A father’s wish on Eidul Azha
Azhar stood at the bus stop, waiting for the bus to come. His eyes filled with tears and standing there in the heat of the scorching sun just made everything seem even more dismal. Before he could stop himself, a helpless sigh escaped him; then, straightening his shoulders, he took a deep breath and pretended to look eagerly towards the corner of the road from where the bus was to come. Yet, as much as he tried, his mind kept taking him back to the comfort of his boss’s air-conditioned office.
He still couldn’t believe that his employer had asked him to hand in his resignation since the company no longer needed him or his services. For them, he had become redundant. In his boss’s own words:
“You are an asset for us, you know that. However, the company is planning to move forward, with a more technologically sound vision. Unfortunately, that would make your services of little use to us. I am extremely sorry; if you need a recommendation letter, just let me know.”
Azhar had noticed that he had finished his carefully scripted speech with a strange smile – neither too wide lest Azhar should feel mocked, nor too small to prevent Azhar from thinking that his boss was empathetic towards him. He had known for a while that this day would come but he had not been sure when it would actually happen. Now that he had been asked to leave the company, he couldn’t help thinking that this was the worst time for something like this to happen. After all, Bakra Eid was just around the corner.
Azhar was suddenly shaken out of his reverie as the bus stopped near him and the conductor waved him over, urging him to somehow fit himself in the already full vehicle, swaying under the weight of its passengers. It all just seemed too much to bear and Azhar decided that he would rather walk in the direction of his house; at least until a less crowded bus arrived.
As he walked, he could only think of one thing – how would he explain to his 12-year-old son, Amir, that he would not be able to bring a bakra (goat) home this year? He smiled mirthlessly remembering Amir’s excitement when the first lot of cattle had arrived in their apartment compound. A portion of the building’s parking had been cordoned off with a tent for the ‘guests’ of Eidul Azha. There was fodder and buckets of water for the animals and Amir’s delight knew no bounds at the sight of the new beings in the area.
“May I have my own bakra this year Abbu? May I? Please? I promise I’ll take good care of it and will even take it for a walk in the evening. All the other kids make their animals race together. It’s so much fun!”
Watching his son’s eyes shining with excitement, Azhar could not help but grant him his wish. Ecstatic at his father’s consent, Amir expressed his specific desire for a white goat with brown spots. Remembering all this, Azhar felt his eyes well up with tears again. Even as he had agreed to Amir’s request, he had known that he would not be able to afford a goat with his meagre salary. However, he had planned to take a loan and get a bakra this year for Amir. In the current circumstances, even this was simply impossible.
“How can I set aside 20 to 25 thousand rupees for the animal?”, he asked himself.
The rates had sky-rocketed in recent years and buying an animal for sacrifice had become a mere dream for many. With these thoughts whirling in his head, Azhar suddenly realised that he was pretty close to his apartment. He was drenched in sweat since his house was quite far from his office but his thoughts had kept him walking.
Standing in the parking area, he looked on at the sight of both, children and adults, patting and feeding the animals. He cringed as he heard some of them showing off their animals emphasising the price they had paid and how beautiful and expensive the animals looked. Then his eye fell upon Amir, sitting in a corner, looking enviously at the other children playing with their animals.
As he looked helplessly at his son, Azhar literally felt a part of him dying inside.
With a jolt, he realised that happiness was indeed a luxury for him. He and his family were destined to live a life of misery and discontent, only because they had been born in the wrong place. Shaking his head in despair, he knew that his son might never forgive him for not getting him the one thing he had asked for.
It was then that Amir looked towards the gate and saw his father standing there, gazing at the wall. He jumped up and ran towards Azhar, his lips stretched into a wide smile and his eyes shining with excitement. Azhar could not bear to look at him. He didn’t know what he would say when Amir would ask him for his bakra.
However, Amir surprised his father by tugging on his hands and saying,
“Come Abbu, I have to show you something!”
Reluctantly, Azhar followed his son thinking that perhaps he wanted to show him the neighbours’ new cow or goat. He knew that this would be accompanied with a request for one exactly like that. Azhar literally felt weak in the knees as he thought of how he would explain it to Amir. Amir kept pulling his father towards the tent which housed the animals. Then, as they moved closer, Azhar saw his wife standing with other women from the apartments. When she saw them approaching, she left the group and signalled to a boy to bring something out. The boy turned and grabbed hold of a beautiful goat – white with brown spots – and brought it forward.
Azhar could not understand what was happening. His wife walked towards him smiling and said,
“Go ahead, pat it. It is our goat.”
For a few minutes Azhar could only stare at her uncomprehendingly, until Amir took hold of the goat’s leash and brought it to his father, a broad smile plastered to his face. Seeing his confusion, Azhar’s wife finally told him that she had been saving a small amount every month for the last seven or eight months, so that they could buy an animal for Eid.
Listening to her, Azhar was overcome with a multitude of emotions – from anguish to confusion, to disbelief and then amazement, joy and finally gratitude. His eyes were again brimming with tears, but this time they were tears of happiness, with the knowledge that his son’s dreams would not be crushed and the realisation of how lucky he was to have such a sensible wife.
As his son chattered on about the fodder that the cattle-breeder had told him to feed the goat and how he was going to take it for a walk every evening, Azhar absent-mindedly patted the goat. He could not stop saying a silent prayer to God, thanking Him for letting him keeping his head high – at least in his son’s eyes, at least for now.
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