“Why people exchange roses with the one they love?” She asked me when I was thirteen and she was twelve.
“Because roses are red Nina.” I replied.
“Apples are red also, why don’t they exchange apples instead. It is a good source of calories too.” She asked again, but this time, I just sniffed through my nose and replied, “It is just a convention set by old people. We don’t need to change it, because there is no need of that.”
“But when we will grow up, I suggest you give me an apple instead.” She spoke.
“Why is that?”
“Because I never have a proper meal.” And before I could say anything, she proceeded, “You know, my mother earns a good amount of money, but she split it into three parts. One for our food; which is necessary for surviving, another one for my marriage. Mom says when it will be my time to marry, it will cost a lot more than it costs now. And the third part is collected by her to buy a nice new home. She says ‘In Kashmir the bride matters forty percent and her house matters sixty percent.’”
“Well, for me, your house won’t matter. it is you who will matter a hundred percent.” I told her.
“My mom has told me that don’t let anyone influence your dreams, create your own, or you will end up like your sister”
“I am sorry… for your Sister… and your Father.”
“Mom says, you can’t erase one crime by committing another.”
‘She always has something to say.’ I said to myself. We talked for a very long time and then we both left.
Her father was a good man. He was an Urdu teacher at our school. Her sister was so nice. I still remember her smiling face. They say she was killed by her own father, but I don’t believe it. She was killed by her own stupidity. “We should never do the things we don’t know about.” Her mother once told me.
She is very wise. Maybe these tragedies have made her so. But I still remember when even she was as stupid as a kid and as happy as an infant.
Three years ago, I visited her house for some family business. I called her name and she came out with a bucket full of water. She stood like a moody teacher and before I could say anything, she threw all the water upon me until the bucket was fully empty. Then she laughed loudly with her older daughter who had just come out with an already laughing face.
I began to cry and as I left, her older daughter came to me with chocolate in her hand and said, “you are such a crybaby take this chocolate and stop crying.” And then both of them laughed again. I was not sure for what mood to pin on my face but I said shyly came to my mind.
After some days Nina came to me saying that her sister is now a heroine. When I asked why she replied that a hero has given a rose to her.
“How do you know he was a hero Nina?”
“I was watching from my window. The boy bent on his knees like heroes do in films and presented a red rose to my sister. She matters a hundred percent to him. This is exactly what heroes do when they see a heroine, isn’t it?”
“Well heroes also fight villains. Who was villain here?”
“Abu (Father), I think. He always tells my sister not to do things like this, but she never listens to him. I will tell this hero not to beat my father hard.”
“Why will he beat your father?” I asked.
“Because he is exactly that villain who never allows the heroine to meet the hero and then hero beats him.” After reflecting for a fraction of a second she proceeded, “But villains don’t cry, my father cries looking to my sister’s childhood photo with him. He does it often when he is alone. Does it make him a villain?” and she proceeded, “Yes, he laughs as villains laugh in TV when he is with his friends. I think it is a gang of villains leads by Abu.”
“Nina… your father is a good man he can’t be a villain,” I said looking at her.
Before she could say anything, bells rang and everyone rushed to their respective classes.
The next day she came with news. her sister had left the home at midnight without letting anyone know about it. And her father was hospitalized. He was already suffering from heart disease and he had told Nina’s mother that he is afraid of people. He thinks everyone will mock him now.
“I thought daughters are the crown of father’s head. But I was mistaken.” Her father had said to her mother “I was always restraining her from mingling with boys only because I knew she possesses a simple mind and can’t understand the complex tricks of today’s world.”
He had also told her daughter that he will let her marry whoever she wants but that guy was a drug addict. But her daughter insisted that she will only marry him.
After two days Nina’s father committed suicide and after a year her older sister came back home for shelter with a baby in her lap because that hero had fled leaving his heroine behind. After learning about his father she too ended up killing herself, leaving her baby at an orphanage.“We love who we want to love” Nina’s mother had told her once.
But today is a special day. My family is going to visit her mother and ask for her daughter’s hand. Yes, I am going to marry her, and today, Nina will matter a hundred percent, and her house, which they have not build yet, matters zero percent to me. and today when I will visit her house I want to make her feel, that she really matters a hundred percent to me, in fact, more than a hundred percent.
More than… a hundred percent…
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Also Read: Golden Hay
Also Read: The Land of Wise Men
Written by Waqar Farooq
Edited by Ayaan Ashraf
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