Fazil sat musing, lost in his thoughts, as the plane cruised high above the clouds, on its way to London, UK. He thought about his simple, rustic home in Northern Pakistan, where he had left all his near and dear ones — his old widowed mother, his little sister Nina, and his beloved Maliha, the light of his life. The simple villagers of Phool Nagar village, his home, where the streams rushed down the mountainside and the apples ripened in the orchards, and everyone smiled at each other. It was a big wrench, leaving them all, leaving all like this and flying off to a far off alien land, to a huge and impersonal city where human beings were considered to be little better than machines. But he had no choice in this.

Despite the fact that Fazil loved his home, his family and his village so much, he also realised that he needed to make a life for himself, and for Maliha, if they had to settle down to a happy and prosperous future. And going to London was his big chance. Maliha’s father had put it very well when he had gone with his mother, to ask for Maliha’s hand – ”I have known Fazil all his life, he is a fine boy! And his father (may Allah bless his memory) was one of my best friends; I would be very happy to marry my daughter to him; but –but I ask, as a parent, a father, what future will they both have here? I’m happy that Fazil has studied, that he is an educated boy, but what can he do, what career can he make here in this land? What will his education avail him? He is a simple village lad, with no connections, no powerful patrons or backers. If he even ends up getting some small government job, what will happen? He will spend the rest of his life toiling, with no chance to get on, to improve himself, to live up to his promise, or to fulfil Maliha’s hopes and dreams…” . And Fazil realised sadly that he had been right. That his only choice was to try hard to excel in his degree exams and win a scholarship to go abroad, preferably to some European country, and seek a life and career there.

And he had achieved this. By dint of his extreme hard work, by sacrificing so much — physically, mentally, emotionally — he had done it. He had excelled and was now on his way to London, to that golden gateway to the fulfillment of all his dreams. He would struggle and work hard and strive and make a life for himself in this huge city in a cold land populated by cold people. Yet, was all this effort really worth it? What would he be? Like the proverbial dhobi’s (washerman) dog, neither here nor there, not of this world, and no longer able to live, adjust back home either. A mixed up broken half-creature, one more statistic of the ‘Brain Drain’ that the Pakistani newspapers were always protesting against. That was literally ‘draining’ the nation’s young talent, its very lifeblood. And in the UK? He realised that in the UK, too, he would only be a second-class citizen, tolerated by the natives but never ever really part of their world, their society, their culture. Yes, yes, yes. He felt his own brain, his mind searing with the pain of exile and his whole being, his very soul draining away with each thrust of the aircraft westwards. It was a tragic irony that his own country rejected him while other countries welcomed the likes of him, to exploit to their own ends.

As he looked out of the small window, he also realised with an intuitive shock that he had actually cut off all his old connections back home, that this was not something he had planned but it was something that had happened, would inevitably happen. He realised bitterly that even the cause for his self-exile, his dear Maliha, would probably never be his now. In London, a totally new world awaited him, and new people, new relationships.

As the grey clouds drained away the bright sunlight of the past, so did a vision of blue eyes dissolving the earnest brown ones left behind.

 

 

 

 

About The Author

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Prof Dr Syed Anjum Ali Bokhari is a retired university teacher who now lives in Islamabad, Pakistan. He has published quite a few stories in Urdu and English, in various literary magazines and journals in Pakistan and abroad, and has also written articles and papers on literary criticism. He is especially interested in the study and analysis of the psychology of the individual in his creative work.