply saddened by her tragic demise. Her departure from this world taught me one thing: our time with our loved ones is limited. It is upon us to make the most out of it. That day, something inside me urged me to change. That moment, I made myself a promise.

I started taking some time out for grandpa; I used to sit with him even if there was nothing but silence filling the gap between us. We would also talk often, about my childhood and how time flew on and changed. But there was something else I did; something that I am glad that I did. I was extremely sorry for my negligence towards grandpa but felt quite shy and embarrassed to talk about it directly with him. Therefore, I found a solution. I wrote him an apology letter, telling him how much I loved him and how dear he was to me.

He was over the moon; his face shone with excitement and pure affection when he told me how he adored my letter. He kept the letter safe along with his other personal belongings and mentioned it every time we met and talked. I could not be any more delighted for I had been the source of happiness.

This life is transitory and temporary; the feelings that we share and the time we spare for each other is everlasting. Grandpa’s death was indeed a source of grief and sorrow for me. However, it provided me with a note of satisfaction that I made him a happy person and mended my connection with him that was damaged. It was nothing less than elation, a felicity that I still cherish and will continue to relish for the rest of my life.

No Regrets

I always wanted to live a life devoid of any regrets. This, however, proved to be an uphill task. Being human, we are always presented with hard choices and difficult decisions. In most of the cases, we end up repenting our wrong decisions. This is how life goes; it gives us a lot to be tested for and leaves us with uncountable experiences.

One such huge task is making the decision about one’s education and career. It is something of immense significance and should be dealt with due seriousness. This decision is the one that lays the groundwork for our future. Not all of us are fortunate enough to be guided through this important process properly and therefore, end up making terribly wrong decisions that would affect us throughout our lives.

I went through such a trial when I was faced with the decision of choosing a major for my college. The happiness of securing good marks and being able to get into any college of my desire dissolved in front of the weight of the choice of the major subject for my future studies. There was nothing that mattered more, other than to find the answer to that question.

I turned to my family for help. “Father, what do you want me to be?” I asked him simply. “Whatever you want to be, it’s totally your choice”, he said. That is not much help; I thought to myself and sought aid from my brother. “Go with the medical studies, it’s what is in mainstream nowadays”, he remarked. I voiced doubts about my lack of ability to cram the syllabus which is pretty much the basic requirement of a medical student to make it through their examinations. “Don’t worry; you’ll do just fine, you are so bright”, was all that he chose to say in my response.

Fate has its own way of presenting us with things that we have never even dreamed of. I took the entry test but failed to clear it. Consequently, I was once again standing on the zero stage, unable to make a decision. “Go for natural sciences”, advised my brother again. I protested again, telling him that it was kind of hard for me to concentrate and capture the concepts of science subjects. “You’ll do just fine, don’t you worry” was all he said to lock the matter.

I got admitted into a prestigious institute known for its long history of producing fine professionals in every field. I was happy and proud for being able to make it there. However, this joy was short-lived too. As if the burden and crushing pressure of the hectic routine was not enough, I was met with the problem of lack of comprehension regarding most of my subjects.  No matter how hard I concentrated or focused, I just could not get what the teacher was talking about. I seemed to be the only one with this problem, which was a proof of the fact that the problem was within me, not with the teacher.

The next challenging task was passing the examination. Regardless of the effort or the hard work I put in the preparation, I was unable to retain anything in my mind for long. I was finding it extremely difficult to prepare for the final assessment. I felt like it was almost impossible to pass the examinations at all. Being on the top or achieving a distinction from the rest of my fellows seemed like a far-fetched idea.

Such miserable was my situation during my whole program. I would keep crying whenever there was a test or exam and complained about the injustice that my brother had done by sending me for that degree. My family could understand my frustration and asked me to pull back from the program. It was however, against my ‘honour’ of excellent academic record to take such a step. So I simply kept moving on with it, working hard for the quizzes and exams and somehow making it through them every time.

Time flies on no matter how life is going. My time at the college came to an end as well and I graduated out of there. I was presented with the same uncertainty and indecision about my higher studies. A much advised and most reasonable choice was to pursue the same major for advanced studies. I, being the victim of its brutalities, refused to study at all if such case was to be imposed on me.

