Where true happiness lies…

Feroz was a handsome, shy boy of eleven. The pleasant spring of March is not so pleasant for the students writing their examinations. The chirping of birds, the end of winters and beginning of summers in India is usually marked with a confused weather of clouds and sun, winds and breeze and 6.00 pm sunsets. His favourite place was the swing on the verandah, reading a book, sipping coffee. He didn’t have many friends, and he believed one’s best friend is one’s silence. Because when everything ends, silences remain.
‘Commerce, yes. Yes. On the 11th it’s getting over…’ He overheard mom’s conversation with Rita aunty, her kitty friend. ‘…Next weekend maybe… I can come over. Of course. Kavita’s place it is. Remember the last time she denied hosting a party. I think there is some trouble in the paradise for her.’
‘…maybe Danish, her son may not be performing so well. Remember he scored just 72 in Mathematics last exams. She says he is a topper and stuff and what not…’ Mom laughed.
Feroz was quiet. He flipped through the pages from the book without reading one. He had his commerce exam just three days away, but he couldn’t sideline his favourite pastime-Reading. He said reading always transports a man to a place he couldn’t go, in reality, far, far away from his problems.
‘Feroz,’ he got down from the swing hearing his mother’s voice, ‘come here, beta.’
He closed the book, folded his specks and kept it on top of the book at the table.
‘The cook is making ghujjias. Like to have some.’
He shook his head.
‘But everybody around is playing holi- the festival of colours. You too need to open up, beta. Will you play this year?’
Feroz knew why his mom kept asking this question every year as a ritual. Mom would be joining her kitty friends and doesn’t want him to be left alone.
They were Muslims. Or maybe just he was. His mom was a Hindu and his abba. Well…he saw him in the photograph that he found when the maid cleaned his room.
They always stated, “irreconcilable differences” as their main purpose behind their separation. Not officially divorced though, they loved separately leaving behind a huge vacuum in Feroz’s life who at one time described himself to be a boy without roots.
Every time he heard his mom laugh or chuckle with her friends he would wonder why she was silent when someone mentioned abba.
He usually made a sketch thinking how old abba is, the grey hairs and if he dyes them a little. He thought if he met him someday he would ask him at what age did he grew the beard, is teenage crush a normal thing, did he read the namaz right, why do the Eid depends upon the moon- why? is moon much more important, a deciding factor for the earth than humans? Was he like his abba? He carefully studied the photograph. A stubble, black hair, wheatish complexion. He looked at his hands. He was a little fair. Like mom was.
He hated those fantasy stories where the prince and princess met at the end. He rather respected the demon for playing his devilish role so well. However, he couldn’t ever figure out the demon that came between his parents’ separation. And if it was an invisible one, he called the demon a coward.
‘What’s a fight without the villain coming on the scene? Behind the curtains only the unknowns stay.’
He could never make his mom or her friends understand that he couldn’t mix up with people. They speak of their birthdays, of the expensive gifts their abbas got; the last water resorts where their abbas took them to. He had enough friends in the fictional characters. They speak to him at night and are never judgemental.
‘Prakhar is calling,’ mom entered the room handing him over the phone.
He picked up the phone, then checked to see if mom was gone and then disconnected. There was no Prakhar that existed during his life. He had put a list of fake calls on his mom’s phone with recorded voices that made his mom believe he had friends and he could be left to himself.
He had one handkerchief that he found long ago in the lowest drawer of his cupboard. It belonged to a man, and it seemed to be of a white colour eventually transformed in off-white-creamish colour. It had the initials- YT. And he took it to be of abba’s- Yusuf Tanveer. Time corrodes all. He observed. Just as it healed, time is a lover- it creates then destroys you.
The next morning was Holi. He saw the colourful balloons the children of his society threw at each other, some waving from the balconies; some using the colourful toys and to splash each other with colours. And he sat looking outside thinking if there was someone to paint the white canvas of his life.
Commerce book was staring back at him. Just like the subject, the world goes by profit and loss.
Mom was getting ready to leave for Rita aunty’s place.
‘Go check who is at the door.’
He opened to find a weak fifty five year old grey haired, wrinkled body and a protruding tummy standing in front of him.
He stood in awe of the man, his age and anonymity.
The caretaker introduced him with suspicion, ‘I wouldn’t have allowed him to enter the society gate madam. But he says he is a family friend.’
Mom looked at him biting the closed safety pin at the edge of her lips that she uses to pin up her sari. ‘But we don’t know him.’
The man was quiet as if reading my eyes staring sharp at me.
‘Yusuf Tanveer is no more. He gave me this letter to hand over to you.’
Before mom could touch it I went and snatching the letter from his hands went to my room.
‘Dear Feroz,
You are a strong boy, son. You are mightier than the mountains, deeper than the sea. I wrote this letter when I saw you for the first time when you were born. I wrote this letter when you were born so you may find the letter in a crumbled state with a faded colour. I miss you every day, but I’ve always chosen to love you from a distance. And I’ll keep doing that. Grow up to be the bravest and strongest of men and you’ll then find me nowhere but in you. You are like me. And from this day forwards you are me. You are your own abba.
Happy holi, son,
Feroz folded the letter almost instantly and went to the window again. Everybody was happy playing around, the kids the women, the men, the boys.
He went to the washbasin and wet his index finger on the running water and then sprinkled a few drops on his name ‘Feroz’ on the letter. He rubbed the ink on his finger and looking at the mirror applied it on his cheek. He smiled. This was his first HOLI.
Sometimes in the rush of life, in between the laughters and the tears, the happy and the sad, there is a silence. Silences that make us think about ourselves. The pause between two heartbeats is the time for us to think whether we will survive to the next moment or not. However, all we need to know is to make children emerge as heroes. Because if children suffer, the world suffers too. In the end, it’s not about money or relationships, it’s about sacrifice.
You may smirk if a loved one of yours gives you a 100 rupee note in today’s era. And feel joyful if someone gave you a 500 rupee note. But we need to study the intention behind it. Maybe the one who gave you a 500 note is rich but the one who gave a 100 rupee note, was all he had in his pocket. And in the end, it’s not about loving the 100 rupee note. It’s about the person behind it because that’s what love is- selfless, unconditional, irreversible and irreplaceable.
For Feroz, the letter didn’t bring diamonds studded with it but carried his abba himself.
Let children be what they are, how they want to be, where they want to be. Teach them how to fly but let them decide their own flight and you’ll see them spread the wings and explore the sky.
Love your parents and love yourself. That’s the best way about knowing our own self, our own soul.
There have been enough said on how to live a life, but it’s high time we live each moment as if it’s the last because sometimes long distances becomes too long to put a full stop to.
There are many a Feroz in the world who are quiet, to themselves and usually behind windows whom we fail to notice in our own enjoyment. Don’t compare them with anyone. Each is unique. Just hold their hand and make them smile for that is where true happiness lies.
Stay blessed!

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