I looked towards my grandfather, who had turned 60 the previous year. With his greyish white hair and his round spectacles on his protruding nose, he still looked handsome.
The ghost of a smile on his face told me that he was reminiscing something and the sheets of different colored papers in his lap confirmed my belief.
“Daada!!! Lost again?” I questioned mischievously.
He looked at me then with a glow in his eyes and a chiding expression on his face that I had caught him again.
He motioned me with his fingers and I got up with a dance to my walk for I knew it was story time again. I dragged my chair as close to him as possible and settled into a comfortable position. For a few seconds he looked at the rain drops falling in the grassy plot beyond, and then he cleared his throat:
“You do know how aania and I met? Well, at least the summary that we were friends before we became husband and wife.”
“Yes, I do know this,” I affirmed bouncing in my seat.
“Okay. So here goes:
Aania and I went to the same University. In the first two years, we didn’t know each other. Although she told me later that she did know about me. We had mutual friends before but in 3rd year we were thrown together in the same class. We still didn’t become friends immediately; I was shy and she in her turn appeared confident but was shy by nature.
At times I would catch her looking at me, and then she would suddenly turn her head when I glanced her way….”
“Daadaaa!”I broke the silence as I spotted him turning to his memory lane again.
“Oh!” he said sheepishly and began again, “so I was saying that she was shy but keen on looking at me. Her brown hair and her brown eyes would attract my attention whenever she did. We met in a few different places through our mutual friends before we finally said hello to each other.
After a particular night out with friends, I sent her a friend request on internet. In those days, there was a social network called pinboard.com just like the facebook.com now a days. Our times were those when social networks became the hype.
Little by little, we got to know each other better. At first, she would be online late night, then during the day as well. But she had set limits to herself (Daada said appreciatively) but it didn’t work. She would always say excess of everything is bad and I would say so soon? It’s not excess for me yet. I have a strong will power.
There we were, sitting day and night on our computers when most students were busy preparing for their exams. We didn’t let our exams be influenced by our talks though. She always kept separate time for her studies, a studious child. I had mine near the exams. We shared our childhood stories, our happy moments, the sad ones, and our embarrassing moments and so on. There were so many discussions on different topics; the topic that hugely interested your grandmother was love. And I used to tease her that she had done PHD in love and she’d deny it smilingly.
There were nights that we remained awake, talking all night long and going to the university after that. At first, she tried all her best to avoid it, taking a break of 2-3 days but sitting for 9 hours straight when she appeared after that. Our friendship progressed with time and we started sharing our deepest thoughts with each other, she with me and I with her. We were both reserve but open to each other.
She was fond of writing and had a remarkable talent for it. I used to read whatever she wrote and we would discuss her writings for a long time. And you know what her writing ability resulted into- she is a writer now. She in turn would discuss my work, my ideas that I was so fond of forming. That is how I started with this business.
In 4th year, I asked for her number and there was no end to our talks then. Day and night were just two days.
When the university was about to end, she grew really quiet and a month before that she started to behave differently. We had become very close friends by then and time and situation did little to lessen the friendship.
One day while on phone, she asked if a girl fell in love with a guy, was it normal for her to propose? I had no idea what to say to that but my heart pumped furiously in my chest. I teased her a great deal, wondering in my heart of hearts who the lucky person was.
A week before our final exams, she gave me this letter. By then, I had some idea of what was going on. I felt excited, at the same time a bit scared for I had never felt that emotion and was afraid to feel it. In my opinion, love always resulted in hurt and pain.
This was the letter,” Daada paused to show me the letter; a wrinkled red piece of paper, torn from one corner. His face showed the excitement as if he was reading it for the first time. He began to read aloud:
How are you? Well, I am not writing to ask you this. I do know how you are. What I am writing is to say this: the world stops to stare; this time it’s not about he, she and they. It’s about you and me. No matter how hard I try, the words cannot match the beauty that is actually there. it seems like Allah sends angels to guard you and me when we are together, there is no need for words, yet words are spoken sometimes. I have found that my thought world connects to you and it’s not a broken connection.
