05 - 11 Sept, 2015

“Your father was a man of great virtue beta, I just want you to know that. Never doubt his character, and until the identity and relation of that girl with your father is not disclosed, we shouldn’t corrupt our hearts with idle suspicions.”
A lump caught up in my throat and a knot tugged hard in my heart. As time went by with shrapnels inside me, Aiman and I stopped discussing Abba and tried to shove back his memory in a deep dark corner. Allah blessed us even more with every passing day; Mami got promoted to a senior teacher and Mamo found a job that paid him double the salary he earned previously.
As we sat down for tea one evening, Mamo said, “You two are my good luck charm as I could never imagine getting this job. Your parents were lucky to have you for the good fate that you have brought to their house has blessed me too.”
“Yes, you are right Jamal, these two are like angels for us,” said Mami looking at the two lovingly.
“Allah has really been grateful to us,” I said.
“Beta Amna and Aiman, I was thinking that you clean your father and mother’s closet and take out their old clothes so that we can donate them to charity, it would bless their souls. You can keep the new ones and I will alter them according to your size so you two can wear them.”
“Yes, beta,” said Mamo “Now that you are on vacations, we need to fix little things in the house. I have saved some money for renovating the roof of your room for it is also leaking and the monsoon season is round the corner.”
“Ok Mamo,” I said, but Aiman interrupted “Mamo you can look into Abba’s stuff and keep his clothes too.”
“Ok beta, now do not ruin your mood. I’m going to visit their graves today, do you two want to come along?”
“No,” we replied sternly and everyone was silent.
Nobody spoke for a while. It was Mami who tried breaking the ice after a couple of minutes.
“Amna, how is your volunteer work coming along, are there any improvements in the patients’ conditions?”
“Yes, Maa, a lot of them have improved. They needed people at the rehabilitation centre so I’m there these days helping with physiotherapy. My friends joined too so we have a good time. I never got to visit the burn’s ICU again because the rehab centre is at the farthest end of the hospital.”
“Beta, I was thinking about your university admissions,” said Mamo, as Aiman and I looked towards each other. We had never thought about going to university as it was very expensive and after Abba, Amma’s death it felt totally out of question, although Mamo and Mami took care of us and catered to all our needs in every possible way, we still never put any demands in front of them as frankly as we did of our own parents.
“Mamo,” I said reluctantly, “We don’t want to study further.”
“Why not,” he was surprised, “Your father wanted to see Aiman a doctor and you a teacher, don’t you want to fulfill his dreams?”
“Abba died and his dreams have been buried with him Mamo,” I said.
“Amna! You should not say that,” Mami said stringently.
“Sorry Maa,” I said with a quivering voice and with tears in my eyes and left for my room.
Aiman sat solemnly and fiddled with her hair, gazing at the floor while Mamo shook his head in dismay. I must have cried myself to sleep.

* * *
It was the noise in the lounge that woke me up; I heard many people talking together and Mamo arguing with someone. I turned around to find that Aiman was not in the room either. I wrapped around my dupatta and rushed outside and found the police constable standing with a couple of other men.
“Look, I am asking for your cooperation Jamal, don’t make me force you. This has become a serious matter and I have pressure from the authorities. I have just come here for your consent, we could have done this without informing you. Don’t force us to be harsh!” warned the constable.

Mamo stood there, pale-faced and disheveled while Aiman stood in a corner whimpering quietly and Mami comforting her in an embrace.
The constable called out his junior and they left with Mamo.
“What happened, Mami?” I asked
“Nothing, beta don’t worry. Come let us have dinner it is already late,” she said. “Aiman dear, sit down with your sister while I prepare something quickly.”
Aiman wrapped her arms around herself and sobbed quietly.
“What happened, Aiman?” I asked when Mami had left.
“They are digging up Abba’s body out from the grave for DNA sampling just because of that stupid girl.”
“What?!” I exclaimed, “They cannot do that!”
“They can do anything, Amna anything!” she said now, crying badly.
“But what would they get from doing so?”
“They think that the woman buried with Abba is not Amma.”
“That is ridiculous! How can they say that?”
“Amma was not in the basement at the time the fire broke, that is what eyewitnesses say and that girl came to visit Abba that very day at the factory.”
“If Amma is not buried with Abba then where is she… Mami!” I cried out panicking. Mami came rushing out of the kitchen.
“What is it beta?”
“Mami, remember we went to the burn’s ICU and I saw a woman there who was just like Amma? Mami, we have to go to the hospital right now!”
“But beta we can’t go now, look at the time, it is 9 o’clock and your Mamo isn’t home either.”
“We have to go now, my mother is alive, she needs us.”
“Beta the police are just making assumptions… ”
“Mami… ” I said, begging her, “We have to go,” I collapsed onto her feet crying.
“Amna, come here. Sit down and relax,” she picked me up.
“Aiman bring her water.” My whole body was shaking all over, and my mind was on fire as a thousand thoughts thundered inside.
Why was Abba with that girl? Died saving her? If Amma was that comatose patient then we needed to get there fast.

