A young hearted 17 year old sat with her two-week-old baby girl. She was deep in thought of taking care of the tiny life that she held in her arms. In the midst of her tired thinking – she could hear in the background, noise of one of her father’s workmen. She tried to block it out, “it can’t be as important as what just happened to me” thought Habeeba. After three days of painful labour – Habeeba gave birth to a large baby girl. That’s all she was going to think about, well that’s all she was able to think about.
The noise wouldn’t go away. Now Habeeba decided to listen in; it was Shahid pleading for something. Shahid had worked in the family paddy fields for years. She had seen Shahid working in the family from as early as her memory takes her back. He was a good man, always did what was required of him and sometimes extra. Most months, Shahid would take his salary in advance – he had a large family with only him earning. One of the things Habeeba liked most about Shahid was that although he always took money in advance – he was never lazy with work. He always put 110% into his work! She liked honest people.
Everyone liked Shahid and would ask for him if they needed an extra chore done. So what was the problem now? When Habeeba listened to what was being said she realised Shahid was asking for 20 Takas. He was asking her mother – who was saying that she didn’t have any change to spare right now and maybe he should ask someone else in the village. Habeeba’s mother was busy sorting some food out for everyone to eat at dinner. She seemed occupied in her own thoughts. No one else was around in the big house. Habeeba didn’t even care where everyone was.
Suddenly, before she could even think, Shahid was standing in front of her asking about her new born. She told him about the baby, all along thinking why is he talking to her – she wanted to be left alone. Shahid then asked Habeeba for the 20 Takas. She wasn’t sure what to say. She didn’t have a lot of money on her. He started pleading to her, stating that 20 Takas will mean nothing to a wife of a man who lives out in England. But 20 Takas that day would mean he could get something much needed for his family.
Habeeba never really liked being reminded of the difference between the workers and her. It always upset her. In a community where social class mattered a lot – Habeeba had always kept herself away from it.
Shahid continued to plead and then said something that made Habeeba’s heart melt. “I’ll pay you back as soon as I can!” This made Habeeba feel a bit embarrassed and she asked him to hold the baby so she could get him the money. As she went to get the money, she wondered how Shahid must have been feeling. How must desperation feel? She thought about feeling desperate whilst in pain before her baby was born. She would have done anything if someone could have eased the pain for her. She wondered whether Shahid felt like that for the 20 Takas. Did he too feel like asking for help from anyone because he needed something? All Habeeba could think about is how desperate she felt and was trying to empathise.
She came back with the money. As she handed it over, Shahid once again said he will pay it back. Habeeba insisted that he didn’t need to. Shahid being the kind of man he was, said he won’t agree to that and he wanted to borrow the money and not just take it from her. He insisted and actually returned the Takas, said “I will be back in 30 minutes” and ran home.
Habeeba was left feeling very confused. She took her baby, and her thoughts back inside.
Just after Dhuhr salah, Shahid returned; this time he had something in his hand. It was a small mango sapling. He handed it over to Habeeba and said she can buy it off of him . She started laughing saying she doesn’t like mangoes and what will she do with the plant? He looked at her seriously and said in a calm voice “Please, take this for the money – maybe one day your daughter will like to eat mangoes. Help me out today and Allah will reward you for helping this helpless man out.” Obviously, Habeeba once again thought about Shahid’s honesty and realised what his words meant. But her father and brother’s were all away, so right then she didn’t know what else to say. She told him to take the sapling and to plant it near his home. He asked if she was sure about it and she said she was very happy for him to do that.
Shahid finally left her alone and she went back to daydreaming and thinking about how her life has changed forever.
Just over a year had passed since Habeeba had ‘bought’ a mango plant for 20 Takas. She had forgotten all about it. With her daughter growing so fast and now trying to talk – Habeeba’s attention was only for her daughter; they were both preparing to move to England. The paperwork was now ready and Habeeba’s husband had sent the tickets to Bangladesh, and she had a little over two weeks before she left the place she loved the most – her father’s home.
Muddled with emotion, Habeeba sat drinking her tea one morning when she saw a little boy – maybe ten years of age, carrying a bamboo-basket of something. She wondered if he was going to try and sell it to her. She quickly got up so she could escape, but soon recognised the little boy. It was actually Shahid’s son and he was carrying a basket of mangoes. When he got closer, he put the basket down, nearly out of breath and panting, said “Just the apa I wanted to see!”
Bemused Habeeba asked him to sit down. She gave him some water and asked why he brought so many green mangoes over. He said his father was walking behind him and would explain what the mangoes were for.
Shahid followed behind and sat down with another smaller sized basket of mangoes. Habeeba was now interested to know what the mangoes were for. She thought maybe her mother had asked for them. Shahid explained that these unripened mangoes were from the tree that grew from the mango sapling he sold to Habeeba the previous year. Habeeba thought he was joking as it couldn’t have grown big enough to bear fruits this quickly. Shahid looked at her again with that serious look in his eyes and said, “It is unusual for a mango tree to grow and give us fruits this quickly. It must be the good intention that helped the plant grow. These are now your mangoes and I’ve brought them over so you can taste them before you leave for England.” Habeeba said he could have kept them, to which Shahid replied, “But Allah is my witness, I can’t take what belongs to you.”
Habeeba was left feeling overwhelmed. Not at the sudden growth of a mango tree but at how honest Shahid was being about the mangoes. He didn’t have to bring them over to her. She had forgotten all about them and was in no need of them. She accepted the mangoes from Shahid and her heart was filled with even more respect for this man – who was a nobody in society but taught her a big lesson. In a country where being dishonest is seen as normal – this poor man was being truthful and sticking to what he had agreed to. Habeeba on the other hand was so negligent of the plant. In the one year that Shahid had the plant, she didn’t think about it or about watering it. According to her, she had got rid of it.
Habeeba requested that after she left Bangladesh, Shahid use the tree and its fruits for himself. She told him to eat the mangoes or sell them for himself. She didn’t want him to bring the mangoes over to her father’s home each time the tree bore fruit. Shahid reluctantly agreed but said whenever she came back to Bangladesh, the tree was hers.
In the midst of all her emotions, Habeeba felt ease, but soon after forgot all about the tree and the mangoes.
Over 30 years pass by and Habeeba is now speaking to her daughter on the phone about the beauty of having iman. She says “Iman in Allah brings out the best in people. People think twice about cheating others and account themselves.” Habeeba then reminisces the mango incident with Shahid and uses it as an example to tell her daughter what she meant about iman bringing out good in a person. She becomes emotional and says that while growing up she learnt some very important lessons from the people that worked for her father. Habeeba tells her now adult daughter, that although Shahid was the one in need of the money – it was Habeeba that was in need of his duas. She was too young to appreciate the value of his words and only now understands the significance of uttering promises and actually keeping your word.
~ I’ve always heard people say that poverty leads to lying and being dishonest. This story goes against such ideas and proves that if a heart is filled with iman and fear of Allah, it can and will be honest.
By the way, I’m the baby that was two weeks old when her mother bought a mango sapling. Hope you enjoyed the story.
Umm Yusra ~
(The names have been changed)
Picture taken from: mediabangladesh.net