Updated: Jun 17
A double-story house is neatly sequestered in one of the quiet streets of Satellite Town of Gujranwala. Sheikh House has seven residents, but silence always remains prevailing, which is quite surprising. It is rare for its walls to hear the echoing laughter, jokes, or even quarreling of its residents. WHAT IS THE MYSTERY?
Anyone who enters their house will solve this mystery as soon as their feet land in the lounge and gaze stops at the corner where a white device hangs. It has three antennas and a power cable plugged into a switchboard nearby. It emits magical signals that teleport all the members of the Sheikh House into a world of awe and wonder.
Silence of the house stirs with the beep of three mobiles that are on the drip at this moment. Out of different corners of the house, the young generation of Sheikh House emerges and runs toward them. Teenager Ayesha slumps on the chair while her mobile is still on the drip and starts typing furiously. Twenty-year-old Azan reads the message, mutters something under his breath, and goes back to studying. After a few seconds, he comes back with a register and a laptop in his hand and slumps on the other chair. The youngest child, Abdul Rehman, pouts to the mobile screen as the message is from Zong, and also his mobile's battery is only one per cent. Gazing at Ayesha and Azan's gadgets, corners of his lips drawn downwards. Oblivious of his state, brother and sister remain in their bubble of fantasy. After typing, Ayesha starts snapping selfies while giving different poses.
Meanwhile, two other members of the household also emerge from the room, preoccupied with their gadgets. They are Bhai and Bhabhi. With headphones on, Sania is watching a video of making an omelette on her mobile, while Shahzain is reading an article on business management on his. Ayesha is now drumming her fingers on the table. She is tapping her fingers on the screen now and then to check the notification from Instagram where she has posted her selfies. Her orbs spark every time she gets likes and comments on her posts and swiftly responds to them. Abdul Rehman goes into the kitchen to be the first to get breakfast.
The last two members also emerge from another room of the house: Mrs Sheikh and the second daughter of the house, Iqra. She is wearing glasses, has a tablet in her hand, and is swiping through different pictures of dresses at an online store. Mrs Sheikh seems to be an alien in the lounge as there is no gadget in her hands. She stands beside Sania, who is busy breaking eggs while watching a tutorial, while Adbul Rehman is anxiously waiting for the egg to break. Mrs Sheikh picks two eggs from the counter and breaks them within seconds, taking a deep sigh. Sania squirms nervously at the scene and starts beating eggs swiftly.
"Iqra, don't order everything blindly. Let's go to the market and buy clothes after roaming the shops." Mrs Sheikh's voice resonates in the still lounge, at which Iqra's eyes widen.
"It is sweltering outside, and there are dogs and weird people. Also, I don't have time for such tiring activity. Online shopping is the easiest way, Amma."
"There is a whole natural world outside which we are supposed to enjoy and learn something from." Mrs Sheikh sighs while eyeing Sania, who is trying to pour the mixture on the tawwa while her eyes are still on the screen.
"Everything is in these gadgets, Amma! Anything you want to know is only a click away now." Shahzain reasoned while scrolling Instagram. Shaking her head, Mrs Sheikh put her and Abdul Rehman's breakfast on the dining table. Sania gazes at this, then the amount of work she has to do, and gazes at Ayesha and Iqra, who are busy with their gadgets. Her lips set in a hard line, and she finally gazes at her husband, who is also in another world, oblivious of his surroundings. Her eyes narrow at this scene, and frown lines mar her features. But taking a deep sigh, she keeps on doing her work without uttering a word.
"Human connections, love, family, real-life experiences and imaginations; these are not present in this social media and the gadgets you are using." Mrs Sheikh argues at which no one replies to her. Taking a deep sigh, she starts eating her breakfast. While eating, her eyes land on Azan, typing something on his laptop while a register is lying in his lap.
"What on Earth are you doing? "
"Amma, I have written my homework, but I think there are a lot of mistakes. So, I'm now typing it in Word, which will point out my mistakes. Also, I have to add some points from Google, so I'm searching for it."
"You are doing your creative writing homework from Google! Where is your imagination?" Her eyes widened at this. Meanwhile, Sania puts everyone else's breakfast on the table.
"Amma, this is the world of Google. Also, I don't have time for brainstorming as I've to watch seasons on Netflix today." He reasoned while typing.
"And what about the park I told you about? "
"There will be dust, and I don't like sports!" He cringes.
Abandoning his empty plate, Abdul Rehman runs toward the mobile and starts using it with brightly lit orbs.
"Abdul Rehman, let's do the homework! Bring your copies, and I will help you with it." Mrs Sheikh calls out with enthusiasm. But, Abdul Rehman frowns at this.
"Don't worry, Amma! I can do it by myself! " He gets irritated with this offer. This makes him feel like a little boy. Mrs Sheikh's smile drops, and lips tighten in a firm line. Averting her gaze from him, she fixes it on Ayesha, who is using a mobile while eating.
"What are you watching? "
Frown lines appear on her face at Amma's questions.
"Nothing special, Amma! There should be room for privacy! But in desi households, it is impossible." She comments furiously, at which sparks of anger lit up in Mrs Sheikh's eyes. Sania nods her head at Ayesha's comment, but seeing the blazing orbs of her mother-in-law, she fixes her gaze on her plate.
"Then get lost in your room of privacy!" Mrs Sheikh snarls at which Ayesha scraps back her chair and goes into her room with a frowning face.
Sighing, she gazes at the other members of the house who are busy in their own worlds. Sitting together, but poles apart from each other.
"Should we go somewhere today?" Mrs Sheikh asks.
Sania gazes at her husband, who is now sipping his coffee. Their eyes clash, and Shahzain sees fury rippling in her orbs. So, he chooses not to reply to his mother's question.
When no one replies, Mrs Sheikh takes a deep sigh to calm down her nerves and gazes at the portrait of Mr Sheikh, who also seems to be distressed at this. He is gazing at her loneliness with sadness. She gives a solemn gaze to her husband, and the void deepens in her heart. Silence lingers in the lounge, encapsulating her lonely and solemn being.
Everyone is still busy in their worlds as the day turns into night.
Laiba Akhtar has recently completed her graduation in English Language and Literature. Passionate about writing and reading, she has written various novels and short stories, which are present on different social media websites. She is also an editor in Causerie E-Magazine and a humanitarian writer in The Digital Desi. Her short story "Dusk to Dawn" has been published in Perspective Magazine.