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Exercise : NO BOUNDARIES (5 min to write)

Start with the same phrase, and then write whatever comes to mind for 5 minutes non-stop. It doesn’t have to make sense, just get the cobwebs out of your brain and face the blank page.

During the exercise, at regular intervals, new 5 words will be given by the moderator, that we need to embed in the story.  The words are shown below in CAPITAL letters.

 

MY STORY 

Wisps of hair quickly fell to the floor while words spilled from her mouth.  She loved sitting in that chair and pouring her soul out to a total stranger.

She has been HARBOURING her feelings for quite some time and she was anxiously waiting for someone to share them.  She was aware of the DANGER that could surface when talking out her secrets to a total stranger.

“Do you know me well?”, she asked him.

He nodded.

“It is a SHAME to be alive, having gone through all that I had experienced in my life.  You would be BEWILDERED when you start knowing me at a close range.  Many strangers who pretended to be my friends left me in the lurch after knowing my story.  Do you really want to love me?”, she asked.

“I would be a TORCH for you, no matter who and how were you before.  I will show you the light and help you to surpass this darkness”, he told.

She had nothing to say.  She thought that she was seeing a dream.

She told him, “I Love You”

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I was looking through my daily mail when the distinctive Skype ring tone sounded and the pop-up came up on my screen with the words “Vinil John calling” came up on my screen. I smiled involuntarily and answered the call. We had lot of catching up to do.

Vinil is my brother. No, we are not biologically related. But Vinil is all I ever wanted in a brother that I never had. I have only a younger sister Sapphire and I have always wanted a big brother. In fact, I used to almost always ask my mother for an elder brother. But I stopped it when she told me as-a-matter-of-fact that it was too late for me to get an older sibling. Well, one could always hope. And I never stopped hoping. Even though the Lord up above did give me moments of sorrow and dark nights when my mother passed away, followed by my husband Aaron after  few years, He did give me people and moments of joy and days of happiness. My adopted family of Asghar and Tamara was such a gift of God. Vinil was another.

Vinil was Aaron’s best friend. In fact, Aaron used to always say that there were only two people in the world who had seen him cry. One was me – his college sweetheart, and later life partner, the other was his best friend Vinil. I do not know when it was, that I started calling him Brother Bear. May be it was during one of those times when I used to run to him for comfort after a bitter fight or a trivial lover’s tiff with Aaron. Vinil always knew what to say. Being a strong Christian, his pieces of advice were always faith based. There were numerous times when I just wanted to yell at Him to stop preaching to me. But then again, end of the day; I was glad that I listened. The stronger my romance grew in college with Aaron, my sibling-hood with my brother bear grew stronger. Needless to say, he was Aaron’s best man for our wedding and his lovely wife Kay was the maid of honour. Vinil and his not-so-little family (He has four kids after 6 years of marriage) live in Sweden and he works as research Assistant in a fancy university there. After Aaron and I moved to Bahrain, our communications grew marginally smaller as our families were so far away, but brother bear and I made it a point to speak at least twice a week. Through the ordeal of Aaron’s cancer and his death, brother bear and Kay were a God-sent. Their help and support continued till Asghar and Tamara walked into my life. They knew my adopted family would take good care of me and they were right. My conversations with Vinil dwindled down to twice a month but when we did speak, we would go on forever.

When we moved onto the second hour of our conversations, I really had to go for a bathroom break. Asking bro bear to stay on the call, I went to the toilet.

I looked at the toilet bowl as I was about to press down the flush. The bowl was red with my blood. Not really a sign for panic for a healthy woman because this is pretty much the case every month during her menstrual cycle. But I panicked because I’m not a normal healthy woman. My periods had stopped many years ago when I miscarried my child and my uterus ruptured. So when I saw the blood, I knew things were terribly wrong. I had an inkling of trouble because my health was failing and I had terrible body pains for the past few months. I had known something was not right for a long time. My occasional stomach pains coupled with terrible body pain convinced me that I really had to go to the doctor. But then again, I detested hospitals. I hated the smells of disinfectants and medicines, the long wait of patients to see their doctors, the feel of so much distress in the air and the memories a hospital invoked in me that culminated in the death of my husband of 5 years – Aaron to cancer. But this was the final straw. I had to go to a doctor even though I detested hospitals. Now, I did not really have much of a choice. I flushed my blood down the toilet, washed my hands and stepped out of the bathroom and called out to Tamara – Asghar’s wife. My adopted daughter in law.

“Ma, you called?”

“Yes Tamara, I wanted to know when your next check-up with your gynaecologist was due.”

“Hmm… it’s sometime next week. What happened, ma?”

“I’m not feeling too good. I want to go to the hospital. I was thinking I’d go when you go next time and get myself checked.”

“Goodness, for you to admit that you have to go to a doctor, something must be really wrong. What is it?”

I told her. She insisted on going to the doctor immediately. When she narrated the issue at hand to Asghar who was lazing in front of the TV, I quickly ended my Skype call with brother bear. I told him that I wasn’t keeping well and I had to go to the hospital. Without wasting any more time than necessary, we were off to the hospital.

After running a few tests, the doctors diagnosed me with ESRD – End Stage Renal Disease. They were surprised that I did not come for a check-up or treatment sooner. I told them about my hatred for hospitals and I was met with almost-angry looks and not-so-happy tones when they told me what I had done were quite foolish in not consulting a doctor sooner. Asghar was livid with rage when he came to know that I was suffering for quite some time and I did not tell him or Tamara anything about it. The name of the disease had an-almost-final sound to it. But then again, the doctors said it was an appropriate name. The kidneys in end-stage renal disease function so poorly that they can no longer keep you alive. End-stage renal disease cannot be treated with conventional medical treatments such as drugs. Only 2 treatments allow you to continue living when your kidneys stop functioning: dialysis and kidney transplantation.

I agreed to undergo a dialysis. Well, then again, I really did not have much of a choice. Asghar, who willingly took the role of my son was acting on my behalf and making all the serious decisions. The hospital was going to be my temporary home for the next few days. As we drove home quietly, we were lost in our thoughts. If anything the Lord has taught me through my ordeals in the past was not to focus at the problem at hand. So I forcefully turned my thoughts away for my ESRD, the start of dialysis the next day and the difficult of obtaining a donor in case of a kidney transplant. I unknowingly played with my memory bracelet Aaron gave and Asghar completed. I started thinking of Asghar, Tamara and the little ray of life that was growing inside her womb. She was 7 months pregnant. I was going to be a grandmother soon. And then without my knowledge, maybe because I spoke to him earlier, my thoughts went to my very own brother bear.

