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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

I did not know initially I am writing a novel....

It was December 2013 and I was in Indore for Industrial visit to Reliance Comm. My acquaintance Gopal Uncle, a 50 years old man who earns 2 lacs per month but who behaved so cordially with me that I sometime felt he is someone of my generation, was the highest authority there.

My days in Indore when I had started writing MPM. The man with grey sweater is Gopal Uncle. Rest are engineers. 
Next day I got opportunity to visit his grand office which was crowded with engineers and thanks to him I soon dissolved with the employees there. However, apart from practical works there was nothing 'interesting' there and i would often feel sleepy and bored sitting for hours in his cabin (especially when he used to leave me alone for meetings). To add to the worst, many of the employees would stare me from outside which was really embarrassing. Two days passed as usually. My embarrassment had reached to brim and hence the third day I decided to pretend them that I am busy too, in fact busier than them and so I asked for few white pages from the manager which he thankfully gave. I sprang to Gopal Uncle's cabin for some solitary. It was in his office where I wrote the first page of MPM.

Now, as I have stated earlier too that I did not write MPM intentionally. In the process to show others that I'm busy i started to write. Initially, I wanted to write feelings of an 80 years old man who is now retired of all his responsibilities and has no work to spend his time. And eventually, about his feelings, when he gets nostalgic about his initial marriage days, his time spent with his wife who is unfortunately no more with him. It started like a story- a story of every common man who remembers his young-hood days and his mistakes done in those initial days of maturity. He also remembers his achievements, his successes, his failures, his love and eventually her.

MPM is a politically motivated romantic story. The romantic part was designed and amended as per the requirement to keep the story moving. Aarti is completely my imagination. However, the character of Faizan is inspired from one of my friend from Kashmir. Faizan Sheikh or more comfortably Faizan bhaiya was my room mate for however just two months during my engineering years in Bharatpur. He is the most honest and sweetest man i have ever met in my life. I always miss those days I spent with him.
Diwali moments: Me and Faizan Bhaiya (in left)
Nevertheless, during those days election campaigns were a common scene in which terms like Hindu, Muslim, Kashmir, and Pakistan were frequently used. We had a TV set and we would watch news channels and then often debate on such issues. And he would frankly tell me what he feels for India, Pakistan and Kashmir and issues related with them. It was the first time when i realized the pain, the Kashmiris are going through. His every word was important for me because he was not just Muslim but a resident of Kashmir.
Moreover, I was fortunate enough to learn various facts from the Holy book of Quran. Faizan bhaiya would passionately describe me the stories and facts of holy Quran, especially about the true meaning of 'Jihad'.

Apart from it, as you already know, that in those times rumors were spread about our respective Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi that if he came to power he would riot Muslims, which was of course not true as we already know it today. However, most Muslims (including Bhaiya) did not like Mr Modi and most of them expressed their discomfort on him being the PM as shown on various news channels.

Apart from politics, various riots such as Muzzaffarnagar riot and many others disturbed my spirit of being 'Indian' as Hinduism, Muslim, Bihari, Marathi etc were somehow oppressing our integrity and I did not like this. It was not acceptable. It was then when my anger, my provocation started taking shape of MPM when i picked up pen & paper and portrayed my disgust against such anti-national feelings. MPM is an outcome of various political activities that happened in last one year + my personal thoughts for religion, country and humanity. It is an effort to revive our dedication towards national integrity and hence highlight the fact that when it comes to country and religion, country comes first.              

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Sample chapter 5

5. Faizan and Aarti first meet


“Doctor…doctor…the patient is awake” cried a nurse loudly calling the doctor as I found myself in a hospital crowded with many other riot victims. An abrupt anxiousness to enquire about my present location bewildered me as soon as I recovered consciousness.

“Wh...Where am I?” I enquired groaningly as I tried to lift up.

“Relax! You are in the city hospital. You are safe now,” replied the doctor simultaneously inspecting my nerves.

“But I was… How did I get here?” I asked to the doctor as pictures of last attack gradually summoned up in my memory.

“Thank her…. She is Dr. Aarti. She saved your life.” I turned to see her. She was the same girl, the girl in the blue. The divine one.

“You are very lucky. She brought you here just in time” replied the doctor as I retried to lift myself up.

 “Do not move. You were brutally attacked by the mob. You must rest. Please lie down” she replied making me lie down to the bed. The doctor later quizzed me about my family and acquaintances and further informed me that I was unconscious for ten days.

“10 days?” I shouted out of surprise.

