A short story told in first person narrative. (It may or may not be based on a teensy instance of my life.)
The sun was setting in the hues of purple, the sky shifting towards the starry dark of the night. The air was filled with the hum of the ‘Azan‘ and our car rolled to a stop at the large doors of the mosque whose bulb flickered menacingly in the dark, swarmed with a horde of mosquitoes dancing around the dim flicker.
Tired after a day of work, my mother sighed as we stepped onto the paved sidewalk seeing the car, that carried my grandfather, roll into the gates and vanish from the sight. Looking at the address written on the paper, of the wife of the Qazi who had once known our family, my mom held my hand. The heat of the July day was melting into the cool of the night and my mother, with a small look about her, at the isolated road took to the dark alley at the back of a magnificent house.
What a contrast was presented on the first view! Behind the patrician mansion, we came to the alley reserved for the plebeians. The trenches on the road were filled to the brim, their murky depths emanating foul stench that made me cling to my mother’s shirt.
The house we stopped at bore an old wooden door, ragged to its end and the walls of the house were cracking blocks of cement. With a moment’s hesitation, a knock resounded in the dark alley. The doors opened to reveal a woman covered in a scarf. The words (that my grandfather was saying his prayers just around the corner and we needed a space ourselves) were barely out of my mother’s mouth before, with a bare hint of surprise, she ushered us into the rooms. What should’ve been a satisfactory abode, was a shabby quarter bearing a tiny room and an even smaller kitchen. All for the family of the ‘Qaari‘ who led every prayer for the many ranks of people behind him. Yet, even in the run-down conditions, the home was furnished with warmth and the joyously flushed faces of the Lady and her small daughter made us relax into our seats.
Without any hesitation, we were allowed to pray and a sweet ‘Sherbet‘ was served whose cool, tangy essence made the heat of the day melt away. The conversation with the lady, who although was shy and demure was also amiable and had an elegance to her mannerisms that not many possessed.
We were taking up our things, about to leave when out of nowhere the question arose, “Are you acquainted with my husband?”.
My mother turned to her with a furrow in her brow, and a question at the tip of her tongue, “You don’t know who we are?”
With the same smile, she shook her head, her gaze falling down to her hands folded on her lap.
“Yet you let us in?” my mother’s words were now filled with an indecipherable hesitancy.
“How could I refuse someone who came to my door asking for assistance?”
Was the answer we received as the lady’s face bloomed into a smile that was no longer only demure but held a sweetness that seemed to shine from beneath.
It might’ve been a small instance, a few words or even foolishness in the eyes of some but that day, standing there as a small child of six who was growing up in a country caught in the crossfire of powers, where the peace of mind was nonexistent and where every man, even those with whom you associated love and compassion, was a stranger whom you couldn’t trust, she became a woman stronger than most I’ve ever seen.
In the end, the strength that we always measure in the grand gestures; in the thickness of the muscles or in the deepness of the pockets some people still measured their strength in the goodness that was inherent in a man’s soul.
What that woman did that day, was not just an act of kindness. To let people who are strangers to you feel comfortable and welcome while not a grand gesture, is surely a beauty that not many can contain. But what she’ll perhaps never know is that she made a small child, who would’ve grown with a mind catering towards only their needs, realise what the true essence of courage was and now as I type these words on the paper, I can’t deny that that small child whose days revolved around her own self grew into a person whose only mission in life became a struggle to hold upright the virtue of humanity.
They say that a single act of kindness can start a chain of beauty that can lend fiery compassion to the cold and stoic man of the twenty-first century, and that moment was a reflection of that truth.
A/N: Do you realise what I wanted to say, Cuz I sure don’t, lol :’)