There was a gap of eight years between the Aaron’s death and Asghar’s coming back to my life. And those years were made better only because my brother bear was there. He always was there; no matter what time of the day or night I called and disturbed him and darling Kay. Needless to say, the international telephone bills were quite high and there was not a single day in those eight years when I did not praise God for him, Kay and the guy who invented Skype. The best part about our unique sibling-hood was that even when one of us was done, we always stood strong for the other. For Aaron’s first death anniversary, Vinil and Kay flew all the way from Sweden to Bahrain leaving their kids there under a nanny’s care. I was too happy and sad at the same time when I saw him. The last time I had seen him was for our wedding and I had no idea they were coming down to Bahrain for me. When I hugged him in church, tears rolled down my cheeks and I was too choked up for words. My non-biological brother just held me tighter and said into my ears “Shh… D… This what siblings do.” And a tear rolled down his cheek too. That had always been our line to each other. “This is what siblings do.” Two years later, when brother bear had financial troubles over some loans and a failed year at work, I did not have to think twice to write off a chunk of Aaron’s investments in his name. That evening, during our Skype session, Kay, Bro bear and I had a virtual hug as I gave our lines off to him dutifully. “This is what siblings do”. I have been the godmother to two of his children. Meeting them on Skype used to fill the child-shaped void in my life to a degree. And yes, my students at the Good Shepherd School also helped. And when Asghar walked into my life with Tamara, brother bear couldn’t have been happier for me. He and Kay gladly accepted these young people into their family and lives. Brother bear and I often competed on what gift to give each other. And he insisted that he owed me one mother of a treat for getting back at whatever life or fate threw at me. I joined in and asked him for a front row concert seat for one of the performances of our favourite band Switchfoot. He said definitely, he would take me. That was years ago. Life moved on in Sweden and Bahrain and the rest of the world. We never went to the concert, but then again, I wasn’t complaining.

I was woken from my trip down the memory lane when Asghar parked the car in the garage and had opened my door for me. With considerable difficulty, I got out of the car and got into the house. There were a lot of things that I had to do before the start of my treatment tomorrow. I had to call the school principal and inform him that I was taking a medical leave for an indefinite period of time. I was concerned for my children at school but there was nothing I could do. I got to my room and started packing the few essentials that I might need at the hospital. Slowly, the seriousness of my situation gripped me and I was beginning to get terrified about my disease. I was a middle aged woman who had dealt with my share of problems about the fear of the unknown and the intensity of my illness scared me to my inner-mist core. The doctor had given me a detailed description of my disease and the two methods of cure. One being dialysis and the other, a kidney transplant.

He had said that people who require dialysis are kept alive but give up some degree of their freedom because of their dialysis schedule, fragile health, or both.

Kidney transplantation which involved the  replacement of the failed kidneys with a working kidney from another person – a donor was a much better option according to the doctors. Even though it was not a complete cure, many people who receive a kidney transplant are able to live much as they did before their kidneys failed. But the main problem about the transplant was to get a suitable donor, whose blood group and tissue type matched mine. Because of a shortage of donor kidneys, each year only a small percentage of people who need a transplant actually receive a kidney. I was definitely not feeling better when the doctor said that the wait for a donor kidney could take years. So for the time being Dialysis it was. The doctors had immediately put my name in the list of patients who required a  donor kidney but  they calmly said that this did not ensure that I would get a kidney. It was only the general procedure.

I had stopped asking God “Why” a long time ago. I knew all His plans for my life had a wonderful purpose behind them, just that I couldn’t see them. Even though there were only dark rain clouds on my horizon, I knew that any moment the sun would shine brighter than ever through a crack in the clouds. And through our sibling-hood of 17years, what my brother bear held onto strongly was that it was the darkest before dawn and that the sun would definitely rise. I knew it all in my head. But I needed the courage to stand strong through my difficult times. I knew the only place I could get that was at the feet of the Lord. I took my well-used Bible to bed and as I had done a million times before, I hugged it and poured out my heart’s anguish to the Lord. I did not know when I went off to sleep. I had told Tamara not to disturb me if I had slept off and therefore she did not.

The next day was bright and sunny and a stark contrast to the way I felt inside. The rest of the day was blur after I got admitted in the hospital. The doctors and nurses were very kind and efficient and soon, my treatment was in full swing. I felt rotten inside for not being able to help Tamara through her pregnancy. I wanted to be there for her when her baby came into the world. But by the look of things, I wasn’t going to leave my hospital bed for a long long time. Days passed. My health was stable. Asghar wouldn’t tell me how expensive the treatment was, neither would Tamara. My students from school came to see me and gave me a wonderfully handmade Get-Well-Soon card. There was a library right next to the hospital and I devoured the books because I got so very bored in the hospital. Days turned to weeks and soon, I stopped keeping a tab on days spent at the hospital. Well, now that I was here, I might as well find ways to enjoy it here. But I did not have to go through with it for long. The next day an over-excited Tamara came in to my room and happily announced, “We got a donor!”

That was indeed good news. Tamara, Asghar, his colleagues from his company, my colleagues from school had all undergone the test to see if they could be potential donors. But as fate would have it, nobody was a match. Few of my willing relatives had checked too, but it was still a no-go. My sister Sapphire who was in US was coming down next month to be with me. But she had undergone the renal compatibility check in the US and incredibly she also could not be a donor. Considering the difficulty in obtaining a donor with the doctor’s word echoing in my mind, I asked Tamara for the details. She did not reveal much. She just said that I would know all the details by the evening. The doctors checked with Asghar and fixed the transplant operation for the next day. I was dying to know who the donor was. I did not know if the hospital policies allowed it. I made a mental note to ask the doctor later. But I did not have to. Because a few hours later, when my brother bear strode into my room with a wide grin lighting up his face, I had a wild idea who my donor was.

He hugged me awkwardly through the medical apparatus that was surrounding me. Both of us were talking at the same time. Asghar had told him about my condition. Bro bear did not waste much time in getting in touch with my doctors and checking his compatibility to be my donor. Needless to say, but miraculous as everything else in my life, he was a perfect match. My name was duly taken off the list and Bro bear had started the treatments that he had to go through before the kidney removal surgery. He flew into Bahrain just the day before and now he was sitting by my hospital bed and showing me loads of pictures of his little ones and Kay who were still back in Sweden. Both of us wouldn’t shut up even after Asghar and then the doctors strictly told us to. I needed the rest and so did her because the surgery was the next day. HE finally said good night and went to his room which was adjacent to mine. I had no idea why, I could not take the smile off my face.

The surgery was a successful one by the grace of God. As I groggily came back to my consciousness from the after-effects of Anesthesia, my eyes fell on the bunch of yellow tulips by the bedside table. I loved tulips but they were not readily available in Bahrain. Attached to the flowers was a card. It read, “Yes D. This is what siblings do!”. I smiled wider than ever and went to sleep again.