“Do not worry Faizan. You are all right now. Just take your medicines on time and cooperate,” requested the doctor and left.
***
It had been two weeks now that I had regained consciousness and I felt much better by then.

“You are recovering faster. You may be discharged soon. Isn’t it good news?” she asked me.

“No”

“No?”

“I mean I feel comfortable here” I replied distraughtly as she was busy in dressing me. “Moreover, I don’t know where to go from here”.

 “You miss your family, don’t you?”

“Yeah (desolately)…I do.” I said as glooming images of riot torched my memory once again. “I do not know where they are. I do not even know whether anybody is even alive or not. I do not know where to find them. Oh! I feel so helpless. I think I should start looking for them right now,” I said her trying to get up from the bed.

“Faizan relax! Lie down. You have not recovered yet, please don’t…” she resisted me from leaving. But I ignored her and tried to get up but fell down instantly from the bed. She further escorted me back to my bed.

“Why don’t you listen? Faizan you are not well yet. You will be discharged soon if you co-operate us. Stop ruining your condition please…” she warned me but I was impatient.

“Then help me find them” I shouted at her. “You know my family right? Help me find them.”

“There is no news about your family. They are all missing and it’s still hostile out there. The rescue operations are on and believe me it’s still not safe out there” she said to convince me. “Get well soon first and then we’ll both go to the rescue camps to inquire about them.”

Aarti tried everything to convince me but I was too desperate to listen to her. And just after two days when I regained some strength, I successfully convinced her to take me to relief camps to quiz about my family and acquaintances. I desperately inquired about my family, and Suzanne, her family, but I failed to gather any information about any of them. I enquired in police stations, my acquaintances, neighbors, everywhere but nobody had any information about anyone. Every morning, I would go out to search them but return back only with shallow hopes. It was a tough time. Sometimes I used to have wicked thoughts about them being even alive. I was alone. More than ever. No one was there to lend me strength. No one to express my grief. No family, no friends, no one but Aarti. Only she was there in the spectrum to literally grip the threads of hope for me to there to live. I had no reason to breath. I barely smiled, in fact wept sometimes when alone.

“I know its tough time for you. Failing in finding someone does not mean that they are not alive anymore. You must not lose hope my friend. Leave everything to his mercy,” she said to me one day convincingly. I looked at her, an innocent girl who had nothing to do with me yet so much concerned about me.

“Thank you…” I murmured slowly.

“You said something?”

“Nothing… just wanted to thank you for whatever you did for me, you know…I owe you my life” I said.

After a small pause she jokingly replied, “Don’t worry. I get paid for that”. I just had a smile of obligation for her as an answer.
***
Often found in the lonely parts of the sanatorium I was less known for speaking. Nurses would complain about my behavior. Doctors would warn me for my declining health. However, I barely heeded anybody.

She was the only one whom I used to listen.      

“Nurse says you never talk,… neither you eat anything. It is not good for your health,” she said giving me medicines. However, I did not respond. She changed the topic to start different conversation.

“O.K tell me something about your family, or may be Suzanne,” she insisted me but I did not even move my lips. Perhaps she understood that her attempts are useless and hence taking a deep breath she thumped my shoulders and stood up to leave.

“She was going to be my fiancée… Suzanne. We were to be engaged next month,” I said in melancholic voice. Aarti sat back to listen quietly.

“She was my colleague. We were in relation for about three years…” I paused.

“Just few days before … I believe some two or three days before the riot, she proposed me for our marriage. And I introduced her to my parents the same day the disaster broke out… same day,” I said in a grave heavy voice to her as tears, without prior warning, found its way out.

“Everything was going good and everything got torn up in just a blink…everything.”
Later after the conversation she left me to take rest. Was she pained by hearing the story? Yes, maybe she was. But all she could do for me was to reiterate those same old false preaches- ‘Everything’s goanna be all right’. However, maybe, it were these false hopes which was all required at that time. And at times when everything was already screwed up, the cruel destiny still remained unsatisfied and kept planting thorns on my path. The worst was yet to happen.                                                                            

The news of me being alive soon reached the ears of Junaid Khan. He rushed to Younis Khan to yell out the garbage against me in his ears.

“What are you talking about? I cannot harm him. He has nothing to do with all this. He is innocent and is not a threat to us in anyways. He never was. Already the city has turned into a hell due to our actions. I do not want any more killings,” expressed Younis Khan who was now guilty for his gaffe.
Junaid Khan was surprised with the negative response of his leader but he didn’t quit and tried once again.

