In 2009, I left my home to join law school in a different city. I remember how happy I was. I felt free. Free from all the restrictions, rules and naggings of my parents. There was a relief as that was the end of all my arguments with mother. My father wouldn’t be around, to force me to sleep early and wake up early. No more of those vegetables, milk and meals to be gulped. I could eat what I liked to, enjoy as much as I wanted, use internet, bunk lectures.. absolute freedom!
I put up in a paying guest accommodation along with seven other girls. Alhamdulillah, each of us bonded very well with each other. Being in law school seemed far better than my high school. However, just a month after my admission, the swine flu scare started. It was simply all over the media- newspapers, television, posters, radio etc. If anyone sneezed in a public place, the look of people around him was worth a click!
I still remember the date, it was the 4th of August, 2009. I woke up with burning eyes, sore throat and body ache. Since we had early morning lectures, we had Raisha to wake all of us up for classes. That morning, when she came she realized that I was burning with fever. Very soon I had two girls- Raisha and Payal placing cold strips on my forehead. They were kind to give me breakfast and medications. Alhamdulillah.
However, as my condition worsened, everyone started receding. Everyone was wearing the surgical masks and stayed in a separate room. Very soon, they came to the conclusion that I have swine flu and I should be admitted to the hospital immediately. In my city, one Venky hospital was dealing with all swine flu cases. So there I was sent, meeting doctors and Alhamdulillah, he said I just have flu and not “the swine flu”.
However, when I happily informed my roommates of it, they insisted that I get it cross verified. Thus, I visited two more doctors that day and both gave me a clean chit. One of them injected me with paracetamol which brought down my temperature immediately. Subhanallah! She was one sweet doc.
Meanwhile, my parents too were informed about my illness, much against my request since I did not want them to be worried if it was a casual flu. The entire day thus, they were in continuous touch and worried about my whereabouts. On one occasion, I remember Dad asking whether he should send Mom over here. I refused since I already was a lot better and travelling 2000 kilometers is a tiresome affair. I assured him that my friends are there and we ought not to bother Mom for nothing.
I came back from the clinics jumping and chirping like my old self. I truly was exhausted but very relieved. However, the moment I entered, there was an air of awkwardness. Everyone gave hesitant smiles, whispered amongst each other, gave suspicious looks and the moment i entered a room, all coversation would sieze leading to an eerie silence. I did not know what it was about but I felt like an outsider for a while. I decided to ignore and hop into my bed. That day has to be ended! However, there was more to that day.
“Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other, except for the righteous”, [Surah Az Zukhruf, 43:67]
At about 11pm, everyone came into my room and stood in a straight line, nudging each other to speak first. You know, how guilty kids stand in line to confess it to mommy! They declared that they think I have swine flu and I must be admitted into the hospital! (Hello! Doctor told me I am fine. It would be better for the world if lawyers stick to law).
I was very frustrated at that moment. I wanted to go up to their face and sneeze repeatedly right on their noses to beat the ghost out of them. (That would have freaked them out totally and perhaps they would get themselves admitted before they get their first sneeze. Their body language made it evident that they knew they are doing wrong, but speaking otherwise would make that one go against the ‘team’.
In the worst of times you know whom Allah subhana wa ta’aala has set in your speedial list? Yes, your superman. Within a moment I called up Dad.
– daddy everyone is leaving tomorrow morning
-ok. Dont worry. Take rest. I’ll think of something
I was made to sleep alone that night. I was told to use only one washroom, to not keep my plates in the kitchen sink, and the one thing left was to not breathe the same air as them. In sometime, I got a sms from Dad
-“dont worry, mummy and I love you and are always there for you”
That’s it. Life sorted. This gave me some peace and I could sleep.
I woke up hale and hearty the next morning. Subhanallah. Poor girls had to take the trouble to pack luggage and leave as they had already announced it. I was there sipping coffee and having chips watching them go. Nobody told a bye, they just left. Raisha, however changed her mind overnight. She told me that her dad (a friend of my dad) spoke to her and asked her not to leave. She said she felt the same as it is inappropriate to dessert friends at the time of need. It was an unexpected move, but yes it did move me. Subhanallah for goodness. I offered her some chips in exchange.
“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age (while) with you, say not to them (so much as), “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.”, [Al Isra, 17:23]
You know when you are ill who gets sickest in her guts? That superwoman who works for ages to set you right, yet you remain a complete mess without her. Indeed, you got it right. My mother nevertheless, travelled the 2000 kms and reached that evening. My local guardian, Uncle Joseph called me up when he learnt about my health and even dropped mother home from the airport. Kind friends.
With mother around, the last few strong germs got scared and left very soon. Alhamdulillah, I was granted shifaa but Dr. Mommy diagnosis was on for a lot longer than that! Who else would travel through the clouds thousands of kilometer and spend all those grands just because you have a running nose in another city? I know she would have come beating all security even if I was in Netherlands that time! Subhanallah.
She stayed till my college announced a month long vacation and we booked tickets to leave for home soon after. The month that followed was Alhamdulillah one of my best.
Later, one evening when dad and I were sitting in our lawn under the clear starry sky and sharing a conversation, he asked
– “why do you think your friends left?”
My mind had a lot of things. Grudges, bad memories, the feeling of being deserted etc. However, a patient thinking actually made me put myself in their shoes. Indeed, the media had hiked swine flu scare by manifold.
– ” I don’t know maybe they were scared.”, was all I could conclude
– “hmmm, take a lesson from this experience. Everyone stays during good times, but during bad times very few do. Cherish such friends. Also, learn to forgive ones who don’t. Forgive them but don’t Forget this experience.”
This small experience taught me many things. I learnt, it doesnt matter which friend comes first in your life or whom you’ve known the longest, what matters is who stands beside you in hard times. I owe this one to Raisha.
My other friends did apologise later and Alhamdulillah, I could let go the matter, though the episode does make me smile now. I guess they were not mature enough to deal with the situation. Neither was I.
I learnt that even if u cant help, you should atleast try to be there for others in times of hardship irrespective of whether they are close or not.
Most importantly, I learnt to value my parents. No matter what, they love me unconditionally. They were the ones who came running to me without any second thought. And one final lesson, “to forgive but not forget.”
Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “A believer does not allow himself to be stung twice from one (and the same) hole.” [Bukhari]