Short Story by Misbah Quadri

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The Good Men Series: Part One

by Misbah Quadri

A yearning for goodness

“Oh, he’s such a good boy!” They all thought he was a good boy. The good guy. The obedient, the quiet, the caring son, brother, and man. A man of character, integrity and principles. There was no dark twist to his personality. He really was all of those things that people in general, his friends, his teachers and his family – all thought of him. In fact, this was his pride.

He would often pause and think back to all of his choices in life. He could say without an ounce of doubt in it that he had always made the better decision in every situation. He had done nothing till date which would make him look back with remorse and he carried no baggage of any sort. He had done no wrong to any man or woman. He had read somewhere that it takes immense courage, willpower and a conscious conscience to be the kind of person he was today. He regularly heard some other boys his age say that it is so difficult to remain grounded and he eventually saw them all stray. But for him, being a man of his words, being the reliable, strong willed, “good man” came easy. He was never tempted by any distractions to live his life otherwise.

He was a recluse at heart and mind, although surrounded by human existence at all times because hostel life does not permit absolute privacy. To be honest, he was actually more than glad about it because the last thing he could handle right now was loneliness. Everything appeared ideal, at least to anyone who peered into his life through the peephole which was placed on the gateway to his life. But just like his sketches which went from vivid colors to black and white, his internal moods did too.

He craved love, even if conditional, but undiluted, exclusive love. It wasn’t the case that his family did not love him. They all did. His righteous character brought him regard from one and all. But there was something missing. He would experience bouts of what you may label as “depression.” He would slip into such acute negativity that his vision became blurred to every other positive possibility of life.

He came from a broken home. He hated to admit this bitter truth of his life. A family of feuds. Unending, despicable, loathsome feuds. It broke his weak heart further every time he would become aware of another blow that had hit his family. They were good people – his parents. They were hard working, honest, religious, strong people. But they had lived their lives in a mess, their actions were a series of spoilt milk. They had failed at holding the reigns of their own lives. He would sometimes dream that all the people back home would become pieces of a puzzle and he would carefully pick each one up and place them beside the other, forever. Oh, how he wished he could do that! The constant bickering and fights were eroding his happiness. The problem was that he cared. He simply could not stop caring, no matter how hard he tried and that left a void within him, space which would just remain vacant, loveless, unhappy for a long, long time to come.

The shadows beneath his eyes were not shadows anymore but perfectly drawn semi-circles shaded with coal. He even thought in terms of design! Shapes had become his mode of thinking. He was a happy child once and at some level he still was. Even his closest friend would be surprised to know of this deeply-rooted sorrow he had buried within. Movies made this darkness appear so glamorous, he thought. But to be forced to live with it in real was a curse. A crime. A sin. What could he possibly do about it now, after everything he had tried?

At that moment, he was reminded of an incident from his teenage years. One of their locality boys, Hussain, had recently lost his father. A few days later he was walking back home from a nearby shop when he witnessed some commotion. Upon questioning, he got to know that Hussain had mercilessly beaten his own brother over some trivial matter. He was devastated to hear of this. As far as he could remember, Hussain was a “good boy” too, just like him. When and why had this boy transformed into a mentally unstable beast? The most confusing aspect of it all was that Hussain was unfortunately born to a man who reeked of violence, atrocity, and blatant injustice. His wife, Hussain’s mother had left the man and his children abhorred him hence. Why then was Hussain following the footsteps of his reckless father? It just didn’t make any sense, then.

Today, he realized what that incident had taught him. Hussain had become the man he hated. Instead of doing everything his father did not do, he ended up falling victim to his trauma and repeated his father’s actions. The only way to survival from wrongs is to rise above it, he thought, and Hussain had failed miserably at it. He realized then that all he really could do for himself was to not adopt the qualities of people he despised. To not let his children undergo what he has. To not become another Hussain. That was the only way out of his vicious circle.

The day he would bring a woman into his life, the day they brought into this world a new life, he would understand, accept and fulfill his responsibility towards the new beings. He would give to his partner and to his child all that he could not receive. That way, he would not just live as a good man but die as one too.

Short Story © Misbah Quadri

Picture © Rev. Jeff Edwards

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