Life was never always a dump. It used to be a merry-go-round. And no; it was not a mere childhood, dreamlike perception of things- life really was good. My childish sight saw our cottage a Hansel and Gretel house where mama made the cliched “delicious food.”
All six of our family lived on the farm. There used to be fights and squabbles, but they just added music to our lives. It was soon after that harsh music began to play- very harsh music…
There was a lot of rain that year and the crops subsequently were badly affected. The water table had risen, and great patches of soil were left saline and uncultivated. There was anxiety everywhere. The crop yield went down; the stress levels went up. Brother came home staggering one day with his nose bleeding. Father scolded him hard. Voices were raised and a few things were smashed. I hid in my room and listened; I did not interfere with the elders. Outside it rained.
Mama scolded us all the time, and even vented her anger on Baby Maya who could not even speak! She only cried harder. I kept away Mama. She did not make all the variety of food that she used to. Brother began staying at home, shouting on everyone. Then Father was kicked out of the farm by the owner, and he too began staying back home. Father and Brother never made out well, and when Brother started keeping out all day, Father sure had a lot to say about it. It rained all the time.
The other day, the sun never did rise. It was dark and gloomy all day. Father went out for some talk with other people. Brother was somewhere out there too: he only ever came back to sleep those days. My elder sister had to return some clothes she had sewn urgently. She went out. It was nightfall when she returned. She was almost faint and two men escorted her. They said something about injury and the canal. She did not say anything. They had found her there. It had been raining again.
Two weeks later we were all packing and moving out. I asked Mama “Where?”
She said: “Where God takes us.” I kept out of everyone’s way…
It was another gloomy day on which we headed towards Karachi. No one came to wish us away. I had to leave all my toys and friends. I cried, but no one listened. I cried like the sky that cried all the time.
Karachi was a big city, yet there was no place: neither to settle, nor in the hearts. We settled under a fly over bridge with three other very rude families. Sister and Mama were always afraid to out, but they had to. I wandered everywhere. The food was always as bad as bad could ever be, and the water tasted queer.
Then Baby Maya died. Someone said it was cholera that came from water. I was afraid to drink water now. Mama did not talk to anyone. She did not work either. She just sat and stared. Father becomes very angry with her. He hits her and shouts at her. I hide till its over. Sister lies on the ground all day, her wide eyes always open. When she goes out, she staggers and children throw sharp, slippery stones at her. She screams and keeps screaming till someone brings her back.
Brother left. He went somewhere, and when Mama talks, she says he won’t return.
It does not rain here, but when it does, I hide behind the tent and watch with helpless, furious eyes. I hate him. I hate the Rain. When he first came, he brought catastrophe to our lives- catastrophe that changed our lives forever. Now it clears the roads for us, gives us fresh water and reduces the noise trying to reciprocate our patience; trying to apologize- but I won’t forgive him. Not ever…