During my graduation, I had found out my passion; I was not meant to be a scientist. I was inclined towards arts and literature. I liked to keep writing at length about nothing in particular but everything in general. Whatever I wrote was much acknowledged and appreciated by my friends and acquaintances to such an extent that they even began to ask me to write for them. This meant so much to me; it was an achievement in its own.

This was however, unacceptable to my family. “With such a reputed degree such as yours, you can do wonders in your field”, my mother said, trying to talk me into some sense. “But I don’t want to pursue it as a career; this is not what I like. This was what you guys imposed on me and was not my own decision.” I’m glad I took a stand that day and applied for a degree program in literature.

I still remember the day I told my family that I have got admission in the new university and am going to follow my dream of becoming a writer one day. They were utterly displeased; my father even termed it as ‘a reverse gear’ to my education and career. I was disheartened upon such a cold reaction but I took it upon me to change it with my results. It was easier said than done; I burnt midnight oil and spent hours at length, preparing notes and assignments. I was rewarded with the result that I had topped my entire session. This was only secondary to what elation was brought to me by the look in my parents’ eyes. I could see how proud I had made them and that was a goal I had always aimed to achieve.

Life is an excellent teacher and what I learnt from this achievement was that if you have found your passion, never let it go. You just have to cling on to it and put your faith into yourself. It is a hard step reaching a decision regarding certain things in your life. You have to be strong, believe in yourself and to follow your heart to lead a life that has no regrets.

The Missing Bride

“I told you I have a very important deal to finalize; I will try to come as soon as possible”, said Mr. Smith.

“Okay, I understand”, said Rebecca plainly and hung up. A tear rolled down her cheek and many others following its lead, started falling on the pillow in her lap.

“Oh dear”, comforted Mrs. Stuart, “there is nothing to be upset about. He will be there I assure you. Now don’t you give it any more thought my dear! Let me see that beautiful smile of yours… there you go.” She beamed at Rebecca and hugged her tightly.

“If the drama queen is done, can she spare me some time?” said Joe mockingly. Rebecca threw a pillow at him but he dodged it. Mrs. Stuart laughed at their childish behavior, kissed Rebecca on the cheeks, bade them both good night and left the room.

“So tomorrow’s going to be a great day for you”, said Joe after Mrs. Stuart had left the room.
“Indeed”, said Rebecca with her eyes fixed on the wall. “It’s supposed to be the best day of my life.”

Mr. James Smith was a prominent and successful businessman. His flourishing business was the cause of his lavish lifestyle. He had this amazing house that people called ‘The White Palace’ due to its beauty and hugeness. He had only one daughter, Rebecca Smith. He lost his dear wife when Rebecca was only seven years old in a car accident. Had it not been for Rebecca, he was devastated. He pulled himself together and decided to move on with life so that he could strive to provide his daughter with a better future. Mrs. Merry Stuart was his only sister who was a widow and had no children. May be this was the reason she loved Rebecca extremely. So Mr. Smith gave the responsibility of his little daughter to her and busied himself with his work. Mrs. Stuart raised Rebecca like her own daughter and she grew into a very fine beautiful lady.

Rebecca Smith was a very sensitive person and who wouldn’t be after they have seen so much in such a little age? Her mother’s accident left some deep scars in her memory that shone brightly whenever she was alone. Otherwise, she remained joyful all the time. She would be very mischievous at times, having little playful joint ventures with Joseph Turner. Joseph, or Joe as she called her, was her best friend from school and they were always found together. Despite all her cheerfulness, she missed her mother very much. The little memory she had of the time that she spent with her would play in her mind in a flashback. She kept staring at her mother’s picture before going to bed daily. But what she missed the most was her father’s time and attention. He was always too busy. He was way too busy to attend her birthdays, her parent-teacher meetings, her sports days at school, her graduation ceremony, and lastly her wedding! She was getting married to a doctor, Edward Williams, who was the son of a friend of Mrs. Stuart. He had seen her in a party and fell in love with her at first sight. She loved him too and was really looking forward to the day they would get married. It was the most special day of her life that’s why she naturally expected her father to be present there. But the night before the wedding, he called her and told her that he would be late for the ceremony as he is preoccupied with some official tasks. She would always understand her father’s reasons for his absence but this time she wasn’t ready to do the same. This time had to be different.

