To Kill a Mockingbird

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Although there are many people in your life, there are only a few who you can actually go to when you need to pour your heart out. Isn’t it amazing how people can have hundreds of friends, yet trust only a handful? How many times do we feel the need to say “Please don’t tell this to anyone”, in fear that he or she may spill the beans one day? Thankfully, I have quite a few people around me who I can trust without having to raise this question.

One such person is my uncle, a distant relative, yet closer to me than most of my closest family. Despite our 25-year age difference, my uncle and I end up spending a lot of time together. Being an old soul, I don’t really mind the generation-gap; in fact, I appreciate it. He seems to have some unique insights into a lot of matters, including matters that sometimes keep me tossing and turning at night. I had quite a few things on my mind that just had to be poured out, so I called my uncle up and we set up a meeting. After some (in)formal chitchat about our domestic and work lives, I steered the conversation in the direction I wanted it to go in. These here are the questions I posed but his answers failed to placate me.

Question 1. “A few days back, I was driving home from the office. Even though it was only 8 pm, it felt like 10 since it’s December. The road, a one-way two-lane affair with a concrete wall on the right and a 7-foot deep ditch on the left, was virtually dark and deserted. At instances like this, one cannot resist gunning down the accelerator and feeling the thrill of a fast ride; I am no exception. As I was speeding down the road (doing approximately 70 km/hr) humming a favorite tune, I saw a cat jump out of nowhere. Realizing her mistake, she froze for a split second; I could see the fear in her wide illuminated eyes as they shone brighter with the fast-closing gap. Having no other alternates, I braked hard, hoping for the car to stop or at least slow down in time to save the helpless creature. It was me against the cat, so being the selfish human that I am, I removed my foot from the brake in fear of swerving into the wall or falling into the ditch. Fortunately, no crunch was heard, no blood splattered. The rear-view mirror gave me a reassuring picture; the cat had managed to skedaddle back to her starting position unscathed. Even this heartening vision couldn’t stop my erratic heartbeat to slow down or my shivering to subside. After reaching home, I could only contemplate what could have happened had I not braked in time.

The memory still gives me goosebumps. If that’s the way I feel about almost killing a stray cat, how can humans kill other humans in cold blood and not regret it one bit? Whether this bloodshed is religious or patriotic, how can these people sleep at night knowing what they have done? How can they justify their actions?”

Question 2. “Upon reaching home one day, I was ambushed by my younger brother asking me to talk to one of his friends on the phone. I was baffled, not knowing the purpose of this call. Curiosity got the better of me and I took the phone from his hands:

Me: Hello, Assalamoalaikum

Rayyan: Waalaikumussalam. How are you bhai?

Me: I’m alright. What about you?

Rayyan: I’m doing fine. Bhai, I needed to ask you something about a guy you used to go to school with. His name is Sharjeel Hussain.

Me: Hmm… Doesn’t ring a bell.

Rayyan: Oh, maybe you know him as Sharjeel Waseem. Waseem’s his dad’s name.

Me: Yeah. I know him. We used to go to school together a long time ago. We weren’t what you’d call best-buds but we did hang out from time to time. In 9th grade, he moved to the USA to complete his education. Since then, I’ve only met him once on his visit to Pakistan, so it’s been almost 6 years since I last had a full-length conversation with him. Why the sudden curiosity in Sharjeel?

Rayyan: Well, I wanted to do a background check on him. He, through his family, has approached us for my sister’s hand in marriage.

This got me thinking. Sharjeel’s there on my Facebook too. A few months back, he had uploaded a picture of himself holding a white female (sporting a mini-skirt) tightly by the waist and captioned it with, “I’m in Love”. Would I want someone like him marrying my sister? No way! I couldn’t risk telling this to Rayyan so here’s what I said instead.

Me: As I told you, it’s been quite long and we aren’t that close anyways. You’d be better of asking someone who knows him a little better, maybe someone in the US.

Rayyan: OK bhai. Thank you! Allah hafiz.

Me: Allah Hafiz.

I hung up the phone, went to my room, logged on to Facebook and opened up Sharjeel’s profile, only to find that the picture in question had been removed, obviously to pass the background check. Now my question is, why do people resort to deceiving others like this? What pushes them to have fun with these goris all the while searching for marriage-material desi girls? Why the adultery? Why the hypocrisy?”

Question 3. “About three months ago, I was contacted by a client, an established advertising agency, for a printing job. The lady heading the company called me and handed me the art work, emphasizing the fact that since this job was for a charitable trust, I needed to keep the costs as low as possible. I told her that it would cost at least 4 Rs. per pamphlet if I use the lowest quality paper, and because of this fact, the printing wouldn’t be as crisp or aligned as it would otherwise. She whole-heartedly agreed to it and I gave it for printing. I minimized the expenses from my side and decided not to take any profit; the final cost came to around 3.85 Rs. per pamphlet. An invoice of 3,850 Rs for 1,000 pamphlets was generated and was delivered with the finished products. I called them up three days later asking whether the pamphlets were OK and they said, “Yes; they’ll do just fine”.

I had totally forgotten about this insignificant outstanding amount, and four months later when I happened to visit the agency for some more work, it struck me. Going straight to the accounts department, I asked the person in-charge to clear my last invoice, to which he replied, “Yousuf bhai, the pamphlets you printed were of sub-standard quality and were rejected by our management. We didn’t even bother sending them over to our clients. We will, therefore, not be able to pay you anything.”

I was dumbfounded after hearing this; “It’s been four months since the delivery, your management approved it when they looked at the product and now you’re telling me you won’t pay me a dime? If that was the case, why did you wait four whole months to tell me this, and that too because I ASKED?”

He said, “What can I do? I’m sorry.”

I swore never to work for them again. I mean why do people get into business when they have questionable work ethics? Why do such educated people try to swindle others? Why all we do is cheat and back-stab other for petty material gains?”

NOTE: In an effort to get an insight into the human mind, I pass these questions to you. Can you help me answer them?


5 thoughts on “To Kill a Mockingbird

  1. really worth thinking, and these are just few things you have mentioned, i believe it doesnt matter who the person is, which grade he blongs to, you will find cheaters among them. The whole problem is lack of imaan, we really dont believe that we are answerable for anything to anyone… i have so many experiences myself from even some closest friends that completely changed the meaning of trust or generosity for me. There is only one rule, dont keep any loose ends from your side and never trust blindly, people literally just wait for a chance to exploit it…

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