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Learning English

The Thorn Trees (Draft 1)

Copyright:Prohibited republication
Corrector's skills: Native, Perfect
Tags: short stories
Language: English
Progress: processing: 0, ready corrections: 0, remains corrections: 3

Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

As I entered the Edhi center, the innocent, children came to see me. I was totally different from them; the only thing that was common in us was that we all were orphans. “Children, she is your new friend, Kuee,” the in charge of the Edhi Center introduced me to the children.

“Welcome, Kuee. You will be safe and better here,” said the children. The in charge showed me around the center and told me what to do and what not to do.

I remained very silent for many days in the center. Children wanted to talk to me, but I thought they would mock me. No one ever tried to mock me though. One day the in charge of the center said, “Kuee, children want to hear your story. Would you like to tell us your story?”

“I don’t have any story,” I replied.

“All children living here have a story to tell,” said one of the girls. “Tell us why and how did you get here? Where are your parents?”

I looked down at my small feet and remained silent for a few seconds. “Come on, Kuee. Don’t be hesitant. We all are your friends,” the in charge encouraged me to tell my story.

I took my head up and started to tell them my story: I was born abnormal. I am almost 30 now, but my height is like a 3-year-old child. I remained all my life at home to avoid being mocked. I hadn’t had the chance to play with my neighborhood children. I had too short legs and arms. I couldn’t walk. My father and mother loved me though. Kajlo, our dog, was my best friend. I had spent many years with him.

Our house was by the graveyard in Samtiya, and it didn’t have any walls. The house was full of Babul trees, the thorn trees. Mother says when they came to this place there were only Babul trees, so they wanted them to be there. My father, Habib, cut the branches of Babul trees, the thorn trees, and put the branches around the house. The branches were full of thorns, so it was not easy to cross over them. We were happy with our little world. My father ran a donkey-cart to make both ends meet. My mother, Basran, sew quilts and coverlets. She always helped my father run the house.

I played games with Kajlo. One of the favorite games of ours was tricking the people on the road. I would tie a ten-rupee note with a thin white thread and would sit by the door. Kajlo would take the note and put it in the middle of the road. As people walked and saw the note, I would pull the thread back. It was fun. We loved that game. Our house didn’t have a real wooden or iron door. Mother had hanged a quilt into the Babul trees on the both sides.

My parents were old. Our days had been very difficult since last year. Father’s only source to bring home bacon was his donkey and cart. Father had grown too old and weak to run the donkey cart. Baba couldn’t control the donkey, so he had an accident last year. Baba’s cart had fallen into a ditch and both of the wheels were broken. Our life had been very tough since then.

My mother had become weak and her eyesight was too damaged to cross the thread into the needle to sew the quilts. We didn’t have food. Father started to look after the graveyard in order to get some reward from the visitors. He swept the graves, watered the little Neem trees in the graveyard, and put stones over the graves. He would go early in the morning to the graveyard because this was the only time when some people came to visit their deceased ones. People didn’t give him much. Hardly fifty rupees he could make, and that was not every day. Our starving forced mother to beg. She started to go door to door in the nearby village, Akil.

I am telling you the experience of our one day. It was December 31, 2017. The last day of the year. We had nothing to eat last night. Mother was pretending that she was sleeping on her cot, covering her entire body. Father, Kajlo, and I were sitting in front of the fire under the Babul tree. It was our kitchen. It didn’t have sui gas, Chinese pots, or an oven. We had everything natural. We ate meal on the Bindis made out of date palm tree leaves. Our fire was natural too; we burned the Babul tree dried branches. These thorn trees have always been useful for us. As the Fajir Azan voice could be heared, Mother removed her razai, the old cotton made quilt. She couldn’t see us hungry more. She was thinking to go to Akil early today. “Dhia, Kuee,” she called me. Our relatives called me Kuee, which means a small female mouse.

“Ji, Aman,” I replied.

