Coming from the hill station and summer resort of Murree, Riaz was somewhat mesmerized by the dazzle of Dubai, the big city.
The city of Murree is draped in forests of pine and oak; and experiences pleasant summers, and cold, snowy winters. The city is famous for its buildings, styled in Tudorbethan and neo-gothic architecture, dating from the colonial era.
Brought up within a family of fifteen members, Riaz couldn’t be privileged with any better education, than the charitable evening classes. It was conducted by a young lady teacher, named Roshina; as her kind gesture towards the little brothers and sisters, of her beloved village. And Riaz never missed his classes. He made sure to be there every day; sitting right at the front, waiting for his ‘Roshina’. Riaz, being an intelligent and wise kid, never wanted to join his elders in their timber-cutting job when he grew up.
He grabbed every word his teacher spoke; every knowledge she shared and made sure to scribble down things for himself, which he gazed upon during the rest of the day. ‘Things’ ‘coz no one ever understood what he actually wanted to write or draw. Except for his ‘Roshina,’ who always believed in Riaz and his potentials. She spoke to him about empathy and encouraged him to inculcate humane attitudes.
In return, someday, Riaz would secretly pack some Haleem from her mom’s kitchen and gift it to Roshina. Sometimes, he would collect some wildflowers and make a small bouquet for his Roshina. While she accepted them with a smile, Riaz’s heart skipped a beat, without his knowledge. To him, she was the epitome of grace, kindness, love and perfection.
She brought him books from the school library and Riaz would gaze at them in awe. He grew up in the arms of Murree and rose through the knowledge of his ‘Roshina’. But through all his years, he felt very restless. It was like something was missing from his life. Something bigger, and better than Murree. Something he always sought but didn’t know what.
Riaz grew up to be a handsome and friendly young man. And it was his time, to join hands with his family, in the timber felling work that they have been doing for local contractors for ages. But Riaz was one, who could not be bound with routine jobs for a living. Through the years, he engaged himself in learning foreign languages from his teacher, and from whatever books he could grab.
Riaz learnt to drive and spent most of his time in the forests of Murree watching birds and learning about trees and herbs. He made sure to hang around with the tourists every time he caught sight of one. He loved talking to them and even earned a few bucks by offering them some sight scene of Murree. He often took them to his favourite place; the forest.
Until one day he finally decided to break free. With contacts and financial help, Riaz managed to get a drivers’ job in Dubai. But leaving Murree and his family was frightening for Riaz. He has never been away from his family; he has never stepped out of Murree until then. It was one of the hardest decisions which confused Riaz.
After spending the whole day in the forest, Riaz visited his Roshina. He believed that she was the only person who could guide him through, correctly. And so did she. Riaz was in The city, working for a travel agency, as a driver of a big tourist bus. His knowledge was inadequate; his accent, colloquial. But that failed to hinder Riaz from impressing everyone around him. Soon, he was into a reality beyond the teachings of his Roshina.
Riaz loved communicating with the tourists. So he decided that it was time for him to upgrade his knowledge, and work on learning a few foreign languages. His only option was to seek advice from Roshina. He was restless the whole night as he waited for dawn; a dawn when he would call his Roshina to share his wish. It was going to be a special day for Riaz. Firstly, ’cause he would be hearing the voice of his Roshina after long, and secondly ’cause the decision would either add value or stagnate his passion to excel.
The soft, polite voice from the other end gave goosebumps but Riaz quickly gathered his guts and shook off the hesitation. He spoke his heart out, and within minutes he could feel a bright smile on his face. Ofcourse Roshina had the answer; the solution; the perfect advice, as always. She was equally happy and excited to realise that her teachings did not go in vain. Riaz did grow up to a good man and was gradually exploring opportunities to better himself. She was impressed with his passion to learn and advised Riaz to go ahead.
It was just another ordinary day when Riaz got appointed as a tour guide; a promotion. Roshina’s face flashed. He dropped down in tears, while his team praised and congratulated him. A triumphant moment it was. All he wished was for Roshina to see him that moment. Riaz was overjoyed, yet nervous and decided to call Roshina first. He dialled the number for the 5th time and still the same voice mail, ‘The number you have dialled is currently switched off.’ The euphoria took a stride and at the call of his duty, he left to set his foot towards the new beginning.
The incomplete call seemed quite odd, so he decided to try again, in the evening, after work. Roshina might be busy with something. She will call back later. He had to share the story of his achievement with his Roshina and wondered about her reaction. He smiled all by himself, thinking how proud she will be.
The day ended on good notes and happy clients. Riaz heaved a sigh of relief and with crossed fingers, hoped to hear some positive feedback. Riaz fumbled his pocket, got the phone and dialled a number. He hesitated, yet could not resist. A voice message again. Riaz felt frustrated and annoyed. He wondered about the possibilities and decided to leave a message requesting a reply. Roshina has never been unreachable. If busy, she definitely called back. Wondering, he fell asleep.
