I jolted awake, it’s raining- monsoon was not the season we waited every year. Father earned our dinner, fixing the gates of heavens on the roof was too much to ask. I looked at the clock, that poor soul peeled off naked…hands aged enough. Poverty. It was nine and mother was wailing in the other room.
She sat on the ground lied her face on our front door: helpless, her hair was an eyesore… sindoor rubbed over her forehead; she was tired… couldn’t control herself. I could tell. Brother held his head with his hands on table, he wasn’t blinking.
An upsurge in distress. “Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong.” mind ceaselessly echoing those same words. I rolled my eyes… the room was fine, everything was in place.
“Where’s Baba?” a voice whispered.
My limbs paralyzed, breath was heavier with each seconds. I was fainting… I rolled my eyes again all over, didn’t see him. I fainted.
I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. It was seven and the monsoon wasn’t gone yet. It was abnormally hushed. Mother sat by the side cuddled me close, I felt her tears brimming down my forehead.
“He died valiantly purifying this land from Islam. Lord would bless his soul and his family. Shastri Sahib said when he came to our house.”
We couldn’t see him for the last time.
I couldn’t cry, it was paining as if someone stabbed me with a hammer in my skull and I don’t know- How to scream and cry. I wanted to kill myself. I wished of twinging the chest of the loathing flesh and ripping out his heart. That disgusting self-proclaimed demigod.
A week since Baba’s demise. Mother was working double shift and brother joined Shastri’s factory. I left school, hardly had anyone to talk to, so rather grabbed the gardener post as it was good cash. Aai would nag every passing day. “Vaiv, don’t you have any friends to hang out?” “You stay this gloomy and you might feel like killing yourself someday.” Runs her hand through my hair then kiss my forehead. I loved her smile.
Connections are agonizing, furnish the soul with misfortune. A life alone… All I wanted, a noiseless promised land.
“Life. Huh! Ah, that abstract.”
I gazed the melted heavens. Those slick strokes of red mixed with pink and yellow. Yamuna complemented itself, these abnormal monsoon evenings the only forsaken blessings. I leisurely sat on a bench when a sweet voice broke me out of my thoughts. It was the first time I saw her there. She was probably in her thirteenth… adequate fairness for an Indian, her sweet voice complemented those straight silky hairs dancing with the cold river breeze. It was relatively busy as the last ferry awaits to sail. Her hands delivered the orders with sheer perfection, she didn’t glance for faces.
“Want anything?” She looked at me. Her eyes- the most beautiful pair, they resembled my mother. Eyebrows climbed her forehead, “Hey.”
“Umm… Yes. Gold Flake.”
The last ferry went off and we were all alone. She drew a packet of GF from her bag, took one. “Ten would be fine.” She gave me the packet, took a drag… looked at me. “Take one?” She gave the lighter.
“It’s beautiful. Isn’t it?” She admired the sky, hands pushed the bench… her limb rested over the other. She wore a white churidar. “Sunset.” she looked at me, “You come here daily?”
Oh! Her charming pupil. She was perfect.
“poet? I love them.”
“Jindegi, kaisi yeh adhura sa ehsaas;
Aabaad yeh jaha, phir bhi khali sa ehsaas.
Dosti, pyaar- shayad bhula hain yeh jamana…
Albida hum milenge dobara,
Yaad rakhna… dost hi sahi.”
She threw the cigarette it was barely left.
“Beautiful.” I couldn’t but admire; those words, those feels. Ah!
“Thankyou.” And she was there with her smile. “friends? I’m Shehnaz bdw.”
“aaa…I am …va…Vaivabh.”
It’s really hard to talk to a girl. She chuckled.
She packed her bag, arranged her packets in perfect columns. It was ten minutes… we didn’t speak. The heavens had gently inked itself and the cold breeze remained by the port. I made the payment. We shook hands. We bid adieu.
It was at that point in this ever expanding universe, the faint glowing moon, Yamuna and its relentless soothing gust witnessed my first friend. I wished we would be more. I was happy.
We sat for dinner. Aai gazed my face for a while. She had a very keen sense of prediction, when it comes to me or my brother. I believe every mother is blessed with that weird super power.
