When the world seems too little a place, when a chance to escape seems unavoidable, an endless commotion of memories shows up like a much-awaited guest. Freeing me from the worldly shackles that bound me and taking me where my joy knows no bounds. Then my carefree days seem not so far. Hope surrounds every fiber of my being. Sweet memories of my past make their presence felt by flashing my genial moments before my eyes. The longing to relive all those moments gets stronger. Sounds of yesterday serenade like music to my ears. But the wall of memories shatters as a familiar voice pulls me back to reality. “Nani! Nani! I can’t sleep. Can we watch maleficent tonight?” “Oh, my sweet angel, Nani’s rooh, Grandma’s soul.” I gaze into her amber eyes that reminded me of someone, gripping her hand mine and lead her toward the TV room to watch the same movie we have watched countless times. She falls asleep on the sofa murmuring:
“A true love’s kiss.”
“So, what are you going to name her?” My husband asks. I take a good look at the little baby who became my whole world before I knew it. She was my pride and joy, the apple of my eye, my Kul Kainat, my whole universe.
“Kainat.” I declared with conviction.
“It is a befitting name indeed. This little baby is blessed to have a walida, mother like you.”
“And a walid, father like you.”
Kainat started walking when she was 10 months old. The pitter patter of her tiny feet, her silly babble, her goofy personality and even her mischiefs were little things that kept me busy all day. From picking her outfits to putting her to bed, she was a handful.
I skim through my journal:
“My kai’s first birthday. The poor little babe tried to blow the candles hard which resulted in a stream of snot shooting out of her cute button nose.”
“Today, Kai drew a colorful family portrait. She didn’t miss a chance to show it off to everyone who visited our house this week.”
“I am brimming with pride today. My Kai is a schoolgirl now, a big girl.”
“I cannot believe that my baby is all grown up now. She has a keen interest in English Literature and claims to pursue it as a career. She is a voracious reader and is well informed about current affairs. I am proud of the young woman she is turning out to be.”
“Sleep eludes me tonight. My daughter’s Nikkah, marriage ceremony is going to take place tomorrow afternoon. I’m sitting on my Jai Namaz, prayer mat, my hands raised in prayers for my daughter’s future. I pray that she be bound in a matrimonial bond based on cooperation, respect, loyalty, and love.”
I lift my pen but my harrowing thoughts outweighed my words. I cannot bring myself to write anything.
“Peer Sahab! You have been my guide and Murshid, teacher, for as long as I can remember. Your sagacity and valuable insight have always led me toward the right path. My Kainat is all grown up now. She’s a bright student and a dutiful daughter but as her mother, I worry for her future.” Peer Sahab closed his eyes shut and recited something under his breath. His pace on the rosary beads was no longer steady. My heartbeat accelerated at an exponential rate and right when I was about to say something out of sheer fright, he opened his eyes.
“Beti, daughter! you have been gifted the joy of the universe. The universe bears a miracle. Something tiny that will make you grand. Beware, for soon your whole universe will collapse. Only a miracle can recondition your universe.”
“I---don’t understand--- Peer Sahab,” I enquired amidst gasps.
“Time bears all answers you seek.”
Riddle me this Ma:
A journey has now begun
Spanning over a few months
It’s astonishing how life expands
And makes some people old and grand
A miracle awaits to be discovered
A small package to be delivered
Here I am waiting for this new chapter to start
Ready to embrace this little miracle with all my heart
Sitting by the window, I recall the momentous occasion. My baby was having a baby. I was going to be a grandmother. She made this announcement, by making me brainstorm all the possible answers and I eventually landed on the one I was hoping was correct from the beginning but was too afraid to say due to the fear of my hopes getting crushed. Somehow, she was so sure it was a girl. She was going to name her Karishma, a miracle.
I have no shame in admitting that my memories of the past hold me captive. I never let my pain reflect on my face but my granddaughter’s mind is well beyond her years. She sits by my side and presses her lips to my temple. It is astonishing how much she resembles her mother. The cute button nose, amber eyes, long eyelashes, and love for fairytales.
