His eyes wide open staring at barely visible off-white ceiling. He felt a mixture of fear and anxiety as cold sweats trickled upon his forehead. He rubbed his eyes, took deep breaths and pinched himself several times to come to terms with material world. Clueless, he sat in his bed for a while, surrounded by nothing but darkness and the humming of the air-conditioner. After a while, he decided to muster his courage and turn on the lights. He removed his blanket, stood up and started walking laboriously as if something had wearied him out. Halfway through his walk he started feeling the same emotions - fear and anxiety - and he left his room hurriedly.
Now he stood in the TV lounge of the house where a small green bulb acted as the only source of light. He stood there uncertain where to go. He started walking towards his sisters’ room. He reached only to find the door closed and the lights off.
The silence of disappointment was broken by a distant crinkle of papers. He raised his head slightly as if he had suddenly found the respite he was looking for. He went and knocked at his grandfathers’ room door and then without waiting for a response barged in. There he saw his grandfather calmly seated against a chequered blue pillow reading a book. He was surrounded by stacks of paper, some neatly gathered while others wrinkled and stained. Expectantly, he stood at the entrance of the room, waiting for his grandfather to acknowledge his presence. His grandfather took a long moment before looking at him. “Umer,” he said. “Shouldn’t you be asleep by now?”
“I just woke up”, Umer paused before continuing “from a bad dream. I need your help grandpa.”
“What is it that’s bothering you, my son?”
“I saw a strange dream, grandpa. I was in a thick dark forest at night, lost amongst its dense vegetation, afraid of the strange sounds of the nocturnal animals. Throughout my journey, I kept losing my way. My mind started to trick me, forced me to believe that a strange monster lurked behind those trees, waiting for the right moment to strike and take me down. My only weapon and guide was a beautifully lit wooden torch. The torch’s marigold flames were so high that it lit up my way and made me move on and find a path back home,” he stopped again.
“Umer what happened next?” His grandfather said, a considerable concern in his tone.
“I came across a beautiful pond encircled by beautiful flowers and lush green grass. Warm sunlight caressed my skin and I breathed in fresh air. After a long travel, it felt I had finally reached home. Joyous, I ran towards the pond to drink from it and quench my thirst. But I had this torch in my hand, which I found useless now and threw it in the pond. As soon as the beautiful marigold flames of the torch hit the surface of the pond and extinguished, the same old darkness surrounded me. This time it was even darker and scarier. And then it happened: a strange creature jumped upon my back and clawed me while I screamed with pain. I regretted throwing the torch in vain. I could have fought this monster with that torch, but I threw it”. Umer’s voice was full of remorse as if he had forgot that it was a dream he was narrating.
Grandfather examined Umer’s face, through the top of his glasses. Then he said “Umer, everyone has bad dreams and one should not think about them too much”.
“But, grandpa, this is not just any dream, I haven’t seen such a nightmare. This dream it...... it felt so real! What does it mean?”
“My son if you want to know the true meaning of the dream, you need to patiently hear what I am going to say.”
Umer nodded affirmatively.
“The thick dense forest, different predators and hurdles which surrounded you are the problems of this world. Your journey to find your home is the life you are going to live on this world. Throughout this journey the torch is your only support which helps you find your way, fight predators and what not. When you feel that you have reached home, and you feel all the problems have disappeared, you dispose the torch by throwing it away. As soon as the flames of the torch die, you are surrounded by the same darkness and you get hunted down in the same place which felt secure. All this points to the importance of the torch.” He placed his hands firmly on Umer’s shoulder, looked him in the eye and said in a deep pitch “This is not just any torch; it’s the holy torch - your father.”
Umer stood up quickly in anger, with a frown and cried, “Just because I had an argument with my father today, you are going to blame me and make me feel guilty?”
“You need to sit and listen patiently as you promised,” Grandfather replied. Umer sat down.
“I am not making you feel guilty. It’s your conscience which is making you feel guilty.” Umer listened with his head down. “This torch signifies your father. He is your only weapon against all the problems that you are going to face. With him by your side you are going to enjoy the bounties of this world and without him, as in your dream, there would be nothing but darkness.”
“I know grandpa, but I get angry and say things which I shouldn’t say, and I don’t know how to apologize.”
“It’s okay my son. Just go and kiss your father, tell him how much you love him and he will surely forgive you. Trust me one gets to know the worth of relations when one loses it. Don’t let the limited time we have be used up in petty fights and arguments.”
“So, what should I do?” Umer asked.
“Just go and apologize now and spend some quality time with him.”
“Now?” Umer asked surprisingly.
“Yes! It’s 7 in the morning,” Grandfather replied.
As Umer left the room, his grandfather put his spectacles back on, opened his book again to the page in which he kept his father’s picture. He took a last look at it, closed the book and prayed for his father’s well being in the life hereafter.