Two years passed. My little family of four (Tamara gave birth to a  beautiful baby and we called  her Andrea) were on a plane Sweden bound for a small holiday. It was Christmas and what better way to spend it than with family? And considering the fact that Switchfoot was doing a Sweden tour just added to the whole effect. Bro bear and Kay were wonderful hosts. But then again, we were not exactly guests. We were family.

Brother bear sat in between me and my son in the front row seats and had a Cheshire cat’s grin. He leaned in and said that he felt ecstatic, a dream come true, since he first heard Switchfoot’s “meant to live” on the radio.

“I feel nauseous, and dizzy, I’m super excited”

“Yeah I know brother bear, I know”

“Really, you do? “

“Well, yeah, I do, cause, I have a part of you, in me too”

He smiled at me, shook his head, and grabbed all the tickets in his hand and waved it at me, “But you didn’t have to do this; you didn’t have to buy us these tickets!”

I put my hand against my stomach, and said “And you didn’t have to do this “

We both smiled. I saw the glitter of a tear in his eyes  and we both remarked, almost harmoniously, in the twinkling of an eye “This is what siblings do”. What followed next was a warm hug, a crowd’s roar, and a familiar intro to a familiar song. Finally, it did seem that we were meant to live for so much more. Once again, I just could not take the smile off my face.

I’m the guy that’s sitting in the corner. The one that you always see sitting there, when you pick up your triple-shot latte and turn around. You always take a sip and look over at my corner. Even if I’m not looking back, you smile from behind the styrofoam cup. I know all this, but I don’t even know your name. I wonder what your story is and, perhaps, you wonder the same about me. You’ll always find me sitting there, even on the days when you don’t show up. It’s usually raining on those days. I see the shadow of the rain projected onto the parchment of my notebook. I color in each shadow because I have nothing to write. You wonder what it is that I do, sitting in that corner everyday as my pen weaves its way along the paper. You wonder what my story is. You’re intrigued. I write all that down in my tattered notebook. You check that your coffee is just right, then you head for the door. You never stay. I never walk over to stop you, or to step outside with you. I was never that person. One day, I won’t be there when you turn around. I’ll leave my notebook there, alone on the table. And in it, you might find the part where you walk over. You’ll read it and think that it’s the end. But, I’m watching you, writing everything down on a napkin. Then, I’ll walk over and ask you what you think. You’ll look at me, and ask “what took you so long?” And I’ll simply say, as I slide the napkin behind the first page, “some stories never end.”

“Found a young man yet, miss?” he grinned as he said the same words every day to the pretty young girl who’d come and share the only bench in the park with him at exactly four in the afternoon.

“No! Don’t be silly, I don’t want a young man!” and she’d shrug as she harrumphed herself on the far end of the bench and look at the book she’d always bring to read. A few minutes would pass and then quietly, “You say that every time.” The exasperation had almost always left her voice by the time she said this.

“I know,” he replied cockily, “just wonderin’ an all.” That too was his stock reply and at this point he’d reach down and pull up a blade of grass to chew on.

After this odd greeting they’d usually just sit in silence, she with her book and he contemplating the sky, watching the geese as they flew north forming that beautiful cursive vee across the heavens.

Ah, spring! Beautiful. So much hope. The sky that special shade of blue. The clouds powder puff white. The sun, a promise behind the clouds. And the cherry trees with their buds straining at the sap.

Summer came and not much more was said. He still had his blade of grass and she her book. The cherry trees had long lost their blossoms and their branches were laden with fruit.

She always left first, at exactly five o’clock, looked at him and said, “Good evening then.” In the 1950s there wasn’t much else that a young woman said to a strange man whose name she didn’t know. And he’d raise his cap to her in silence.

The leaves on the trees changed. The geese could now be seen flying south. The sun was as fitful as a fever and the winds sent chill messages down his neck and up her skirt. It was half way through November and as in previous years she said her last “Good evening then.” And he raised his cap one last time before the next spring when this little silent communion would start again, he with his,  “Found a young man yet, miss?” and his grin, she with her “Don’t be silly,” and harrumphing as she sat on the bench.

She’d grown more slender and dressed more smartly. Sometimes she wore shoes with a slightly higher heel now and in the springtime she’d sported an elegant tan Macintosh with a bright red cap and matching lipstick. He was much the same. The reliably cocky grin. But the hand reaching for the grass now had sinews and was tanned. She glanced sideways at him, but still didn’t say anything and then there was that comfortable fifty minutes they spent not saying anything to each other at all. She with her book he with his blade of grass.

Summer. Autumn. And another spring. She came back. He waited for her now with a tightening in his stomach of anticipation. Afraid she may not come. A minute past four and she was there with her constant book and her equally reliable, “Don’t be silly, I don’t want a young man.” His relief. The blade of grass. The sky. The geese.  All was right with the world.

It was the middle of June; four on the clock plus forty seconds and her feet came tapping down the path to the bench. No book in her hand.

His stomach did a turn, but he continued as always, “Found a young man yet, miss?” only the grin didn’t come so easily and when he forced his mouth into a smile, it didn’t make it to his eyes.

She sat down on the park bench, no harrumphing, it was a smooth elegant movement, he’d never noticed that before. And she looked at him, “Yes,” she said as she searched his eyes. And he, clenching his teeth, bunching his fists. Long moments before he hoarsely whispered, “Why miss I wish you luck then and may you find happiness wherever you go.” The words almost caught in his throat and he couldn’t think why he had any right to anything more. But she’d come to tell him and that was enough. He could live on that.  When he looked up she was gone and there was nothing but a blade of grass on the bench in the space that had once been between them.

He picked up the grass and threw it. It blew away on the summer breeze. The sun mocked him and the cherry trees waved farewell. How dare the sky look so blue! He kicked the bench it skewed groaning to the side. He flung his cap. Then picked it up. Threw himself on the grass and allowed himself to weep. When he arose it was exactly five o’clock.

Summer passed. Autumn and another spring, so many springs. Why did he come back here every day after work at exactly four o’clock in the afternoon? Other people shared his bench, but it wasn’t the same.

The colours faded from the park around him. His eyes had grown dimmer. His cocky grin had disappeared only the blade of grass he always picked up and chewed. His nut-brown hair was streaked with silver and his memories strayed to other years. He was unaware of those around him and now even his coming to the park bench seemed pointless and yet he always returned.

“Silly ol’ man,” he could hear the children say as they walked past. And then one day late in November the sky had turned a steely grey, but the rain hadn’t started yet, when a lady from the city turned up and sat next to him. She had a book in her hand and wore those horn-rimmed glasses that all the fashionable ladies were wearing now in the late 1970s. Her dark hair was pulled into a bun and heavily streaked with silver. He peered at her cautiously then looked away. It couldn’t be, no, she was so slender and slight and this one, she was smart but a lot heavier.

Then she whispered, “Did you never find a young woman, then?”