“Janaab, I know you are hurt. But believe me it is not your fault but destiny. And we do not have control over it. Even I mourn for the people out there” said Junaid Khan pressing Younis Khan to let him incarcerate me. “The state needs a secular leader just like you. If the power goes into the hand of opposition these riots will be a daily scene. I just wish for your good future and of the city, nothing else I swear.”

Younis Khan was adamant on further not indulging in any criminal activity, however, after some fierce arguments Junaid Khan cunningly persuaded him to abide by his plan. Half job was done. 

Now, Junaid Khan needed someone to execute me.  He needed someone who was very close to me, someone very faithful, someone like Aarti herself.
***

Aarti was sleeping in her house that night when her cell beeped.

“How are you ma’am? Is everything going well?” asked Junaid Khan, the caller.

“Who is this?” she enquired (yawningly).

“A well-wisher...who can help you earn millions overnight?” asked Junaid Khan with a cunning flavor in his deal.

“What nonsense? Who is this?” asked Aarti irefully.

“It does not matter who I am. It matters how you can earn those big bucks. Now here’s the dare. Just poison Faizan Ahmad Khan, your patient. I know he is admitted to your hospital. You just have to kill him before he awakes tomorrow,” explained Junaid Khan.
Abruptly alarmed by the words that pierced her ears she instantly pulled her blanket to fire on him, 

“Who are you? You dare not to harm him.”

Junaid Khan laughed and said, “Look, if you do not do it, someone else will do it. But like I said I am just your well-wisher and so I wanna give this chance to you. Maybe I should increase the price. Why don’t you bid your price yourself?”

That got Aarti angrier. She threw her blanket aside to get out of her bed and abruptly shouted at him, 

“Shut up! Shut your nonsense! I clearly understand who you people are. You cut your phone or I shall lodge an FIR against you…you smug.”

It made Junaid Khan angry too. He instantly shouted at her, “You think you can save him. There are many people in the hospital who will readily do the job for me. So better you keep shut now.” He threw his cell down in anger and ordered his men to do the job themselves. Meanwhile, Aarti was thrilled and she instantly rushed to the hospital before they reached there. She did not take chance to inform the police, perhaps she knew they couldn’t be trusted as well. She came to me, asked to get dressed up and move with her.

“What happened?” I asked. But she did not confide anything and asked me to quickly move with her.
Meanwhile, I myself spotted few gunmen outside the window who were heading towards the hospital and it did not take me time further to understand what was going on. At such time only she was there to whom I could trust. We got out of the hospital from the back gate and sprang into the car to disappear. They followed us. She drove the car as fast as she could but that was not enough. Those people too followed us like a shadow. We had to think something different. Aarti showed cleverness by moving the car into busier road and then smartly took advantage of the traffic to disappear from the vicinity.

Later we left the car in the traffic and hid into a lorry to escape from their sight. My mind was too much jumbled to query her. So I just did whatever she asked me to and we both hid ourselves in the truck. It was almost impossible for those people to find us in such big traffic. They looked for us everywhere but failed to spot us. Meanwhile the traffic got cleared and the truck started to move. We did not know what were we doing but there was no question of going back to the town at least for few days. We were very lucky that day to escape successfully.


All the way she kept convincing me as someone like family. And I, I constantly stared at her, thinking why would someone so unknown, whom I had met only few days before, help me and that too at this extent. Nevertheless, there was something that made me feel very peaceful. Maybe it was her presence. And only when the truck covered a fare distance we took sigh of relief. Amid such mess, weariness and fresh cold breeze I barely remember when on the way we fell asleep.


Sample chapter 4

4. Saharabad riots


Same day at my house Suzanne came with her family to join us on the breakfast in our mansion’s grove. Unaware of the external affairs outside the world we were engaged in scheduling the matrimonial dates for our marriage.

“Your win is sure sir. I feel glad to hand over my daughter to your family,” said Wahid Khan, Suzanne’s father, who perhaps was most glad of adhering further of an already age old relation.
“Truly, this is so auspicious day for me. At one side it is sure that I will win the Saharabad seat and at the other side Allah has bestowed me such a nice and decent daughter in law. I really feel blessed today” replied Abbu who looked very happy that day. It seemed as if for the first time in life he was proud of me.

