7 months and 3 days. Today Abbu was going to return. It had been a long wait for little Fatima. Abbu had gone to the land beyond the horizon. He said he would be back soon. He promised her Chocolates and even a Talking doll. Fatima was excited. The wait was worth it she felt.
But after a week, she began to wonder, What is beyond the Horizon. Where did Abba go? So, She decided to go to Karim Ajja. Who lived a few minutes away from her home.
Karim Sheikh was once a famous cloth merchant in Oman. But a series of bad deals and a few betrayals later Karim was forced to come to India to his family and worked in Mangalore port for 12 years before retiring . His hair was white now ripe with humility and wisdom accumulated by living in the fishing hamlet. He was one of the few people who could read in the hamlet. All letters and documents went through Karim’s weary eyes before proceeding further.
Fatima rushed to Karim Ajja wearing her Green and Red frock. It was her special day after all. Her birthday. Yet Abbu hadn’t come.
“oye Karim Ajja, What land is there beyond the ocean? Where did Abbu go?”
Karim. Hearing the question. Smiled. And said “He has gone far away. To the land of Sheikhs. To earn a fortune. When he’ll come he will have the finest of clothes and sweetest of fruits for you” as he patted her head.
“Land of The Sheikhs? Adu yenta?” She questioned.
“Land of Sheikhs is a place where Sheikhs rule. Sheikhs. You have seen my old photo no? The one in white? They wear Clothes like that. All the people are rich and they even have camels there. Camels.” As he displayed his teeth and grunted like one.
Fatima was excited. Sheikhs, Camels, Chocolates, Clothes. She imagined her Abbu in a Sheikh dress. It was hilarious.
A few more days she told herself. And she would be the happiest girl in the village .
4 months had passed. Still he didn’t return. She was now afraid if Abbu even remembered her Chocolates and her doll. She asked ammi to write to him to bring Chocolates. Ammi just nodded and went away to the other room.
6 months had passed. Yet no sign of Abbu. She didn’t want any Chocolates or dolls or clothes. She wanted her Abbu. She wanted him to carry her on his shoulders to the market. She wanted him to wake her up early morning by tickling her. She missed him.
She went to Ammi and screamed. “I want Abbu. I want him. I want him. I want him. Now”. Ammi smiled at her and ran out of the room. That night Fatima heard Ammi sob. Maybe Abbu told he would get her Chocolates too. That’s why she was sad.
And so she waited again.
7 month 3 days. Maybe today he was going to return. Maybe today Ammi would stop crying at night. She waited till Dusk. Yet so sign of him. She felt helpless. And she cried. She cried and Cried. And fell asleep near the window.
“Fatima. Fatima look what I have bought for you!”. It was him. Abbu had come. She saw him near the door. She ran to him and hugged him tight as if she meant she was not letting him leave anywhere soon. He kissed her on her cheek and lifted her into his arms. She saw bags with him. “Adu yenu Abbu?” She asked pointing at the bags.
“Chocolate, Clothes for you and Ammi. And, A Talking Doll!”. He remembered. He remembered after all. She was indeed the happiest of all girls in the village. She had all she wanted. Now she could brag to Selvi and Nagma about her clothes.
“You won’t leave no?” She asked in a mellow tone. “I’ll always be there” Abbu said. As he patted her head.
And then she woke up. It was all a dream. She wiped the tears and went looked out the window
It was time to wait again.
And then. She saw him.