“I cannot see my slippers. Kajlo must have taken it.” Father heard it. He had the slippers in his feet. Kajlo had brought him to wear since his own had become too worn and one of the slipper’s lice had come off. Father took the slippers off and gave it to Kajlo.

“Woof, Woof,” said Kajlo. He went to mother and put the slippers before her feet. I saw mother had worn two Kamizes (a long knee-length shirt). She didn’t have any sweaters. She opened her box and took another Kamiz.

“Why are you taking this Kamiz, Mother?”

“I am putting it on. It is too cold. I am going to Akil.”

“Mother, but it is too early.”

“I walk slow. By the time I reach the sun will have arisen.”

“But, there might be dogs on the way. Dogs live in the olive orchards, and on the left of the raod are the olive orchards.”

“They won’t harm me.” Father saw her with red, teary eyes. She took a Babul stick and a mall torn bag. I thought people will laugh at her because she had worn three different color Kamizes.

It was almost about 11 a.m. Mother hadn’t returned yet. I crawled to the nearby pond, gazing the road to see if Mother was coming.

It was a very cold morning. After a few minutes, I could hear Kajlo barking in the house. This dog has spent five years with us. He has faced the difficulties with us. He came out smelling the dust to find me. “Woof, woof, woof!” barked Kajlo. He probably asked me to get inside the house. I looked at the dog and the road. I wondered how hard it must be for mother to go every day to beg in Akil, a nearby village. Kajlo pulled my kamiz, and insisted to get in. I didn’t move. I could see father sweeping a grave, collecting the fallen yellow, dried leaves of the Neem tree in the graveyard.

I could sight Mother finally. She was coming very slowly. I wished I could help her. I wished I could earn for them. That day, I felt very inferior and helpless.
“What are you doing here? Get inside,” mother said as she reached. “Look, I have brought enough food for next day too!”

My eyes filled with tears. She hugged me and said, “Good days come after hard days. My child don’t you cry.”

Kajlo ran to Baba to tell him that Mother had brought food. The dog had been hungry too. “Mother, Kajlo is happy to see the food,” I commented.

“Yes, he is. He has been here for a long time,” said mother. “Our relatives don’t feel our pain as Kajlo does. The humans have lost humanity, my child.”

“Why don’t you go to the relatives for help, Mother?”

“They know everything about us. I had gone to them for help, but they didn’t do anything for us. There is a saying in Sindhi: Crying before the blind is useless.”

“Mother, I have also heard father saying me asking for help from relatives is like asking berries from Babul tree.”

“Yes, but these Babul trees have been very useful for us, not less than berry trees.”

Mother distributed the food equally for everyone including Kajlo. We ate food and thanked God.

Our days were passing like that. One night, father got very sick. Mother went to Akil to call the doctor until she came father had stopped breathing. Mother came and burst into tears, crying, “The doctor didn’t open the door; neither did the Medical store man. I couldn’t save you. I couldn’t do anything for you.”

The neighbourhood men dug the grave for father and took him to burry. My father’s brother reached after his burial. There were not many people in the corrugation, and by the end of the day everybody had gone. My uncle left a thousand note in my mother’s dupatta and said, “It was wish of God; we can do nothing.”

Father’s death caused mother a great sorrow. She was becoming weaker and weaker every day. Her eyesight was decreasing. Mother could no longer walk to Akil, so she went into the neighborhood to beg food. She never wanted to go into the neighborhood, but she was compelled. I used to collect the fallen small, yellow flowers of the thorn trees and put them in a shopper. Kajlo took the flowers to the father’s grave.

It had been two years since father died. Mother’s eyesight was completely gone. She went to the neighborhood with the help of stick. One day, she didn’t come home for too long. I was so much worried that mother left in the morning and it had been evening but she hadn’t returned. Kajlo constantly barked. The neighbors found mother dead in the pond. She had fallen into the pond and drowned.

My uncle took me to Edhi Center the next day. He didn’t allow me to take Kajlo with me.”

“You are a very brave woman,” said the in charge.

“Yes, very brave. You had harder life than all of us,” said the children in the center.

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