And it was his turn to say, “Don’t be silly, I don’t want a young woman, I only ever wanted you.” And the park bench creaked as she bent down to pull up a blade of grass.

Poet’s notes : The story of our man, illustrated in the letter, is very abstract. The lines must not be taken literally or physically, in the man’s interactions with the tree and the experiences he goes through. I didn’t want to restrict the reader’s imagination. It is written in such a way, that you join the dots in your own unique way. What is this key? Maybe it’s a fruit from this accursed vampyric tree, maybe it is an actual key that opens a door inside the tree where the man enters. Maybe the roaming soul mentioned at the beginning of the poem possesses the man, and inhabits his mind with all these thoughts of him being a tree, it’s all up to the reader. I found similarities in the nature of trees that are vampyric in my opinion that I wanted to exploit ,away from the traditional ‘bat-tale’. The bottom line of this piece that I really want to emphasize is this: What if vampirism isn’t just merely a bat-bite? What if it’s something more? A biological or metaphorical mutation of pure human emotions and feelings like lust, greed and power. My endeavor in this piece is to explore those emotions and emphasize on human frailty and weakness, realization of the vanity, of the beautiful promise of immortality and then ending the letter with melancholy remorse.Thus, the opening line “Someone died of looking too far”, Hope I delivered such ideas into your mind and thanks for reading.

“Someone died of looking too far”

The forest near Golgoltha is like flesh to a bone,
It’s been there since the beginnings of time.
Now that flesh bleeds and the bone’s become weak,
The trees hold sway to an ancient rhyme.
Maybe from a pebble, maybe a stone,
A soul began to roam seeking different forms.
And maybe it gathered a lust for immortality
Even greed!
All that is certain is the blackness,
of this seed.
Now it lurks within an oak tree,
In the forest of Golgoltha
Where no one is to wander free.
But as the fate’s tragic strings do play,
A man happened to go astray.
A man with a character, who’s ever hungry,
Ever in need for more!
That never finds rest,
Never reaches shore.
They say he met his end,
Leaving behind him only a note,
buried underneath a tree,
In the forest of Golgoltha,
where no one is to wander free.

“There is a key,
Beneath the tree,
Made from its morbid leaves,
It reveals an ever-open door of unease.

Its branches shape my twisted thoughts,
And I crave what the trees really sought.
But entering is agony to the world untaught,
Of control, anger and remorse,
And I will be the center of its knot.

I realize I’m more,
As I dance in its rain,
I’m angelic!
Yet truthfully vain,
I perceive my dark strains,
I see them reflected on a tiny sand grain.

They are trees,
Rotten pulp inside and never well.
Roots sucking, ever-growing, undying thirst!
Tired boughs* reaching for the light.

Decadent, Taking from others to live.
Bound forever to marvel at death.

And now I have become like them,
Sucking crimson fluid through a hollow stem.
Driven by hunger, weak in the light
Never at ease, roaming the night.

An unfettered beast within me,
Claiming sovereign control.
I pace deserted roads to find,
A refreshing taste of hope.

This is now my home that will,
hungrily devour my own name,
and my soul gladly kill,
with no deep enough, a grave.

While the moon is riding high
A veiled feeling is flaking inside
Where beauty sleeps in the lap of horror!

I feel the dark
I feel the dark…”

Aaron was in my first year English class at the University. He sat behind me the entire semester and we never talked once and I’m to blame. I have always had starting trouble with talking to new people and I hardly spoke to anyone during the first semester at the university. Aaron’s attempts at talking to me were met with silent smiles from me and maybe he had given up after a while. But one day in class, he was sneezing to almighty heavens. It was obvious he had a severe case of flu and he ran out of tissue papers to wipe his running nose. I turned back and offered him my hanky. He lifted his eyebrows, he couldn’t believe that I was actually offering him something, even though it was as insignificant as a hanky. He took it gladly and I could hear him happily blowing into it while I looked at the lecturer in the front of the class with a smile on my face. The next day, he was about to return the hanky back to me but I wouldn’t take it. I did not feel right about taking it back. He tried to give it back many times but I did not take it back. A “D” was stitched onto one of the corners of the hanky. My mom used to stitch our initials to the hankies that we used (we, being my sister and I). My sister had a flashy “S” (her name was Sapphire) and I had a “D” for Danielle in almost all the hankies that I used through school. Even though I stopped using hankies when I got to university, I kept a couple of hankies with me because it reminded me of mom and home. And I had given one of these personalised hankies to Aaron and for some weird reason I wanted him to have it. Our friendship started with that hanky. And from acquaintances, we grew to friends, from friends to best friends and then soul mates. So when he asked me to go steady with him, I was not surprised. And I did not have to think twice to say yes.

 I was doing my Civil engineering while he was doing his Mechatronics. Even though we had no common classes after our first year English, we always found reasons to be together. The cafeteria, library, student residences, we were inseparable. It was towards the end of our second year that  I got the dreaded phone call from home saying that mom had passed away. Aaron came home with me and helped me through my grief. On our journey back to college after all the formalities at home, he asked me to marry him. I looked at him. I found it very funny. We were both tired, we had a long bus journey of 9.5 hours in front of us and the only food we had with us were Diary Milk chocolate bars. In fact, I was gobbling up one of these bars when he asked me to marry him. I looked at him hard and burst out laughing.  We were only 20. We were still studying , we had nothing to fall back on, no job, no financial security, and no career milestones. I stopped laughing when I saw that he was not laughing. His face was serious. He did not want to get married immediately. He wanted to achieve something before we tied the knot. But he wanted me to be the one. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. This time, I had to think long and hard before I said yes. And eventually I did say yes. He held my hand, smiled and went to sleep with his head on my shoulders while I continued to nibble on my chocolate bar and ponder over the fact that I was unofficially engaged. Needless to say, I did not sleep on our journey back to hostel, while I could hear Aaron’s soft snores. I badly wanted to wake him up – how dare he sleep so well while I couldn’t? But I didn’t wake him.

Years moved on. We got married few months after we graduated. He had landed a job in the Ministry of Interior in Saudi Arabia and he wanted me to accompany him there. Needless to say, we did not have a honeymoon after our wedding. Saudi was the last place for it. I hated it there. Aaron knew I was not happy. Maybe to compensate for my unhappiness, he surprised me with a gift out of the blue. He gave me the charm bracelet three weeks before our first wedding anniversary. Shining in silver, it had 6 charms on it. A dainty folded hanky with a “D” on the corner, a miniature bus with the words “Ace Travels” to indicate the bus we took that day five years ago from my home back to college where he asked me to marry him, the tiny replica of a Dairy Milk chocolate bar,  an open umbrella to remind me of our first kiss (yea, we had our first kiss movie style in the rain, under an umbrella, in a public park! Beat that! ),  tiny rolled graduation diplomas, and last but certainly not the least, miniature copies of our wedding rings inscribed with ‘Together’ on his ring and ‘Forever’ on mine. I was too happy for words when I saw that. I hugged him tight and thanked him profusely. I loved the gift. It was personal and so very special. I looked at the 6 empty slots and asked Aaron with fake anger “Waitiamintit, what do you mean by only 12 slots?? Are you trying to tell me that we won’t be together after that?? “

Aaron laughed at me and held me tighter in his big arms “Of course not, what I’m trying to tell you is that after every twelve years, I will get u a new memory bracelet. I aim and plan to give you at least 10 more. What say?”

