University of Toronto – “It’s the dream man!”

The tall apartments in the surroundings made them feel miniature, like two toys in a room filled with giant furniture

Beneath these towering buildings were shops lined up together, from wall to wall

People went in and came out from these shops like ants

Life unfolded around these two, as they walked silently on the side of the road

Their uniforms faded and their ties loose; their backpacks hung over their shoulders like prison shackles

They walked with great pride and equal exhaustion

The more that life surrounded them, the more tired they seemed to be

Two young boys were already fed up with what life had bid for them

“Did you get any offers yet?” asked Faizy

The two had started walking up the bridge now, making their way to the other side

“Yeah I have actually

You?” Ahmed looked at Faizy with great interest

Faizy shrugged

“Ones you don’t count

 Locals, sure

I haven’t heard from the internationals yet

” The boys exchanged looks

“Where’d you get in?” “Locally or internationally?” Ahmed questioned while Faizy’s eyes widened

“You got into the international ones?” “Yeah

Toronto and Windsor, both in Canada

” Ahmed, although proud, did not sound very amused – while Faizy seemed ecstatic

“Ahmed, that’s great yaar! University of Toronto? That’s the dream man, that’s the dream!” He raised his hand for a high five but wasn’t greeted with the same

“Yeah, that’s pretty cool

Too bad I’m not going

” Ahmed kept walking with his head down

He tried to step over the cracks on the road and dodge the little puddles of water that had pooled up from the morning’s drizzle

“Why aren’t you going?” inquired Faizy, trying to follow Ahmed along as he began skipping to catch up

“We can’t afford it

 Baji’s wedding is coming up in a year

I know for a fact that my parents will not be able to pay my tuition fees and afford her wedding all at the same time

” Ahmed said as he spat on the ground and looked at his friend

“I know if I tell Papa and Mama about my acceptance, they’ll make it happen

But I know how it’s going to be

” “How is it going to be?” “Papa is going to ask his friends for a loan

They’ll give it to him

Papa will retire this year and won’t be able to pay it back

Either he’ll be forced into selling the house, or he’ll have to work five more years until I graduate, get a job and am able to pay my dad’s friends back

” Ahmed’s comment was followed by silence

“Do I want that Faizy? I’m not that selfish

I know my parents will make it happen

But I don’t want them to

” Faizy didn’t speak

He realised that no amount of sympathetic words would help Ahmed

So he did what his instincts told him

He put a hand on his shoulder and walked by his side, like a soldier helping another out of the fray

“It’s cool,” Faizy managed to say

They exchanged looks of confidence

They walked together silently atop the busy bridge, two lost souls in a sea of confusion

Their lives had played out exactly how they wanted them to play out, exactly how every prodigy from Karachi’s busy life plays out

But they forgot about the minor delicacy that runs the world —money

The two boys walked silently again until they reached the top of the bridge where they would then descend towards the road

The streetlights flickered and went out, as did the lights of the whole neighbourhood

These power outages were very common during this part of the night

Ahmed stopped on the bridge and turned over to look at the sewage water flowing beneath it

Faizy waited with him as he saw Ahmed lean over the ledge and look at the darkness below

Pretty soon the sound of power generators filled the air and that is all they could hear

Faizy leaned beside him to observe what his friend was staring at and could only make out the darkness that penetrated his skin

Ahmed leaned closer to Faizy and said something in his ear

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly

” Ahmed resumed his prior position and stared at the darkness below

Faizy had heard some well thought-out sentences from Ahmed, but this seemed beyond his calibre

Before Faizy could respond, Ahmed leaned in once again

“I didn’t say it, F Scott Fitzgerald did

” Faizy looked at Ahmed’s face and barely visualised a wink

“C’mon old sport, it’s time we walk down this mammoth bridge

It’s not safe to be up here at this time,” Ahmed said while trying to work out the best impression of Jay Gatsby he could do

Faizy nudged his shoulder

If only he had the resources Jay Gatsby had, Ahmed would be off to Toronto before you could say West Egg

They started down the bridge when they saw a single flashing light make its way towards them

This light came closer and closer to them and they realised that the vehicle was driving on the wrong side of the road

Immediately the boys understood what was about to happen

 Mobile snatching had become a common crime in the city of lights, and they were about to be first-hand witnesses to it

Ahmed felt his phone become heavy like a rock in his pocket

Faizy, on the other hand, always kept two phones

It was now a custom for Karachiites; keep one for yourself and one for the muggers

So Faizy’s face was relaxed when the motorcycle approached them

Two young men sitting on the motor-powered vehicle immerged from the dark

The lack of light assisted the robbers as Ahmed and Faizy could barely identify their faces

But they could still decipher the gun the man on the back seat was holding

“Empty your pockets, boys,” said the driver of the motorcycle

Faizy, without hesitation pulled out an old, beaten down Nokia cell phone and handed it to the driver

He could feel his heart beating out of his chest

Even though the sound of generators radiated the air, he could hear the thumping of his fragile heart

