No matter what part of the world you belong and how safe your town is, at the age of six you are bounded by the limitations your parents decide. I was not allowed to play further than five houses in the street on each side of my house.
“Dare not to go farther than Mr. Hassan’s and Mrs. Shamsi’s house,” my Mom made it clear.
Every evening at five, I went out to play with my friends and returned home before the dusk. In winter, the duration of play time was about an hour and a half; in summer, it was not less than three. It was a summer weekend evening and my five cousins, who lived about half a mile from my house, came. Along with my brother and me, the platoon planned to go to a nearby children’s park. We all got excited. We needed adult permission. We put my eldest cousin, who was thirteen then, for the task.
“Ask my abbu (dad). He will say yes to anything.” I advised with a smug on my face. “he he he.”
Everyone agreed. My father was sitting with Mr. Hassan in his front yard. My cousins and brother approached my dad. Somewhere in my constantly wandering mind, a thought to elope the scene went through like a current. I think I told my brother that I would beat them by reaching the park first. I firmly believed that the platoon would get permission from my father. I started almost running and reached the corner of the street. I looked back. There was no sign of the platoon.
“I am so fast.” I thought. “Let’s keep the pace. Good job.” I was thinking happily.
One street after the other, I looked back from the middle and corners of the street. There was still no sign of platoon.
“I am the best. But they are all older than me. They might reach there before me. I should walk faster.” I was excited.
Finally, I reached the park. In my mind, I was the first one to finish this one mile marathon.
“I should get to the rides. I would not get enough turns with other kids and seven of us.” I smiled at my thought.
I enjoyed the swings for an hour. I forgot that my brother and cousins were supposed to join me. The increased rush on the slide and long wait in the line made me think of my cousins.
“Oh, I have not seen them. They must be on the other side of the park.” I reasoned.
I went to the other side of the park. The picnic area was crowded. Still there was no sign of the platoon.
“They must have gone to the rides. This is so funny. When I was there, they were here. When I am here, they are there.” I put my logic.
I saw the peanut and cotton candy seller. “Why can’t I find them? I wanna eat cotton candy and get fake nails from the balloon guy.” I almost cried.
I started moving to the rides again. The rush had increased. I had nothing else to do except to get in the line and wait for my turn. I was having so much fun but I could not share that with anyone. I was alone. Three hours had passed by since I left my home. The clouds were starting to have red streaks on their edges. Normally, I would have thought of going back home because I was not allowed to stay out after the clouds start to change colors. But I knew that my cousins and brother are still somewhere in the park and I would leave when they would too.
I was still in the line and the next turn was mine. I saw my father.
“Abbu here.” I screamed.
My father hastily approached me. He asked me to come with him. I pleaded that I was about to get my turn. He did not say anything. He just picked me up. He took me to the car. At the gate, I asked my father,
“Abbuuu, I wanna get the fake nails.” He did not reply.
When we reached the car, there was still no sign of platoon.
“Where are Wajih (my brother) and the others?” I asked innocently.
My father replied, ” At home.”
On the way home, I spotted my favorite ice cream parlor.
“Abbu, ice cream!” I demanded. He ignored.
“Abbu is angry at something. He never says no to my ice cream request. It must be Wajih’s doing.” I thought. I was upset not getting any ice cream. It was summer and after all, I had been playing for three hours without getting anything to drink or eat.
When I got home, I saw a huge crowd outside my house. All my neighbors, uncle, aunt, sisters, and friends were there. Still there was no sign of the platoon. My mission was accomplished. I had defeated them. I was smiling on my victory, yet my smart mind was thinking the reason behind the crowd.
“Our tenant must have bought a new car or something,” I reasoned again. But somewhere in my heart, I had a feeling that there was something wrong. And that something had to with me?
“There is no need to go to the mosque Shehzad,” my uncle told our tenant’s son. “Anwar (my dad) has found her.”
“Uh-oh, Oh my,” my genius mind came up with the right words this time. I knew I was in deep trouble. Things started to make sense. Never in my mind had it occurred that the reason of no sign of the platoon that evening could be that they were not coming. I saw my mother’s face. Her eyes could have been red because of excessive crying, but they looked to me bloody by her furious expression.
“Wait till you enter the home….,”my mother warned me.
“Abbu, mommy is scaring me,” I complained to my father. Usually, he would take my side but that time he did not. His anxious faced turned red and he slapped me in front of all the people around. I ran inside home crying. My eldest and dearest sister came to me. She told me that everyone thought I was lost. I did was lost. Shehzad was going to the mosque to announce the whole neighborhood that I was lost and needed to be searched. (can this line be omitted? I told her what I had believed throughout the evening. She told me that the platoon was quarantined all this time in living room. They never got the permission. Half an hour earlier, my brother spoke up about my challenge of reaching the park first. My sister also told me that my mother had nearly fainted. I realized how much my parents cared for me. My father has never hit or punished me whole life except the time I scared him to death. I do not know if it was his better judgment to punish me like that, but that was the only punishment I got from him on that occasion. It was an enough lesson for my whole life.
I do not know about the confidence you had in your childhood, but everyone who knew me as a child confirmed their suspicion about my over confident personality at my age of six. Personally, I did not believe that I was smart but I never hesitated to firmly believe in my decisions and judgments. I lived in my own world of imagination and reality. Sometimes I still do. It helps me escape from the harsh reality of life. Yet I self-consciously know that my escape is temporary. I have learned from my childhood that living in my own world without looking around that is happening around me will only make matter worse.