Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Board

"How many times have I told you to be careful with knives! Why were you cutting the vegetables? Where is Khala?," an angry Faiz was complaining to his sister Gul. 

"Khala went to market to sell the baskets. She told me to cut the vegetables," Gul said.

"I wish I could take you to school with me. I want to you learn like I am learning at school," Faiz said as he bandaged Gul's finger. He loved his sister a lot. She was his world.

"Khala says I should learn house work because that is what I am supposed to do when I grow up", replied Gul.

"That's rubbish. My teacher is a Miss. I want you to be like her. Did you practice what I taught you last night?" asked Faiz.

"I did not have your pencil Faiz." Faiz was about to start but Gul added, " I wrote on sand. See", he took Faiz's hand and rushed behind the kitchen. Faiz saw how beautifully and correctly Gul had written everything. 

"How was school today Faiz?"
"Good. My teacher said that the fair is coming to our village next week. We have to go there Gul. Remember how much fun it was last year", Faiz said delightfully.

"Oh yes. We bought balloons and rode on the ferris wheel and played with those big bubbles. And you had loved the baklava they were selling in the fair. This time you get lot of them. That way you can eat them for so many days Faiz." Gul reminded her brother.

"Mmmmmm.......the sweet it just melted in the mouth....," Faiz absent-mindedly licked his lips. "But no Gul. We will not waste our money this time Gul. Miss was showing a nice board on which we can write. It does not need any chalk also Gul. It has a pen attached to it and we can write on it and then we can erase it and write on it again. It was so wonderful Gul. Miss said we can get it in the fair. There was that beautiful book stall at the fair remember. It will be selling that board Gul. If we buy it, you can write on it as many times as you want to and we don't need to worry about buying chalks and pencils. Khala will be happy too because she will not have to give us money again and again."

"But do we have money for that board Faiz?"

"We can help Khala and make more baskets. The more baskets she sells, the more money we will get. Come, let us weave some baskets and surprise Khala."

Faiz rushed to the corner where Khala kept all her stuff and started weaving. Gul sat down to help her brother. The two were so lost in the work they did not see Khala coming. She looked surprised but didn't say anything. Faiz got up and gave water to Khala.

"What is it this time Faiz? I cannot buy you anything right now", Khala said. 

Faiz told Khala about the board. She was pleased to hear about it and a little curious too. But with an empty pocket, she could offer no words of encouragement. She asked the two kids to say their prayers and go to bed. Faiz and Gul sadly lay down and went to sleep. 

The next seven days one could see Gul and Faiz busy weaving the baskets. Their little fingers did much work and they ached but their desire for that little treasure made them forget everything. Khala wanted to stop them but she did not want to rob them of their happiness. So she kept quiet and did her work with an even greater spirit.

Hard work does wonders. So does a passionate heart. And here there were two little hearts full of zeal, full of innocence, full of love. Many baskets were weaved, and sent straight to the market. Khala brought in money every night and tucked them under her pillow.

The day of the fair arrived. Faiz was very excited.

"Will Khala give us the money Gul?" he asked.

"You go and ask...."

"Faiz, come here," Khala was calling.

Faiz went to Khala. Gul peeped from behind the kitchen door.

"Take it. Go and get that board. And better hurry up before it's all gone."

Faiz hugged Khala but couldn't utter a word. His happiness knew no bounds. Taking the money, he went out and ran. He ran and ran and stopped to catch his breath only when he had reached the fair. He did not see the big balloons and the bigger bubbles. He did not see the rides. He did not even see the food stall selling his favorite baklavas. He just saw the book stall and that board his Miss had shown at school. After paying for it, he held it in his hand for the first time. He felt its smooth edges. He took the pen and wrote his name. The pen moved like butter melting on a hot pan.....smooth, easy, flowing. It was beautiful. Was that a rain drop that fell on the board or was it a tear from Faiz's eyes. It is difficult to say because the weather was cloudy and Faiz had quickly wiped his face as he ran back home. 

He reached his house and shouted, " Khala, Gul.....look..", and he sat down catching his breath. Khala and Gul surrounded him and asked him to write on the board. Faiz wrote Gul's name. Then Khala asked Faiz to draw something. As Faiz sat there drawing, Gul went inside and brought something from the kitchen. Faiz's eyes gleamed and opened wide in surprise. They were his favorite baklavas. Khala had kept some spare money and got some baklavas from the fair.

"Gul told me how much you loved these baklavas. Did you want to wait for another year to eat them?", Khala said laughing.

Faiz drew a picture on the board - Khala, he and Gul with a plate full of baklavas. And no one erased it for a long time. 

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