Written by: Zonish Khan
I comfortably cushioned myself on the couch as a group of people gathered around it, focusing their eyes on me and noticing every small inch from my head to toe. Some gazed at me with surprise, shock and disbelief while others with smile, laughter and tears of joy. As for me, it was also quite a surprise seeing my relatives and cousins after four years. The kids that I have seen crawling were now running and jumping on beds, trying to secretly catch my eye, not knowing who I was. Honestly, I wouldn’t recognize them if it was not for others to remind me. My cousins looked so grown up and so mature that I couldn’t believe how time had passed by so swiftly.
After about three days, I had another surprise! My face filled with joy and my lips stretched wide to give the cheeriest smile. I was thrilled seeing my cousins and aunt who had come all the way from the village to the city just to meet me. (Uh I feel special). As I saw them entering my room, I quickly jerked from my seat and ran in to my aunt’s arms then tightly hugged my cousins. Filled with excitement and anticipation, I hurriedly dragged my cousins to an empty room. We occupied our spots as we sat on the ground forming a perfect circle. Time passed by, the clock kept on ticking and the sun faded but we kept no track of time as we were too busy having a heart-to-heart conversation about our adventures, sorrows and happy moments. Just then my aunt came in and commanded my cousins to get ready since they have to leave by night. I wanted to spend more time with my cousins so I begged my aunt to stay for at least one more day but she apologized saying that she would love to but she had work the next day. Realizing there was no other option, I decided to leave with them. I ran to my mum and started pleading with lot of “pleases” in my sentences and promised her that I would act responsibly. Fortunately she finally agreed since she knew my aunt would take good care of me. Without waiting any longer, I quickly picked about three dresses and crammed them in my suitcase, along with my toothpaste and brush in a separate pocket. One of my cousins dropped us at the bus station and we headed for the village. I was excited to see the village for the first time and my cousins couldn’t wait to show me the treasures hidden there.
After about two hours our bus stopped at our destination. It was 9 pm. As we stepped out, I could barely see anything. The whole place was painted black with no street lights as far as the eye could see, apart from the lights of whooshing vehicles on the road. However the sky was studded with stars that looked so magical in the night sky that I gazed at them, fascinated. We hardly ever get to see them shining so brightly in the cities. It brought a wave of serenity within me as the summer breeze blew softly over my skin. “I can’t wait to see the village!” I exclaimed eagerly as we started walking down the road towards the muddy area. I had no clue where I was placing my foot as my eyes refused to see through the darkness. My cousins warned me to be careful because I could step in to a puddle anytime plus there might be a snake crawling in front of me. On our way, my aunt and cousins kept me entertained with famous stories of their village and planning my trip around this amazing place.
We finally reached home. Luckily, I hadn’t stepped on any creepy-crawlies and I wasn’t looking forward to it. My aunt offered me some food however I refused since by now I was too tired. I felt my bones cracking and my eyes shutting slowly. My aunt quickly made our beds and we cuddled down in our sheets. The best thing about this place was that everyone slept outside in their backyards. Unlike us, their backyards don’t have perfect tiles, beautifully trimmed grass and selectively planted flowers outlining the patterned walls but they have a muddy unbalanced floor with bunch of leaves and rocks spread everywhere. Uncut tree trunks peek from top of the walls, making gigantic shadows on the ground. What is to appreciate here is the fact that they have such a close connection with nature while we in the city live such artificial lives.
As I closed my eyes I fell into a deep sleep. However, it wasn’t long before my beauty sleep was broken by the frightened flapping of birds, the barking of dogs and the weird rasping sound coming from the trees. I peeked out of my sheet and looked around. My heart started beating fast as my eyes scanned the scene from left to right and up and down. All of sudden, my brain started playing games with me making perfect scenarios for every possible incident to occur. My heart jumped to my mouth. I started sweating and horrible scenes flashed through my mind. And then I remembered the words of my cousin Zonish, “It’s a common thing to have snakes and other insects crawling here and there. We have killed lots of snakes as they crept up our beds.” Those shadows of trees seemed like dinosaurs. Oh my God! I had no clue how to stay in control so I quickly shut my eyes and started reciting verses from the Quran. I honestly didn’t even have the courage to step down and run to my aunt for protection. ‘What if I step down and my feet become a snake’s dinner? No, no I am not going to be so silly!’ I thought to myself as I once again buried my face in my pillow. Now I knew it wasn’t that easy to stay close to Nature…