Diary of a Kashmiri Widow – II
“18 when dead, 19 when widowed; I’m this self-aggrandizing nation’s best kept secret”
JUNAID AZIM MATTU
(FICTION?) My parents were elated at the prospects of my marriage to Feroz and I was informed that I was to be betrothed to Feroz on the second Sunday of the next month. The news – a decision about my life that was conveyed to me for compliance seemed like a formal pronouncement of my demise. My wedding night felt like an involuntary betrayal to Arif’s memory and our fable-like love. The dominion of my soul and the sovereignty of my flesh seemed ruthlessly apportioned to the alleged healing of time. My quiet, unceremonious “healing” of tears at the spring in the creek seemed to have become my nemesis. For all those moments of my life after Arif when I felt like a mandated sacrifice of war, the moment when I sat decorated on my wedding bed waiting for Feroz felt like the darkest and most haunting of all.
My crimson, elaborate wedding dress felt more ominous than a burial shroud. Arif’s memories, his eyes and his curious, shy smile flashed in my mind as my silent, ubiquitous tears – both visible and invisible – paid a reluctant homage and bade a guilty farewell to our unrelinquished love. The crest of the humble, testimonial hill was now our shrine of memories – a relentless gauntlet of memories that enveloped me with every repulsive breath. I wanted to flush the memories away as much as I wanted to hold on to them as relics of a faith I swore by. In holding on to them and giving myself to Feroz, I would be bartering the innocence of my mourning and my love for adherence to the diktats of a society where sacrifice had now become a badge of honor for those who made none. The night swooped down on me as a troop of bandits swoop on an abandoned village, little knowing that the soul of the village left with its inhabitants. My soul too now, was a nomad in the misery of life.
I, like an obedient wife took the stove and the chores of the house as was my scripted destiny – brushed to darkness by not just fate but the cruelty of the world around me. Feroz would often leave for the town for days at end. On one such evening, I was woken up by a contemptuous knocking at the door. I had now started to doubt even the whistling air of the meadows as a wandering figment of my thoughts. I answered the door in a daze to find silhouettes of booted and armed soldiers on the threshold. The soldiers had, in connivance with my tragic fate, already branded Arif as a heinous, dreaded terrorist. This was usually done in order to cover up murders in our world. A soldier shoved me and I fell on the floor, still wondering if I was hallucinating again – an affliction I was lately suffering from. A burly man who smelt of alcohol and gunpowder threatened me of dire consequences if I persisted with my quest for justice.
A week or so after Arif’s death, I – in my hollowness and desperation had made my way to the police post in the next village to register a report stating that Arif was just an innocent, shy, green-eyed boy who was mowed down without a reason. The soldier kicked me in the gut as another soldier held me by my hair. I screamed for Arif, not for Feroz – defying the pulsating fear inside me. As I struggled to get up, the soldier who had me by my hair dragged me inside my room. Submerged in pain and darkness, I reminisced about how Arif used to compare the locks of my hair with the grace of the setting sun that revealed more than it concealed. I – the honored sacrifice of war – was raped. The soldiers left perhaps at the first light of dawn as I fell unconscious in my sobs.
Confiding in Feroz gave me the status of a violated accomplice of dishonor. From that day onwards I was nothing but a beast in Feroz’s house. I cooked, cleaned and slept – often violated with sanctity of custom by a man who had pledged to protect and honor me. Feroz, a few months later threw a file of papers on my face. Feroz had expressed his interest in a construction contract in the town. I was ordered, like an obedient wife who was now an epitome of dishonor, to visit a minister’s residence asking for his benevolence and favor.
As I made my way to the minister’s posh residence in a cab with Feroz, I wished the journey of sacrifice would now culminate in my death. I sat in a room with plush sofas and tussle curtains waiting for an audience with the minister. Feroz said he would go and check if it was time for our appointment. An eternity passed by and Feroz never returned. Instead a man of hurried demeanor informed me that the minister would now hear my case. I was escorted to a room which seemed nothing like an office or a durbar for seeking Feroz’s prosperity. I noticed a short, brawny man – almost my father’s age standing in a corner smiling at me. I was to be a sacrifice yet again. My memories, my tears and my hair was ordained to submission all over again. Feroz ‘collected’ my remnants – of what remained of my soul – from the waiting room. He didn’t say a word nor mustered a grimace of shame on our way back home.
(To be concluded next Saturday…)
(Junaid Azim Mattu is the Srinagar District President of Peoples’ Conference. This is a work of fiction that is no stranger to reality. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Fri, 10 Aug 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 10 Aug 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 11 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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