I first heard of Zakat when I saw my elder cousin jumping in glee on receiving a new shirt. His previous attire was adorned by a few holes here and there, and with a new shirt for Eid, his happiness knew no bounds.
"The Khans are pretty generous. This year, they have distributed over 1000 pieces of clothes, all new."
"Did you get to choose your shirt?" I asked.
He laughed. "No. But they had kept the best one for me."
My ten-year-old mind instantly associated Zakat with a festival of receiving gifts. I was lost in daydreams of next Eid when I heard my mother whimpering.
"I went to collect the saree. Let me keep it, I did not get one last year either."
"You couldn't get there alone. Rahim took you along so you could bring this saree for me."
My aunt snatched away the packet from my mother's hand. With eyes full of tears mother left the room.
"Ma, why don't you go and tell the Khans that you need another saree!"
She hugged me tight and burst into another bout of tears.
I noticed that her saree was quite tattered. As she kept on weeping holding me to her chest, I didn't quite understand what was wrong. She could surely go back and ask for another one. They were rich and they could easily give her another saree. I was determined to serve her a happy Eid. So, I set forth towards the Khan House.
Halfway through the way, it started raining. I ran and took shelter under the nearest tree but soon realised that it was getting dark. I was frightened and wanted to go back home, but I could not recognize the way back. I kept on crying and walking through the rain. Suddenly, I found myself in front of a large, white house. Going near, I couldn't believe my eyes. I had reached the famous Khan House.
The large silver gate was now closed. Through the designs of the gate, I could see some children of my age playing happily in the rain. Soon, a woman dressed in beautiful attire ran down and took them inside. I could see her wiping their heads. This reminded me of Maa and I pushed and opened the door.
"Get off, lad. What do you want?" someone barked behind me.
I did not care and kept walking across the courtyard. I could see women busy with their daily chores while a few men sat on the sofa placed on their decorated balcony. There was heavenly aroma of food, something I had never smelt before. I entered their balcony in glee and full of expectations. I could see the unfamiliar faces stared at me.
"He's so dirty. Why is he here?" I heard someone whispering.
Before I could address the voice, a man stood up in front of me.
"Who are you? And what do you want?"
"I want a new saree for my Ma. She got one from here in the morning but my Phupu (paternal aunt) has taken it."
"We are done with the Zakat for this Eid, kid."
"But what about our gifts?"
The man took out a crisp note from his pocket and handed it to me. The others around us gasped.
"I want a saree, not money!" I threw away the note. The man now got furious and called upon a few other people.
They dragged me through the courtyard and threw me outside the gates. The silver gates closed once again.
I kept crying for a saree for ma, but no one came back. Disheartened, I started walking toward home. But the sky was black and everything appeared dark. I did not know which way to go. I sat under a tree to get some rest and also hoped that the storm would stop.
There was a loud noise and a bright light flashed through the sky. I screamed and howled in fear. Just minutes before everything went pitch black, I saw my mother running towards me in a bright green saree. She looked as beautiful as the women I just saw at the Khan House.
"Ma… You got a new saree!"
The author is a student of IBA, DU and a freelance journalist who likes reading, scribbling, and blogging.