Frozen in Time

July 17, 2017
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A village is larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. Out of all the people to meet, I met him.

I was 5 at the time, inquiring Rabindarnath, my father of why the sky is blue, where babies come from, and whether God is a boy or a girl. He was in the midst of finishing the story he was writing when he looked up in frustration to answer all my uncertainties when my mother hustled me out of the room to let Rabindarnath work. I walked through the broad doorway which led to the winsome garden where I lay on the alluring green grass for hours of the day since there was not much to do in Calcutta. I heard the voice of a man whose voice quivered, and sounded much like sandpaper. I stumbled to my bare feet and trotted over to the short, white picket fence. I peeked through the slits in the fence to see short and plump man. His beard was as thick as a garden broom with bristles sticking out in all directions, and in his face you could witness a lifetime. He walked with a nasty limp which could’ve suggested he had once been to war. His dark brown skin complemented his dark eyes. He carried a dirty white sack, which my mother told me was filled with kidnapped children, but later turned out to be full of dried fruits and nuts. “Hey!” I remarked, he glanced over and stopped. I ran back inside with the fear of being kidnapped and thrown into the sack he carried. He followed me slowly not meaning harm, when Rabindarnath stepped outside to escape the claustrophobic atmosphere inside. He looked in confusion to see the strange man in our garden and asked him what he was up to. He looked up and told him he wished to see the “little girl”. Rabindarnath called me outside while he bought a packet of almonds from him. The dried fruits seller informed me that his name was Abdur Rahmat and his bag was only filled with nuts and fruits. He handed me a handful of raisins and walked out.
I saw him the next day and called him by his name this time. He smiled and handed me another handful of raisins, however this time, I invited him in and asked him to play with me. We sat in the garden and ate those nuts and dried fruits and talked about ourselves. I learned that he hadn’t two pennies to rub together. After that day our meetings became more frequent.

One day, he didn’t come- I grew anxious. I went to Rabindarnath and asked him where Abdur Rahmat was. He looked away in unease and kneeled down and told me that last night Abdur Rahmat was arrested for assaulting a customer who did not pay him for the dried figs he sold him. I didn’t know how long he’d be gone for but he didn’t come after a week, a month, or a year. I lost all hope and soon forgot about him.

Years passed, and the least expected day, Abdur Rahmat showed up, on my wedding day. I was getting ready when Rabindarnath knocked on my door and said there was a visitor for me. Again, I was startled to see a short and plump man sitting on the greenish yellow grass enveloped by dead leaves. I knew who it was, but he didn’t recognize me. He stumbled to his feet and came closer and handed me a handful of raisins and told me how he looked forward to coming back the second he was freed, because I reminded him of his own daughter, but he now realizes that his own daughter has also grown up like me and is no longer the same “little girl”. It was almost as if he were frozen in time. He walked back to Rabindarnath and thanked him for his time. As he walked out Rabindarnath stopped him and handed him money we were going to use on decorartions and music for the wedding, to buy a train ticket back to Kabul to meet his daughter. His face began to glow with joy, he thanked us for all our help and left us with a parting gift of almonds and walnuts.

Nine days later, we were all accumulated in front of the radio, and what we heard left us in shock. The headlines claimed, “136 passengers found dead on a train to Kabul, Afghanistan”.

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