I joined in his laughter. “10 more? What? You want to live with me for 120 years?? Really?”

He seemed hurt. “What is 120? I want to be with you forever. An eternity. What do you say to that?”

I pretended to think for a minute. “Eternity? Naah, that’s too long. I think I will get bored of you after maybe 50 or 60 years.. Don’t you think so?”

Aaron let go off me and fell to the floor as if he had just been knifed through the heart. I laughed out loud and bent to the floor and hugged him again. He kissed me on my forehead and we both knew we wanted a forever together. Good times. If only we knew.

Life moved on. We moved to Bahrain the following year and I was instantly at home in this new, lovely country. The next year, Aaron added a miniature charm of a driving wheel to remind me what a dreadful driver I was. I had obtained my driver’s licence after failing the Driver’s Test 6 times. And right on our first drive, I was over speeding and hit my car into a tree. Aaron had scratches and I had three stitches on my forehead and a few fractures too. I vowed I would never take the driving wheel ever again. Aaron forever teased me over this and I was definitely not surprised when he gave me the driving wheel charm. The year after that was not a happy one. I was pregnant with our baby and in the 8th month, the child got aborted. My uterus was ruptured and the doctors told I would never be able to bear a child again. That night when we hugged each other and sat on the terrace of our villa looking at the school walls nearby, Aaron promised we would always have each other, that we would maybe adopt a child from an orphanage. I was too sad to say anything, I rested my face on his neck and shed silent tears and I knew he was also crying for our unborn, dead baby. That year, he added an empty crib charm to my memory bracelet. The next year, Aaron was promoted to Assistant General Manager at work and we could finally afford a luxurious European holiday. Well, considering the fact that we never had a proper honeymoon, I looked forward to our trip. At least for that one week, we pushed away all thoughts of work and our sadness and enjoyed each other’s company. And when we sat side by side enjoying the sights of Venice in a Gondola, Aaron suddenly got on one of his knees and extended a ring to me and surprised my asking me “Danielle, my lovely Danielle, will you marry me?”. The tall gondolier looked at us and smiled.

I couldn’t hold my laughter. “Marry you? Didn’t I already do that some years ago?”

“Yes, you did, and I’m glad that you did.”

“Aaron, what’s happening?”

“Will you take the ring already? My knees are hurting!”

I took the ring from the purple velvet box and put it on my finger. “Now, get up and tell me what’s happening.”

“Naah, nothing. I have always wanted to propose to my wife in a romantic setting. No denying that a night trip to college is the least of the romantic places. Plus, I did not have a ring then. So now, I’m just making up for it. Do you like your ring?”

“Like it? I love it!” And I did. It was crafted in platinum and had 20 tiny diamonds. Our wedding was on the 20th of February and I did not have to ask him to know that 20stones stood for the 20th. The smart gondolier cleverly looked away while we hugged each other so tight and stayed that way till the end of our trip on that beautiful Gondola. That year, the charm was a tiny replica of a Gondola. By now, I was eager to finish of the remaining three slots of my memory bracelet. And I could go to my second bracelet as Aaron promised. Three more years to go. I couldn’t wait. The next year, Aaron was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away before we could celebrate our 10 years together.

My thoughts came back to the present. I discovered that my pillow was wet with my tears. I got up and went to Aaron’s study. I sat on his favourite chair and closed my eyes. I loved the memory bracelet. It was the one thing that was the most special of all of Aaron’s gifts to me. Even greater than my wedding ring. The three empty slots reminded me of Aaron’s absence and the fact that they were going to stay empty forever did nothing to make me feel better. Maybe I should give it to Asghar. He had never asked me for anything. Or would I be letting Aaron down if I give it off to Asghar? I did not know. My head swam with questions and doubts and before I knew it, I was fast asleep on Aaron’s chair.

The next day, I was stiff all over because of my not-so-comfortable sleeping position. Asghar came to class and started his work as if nothing had happened yesterday. I watched him the entire period but there was nothing from him to indicate that he even knew or cared that I was in the class. After the bell rang, I asked Asghar to stay back. This time he did.

“Asghar, you wanted this bracelet of mine, right?”

He nodded.

“Here you go,” I took it off from my wrist, opened his palm and kept it in the hollow of his palm.

He still said nothing.

“Asghar, this is a very very special gift from someone I loved very much. Will you take good care of it?”

He continued to look at me.

“Please don’t spoil this bracelet or lose it. Please do take good care of it, okay?”

Blank stare.

“You can go now”

He did. I did not know why I did what I did. I earnestly hoped I hadn’t made a mistake.

The exams began the following week. I knew all my students would pass in my subject, well, maybe with the exception of Asghar. But Asghar surprised me by passing in all his subjects. True, he barely scraped through. But he did pass and I knew that it was an achievement. I congratulated myself and once the results were announced, I had a small party with my class of junior (now, Senior) students. It was the first time after Aaron’s death that I was genuinely happy and somehow, it felt good and bad at the same time.

The new academic year brought a significant change in almost all my students, including Asghar. All of them wanted to graduate with good marks and they put in the required efforts. Asghar still stayed aloof from me and the rest of the class but he was showing improvement. He stopped staring vacantly at people and I do not know if I was imagining it, but he seemed happier. Like he had a secret source of happiness and did not want to share it with anyone. But as long as he did okay in his class work and exams, I had nothing to complain about. He did not talk to me until and unless it was very necessary and he most certainly said nothing about the bracelet. I did not know if it would be right to ask him about it, so I did not. The year moved on. The senior students took their exams and with a tear drop threatening to fall from my eyes, I watched each of them graduate. Yes, including Asghar.

I kept in touch with most of my students. They belonged to the first batch of my kids at school and there was a special love and place in my heart for them. New batches came in and year after year, all the students who took Engineering Graphics as an elective boasted of 100 percent graduation rate. I knew I was doing something right. Or maybe God was just being merciful to me. Eight years passed. Few of my kids got married and almost all of them were working either as Engineers or as Interior Designers. I had no clue about Asghar. Neither did his old classmates. Therefore I was more than pleasantly surprised when I got this package from him.

Dear Teacher,

 

I do not know whether you remember me. It has been eight long years since we last met. Even if you don’t remember me by my name , I’m sure you would recognise your charm bracelet. True, I got it crafted in gold and I added a few additions too, hope you don’t mind. I still have your sterling silver bracelet with me and wouldn’t let anything happen to it.

