The white garment
I have to get my son a new uniform- his was worn out, ragged- he wore it for 2 years. I have to get him the uniform.
Thursday, August 11, 2011- 6:30 pm
Saddar was too crowded today. I was already getting late. I took the Rs100 change from the cashier, which was all the money I was left with, picked up the shopping bag and rushed out of the store.
The unusually humid August and the hassle I had been through since morning had turned me into a sweating shower by now. Despite that- I was excited. Very excited.
My Ali was going to be happy today. He will not be disappointed in me anymore. He will not have to face any insults now. He was upset with me for quite sometime. I picked a small sized Rs10 national flag for the upcoming Independence Day only to give him as an additional surprise.
“Tower, Numaish, Tariq Road, Stadium, Nazimabad, Lasbela, Golimar.”
The loud husky voice of the last 4-N bus conductor announcing his arrival hammered my nerves. I jumped towards the back door and climbed into the already cramped male compartment. I did not know for how long my sore legs will have to bear the pain of standing in the bumpy bus. But with the thought of the minor mental relief I had managed to achieve today I overcame the pain.
Ali will not be crying tonight.
Clenching the shopping bag tightly in my hand, I was peacefully lost in my thoughts, oblivious to how many people had stepped on my swollen foot by now, until I was jolted by a loud explosion. Within moments, I could feel myself floating in the air and crash-landing on a hard rocky surface, the wind blown out of me.
It was dark then.
Thursday, August 11, 2011- 6:55 pm
It was very dark.
Lying on the rocky surface, I was trying to gasp for air. My body was pierced and pain stung me from too many places for me to figure out where it came from. I could feel my flesh tearing inside. The red liquid oozing out of my body was burning my skin. I did not know what had happened and what was going on around me. I could smell burning flesh and I could hear loud sirens and horns close by.
I tried opening my eyes. My vision was blurry but I could see the shopping bag lying beside me quite clearly with its contents strewed across the ground. The garment in the bag which was white and crisp when I bought it, was now in tatters stained red.
I tried to reach out for the garment to pick it up.
I knew Ali was waiting for it.
Just as my fingers touched the fabric, I felt myself being lifted off the surface. The shopping bag and its contents drifted beyond my reach. I could feel them getting farther. I wanted to scream and protest but I did not have enough strength in me to make a sound.
The next moment I was lying in what seemed like a vehicle.
I could not take it anymore.
I was being transported somewhere. What would I say to Ali?
I could see his swollen wet eyes as I closed my mine.
Thursday, August 11, 2011- 7:30 am
“This is not fair Baba. I get insulted every day. I will not go to school tomorrow if you will not get me a new uniform today.”
Ali complained and commanded me with innocent anger in his eyes.
“I will get it Ali. Didn’t you hear me? Why do you have to repeat it again and again?”
I scolded him while looking down. Perhaps, I was too embarrassed to face my eight-year-old.
“You come up with excuses every day. I hate being insulted.”
Ali protested and I could sense the shaking emotions in the tone of his voice.
“Ali, dear please get ready for school. I will scold your Baba so that he gets you a new uniform today.”
My old mother consoled her beloved grandson and signalled me to follow her in the kitchen.
“Ma, I have not gotten my salary yet.”
I started ranting about my usual problems as soon as I stepped into the kitchen.
“My last month’s pay has been spent in grocery and utility bills. How can I….”
My mother cut me off in the middle with a sigh.
“I can understand all that. I have a thousand rupees saved out of your father’s pension. Get him a uniform and get me my medicine.”
“Thank you Ma. I will leave now.”
I bid her good bye in a state of paranoia. I did not like the feeling of using my father’s pension that his widow was using to finance her medical expenses to share my burden. As I stepped outside my house, I could see Ali waving to his mother from his school bus. As my eyes caught a glimpse of the tight yellowish ragged sleeve of his uniform that he had been wearing for the past two years, I felt sorry for the poor kid.
After all, his demand was legitimate.
Friday, August 12, 2011- 12:00 pm
I was back at home lying on a mat in my lounge. I could hear people crying around me. Although I was free of all physical pain now, my heart was weeping as I saw Ali who was still in his old faded uniform wrapped around my body. If there was anyone wearing a crisp white garment, it was me.
Ali was not complaining about his old, shabby uniform today, though. He was not complaining about anything. Perhaps he knew he would not be insulted by his teacher anymore. Perhaps, he might not need a uniform at all now. Perhaps he would not be going to school now.
“I will not go to school tomorrow if you will not get me a new uniform today.”
Ali’s words echoed in my ears as my face was being covered with the white cloth. My body was lifted to be transported to my last place.
I am sorry Ali; I could not get you the uniform.
I am sorry but you will not be able to go to school tomorrow.
You might not be able to go to school ever.
I am sorry I failed you.
Read more by Sana Iqbal here and follow her @sanarites.