It’s like a river flowing in me, it’s like the moon light dancing upon the streets in broad day light, yet the day light itself is the sparling diamonds. It’s just you and me and a feeling that He is looking upon us while we are together. My soul has found its partner in you; it will try to clutch tightly, yet it will let go easily. My love is not a cage, fly away where you want; I’ll wait for you to return home. It’s the shooting star speaking again; a bit too late, a bit too soon, I’ve realized the stupendous importance you hold in my life. I understand your silence as if it’s a passage of beautifully written words. I’ve known you an eternity, yet I just came to know you. You are a beautiful jigsaw puzzle to my liking. It’s like two broken edges meeting to make a whole, it’s how we are meant to be. This is about how you complete me and I complete you. The trees are singing, the birds are rejoicing for we are the best yet. When we walk together, deep crevices are created in the roads by ordinary tires. I understand you more than you’ll ever know. It’s just about you and me and the smiles you give me.
I hope you get what I mean; I would like know your answer whatever it is.
Daada paused again, as if remembering everything from the years past. I let him go down the lane of memories this time, watching his expressions. I wondered what was written in other letters and if they were beautiful to this extent. The rain drops started to fall fast as if in a hurry, the trees looked all green, standing tall in all their glory. The aroma from the kitchen told that something good was going to be for the dinner.
Daada started to look at me then as if to resume his story. I implored with my eyes that he should.
“So I gave her a maybe response, the fool I was,” Daada whispered.
“A maybe response, Daada?” I questioned.
“Yes,” he continued, “I told her that maybe I loved her but I didn’t know what love was. But those things were under her jurisdiction. She hadn’t anticipated anything much so she accepted it when I said this and she was happy with it. I wondered why my maybe made her smile.
Later I realized that I was falling for her like an addict falls for alcohol. And no matter what I did to deny it, she mattered to me in a way that no one else ever would. 2 years later, we got married, despite the initial problems that were there and our families accepted the match.
“So it did get you in the end,” I remarked naughtily.
“Yeah, It did,” he responded with a throaty chuckle. I don’t know how I got the courage to sit on a bended knee and ask her if she would marry me but I did. To stand before my father, saying I wanted to marry someone was one of the most difficult things that I ever did. Anyways, we got married and this was the first letter in a series of letters that were written afterwards.
Another journey started then, where we became partners and we realized how different the life was from the way it had been before. A year passed and it passed beautifully and she wrote a number of letters in that year; then another year when we were blessed with a son, your father. Things started to change then.
Life wasn’t easy for Aania had to take care of the whole house, that included my parents and at the same time she was doing that job and with Sameer in her hands, it became a lot difficult. I was busy in business and doing that job as well. It became hard for us to give much time to each other and our life started to fall apart. In third year of our married life, a daughter was born…”
Daada, became sad, deep in thoughts and his face expressed the pain he was going through then. I placed my hand over his hand, giving him an assuring squeeze.
“The pain of losing a child can be felt even after all these years. I remember her face like it was yesterday, the same eyes as your Grammy. You know what happened to her. She died a month later. Aania was crestfallen then and I couldn’t do anything. Night after night she would remain awake, talking to herself and at times looking at the clothes of our dead baby. Sameer was only a year old then and he needed Aania as much.
I took care of Sameer but Aania was losing herself in all this; she was forgetting that she had a home, a child to look after and I was sad as well but all this made me very tensed. I had my job and now Sameer was with me for the most of the time I was at home. By then we had shifted to another city and our parents could do little to help us; once my parents visited us for a few days and her parents visited us as well. Her mood would change for a while but she would become the same way afterwards.