 

You came to teach us the year after my mother passed away. My father married again after 3 months and it was needless to say that I was an unwanted member of the family. He would abuse me, verbally and physically and I was sick and tired of my life and living. In fact, I was contemplating of taking my life. But I remembered all those stories my mother told of God and his guardian angels. And I struck  a bargain with God. If he wanted me to live, he had to do something different the next day at school. And that was the day you first walked into our classroom. It was the middle of the year and the other teacher had resigned. When I saw you for the first time, I asked myself and God “Is this the different thing that God was doing in my life?” I did not know. You seemed uninterested in what was happening in  class and you stopped coming for a while. I came to know that your husband had died and to tell you the truth, I did not expect you to come back to teach us again. But you did. I put my suicide plans on hold. Then during the Parent -teacher Interaction, when you came to comfort me, I felt my mother had come back from the grave. But it wasn’t my mother. It was you – a stranger. I wanted to tell you what was my problem, but I couldn’t not bring myself to talk about it. I was very humiliated that day in front of my teachers when my father hit me, I started thinking of suicide again. And I told God so. In fact I prayed and begged him to take my life away. I was too scared to kill myself. It was as if he heard my prayers, the next day, you were showing so much interest in the weak students and I wanted to tell you then. But I couldn’t. I was emotionally a wreck and the only thing I looked forward to was coming to school and attending your class.

 

But I wanted to know that you really cared. I had seen you involuntarily touch and play with the bracelet that you wore on your wrist. I used to observe that very carefully. I had seen nothing like it before. I mean, it was obvious each of those tiny charms that hung from the bracelet had a special meaning. I wanted to know if you cared for me enough to give it to me. Emotionally vulnerable that I was, I put another wager in front of God. If you gave it to me, I would work hard and graduate, that’s what my mother would have wanted. And if you did not, I would take my life. The day when I asked you for the bracelet and you refused, I swallowed nearly 30 prescription pills. But fortunately or unfortunately, my step mother saw it and told my father. He put his fingers into my throat and made me vomit it all out. My first attempt had failed. I do not have to tell you that he hit me till I could hardly stand. I was angry with God. And with renewed vigour I promised myself that I would definitely succeed the next day. But the next day, you gave me your treasured bracelet. Now, it was my turn to keep my end of the bargain. I had to pull myself together. And that was exactly what I did. Every time I felt that it was almost impossible for me to go further, I thought how much my mother wanted me to be a successful person. Then I thought about how you gave me your bracelet. I was responsible for it now. And I had to move on. I had to make it in the world. You, being my guardian angel and maybe my mother from her grave left me no choice. I had to prove myself to the world.

 

You know that I graduated from school the first time round. I took up civil engineering at University. My mom had put some money in my name for my education and my father gave some. The third year and the fourth year, I got scholarships and I graduated college with honours. Then, along with three friends from college, we started a small company and the Lord almighty has blessed it abundantly and is now “Miracle Construction and Interior Designers”. I couldn’t find a better name for my maiden attempt at something. My life is nothing short of a miracle, as you now know. I met a beautiful young woman and we are engaged to be married in three months.

 

If you look at the Memory bracelet that I have sent you, you would see that I took the liberty of adding three more charms in the last three empty slots. I do not know the meanings of the others but I want to tell you why I put these three new ones. The first one I added was the miniature replica of a 30degree set square, I’m sure you know why. The second – a Civil Engineer’s site-cap is the smallest representation of all that I have achieved. The third and the most important is a baby in the crib. I knew you did not have children of your own and I have lost my mother. You came into my life and changed it when I missed my mother the most. If it makes you feel any better, I would want you to take me as your own child. Maybe not a conventional way for a child to be asked to be adopted. But I mean what I say. I wish you would come and live with me and my wife and complete our lives with your presence. It would make us very happy. By the way, did I tell you my fiancée is an orphan?

 

Please do consider my request. And if you chose to deny it, I want you to always know that you were always loved, at least from the moment you gave me your memory bracelet. I pray for you every day. If you change your mind and wish to see us or come and stay with us, our door and hearts are always open for you.

 

God bless you, teacher. Hope to see you soon.

 

Much love,

Asghar Khalifa.

Tears of happiness and pride rolled down my cheeks and I made no attempt to wipe them away. I cherished the moment and I knew it was not every day I would feel something like this. I sank bank into my chair and thought of Asghar and how he was all those years ago. I thought of how I impacted his life and he, mine. I held my memory bracelet and slipped it onto my wrist.

Three months later, as I hugged Asghar and his beautiful bride Tamara after their wedding, I knew Aaron did make the right decision in pushing me to go back to school. I could almost see his boyish smile and knew he was happy for me. We had a child now. Asghar.

I had just finished teaching Engineering Graphics to my class of Senior year students when the school receptionist called me to the office. There was a DHL delivery man waiting for me with a small parcel. I showed him my ID card and signed the receipt and got the professionally wrapped box from him. I looked at the senders address. It said “Miracle Construction and Interior Designers” and gave the corporate address of the firm. I had heard of Miracle Constructions. Who did not? It was quite famous in town. But I wondered why they would send me a registered packet. Even though I was curious, I did not want to open the packet in the school office. I hurriedly walked to the privacy of my empty Engineering Graphics hall to open my little surprise. After carefully cutting away the binding twine and layers of external wrapping paper, I was left with a black velvet jewellery box. My curiosity rose to a higher level and I eagerly opened this little box. Inside was a beautiful charm bracelet crafted in gold. I lifted it carefully out of the box and examined it. Tears of joy began to well up in my eyes as I recognised my own ‘Memory Bracelet’. I looked for an accompanying note or a letter and I found a letter among one of the layers of packaging. I was in a hurry to open the packet that I somehow missed it. Now that I found the letter, I tore it open and read as fast as my eyes could read. Tears of happiness and pride rolled down my cheeks and I made no attempt to wipe them away. I cherished the moment and I knew it was not every day I would feel something like this. The letter was signed Asghar Khalifa. I sank bank into my chair and thought of Asghar and how he was all those years ago. I thought of how I impacted his life and he, mine. I held my memory bracelet and slipped it onto my wrist. In my mind, I travelled back in time. Eight years.

