Love thy neighbour?

Published: February 6, 2014
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“My friend bought this bike for his son but it’s too big for him. He thought you might like it for your son instead.”

“Are you okay?”

 The question jolted Ahmed back to the present. He looked at his wife, Fatima who was looking at him in a concerned manner. She said,

“Hello… I’m talking to you.”

Ahmed sighed and replied,

“I’m worried about the business, it’s not doing so well. What about you?”

His wife took a deep breath before saying,

“The headmistress has asked me to resign because of the threats to the school. And all the staff members want me to leave as soon as possible.”

Ahmed nodded and said,

“Well it’s a difficult time for our community. Customers have been avoiding our shop and I don’t know how to get them back.”

Fatima sat down, her face drawn and frustrated. She said,

“Even Ali has said his classmates are behaving in a weird manner towards him. I have spoken to the school but they don’t seem ready to do anything. I don’t think we can continue living in such an environment.”

Ahmed looked at her and asked,

“What do you want me to do?”

“We could move. To a different city even, but I can’t live here.”

Ahmed could hear the desperation in her voice. He tried to console her,

“Don’t worry, I’ll think of something.”

Later that evening, Ahmed rang an old friend of his who lived in the capital city and told him his troubles.  His friend suggested that he should move to the capital since there were some nice properties available on rent in a quiet area of the city.

Desperate beyond measure, Ahmed left the very next day to check the houses out and returned a few days later full of enthusiasm. He proclaimed,

“I’ve found our new home!”

Excited, they began to prepare for the move. Fortunately, Ahmed quickly found a buyer for his shop and Fatima handed in her notice at the school. They packed up and left for their new home. As the car drew to a halt, Ahmed exclaimed,

“Here we are!”

They got out of the car and were greeted by the property agent who was waiting outside the house with the keys. Excitedly, Ahmed turned towards Fatima and Ali and asked,

“Well, what do you think of our beautiful new house?”

Fatima’s reply was encouraging and full of hope,

“It looks good and the area seems nice.”

“Seems okay,” Ali muttered.

The agent opened the door and led them inside saying,

“Let me show you around. I’m sure you will be happy here, it’s a very nice neighbourhood.”

They entered after him and explored all the rooms.

The very next day, they met some of their new neighbours; they seemed pretty friendly. After they left, Ahmed said in a relieved voice,

“They seem nice.”

“Yes they do,” Fatima agreed.

They decided to explore the neighbourhood and were happy to find a selection of shops, a gym, a restaurant and a nearby park, all just a few minutes’ walk from their new home. They passed by a bakery and Ahmed breathed in the enticing aroma of freshly baked bread. They were also pleasantly surprised to discover a school and a clinic close to their house. When they found a swimming pool nearby, Ahmed finally saw a smile on Ali’s face; he was very fond of swimming.

Everything seemed perfect and even the city centre and main bazaar was only twenty minutes away from their home.

Pleased on seeing a big shop, they went inside and bought some necessary items for their new home. Finally at ease and a tad bit relieved about finding such a nice locality to live in, they talked about the area over dinner that evening.

Soon they began to settle into their new life. Ali was happy at school and Fatima liked the neighbourhood and got to know more neighbours. All three of them agreed that everyone seemed very nice and welcoming.

Then, one hot, summer evening while Ahmed sat in the garden admiring the view, Fatima brought some lemon tea and they sat chatting and admiring the sunset. Suddenly, Ahmed paused and said,

“Can you hear knocking? I think someone’s at the door.”

He got up, opened the door and found his neighbour holding a bicycle. He smiled at Ahmed and said,

“My friend bought this bike for his son but it’s too big for him. He thought you might like it for your son instead.”

Ahmed was at a loss for words. This was the first act of kindness since they had moved to the area and he could hardly refuse.

“Thank you very much. This is so kind of you. I’m sure Ali will love it.”

Still awe-struck, Ahmed took the bike and walked to the garden to show it to Fatima. He exclaimed,

“Our neighbour has just given me this for Ali and its brand new!”

She was as amazed as he was.

“Wow! I’ve never known such a kind neighbour. Ali will be thrilled with it. Let’s call him out here.”

Ali’s face broke into a smile the minute he saw the bike. He jumped on it and started racing around their garden.

Ahmed smiled watching Ali have so much fun. He said,

“It’s just the right size for him.”

It had been a fantastic day, and they felt content and grateful to be living in such a friendly place.

A couple of days later after dropping Ali off at school, Ahmed’s phone rang. It was Fatima and she sounded frantic as she asked him to come home at once. Worried, he rushed home to find two policemen at the doorstep.

“What’s wrong?” he demanded.

“We’ve had a report of a stolen bicycle at this address,” they replied.

Wide-eyed, with a big jaw drop Ahmed exclaimed,

“WHAT???”

muhammad.younas

Muhammad Younas

A human rights activist and freelance UK based journalist.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Uzma Ausaf

    WHAT !!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Uzma Ausaf

    WHAT. !!!!!!!Recommend

  • Uzma Ausaf

    What the ……………. !!!!!!!Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here

    Touching. Recommend

  • Ana

    what exactly is your story trying to portray?! is it fiction? is it implying that one shouldn’t trust any gestures of kindness? or what?Recommend

  • Childish Bunny

    A pathetic attempt at a story was this written by a 10 year old :PRecommend

  • Fahad Zia

    And Younas laughs sitting in the UK, as people learn that they wasted their time reading this article !Recommend

  • Rabail Mehdi

    Umm, is it just me or tribune is losing its touch? Reading was never a waste of time until now. Recommend

  • http://- Mr Sinister

    Moral of the story: some acts of kindness are too good to be true, it is good to be sceptical once in a while ;) Recommend

  • Parvez

    This can not be a story from Pakistan because you would NEVER get two policemen at the door for a stolen childrens bicycle……..so its a bad, bad world…….but who was the neighbour ?Recommend

  • http://newsshewz.blogspot.com/ Fraz Naqvi

    Brother! Are you implying something special using the names like Ahmed, Fatima and Ali?????Recommend

  • Faiza

    I was so into the story. WOWWW!Recommend

  • Alann

    Calm down people, I’m sure a sequel is coming soon….

