Saturday, September 19, 2009

Grandma's Treasure

An Islamic short story about a young girl, her visit to her home town, and how it changes her.

She sat there by the window, quite unaware of what she was seeing, because she was seeing nothing in particular, but still as she stared out of the window her vision was blurred, she blinked and it cleared again, but she felt that there was something else that adorned her face, a tear drop.

She was mildly surprised for she could not remember the last time her eyes performed this function. She was the kind of girl who took little to heart and hence had little to offer to her tear glands. Now tears were dropping on to her lap, slowly but surely, drops would run down her cheek one after the other. But why?

She had received a letter the day before from her maternal aunt informing her that her grandmother had passed away. She lived with a few of her friends sharing a room on rent in the city away from her home town. She had no real family though, her father had died when she was still a child and then her mother died next when she was 14, and she was the only child of her parents. She was hence left in the care of her maternal relatives, her aunt and her granny.  At the age of 16, she left her home, in search of a better future, along with a friend’s family who were shifting to the city. After the initial two years during which she had been in regular touch with her family back in town, she was not much in contact now. It was always her studies, her job, and her so very busy schedule that prevented her from being in regular touch.

And then one day, she received that letter from her aunt. She wasn’t very close to her grandmother; her relations could just be termed “friendly”. It was such a little time that she had spent with her grandmother, that she never really realized her presence or acknowledged her importance.

But now, as she sat in that bus heading for her town, the soothing, bright, bespectacled face of her grandma kept staring at her, smiling serenely. She tried to get her mind off her, but she just couldn’t. She kept shifting uneasily in her seat, unable to control the chain of thoughts that ran through her mind now.

She felt the loss alright, but for her was it so huge that it disturbed her to this extent? She somehow felt at a loss to explain. She for some reason, felt so minute, so tiny, so lonely; her past which she had made every effort to forget, loomed bigger and bigger in front of her, making itself apparent before her eyes. Tears now ran thick and fast down her cheeks. It was as if, a long lost connection was being renewed.

As she reached her home, she learnt that the funeral was already over. Her aunt had lead her into a room where she stayed for the whole day shut off from everyone, until her aunt herself came over to give her a wooden box along with two letters, saying that this had been her grandmother’s parting gift to her.

On one of the letters were written the words, “open this letter and the box on the 21st of this month” in bold. A bit surprised at this instruction, she kept them aside, instead started to read the other letter.

It ran so:

My dearest,

                     Hoping that you are taller than your mother had been. I always wanted her to grow tall, seeing that I was not quite tall myself, but instead she turned out to be an inch shorter than me! Anyways you are doing good, aren’t you?
                    I missed you so dearly these days, perhaps I thought, we should’ve spent more time together, isn’t it? There are so many things we would’ve talked about, aren’t there?
                   Well never mind, what I am writing to you for, is that I want to tell you, that there is a little treasure, something that I got from my mother and she from hers, etc…., its been running in our family for generations; very valuable indeed. I would have given it to your mother, but for her untimely demise. I am hence giving this to you, the box that I gave you, and asked you not to open, contains the treasure.
                 The reason why I asked you not to open the box is, that there runs in our family a ritual that is related to this treasure, and that is, if at all the box is ever opened then it must be done only on the 21st of a month. So I ask you to wait, have a little patience and then you can see for yourself the marvelous thing that you have inherited. I know it must be tough for you, but you have got to wait, otherwise evil may befall you. And lastly, let me add, the treasure is extremely precious so take good care of it.
When she finished reading the letter, she felt a bit confused, the treasure, the ritual, all of it sounded so strange. But yet she had made up her mind that she was going to guard this treasure as dearly as possible. She did not want to lose something this precious, and also because somewhere down she felt she ought to guard it, that being the parting gift of her grandma. She went to sleep that night, with the box by her pillow and her mind buzzing. From the next morning onwards she kept taking the box with her wherever she went. Her gran was quite a famous lady, for people kept pouring in all day, showering their condolences. She was so particular about the safety of the box, that she would even shake hands with the guests with one hand, while holding the box in the other.
And then, finally, after more than a week had passed, the 21st came, and along with it came loads of anxiety and tension. She sat down on her bed, and with nervous fingers opened the letter first and began to read:
             I am so sorry to tell you, that there is absolutely no ritual attached to this treasure and nor has it been passed down generations in our family. It’s all a lie. I just wanted to frame a story, create anxiety and build up suspense around the treasure. Because I thought by doing so, I could probably make you understand how really important and valuable the treasure is, I wanted you to become more cautious and responsible towards what’s in there. Now go ahead and open it but let me make this clear to you, this treasure was something exceptionally important to me all my life, something I couldn’t compromise with at all. Hope it will be the same for you too.                                                                                                         -Gran.

If the first letter had surprised her, then this one had shocked her. She couldn’t believe what she read. But she put the letter down and opened the box with her head going dizzy. Her jaw dropped; for what she saw wasn’t something she had expected. It was a plain, light blue colored piece of cloth; similar to the one she had always seen her grandma covering her hair with. Amidst its folds was yet another letter, it ran so:

You may think my dearest,
What this piece of cloth could be,
I want it to mean to you,
What it meant to me.
For me it was my world,
Gave me an identity,
I could move without fear,
Coz it preserved my dignity.
In doing jobs all my life,
That suited a lady best,
It never was an obstacle,
Rather helped me remain modest.
To wear it was my God’s command,
I took it to be a blessing,
It gave me a life liberated,
Taught me the ways of dressing.
Dress alone would be no help,
In living a life respected,
When humility in speech,
And softness in ways go neglected.
It is time you knew,
What your real worth is,
You are foremost a lady,
Later, mother or a sis.
Sorry my dearest,
For I left no golden treasure,
But if you possess the seeking sight,
You’ll see my wealth in its full measure.
Running her hand absently over her head which was now covered in the same light blue and smiling slightly she said “thanks grandma”.

1 comment:

Sis Isahah said...

Alhamdulilah, that was lovely. A beautiful way to express the beauty and gift of hijab.