Farzana looks upwardly, covering her eyes with her right palm, her left palm arching on her eyes. The scorching Sun makes her almost blind, she steps outside of the inner courtyard, a small and private area which opened facing the seashore.
It seems scarce to belong to this villa in this narrow lane off, at its end. It has an air of a village courtyard about it. A Pipal stands tall tree adjacent to the wall of courtyard throwing its shadows with two goats tied to it. A domestic camel is also resting under the shadow, which seems too lazy to move around. The clothes that hang out to dry in a line flutter in a rhythmic sound.
Farzana just took the clothes off the rail. She tries to stand straight, taking the clothes with the right hand, resting them on her left hand, she says, “ What happened to you? Go and fetch your food. You will find some grass on the left side, a few meters away. Lazy poouk .”
Hearing her voice, the camel opens its eye, sees her, and then starts sleeping again. Farzana keeps scolding the camel, hurling some abuses at times. She has to complete the household chores as Abdullah would come to eat lunch at 1 PM. It is about 10 AM, but the Sun seems quite angry, keeps pouring heat mercilessly. She removes her colored veil, to look at the sea, where small dinghies were moving and the blue waves crushing against the cavernous rocks.
An angry tide might have come last night, leaving its mark on the shore. The sand is still wet. Farzana spotted some scorpions hiding under the rocks, probably trying to avoid something. A mild sea breeze brushes her face.
Abdullah might be somewhere out there in the mid sea, catching fish. A fright drives Farzana until Abdullah comes back from his fishing. The sea gives them bread, but it takes away many precious things too. It does not show any mercy – a small mistake causes severe penalty. Abdullah is her grandson from her dearest daughter Asma. After that sad incident, Farzana brought Abdullah to stay with her.
During the weekends and holidays, small crowds always occupy the shore, many white folks come to take sun-bath, but on weekdays hardly people come. Only village folks are seen, busy earning their bread.
A few unfortunate male folks are bound to earn, the rest has been enjoying their lives happily. Oman Sultan is a very generous, giving villas to the entire village. Farzana and few unfortunate ones are yet to be among the lucky ones.
About seventy years back, Farzana’s father came to Oman from Gujrat, India with a small ship, along with a few traders, who made their fortune by selling items like clothes, masalas, ornaments, etc. that they brought from India. Farzana took birth here, and have never visited Gujrat, her ancestral root. Growing up with her six siblings and cousins, she always knew Oman as her motherland.
Life was good despite the non-luxurious conditions. Her husband Mohammad was a kind and humorous person. He was a small merchant in the local area and used to run his own fishing boats, besides taking care of the family fishing business.
One fine morning, Mohammad has gone to sea to catch fish, but he did not come back. It was a full moon and the sea was angry, roaring with high waves crashing against the shore. It swallowed Mohammad and his dingy. He might be rested in the deep sea, Allah will surely give him peace. After this incident, Farzana never trusted the sea.
Gradually, she started losing interest in life. Her two sons were established and busy in their own lived. Her only daughter Asma was her most favorite among all her children. Pretty, plump, always smiling and caring, Asma was very attached to her from childhood.
But Asma was not happy in her life, she was very sentimental. She never shared her pains with Farzana, she probably did not want to upset her mother.
While she was lost in her thoughts, something caught Farzana’s attention. A young lady stopped the car near the shore. She steps down, she looked Indian. Most of the expatriates in Oman are Indians and among them, Hindu and Christian ladies are quite forward.
The young woman seemed very upset, looking terrible. Her face was blank and swollen with dark circles beneath her eyes, as if she had wept for a long time.
She sits on a rock, looking towards the sea, desolated. This made Farzana remember Asma. She would have been the same age if she was alive.
“Hai Allah, what is she going to do?”, she wonders.
The intention of the woman seems wrong. The way she is progressing towards the sea, Farzana felt alarmed. She looks at the surroundings, but no one is there to help.
Farzana wanted to help, but she was far away. And, how would she speak to her? Most of the foreigners could not speak Arabic, and she doesn’t know any other language.
Still, she hurries through the sand, shouting, “Hey, what are you doing?” She tries to walk fast, but old age does not permit.
The young lady turns back and her eyes meet with Farzana’s. But, she does not stop, rather accelerates her pace. Before Farzana could reach her, a man comes and pulls the lady back. He seems like a tourist. He might have heard Farzana and came to help. Thanks to Allah, Farzana tries to reach them. She forgets about her pain in her knees which had prevented her from doing so many things of late.
There seems to be a heated conversation between that tourist and the lady. That young woman looks very angry, talking rudely to the man.
Finally, Farzana reaches them, panting to catch her breath. She takes a deep breath, touches the young woman but could not speak anything. The lady stops and they keep looking at each other. The lady feels a motherly touch. Though her hands are knobby and the cuticles have grown up over her fingernails, the warmth in her hands seemed familiar.
The young lady looks at her- a wrinkled yet kind face full of motherly affection.
Farzana holds her tightly and says softly in Arabic, “ Why are you so disheartened, my child? Have faith in Allah. He will repair all of your damages. Come, with me.” Probably the young lady understood something and she kept calm. She did not protest.
The tourist came there and spoke in Arabic, “Please take her with you, lady. She is in distress and needs support.” Farzana knew what she had to do.
She could not save Asma, her darling daughter, but she will not let it happen once again. When Asma came to know about the second marriage of her husband, she was deeply hurt and decided to kill herself. Her husband got involved with someone else because he found Asma ugly. So he left her.
Often, people talked about Farzana in the same way. Her husband was fair and tall, while Farzana was short and fat. But, Mohammad never listened to all this and loved Farzana very much. But, everyone was not like him. Asma’s husband left her for someone more beautiful.
Coming back to her home along with that young lady, Farzana made her sit down and gave her water. Tears rolled down her eyes and Farzana allows her to weep. It is a purgation, by shedding tears one can unburden her pains and feel better. Farzana spoke up, “It is a gunah (sin) to kill yourself. Problems cannot be solved in this way. You should face them and get rid of them.”
The woman kept looking at her. Though, she did not know the language in which Farzana spoke but probably understood what she said. She remembered her own mother and realized what a big mistake she was about to commit.
She hugs Farzana tight. She remembered her family back in India and if her mother would have been here, she would have also given her strength like this. In this foreign land, she found a motherly figure, and Farzana also enjoyed a few heartwarming mother-daughter moments with a stranger.
The universal language of love does not require understanding a dialect, it required understanding the compassion and emotions.
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