However, at one side where the air of love was blowing, the other side a silent storm of hatred was just about to hit the city. That day, in afternoon, when common Muslims commuters gathered in Jama Masjid for prayer three bombs exploded at three different places near the mosque. First one in the market, second one on the streets and third one in the mosque itself. Rumors were spread that a Hindu community has done these bombings to rig the election results. A few people of Younis Khan masked themselves as fake protesters and provoked the already worsen situation which further intensified the chaos up to the brim. Soon the ‘real’ common people gathered and destruction suffused all around the scene. Thousands of Hindus and Muslim supporters mobbed on the road and attacked each other. Consequently, many lost their lives. Many lost their dear ones while many lost their properties. The poor police was busy in controlling the riot. Meanwhile, Younis Khan’s men took the advantage of the situation to rig the election ballot. Although the aim of the riot was achieved, the ‘fake’ riot, however, gradually grew stronger and ultimately crossed the threshold to turn into an irrepressible terror tornedo. Soon the whole city was under its radar. No one was safe, not even Ahmad Khan, my Abbu.
***

Back at home, the mobile phone of Abbu rang several times but Ammi snatched it from Abbu and finally switched it off to keep it out of his reach.

“No, not today. Today you will not receive any phone call until we decide dates for engagement and wedding,” said Ammi cutting the call.

“Ha Ha Ha… Bhabhiji I agree. I think I should also switch off my mobile. It is also ringing quite a lot today,” said Suzanne’s father switching his mobile phone off. We continued our talks but got interrupted in between when police came into our house for security purposes.  

“Sir we have been sent by the state government to provide full security to you and your family. We request you to move to some safer place with us,” requested the officer who had come with a bunch of policemen, all of them who were sweating with fear. They all appeared to be in some kind of haste and panic which induced some anxiousness in others too.

Abbu was confused and so asked, “Why? What happened?”

The officer narrated him the whole situation of the city.

“What?” Abbu got concerned by the news. Perhaps we all were.

“Yes sir, the whole city is facing the riot and it all happened in just few hours. I request you please not to waste time and move from here.”

Nobody there at that time could believe what had just happened in few hours. We did not know how to react at the situation. But before anybody could think of something, situation had already slipped out of control. Thousands of anti-Muslim protesters and activists surrounded our house and readily tried to arson it. The security force was small in comparison to the number of activists. Consequently, the furious mob chased us after they penetrated the security. We ran here and there for our lives – from one street to another; from one road to another, exploring new and unconventional routes, hence, as a result, I soon lost them during the run. Everywhere scene was same – protestors were all around for the kill. The city had turned into a wild forest where ubiquitous hunters were looking for innocent targets everywhere. The complete town was shrouded under communal violence. Only death and destruction was visible.

I failed to find my parents. I ran here and there, looked everywhere, even got myself hurt, but failed to locate any of them. My left leg was severely hurt. I could feel severe pain in my chest and my head was bleeding but somehow I managed to move further. The deadly scenes before my eyes were even more painful to watch. The road was flooded in red, shops and houses burnt into ashes. There were children crying for help, woman and olds brutally attacked. Broken hands, legs, and corpses lied all over the road. Madness, complete madness all around had enveloped the town. I had never imagined even in dreams that life would take such a sharp turn, in just a flick of a moment, to turn onto me cruelly like this. My eyes were full of tears. And mind clogged with questions, revulsion and abhorrence.

Moving further along the way, I encountered a woman who was badly hurt, asking for some water. She appeared to be a Hindu. I looked around and soon found a bottle of water from a demolished shop. But before I could fetch her any water she was already dead. Some people at near distance saw me with the woman. Perhaps they reckoned it the wrong way as suddenly one of them started to shout, “Hey there… look, look that man… he attacked our woman. Come…chase him.” But before I could speak anything, something hit on my head hard. Darkness shrouded my visibility and I fell down unconscious. The mass attacked me brutally and left me almost dead.


I saw blood sprouting from my body perhaps they had stabbed me from behind. I fell down and could hardly move. I was losing my breath gradually and my vision slowly fainted. Everything looked slow as if time had slowed down. I could hear my heart throbs quite clearly and could feel the footsteps of death approaching to me slowly & gradually. The breath slowed down every second and no hope of survival in the vicinity was visible. My blood sprouted and spread all over the ground. I could feel losing myself while looking up into the blue sky which appeared to be coming nearer and falling upon me. I thought that finally this is the end and I would probably die. It was in these conditions when I first heard her voice- ‘keeeeep breeeeathhhingg….doooonntt cloosse yourrr eyeeesss’ quite unclear though. My dim vision could hardly see the divine face. Her long hairs had blocked the sunlight. Her fragrance transmitted new life in me. I could hear her long and unclear voice which then sounded like hope. I had quit but she refused to. She kept talking to me giving me hope that I would live. The angels tried to push me hard to take me away from her but it was too late for them. The death plans had been amended and postponed for an unknown period of time by then. However suddenly, before I could help myself, a sudden darkness all around, without any prior notice, shrouded my vision and I abruptly fell down unconscious.


