Beneath the open sky, on an enormous terrace, Sultana lazily stirred her evening tea while trying to kill time by watching a group of adolescents hanging around the common, laughing and playing cricket and other games. A light, cool breeze unexpectedly brushed the old cheeks...
She smiled, brushing back her curly locks from the visage “Alhumdullilah” (Praise be to God). But suddenly her eyes misted a little, embracing the memories when she had been thrived on all the noise and hustle and bustle of a family, now that her children are grown and headed out fully into the lives of their own.
She wondered, “What is my aim now?" I have been an empty nester for several years... not anymore needed in the same way as a mother”.
Sultana, felt the urge to go back in time when she was a multi-tasked woman and all the time cheering her kids on”.
Excited, she promptly pulled her cellular phone from the pocket of her full-length tunic (Turki Kurta) and rang her youngest child Babar
“Babar, can you come over?” Sultana asked.
“When, tonight?”, Babar questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“No, tomorrow in the afternoon...” Sultana answered joyously.
Babar shook his head. “Won’t be possible Amma! Tomorrow I have so many things to do”.
“Please son, carve out some time in your schedule". Sultana requested.
A thought came to his mind, he inquired gently, “Do you want anything Amma...?”
“No, no, I want to show you something.”. Sultana politely stated.
Babar began to get irritated by her pushiness. He sighed heavily and rubbed his head; thinking “Amma may not know how irrational she becomes! As her age is progressing, she has become stubborn and annoying... Honestly."
“Hello! Babar”. Sultana thought maybe the call dropped.
“Well, all right”, he answered and hung up before she could say more.
The following day Sultana woke up a little earlier than usual, feeling happy and energetic she had spent hours, preparing the spices with her own hands for the variety of meals that would be prepared for the lunch. Full-flavored! the scent of multiple dishes wafted in all directions.
With great happiness, Sultana reached into the closet and extracted some of Babar’s old toys that his father (Jamaal) brought when he had been working overseas and he was absolutely over the moon upon receiving them. On top of it, he never got bored with them. And the best part was Sultana still remembered every bit of it with deep affection. Altogether it was a great time.
Happily, Sultana decided to spend some time with her son, looking at old pictures together, showing him his all-time favorite toys, and relive all those glory days gone by. She just seemed so enthusiastic about the whole thing that made her unable to relax. She was enjoying and beaming with health.
At times, remembering the past can be very therapeutic.
Finally, the doorbell rang. Raheem their old servant answered the door. Babar nodded at him in greeting and quickly advanced into Amma’s room.
Once the gracious greeting with salaams was completed. Babar asked, looking at the time on his watch, “Yes Amma, what you wanted to show? Your medical reports! Did they come?”
Sultana didn’t answer. Instead, she sweetly smiled.
“Babar, Let’s have lunch first! All the food is made of your choice”. Sultana requested.
Babar shook his head no! Rather, He questioned, “Why have you called me Amma?”
There was a short pause.
Then, gesturing to his old toys, she said. “Do you remember these toys Babar? They are the same ones that Jamaal brought from..." Before she could finish speaking, Babar's aggression suddenly erupted into disrespectful behavior. "Are you serious Amma? You have called me for this!” Babar shouted, motioning to the toys.
He continued in the same tone of voice, “Isn’t that childish? What do you think, does everyone as free as you?
Sultana took a deep breath and then spoke gently. "Listen, son! I just wanted to spend some quality time with you”.
“If that was the case Amma, then we could have met over the weekend. Don’t we?”
Sultana’s patience finally snapped and tears formed in her eyes. “Can you tell me Babar, when was the last you visited your Amma?”
It’s been almost a month! If you remember”, She reminded him.
“But we talk on the phone nearly every day, don’t we?”
“So, is this sufficient?” Sultana questioned.
“You know Amma... it’s no use arguing with you”. Babar managed to evade the truth skilfully.
People generally tend to be evasive when they fail to give a clear answer to the other side.
Deeply offended, Sultana looked away from him, not wishing her eyes to give away her true feelings. She gestured with her hand for him to go away.
The door slammed shut.
Sinking into a chair, Sultana realized that forgone days exist only in our mind, it's feeble and all that matters is 'the present age. My son is indeed an adult now, he's too busy with his own life. He has a family and has his way of thinking. So, I can only wish him well from a distance. That is enough.
Some people don't like being too affectionate and even find it a bit weird expressing warmth but sometimes an open display of affection for parents through hugs and kisses is an important need as they are priceless, unique, and irreplaceable.
The door was being opened slowly once again; it was Raheem... who respectfully asked if she would like her lunch to be served in the room.
Not wishing to speak, Sultana just shook her head. Later the food was given to the poor.
As usual, Sultana went through her evening routine. With a cup of her regular tea, she went out on the terrace. While admiring the same nice view, children laughing and playing, once again a deep sense of loneliness began to take possession of her heart but eventually, she managed to overcome her feelings and thought to herself while sipping on her tea.
“This too shall pass”.