(A collection of short stories -reminiscences).
“ Bua aagayee, Bua aagayee”, we all would run every Friday morning,screaming joyously yet with a distinct apprehensive flavour. Was it Sunday morning. I guess it was Sunday morning back in the sixties when I was a carefree little girl with skinny legs and a very bright eyed face. I would wonder and wonder and wonder. Wonder was the prime emotion, at airplanes, grass hoppers, “Beer Bahootis” or the velvety red ladybugs so commonly found in Nazimabad number “Chaar” in Karachi. As the much awaited, celebrated and deserved rain would arrive in Mid June Monsoons in Karachi, these little velvety creatures would come out on the earth in plain areas and moundy terrain which was the site so prevalent in Karachi in the sixties. We would collect them in little glass jars and the joyous pleasure would be heard in our giggling, shrieks.
Back to ‘Bua’, she would come and we would surround her. My sister, a friend and myself. Looking up at her not so lined face. Neither age, nor poverty had made her face sad or unpleasant. She would smile, her eyes brightening and take off her “shuttle cock Burqa” and keep it aside. She was from a generation and times and culture that is lost to us now. She was an immigrant from Dehli. White “chooridaar “ pajamas, white “kurta” and her inevitable shuttle cock Burka.
Her “khichree” hair, a salt and pepper mix, barely thick would be wound in a tight platt, held with a rubber band. Piranda was also there sometimes. A black thready contraption which I never liked. She smelled of “paan”, coconut hair oil and an animated body odour which I guess now would have come from infrequent bathing.
“Idhar aa Munni” she would say, pulling me gently towards herself. “Tera sa Saaf hai ke nahin” looking for the inevitably dreaded “Joon “.She did not seem very fond of nit picking, of which some or most other ladies of that generation or sweet lost world were. She would sit by my terraced courtyard, in the bright shining morning sun, put coconut oil and massage our heads.
Oiling was a fun pastime. It seemed that a bond was formed between the massager and the massaged. The eternal pleasure that I felt during this activity remains as a desire, a pleasure to be sought to this day. Well a good head massage with a good talk, no matter what topic remains to this day a therapy. Aah, no replacement with the expensive Saunas, Spas and the likes of today with the cold ,cold, therapists . No feeling, no compassion. no soul talk. I would exchange my Bua’s head massage with a million dollar holiday any time, anywhere.
What did I read that week, “Angrezi Kahaniyaan”, Urdu definitely, and of course the Quran lessons. She was interested in what I learnt in Urdu stories. I was too young to read out anything to her so the general idea was sufficient. But then the imaginative mind of mine would add a sentence here or a story there. Maybe she was looking for a glimpse of the fantastic, Kings and Queens story reminiscent of “Dilli”. Maybe she wanted the refuge of flight of thought from the backyard to “Central Jail” Karachi where she resided. Perhaps her sad story of residence in a “jhompri” with huge dignity, with her sons, without a future in her newly found land of dreams was smudged in that morning at our house where she was awaited, loved and desired to interact by us, the princesses of the household. She would put the boiled water in the pale. The bath was thorough with soap and warm water, out in the sun. It gave us the right “squeaky, cleanliness” so essential in those days when we ran in the sand, played on grass lawns, dug with fingers and hands, flower beds and pots. Planting flowers, imagining to have success with seeds as if by magic, waiting for “Bonas” to come out of the earth if we dug deep enough with our little fingers!
The world was a fairy tale. The reality , a fairy tale. Then there was this Sunday morning, warm, full of sunshine.