Reflections: Goodbye for good

September 14, 2019

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It was a time of misery and gloom for me. Really bad days, or maybe the worst days of my life. It was almost the end of May. The sun was always high in the sky. The days were long, the nights short.

Exams were almost over. Ninth grade was almost over. June was coming and so were the holidays. You may wonder why at this time of the year, when most of the kids were jumping up and down with joy, why was I unhappy, why was I sad?

Let me tell you why. These were my last days in the school, last days with my friends, last days in my city and last days in my country. As soon as I was done with my last exam, I had to pack my bags and board a plane to the US. We were moving to America forever, leaving Pakistan. And I wasn’t happy at all.

I love my country. I love my life here, amidst the dirty air, the noise of traffic, the busy streets and the bursting markets, even at one in the night. I love every bit of it.

I love the days spent with my friends, I love the evenings I spent playing football on the streets. I love being woken up in the morning to go to school in the van that broke down at least once a week. I love the gola ganda I always ate after school was over.

I won’t get all this in the US. I won’t find these people there. I won’t get to see the faces of my friends every day.

The US would be a stranger to me. Just like the strangers in the market my mum told me to stay away from when I was a child; the strangers from whom we weren’t allowed to accept sweets. Why was my mother now taking me away from my home to live with that stranger, I couldn’t understand.

It’s not easy to leave things you treasure. It’s not easy to say goodbye to the people you have known for years. It’s the hardest thing a person can do, leaving the comfort of a home and going out into the unknown.

The day finally came. I gave my last paper. Bid goodbye to my teachers. Some of them hugged me and wished my luck for my future. Then I came to my friends. I joked with them, promised them I would come to visit. They were sad I was leaving.

We cried invisible tears and as each of them hugged me one by one, they took a piece of my heart with them.

I looked at my school for the last time, the place I had loved and hated, then loved again. I ate that gola ganda for the last time. Sat in my school bus for the last time, wishing that tyre would puncture so I could spend some more moments with my friends.

On the way home, I kept my eyes on the road. Recording all the things in my mind. Taking mental pictures to look back at whenever my heart cried, ached for my country.

I looked at the stupid writings on the walls, I looked at kids sitting and sleeping on the footpaths, I looked at the tall building near my house with the broken windows. We had broken many of them while playing cricket on the road and smashing the ball on the window glass, dancing and shouting “Six! Six!” and then running and hiding from view as the people screamed at us from the broken windows.

A smile touched my face as I thought about those beautiful times and my heart became heavier and heavier with sadness. As I reached home, another wave of heartache swept me off my feet. I saw the place I had been living in for more than 14 years. But this time, I looked at it with different eyes.

I first saw it with the eyes of a newborn. My first home, the place I had been born in. Then I saw it with the eyes of a four-year-old running around in the garden with my grandfather running after me, then falling down and scraping my knee and crying while my mother bandaged me.

Then I saw it with the eyes of a five-year-old, my mum waking me up at seven in the morning, stuffing breakfast into my mouth while I would be crying, because I didn’t want to go to school.

Then I saw it with the eyes of an 11-year-old, painting the walls with my father and getting paint in my eye and rushing to the hospital. Then finally I saw it as it was now.

I felt our house was also sad that we were leaving. It was crying silently as we stripped the carpets and took all the furniture away and packed our things in boxes. It was crying alright.

I looked at it and tears welled up in my eyes. I said goodbye.

I said goodbye to everything and everyone. I said goodbye to my cousins, to my aunts and to my uncles. As I sat in the plane looking out from the window, I said goodbye to my country, promising I would come back; promising that I would miss it.

It’s not easy to leave things you treasure. It’s not easy to say goodbye to the people you have known for years. It’s the hardest thing a person can do, leaving the comfort of a home and going out into the unknown.

But I had to do it. And I did it with the heaviest of hearts and said Allah Hafiz.

Published in Dawn, Young World, September 14th, 2019