Diary of a Kashmiri Widow – The end
"18 when dead, 19 when widowed, I am this self-aggrandazing nation's best kept secret"
A demure stillness stared down the sickening restlessess within me as I took back to the hearth. Life progressed without the shadow of an interruption as if my gifted honor was once again a matter dismissed by the sanctity of fate. I became indifferent to the shadows of my memories and for days, I must admit, hated Arif for dying on our dreams. Talking of hatred, surprising I had none for Feroz. None for the army men who raped me. None for the minister who consumed what remained of my dignity. Perhaps hatred needed emotions and perhaps I now had none. Yet, I had started hating Arif.
Feroz was awarded the construction contract for the retaining wall that would arrest the erosion of the hill, of all the possible places, behind the babbling village spring. The wall would also serve as a war memorial where the eloquent captains of this war and also of my drafted honor could come and lay their wreaths. From Arif's bracelets of button daisies to the wreaths of sacrifice and patriotism, my wrists had become the emblems of this nation's dark reality.
The retaining wall contract would fetch Feroz eighty five thousand rupees. I found disgusted, paradoxical pride in the handsome valuation of my "dealings" with the minister. Feroz, as always spent most of his days at work and most of his nights drinking with the soldiers in the camp. To commemorate the horrific, almost perpetually pulsating memory of that night of "sacrifice", Feroz too now smelled like that almost paralyzingly familiar stench of alcohol and gunpowder.
I, often lost in pastel conversations with the freckled mud wall of Feroz's kitchen, wondered if Feroz - the avowed "keeper and guardian" of my "honor" and "dignity", befittingly drank with and to the health of the same army men who dutifully took their share from the seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of my sacrifice. That sadisitic curiosity came to an end a few weeks later. The brave pall bearers of our rebellion's righteous burden had observed Feroz's freqeunt visits to the camp. Returning from an evening of toasting and merriment at the camp, Feroz was shot thrice in the heart for he was declared an "informer" - an accolade spontaneously awardable with a merciless death. On the 23rd of June that year, I officially assumed the previously acknowledged unofficial title of a widow. In the greater scheme of the greater good, my actual reality finally met my assumed reality with an impetuous, long awaited and affectionate embrace.
Feroz was buried in the little graveyard next to the spring, around a dozen or so graves away from Arif's. How would the soul of a lover rest with the soul of his beloved's tormentor in the same graveyard? How could Arif and Feroz both end up buried in our village's own little "martyr's graveyard"? God (as my wrinkled, story telling grandmother often said) had a great sense of humor. He sure did. The brook was now a complete mausoleum of my life - the spring that was a witness to my love, my desire to live and die, the burial of my green eyed sweetheart, the retaining wall of my dishonor and now the grave of my alleged husband. I now had my world summarised all within an ironically and even disturbingly peaceful nook in the hills. Yes, God had a sense of humor!
A few months after Feroz's death, I gave birth to a son whose destiny would be an enveloped dusk of my life. Abid was born in the dilapidated government dispensary of the village. He didn't, as babies normally did, cry when he was born. I remember smiling in pain wondering if I had consumed Abid's emotions too in my womb. Abid's arrival meant that food now became a necessity. He needed warm clothes too. The winter was just around the corner. Even in my resignation from life, I found a purpose in Abid. Yet, I found shame and misery in his hunger and deprivation. I reluctantly spent months knocking the doors of our tall, bearded and unbearded charismatic leaders of rebellion asking for a pittance for my Abid's survival - if not mine. Turned away, scoffed at and at times even disrespected as an apparently indecent woman, I became the iconic figure of ridicule at the village bus stop. Abid grew sicker and weaker with each passing day. There wasn't a grain or a morsel at home. He was ill-clad, cold and hungry. I was still and dead, like the fresh cold wind of the advancing winter. To set my child free from the vicious reality of my life and his inherited destiny, on our way back from another heartbreaking trip to the government secretariat for a relief "SRO" assistance, I clasped Abid in a tight embrace and jumped in the murky river that parted the town but not it's hypocrisy. 18 when spiritually dead, 19 when widowed and 20 when physically dead, I will remain this self aggrandizing nation's best kept secret...
(Junaid Azim Mattu is the Srinagar District President of Peoples's Conference. This is a work of fiction perhaps more real than a reality. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Fri, 17 Aug 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 17 Aug 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 18 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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