An accident. On the way to the airport. One driver. Two passengers. A child. A mother. A father. Child, 3 years of age. Wearing a pink frock, and red boots. Mother, mid-twenties, amber eyes. A green rosary and a blue pocketbook in her trunk. Father, driving the car, wearing brown loafers. Survivors? No Survivors?. Sirens. Medic. Rushed to Steven Memorial Hospital.
The words of the newscaster were like explosives being launched one after another. I died and was revived by a hope so many times that I lost count. The words of Peer Sahab resounded in my mind “Beware, for soon your whole universe will collapse.” Peer Sahab’s voice interspersed with the newscaster’s voice replayed in my mind. Numbness flooded me.
“Say thank you to Nani Jaan for your frockie and booties.”
“Tink you Nini Jaan for the flockie and booties.” She said displaying her tiny pearly white teeth.
“You’re welcome, my little princess.” I pulled her into a bear hug and showered her with kisses.
They had planned a trip to Dubai and they came to meet us that day. My husband and I gave them some parting gifts and countless prayers for their safe journey. They had also asked us to join them but my passport had expired and I hadn’t gotten a chance to renew it. How I wished I had been by their side!
We both feign happiness. My years have taught me how to disguise my grief under the veil of a plastered smile. Heart aching, face shining. A shrewd and savvy veteran on the outside, a grief-stricken jittery mess on the inside. She also smiles wholeheartedly, but somehow the smile never reaches her eyes. We live under pretense. Nothingness creeps its way into everything we do.
“Nani! we have to go to New York.”
The accident. New York. Hospital. Immense and unceasing pain. Survivors. All survived.
My unbridled thoughts were holding me captive yet again. I was being confronted again my something I have tried to avoid all these years. The accident took my daughter away without taking her life. Her husband and daughter suffered minor injuries but she was the one who suffered brain damage. My child was in a coma. I couldn’t for the life of me see her like that. Motionless, static, immobile, handicapped.
“I will not.”
“Nothing you say is going to make me go there.”
“They are going to let her go.”
And just like that, I lost all hope. I found myself in the hospital at my daughter’s side, too numb to process how I got here. My granddaughter plants a kiss on her forehead and whispers “I have loved you always. I love you now. I will love you forever.”
ECG machine beeping. A commotion among nurses. A lot of shouting. CPR. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Eyes wide open. Finger lifted. Eyes blinking. Tears. Tears of joy A true love’s kiss. No truer love. Only a miracle can recondition your universe.
My granddaughter was screaming, and laughing. Her fingers locked with her mother. I raised my hands toward the sky to express my gratitude:
“Meri Kainat aur uska Karishma, my universe and her miracle.”
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An enjoyable story, and a good fit for the prompt. The grandmother's sorrow comes through very strongly, and from the beginning it was clear that something had gone wrong. I assumed the daughter had died in the crash, but we learn later that it's a coma. Is one better than the other? It's probably not helpful to think like that. The coma does set up the ending though, and I like how their names factor into it, particularly the titular Karishma. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Michal! Initially, I contemplated ending the story with her death in a car accident. However, I inculcated the coma sequence to give an unexpected twist to the storyline and to justify the miraculous act of a daughter's true love's kiss reviving her dying mother. Thanks a lot for your feedback!
You write your stories with a unique poetic vision. I might prefer the perhaps overly traditional way of having a first paragraph telling us the scene and the characters, but they do work in their own on a journey of discovery. Your ability to impart emotions and love of family is really evocative in the story. Happy writing;)
Hi Scott! The poetic vision just comes naturally to me. In fact, the story's opening lines are inspired by a poem I wrote a few years ago that is particularly close to my heart. Thanks for your valuable feedback. Much appreciated :)
Beautiful! and ingenious how you use the time as a resource to convey the story.
Hi Ren! Thanks a lot for your feedback. I used this technique for the very first time in my life with a lot of apprehensions like whether or not I'll be able to maintain a balance between the past and present. But your comment really made me realize that I made the right choice :)
What a beautiful story and a real miracle. I did wonder if in this line, when a chance to escape seems unavoidable if it should be unattainable?? Really enjoyed reading this.
Hi Wendy! Thanks for your comment. The opening lines of the story depict how a woman is shackled by her gruesome reality and seeks an escape by reminiscing happy moments of her past. I'm glad you enjoyed it!