By Ahmed Ata Khan
AND I ASK AGAIN WAS I REALLY THAT NAÏVE?
It was my 8th birthday party and the first one when our family budget allowed me to ‘actually’ have a party, inviting my classmates.
I was thrilled and was counting the days.
More than the party itself, I was excited about the number of gifts and presents I would receive.
And the night before, I just couldn’t sleep, counting the ‘gifts’, imagining the wrappers of different colours.
The day arrived and I was dressed in a new shirt and trousers, with a black tie. Everything was perfect and my classmates started arriving in ones and twos.
The two nosey girls Kinza and Anam arrived with two large boxes wrapped in dazzling red. My heart leapt at the size of the gifts and I ran to greet them, smiling and introducing them to my parents. In school, these two always gave me a tough time, but that day … they looked real darlings.
Next was Aziz, my neighbour and the grooviest kid I had ever seen. I think I had ‘purposely’ forgot to invite him! But, wait, he had a long green wrapped box (probably a bat). I ran and greeted him and hugged him too.
Then the next to arrive were the twins – Danish and Sehrish, the look alike brother and sister. They had probably opted for a common present, and a small one too. What a shame! I was really disappointed, and tried to look the other way, but they walked right up to me and wished me, handing me the ‘small’ present.
This went on and on and the last one to arrive was Faraz, the school peon’s son. He was wearing the school uniform, and probably didn’t have anything else to wear. He wore a broad smile and ran to me, hugged me and then gave me a very small gift, wrapped in brown paper.
How insulting! I didn’t even hold it and let it drop to the floor, ignoring him and the gift completely. He picked it up and said Happy Birthday again.
Mom was observing me and just before the party began, she whispered in my ear, ‘Why were you happily greeting some of your friends and ignoring the others? Was it because their gifts were small and not properly wrapped?’
I was too excited to lie and nodded. She made a face and said, ‘I never thought you were so naïve!’
When the presents were opened, the biggest ones were flower baskets and a table lamp, and other big ones included a crazy fancy coat and a lantern. The small ones were books and the smallest was a fountain pen, by Faraz.
Coming to think of it in my later years, aren’t we all similarly naïve? We just look at the wrappers, not at the gift inside. We just look at the size of the present, not the ‘actual’ present.
The wrappers of dresses, fashion, colour of skin, height, big cars, degrees, jobs and a number of other things impress us so much that we forget to look at and really know the ‘person’ inside.
The person, who is the most important of all — The person who is really a mirror of us; the mirror which can show us how we look like from inside. But do we really want to see that mirror?
Whenever I think of that birthday party I ask myself the same question, ‘Was I really that naïve?’
Incidentally, Faraz’s pen is still with me, and I have used it successfully in all my major exams to date, and is my greatest treasure.