She woke up, rubbed her eyes, realized what day it was and smiled. She hurried up to the terrace and watched the stars fade away and the sun pierce the darkness. The sky was filled with light, and she felt confidence and unbridled joy bubbling in her. As the sun conquered the sky, a smile spread across her face. Would the sunrise ever fail to awe her?
She turned around, feeling special and noticed that the earthen pots of water for the birds were now dry and empty. She filled them up, watered the plants and traipsed back to her room. Her phone lay by the side of her pillow, silent. She had switched it off last night. Leaving it on charging she went to freshen up.
While she made breakfast, she thought about what she would do that day. Mother was happy to see the breakfast ready and blessed her profusely. There was still time to pass before she stepped out of the house, so she went about doing daily chores and reading passages from one of her favourite books.
Finally she left the house. The first place she drove to was the café that served her favourite fudge. She ate it alone and knew that her friends would be so pissed off. But she had to do it- she needed this day to herself. She stayed in the café for another half an hour- watching the traffic outside steadily increase.
There was only one other customer in the café. A young man who sat at the other end, with his back towards her. He had a canvas bag with him – probably a college student. When she went to pay her bill, she paid also for whatever the young man had ordered.
On her way to her next destination, she stopped by a grocery store and bought a pack of toffees and two packs of cream biscuits. When she reached the Jamat khana, she paused. This was one of her favourite places on earth. It was a small building that housed orphans. She hesitated before entering. She hadn’t come there since her father had left. She hesitated because she knew she was now one of them. But she encouraged herself – if not today, then when?
The caretaker hugged her and spoke words of consolation. The kids were in Arabic class. It was a small orphanage cum school managed by an Islamic scholar. There were only fifteen children and each one’s story was unique.
When the class ended the children were just as happy to see her as she was to see them. Perhaps even more. They rarely had any visitors. Sure, the orphanage received generous donations – food, money, clothes – but seldom one’s time.
The caretaker brought tea for her and they all shared the toffees and biscuits. She listened to all their stories, ramblings and their wishes – some of which she would soon fulfill and some which she knew she may never be able to. Soon it was time for her to leave. They asked her to come again and she promised she would. And she meant it.
It was almost evening and she was to return home before it was dark. There was only one place left to go to. The Library.
She went around the aisles searching for a book. She had The Sheltering Sky in mind and was looking for it when something else caught her eye. It was ‘Five Go on a Hike Together’ of The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. She loved The Famous Five, having read those in school. It was perfect for reading that night. She got the book issued and left for home.
On her way she met a woman selling glow-in-the-dark-star stickers at the traffic signal. She bought two sets. After all, a gift was overdue. 🙂
On reaching home, she found her sisters waiting for her with a cake. They had done it in spite of her telling them not to. Family! She cut the cake, exchanged pieces of it and they handed her a list of people who had called on their numbers since her phone was switched off.
By seven in the evening she had retreated to her bedroom and changed into comfortable night clothes. She switched on her phone and started thanking everybody for their wishes.
Friends called up as soon as they saw her online on Whatsapp and told her how she was a mean bitch before wishing her lifelong happiness.
It pleased her most when she saw that among those who had wished her at the strike of 12 were some of her students. Their messages made her feel old but it also made her feel blessed.
After she had returned the wishes, she had a quick supper and sat down with her laptop to watch Rio 2. It made her day!
By the time the day came to an end she had snuggled into her bed with the book from the library while texting a new friend she had made.
She realized that this day – which came only once a year – was done. No celebration. No friends. No innumerable cake cuttings. No cream on the face. No long talks on the phone. No presents.
She did miss talking to those friends who called only once a year (which showed that they cared enough to remember her special day) and catching up with them. They must have called and given up.
But that day, in a unique way, in that quiet celebration, she had found peace and comfort which she hadn’t since a month. She slept feeling happy and contented. It had been a good day!
Until next year.