By: Prashil Kumar
Bashir had never imagined losing his father. However, he chose losing him, for good. He could never imagine death upon his father. But he chose that too.
Bashir was five when he figured that his father was unwell. On most nights, his father, Ahmed laid face down on a mat. Meanwhile, his mother, Bahar heated rags over a primus stove, subsequently placing them on Ahmed’s backside. Peering at his parents, Bashir learnt that they were using warmth to ease Ahmed’s discomfort. But after seeing the practice repeated, he knew it was only offering temporary relieve. This upset Bashir. He hated seeing his father gripped in such ill fate. And therefore, clenched his little fists, determined to find the best remedy which could rid all miseries away, forever. Because Ahmed was precious for Bashir. And even more after Bashir lost and found him.
Ahmed had returned home, to Bashir and Bahar, a week ago with his lips stretched and drooping at the sides. His cheeks which Bashir had snuggled into countless times had changed, too. They had lost their chubbiness, accommodating numerous black spots and scars. Seeing Ahmed for the first time after eighteen months, Bashir found him unrecognisable. This often urged Bashir to probe into his father’s plight. But he always refrained from doing so. Fearing his enquiry could hurt his parents sentiments, Bashir never took any chances. Additionally, his only neighbours lived several miles away and hardly had any clue about their dire circumstances. Encountering a lack of investigative options, Bashir, all by himself, drew upon different possibilities. “Daddy may have forced his mouth into a whole muskmelon, without chopping it up, first. Perhaps, Daddy stumbled and fell. Perhaps, these things happen when people age.”
Eventually, Bashir ruled all his hypothesis as highly unlikely, calling them stupid enough to be applicable on his mid aged father, who was nothing less than a hero for him.
It was not that Ahmed had returned entirely alien. His high pitched voice drew familiarity as Bashir recalled the tone from several months back. Those vocals were at their peak with excitement when Ahmed offered the first kite flying lesson to Bashir; three weeks after returning. One Friday afternoon, he led Bashir to a mountaintop near their home. He then hurled their kite which was a piece of red fabric bolstered by woven straws, high into the air. “Loose, loose,” Ahmed insructed Bashir to loosen the yards of thread coiled around a bottle so that the kite could rise higher up and float about. Unknowingly, Bashir over-unfastened, therefore Ahmed ordered, “tight, tighten it,” implying to shorten the length of the string. Shortly, the kite sailed gracefully into the breeze blowing from the Persian Gulf. It appeared as if a bird was looming amid the mountains, several feet above rocky terrain, hunting on its prey. The sight pleased Ahmed. Thrilled, he patted Bashir’s head, “Well done!” Reciprocating, Bashir secretly wished his father a speedy recovery. It bothered him that Ahmed still addressed his aches at night and staggered while walking. He wanted his father as he originally was. At the same time, he rejoiced that Ahmed was by his side.
But his joy never lasted long. Two years later, Ahmed disappeared, again. Obtaining only words
of hope from his mother, the seven year old was left guessing about his father’s whereabouts and the duration of his absence. Feeling lost and helpless, Bashir’s anxiety grew each day. He had never explored the other side of the valley or had any idea what lay beyond the sky high mountains. His family had no transportation too. Unable to set off by himself, Bashir turned toward his kites. Believing kites could travel vast distances, Bashir inked a message on them – “Come back home, Daddy.” Every Friday afternoon, he trekked from his cottage to a hilltop, navigated his kite high up into the clouds and then cut it loose. Expecting the gale to steer his pleads to lands beyond his reach, Bashir would observe the kite until it faded into the horizon. He hoped that when Ahmed would receive them, it would muster courage in him to escape and return home as he once had. After assuring himself that his initiatives would pay, Bashir would cuddle into bed – “Come back home, Daddy.”
That same year, Bashir was wrenched by his arms from his sleep. Adjusting his eyes to half a dozen torch beams, he recognised his mother surrounded by half a dozen strangers. She leaned against a wall with hands over her head, wailing to a gunman beside her, “My baby is innocent, leave him alone.” Perceiving threat, inclined Bashir to defend his mother and home. Attempting to chase the intruders away, he put his weight into his fist and rammed a stomach beside him.
The next moment, his hands were bound and a rifle thrusted into his backside. Bashir’s screams echoed off the mountains. Bursts of laughter erupted followed by yells of English explicits. But were hardly audible. Because Bashir’s shrieks were the loudest of all.
From the next day onwards, Bashir laid flat as Bahar placed heated rags on his sore back. “Something must have been pushed inside Daddy too while he was away, the first time,” Bashir discerned his experience to his father’s. “Daddy is still away. Maybe, someone is still pushing things inside him. If he was home, he would still have endured.” Bashir realised that neither home nor away was safe for his father. It seemed that in both places, harm was inevitable. Thus began his endeavour to consider a risk free haven for Ahmed. Eventually, Bashir struck an ultimate solution. When Bashir felt somewhat strong in his knees, he knelt with his palms open in Sajda, “May the doors of Paradise open for Daddy.” Bashir’s desire to liberate his father from further agony, made him seek shelter from the heavens. A place far from their world where his beloved would be free from pain. The portrayal of life before him rendered death more desirable.