Rebecca had no trouble getting up early; the reason being she didn’t sleep at all. She had so much to do before actually getting ready for the wedding. She hurried across the house doing one thing or the other. The ceremony was to be held at 6 pm and it was already 1pm. She had been asking Mrs. Stuart for the past two hours if Joe had come yet. Rebecca’s face would get angrier after every time she shook her head in a no. “Why isn’t he here yet? He should have been here by now. He was supposed to bring Rosetta an hour ago”, said Rebecca nearly crying.

“Thank you all for missing me”, echoed Joe’s voice in the hall. He had brought Rosetta who had to dress Rebecca up and do her makeup.

“You… you are so dead”, yelled Rebecca at him from across the hall and was about to run towards him to chase him when Mrs. Stuart held her arm and dragged her to her room with Rosetta.

“No time for all this now”, she said with artificial anger, “start getting ready now.” Joe whistled merrily and said, “Don’t worry we will have plenty of time to settle all this.” He winked at Rebecca and continued whistling.

The White Palace really looked like a palace. The lights and decorations were all very appealing and pleasing to the eyes. The guests had started arriving and were guided by Mrs. Stuart to their seats. Everyone kept looking at the stairs to see if the bride had come yet. Mrs. Stuart sent Joe to check if she was ready and bring her then. Almost half an hour went by and Joe didn’t return. Mrs. Stuart now started getting a little angry and decided to go upstairs herself. She pushed the door open and was about to scold everyone when she saw Joe sitting on the couch holding his head in his hands. Rosetta was sitting on the bed and looked on the verge of tears.

“What’s wrong with you two? What happened? Wait… where’s Rebecca?” asked Mrs. Stuart sensing the tension in the air.

“We… we don’t know… we are not sure…” exclaimed Rosetta hesitatingly.

“What do you mean? What’s the matter? Please tell me what’s going on here? And where is Rebecca anyway? Everyone is waiting for her downstairs, even the groom and his family is here now”, said Mrs. Stuart.

“Well…” said Joe, “ the thing is that we don’t know where Rebecca is. Rosetta got her ready and then went to the changing room to get ready herself. But when I came to the room, it was empty. Rebecca was not here, nor was she in any of the other rooms as I checked the whole house myself. I looked for her everywhere but she is nowhere to be found. Her cell is lying here on the bed. She has simply disappeared!”

Mrs. Stuart sank into a chair, unable to speak. She was too shocked to respond to them. Rosetta brought her some water and then ran to call the doctor. Meanwhile Joe called Mr. Smith and told him the whole sad yet intriguing incident. Mr. Smith couldn’t believe it and said that he was going to take the first flight back home. Joe then hurried downstairs and broke the shocking news to them. Everyone was astonished and wordless. It was Edward who broke the silence and came to Joe and suggested that they once again searched the house. The search was made; her friends were called but in vain. Everyone was waiting for Mr. Smith now, for it was going to be his decision whether the matter should be handed to police or not.

The darkness of the night had crept up when Mr. Smith entered his house. He looked as white as his palace and was almost trembling. Joe approached him and retold the story and asked if he thought it right to involve the police. Mr. Smith was too shaken up to answer at once and seemed deep in thought. Suddenly the house phone rang. Joe hastened to pick it up but Mr. Smith went to get it himself. The little color that remained on his face now drained off as he listened to the caller. When he hung up, everyone rushed to him to hear any news about Rebecca. He told them that she had been kidnapped and the kidnapper had asked him to come alone to rescue her and the price of her daughter’s freedom will be told on the spot. He received clear and severe instructions that he will be only endangering his daughter’s life if he brought someone with him or anyone followed him.

So Mr. Smith left the house drove to the spot he had been told by the kidnapper. It was a small deserted road that led to a highway afterwards. On the sideway were a lot of old big trees and bushes and it was pitch dark there. Mr. Smith parked his car and looked around but there was no one to be seen.

