The dai (midwife) was a 40-year-old woman, and had her hair completely covered with a black dupatta, which was presumably made of lawn. I was certain that she must have bought it from Sunday Bazaar, which was a rather economical market in the heart of Karachi displaying both second hand and rejected items. If lucky, one could find a beautiful hand crafted carpet for their house or perhaps a good as new suit for a pretty reasonable price. The dai must have had her fair share in this luck as well, for her dupatta was spotless and even quite bold as it caught everyone’s attention. Her lips slightly moved and shifted as if she were speaking to herself. She had to have been reciting the prayers preventing nazr (misfortune). It is said that the nazr leads to problems and troubles and has even caused families to break apart; I do not know any more about it.
The dai made her way past all our neighbours and relatives who had come to our house in celebration of a new life. Well, not necessarily celebration. It would be a moment of joy and happiness if the baby was a boy. If it were a girl, everyone would simply head home after passing their blessings.
I was not permitted to stand by my mum or even be present in the room where she lay. I do not know why, though. I wondered how the baby would come to this world, with all sorts of thoughts racing through my mind.
“Maybe it was magic!” I exclaimed, as my elder brother Aariz entered the room where I sat in solitude. Well, I would not really consider it as a room. I had always imagined a room as a place with cemented walls and a television or maybe that small rectangular device. What do you call it? I saw it in books I borrowed from my friends. I think it was called a computer. Yes, computer! I’d also have an enormous bookshelf. Stacked would be fiction and non-fiction novels, short story collections, memoirs and one book with my name on the cover. The book would be a hardcover about my life and adventures with a bright and colorful cover.
“If only my life was that interesting,” I sighed. I was no Anne Frank, I was just Zara Waseem from a small neighbourhood called Chakiwara in Karachi.
“Stop it Zara, you’re always in some other world of fantasies. I guess it is time to embrace the real world.”
Aariz was a man of dignity and a true reflection of his name which was defined as “respectable man” in Arabic. He was my parents’ first joy. In fact he was their only joy for I was unfortunately, a girl. He was what society calls a realist while I was simply a dreamer. He believed that one will only attain success if he works for it. Therefore, he spent day and night at the mechanic, assisting the men and earning some wages after hours and hours of work. Almost every other day we would have a debate on our different beliefs. While I thought one should first pursue a quality education, he was all about work.
We were always compared by our parents and family; from our maturity to behaviour and attitude, I was always number two. I did not even care anymore, or at least, I pretended to not care. After all, Aariz was the older one. And traits such as wisdom come with age and exposure, right? I learnt that from a book, too!
Mama shrieked so Aariz and I rushed towards the living room without considering that we had strictly been told not to enter the room, and looked right at the dilapidated mattress on which she lay. It first belonged to my great grandmother who was the first female to run as the leader of Chakiwara at the elections post partition. And though she did not win, she did not give up. During her years of youth, she worked towards making the people of Chakiwara content and happy. Her brave yet gentle angelic voice inspired many and so did her personality and general positive outlook towards life. Asmah, confident and courageous just like her name suggests, lifted her people out of poverty.
At the age of 70, she was diagnosed with cancer. That was when my great grandfather bought her a new mattress. He cared a lot for her and is even said to have fed her himself when she became too weak. He wanted her to rest and stay comfortable at all times and was highly praised for his actions and support without which my great grandmother would not be as great as she was. The mattress he bought was then carried forward and used by my grandfather after her death and then my uncle, and then my father and now my mother. Maybe I could sleep on it too during the night. It was definitely more comfortable than the bare, cold ground that pressed against the back of your head and spine.
I now turned my head towards the right to see dai carry a little baby. The relatives and friends stood in what you can call a queue and one by one greeted my mom, gave their blessings and left. “It’s a girl!” I thought. I was right. It’s indeed unfortunate how some people are blinded, too, and cannot see the diamonds in plain sight.