A World of My Own

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| This is the 365th story of Our Life Logs |


In 1987 in the city of Lahore, Pakistan, I became the first-born son to Rehman Fateh and Shad Begum. Our family was poor but very happy in our small world. In the following years, my parents had my two sisters and my brother, increasing the joy of our home.

I grew up watching how hard my father worked to earn bread for us. Because he was a mason, my father spent his days under the hot sun, lifting heavy stones to piece together a bridge or footpath of sorts. Each day was new work for him, but it brought about the same exhaustion. Every evening he walked into our home, drenched in sweat, yet not a single frown or furrow on his forehead. I wanted to help him and give him a hand in his work but I was strictly forbidden by him, even when his body ached from the hepatitis C that was slowly claiming his liver for its own. He just wanted me to study.

He had many hopes for us. He wanted us to study and be something big and great. The stars in his eyes danced when he told us to dream. As a young boy, I was very enthusiastic and avid when it came to studies and getting a quality education. I wanted to be an officer, a career that would make my parents proud. Unfortunately, he never had much money to pay for luxuries such as our school fees and books. It pained my father to make such a cruel, but simple choice. We had to survive.

The house we were living in wasn’t even a proper house, rather, a crude structure of bricks, with only two rooms (neither were a kitchen). I remember my mother used to cook food outside the house on wooden logs. That place didn’t belong to us but to a distant relative who, despite our condition, never failed to ask for rent. In fear of getting homeless my father would always pay the rent on time even if it cost him his medicine and our monthly ration. 

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When I was 16, my father started staying home sick from work for days at a time, which turned our meager income into nothing. He got so feeble and fragile that it was almost impossible for him to leave the house. I felt his desperation; someone had to earn the bread he used to. It was very important for someone to run the house as my siblings were young and demanding, they had to go to school at all costs.

I barely remember what the teacher said the day before I dropped out of school. I wish I had written everything down but I didn’t. My mind was too full and my heart was too broken.

I left school and started working as a mason, taking over for my father. I was inexperienced and fragile for the work I had to do. Even on days when it was 114 degrees (Fahrenheit), my job was to carry bricks all the way from the ground to the rooftop on the home we were building. Many times, I felt like quitting and doing something else, but I wasn’t very lucky with that. I was desperate for a job and that was the only one available.

My father got sick with every passing day and his treatments cost us a fortune. I would not lie but there were times when I didn’t have any money at all, so I just let him be and would delay his treatment. We were all very helpless. I think I still regret this part of my life, but I had no other option. At 16 years old, my life started to seem impossible.

My father eventually passed away when I was 25. His death crippled my family with grief. He had been the binding force of our family, the most genuine person I had ever known. He was our backbone. He gave us all when he had nothing. God knows how many times he tied stones to his stomach in order to curb his appetite and went to sleep so the rest of us didn’t have to go to bed hungry. I buried my dreams alongside him.

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After my father’s death, I put all my spare time and effort into finding husbands for my sisters. It was hard and seemed impossible too because I was broke but God helped me in ways I could not have imagined. The suitors I found were nice and generous. Both of the men considered our circumstances and didn’t even accept a single penny from us when they married my sisters.

My brother drifted off to his own world after he completed school. He was always the smarter and more cunning one when it came to his own benefit. Since he was a lot more qualified than I was, he was offered a better job, but he had made it clear that his income would only be sufficient for himself. He married and moved out not long after that.

While this hurt, his departure gave me some joy, for I had fulfilled my duty as the head of the household. I told myself that I had made my father proud. That thought was all the strength I had left. I had to make it last.

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I spent the next few years running in circles. I worked in the dry heat of the city each day and at night I cared for my mother, whose health had become unpredictable. I didn’t see a way out of this kind of life, but I hoped and prayed nonetheless.

In 2015, I got a message from my uncle. He wanted me to marry his daughter and offered me her hand. At his words, my heart skipped a beat. His daughter, Rukhsana, was so beautiful and kind. I never thought I would be able to marry someone so lovely. I said yes, with all my heart.

We got married soon after that and fell deeper into love with each passing day. Life no longer felt like a cycle with Rukhsana in my life. The thought of going home to her cooled each hot sun and strengthened every muscle. Marrying her has been the wisest decision of my life to this very day. I could not have asked for a better life partner. She made me understand how little things are and how they don’t even matter at times. In all the ups and downs, she has been my constant. I wish to pay her back one day.

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My mother and my wife and I moved into a bigger place. It is not very big, but it is comfortable and it suits all our needs. At least it is something I can call mine. My wife and I had a daughter—who is beautiful like her mother—and have watched her grow to be a bright, happy toddler. I will do anything to give her a good life for as long as I can.

The life of my father taught me all I needed to know about how to be a good husband and father. He lived in strength and humility. He did not give into despair. When my father could no longer provide for our family, I was able to practice being in his role. As challenging as it was for me, my father was still there to answer my questions and support me with his gratitude.

I owe the happiness of my family to the life and death of my father and I will do my best to teach my children to dream big. While I may come home with sore muscles, I do so with a smile, for I am satisfied. What matters is true love and relationships. Rukhsana and my daughter Maria, are my definition of a world of my own. The evenings I spend with my mother, my wife, and my child are more beautiful and whole than any dream I could ever have.

 

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This is the story of Khalil UL Rehman

Growing up in Lahore, Pakistan, Khalil watched his father work very hard to make ends meet for their family. When his father grew ill, Khalil had to drop out of school, sacrifice his dreams, and become the new head of the house. It wasn’t until years after his father died that Khalil realized he had been preparing for the greatest dream of all: to provide and care for his loved ones. Khalil got married to the love of his life in 2015, and together they have one daughter named Maria. Khalil wants his daughter and the other children they may have to become officers and engineers. He is sure that they will fulfill his dreams and live happily.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on June 14, 2019.

| Writer: Noor Pasha | Editor: Colleen Walker |

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To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)

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