    …I hopeRecommend

  • Stranger

    Err.. I didnt get the gist .Are you trying to say that its a family belonging to some minority community who is running from a bad racist neighbourhood and now in the new locality too they are having problems ? The ending needs to be more specific. The writing skills are pretty good indeed. Recommend

  • Insaan

    Author is saying Muslims should not trust their neighbors. Poor Muslims get treated bad every where.Recommend

  • Arooj Ahmed

    What does the author want to say?

    And btw, why did Ahmed and Fatima accept a benefit-in-kind from a new neighbor?Recommend

  • Atif Ahmed

    This is sheer paranoia.Recommend

  • http://@net Khushab wala.

    @Parvez:
    @Fraz Naqvi:
    @Ana:
    Yes, the author is saying if you belong to
    a minority religious sect, in this country,…
    you are nothing. You belong nowhere.
    The 2 policemen showed up because the
    neighbors set them up. With the aiding and
    abetting of the police. More clearly,…if you
    are a Hazara shia, you are a marked person.
    Now then,..do you understand the analogy ?Recommend

  • http://@net Chitral wala

    @Insaan:
    @Arooj Ahmed:
    @Mr Sinister:
    @Childish Bunny:
    Here it is, for some,..who are unable to make
    head or tail of this blog: If you are a Shia and
    a Hazara, then it is a double whammy against you.
    You can change your neighborhood, you can try to
    get a new start, but it will not work. You are not wanted
    in this country. People will do anything and everything,
    fraudulent or otherwise,..to take your property, your business,
    your life by any means. After that, you can be shot and killed,
    with the Govt. looking the other way. Condoning it. You dont belong.
    If you are a Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Saraiki, or any other minority,..then
    there is not even a glimmer of hope for you.

    Hope the ET moderator will let this thru.Recommend

  • Ovais

    to be honest in pakistan its very rare that ur business suffers due to your belief. Its because of your pricing attitude and product quality but not of religion. I have never seen any business from minority failing because of their beliefs in karachi atleast. Recommend

  • powvow

    Love thy neighbour… but don’t get caught :-)Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    Excellent read. Is it so difficult for people to understand this story ?Recommend

  • KHalq e Khuda

    What a brilliant article!

    This article is a litmus test dividing clearly those ignorant or in denial of the ongoing genocide of Shias and other religuous communities in Pakistan. Better than that it has so brilliantly exposed the educated but apathetic readership of ET which is reflective of insensitivity of our English literate class in general.

    Keep it up!Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    @Ovais:
    Your comment:
    “to be honest in pakistan its very rare that ur business suffers due to your belief. Its because of your pricing attitude and product quality but not of religion. I have never seen any business from minority failing because of their beliefs in karachi atleast.”

    May be somewhat true in Karachi, but Lahore High Court has banned the most popular brand of mango juice from its premises for the sole reason that it is manufactured by an Ahmedi owned company.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Khushab wala.: If so…………what was need for the author to be sooooo cryptic and yes, I realise its Poetic Lisence, but still.Recommend

  • Ruby

    Very nice story. The twist at the end was nice. Very good writing style. Reminded me of O’Henry stories of childhood.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Khushab wala.: Second attempt :
    What was the need of the author to be soooooo cryptic is saying what he tried to say and yes I know this is the Poetic License section.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Chitral wala: People will do anything and everything, fraudulent or otherwise,..to take your property, your business, your life by any means.

    History is repeating itself, same thing happened to minorities at the time of partition. Things may get worse for minorities in Pakistan. People’s minds have already been poisoned by declaring certain sects “as not Muslims”.Recommend

  • http://www.dubizzle.com.pk Muhammad Ammad

    I think the writer cant convey his message properly please rewrite it

    http://www.dubizzle.com.pkDubizzle PakistanRecommend

  • Omid

    Some of the comments are really depreciating, and I believe they are so, because the readers haven’t got to the depth the writer has given to the story. PLEASE RE-READ IT. Apparently, it is more to it than just a family – whose background, place of residence and why they are ridden out – is deliberately not addressed – directly – but what is written symbolizes for everything what Younas’ community – and mine, too – goes through in Quetta. What he has offered, is noble in its own way.

    In my opinion the following from the story symbolizes so:

    The family: a simple family who cannot do business, go about their routines, i.e. school, teaching, etc. because they cause threat of lives – if they come under another attack by hate groups – surrounding them.
    Moving to the Capital: are forced to mass migrations due to their continued massacre.
    The gift by the neighbor: The countries – outside Pakistan, i.e. Australia – and cities around Pakistan, where they move to, fearing for their lives, don’t have much for offer. And in the length, end up wondering, “WHAT??”

    There is no address of the massacres, the prejudices and the bloodshed scenes of bloodshed (like the one on this diary), and perhaps that makes it appropriate for readers of all ages – especially children.Recommend

  • -SHAGY-

    Another grrreat piece and I am surprised at the people who could not understand let alone relate to this article published (very rightly) in Poetic License section.

    I am really worried about our education system which is not teaching the students about the irony, satire, cynicism, euphemism and likes in literature….the ignorant remarks of people here are burlesque (pun intended)Recommend