The dawn brought him great news and a huge round of applause from his team. Yet, something troubled his mind. Hesitatingly, he dialled his friend’s number. He couldn’t wait any longer. It has been three days in a row that he failed to reach Roshina. The call was answered.
Within seconds, there was a huge ruckus inside the office. Everyone ran towards Riaz, who all of a sudden, collapsed. None could guess the reason. He was alive but looked cataleptic. The phone line was still on and the voice from the other end was audible. Someone tried to get the phone from Riaz, but his fingers tightened with every try.
After a while, when Riaz gained his senses, he sat in silence, on his knees, gripping the phone tight. Not even a blink. Riaz was cold and unmovable; like a huge boulder by the waterfall. Confused with the situation, his manager called an ambulance. They had to tranquillize him to put him to sleep.
One fine morning, Riaz woke up with a jerk, perspiring, inside the cold hospital room. He gasped; then screamed. All rushed in, only to find Riaz sitting on the ground, crying tirelessly, as if in some deep pain. They sedated him for obvious reasons. Three days went by and there was Riaz, at the office. He looked aggrieved and weary; lost in thought.
He apologized for the recent happening and placed his leave request. He had to go. He had to be there with his Roshina; for his Roshina. There were no second thoughts, no alternatives, no if’s and buts’. Riaz appeared breathless. Without much haste, his request was approved. Riaz flew that very afternoon. He couldn’t wait any longer.
When he landed at the Jinnah International Airport, Riaz took the first available cab and went straight to the hospital. He was trembling with fear. Somehow he approached the reception. The place was quiet and chillier than usual. Or, was it coz he felt weak and bruised? He didn’t know. Riaz sat down as he could not take his steps forward. They were weak and confused; scared. The ward boy opted to assist, so Riaz followed him like a docile kid. He choked, suddenly and grabbed the wall for support; regained and moved. All he felt was a strong unbearable pain in his chest. Room 231 was in sight. Riaz froze. He was alone in the corridor and could only hear a few faint indistinguishable sounds. It was time.
One a step forward, and he quickly retreated. Everything was beyond his imagination; he feared to face reality. A chill ran down his spine. He squeezed his eyes shut. After much hesitation. he peeked through the small viewing window. Riaz went into a freefall. He gasped and choked and blacked out for a few seconds. He fell on his knees and screamed out. A soundless scream that no one heard. Silence and sounds roared; tortured his mind.
There, through the window, he saw his Roshina’s face. Calm and peaceful as it has always been.
She looked like a Dove, draped in white. She looked like an angel and Riaz felt her aura even at those difficult times. So Roshina she is. She never missed spreading love and happiness; never skipped to smile back and never refrained from helping the villagers. Riaz looked up and cried in agony. He couldn’t help but question God. He couldn’t help but ask Why? Why his Roshina, and how could it be Roshina?
Thousands of questions crossed his mind and he crawled up again to watch Roshina, as she slept peacefully. Riaz could feel her breathing. He could see the unnoticeable rise and fall of the linen she was draped in. Standing by the door, memories from the past flashed, and he could see his Roshina standing right there, smiling.
All Riaz could remember were the vague words of his friend who spoke of some tumour; something that happened inside Roshina’s head and that she was in the hospital.
It was just another normal day when she took the kids to outdoor classes, to teach about nature and its wonders. That was Roshina. Riaz’s Roshina, whom he admired and loved, secretly. Love that was born out of respect, humility and gratitude. Love that was pure and true and needed no recognition. It didn’t happen instantly, but gradually, over the years. It was a kind of love that was heavenly, ’cause for Riaz, his Roshina was nothing less than an angel.
Cancerous tumour, the doctor told him. While at play with the school kids, Roshina felt seizures and collapsed. Following that, she had headaches and vomited frequently. No one knew what it was. At the advice of the doctor from the village clinic, they took her to the City hospital. Access to the tumour was impossible and hence surgery was unadvisable. The doctors tried their best to keep her breathing, but with limited medical facilities, they doubted.
Riaz sat still listening to the doctor. He felt helpless and hurt; lost and confused. He couldn’t let his Roshina suffer, at any cost. She doesn’t deserve this. How can she be destined to experience such pain and suffering? He felt as if his ribs would shatter. He nurtured that definite feeling, which was unknown to him.
Roshina helped him to experience that love and care that he craved for, unknowingly. He got blessed with love so beautiful, that no word would be enough to express its authenticity. With Roshina, he felt loved and accepted. He wanted to spill his heart out; tell her what she meant to him, but always refrained. For, he was yet to get hold of the right words to express his true feelings.
The phone call jerked him back to his senses. Riaz had his answers and he knew he had to stand strong and fight the battle together with his Roshina.
With special permissions and after a lot of arguments and discussions, opposed opinions, he stuffed all the medical reports and boarded the flight, with his Roshina. And off they went holding the hands of faith and trust.
And as they say, “True love stories never have endings.”
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