The gun was now pointed towards Ahmed and the man asked him specifically for whatever he had in his pockets

Ahmed hesitated

“It’s the only phone I have man! Please let me go this time

You already took my friend’s phone

” This was not a time to negotiate with these people

Ahmed could feel that he was testing their patience

“I said empty your pockets fool, before I blow your brains out!” Faizy noticed that the man on the back seat was nervous

The gun in his hand was shaking as he pointed the barrel at Ahmed’s heart

“Fine, okay,” Ahmed said as he reached for his phone in his pocket

He pulled it out and began handing it to the driver of the motorcycle

Ahmed, without taking into consideration his life or Faizy’s, pushed the men on the bike

There was a little row and Faizy could barely make out anything that was happening

He stepped in and tried to take Ahmed’s hand and direct him to run

He managed to grab a hand and pulled it, before a fist hit his jaw and he fell back

The motorcycle fell down and the men on it tumbled over

Ahmed screamed for Faizy who had fallen back from the impact of the punch

“Run!” screamed Ahmed as he directed Faizy

Faizy heard a shirt rip followed by a loud sound of a gun going off

There was a moment of pause, and two more shots followed

Faizy cupped his ears and pushed against the ledge as adrenaline soared through his body

He was so shocked by the noises that neither his fight nor flight senses came into play

He lay on the ground, helpless and petrified

The motorcycle kick-started and sped away quicker than it had come

Cold sweat rolled down Faizy’s forehead as he felt his body shaking

He felt his ultra-fast paced heart beating steadily in his chest, he felt his temple intact and his head still attached to his neck

He went down and realised that his body was unharmed, except for the tooth that felt wobbly after he took the punch

But shots were fired

Three of them

Deafening yet eerie

His mind raced

Where is Ahmed? He saw Ahmed’s phone lying face up on the road

The screen had shattered but the light still glared from its cracks

Faizy picked it up and used it as a flashlight, scanning the unpaved sidewalk

He finally saw what he dreaded

A few feet away from him lay his friend, face down

The backpack weighed his body down

His arms were on either side of his frame and his leg was twisted in an inhuman fashion

Faizy ran to his friend

The weight of the bag made it difficult for him to turn his friend to the side

With great effort, he freed Ahmed from the burden the backpack inflicted on him and turned him over

Ahmed’s jaw had dropped

His face was muddy and bloody from the impact – his eyes open, but blind

Faizy saw crimson blood spewing where he had just placed his hand

The bullet wounds on the chest sieved Ahmed’s body

Blood came gushing out from his throat

Ahmed did not move a muscle but he made gargling sounds from his throat

He was still alive

Faizy rushed on to the road, waving and yelling

Cars zoomed by, motorbikes fled through the air, but no one stopped

It was like they ignored the boys completely

Faizy tried to stop a car by stepping in front of it, but the car just swerved past him while the driver swore through the window

Faizy hurried back to his wounded friend

He fiddled through his backup and drew out his more useable phone

He called the emergency hotline number and asked for an ambulance and directed them to where he was

As he waited for help to come, he tried to assist his dying friend from the injuries

He untied his tie and placed it on one of the gun wounds

He untied Ahmed’s tie and placed it on the other wound that was near his heart

With his knee, he pressed on a wound closer to his kidney and managed to man mark all the cuts

“Talk to me Ahmed,” he said repeatedly

  “I won’t let you leave me like this

Damn it, you fool! Why did you do that?” He wanted to hit Ahmed for doing something so stupid

He was the last person Faizy thought would throw himself in front of danger like that

All his efforts to stop the bleeding failed

Minutes went by and there was no sign of the ambulance

Faizy could feel Ahmed’s breathing getting heavier and heavier by the second

He let go of the ties and held his friend’s hand

Should he accept the fact that Ahmed was dying or strive to make an effort for his existence? He chose the latter

He ran onto the streets, once more in an attempt to draw attention to him

It remained futile

The busy Karachiites had no time to spare for petty problems like these

They carried on with their undisturbed lives as a boy on the road atop a bridge took his final breaths

The city that never sleeps had its eyes wide shut

Faizy ran back to Ahmed who was nearly gone by then

Enough blood had left his body, it pooled up next to him

Faizy took Ahmed’s hand once again

He could not cry, he could not scream, he could not plead

He could not beg for Ahmed to stay

He looked at his friend

His friend who had just gotten into one of the best universities in the world

His friend who thought about his family more than his future

His friend, the intellectual, the genius, lay before him battling for dear life

Faizy whispered the Kalimah in Ahmed’s ear

They were inches apart

So close and yet so distant

In a matter of seconds, Ahmed was gone

What lay before Faizy was a lifeless piece of mass

The dreams and aspirations all spilled away in the form of blood

Organs failed just like he had

Faizy closed his friend’s eyes forever

They would not see the illumination of another day

In the distance, Faizy heard sirens wailing and red and blue lights flickered towards them in the darkness

Date:07-Apr-2015 Reference:View Original Link