After four missed calls (I never know where my cell phone is, esp on Sundays) or ‘mis-caals’ as the residents of Neelum Colony and the majority of rural city-dwellers (or urban village-dwellers) are wont to say, Zahooran turned up at my doorstep today, Tayyab in tow.
I was puzzled, today being a Sunday and an off day for her, when she can do her own laundry and spend the day as she pleases.
Something was up.
She took off her slippers by the door and bade Tayyab do the same, conscientious about not bringing the dirt from the filthy narrow alleyways of the colony into my house.
She and Tayyab made their way over to the living room rug as I trailed behind, wondering what prompted this extracurricular visit, and asked her if all was well as they plonked themselves onto the floor. Zahooran evaded my eye and looked confused…. and a bit furtive.
‘Buss baji….ek masla ho gaya hai….,’ she began. There was a problem.
Last night she got a phone call from her husband telling her to come home (to Bahawalpur) as he wasn’t well. Apparently, he had an upset stomach and was dehydrated and needed a drip. Getting a ‘drip’ means serious business. It generally means one must be really quite sick, and it is appropriate for concerned relatives to congregate by the sick bed and look grave. And if you happen to be the wife of the sick person in question…? Well, obviously you must drop everything, take leave from your various work places, pack some clothes and travel 851 kilometres, tired and a bit sick from the road trip yourself, and tend to your husband’s sickly needs.
I sat on my chair and looked at her. She refused to meet my eye. It has only been four months since she came back from her hometown, after a visit that lasted three months, and I was forced to look for other help.
And now here she was, asking my opinion on what she should do. Of course I would say she should do what she thought best! I can’t very well tell her to forget her husband….that he’d have to get better by himself..?
Frankly, I really don’t see how the two of them can exist like this…she in Karachi, working her ass off to make ends meet and send Tayyab to school, he in Bahawalpur doing whatever it is that he does there, which according to Zahooran doesn’t amount to much.
Does she even love him? Does she even care?
I asked her if she thought it was feasible for her to just up and leave. People get sick all the time. Would she expect him to come and take care of her if she fell ill over here? Especially since he claims the Karachi air doesn’t suit him. What about the fact that she doesn’t LIKE being in Bahawalpur herself?
I realized she hadn’t really come to ask for my advice or opinion at all. In fact, she had come to inform me. And to collect her salary, with the assurance that she’d be back in a week. She had already made up her mind to go and had arranged to be at the bus stop at 4 o’clock in the afternoon (it was 1 when she dropped in.) And considering she had not mentioned anything about leaving yesterday, all this must have transpired overnight.
And I can’t help admiring her subtlety!
The funny thing is, I know there’s no way she’ll be back in a week, yet I don’t feel angry with her for running off just when the holidays end and school starts. I mean, I don’t feel angry for myself. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it makes me indignant for HER that she’s expected to go through all this inconvenience.
Yet, I’m aware that she herself probably doesn’t feel any resentment at all. If anything, she is just doing what she feels is right, what is expected of her as a good wife. What would people say otherwise?
As for me, let’s see how I feel a week from now, when she has not returned, the month of Ramadan will have well and truly set in, and I will not have the energy nor the desire to wash the dishes, vacuum the house, clean the bathrooms and dust the blasted furniture. 😛 And I can’t believe she left me with detailed instructions on how best to keep the bathroom taps looking shiny and the glass cubicle spot-free.