Updated: Jun 29, 2020
| This is the 311th story of Our Life Logs |
Every day, I walk the streets and select a place that is not far off from my walled city of Lahore, Pakistan. I put down a cloth to sit on, and my job begins. There, I use my small scale to find people’s weight for a small fee. I do not make much money, but I am happy with whatever I make.
It’s not that I wanted to end up here. In fact, I had sky-high dreams that gave me hope. But as a Fatalist, I accept all things as part of an unavoidable journey. I believe in the goodness of destiny and that all things happen for the best.
My father was born in Haryana, India, and during the 1940s and 50s, he worked for the Muslim League, a political group that advocated for the rights of Indian Muslims in anticipation of the division of British India. By his side was my mother, a simple housewife. Together, they had a good life until things got bad between Hindus and Muslims.
It was then that my parents and their fellow Indian Muslims had to migrate to Pakistan. They arrived in their new country as poor immigrants who had lost everything during the partition. I have heard about their first days in Pakistan and know of their biting hunger and lack of shelter. Though my parents struggled, they built a meager, but happy life for themselves in their new country.
I, their first and only son, was born in 1954 in Lahore. As I was the only child, I was pampered and loved to the fullest. As a young boy, my father was always ready to listen to my dreams and I spent hours telling him about them. I wanted to be in politics to make my country a better place. My father always told me, “A man can do anything he wants to, he has just got to believe in himself.”
What’s sad is that, apart from these small words, I can’t recall much about spending the golden moments with my parents. I lost them too soon. Both my parents fell sick when I was just a boy. I mostly remember how their frail bodies tried to hold on to survival. After years of sunken cheeks, my father passed away when I was 14, leaving me to take care of my mother who was disappearing quickly.
One year after my father passed, my mother closed her eyes for the last time. I sat beside her dead body for three days. I did not leave the house and I did not tell anyone. I just watched her decay, letting the odor of her dead body sink into me. I could not believe she was gone.
I will tell you again that I had dreams in my youth, but death and grief got in the way of my clarity. When my parents died, I wished that I had died with them. As a boy of 15, I didn’t understand what death actually meant, I just knew that I was left all alone in the world.
On the morning of the fourth day after my mother’s death, I heard a knock on the door. We lived in the walled city so the houses were very close to one another, and I knew it must be a neighbor. Still, I could not get up. I dismissed the sound and continued to watch my mother’s body.
That afternoon, I heard the knocking again. When I went to answer it after several minutes, I fainted into the arms of my neighbor, Uncle Barkat.
Uncle Barkat had been great friends with my father and had helped my mother and me after my father’s passing. He was the reason why our house continued running. He used to give us rashaan (eatable stock) every month and made sure my mother and I never went to sleep hungry. He was not very rich. He was just a very kind and generous man.
What I remember next is waking up in Uncle Barkat’s home. His family consoled me and loved me. Still, I could not attend my mother’s burial ceremony or pay her last rights.
I had to give up on school and education because my parents did not have any savings and Uncle Barkat had already done so much for me. I had to grow up. I asked Uncle Barkat to get me a job so that I could make money of my own, as I did not want to be a burden on him or his three daughters who were all of age and had to be married.
He owned a small antique shop in the city which didn’t get him much money, but he was happy with whatever he got. He told me that one rupee a day would be all that he could pay me at that time. It was enough.
For the next eight years, I lived all alone in my empty house that was haunted by the deaths of my parents. I spent my nights changing positions and sometimes crying.
During this time, I got to know my Uncle Barkat. He taught me what I needed to learn to live a good life. He told me that money was not everything. He believed that if you can sleep peacefully at night thanking your lord, then you have nearly achieved everything. He believed that no one can stop something that is always meant to happen. He also believed that we are all in this world for a cause and, once it’s done, then we will gradually depart. His words always touched my soul.
During my time with Uncle Barkat, I also learned small skills like cobbling and the fixing of things. Eventually, I put up a small canvas where his shop was and started a small business of cobbling. Maybe I could have done and achieved more, but it was all I wanted. There were times when I didn’t earn any money at all, but I was always contented with what little I had.
Then, one day in 1977 while I was out running errands, Uncle Barkat’s shop caught fire. The shop burned down into ashes leaving nothing behind, including Uncle Barkat. It was like I had lost my parents all over again. My soul felt hollow.
Four years later, I married Sakina, Uncle Barkat’s eldest daughter, who at the time was 32 while I was 27. She had been married to somebody else before, but her husband had divorced her because she was infertile. I thought by marrying her I might be able to pay back Uncle Barkat for his kindness and wisdom. Little did I know that I would fall head over heels in love with her after we got married.
Before I married Sakina, I did not know how to love someone unconditionally. Maybe this was because I never looked past my parents for love. Marrying her was the best decision I could have ever made in life. She compromised with my poverty and promised to stay by my side till the end of time. We both lived a happy life together. I do not remember a single time when we fought over something. I handed her all the money that I made each day, and in return, I just expected her love.
To me, she was food for my soul, but the women of our neighborhood called her incomplete because she could not be a mother. I never let her feel that she was incomplete. We both knew that the world did not matter to us as long as we were together. Sakina gave me so much love and comfort that I never felt the need to have children. She is my love.
It saddens me to think that one day we will say goodbye to each other. I do not want her to be the first one to go because I can’t bear to see her leave me. Sakina is 70 years of age now. Old, fragile, and sick. I am sick and old too.
I stopped my cobbling business years back because my eyesight weakened. I was not good with a needle and all the intricate work. That is when I began weighing people in the streets for money. I had to do something for Sakina. I had to feed her and show her that marrying me was the right decision.
Sakina can’t work in the kitchen anymore, so I pay some rupees to a girl next door to come and make some food for us. The rest of the money goes to Sakina’s medicine. Her sisters come over to our place to look after her and sometimes our nieces and nephews help. Both Sakina and I have refused to take any type of financial aid from anyone. We are happy with whatever I earn.
Lahore, Pakistan, is the city that gave me everything. People often laugh at me for saying this because they say I have nothing. They say I am poor in every way. But what they don’t see is that I am a content person. I am, and will always be, a Fatalist. Life indeed took so much from me, but it also gave me that one thing that was worth all that I lost, my wife Sakina. With her, I have it all.
This is the story of Shams-Uddin
Shams-Uddin grew up with big dreams and parents who wished to see him be successful. Unfortunately, Shams’ parents passed away when he was just a boy. Shams spent the next several years working for a family friend who taught him how to live well. When this friend died in a fire, Shams vowed to take the friend’s daughter as his wife out of duty and respect. Upon their marriage, Shams fell deeply in love with his wife and has had a happily ever after.
Shams, 65, currently works as a street vendor who weighs people with his scale for a fee. He changes his spot every day and prefers to stay near home so that he can be close to his beloved wife, Sakina. He is very happy with his life and believes that he is happy with the decision of destiny. Now, he just wants to spend time with Sakina and depart from this world peacefully.
This story first touched our hearts on February 21, 2019.
| Writer: Noor Pasha | Editor: Colleen Walker |