English LiteratureShort Stories

A Favour

“Fatima, this is a happy occasion and yet you have tears in your eyes. Why?”
My wife Fatima shook her head, wiped her face and replied,
“Nothing. I’m okay.”
But I knew, she wasn’t okay and she couldn’t be okay either. I put my hand around her shoulder and said reassuringly,
“As Allah wills dear. We have tried our best, haven’t we?”
“Yes.”
“Then don’t despair. What will Zehra think if she sees sadness on your face?”
“I’m sorry Ali. But sometimes I feel God has been unfair to us. This is Zehra’s third child, and we have been deprived of this happiness for seven years. My ears are craving to hear a child’s cry in our house.”

I quietly pulled Fatima in my arms and patted her back. How was I supposed to alleviate her pain? I was going through the same agony myself. We were in the hospital elevator and were going to meet my sister Zehra. This was her third child, and previously, God had blessed her with twins.

I gave Zehra the bouquet of flowers and we congratulated her and Sadiq on the birth of their son. Fatima went to the cradle and while taking the newborn baby in her arms, put a gold chain around his neck. She softly caressed his cheek and turned to Zehra.

“Zehra didi, your son is very fair and his hair is amazing. It’s so thick and curly.  How wonderful! Now both your daughters have got a younger brother.”

Fatima came near the bed with Zehra’s son and said,
“May Allah bless you both with good health.”
When Fatima was about to give Zehra her son, she did not take him and shook her head saying,
“Bhabhi, this child is yours and from today you and Ali Bhai are his parents.”
Fatima and I were completely astonished. Our shocked eyes moved frantically between Sadiq and Zehra. Sadiq came to me and explained,
“Zehra and I had decided long back, that whatever Allah gives us, girl or boy we will give it to you.”

I refused.
“This is the greatness of both of you Sadiq, but no. This is your child, and that too a son is born, how can you give him to us!”
Before I could say anything further, Zehra intervened,
“Brother, I have witnessed my bhabhi’s pain and tears, and now we can’t bear to see your grief anymore.”
I took a deep sigh.
“As God wills Zehra.”
“Bhai, consider this God’s will only, otherwise, Sadiq and I would have never come up this idea.”

My tongue and thoughts, both became numb. When I looked at Fatima, she couldn’t control her tears, but there was a huge smile on her face. We argued back and forth for a long time. I knew Fatima’s heart had melted for the baby, but this was not a toy. Zehra and Sadiq were handing over their very life to us.

Nonetheless, eventually Sadiq’s words forced me to accept this priceless gift.

“Brother Ali, your life needs a spark of light too. Moreover, today Zehra and I promise you, this will remain a secret between us. This child is yours and will always be yours only. We are sure you will take good care of him.”

Fatima’s joy knew no bounds. She was so delighted as if she had received a new life. She hugged her son and cried profusely. Then she gave the baby to me and went to Zehra. Embracing Zehra, she kissed her forehead and said lovingly,

“You are extremely generous. Allah will most certainly reward you for this. Ali and I, will be indebted to you for the rest of our lives for this humongous favour.

Shamim Merchant

 

 

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