The Lost Chance

Women's Own Magazine

Date of first publication: 1969 as "The Last Chance" in Charm Magazine.

Date: September, 1993


The Lost Chance

By Hasina H. Sajun


Naeem crept into the house and walked noiselessly into his bedroom. The watch on Fazeela's bed-side table showed five minutes past mid-night she pretended to be asleep.


Naeem knew she was awake, but not knowing what to say, he crept around softly, as if, not wanting to wake her. In less than ten minutes, he eased himself into the double bed and was asleep right away.


Fazeela, hearing his rhythmic breathing and the sound of his snoring, said softly, "Naeem, Naeem." Just on the borderline of sleep, the sound of his name woke him, but he didn't think Fazeela wanted anything, so he didn't answer.


Sure that Naeem was asleep, Fazeela switched on the bed-side light and taking out the writing pad and pen, she started to write. Though shocked to see this, Naeem did not stir, till much later, Fazeela finished writing and while folding the papers, looked around for a safe place to keep them. She finally deposited it on top of the wardrobe, switched off her light and slept soundly within minutes.


By now Naeem's curiosity had him wide awake. His thoughts chased one another like cars on a highway. What had she written, to whom and why had she written? Why at this hour? Why look for a place for safe keeping? What could it be...?


He drifted into a fitful sleep, waking up and sleeping in turn...he realized that his only chance of satisfying his curiosity was to read that paper right away, for come morning, he would be a mere ingredient in the blender of routine!


Getting out of bed, he ran his fingers on the dusty top of the cupboard, till he found the sheaves -Feeling like a thief, he eased it into his palm and locked himself into the bathroom to read.....


Within minutes he had read the closely written sheets of paper. Sitting at the edge of the bathtub, he could see, as he read, his whole life as if on a fast rewinding video cassette, then each important incident focused painfully and slowly on the screen of his retrospective mind.


The years spent in America, in an exhilarating experience of living in an unfettered, free, confident society - not the America descalating but on its way up - the fulfillment of every dream. Not the America of recession, bomb blasts and murders. It wasn't so a decade back or so it seemed to him from the distance of retrospection.


From a simple family, the experience of developing his faculties, every one of them, especially that of independent questioning and thinking. The marvelous fund of knowledge discovered in his lecturers and the availability of such a vast selection of books. The whole range of study courses. It was like the kingdom of knowledge, of self respect, of questioning, answering and learning...all lay at his feet


His mind stripped off its blinkers, rushed to respond to this gift, reveling in its deep rich wide mysteries. He spent his days, then weeks, then months and then years finding complete fulfillment It was easy enough to get used to the luxury of living, of cultural habits acquired there, enjoying the company of girlfriends, as witty happy companions. Life drifted on blissfully.


Then he was asked to return home. Life had been a happy experience and lost in its comforting arms, he never for a moment visualized that life would cease to be the same.


Realizing all that now, he wondered miserably why he had developed his faculties if he couldn’t find his niche in life or fulfill his obligations - obligations to himself, to his family, to his culture...


With education, he had found that life complements, to accept, to enjoy, to improve, to live...not just to exist But then that was what he had done, for the past so many years!


The film of his life kept rolling. He could see the disgust he had felt at all those age old customs which he had to endure at his ancestral village. Married to a cousin in a ceremony that seemed never-ending. Finally he met the bride...she was alright he supposed. From then onwards, it was plain existing for him. He had found Fazeela so lacking in any kind of literate understanding, that he found himself apologizing for her short' comings all the time. Nervous, she would commit blunders when his friends visited or when they attended any social get together.


Then the babies arrived and soon he took to visiting friends alone, making excuses for his wife being busy with the baby. Later he even accepted invitations without mentioning to Fazeela that the invitations included her also. Otherwise, he visited his friends at their office or the club staying out till late in the night


Fazeela, he thought was just plain dumb, and did not mind where he was or when he was coming. She had got all she needed. A husband, a home, and live dolls!


What use had he made of his educated life? Of opportunities that had been given to him, when he had been unable to help even one person improve herself? And here was proof of a lonely endeavor on her part to self educate. Of course she had changed, she had improved.


So why hadn't he noticed? To pay a small price for his negligence of his family, he read the letter again, and let each sentence hurt his raw, awakened feelings. It read...


Darling Naeem.


This will probably not have any effect on you; I have come to the conclusion that you are incapable of any feelings. You can't possibly know what it is to have lived with a robot because that is what you are. Where have you buried your emotions? Where have you left your feelings? In America? Or dropped them off in the Atlantic? Or hidden them somewhere?


I really don't know


I know only that you did not once ask me how I spent the long hours of the day, lonely and new to my surroundings. Having left family and friends in the village, did you ever wonder how I made new friends or whom I met?


Didn't you notice that you stopped finishing my sentences for me? That I spoke English correctly when I met your friends about once in two years? Did you notice that I looked well groomed, that my wardrobe included the latest of fashions?


Didn't you notice the difference in the home decor? My new hairstyle went uncommented. How did our children get into the best of schools? You never even knew when they started. Each time I tried discussing their schooling with you, you answered that they were only babies. You could not have noticed. Otherwise surely you would have asked! Over the years, I attended various courses in English language, flower arrangement, interior decoration.


I attended courses in personal grooming, hair styling and even learnt to play Bridge. But for the effect I had on you, I might still have been the village drab you married a decade back.


My admiration for your brilliant mind, your charming manners your marvelous ease and your heart-melting smile have palled on me. For while you are a robot, I am too human. I ventured, I tried for your attention… to see your eyes crinkling with amusement, the pleasure that lights up ¦ your eyes at meeting old friends, I hoped to see them turned on me... but in vain!


The only credit I give you is that l am a better person or rather successful, for you made me aware of my shortcomings. I realized my inadequacies because of you. But awareness came to me out of your negligence...not your love.


You could have made my awareness and then the learning of new things an experience of pure wonder. Lessons would have been a delight to learn, basking in the security of your love. My uneducated mind has triumphed over yours, Naeem! As even in my ignorance I was aware of the finesse lacking in me, but with your educated traveled brilliant mind, you did not notice even one personality developing in your home!


While this life seems to be enough for you, it certainly isn't enough for me. A woman loves but once, and having loved, needs her husband's love and attention like a plant needs sunshine. She is like a sunflower, at her best when the husband radiates love for her and the children.


The fusion of two bodies that have not shared the many, many happy incidents that make up the family, the domestic, the social and the emotional cannot know the joyous heights this oft repeated act can soar to.


How could you go on day after day, and night after night leading such an uncommunicative life? I cannot even pretend to comprehend? While you may continue to exist like this, I want to live only in the richness of togetherness and completeness…therefore this, Naeem is goodbye...