“Rebecca!” he called out. There was no answer for some time. Then he heard Rebecca’s sweet soft sound calling him from the trees, “Daddy… daddy I am here.” Mr. Smith turned on the headlights so that they could light up the area a little. He then ran through the trees screaming her name and looking for her. He didn’t have to go too far when he found her sitting under a tree. She was not tied and looked unharmed; to her father she looked like a pure, innocent fairy dressed in white. He took her hand and raised her to her feet and hugged her. They both were crying and held each other’s hands. Then Mr. Smith said, “I don’t understand, a guy called me and said you were kidnapped… I was afraid that I might never see you again… I swear I would have given anything to bring you back…”

Rebecca interrupted him and said, “I know you must be confused as to what is it all really about. It was all a plan daddy which I came up with and Joe was my partner. According to the scheme, when Joe came upstairs to take me to the ceremony, he helped me escape through the back door where another friend was waiting in the car to take me away. We designed a plan to force you to come; a plan to turn the events in such a way that you could be with me, a plan to make you realize that I needed you. I am sorry daddy that I made everyone worried because of me but I had to take this bold step because I wanted my father to be present on the most important day of my life. I wanted him to be the one walking me down the aisle; I wanted him to witness me starting a new life. I just simply couldn’t bear the fact that you, like always, were going to miss my party!”

Rebecca’s voice was shaky as she was crying too much and pouring her heart out in front of her father. Mr. Smith was immobile and speechless, for each and every word that her daughter uttered was true. He had been neglecting her the whole time; thinking that it’s only money and luxury that she needs. His eyes were getting wetter as she enlightened him of her loneliness and all the times that she missed him.

“Speak no more my child,” he said, “I realize now how wrong I was. What you did is justified. What an unfortunate father I would have been if I didn’t have time to be there with my own daughter on her wedding.” He held her close and walked towards the car. Then he took the steering and drove towards the light and radiance of the city. It was indeed a special day and for both of them.

“The Town Was Paper, But The Memories Were Not”

We used to come to Lahore in summer vacation. It was like a fixed routine for every year and we always looked forward to it. Firstly because we would meet our cousins, hang out with them, have our little picnics. So this time of the year was very fascinating. The excitement of the long awaited holidays and spending it in leisure and fun was just completely overwhelming and awesome.

It began with the first phase: packing! Packing was fun (because at that time my part was done by someone else!) and there was always a hustle around the house till the very end time. Then before leaving my parents would have this little discussion with the three of us about not quarrelling and fighting with the others and not to misbehave in any way. At that time I used to think that God! Why don’t our parents trust us or at least give us a chance to be on our own. We can show them that how self-sufficient and well-mannered we are. But it became clear to me in the later years of my life that this training of my parents really brought a visible difference to my character. Just like so many other things, I owe this to my parents.

Then began the journey. It was fun in itself. The three of us i.e. I, my sister and my brother had our seats fixed at the back. My brother and I were to sit by the window seats while my sister would always sit in the middle. This arrangement had two benefits; firstly we would be able to enjoy the air and the view outside through our windows, secondly when we got tired we would rest our heads on her shoulders. The best part was that she never complained. It was not only the view that made the journey pleasant; there were these short stops as well when the car needed fell and we used to rush into the tuck shop and refill our energy tanks! Moreover, once in a while our father would take us to visit some place if we had plenty of time. So we visited Wall’s factory once and had the yummiest and most fresh ice cream ever. Also, we went to Mitchell’s food factory and got our bags filled with all the sweets they could carry. So it was an exciting beginning to a wonderful holiday.

