I am the only sister among five brothers, though one of them has left us to join the people of the grave. My introduction to pain and its resulting effect was quite early in life at a time where most people claim that children do not have memory of events.
I can see myself as clear as watching a rerun of a home movie. I am in Malir Cantt we are living in a low lying single story Bungalow, One of the windows is covered with the cascading purple flowers of bougain villea, In front of the house is a low two brick wall, which my brothers, their friends and I use primarily as a boundary for cricket, or I use to sit with my girlfriends and watch my brother when I am not playing with them.
Behind the house is a shed, which I think is used as a covered car-parking garage. In the afternoons while my father is away in his car this empty shed with a concrete floor, cool to our bare feet, with a roof to shade us from the relentless afternoon sun is used as a base for playing cowboys and Indians. This base is a safe haven where you cannot kill anyone from the other side. However once you leave the base you are a free target.
Here my memory becomes vague in geography. Somewhere behind the house is the desert with its pure white sand, cactuses and according to my mothers opinion a no mans land, i.e. it is an unspoken instruction that we are not to venture there. Though there is no clear command from my mother but there is a feeling that it is strictly off limits for unknown reasons.
Looking out back and beyond our house, there are the abandoned half built foundations of a house. The shrubbery has grown near it, as it has been uninhabited for a while. It is an intriguing place for my brothers, a no mans land, so much like the wild west, desert sand, and shrubbery, half built foundation, where you would be safe from the thorns, snakes and scorpions of the desert that hide beneath it.
There is a superstition floating around, I think being encouraged by our elderly servant that when the foundations of a new house are being laid, if the owners have not given ”sadaqa” i.e. charity then blood is drawn from the people who frequent it. We are thus forbidden to play on the foundations of the house that are being built behind our house. My brothers who have no respect for superstitions and who excel in pushing the envelope, scoff at this concept and I tacitly agree without really understanding the pros and cons.
One evening when my parents are away, my brothers are released from school like a Mongol horde into the back yard they all head with friends towards the unfinished foundations of the abandoned house, and I with them. They are my buffer & protection from the wrath of my parents.
On reaching the foundation, I find it intriguing It is a concrete maze, you can run on its flat top walls, but at times these are interrupted in continuity so one has to either jump to the next foundation wall, or get down to the ground and go to the next one. However as I understand the rules of the game, if you get down on to the sand and are no longer on the concrete you are “out” of the game.
I am playing at the foundation and I at age three am able to jump all the ones that need to be jumped. Landing on the rough gravely surface of the cement of the foundation makes my feet slightly sore. I register with a sixth sense that the sun is going down, and the red in the sky is apparent, slight twinges of alarm enter my heart as my mother has always stressed to my brothers and me to always be home before maghrib, I stop and look. They are all playing without missing a beat. I feel satisfied, and at this moment, I come to a halt behind one of my brothers he takes a flying leap and lands on the other cement wall across from the one he was on, I without hesitation follow. However as I jump, I do not account for my short legs and do not land on the other side of the foundation but on the sandy desert floor, I climb right back on the foundation, but not before I feel something prick my foot, like a fine needle, I ignore it.
Seconds later the most excruciating pain that I can ever remember starts from my foot with a progressive increasing intensity and starts to climb into my body, I think I am screaming because I see our elderly servant running towards me and lifts me up. He is running to the house yelling for my father, who has returned from the office, an dso has my mother. Out of the corner of my eye and with the third intellect, I register that one of my brother is hitting hard on something near where I had jumped off the foundation..
My father comes running, takes one look at me and I remember the ensuing pallor & worry on his face as I had never seen before. The pain in my body has now transcended the external flesh and seems to be coming in waves, shocks, of pain deep inside me, I think I am crying, my father takes me in his arms. We are at the back gate of our house and as he rushes into the house someone say “ it was a bicchoo” My pain crazed brain registers that with a red alarm, I have been bitten by a scorpion from the desert that were well known for their fatal poison. The expression on my fathers face reflects that. Perhaps I am going to die. At that moment the pain is so intense and climbing that death would be a relief.
What happens next is Allah’s promise. My father gives me something, something that dulls the pain, I can see his concerned expression in his eyes mixed with the doctor’s assessing look, I am still breathless with pain, and he gives me something else, I am beyond sobs, and I fall into a cascade of oblivion soothed. My last memory is of his concerned face. How he treated my foot I have no memory, I do know that whatever he gave me, frayed the edges of the intensity of the pain and it dissolves into a mist. As the mist thickens it engulfs me. I fall into a dreamless, unconsciousness. On awakening my pain is gone as if nothing had ever happened.
Two subconscious affirmations are embedded in my brain from that day on:
One that with severe pain there comes relief, and second that my father could take care of all illnesses no matter how severe.
Many years later in an attempt to find and assuage my pain of a more emotional nature I came upon Allah’s promise in the Quran: ” With every difficulty, comes relief, with every difficulty comes relief”** repeated twice in the same verse in case my pain crazed brain or my pain filled heart might miss the significance of the promise the first time.
August 16. 2007