He was the most happiest person I have ever come across in my life. His name was Pardesi.
Like usually the case in these types of stories, he came from a background where struggling through life with two times of food was a priority instead of good education. He wanted to study but obviously his parents could not afford that so he used to work at different places to earn money. His very last job though, was being my bodyguard.
My time in Pakistan wasn't a silky smooth ride, living away from everyone and also requiring a bodyguard wasn't the most perfect life but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Initially it was a headache, moving here and there with someone you barely know and talk to, someone always there to look at what you are doing, it was difficult for me to get used to.
Still remember the first time we ever interacted was when he asked me.
'Sir, aap Pakistani he hain?'
Instead of answering the question, my response was a weird looking face because I didn't like being called sir so I told him to call me Raafay.
He used to call me Raafay bhai, and I started calling him Pardesi bhai.
Time passed, we got to know each other.
He was a good man. Always a smile on his face. I could tell within weeks that he was as honest and sincere as you can expect. He loved reading books and was especially interested in Urdu poetry which most of the times flew over my head. His life was also simple just like himself, no complications. A good sense of humor too.
Two people living in a big apartment can be boring sometimes but he always came up with something interesting to talk about. Be it politics, cricket, life experiences, anything. Sometimes it amazed me how deep his thinking was and how good his observation felt. Usually he would take me to those 'Dhaabas' and we would order tanduri roti and daal mash and we would have the meal of our week.
Oh and yes, he was a good cook, Most of the things I can cook today is because of him.
A family of four. Two cute little kids and a wife, that was his whole world. They used to visit him every month at my place. I could see the excitement on his face, that spark in his eyes when he would meet his family.
'Bachay he zindagi hain Raafay bhai, khud tow nahi parha par ye khwab hai mera k bachon ko parhaon ga, doctor bnaon ga'.
He used to say that if he had a choice and resources he would either go back to his family and spend life under one roof or call them here so they could live together here. That he had many chances of earning from illegal sources but he wanted his kids to become good people so he sticks to the right ways.
Few months later, we were like best friends! Of course, he was with me everywhere I went by default. Be it my college, my friend's place, my gym, my cricket practice, anything and everything.
Whenever I told him not to come with me, or relax he would just answer one thing.
' Asa kasay kar sakta hoon? Duty hai, isi k paisay miltay hain mujhe '
I could share with him how I felt, he would tell me about his life and problems. Didn't take us much to get informal from being formal. My bodyguard, my friend, my cook, my driver.
The worst happened then, It was around 10 pm while I was at gym and came out to pick my towel from the car while he was sleeping on the front seat. I was about to cross the road. It was dark and quiet.
Just like a movie scene if I try and recall it now. A van stops, two men! Within no time holding me tight and one trying to tie my hands. I tried shouting, barely anything came out from my mouth but I tried my best. I guess enough to wake him up.
He came running towards us! Shouting.
'Oyeee... Chorooo. Oooyeeee'
I was panicking big time. They pushed me, kicked me. Then banged something on my head. It felt like everything was spinning. That was my last memory at that time. I fainted.
When I woke up in the hospital next morning/afternoon I got to know that he was seriously injured. They shot him.
People from the gym had gathered by that time because of his shouting and maybe hearing the gunshot. Those men had to run away but they had shot him.
Next few days were a torture! I had minor injuries. He was fighting between life and death. Couple of days later his family was there, they just sat quietly outside in the waiting area of the hospital.
Kids too young to know what was going on, yet young enough to know something was wrong.
'Abbu? Abbu kidhar' one kept asking his mother.
Something started bothering me big time. I could not figure out what it was.
On the fifth day, he regained his senses. The injury was serious.
I stood outside while his kids and wife were there inside. I didn't have the courage to go and face him for some reason.
He asked for me! I had to go.
I could not look at him and kept staring here and there and there was nothing to say.
He asked me to come near, gesturing with his hand. He could barely talk, just whisper.
'Sorry sir' He said.
I stood there stone faced! Why would he say sorry to me.
'Kuch hojay tow bachon ka khyal rakhna' He said again.
'Chup! Kuch nahi hoga pardesi, rest karo aaram se' , I said, trying to be strong.
He just tried smiling. Same way he used to smile all the time.
On the 10th day, his smile faded and eyes closed forever.
It must have been so tough for him, sometimes I wonder. It was for me, for sure. I finally realized, what was bothering me. It was guilt. I thought I was the reason for all this.
I can't explain in words just how horrible, terrible the feelings were. It got worse after that. For days I stayed in a shock. Everyone told me I am not, but I really did feel I was responsible. I have never been able to forgive myself and have never been able to get over this incident.
That is the reason maybe, after what happened, I never let anyone get close to me. I stay silent no matter what happens. I don't let anyone know about me completely, and I push people away. I try not to make friends, not to get emotionally attached to anyone because I feel it is dangerous for others. Crazy as it may sound, I just can't help it.
In my capacity, and I am just a student, I do try to look after and support his kids's education from a distance, after all it is my duty.
Every now and then, his face pops up! There have been very few people, good people in my life. He was one of them. I guess I owe him everything. He taught me so much even though he was officially 'illiterate'. More than anyone has ever taught me. I remember him. Hope he forgives me. Maybe not now, maybe when I fulfil his dream? Which now, is my dream.