Lahore as I remember at that time held a fascination for me. As we entered Lahore, I would just stick my nose with the car’s window and look at the metropolitan with an expression of awe and surprise. There stood these tall buildings and plazas and big, huge signboards with their colorful and vibrant advertisements. Being one of the biggest cities of the country, it had this urbane and industrially revolutionized air about it. Yet it gave the impression of bearer of a rich culture, history and civilization. It had this grandeur and magnificence about it. We would travel alongside the canal (which was much cleaner then!) and the water gave this feeling of purity and richness to me. Seeing the flowers and leaves floating and the reflections of the vehicles in it, conveyed a sense of calmness and peace to me. I would be brought back from this enchanted scenario when we would reach Walton. Then all of us would get busy in finding the ‘Street No.21’ board in which my maternal grandparents and Aunt lived. The two houses were side by side, joined internally. It was pretty exciting to see them all and so the rest of the day was passed chattering, laughing, making jokes, and taking rest. During our stay there, one thing was compulsory; we HAD to visit the nearby bakery ‘Hot Cake ‘(it’s a pity that it no longer exists). The bakery could be called a child’s heaven! It had everything that we desired for. It contained all kinds of creamy chocolate cakes, yummiest pastries, finger licking chocolates, crispy crunchy snacks, and all types of colorful juicy sweets. Not only was everything sold at reasonable price, all the goods were fresh and the bakery had this most delicious and mouthwatering whiff and fragrance all around. So there was no way we could resist going there, one call from my father and we were all out of the house to be taken there. As I allow my memory to take me to that time of my childhood, I see myself sitting on the ground of my grandfather’s big lawn, sharing bread jam with my cousin, and enjoying the rain as it poured over us lightly. The smell of the soil and all the plants and flowers (there were so many!) made it all the more amazing. We used to play bare feet in that lawn, ignorant of how wet the rain had made us, cherishing the little time we all had together.

Time never remains the same. I never even imagined at that time that Lahore is going to be my home in future. My father got transferred and we had to move to Lahore with him. But in my eight years of stay here, I have realized that Lahore has lost its exquisite and scent of rain. It’s been replaced by the acrid smoke and toxic waste of the industries. Lahore has indeed grown bigger and vaster than it was before, but for me it has lost its grandness and divinity a little bit. I miss the Lahore that was a little less materialistic.

The Broken Smile

The darkness of the night had swept across the room. It was all quiet as everyone had gone to sleep. Everything felt so calm and peaceful but she. She was lying in one corner of the room and unlike her husband and two kids; she was fully awake with eyes wide open and just staring at the room’s ceiling. Lost in the train of her thoughts, she bore a void expression, her eyes fixed to one spot and devoid of any expression. The calmness was only external for inside she had a storm building up. She could feel the tears rolling down her eyes just like lava flows before a volcano explodes. But like all other nights that night came to an end as well.

Rani used to work as a maid in our house. My mother was quite satisfied with her as she would quietly keep doing her assigned tasks without interfering into other matters. Also, she was trustworthy which is a rare trait for house maids these days. My mother is habitual of giving tea and breakfast to our maid. One Saturday morning, when we were all giving our weekend a lazy start, I saw my mother handing Rani her tea and then asking her if she had again been crying the whole night. Rani smiled weakly, the kind of smile that is not a gesture of happiness but of utter gloom and misery. My mother told her that her eyes had swollen and she looked too weak to work. Rani just nodded in response, told her that there hadn’t been any betterment in the situation and then resumed her work. I was quite intrigued to know the full matter and asked my mother. What she told was not a new story yet I felt pity for Rani. Rani was married a guy who was out of job most of the time and naturally she was the sole bread earner of the family. She had two kids who she couldn’t afford to send to school. So they would keep playing the whole day long with their neighborhood children, and as a consequence of this, were losing their manners. To make things worse, her husband fell for some other girl in their relatives and whatever money they had, he started spending it lavishly on her.

It was most unfortunate, rather ironic; the more I thought about it the more it made my heart miserable. Rani’s name meant ‘the Queen’, made to live a peaceful, untroubled and carefree life. Yet there she was, washing people’s clothes, making their floors shine with her blood and sweat, working from dawn to dusk to satisfy her family’s needs. Despite all her efforts, she could barely make the both ends meet. The financial pressure was too crushing for her to bear alone. Still, till the present day she continues to work like a slave to fulfill her basic needs. This is not an unusual or unique story; it’s something that we keep hearing about. It’s not only the fate of Rani but also many others like her who are compelled to live a wretched and desolate life. They don’t have any hope of improvement or betterment in their lifestyles. They can only glance at the sky-touching shopping plazas and shining cars with an expression of awe and longing. The poor creatures struggling to have their basic necessities of life can’t even think about the luxury and lavishness that they see around themselves.

It’s a question I keep asking myself: how long the situation’s going to take to get better for people like Rani? But before I can think of any answer to it, another question starts nudging me: it’s not that what I CAN do for them, it’s what I AM doing for them? The moment all of us figured the answer to this question, I am sure we will be able to fix everything; most of all we will be able to fix The Broken Smiles.