Asghar was one of the students of the first batch that I taught at The Good Shepherd School.  I joined the Good Shepherd School as the Engineering Graphics teacher for the junior and senior students just after the summer of 2003 when Aaron, my wonderful husband of four years was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma or the cancer of the lymph nodes. I did not want to take up the job. All I wanted was to stay by my husband’s side and care for him. His health was failing fast and the chemotherapy sessions weren’t kind to him either. We had a live-in paramedic at home as my husband did not want to stay admitted in the hospital for his treatments. As a result, one wing of our not-so-small villa was converted into a mini-hospital and it certainly felt like one. I, who always was queasy when it came to hospitals and medicines did not enjoy this medical renovation of our house, but if I had a choice, I would first make my Aaron better. But he showed no signs of getting better. His health kept deteriorating so fast that every day when I got back from work, I felt he had aged 2 years in the past few hours. I would then mentally make a note to resign my job and stay with Aaron but he would not hear of it. In fact, the job was his idea. In the nine years that we were together, he had asked only two things of me. One was to marry him after a whirlwind romance of 5 years. The other thing was to take up this job. Even though I was a civil engineer by profession, I never wanted to spend hours in the office. I did freelance work for friends and family and that was about it. But when the job offer from the school came to us through one of Aaron’s professional acquaintances, he was adamant that I take this job up. He knew I hated the hospital atmosphere and he knew my heart broke to see him sick but his logic which almost never coincided with mine was that I needed a change from the sickly hospital atmosphere at home. And my freelancing work wouldn’t be able to guarantee that. It was useless fighting with him over this and I knew it. With every last ounce of strength in him, he pleaded and begged and threatened and ordered me to join work as soon as possible. He had constant medical support from the hospital and  to top it, there was the live-in paramedic. He said he was going to be fine. I had no choice but to believe him and take up the job at the school.

I do not think I did justice to my two batches of senior and junior students, not at least in the first month of work. My mind was always at home with Aaron and I kept checking my phone every 15 minutes to make sure that I did not have any missed calls from home. I hurried to finish off the syllabus and did not make any particular attempts to know the names of students even. I was doing something that I was forced to do when I’d rather be at home. It was evident in my classes. Even though the feedback forms from the students said that I taught well, I knew that they were just being nice. I did not do a good job and I knew it. Aaron was in my thoughts always and when the school day got over at the end of the 9th period, I rushed home to stay with him. All I wanted to do was just stay with him.

You know how they say fate is cruel? Well, I can write a book on the cruelties of fate. I lost my father when I was just 4 years old. And when I was in my second year of college, my mom went away to join my dad in heaven. I have had to wage a war against my odds to make it out in the world and the only good thing that happened in my life was Aaron. And fate took him also away after we lost our battle with his cancer. Devastated was an understatement to describe the way I felt. I was under shock for a few days and all the procedures were carried out by our family friends. I watched how my life was not going to be the same again through a third person’s eyes. We did not have any children. Our first attempt at having a child resulted in an aborted foetus and my uterus was ruptured. I could never conceive ever again (Didn’t I tell you fate was cruel?). Whatever Aaron made in his lifetime was transferred in my name in the last few days when he was alive. Maybe he had an inclination that he was going to die real soon. When I was away at school during the day, he had painstakingly called a lawyer and made a will entrusting everything to me. He had sorted out all his bank formalities, changed the ownership in the bond documents and bank accounts. He knew me well enough to know that I would not be in a position to handle any legalities after his death and so, he had done all of that for me and I hadn’t had a clue that he did all of this. He knew that I would never marry again – I had sworn it to him the day he was diagnosed with cancer and he wanted to make my life better  – or at least liveable, in whatever ways he could before death called him away. And he did. Starting with making me stand on my two feet without anybody’s help – my job at the school. True, the pay was not all that great, but it was enough and more for a widow like me who had my dead husband’s savings to fall back on in case of emergencies. My Aaron did all he could and beyond. He was the one person who knew me inside out. For shouting out loud, he was my soul mate. And now, he was gone.

The school officials were gracious enough to give me a month off to mourn Aaron. Now that he was gone, I felt so empty inside. It was as if there was nothing worth living for. I agreed with the Bible and sincerely believed that suicide was a sin. If I did not, I would have gladly taken my life the moment death came knocking at Aaron’s door. But now, I was here. Alone. The day I went back to work, my students were sympathetic and kind enough not to give me any trouble. They quietly did the diagrams that I drew and explained on the board. They did not even ask me any doubts in class and I was grateful. When the bell rang at the end of my junior class, every single student in the class of 41 got up and came to my table. One of them had a  hand-made card and it was signed by all of them. I looked at the serious young faces and heard them say “Our Condolences, Teacher. We are really sorry”. And then, one by one, they came closer and hugged me, starting with the girls. This little, selfless action of theirs was so earnestly done that I felt so much better than I had in ages. One by one, they filed out of the class and I sat back in my chair. I couldn’t help but smile. True, I would never be a biological mother, but here I was in a class of 41 kids and the least I could do was make an effort to be the best teacher they ever had. I knew I had to focus on something else other than my sorrow and the engulfing hands of death that had taken so many important people from my life. And my class of students was a good distraction. In more ways than one.

I started putting more efforts into my classes and made sure my students knew what I was teaching. True, my class of students was considerably better than other divisions in the 11th grade, but there were academically weak students in my class too. I did not know how to work with them. It was challenging because I had never worked with such a  diverse group and I did not know how to get through to them and help them pass in the annual exams which were just two months away. I was working on  a plan to get them to pass their exams when I was called by the principal for a parent-teacher interaction session for the benefit of these weak students. I brightened up slightly because speaking to the parents first hand would give me a better insight into the lives of these children and I would know how to get across to them. I was right and wrong.

The Parent Teacher Interaction was nothing like what I expected it to be. For each division, all the teachers who taught the various subjects sat around in the room and each student along with his/her parents were called into the room. Then each teacher shared his/her opinion about the student with the parents and got the parents’ version of things. The discussion was supposed to be a productive one but I was horrified to find out that it was far from it. I was the new teacher on the block and nobody really cared much for my opinion. When the students came in one by one with their parents in tow, I was sad and horrified to note that my fellow teachers were so critical about the students and had almost demeaning comments about their performance in class. It was anything but positive criticism. It was unkind, hurtful and saddening. The kids sat with their heads bowed and the parents looked embarrassed. Whenever I could interject this discussion, I did talk about the positive things I could think of about the student. From my junior class of 41, 12 were called for the interaction. Of this lot, maybe 4 or 5 were genuinely not interested to be in school and the only reason they were there was because they had no choice (Exactly how I felt a few months before). The remaining others just needed help and I was determined to do all I could to help them out, at least in my subject of Engineering Graphics. There were tears shed and depressing looks and heads bowed and for the first time in my life, I felt this was what I was called to do. I had worked in an Interior design company before I got married and I also did freelance work on and off. But never before had I felt this way before. I knew God had definitely worked through people and certainly through Aaron when he forced me to take up this job. And I was now grateful. I had my task outlined clearly for me. I belonged here. I had to help these students. This is what I was called to do.

