It was past 6 PM. Abdul was impatient now. Salim should have been here already. He looked out of the window hoping to catch a glimpse of Salim and his servant walking but was disappointed. All he saw were few chickens foraging around. He sighed.
Even though it was twilight, the sun shone down the village very brightly and imparted the horrid heat of summers. Abdul drank a glass of chilled lemonade prepared by his ammi who was, at that time, in the local market for the daily purchase. She had promised him his favorite: Chicken biryani for dinner. He couldn’t wait anymore. He wiped his mouth, shuffled his hair in vain to align and took his satchel, left the house locking the main wooden door.
“Abdul…There you are !” He heard the familiar voice from behind as soon as he pocketed the house key. There was no doubt that it was Salim, accompanied by his servant Irfan chacha.
“It is late already. Be back by 7, you two” Irfan chacha warned the boys and placed Salims hands in Abduls. Salim was blind. It has been three years after the accident. Though the tragedy took away his sight, it failed to take away his charm. But it had some impact. At times, Salim spoke of things that were hard to believe to be coming out of a 14-year old boy. Abdul often asked him the source for his creepy wisdom. Salim would wink and say “It’s in the eyes, brother!” “The wink is not effective now!” Abdul would snap but Salim would just smile in reply.
“Shall we go?” Salim asked, his fingers intertwined in Abduls. They were cold today. “Hold it tight!” He added. The pair turned towards the slope of the deserted hill as Irfan chacha headed back towards Salims house. They climbed for few minutes and were greeted by goats and chickens. After a while, Salim requested for water. Abdul made him sit on a boulder and fed him some through the bottle. The view was breathtaking. The village spread acres down. “Is the sight different today?” Salim asked. He knew Abdul was enjoying the view. “Not really, It’s still the same!” Abdul replied, placing the bottle back in his satchel. “Even the vegetation?” Salim asked. “Same” Abdul replied. “Bah. The eyes are useless”. Salim chuckled. Abdul stared at him for a minute. ” Tanaaz had her hair tied up in the school today. ” “That must be a sight!” Salim replied and both the boys giggled. “Shall we..?” Salim asked groping for Abduls hand. “Yes..” Abdul helped him to get up and they continued climbing for some more time until they reached the plateau.
The plateau was a lake few years back and one of their favorite place to visit past school hours. Now it was all dried up. “We reached.” Salim said. Abdul came to know that it wasn’t a question. He lifted three fingers and asked Salim “How many I am holding up?” “12..?” Salim chuckled. Abdul snorted. “I can’t see Abdul…Not yet. ” Abdul was relieved. They stood there for a while, their pajamas fluttering in the wind.
“Why do we still come here?” Abdul broke the silence. Salim smiled and sat down. He carefully traced the cracks of the land and sighed. “Do you like what you are looking at?”. Abdul eyed around. The land was empty. Few specs of dying vegetation and the heat haze was all he could see. The forest on the other side was all gone and replaced with boulders and dust. It was a terrible sight. The forest was now only in his memories.
“No..I don’t like what I see. Remember the boat rides with Naadir? And the nest that we found once?” Salim nodded. “So, I am not missing much.” He said. Abdul knew this was his one of “wise” attack. He knew most the days Salim would put up with the school and world. But he has seen him cry his throat out at times. Being sarcastic as the only way he was able to cope up. But Abdul was not feeling sympathetic that day. “Well..In case I come across some beautiful sights, somebody’s not going to see it.” Regret swooped in the minute he said those words. Salim, on the other hand, picked up a dried twig and laughed.
“My eyes have seen things you can’t even imagine!” Abdul gasped. “Why do you speak like that? Like a freak! I get goosebumps every time I realize it’s your own mouth and no one else” Salim laughed loudly. “Being blind is a gift, Abdul. But you have those ordinary eyes. Limited spectrum. What a pity!” Abdul scowled. “Why those words? Why freak people out with your wisdom? You being blind does it.” Salim acted as if he didn’t hear. Maybe he didn’t. It was hard to tell and his expressions were always blank.
Then Salim spoke “Do you want to know a secret?”. Abdul didn’t reply. That meant yes. ” I CAN see the lake!” “I can see too!” Abdul snapped. “You didn’t get it.. I CAN see it filled with water, like how it was earlier…I can see everything here.” Abdul stared at him. His eyes were fixed. A minute later, he thought he saw the reflection of water in his pupils. “If you want to continue your wise talks, I am going back. Anyway, ammi has been warning me about this. She doesn’t like me hanging out with you much now.” “I can really see it, Abdul. I can see the water, the grass swaying..Even the forest..There!” He pointed his finger. “It never disappeared I guess..”
Abdul stood quite for a minute. He blinked once. The lake was still dry. No sign of water. “Didn’t you just feel the land with your hands? How it is filled with water now? ” Abdul asked him. He was feeling angry now. “My hands ARE wet!” He lifted his dry hand and showed it. “I can feel it wet! The ripples are beautiful…” “That’s it! I am going down. It is 7 already.” “No it’s not! I can see the sky!” Salim replied. ” You are going too far with this Salim, this is really a bad joke” Abdul said and got up. “If you are lucky, you will see it too!” “Lucky? LUCKY?” Abdul barked. And then he stopped.
The sight in front made him speechless. It was like he had entered his own memory. He blinked hoping the water in front of his eyes will vanish. But it didn’t. The lake had come to life, and as if it was never dead. “Abdul..are you there?” Salim groped in midair. ” W-what is hap-happening he-here?” Abdul asked. Salim found Abduls pajama and tugged it in order to force him to sit down. Abdul sat down, his heart racing fast now. “Is this a dream?” He asked Salim. “Wait…Can you? Can you SEE it too?” Salim asked in exhilaration. Abdul didn’t respond. He pinched himself. It did hurt. This was all real. ALL. ” Allah…” He almost cried. How can he convince himself of all this? How ammi and abba were ever, EVER going to believe his words? How is this possible in the first place? Thoughts and theories, as illogical as before, clogged in his mind, as he started to process what the eyes had offered.
“Enjoy my friend!” Salim said, patting on Abduls back. “Are you really 14-year old?” He asked Salim. Salim laughed heartily. “But this comes with a price!” Salim said, his tone changed. “You?” Abdul muttered. “Now that you have seen this beauty, today was the last day you were able to see Tanaaz.” Salim said. “What are you talking about?” “Turn around…” Abdul did. “Can you see the village..?” Salim asked him. In a split second, it all turned dark. He blinked in fear. No difference. Still dark. He let out a mild scream. “What’s happening to me?” Salim was still smiling. And Abdul realized in horror that he couldn’t see Salim too. He panicked and started fumbling, trying to reach for Salims hand. Salim took his hands in his and said “Black is a great color!” .