* * *
Mamo came home after three hours. Mami asked what happened and he told her that they took the DNA samples and left. Mami told him about my suspicion and he left for the hospital right away with me. As I approached the ward, my heart raced hard, if Amma is alive, she will make everything better. The guard stopped us from entering; “Yes mister, what do you want?” he inquired, “Where are you going?”
“I have to see a patient,” Mamo told him worriedly.
“Show me your pass,” asked the guard sternly placing his palm forward.
“I don’t have any.”
“Are you with the patient?”
“No,” he replied flatly.
“Visiting hours are between 6-7 pm. You can’t see anyone now, come in the morning.”
Just then the same nurse came who met me on my last visit. Seeing him gave me hope.
“Nurse!” I called out.
“Yes,” he replied sweetly, “How are you beta? Didn’t see… ” before he could finish, I cut him off, “I want to ask about that woman who was in coma.”
“She died yesterday. She never came out of coma and we had to pull out her life support as there wasn’t any chance of improvement.” My heart sunk low and everything around me felt fuzzy.
“Where is the body?” asked Mamo.
“It was shifted to the morgue.”
“Did you know her? She was never visited by any friends or family all this time that she was here.”
“Perhaps she was my mother,” I said staring towards him blankly.
“What?!” he said surprised, “But… you told me your mother died?” he asked a bit perplexed.
“Where is the body, can you guide us?” Mamo ignored his question.
“Here, come with me,” he led us along.
Every step I took towards the morgue felt like a hundred tons heavier than the last. I did not want to go; I did not want to find out.
The nurse talked to the guard outside and led us in; the bodies were covered in white shrouds and were stacked in cold freezing closets. He checked the tags and pulled out one and undid the shroud.
The woman’s face was grey with the other half damaged beyond recognition. Mamo looked at her sides and noticed the mole under her right ear.
“Is she your sister?” the nurse was curious.
Mamo pursed his lips together and nodded slightly, “I’m not sure yet,” the face was very swollen.
Suddenly it struck me that Aiman and I were born through an operation, and Amma had a mark across her abdomen.
“Can we see her abdomen? She has a mark there,” I whispered.
The nurse nodded and said, as he uncovered, that she did have a mark. As soon as he unveiled the abdomen I could see the mark clearly The world around me went black and I dropped.


* * *
Aiman told me that I kept coming in and out of consciousness for three days, meanwhile the investigations speeded up and the DNA test had revealed that the body buried with my father’s was of the girl. Later, my mother was buried along his side. I went into severe depression for months; I could not think about anything but the past months. We had suffered so much emotionally, psychologically. I felt like everything was out of my control and now I couldn’t but feel guilty for everything that happened. I started to turn back to my normal self after a lot of help from everyone around me.
Aiman turned out to be stronger than I. It was later revealed that the girl was Abba’s adopted daughter, who had been lost and sold to a brothel but managed to escape. Abba found her and gave her shelter for a couple of weeks during which she developed a strong bond with him and the family was also indebted by his kindness and care. He kept this to himself because some people were still after her.
Abba had a motto for life which he lived by; whatever kindness you do for someone, never declare it publicly or else you taint the spirit in which it is done and lose the reward for doing it; he lived by it and died with it too.

* * *
“Abba, everyone is calling me a liar,” said 9-year-old Aiman crying.
“Did Abba’s doll lie?” he asked her politely stroking her hair out of her little face. Aiman shook her head in denial.
“Then you don’t have to cry at all,” he said wiping out her tears, “Never worry about what the world calls you, if your heart is pure no matter how many people are against you, Allah will always be with you,” he said clasping her hands together in his.
“But everyone will think I’m a liar now,” said Aiman innocently.
“One day Allah will let the entire world know who you really are without you uttering a single word in your defense.”

* * *
The police were very rude to us all the time; they kept us in the dark regarding the matter and would not pay the least amount of interest to our queries.
Her fiancé had been abroad for a three month assignment and could not come to us to clarify things, but had the police inspected deeply, he would have known all about us through Ama’em.
She belonged to a very respectable family; her parents died in her childhood and she lived with her grandparents. She was about to get married to one of the owners of the factory. One evening Ama’em’s fiancé visited our house and explained everything.
“I’m really sorry for all that you went through,” he said apologetically.
“It’s alright,” said Mamo. “We understand your loss, she must have been a good girl.”
“Ama’em loved her father so much that I can’t remember a conversation in which she hadn’t mentioned him, he was still in contact with her and often visited in the evenings. He was the father she could never have. Ama’em said she never felt like an orphan. We studied in college together, most of her family was abroad and had selfishly left her alone with her old grandparents,” he explained.
“Uncel never had us meet his family; he kept Ama’em hidden from everyone to keep her safe, but we were destined to come together, as sad as it is that it was written this way. Uncle would have been so happy today to see everyone together. You would have loved Ama’em.”
Mamo went inside and brought the dress and jewellery he had found.
“This must be for her,” he said handing it to him as tears filled the young man’s eyes.
“He was a great father,” his voice cracked.

* * *
I visited Abba’s gave and apologised to him for being so wrong. He proved himself to be a true father and died saving his daughter’s life, and lived, giving his daughters the best we could have asked for.
It has been six years now and I’m teaching at a college. Aiman is a doctor, but never have I ever forgiven myself for doubting my father and for leaving Amma alone in her most desperate state. Everyone keeps telling me it was not my fault but I can never find peace of mind. The secrets he kept were even more beautiful than what was overt. I wish I could bring back time and cherish the man that my father was. I wish I could tell the world that he had a heart of gold.
“Heart of a father is a masterpiece of nature.” •

to be continued...

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