Jamila - 15
Jamila - 154 mins 9.8K 4 mins 9.8K
When I went to open the suitcase to take out uncle’s clothes, Azra got up from the bed to help me unpack.
“Don’t bother. I will manage.” I said edgily, my voice reflecting my nervousness; I didn't want her to see the bracelets.
You must be tired. Why don’t you take some rest?” She looked anxious.
“Yes. But will feel better after handing over the shirts...”
I removed uncle’s shirts and unpacked my stuff. Only the box remained. I pondered whether I should lock the suitcase. But it would have raised Azra’s suspicions – why was I locking an empty suitcase? So I just zipped it and pushed it below the bed.
Aunt clasped her dead brother’s shirts to her breasts and sobbed.
After some times she quietened, gently feeling the texture of the cloth.
“You know Sami – what a dapper man he was. Always wearing the latest. And now only a sheet of cloth to cover him…,” she again broke into sobs.
“Aunt please get hold of yourself.” I pleaded. ”We need you... Azra needs you…”
“Yes, Yes. Of course”. She said trying to calm herself and got up to help Azra’s mother in the kitchen.
A fortnight later while I was in Pune, Aunt called to inform that Azra had been rushed to the hospital as she had gone into labor. I immediately left for Mumbai, relieved that Aunt and her mother were present.
By the time I reached the hospital, they had taken her into the delivery room. I stood outside the room, fervently praying for Azra – for the baby. It seemed like ages when Aunt came out and informed that I had a son - a healthy one. I just bowed and thanked God.
A couple of days later Azra returned home .The baby seemed to be a little miracle and spread so much cheer, dispelling much of the gloom that had settled in after uncle’s death. Aunt particularly was overjoyed: now there was a child she could give the name she had chosen for the son, she or her brother never had: Ali. So we named the baby, Ali.
A few days later, Amin uncle rang up to congratulate me. He also wanted to know when I could be present for opening of the sealed envelope containing the will. That brought to mind the problems I had to face with the family members. Since there was no escape from this responsibility, I informed him the tentative date depending on Ali’’s and Azra’s well being.
Aunt was, as expected very upset when she learnt about the Will and the exception clause.
“I am certain Amin and his daughter must be beneficiaries. They were always hovering around him – pretending to be solicitous of his welfare.”
I felt my anger rising and was about to retort that Amin uncle and his family had looked after uncle when his own blood relations didn’t, when Azra beckoned to me not to react.
A day before I was to leave, I returned home to find Azra, with a puzzled expression, sitting in front of the suitcase with the box containing the bracelets.
“Where did these come from?” She asked with a glint of suspicion in her clear eyes.
I took a deep breath and decided to tell her the whole story.
As I narrated the events, her face reflected her dismay and distress for Jamila and when I informed about the boy, her eyes filled with tears. She gazed thoughtfully at Ali sleeping peacefully in the cradle, and then looking me in the eyes, she said, “How could you people make the child pay for your omissions and commissions?"
“What do you mean? Uncle didn’t know..."
“But now you do?”
“But then Jamila doesn’t wish us to know…Amin uncle said..."
“That may have been when uncle was alive .She was perhaps afraid of losing the child. It may be different now. You can’t just give up without trying.”
I knew Azra well; though gentle and accommodating, once she had decided, she could be determined and unwavering. There was no way out but to acquiescence. “I will do my best. But let’s not inform Aunt now. I don’t know how she will react…”
She nodded and put the bracelets box in the cupboard. “I’ll keep it till we can persuade Jamila to accept it.”
Though relieved that Azra was in confidence, I was uneasy about Jamila’s reaction if and when contacted.
To be continued...