Forgive us, O Lord, for the bounties laid before us, which we've closed our eyes to
Last year May, I got myself a special passing friend. I couldn't remember what made me stayed at home for nearly the whole of that month, but my stay made me get used to visiting my mum's shop. The shop was situated close to a masjid which has around it the inflow of the physically challenged. The blind, the deaf, and the crippled frequented this area and it’d nearly be called their home. Most of them found this place a safe haven after they've returned from the day’s work.
I felt so familiarized with these people and this feeling of belonging grew, also, between them and my family. When any of my family shows up, mum especially, they would get something in return. It might be a token but in the worst of moments, they know that they would get a smile or a little conversation in return. These goodies they would get, perhaps, made these people beam with smiles whenever they see any of my family.
On one bright afternoon while returning from the masjid, I saw an uncommon face different from the ones I had always seen and if not for the placard hung around her neck, I would never have thought she was a beggar. Exceedingly beautiful, elegant, gorgeous jet-black skin, and a down to earth smile, this lady caught my look. I have always prided my affable smile, but when I saw this person's, I was astonished. Beautiful is an understatement for it.
It's typical of me to greet them one by one or at least smile and wave at them whenever I am in a hurry or in a not-too-good mood and then wait for at least a minute for them to reciprocate. As I was greeting them that day, I noticed this strange lady gazing intently at me. Her look was so powerful that I dared not ignore. I reciprocated with the prettiest of my smiles and left them discussing. I headed back to mum's shop and on getting there, I found out that this particular woman had been following me. When she noticed I found out, she made the gesture to tell me that she had been following me. I smiled as she went to mum and both of them started conversing. (Mum got to learn the basics of sign language through her constant day to day conversation with them.)
The second day came and the same routine happened. Another day and another day followed and she kept trailing my path. The ice wouldn’t have been broken not until a Saturday when she came to the shop, walked in, took my hand and placed it on her neck. The hotness I felt, if measured, wouldn't be less than 39 degrees centigrade. She was sick and that was the only way she could make me know since I don't understand her sign language. I immediately beckoned on her friend who had accompanied her to help her shower in the masjid’s bathroom while I prepare a medicine for her.
In less than a minute, she came back with her cloth dripping. I wanted to laugh, but the pain and helplessness showed in her wouldn't move my jaws to her naive mind which didn't tell her she needed to remove her clothing before showering.
I paid less attention to that and gave her the medicine to use. When she was done, I made the sign that she should sleep, but because she was wet, she couldn't go to the masjid and so, slept on the couch at the front of mum's shop. While she was asleep, I kept an eye on her and kept checking her temperature. During one of my checkups on her, I decided to look intently at her. Anyone who saw this woman sleeping would think she is just a normal person like us. The innocence and helplessness were written on her face even while asleep and especially with the posture she slept with.
After three good hours, she woke up to my hand on her neck and smiled. Alhamdulillah, she was much better and so, I made the sign that she should find something to eat and then go home. For a week after that day, I didn't see her. I looked everywhere for this precious friend but I just couldn’t find her, and at a moment I was scared.
“Has the drug overreacted?”
“Why is she not here?”
“What could have gone wrong with her?”
I became restless as these thoughts roamed my mind. Unfortunately, there was no one I could ask about her.
Just when I was at the peak of my worries, she showed up leaping and showing off her new clothes. When she got to my place, she took my hand and placed it on her neck while shrugging like a little girl who won a competition with her counterpart. Our friendship afterward might have, perhaps, got strengthened with the especially effected smile on my face and in my heart that day. It was like a mountain of gold in front of me.
Every day after the zhur prayer, she would come around to tell me many things while I helplessly watch her gesturing and signaling. I would wonder how on earth one could get to understand the sign language.
One day, she saw me writing and made a gesture that she would love to write. “Why shouldn’t I have thought about communicating with her via writing,” I thought. I gave her my pen and jotter.
It was like being in an indescribable maze where everything got muddled up and the road got shut. I couldn’t but conclude that her incomprehensible sign conversation would be a better way for us to communicate than her labyrinthine writing. A nursery one pupil would not draw what she wrote. They were strings of lines with no beginning or visible end connecting to one another.
But her face beamed with pride. She was agog with those strings of lines. It was probably the first time she would do such. She tore the page where she wrote the lines and kept the paper in her inner pocket alongside her other valuables.
That day was an enormous lesson for me. She had nothing tangible to write, yet she was overwhelmed by the opportunity to and was of course thankful. Henceforth, I took it upon myself to teach her to write. From alphabets to writing some words (which she gladly repeated many times and eventually kept among her valuables), we started lessons on writing. Our next lesson arrived and I asked her to write, first, her name, but it was all futile.
And the very last day I’d set my eyes on her arrived. She came earlier than the just-before-zhur prayer she would come and kept signaling till it was time for the zhur prayer. We went to pray and still got back to our conversation. She stayed till like some minutes to asr prayer after telling me everything I wouldn’t understand. She smiled so hard while waving that day. It made a mark in my heart.
Days later, a friend of hers who could write came to tell me that she had gone back to her hometown to see her family. Tears, unconscious, trickled down my face as I felt I lost someone, a very good friend, a companion, who probably was telling me some deep things I, unfortunately, did not understand.
The thought of me never going to see her again got me worried. Even after a while when I eventually got back to school, I found new friends to mingle with, but the memories of this special physically challenged lady linger and are still fresh in my heart.
And today those memories came back to me and I ask myself, “what if I am like her? What if I am pregnant with words I can't give birth to? What if I have not been immensely blessed with voice and literacy? What if…?” Praise is to Allah for His blessings on us!
by Muizah Hameed
BIO: Muizah Hameed is a nurse by profession and an entrepreneur by passion. She loves to write as she gets her voice and creates a niche therein. Cooking is also her hobby plus she loves to read good books. She loves both solitude and adventure and hates idleness. She can be reached on social media here Twitter, Facebook & Instagram