Part 2 | Of the Pinks and Pales

You can't make me change the path I'm treading and that's what is my destiny.
Part 2 | Of the Pinks and Pales
Representational Image [Source: Robert Karkowski from Pixabay]

In the winter of 2000 A.D., their rendezvous being again in the same garden abounding with the almond trees but all barren due to the frigidity, which displayed, in the month of the year, the looks of some frozen world, with every detail and contour of the garden covered and much mollified by the thick layer of snow, it was there, when Sheeba, dressed in zaffre and doning a vandyke brown shawl adorned with pale embroidery, displayed a great nagging and made him reveal the reason for his aloofness and cold reserve.

" A momentous happening did take place which has changed altogether the course of my life and made me walk the extremists' path, when prior to that, only someone as free and jolly as a bird would dear to withstand my liveliness, but now you won't be able to find any signs of my earlier self in me," Amanat confides.

"What is wrong there in sharing the details of your journey, with me, hmm, don't you trust me," Sheeba enquires, "when I don't see anything wrong with having my trust placed completely in you; when I've dared to take on every challenge life and people put before us, for the sake of our love, and not to give up untill I find my destiny completely merged and being one with that of yours; when I believe, no matter what the extent of opposition we get from my relatives, nothing will be able to sever our bond that we have based on our love, sincerity and affection for each other?"

"If you consider love will work wonders for you and place the world at your feet, where you'll find everything sought out by its one miraculous touch, then you're living in a fool's paradise. Take my advice and disembark this 'ship of love' as soon as possible, or else you'll be taken by it nosedived to the bottom of the dark sea.

"You're too young, and you don't know what new vistas tomorrow might put before you. No wonder if I see you in love with someone else and married happily, with your kids frolicking around you. Don't waste your time with a wanderer like me. It will bring your ruin only. I've no destiny. Death, like an impending sword, hangs always upon my head," Amanat avers.

With the golden, serpentine ribbons made by the nimbly moving shadows of the trees, upon the olive sward, striving to fade away very quickly and be lost in the darkness of the fast approaching night, Amanat tries to let loose the yellow gossamer, and his worn-out leather sandals find their movements again as he — very fatigued and indifferent to who and why people around him, in this Autumn's palor, in Badaamwari, are eyeing him with such curious eyes — once again seeks the well and its dark waters, so as to find out what had he, on that severe winter day, answered Sheeba, which had made her deaf and mute for some while, with her face blanched, and only strident sounds of bullets piercing every piece of human flesh of Kashmiris running helter-skelter for their lives, ringing in her ears. His eyes, much accustomed to the view of the creeping vines,– vines serpentinely trailing over its stony walls, and lodging their ends as if tentacles of some fierce monster, into the hearts of the miserable souls ensnared so as to never return back from this black hole –, travel over their twisted branches and meet the circle of muddled water, deep down into the well, which like some celluloid screen reflects the jittery images that lie buried in the dark recesses of his mind, its ripply surface bringing into contortion all his details; giving a weird shape to the otherwise beautiful Sheeba, her clothing flying in all directions, as if some supernatural garb moving of its own accord, while she wishes him to follow her to their dreamland where all their dreams will find substantiation; all his eerie shapes from the much horrid episodes of the massacres, killings, tortures, rapes, brought onto the screen, as if the molten-silver being made and unmade into various shapes of his acquaintance; and in particular the rotrograuvre images of the unarmed people marching in the shape of large procession over Gow-Kadal bridge, on a cloudy day — the bleak day of great consequence, when he, of 16 years only, had joined the large procession, in their protest against the tortures and torments let loose on the people of the land, which changed entirely the course of his life, with the large contingent of armed forces ready to pull the triggers at any moment. A few people, like some Goyan figures, but whom this watery surface throws into mis-proportion — unexpected bulging and shortening of human heads at different points, giving ghostly shapes to the seemingly elastic faces; elongated limbs having joints at odd places moving up and down continuously like the masts of lurching ships, so as to make the soldiers mind that it's all unarmed mob; the bridge, the affluent, the houses on its bank, all thrown into spooky, dis-commensurate shapes– narrate the story of the gore of 21st of January 1990.

