My first few-ner-aal
I stood there thinking these few-ner-aals are so boring. All you do is cry.
I went to a maiyath (funeral) today, just as the prince went to Snow White’s few-ner-aal. I had never been to one before, but Dastan’s father died so our whole family went to his few-ner-aal; me, Amma, Abba, Bhai, and Baji.
I didn’t know what people did at few-ner-aals so I asked Amma if there would be a prince there to kiss Chacha Tariq back to life. Amma got really angry and hit me with her chappal (slipper). But you tell me, and be fair, how am I supposed to know what happens at few-ner-aals if I have never been to one? Then Bhai told me that those who die never come back, no matter what, and he told me to always remember this ‘fact of life’, so I am telling you too. Now don’t you forget, you little shaitan (devil), as Baji (sister) always tells me.
I said thank God, now I will never ever have to wipe Chacha Tariq’s yucky pan (betel nut) spittle from the veranda ever again. But this only made things worse, because Amma began one of her taubah taubah astaghfirullah (repent and forgive me lord) lectures. She went on, and on, and on, about how you never speak ill of the dead. I asked her why not? If they are never coming back, they will never ever know what I said, will they? Even Guria, who gets me into trouble all the time, won’t be able to tell Chacha Tariq what I said. Death sounds like such a good idea. Maybe I can persuade Guria to go to death, too. But when I said this, Amma just left the room. She said she was feeling faint. It must have been that rabri I told her not to eat, but she never listens to me now does she? Just because I am seven-years-old doesn’t mean I am stupid. But never mind. Let me tell you about the few-ner-aal.
Before you get sad, no wait, what was that word ustad (teacher) Rehan taught us in class today? Oh yes, before you get dis-ia-pointed, there was no prince. Chacha Tariq lay on his back on the charpoy in the sun. He didn’t even have a shirt on. I could see all his bones wanting to jump out. He should have left with some more clothes on. It isn’t decent, you know. Maybe Nani is right about her theory of fewer clothes. She says people are wearing shorter skirts and shirts in the city because they cant afford clothes. Oh, my poor favourite actress Nina, I must send her some of my clothes. Don’t distract me; I was telling you about the few-ner-aal, not how much I love Nina.
So Chacha Tariq lay there and people gathered around him crying. Everyone was crying, even Chacha Motay Masood who only knows how to make others cry, especially his servants. Don’t tell anyone I called him that. It will get me into lots of trouble. You don’t know Abba; he comes up with the most horrible punishments. Once when I cut Bhai’s moustache because it didn’t look nice on him, he drew a moustache on my face with shoe polish and made me go to school like that for a week.
But anyway, the people cried for a very long time. Maybe it was some sort of new crying disease spreading in our village. Amma says anything can happen these days. I stood there thinking these few-ner-aals are so boring. All you do is cry. But then they all stopped at the same time like robots and went inside. I think they got really hot from crying in the sun. I don’t like the sun. He’s really mean. I wonder, if I throw some water on him maybe it won’t be so hot? I will try that when we get home, and tell you if it worked.
But it wasn’t really hot that day, so I stayed outside eating imli (tamarind) and watching Chacha Tariq. His dirty white hair was spread out like spider webs, on the charpoy. Four men arrived and carried him into a room next to the latrine with me trotting secretly behind. The men began to bathe Chacha Tariq while chanting mysterious words like the whispers in my seashell. Chacha Tariq is so silly you know. He should have washed before leaving forever; but no, as Abba says, people just can’t do anything themselves these days.