I knew why she was so broken; the death was indeed a great misfortune but before Alisha was born the doctor had told us that Aania could not bear another child ever again because if she did, it might mean her death. She loved children and whenever she looked at Sameer, she was reminded of Alisha so she was unable to give him that care then. I, who had always known how to make her smile, for once was unable to do anything.
I would pray to God fervently to help me with it, and give me enough patience to bear everything and to take care of everything and give me any sort of clue how to make things right. I thought time was all that was required, and I gave that time to her but things got only worse. In my mind’s eye, I knew I wasn’t giving everything to make things right.
There were times when I would get angry because I was going through the same pain at that time but Aania was apparently not trying to cope with it. I would take care of everything but leave Aania to herself…” Daada whispered in anguished tones.
I saw an idle tear run down his cheek as if he felt all the pain now or the guilt was suffocating him; I remained quiet.
He continued again in broken tones, “I would lie down at night, taking Sameer with me and go to sleep for I had to go to work in the morning, while she sat there at the corner of the bed, looking into space and sometimes breaking into tears.
I was becoming doubtful if marriage had been the right choice for her or for me because she didn’t look to be suited to face the challenges and I never wanted to experience pain or make anyone hurt because of me. That is exactly what I did, I realized some time later.
I decided then that she should go to her parents place and perhaps divorce was the answer. So I told Aania my decision. That night I sat alone, thinking if I was doing the right thing, and I prayed to God to show me if I was right. When I went to my study table, to see the old things, I noticed the sheath of letters in the drawer, the letters which had meant so much to me.
I began to read the letters, one after the other, and a particular letter caught my attention, the one which was written a year after our marriage.”
Daada took out a certain pink colored letter from the letters in his hand and began to read:
This year has been the most beautiful year of my life. You are not the way I thought you would be because you have been more than that. You have been the most amazing husband, and a best friend who have only added to the beauty in my life.
The joys, the surprises that you have given me will always remain a part of my memories. You have shared my joys and you have shared my sadness making it divide into halves. I cannot fathom what my life would have been if I had not married you.
I cannot see two people most suited to each other the way we are; you have always known how to make me smile, even in the saddest or the most rotten moments. I loved the last year trip to the mountains.
I love waking in the early morning to see you while you are asleep and yes, I love that part when I sometimes get to wake you up by throwing water on you. It’s great to work all day long, to feel that you are going to be there with me after the day’s work and we’ll sit together. Sugar never tasted this sweet.
I find joy in doing simple things like keeping the table at which you have to work clean, watering the plants so the garden remains this fresh, cooking food for you and ironing your clothes and still doing my own office work after that and a million other things.
I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you; do not ever think of us as separate from each other for we are a soul divided in two bodies.
May Allah add to the success in your life and may He always allow me to take care of you.
P.S. never change; you are wonderful just the way you are.
Aania (dove for you)”
Daada sighed and started to look into space. He did that for a long time while I once again wondered at the beauty of the words as they struck me.
He began again, “it is so easy to say I love you but so difficult to actually love someone; the words are spoken in a moment but it takes time and effort to prove what they actually mean and sometime we just don’t take out the time for that. That is when things start changing.
It was what she had always wanted; your Grammy would have done a lot better if I had given her the love she needed then. She desperately needed me and I sought to separate her from me so that she might become better. When I read this letter, I hated myself for I had become selfish and had not been honest with her. I had started to doubt everything as if it was her fault. What I had to do was to be there for her; the lines of the letter where she had written “we are a soul divided into two bodies and then you always know how to make me smile…” roamed around in my head. And I felt myself a victim to tears for I had been planning to kill her by sending her to another place while I was alive to take care of her.
I remembered what she had said once that we should always keep our love alive and keep thinking of new things to make it alive or else it will become dead like every relationship does.
After a while, I stood up and walked to our room. Sameer was asleep but she wasn’t there; I went outside because she liked to sit in the open space at night, looking at stars and the lonesome moon. There she was, sitting all alone, looking at the moon, her face a picture of acute agony.