"Be sensible enough. It's a point of no return for me. I've not come to retreat my steps but that we should move away from this place of narrow-minded people; away from the conservative society which prefers to stick on to the reeking ghettos of its archaic notions about the people and their institutions. Come on, give me your hand and let's be off," Sheeba expresses her wish with the firmness of a solid rock, beneath their much loved almond tree flaunting a piece of red-colored ribbon which she had tied to one of its gnarly branches, some months back so as to make it a keepsake, fluttering in the chilly gale of the winter and whispering to the entrapped souls of the well, the vicissitudes of the journey of their love.

"Don't talk nonsense. You can't live on love alone. With no sign of any work that I will be provided, I have made up my mind that you should return to your family and except their decisions which, I am sure, will bring you good only. That is all I have to say. You can't make me change the path I'm treading and that's what is my destiny. Go home," Amanat puts down his final verdict.

While Sheeba had at that moment, with tears welling up in her eyes, decided to leave without saying anything, Amanat did try to make up for the acerbity his decision had brought in, by taking her both hands into his, and had confessed that he would at some point of time pay her a visit and enquire about her whereabouts, while she with a tug had removed her hands and been gone for ever.

"Amanat! … Amanat! Take us out of here, Amanat!" The shrieks emanating from the well cry out to him, miserably. And the screen of the well produces for him the scintillating spots, all white, made by the lightening quick bullets raining down from every side, piercing every limb, every head of the unarmed people. The large crowd over Gow-Kadal bridge, standing there comatose — the ripply screen bringing it into focus in an instant and then blurring the scene the very next moment, for Amanat's bleary eyes — motionless for the first few moments because of the stupefaction. Afterwards a din of piercing shrieks follows, and the crowd starts running helter-skelter like wild cattle. People, in a mad frenzy, in order to save their lives from the live ammunition scudding from everywhere, topple over and collapse on top of each other. Here a man is hit in the face and there a woman gets shot in her chest. A shoulder mauled here and a skull let open there by the volley of bullets. The silence of the death being punctuated only by the shrill sounds of the fire-shots. The next shots bring down almost half of the populace, and the oozing blood from the dead bodies starts filling the entire bridge and turn it into a red aqueduct, with the scarlet overflowing its sides, into the tributary. Many people in order to save their lives jump into the water below. Some bullets, off the mark, hit the railing and balustrades of the bridge and the sharp sounds deafen everyone. While a few aim their rifles at the group comprising mainly of women carrying their babies in their laps, Amanat puts himself into their way and faces their guns. He tries to stop them from firing at the innocent lot, when an angry person fires the whole magazine into him, which hit his belly, with the result Amanat is lifted high in the air before falling into the moving scarlet-water of the tributary which washes him down, unconscious, into the river Jehlum. The tributary, with its surface punctured by rain of bullets, and the houses on its bank, with their window-panes shattered and walls bored by flying bullets, emanating into clarity on the screen and quickly washed away by its jittery surface.

The caretaker of the garden, a middle-aged man, reminds Amanat that it's already half an hour past sundown and they need to close the park. Amanat's mind returns back from the magic lantern of the well, much frightened of things it holds up and the episodes it pictures for his eyes to see, and he finds all the signs of the day, Badamwari had displayed lovingly for him, gone and disappeared behind the vast veil of night, with only the pale yellow streaks from houseboats, reflected on the calm waters of Nigeen, and the feeble yellow dots punctuating, here and there, the darker surface of the mountain range in the background. A lonely member of the firmament, the bright moon, all full and pearly, wading through the dark ocean of the sky, meets his grey eyes, while he retreats his steps in its pale gleam and thinks of the long journey he has to take so as to find Sheeba.

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