“Finally have a friend!! I bet he is a good friend. Be nice to him Vaiv.” Aai smiled. I didn’t feel to say about Shehnaz. She didn’t ask.
How could I say, the person I finally could share my thoughts… the one I could fall for; was that dust Shastri wishes to cleanse. I didn’t want to lose my friend I wanted to be happy again.
Weeks unfolded, the shower had worsened… there wasn’t days we lived, we survived through evenings beneath the weeping sky. The ferry was closer now. Shehnaz was selling besides the road. We smoked, laughed. I was happy. Poetry was molded in her soul and I loved every bit of it, the words, verses and her expressions. I loved that.
“Shayari is always beautiful but it’s the words of agony, what makes it phenomenal.” She would say.
21th August, it was dull again; the clouds were awfully dark roaring gravely, I could see bright lights come and go… the gust had begun to whisper. Yamuna was brimming with marshy waters; the board had ordered a stop. Labors waited for their last ferry and I waited for her.
Comforted ourselves under the Gulmohar, we lit our cigarettes. People came to her, Six, I counted.
“Which one?” Shehnaz said.
They didn’t say. She repeated. They were still mum, staring us. I took a glance… their eyes; I was scared. The wind… every breath was scary. The man in a simple white kurta and faded jeans slowly walked to me… eyes red as the evening I met Shehnaz, the other dressed like labor moved against Shehnaz. I clasped her hand tight, pushed ourselves back against the tree. They weren’t pausing.
“What do you want?” the words barely came out of me, heart fastened I could hear it in my ears.
“Don’t come close. I will scream.” She shouted.
They didn’t bother. Suddenly, the man with sinister eyes hit my jaw. He grabbed my collar, I couldn’t move my head it was hurting; he landed another blow on the jaw. I could feel it shattering, blood from my nose. I fell on the ground, his boot pressed on my neck. I was breathing wet soil, my hands twisted back. Shehnaz screaming. They kicked, I could sense there boots and the rain on every part of me for a few minutes. People running. I couldn’t sense any one thing. Everything’s blurred.
“Allah would never forgive you.” Someone said.
I passed out.
Dark. Infinite darkness. Each drop of monsoon gave irrational misery. I try to stand, barely rose my head. I screamed. Nothing changed. I wanted to go home, back to my mother. She might have been searching for me with my brother, sobbing in the rain. She would break one more bone of mine now, but I wanted to be with her. Pushed myself up, every cell was agonizing. I wanted to die. Dragged my limbs to walk: An excruciating pain. I fell off. The tormenting pain, my broken ribs. I want to die.
“I want to go home. I want to go home.” I reminded myself. I cried.
Crawled through the dark lanes, shower had ceased… the sun shone bright. I could see my hands- agonizing… bathed in blood, legs- red… impaired.
I was fifteen that day.
A crowd. It was Shastri’s people. “What is he doing here?” “Did mother called him for help?” I wished for the second. I wished for the second.
I force my way, crawling through the huddle around our house. The incessant pain, I want to die. I want to be with my mother.
“Aai …Aai.” I wanted to hug my mother, brother had probably kicked my ass. Shastri stood inside. I wished I could kill him. Two of his men helped me walk.
I walked inside. The table was in pieces, ware lied over every potion of the living room. Sweating, hands trembled- pain wasn’t excruciating. The photo frames lied broken. Palpitated: heart pounding. Blood strains over the floor lead to our bed room. Dyspnea.
“You angered God. He made you pay.” Shastri said on my back.
“What did you say?” rage pulsed through my veins. “Kill him. Kill him.” Molten anger poured through my mind.
“Those filths killed your family. Join me avenge your family deaths.”
I didn’t reply. I didn’t want to. They took me to the bedroom. White Sheets covered them, I could see their faces… bruises… dried blood, their darkened lips. I held them tight. I cried. I screamed. I wished I was dead.
“Asan nahi yaha jina,
Jindegi khush nahi hoti.
Hassna karj hain shayad,
Dard shayad maut nahi deti."