Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 6, 1987 p. 77.


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Ahmad Nadeem Oasimi

A LAMENT

Well my dear child, when I had you sixteen or seventeen years ago the weather was a lot like it is now. The blossoms of the Persian lilac smelted just like this, and squirrels were scampering up and down the Jujube trees as they are right now, and this is just the kind of breeze that was blowing, as if new seedlings would even sprout out of centuries old, dry wood. When you were born, the sleepy house began twinkling in the black-yellow light of the lamp. The midwife remarked, "Allah be praised! This little girl's body is laced with sparkling fireflies!" Still dazed by the pain, I looked at that little piece of my body. I don't remember, but the midwife told me later that I smiled and began peering at the lines of my hands, as if I were reading a letter

Your father's face fell when he got to see you the next night. 1 said, "You used to say that whether boy or girl, it is God's gift; so why do you look so disappointed now7" He said, "What do you know, simple woman; you are a mother How would you know that God only gives girls this beautiful to those with whom he is very angry."

At the time, my darling, I wanted to pull his eyes right of their sockets and crack them like almonds. He was looking at you the way a sparrow looks at a snake. Seeing your beauty, he had become frightened. He passed the next sixteen or seventeen years of his life fearful of you. He is scared even now, nervously sitting on the mat spread out in the lane and surrounded by people. He is peering into the sky as if he sees someone coming to get him.

Your looks didn't come from me, sweetheart. I was just a simple village girl, my features were plain. You took after your father—he was striking. He is handsome even now, though the duress of the last sixteen or seventeen years has taken its toll. His eyes are big and wide like almonds, and a trace of luster still glimmers in his face and moustache. When you were born, he was just like a fine statue. He was nervous after you came, but anxiety didn't change his good looks, it only toned them down a little. I rarely saw his pearly teeth flash in a smile after you were bom. His petal-like lips were always clamped tight, as if something would happen had they parted.

Just a little while ago when he came to look at you, it seemed as if his whole world was coming apart Standing here, he suddenly grew old from inside. When he turned to go back, I was afraid he would fall down in a heap before he even reached the lane. But I peeped over the wall just now, and saw him sitting there. He

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