‘You promised me’ she cried ‘how could you do this?’
She was just a kid and maybe it was time to tell her the truth. Alizeh perhaps was reluctant. She did not want her daughter to contemplate much. Sarah was her only treasure and Alizeh did not want it to lose its shine.
‘Baby, I am so sorry’ Alizeh held her hand ‘Mama has an important case this Saturday. I promise, if I win this, I will take you out’
‘You are always busy Mama’, Sarah moaned and left the room.
A single mother, a struggling lawyer and a lone woman – Alizeh, resorted to introspection.
How much would Sarah lose? How many times would I break my promises? Am I being too selfish? Am I so inept in raising a child independently? But she has to understand. Sarah is just like me, fierce and persistent. But someday, she will understand. I hope she will.
That day, the courtroom was filled with drama and emotions. Alizeh was defending a mother – just like her. She choked each time the woman was questioned about her modesty. She just sat and stared at her helplessness. The woman was frugal and scared. And all she had to cover her modesty was her black shawl while everyone tried their best to disrobe her. And the unfortunate woman was just fighting for her right – her life.
That night, Alizeh went to Sarah’s bed and decided to tell her the truth. She couldn’t bear the weight of her own vulnerability. She wanted to talk to her daughter – hug her and cry out loud. But she resisted. Today’s courtroom hysteria certainly engulfed her sanity. How long could she fight? There were so many battles and being vulnerable wasn’t the best of options she could choose. But could she let the truth die an unnatural death?
Sarah had to know. Someday.
‘Mama, you look so frail’, Sarah held her hand.
‘It’s just my work baby’, Alizeh responded with a smile.
‘Is this case so important Mama? Your daughter misses you’, Sarah cried.
She wasn’t a normal child. She somehow knew something was consuming her mother, but could quite find the source. Sometimes she would lay on Alizeh’s back and sing a lullaby to put her to sleep. She could have asked. Perhaps, she wasn’t strong enough to confront the truth.
Alizeh failed to keep her promise each Saturday. And Sarah finally stopped bothering her.
The courtroom drama kept her occupied and her health deteriorated as days passed. The woman in question grew old with time as well. One corner of the courtroom was full of assaults and the other side – the so-called Justice. And somewhere in between, their lives met; helpless and fragile.
‘Mama, tell me about your case today’, that evening, Sarah decided to ask.
‘I am just trying a save a mother, my love. She is in need. Her child, like you, needs her. I want to win this fight not only for her but also for you.’ Alizeh replied with a smile.
‘And why do you wear that shawl over your head Mama?’ Sarah asked.
‘The woman I am defending gave it to me – as my fee.’
‘You will not get paid for this case? Why are you even fighting this Mama?’ Sarah retaliated.
‘Baby, not all the fights are fought for money. She is poor and can’t afford to pay my fee. I just want to win it badly for her. You will understand it one day.’
Sarah was perplexed. She just wanted her mother back.
‘Mama, I will never bother you to take me out on Saturday ever. You are my beautiful Mama and I don’t want you to look so frail. And I hate this black shawl.’
‘Yes my love’, Alizeh finally hugged her and cried out loud.
Oh My Love, how do I explain? What would you do without me? All my inner strength comes from you and while I am fighting the biggest battle, all I can see is your face and your innocence. I am responsible for being so relentless. For not being there. Give me more strength so we can sit together, talk and cry. Let me be, so I can see you grow, become a doctor maybe.
Sarah took the stage and finally spoke about her journey.
“My mother – Alizeh, the light of my life and the strongest women I ever knew, just held on to that beautiful lie for two years. I was just a child and I knew something wasn’t quite right. She fought the demon within every week and spoke for the other woman in the courtroom. After all, she was a lawyer, and all she could do was defend her.
But the other woman, she fought for, was nothing but a mirror. It was her. Her fight was indeed bigger than I could imagine. It was her fight with life – And she did not fight it for herself, she fought it for me; for I was her only hope.
And I did fully understand it one day.
That dreadful disease couldn’t just take her away from me so easily. She covered her bald head under that black shawl for three years. She fought hard for the other woman and her daughter and she finally won. I was perhaps the only reason she chose to fight for so long. Every month, she underwent rounds of therapy, sometimes unbearable, but she chose to smile and hide the pain for long. We gave each other the strength and fought our own battles.
On her deathbed, my mother looked at me and smiled.
‘Here is the black shawl you hated. You can burn it now. It does not need to cover my modesty anymore’
She no more looked frail or old.
‘I wouldn’t burn it Mama. For this, will remind me of you, of your strength, of your courage. You are my mother, and my father. All my life, and beyond.’ I retaliated.
Yes, she lived for twenty more years and took me out every Saturday.
Let me tell you something…
Some fights are much bigger – bigger than a broken house, a desolated life, a curious predicament and a fragile uncertain life. Sometimes, you have to fight the battle alone, like a lone warrior. Odds are you may fail once, twice or even thrice. But you can never be fully defeated, until you get up and keep fighting. And when you do, nothing can defeat you. Even Cancer.
I am Doctor Sarah Alizeh Khan – and this is our story”
– For all Mothers & Sisters fighting the big battle with Life…