WHEN I was small we all lived in a picturesque village in the North. Our house was on the outskirts of the village, close to streams and lakes, and the green fields stretched to the horizon.
We were four girls—my sister, two cousins and I. Like little girls everywhere, we were very mischievous, and loved to play. But we couldn’t play all day. We had to study. We were the only girls in the village who studied and how we hated every minute of it! There was only one Moulvi for the entire “Mohalla,” a venerable old man who came every day to the house to teach us Arabic, Persian and Urdu, together with the reading of the Holy Books.
Rain or shine, epidemic or earthquake, nothing seemed to stop this bearded old man from coming over every day! While we sat beneath a shady tree beside the well, breaking our heads over our lessons, we could see and hear our friends, the girls who lived around us, screaming and giggling, enjoying themselves and teasing us!
In girlish desperation we hoped he would fall ill! But no — there he was at the appointed time, calling out to us to come with the home work, which more often than not we neglected.
The Moulvi Saheb would sit cross legged on a “charpoy” while we sat on the ground reading the lesson after him. cursing our fate and envying the other girls who did not have to study.
Then one day we arranged a “gudiya” marriage—a very elaborate affair which brooked no disturbance, not even our studies.
But how to get rid of the Moulvi Saheb? We hit upon a plan. One of us was to push him, as though accidentally, so that he would fall into the well! Another was to scream that the Moulvi Saheb had slipped and fallen into the well. The third was to start wailing and the fourth run into the house with the news. Thus would we be free for the dolls’ wedding.
It was time for him to come, and our hearts were beating fast. Just then one of my cousins came running out of the house and taking us aside she whispered: “I’ve just remembered, there’s another Moulvi Saheb in the next Mohalla.”
Our faces fell. So it was no use getting rid of our tutor. They would only get another for us, even if it meant fetching him from another village.
When the Moulvi Saheb came we kept looking at him as though to say: “Moulvi Saheb, you don’t know what you owe us! We have spared your life.” (1957).