The pale thin man with glasses sat on the table near the road reading a newspaper. As I brought him his tea I glanced at the headlines “Bomb kills 40, injures 85”. “Another bomb” I thought, “Another bomb taking lives, ripping families apart.”
I must have lingered there longer than usual because the man put down the paper and looked at me. “What’s your name?” he asked. He had a kind voice.
“Sher Khan” I told him.
“Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“I study in the evening shift and work in the morning” I answered him.
“Good, study hard and do something worthwhile for your country.” I smiled weakly. That’s what my father used to tell me.
I cleaned up the empty tables and waited for more customers. After I finished my work I asked my boss for some money as I wanted to call home. My boss liked to act tough but he was actually a big man with a soft heart.
I remember when I came to him for a job he had only managed to ask one question “Where is your father?” When he had heard my answer he didn’t ask any more questions, instead he told me to come the next day sharp at 8am. I had been working with him ever since.
He gave me the money to call home but told me he was noting it down and would cut it from my pay. In the six months I had been with him he had always paid my salary in full.
I called home and my younger sister picked up the phone. Whenever I would phone she would scream in excitement “It’s Sheru Bhai, it’s Sheru Bhai” and hand the phone to my mother. My mother asked me her usual questions about whether I was eating well and looking after myself. I asked if Bano and Umer Khan were doing well in their studies. Satisfied that all was well, I hung up.
I arrived at my aunt’s house for lunch before going for my classes. She was talking to her youngest daughter and was laughing. She looked so much like my father especially when she laughed.
I remember my father laughing like that when I came first in an English speech contest in school. Some parents used to say it was favoritism because my father was the principal of the school but he knew how hard I had worked. My father used to play a game with me to improve my English. He would look up a difficult word from the dictionary and explain to me the meaning, then ask me to use it in a sentence.
“Sher Khan, have your food, what are you thinking?” My aunt’s voice shook me out of my reverie.
“It’s getting late, it’s Friday today, you have to go for prayers.” Her voice quivered as she said the last word.
I had forgotten it was Friday and this surprised me, because how could I forget the consequences a certain Friday had on my life 5 years ago?
I had fever and a bad cough and my mother had refused to send me with my father for prayers. “Please, Ammi let me go, I’m OK” I insisted. I loved going with my father everywhere especially for prayers. I would hang around with him afterwards when he talked with the others. Lately the talk had become very serious about the worsening law and order situation.
“You can wait for your father here but you can’t go” my mother had told me sternly.
I sat there and waited, but he never came back.
This story has been written for The Speakeasy #146 where the last line had to be “I sat there and waited, but he never came back.” and some reference was to be given to the video clip C is for Contrafibularity.