SAEEDA’S mother had been ailing for a long time — fever, cough,
body-ache, painful joints and what not. Treated by a variety
of physicians for weeks, she often showed signs of
improvement but soon relapsed into her old, sick self, one
complaint substituted by another. Though weak and
colourless, she was forbidden normal food and was under
strict orders to remain perpetually confined to her small,
dingy room with doors and windows fastened, deprived of
sunshine and fresh air.
When she became critical, her relatives and neighbours
persuaded her to consult a specialist even though his fee
was likely to be high. Life is more precious than money, they
said. Saeeda’s mother was poor but she heeded their advice
and sold a few trinkets to pay the doctor’s fee and the
cost of medicine.
The doctor came in a few days and examined her and
prescribed effective but costly medicine. To the question as
to what she should eat he said, “Anything you wish to eat —
chapati, vegetables, milk, fruits, etc. In addition to all this,"
he added emphatically, “leave this dark hovel and occupy a
bigger room with doors and windows open. Sit in the sun
every morning from eight to nine. Sunshine and fresh air," he
concluded, “are more important than medicine."
The doctor and his advice became a subject of noisy
commentary among all present. Some favoured while others
opposed it. Exposure to sun and air for someone afflicted with
chronic cough was dangerous, an experienced lady declared. A
younger neighbour nearly quarrelled with her over this. Too
exhausted to participate in the debate, Saeeda’s mother
remained quiet but determined to follow the doctor’s advice.
“Forget the consequences," she said at last. “I’ll carry out his
instructions to the letter. Move my bed into the next room and
let me sit in the sun on my charpoy for an hour daily."
It so happened that the sky remained overcast next
morning. The same was the case the following day. Saeeda’s
mother was dejected. She muttered, “O Lord of mine, why
have you ordered the sun to remain hidden? How will I
ever be cured?"
Saeeda was playing with her doll nearby and she heard
her mother’s lament but kept calm. Later in the afternoon,
when she stumbled on a spot of pale sunshine in the
courtyard, she ran to her mother to say the sun was there.
“No, no", said everybody present. “It’s too late and chilly. Your
mother can’t sit out there." Disheartened, Saeeda returned
to her doll. There was no sun really except for its last remnant
entangled in the top branches of the family mango tree.
Now, children have at their command a secret language,
foreign to grown-ups altogether, in which they fluently
communicate with trees, flowers, animals, the sun and the
moon, perhaps even with the Almighty. Using that special
language, Saeeda addressed her remark to the last departing
ray of the sun. “Dearest sister, do come tomorrow with lots of
warmth and brightness. You see, my mother is ill and needs
“Surely," answered the light,
“don’t look unhappy. We’ll be here
at the fixed hour."
Next day, early in the morning,
when the sprightly sunrays
embellished themselves for their
journey down to earth, the sun said,
“It’s our day off again. We’re staying
up here. The road to earth is
blocked by an army of thick, mucky
clouds." The little rays so much
wanted to go down for a lark but
they remained quiet. One of them,
though, who had made a pact with
little Saeeda said, “Sir, I can’t stay back. I’ve given my word
to Saeeda whose mother is ill and needs our help. I’ll pierce
through the clouds to reach Saeeda’s courtyard. How else
will her mother be cured?" Hearing this, all the rays nearly
staged a revolt against their father, the sun. “Fancy staying
back again," they said in a single voice. “What will the people
of the earth say about us? That we of the heavens have
The sun relented. “Please yourselves," he said. “Mind your
clothes, though. The clouds are mucky."
“Never mind our clothes. We can always change. But go
we must." And the rays rushed towards the earth. The clouds
stood guard between them and Saeeda’s courtyard. The little
rays focussed their heat — and they had enough of it — on a
battalion of clouds, which had to flee from its post. The rays
got through, shooting past the bewildered clouds. They were
Saeeda saw the whole host of them approaching and her
heart leapt with joy. She shouted, “Amma, Amma! The sun is
here. Come out." The old lady’s eyes welled up with tears of
gratitude. Her charpoy was placed in the courtyard and she sat
on it for an hour reclining against bolsters. It had been months
since she had felt the sun on her hands and face and breathed
in fresh air. She thought she was in a new world. Though pale,
her face glowed and her eyes shone bright. She saw her child
too bathed in sunlight and kissed her. The morning air brought
in a new fragrance from nearby flowers. The birds chanted a
new tune. Saeeda’s mother felt better already.
She is fully recovered now, but she still follows the doctor’s
advice — an hour of sunlight and lungfuls of fresh air every day.
A Pact with the Sun by Zakir Husain
A Pact with the Sun : Translated from the Urdu and slightly modified