We recently shifted to Kuwait since my husband took a new job and thus began a whole new journey of, (I wouldn’t say adventures as it sounds very “fairytale like”), little incidents that make our life a whole.
As I arrived here and entered my new home i obviously had little idea of my whereabouts, but knowing that I had a husband who cared about little details, I never had apprehensions or fears related to what kind of a place I’m living in, what kind of people lived in this building or how will I get along with them. I just got comfortable as soon as I stepped in.
In a couple of days I understood the location of my building and as I had anticipated, its location was perfect. It was away from the hustle bustle of the main road and yet, near everything. Everything that I needed was at a walking distance from our place. The school in which we planned to put our son in, a good hospital, a mosque, a community hall that held community gatherings every Friday, a vegetable store, a pharmacy, a gym, a baqalah , an Indian restaurant, Arabic restaurant, even a spa and a rent a car store! Talk about convenience!!
Anyway, our son got an admission in the school that we wanted after clearing his test but since everything was so new I had a little bit of an insecurity availing the services of the school bus. So, we decided to pick and drop him ourselves for the time being since it was so close to our home. The morning duty of dropping was my husband’s and the afternoon duty of picking him up came to me.
And so began my daily little experiences of incidents that I never thought would affect me in anyway, but they did.
I strapped on the baby carrier on my waist and put my 5 month old baby in it and started towards school daily. On my way one day, I came across an old Iranian lady just outside my building. Of course at first it was just a glance, then another day when we saw each other again we exchanged smiles. Then again, we bumped into each other on our own floor hallway and came to know that we were immediate neighbors. We laughed looking at each other as if to say that all this while we were just adjacent to each other and yet were unaware. We met several times after that, sometimes in the afternoon when I was on my way to school, sometimes in the evening when we were going somewhere…. and our conversations were special…not in a lovely kind of way, but in a funny kind of way, that is to say it was half Arabic, half English, hand gestures, facial expressions and I think a little of Persian too!!
She used to say in arabic “why do you take the baby to school? Leave him with me. There is so much traffic on the road, very dangerous”, or “why don’t you buy a pram, this baby carrier looks dangerous”…and mind you…I managed to gather all this by the following words only..” lesh walad…… iscool.. saiyyaaraa…hand gestures of speeding cars, ana khauf!! Kida maafi koiyees hand gestures of baby in the carrier…lesh anta maafi…something something.. hand gestures of pushing a pram. And I replied, “ana buy (hand gestures of pushing a pram), baa’dain inshallahhh”. I just loved the way she showed her concern and the way she tried to make herself be understood! She used to say something and as I gave her a confused look she again said something which I understood by her gestures of shrugging her shoulders and waving both hands in the air looking up as if to say I know I’m saying something but you are unable to understand and are thinking “what is she saying”???
The day we bought the pram, coincidentally, she was the first one to see it as we brought it into the elevators. She was coming out and we were getting in. She gave a huge smile and said “mabroook mashalllahh”.
As days passed, we chatted often on our ways and as winter came she stopped coming out so much. One very cold afternoon as I came out of my apartment, she at once opened her door. It seemed as though she was waiting for me to come out. As soon as she saw me, she held herself with both hands and took a shivery deep breath in and said “very coooldh, jeeb babyyy”…then gesturing with her forefinger rubbing under her nose making a frowning face she held out her hands to take the baby….obviously, I understood she wanted me to leave the baby with her as it was very cold and it might cause a runny nose and he might catch a cold or get sick. At first I was a little hesitant as had never left my son with anyone before, but as I saw her looking lovingly towards him and getting anxious to take him in her arms, I gave in. I handed him over to her, ran back to my apartment, brought a bottle of milk just in case, gave it to her and hurried over to the school.
On my way, there was an automatic bounce in my step. Trying to walk, wanting to run, doing something in between- not walking normally, not running either…just to get over with my errand as soon as possible and get back to my baby as fast as I could.
When I got back, I was out of breath and had almost made my elder son run all the way so that he could keep up with me. I rang her bell and she came to it instantly. There was a huge smile on her face which was kind of gratifying for me. It showed she was having a good time and the baby hadn’t been crying or bothering her. In fact, she told me that he was actually smiling at her when she jiggled her rosary in front of him. It was quite obvious she was having a good time.
As I made a quick scan around her apartment I saw framed pictures of children kept on top of her T.V. stand. Everything around seemed dusty, but those frames were shiny! The whole apartment seemed as though it wasn’t much cared for. There was one cozy corner cleared from bags of stuff that were pushed into corners of the room, where I guessed she sat and watched tv, a very small kitchen, and a cozy bedroom with a window overlooking the street below. She took me to her bedroom where he was lying quietly and took her seat right next to him and continued playing with him. She then asked his name. I told her “Ahmed”. All of a sudden her face lit up even more, she seemed ecstatic and started gushing, raising her hands and bringing them back to her chest she said loudly “oooo walllaaahhh…ana walad Ahmad!!, ana walad Ahmad!!oooooo…mashalllahhhh” and kissed the baby. She then held my hand and took me to the tv room and pointed over to the little children in one of the frames and told me that they were her children. A boy named Ahmad, and a girl. I came to know that they both were now married and were now settled in “Miyaameee” (Miami). She pointed to another picture of a very sweet little girl and I understood her to be her granddaughter, her son’s daughter.
I asked her why hadn’t she gone along with her kids, and she answered that she didn’t like it there much. At least that is what I could read from her expressions, and that she was comfortable here. Even though her expression was of disgust, I could see a hint of sadness in her eyes.
She told me her husband died a few years ago and she now lived here alone and then said a lot of things that I wasn’t able to understand, but what I could understand was that she was miserable and sad and lonely. She stood at her bedroom window and pointed out at the cars that drove off from the street and counted them. She was trying to tell me how she passed her time, looking out her window, seeing other people, strangers walking, cars running, some pigeons flying. As I felt her loneliness inside me I couldn’t repel a lump in my throat.
I gathered myself quickly and gave a huge smile as I could find no other way to cheer her up. She also snapped back and lifted the baby and gave him to me. We said our goodbyes and she handed over a packet full of chocolates to my elder one. He gave her his big “happy face” expression and thanked her profoundly. At that moment, she seemed happy. I felt a sense of relief that even though for a brief period of time, I was able to make her smile and that we were able to give her some moments of companionship to her otherwise solitary life.
As I came back to my place, I experienced an immense amount of discomfort. I started having random thoughts of what I would do if I had to let go of my sons in order for them to lead better lives elsewhere. How would I ever be able to bear to live without my children? Or how would I manage a life without my husband around? And then my thoughts went over to my parents. How my parents had sacrificed their entire lives for us. Having lived separately for years so as to support us financially and let us have a better education and better lives. My sense of gratitude towards them deepened immensely. Not a day goes by when I don’t thank my lord for having blessed me with a complete family. Loving parents, an awesome brother, a caring husband and the apple of my eyes, my two sons are all that made me who I am today, a complete woman- a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother. They are my strength and I know that they will always be there for me, even if not physically around, their emotional support is all that I need to face the world.
I closed my eyes and prayed….I prayed that my neighbor and I always have that strength in us till the end.
Written by Fariah Fatima
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