Even though I felt a pull at my heart strings during the course of the Parent Teacher interaction, the one time I felt tears well up in my eyes was when Asghar and his father  came into the room. He was the last student of the day. My colleagues went on their usual lines about how he was not going to pass in his 11th grade if he kept failing his internal exams and term papers. Asghar stared at the floor with vacant eyes while his father visibly fumed up. When the teachers were done with their individual monologues, the father added to the long list of complaints about Asghar’s academics and the works. Suddenly the big man got to his feet, lifted Asghar to his feet holding onto his shirt collars and slapped him hard across his face again and again. It all happened so suddenly that we teachers were stuck to inaction for a few seconds. Then when it sank in that the father was physically hurting his son, the male teachers got in between the father and son and tried to calm the father down. The tears which were threatening to flow down my cheeks finally did. I went over to Asghar and put my hands around him. Asghar was way taller than me and broader too. With some difficulty, I got him to sit down and tried telling him that it was going to be okay. But Asghar did not even raise his eyes to look at me. He kept staring at the floor and after a few minutes of comforting him, I seriously began to wonder whether he was able to even hear me because there was absolutely no response from him, not even a sign from his body language. I then held his chin and lifted his face to look at him. Tears were flowing down from his cheeks too. When he realised that I saw his tears, he wiped them off furiously and sneered to me “Go away” and walked out of the room. By now his father was much calmer and nobody had to say that the meeting was over, we saw the father walk to his car parked outside. By now, Asghar was already inside the car, with his seatbelt on. The father got into the driver’s seat, put on his seat belt and drove away. My fellow teachers looked visibly relaxed. Senseless banter continued between the teachers and the principal who was present. I do not remember the conversations, I just wanted to get home and have a good cry. And when I got home that day, I did. I cried long and hard. On one hand, I had had my revelation that this was what I was called to do for the rest of my life, and on the other hand, I was too heartbroken to see the way the Interaction went and especially how Asghar’s father hit his grown child. I knew there was a lot of work I had to do if I had to help these children and I prayed for strength and courage because I was all set to change the predictions that my fellow teachers made that these kids not seeing their 12th grade and graduation.

The next day, I was ready to take up my new challenge. During my class, I made an announcement asking all the 12 students who had attended the interaction session yesterday to stay back after class. From that day on, I started extra classes for Engineering Graphics and made sure I gave my personal attention to my students during their regular classes and the extra classes. Slowly but steadily, I saw small improvements in their performances. Asghar was an exception. No matter what I seemed to do, he stayed dumb – literally and otherwise. He looked uninterested in whatever was happening in the class and stared at me with a  blank look in his vacant eyes. I tried in vain to get him to talk to me. I tried the friendly approach and when that did not work, I tried the stern-teacher approach. Nothing seemed to make a difference to Asghar. He was always quiet in the class and lagged way behind the rest of his class. I was at my wit’s end and I had no clue what to do. After my multiple failed attempts, I began to ignore Asghar completely. Now when I think back at that, I see that as my failure as a teacher, but then again, I had tried everything I could and it was all useless.

The Annual Exams were just a week away. My group of special 12 was gearing up to get at least enough marks to pass. Once I helped them with their Engineering Graphics sums, I gave them time to study the other subjects they were giving exams for. I could not clarify their doubts and questions when it came to the other subjects, but at least I could give them an atmosphere to study and practice sums and write their reports and essays. They seemed to make some kind of progress. Well, everyone except Asghar. He was a super-special case. Even though he made it a point to attend all the regular classes and extra classes, I seriously began to wonder why he was wasting his time and my efforts by even being in the class. It was one of those days when I was particularly vexed about my students, especially Asghar when I saw him drawing clumsily on his drawing sheet. I couldn’t help but yell at him. “Why on earth aren’t you using a 30degree set-square to draw that diagram??” My voice came out louder than I intended. The class went silent. I did not lose my temper very easily with my students and this was one of the rare moments. I walked over to the elevated drawing table where Asghar was standing with his incomplete drawing sheet.

I repeated my question again. “Why are you not using a set square?? Don’t you have one?”. Asghar stared at me intently for a moment and asked a totally unrelated, random question “Teacher, can I have your bracelet?”.

I was visibly surprised and taken aback. It was the second time I heard what his voice sounded like. “What?”

“Can I have your bracelet?”

“Why do you need my bracelet for?”

Asghar just stared at me. His speech-quota was over.

I asked him again “Why do you want my bracelet, Asghar?”

He stopped looking at me. He looked down at his table and tried to continue his drawing.

I was quite puzzled at this weird exchange that we shared. I just stood in front of his table and asked the other students to resume their drawing. End of the day, I watched as the students took their backpacks and left for their homes. I hoped to speak to Asghar then. But he did not stop even when I asked him to and I felt like an idiot, I did not know why.

As I lay on bed that night, I could think of nothing else but Asghar and his strange request. He wanted my Memory Bracelet! Of all the things that Aaron had left behind of our life together, the Memory bracelet was my favourite. To anyone else, it was an ordinary charm bracelet, but it was anything but ordinary for me. Crafted in Sterling Silver, my memory bracelet had 12 tiny round slots where the charms were hooked on. Even thought there were 12 slots, only 9 were taken up by the charms. 9 tiny charms to denote the 9 lovely years that I got to spend with my Aaron.

contd.. Part -2 in the next post.

The one is an old man and the other is a man in his thirties, stopping here while his dog chased a ball in the park nearby. At first, they were two strangers being gracious to each other by exchanging pleasantries. The old man, Mr Browne, comes here to smoke and ruminate about all the fun times he had had with his wife and children. He had been a major in the army and Mrs Browne and the children used to go with him to all the places he was posted. They had travelled together and had great times.
 Yes, there had been hard times as well when she had to nurse the children herself when they caught typhoid, without much medicine, while they were in South Africa. And there had been the time when he had been captured by the Bedouins while they were in the Arabian Peninsula. She had gone herself to all the authorities and argued and pleaded with them until they had ransomed him back. She had been a strong woman, his wife, full of an odd kind of strength which helped her handle life better. She had died a couple of years back, taking with her his reason to live. The kids had all settled down after their nomadic childhood and were employed in good establishments. Once in a month, they all paid him a visit, coming with their spouses and children.
 This young man was a story all together. He made an excuse of taking his dog for a walk and met Mr Browne here everyday. He says he wants to get away from his shrewish wifw and her complaints. Each day there was a different problem. And Mr Browne would laugh at the story and advice the young man about what to do. Hearing the young man, he would think again of what a good relationship he had had with his wife.
 Of course, the young man’s problems only required careful handling. He was lucky he had a good job and if he spent just the right amount of time with his wife and children, they would know and understand him better. But he was a bit of a gambler and spent the money and time he had to spend on his family, on the dice. A pity really. But now that Mr Browne had been advising him, the young man has come to mend his ways. Mr Browne had told him the difficulties and pressures of being in the army. He had to make the young man understand how lucky he was with all that God had given him.
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April 2012
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