I had been sitting behind the steering wheel of my car, head resting on my hand, the front two windows open, since the last 10 minutes. The air around me was thick with excitement and everything, from the traffic on the roads to the confines of my house, was in a state of tumult. Eid was just days away and it seemed, just like it had always been that everyone postponed their shopping till the very last week. Of course, this was nothing unusual in a huge metropolitan city like Karachi. Here, odd was the new even.
It was sometime after 12 p.m. People occasionally threw an antagonized glance up at the sun, and it defiantly glared back, even more ablaze. Everywhere the temperatures were running high and tolerance was consistently decreasing. On the boundaries of the roads were vendors or thailay walay, selling a variety of juices, ice-creams, popcorns, gol gappay and the mouthwatering French fries, which nobody in their right minds would ever pass by without giving a second glance to. Ah yes, if not shopping, more than half of the people were around the stalls, filling up their tummies as if it was their last day on earth.
I had no intention of wasting my day in this heat, hunting for a pair of new sandals, which I didn’t even desire to buy in the first place. It was solely my mother-in-law’s wish that I wear a new pair of sandals on this Eid, as according to her, “This would be your first Eid with us, you should look fantastic and absolute gorgeous from head to toe.” No matter how much I protested that it would be an utter waste of money and I had already bought like 5 pairs of new sandals (against my will, of course) for my wedding, which was 4 months back, the old woman just wouldn’t budge. Alright, I know she cares about me with all her heart, just like a true mother, but these were the kind of arguments I used to have with my own mom, all the time. And this was definitely my fate that I had to spend the rest of my life, hunting for shoes and clothes a week before the occasion, when the old women finally noticed that I wasn’t prepared at all. My second mom, that’s how I’d like to refer to my mother-in-law from now on, was in no state of getting up from her beloved rocking chair and leaving her knitting needles alone for one hour. Ergo, in the end, with much despair and an irresistible longing for the coolness of my room, I ended up driving – alone – to this huge shopping mall.
I decided to get out of the car and get over with this annoying duty as fast as I could. Finding the perfect sandal size for me is yet another issue. Back in the days when I used to go shopping with my own parents, it was a Cinderella-sort-of-hassle. My feet are… okay, I’ll just say it – small. It is a tragedy that is not a single more dignified term reserved for people who have feet like me! We used to spend hours, running from shop to shop, finding sandals that would fit me perfectly. And then there is another thing: I just wouldn’t set for anything less and therefore, I wouldn’t buy a “flat” sandal. Thus the hunt began again to buy a perfect sized pair of 3 inch platform heels. No wonder, this infrequent but entirely draining search, developed a kind of contempt for footwears inside me. Just for the record, I’m not to be blamed for this hate it is the nature’s fault. And now, I was dreading this trip because of the same reason.
I walked towards the entrance of the mall, at the same time, thinking of some reason to delay or completely cancel this search when my eyes fell on a young girl, aged almost 10. She was dressed in filthy clothes, probably the dirtiest kid on the streets I had ever seen. Her hair was light brown with streaks of golden color and she had green eyes, confirming that she was a Pathan descendent. My eyes saw the yearn dripping from her eyes to her body language, to enter the mall and have a look at the unknown world inside. But of course, the security guards being the toughest and the roughest, kept her almost 20 feet away from the gleaming glass doors. As occupied I was with my current dilemma, my eyes fell on her feet. The shabbiest piece of plastic (or was that rubber?) partitioned the ground beneath her and the soles of her feet. I was struck with a sudden idea and I approached that young girl with a new spark.
“Hey, would you like a new pair of sandals?” I asked her in Urdu, hoping she’d understand. She didn’t say anything & just looked at me with wide eyes, clearly bewildered by my abrupt boldness. “Listen, I’ll take you inside with me and I’ll buy you a new pair of sandals… as an Eid treat.” I added with a smile. She smiled back. Win.
We entered the mall, the guards looked at me suspiciously but not daring to stop me. You can say, I was resolute that I won’t spend the money on myself when I didn’t need it, period. There won’t be any further arguments about it and who ever stands up against me or opposes me would face my wrath. Okay not exactly my wrath but more like my stubbornness. Anyway, as we made our way inside, I was suddenly aware of all the glances we were attracting. “Oh come on, she is a human too,” I tried to convey this message by means of my eye to a totally burger woman. This was unbearable and disappointing. I looked at the little girl; her eyes were looking at everything but the people. She was beyond awed. This made me smile inside. Human nature is funny; it always gets dazzled and tempted to the things which are beyond its reach. Just like I get dazzled by bookshops. My husband looked at me the same way then, like I was seeing this little girl right now.
Finally, I found the shop I was looking for. I had learned two things in my life about this shop: Its splendor was not to be taken for granted & that you should’ve extra cash with you just for one pair of footwear. I stepped inside with the little girl after me. Her mouth was open and she was gaping around in a complete trance. Better to just buy her the stuff and not let her get used to it.
After almost one hour – yes, it was completely tedious because I couldn’t decide which sandal suited her best, but in the end, we found her pair of really cute blue colored sandals with multi colored flowers lacing its straps and guess what? The heel was 2 inched! As I paid for it, the little girl had no words to say but her shining eyes expressed what was going on inside her. She was about to burst with happiness. It made my day.
On the way out, I was thinking about my second mother’s reaction if I went empty handed. She would take it as a personal insult of course, that I had not followed her “command” but who cares, right? I had no intention of telling her this little secret of mine. I was happy that the money was used for a useful cause, be it just a pair of sandals, and that it made two people smile with pleasure & satisfaction. In other words, it made the aura of festivities around us more enjoyable.