(Picture by Jafar Shameem)
Feroz joined a finance Company to gain experience which he knew would be useful as and when he decided to have his own start up going. He got an opportunity to travel to a number of developing countries which were of business interest to his Company. In social meetings and parties with the locals he was keen to learn about their matrimonial traditions and culture. One permanent feature he noticed that in most countries the emphasis with the natives was on race, religion going down to castes and sub castes of the persons, who decide to get married. Those persons migrating from these countries to developed countries, carried this baggage, preferred to live in their community ghettos and continue with these traditions and practices of their native land. He felt sad as he was one such person who was paying the price. He was aware that there were people to whom these considerations did not matter. Maybe he could help them.
He decided to spend his weekends on creating a website which he titled “Jorna.com”: where Jorna meant bonding. The site would contain pictures and relevant details of persons without mentioning their names and ethnicity, race, religion and castes. In a fortnight’s time he hosted the site and theough the social media informed his friends and acquaintances of its existence. The initial response from those desiring to get married was not positive. It was subjected to malicious trolling too. He left it to the future, when possibly the awareness becomes more pronounced.
It was in the third year after Sandhya had left him that he had to marry due to constant pressure from his mother. Noreen became his wife, he knew her as she was his cousin, his mother’s sister’s daughter. A year later a son was born, whom he named Aman, though both his wife and mother were keen to call him Rashid. His attitude towards his wife remained the same as it was before he married her. He respected her, cared for her, listened to her and agreed with her on almost every detail or issue. However, there was no warmth, deep affection, yearning and love in their relationship. He ignored these and it broke Noreen’s heart. With the passage of time and the passing away of his parents, the untold distance between them increased. Noreen, who had silently borne the burden of unrequited love, left him to live with her sister in Boston. In a leaving note, which he read, she mentioned that she was sorry, she had tried but failed to erase his memory of his long lost love. She wished him well and was prepared to divorce him. Feroz for a while felt sad but he did not miss her as he had Aman who was now a grown up boy and was very close to his heart.
Feroz named his startup company Liba. He teamed up with a friend who was a cardiologist and would assist him in his plans for computerisation and automation of the process and performance of instruments used in various medical fields. He spent long hours working through the challenging issues thrown up while negotiating the rigors and complexities of his startup. Soon he met with favorable results and continued to maintain the pace of his involvement towards the progress of his Company. Liba, after its seventh year of its birth, was listed on the New York, Stock Exchange and became public.
Feroz, though forever busy remained close to Aman, who was now studying law at Harvard University and was in his final year. He was in his office when he received a call on his mobile phone from him.
“Adab Papa, is it a good time to talk to you?” He asked.
“Jeete Raho, Khush Raho. Yes go ahead, I am listening,” Feroz said.
“Papa, can you come to meet me here this Saturday?” Aman asked.
“Yes I can. Anything special?” Feroz queried.
“I will tell you when I meet you here,” Aman said.
“OK. I will text you my ETA,” Feroz said.
“Love you Papa, Khuda Hafiz,” Aman said.
“Love you son. Khuda Hafiz,” Feroz replied.
“Khuda Hafiz Papa,” Aman said and disconnected.
Aman met his father at Logan International Airport with his car.
“Papa, we are going to Salma aunt’s house which is in Cambridge city, about half an hour’s drive,” he told his father as they drove out from the airport.
“Why Salma’s house? It’s been ages since I have met her,” Feroz said.
“There is a reason,”Aman said.
“OK, what is it?” Feroz asked.
“Papa, I have fallen in love with a girl and I want to marry her. We are going to meet her at Salma aunty’s house, where she lives as a paying guest” Aman said.
“History repeats itself!” Feroz murmured and smiled.
“What did you say?” Aman enquired.
“Nothing much! That is great. I am happy for you,” Feroz replied.
“I want you to give the proposal to her mother, when you meet her,” Aman said.
“OK. I will tell her parents that you want to marry their daughter and to give her to us so that she becomes part of the family,” Feroz said.
“You have to tell this only to her mom. Her father has not come,” Aman said.
“Why?” Feroz asked, looking at him.
“Oh! They are separated. There was some problem between them,” Aman said.
Feroz, felt uncomfortable and remained silent for a while.
“Did you tell your mother?” He asked.
“Yes. She is there with Salma aunty,” Aman replied.
The traffic was heavy and the stoppages at the traffic lights had increased their time of arrival at Salma’s apartment, which was on the fourth floor of the building. They took the lift and when they reached, Aman pressed the doorbell located next to the apartment door.
Salma opened the door, smiled and looked towards Feroz who stood behind Aman.
“Salam Alikum bhai jaan! Please come in,” she said.
“Walekum Salam Salma,” Feroz said and hugged her.
They entered the living room and found Noreen, who got up and hugged Feroz. They were meeting after many years, sentiments seized her and a tiny tear dropped down from her eyes.
“How are you Noreen?” Feroz asked.
“I am fine,” she said with a smile and touched her eyes with her fingers.
They sat in silence, each engulfed in their thoughts. They did not want any recrimination or accusation to spoil the occasion for which they had gathered there. It was Aman who got up to break the silence.
“Excuse me, I will be with you in a minute,” he said and proceeded towards the bedroom.
He returned soon with a girl following him. They all got up as the girl came forward and with folded hands greeted them.
“Namaste,” she said with a smile on her face.
Feroz felt a twinge in his heart when he saw her. Her face and demeanor flooded his mind with memories of the past. With excitement and a smile on his face he stepped forward and greeted her.
“Namaste. What is your name, beti” he said, seizing her shoulders with his hands.
“Liba!” he heard a voice say from behind the girl.
He was shocked when he heard the name from a familiar voice from the distant past, which was ingrained and embedded in his ears and thoughts. He looked towards the speaker and missed a few heart beats; he wanted to cry out but remained tongue tied.
“Yes, she is your beti and Aman my is son!” Sandhya said, stepping forward.
Friends, let me leave you with a verse from Sahir Ludhianvi’s ghazal;
voh afsaana jise anjaam tak laanaa na ho mumkin
use ek khuubsuurat mod de kar chhodna achha
chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabii ban jaayen hum dono
Rough translation in English:
that tale which cannot be plausible to bring in to a conclusion,
it is better to give it a beautiful turn and leave it.
come, let us become strangers again
(Picture by Jafar Shameem)