“Bhai, didn’t we have enough milk at home?”
“No. Why else would we be out here in this heat, looking for the doodh wala?” The elder brother sounded irritated.
“It’s just so hot. And we’re fasting. I wish Ammi had gotten the milk with the rest of the groceries yesterday for the younger ones’ roza kushai! ”
“Peeepppp! Peeepppp! Peeepppp!” The beautifully adorned bus called out from behind. Mumtaz’s heart thudded loudly against his chest. The tall boy was scared.
“Bhai, this bus driver seems to be in a hurry. ” Nervousness.
” Yeah, man. I’ll move out of his way.” Confusion.
“Peeeeeeeppp! Peeeeeeeppp! PEEEEEEEPPPPPPPEEEEEEEPPPPPP! ” The barking horn.
” Move, move! Move away! ”
” Oye! There’s been an accident! ”
” Someone call an ambulance. Or a taxi! The boy is bleeding! ”
” A-25. I saw it!”
“Carefully, son. He’s your brother? Oho! Be careful, be careful. Lower him gently into the seat! ”
Some were spectators, some were angels. Others were newsreporters.
Panic and more panic thickened his voice,”Rush to house number 89, block 4. It’s on the way to the hospital.”
The taxi was speeding admist the maze of impatient cars and hungry people.
“Abba, hurry! Mumtaz was hit by a bus. It was speeding. HURRY! ”
The sweeper washing the porch fearfully stared at the pool of blood dripping from the open door of the yellow car that his employer had climbed into.
“ Baji, Mumtaz Sahab was hit by a bus. They came in a taxi and took Baray Sahab with them.” He saw his Baji carelessly drop the piece of meat that she was marinating and stand up in shock.
“What are you saying? Where’s my son? What happened? ” She looked like a woman who had just been struck with lightening. And it was a calamity – an earthquake with uncalculated magnitude.
Somewhere, something broke. A sister’s heart was more precious than the porcelain vase.
“Ammi! Mumtaz is dead!” Her voice was a high pitch.
“Are you crazy? What blasphemies are you uttering?” Ammi’s voice was a heartbreaking shriek that saw her fainting.
The house of festivity was camouflaged by silent wails. It was now the unforseen house of grief. The celebrations of his two younger siblings’ first roza were replaced by the mournings of his own burial, and the same garlands that were to be hung from their necks, now lay like orphans in a forgotten corner – its petals waiting to adorn the mud over his grave.
The guests were pouring in,their sparkling, colourful dresses shamelessly mocking the white coffin of the young boy. The shocked ladies hurriedly wiped away their bright lipsticks as they noticed the brightness of the blood that was still seeping out from his injuries,and shock, grief and pain hung in the air. God had broken their hearts. The pain was ripping their souls apart. It was worse than the worst nightmare.
The graveyard was sad too; the air was still and the birds were mute. With a strength that he thought did not exist, his father lowered him into the rectangular void that had been dug into the ground. His tears mixed with the warm blood of his young son who had died an untimely death at the hands of a reckless bus driver who had, within minutes, destroyed the happy family picture. How does one bury a part of their existence? But he just had.
By taking away what belonged to Him, what was His all along, God had broken their hearts.
Bhai : Brother
Ammi : Mother
Roza kushai : Celebrating the first fast of a Muslim child
Abba : Father
Baji : Sister
Sahab : Sir
Roza : Fast