I felt myself crumbling inside for this at least was my fault. I sat down beside her and took her hand in mine, squeezing it to give her strength. Tears started to roll down her eyes, and I felt my eyes moistening at the same time. That night, we sat there all night, I holding her while she cried her grief out; there was no need for words. She understood me and the things I had been feeling and I understood what she was going through.
When the sun broke through the sky, she was asleep on my shoulder. I walked her to the room and the first thing I did was to take a break from office. The work could hold but not the life rolling by; office men could do without me for some days but not my wife. The last day had made me realize a lot of important things and one was that I had started to take my wife for granted since a long time and had forgotten to do things that mattered to her, let alone take care of her while she needed me the most.
Things began to change then, when I started taking care of Aania, looking after her together with Sameer; it was very difficult for me but I knew that it was the most important thing to me then. I would surprise her some days by bringing flowers, like I did in the initial days of marriage. She started to look at Sameer but it took a long time for things to become normal, the extent that is normal for a mother who has lost her child.
So 15 years after your father was born, we had another child, your aunt Aalia and that truly is a miracle. It is indeed the result of prayers of your grammy…”
I looked towards a fresh piece of paper in Daada’s hands and questioned, “This one Daada?”
He hushed me with a glance, smiling shyly and naughtily at the same time, his eyes giving that shine all of a sudden.
The creak of the door was heard and the bony figure of Grammy emerged, carrying a heart shaped cake with lots of candles on it. The smile on her face bespoke the ecstasy she was feeling then.
Daada stood up then placing all the letters to one side and held that new red piece of paper. He took over the tray and placed it on the table. While he was at that, a honking of car horns was heard outside and my parents, my aunt and uncle and the rest of my cousins and siblings arrived then.
Daada took hold of her hand and made Grammy sit in the chair he was sitting. And he began to read from that red colored page:
You have grown more beautiful over the years and life has only added to your prettiness. This is to all the years we have spent together; you are a part of me, not a part of my life.
I would like to ask for forgiveness for the pain that I caused you in early years of our life; it still makes me sad at times. And saying sorry all these years has not been enough for me.
You have added meaning to my life and I have learnt that love is the only single force that makes or breaks things. It isn’t pain and hurt, it is joy and the feeling of having your pain divided. We have grown together over the years, and I have been the luckiest of men.
There were times after Alisha’s death when I would think that I did not deserve such a beautiful person in my life. I had started to take you for granted then and if it was not for your fateful letters, I would indeed have been a cruel monster.
Life beside you has been the most amazing journey of my life and I have learnt that I should never take blessings for granted. And I have enjoyed the care that you have bestowed me and it would indeed have been boring not to have water thrown over your face some mornings.
Love has indeed been a magic word in our lives; it has healed wounds and changed moods.
I am very grateful to Allah for blessing me with a wife who has been my best friend and the most wonderful companion, a partner of my sorrows and someone who increased my happiness by stepping into my life.
I will always love you and will stay by your side till death does us apart; i will always be your shield to protect you and provide cover from storm; whenever you are away, I miss you and I dream of you every day. You are the reason for my seasons. Please do not leave me for even a few hours, it turns to eternity.
P.S. I have thoroughly enjoyed life by your side and I love you!
Happy anniversary dove!” Daada exclaimed at the end of the letter.
There were tears in Grammy’s eyes as Daada took out a ring from his pocket and put it on her wrinkly ring finger. To our astonishment, he then bent down and planted a sloppy kiss on Grammy’s forehead and we heard a whisper of “I love you” from Grammy.
The candles were lighted and the cake was cut for the 35th marriage anniversary of Daada and Grammy.
I felt the cool breeze and looked at the serene lush green lawns, the rain having stopped some time before. Then my gaze transferred to my family gathered around a pair of love birds; Daada caught my eye and winked for the secrets we had shared and I wondered at the complete beauty of life with all its joys and moments of extreme sadness….