The Widowmakers

Eight Months Ago

“Ammi, we are going to have a baby” Ahmed announced with joy to the quizzical looks of his mother as she opened the front door of home to let Ahmed and his wife Kanwal in. Now it was Ahmed’s face that turned quizzical as his mother’s faced turned ashen. She turned around walked briskly inside to grandmother’s room. Ahmed and Kanwal exchanged looks and followed her.

It was large room with a large bed against the back wall. There was a large cane chair with cushions beside the bed. There was a cane sofa against a side wall for seating visitors which nowadays there were few. Ahmed’s great great grandmother or Barhi Ammi was sitting on the bed with her legs covered by a blanket and back against a pillow which was resting on the bed head. She was in good health despite her age a few year shy of 100. On the two chairs, his great grandmother and grandmother or Dadi Ammi was sitting wearing thick glasses and a newspaper in her hand and was probably reading news aloud to Barhi Ammi a moment ago. Both of them were looking towards his mother who was standing silently beside the bed with what appeared to Ahmed as watery eyes.

“Assalam-o-alaikum” Ahmed and Kanwal said to the occupants of the room in over lapping voices which received a warm reply from Dadi Ammi as well as Barhi Ammi. “Masha Allah, you guys look very happy” said dadi. The smile grew larger on Ahmed’s face and he relayed the good news. Barhi Ammi on the bed said “masha allah, mubarak ho” and all the prayers that go along with it and beckoning both of them to come towards her. Kanwal was blushing and Ahmed loved her much more in that instant. But that was not always the case.

Anyway, at the moment he was more confused by the behaviour of the remaining two occupants of the room. Upon hearing the announcement, he say Dadi suddenly looked towards his Ammi and there was an instant of sadness in her eyes. Couple of moments later she turned towards them and forced a genuine smile on her face that masked the sadness there was moment ago and stood up to hug the husband and wife. A few moments later, even his Ammi came wiping the tears that she later called tears of joy from her face.

Four Years Ago

“Barhi Ammi. My son is a heir of respected family and blood that runs in his veins is royal blood. He is not going to marry the daughter of some new arrivals in the neighborhood whose bloodline might as well be of the gypsies” said Ammi. Barhi Ammi replied, “Shaista! whats the use of blood line when no one is willing to give to you their daughter.” This infuriated his mother even further, “so this means that we would marry our son off to any road walking girl who offers herself to him”. “Shaista, I have seen more world than your and am  twice as old as you. This royal bloodline means nothing when the family is cursed and known as widowmakers. Who would give their daughter to your son when everyone thinks that her husband will die without seeing the face of his first born making the wife a widow and son an orphan at child birth”. “Barhi Ammi, I didn’t expect you with your five time prayers and tasbeehs and religiosity to use this crap about curses and widowmaking to marry off my son to some tramp”. “Shaista, it does not matter what I believe. Nobody is going to give their daughter to you without making some inquiries. No matter how much they hate their daughters, no one wants to see her widowed”.

Two Years Ago

“Barhi Ammi, I have tried hard to find a suitable girl to marry my son but no one is coming forward”. “Beta, listen to me. I know that you think our neighbours are descendants of gypsies but believe me, I know their family for more than 60 years. I know Kanwal will be a blessing for this family.”

Five Years Ago

“Ahmed, its a tradition in our family that when the son reaches twenty five years of age, he is initiated into the family business.” Dadi Ammi said while giving him the tour of their textile mill. At 63 years of age his grandmother was a hard task master as he saw workers, managers, even shareholders sit up straight whenever she came near them. “Your great grandfather started with this business and with time his wife, and then I and now your mother has expanded into other industries building an industrial behemoth.” “What is the use of initiating me into this business if I am going to die in a few years like my father and his father before him”. “Don’t say that. No one knows when will one die. Their time had come and Lord Almighty had taken them away. He giveth and He taketh.”

One Year Ago

“I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to leave behind a young widow and an orphan”. “Ahmed, do you really believe that?” “No! you know very well that I am not into superstition and curses”. “Then don’t you want to extend your bloodline”. “What bloodline? You are marrying me off to a gypsy girl. What a bloodline that would make”. “Enough!” said Barhi Ammi. Everyone was startled. Barhi Ammi was very soft spoken though rumor had it that when she took over managing the business after her son died she was known as the Karakht Bibi for her business ruthlessness as well as her shouting not Shafqat Bibi which was her real name. “I don’t want to hear this crap about royal bloodline. A man makes his bloodline himself with his character and his actions. Gypsy or no gypsy, you are going to marry Kanwal and that is final”.

Today
“Why are you attaching all these instruments and monitors to me? My wife is the one who is giving birth. Look after her”. “Beta, don’t trouble these good doctors. You know that for last three generations, every father has died the same time as the birth of their first born without even having as little as glimpse of his son”. “Ammi, I am healthy and fine. But if my time has come, these doctors won’t be able to help me”. “Beta Shh!!! We are already troubled. Your Ammis have been on the prayer mat for so many hours praying for your and your wife’s and kid’s well being”.

Couple of hours passed. His mother comes rushing in. Stops at the door. Looks at the doctors and technicians in the room. They smile that everything is alright. Sees Ahmed breathing looking at her with quizzical looks. Then run towards him crying. Kissing him on his forehead and saying, “Congratulations. You have a healthy son”. “Why didn’t you bring him with you? Is he alright?” “He is fine. I just had to check on you first”.

Then Shaista called home and conveyed the news to the Ammis. It is said that upon hearing this news, Barhi Ammi thanked God and asked for forgiveness and then put her head to the mat and passed away in this position.

A little more than 60 years ago

“How can you be sure he is my grandson? You are gypsies with I don’t know what or whose blood running through your brains. You don’t have no honor, no morals. For all I know, you might be selling your daughter wherever you make camo. You helped me and my impressionable son hide among your caravan and helped us cross into Pakistan, for that we are thankful. You want money for helping us out, I can give you money”. “Shafqat bibi, your son and my daughter married each other during the journey”. “My son is young and immature. He must have been led astray by your daughter. How strong is marriage anyway? I will ask my son and he will utter a word three times and this marriage will be over”. “Shafqat bibi, at least allow me to let your son have a look at his son. He looks just like his father”. “You will do no such thing, gypsy woman. We are of royal blood line. My son will marry a royal blooded woman. Your daughter and her son was a mistake. His sons will have royal blood running through them not just some unknown gypsy blood”. “Shafqat bibi. Where were your royal blooded people when you needed saving? It is we who helped you and you think of us low life creatures. It is you who are the low life creatures?” “Shut Up!!! Servant, throw her out of the house.” “Shafqat Bibi, I warn you of repercussions of having cursed by us.” “We are not superstitious. Cast your curses. They will have no impact on us”. “Since your son refused to even look at his son. I curse you that no one in your descendants will ever be able to look at his son as long as he is royal blooded.”

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