Sample chapter 3

3. Initial life                                                           

My complete name is Faizan Ahmad Khan, son of Ahmad khan, a Muslim party leader and for your concern, ladies & gentleman, no, I was not so serious since birth but riant, especially in final years of my graduation. I never got my graduation completed, unfortunately, because of the outbreak of the riot in the city then. But I never felt sorry for it may be because collecting big bucks were never my desires. I was always fascinated towards doing something different, something out of the box but never exactly knew what. Talking about my behaviour and qualities, I had every quality that a 24-year-old lad of a rich and politician dad generally possess. I was jubilant. I was crazy. A bit careless and an apple eye for my parents. The only quality that separated me from my parents was that I was a semi-atheist i.e. I was a bit impious in his existence. Sometime I would pray and sometime not. I barely kept fasts and visiting the mosques were seasonal events. Unfortunately, according to my mythical philosophy, God existed only in the minds of hypocrites. And it was these philosophies that sometimes resulted into severe tongue lashes from my father.

“Idiot, fear his vengeance or you will be doomed to hell someday.” 

These used to be actual words from my father to me. Apart from Faizan, I had few nicknames that my father used to address me with quite respect. Some of these were- idiot, jolter head, dumb, shameless and of course his favourite one – ‘useless’. The only shield I had against Abbu was Nanny, my grandma.

She always protected me from his fury saying, “Why do you compel him to obey Allah? When the right time will come Allah will himself make him believe in his existence and show him the right path?”

Abbu did not have courage to argue Nanny but being a clever politician he would always use his ‘emotional’ tactics as his last weapon saying, “I am not his enemy Ammi but he must follow Islam. He has grown up now. People have started talking about his impish behaviour...” But Nanny would cut him in between asking him to give me some space for I could learn myself the ways of life.

But Abbu, he was impatient. He was desperate to see me join him into politics. With a deep breath inside he said, “Allah knows when that time would come. Mark my words clearly Faizan. The day when his patience ends, he’ll wrest from you your most beloved thing of life and that day you will only be left to do nothing but repent. No one would be there to listen to you. You will be all alone and helpless. And the worst thing is that it would be too late to pray.”      

However, for me, these words were simply the daily dose of waste preaches, which should be trashed out immediately after the lecture was over. And immediately when the household melodrama would end I would rush to the then most important thing in my life, my girlfriend Suzanne.
***

And like most girlfriends, she had the same question on her lips, “When will you talk about me to your family?” However, being a son of a politician, I would always give a diplomatic reply, “Suzz the elections are close. I will definitely talk about us to my family as soon as the elections are over but this is not the right time. However, before we do that, I have something special for you in my pocket...here let me take this out…this is for you Suzz.”

I know… but I was doing nothing new. Often to suppress any such issue, we men have to gift something to woman that is bigger (or costlier) than that issue. Most of the time it is jewellery or any other precious gift, but, we often do it to cover the real debate and get rid of answering daily to woman’s never ending questions.

“This is to symbolize my love to you and lady may I take the liberty to wear you this ring to your finger” I told Suzanne and she was delighted with the surprise. Perhaps they always do.

After the meeting, we both went for a small ride. We were happy and I was satisfied with the proceedings of life. I could see no ice burg in my way. No obstacles. Just a plain and straight happy life – find a job, get married and live happily. That was my plan for future. Huh! How wrong I was? I never understood that life is never certain. It’s always on the verge of a new turn.
***
Meanwhile as we were passing by the road we observed few protesters making some anti –Muslim slogans in respect to elections. Suzanne always disliked politics. Hence, with an angry look she said, “Why do these people disturb the peaceful environment of our country? What do these people want? I don’t understand. Why cannot they concentrate on just their religion? Why?” Perhaps it showed her vacuous knowledge in politics that led her easily get provoked. My thoughts were rather implicitly insulated from the word ‘politics’ and ‘religion’. However, I did care about human lives and ethics. 

I replied to her politely, “No Suzz it is not like that. These people are neither Hindu nor Muslim, not even common. They are politicians. They only care their interests. They fuel such issues to fulfil their political ambitions. Believe me. After all I myself am a son of a politician.”

She smiled and asked, “So you are telling me that even your father is a wrong person. Are you against of your father’s ways Faizan?” I sighed and replied her negatively saying, “I am not against my father but his ways are sometimes beyond my comprehension. That is why I hate politics and keep away from it.” Perhaps she could understand that I was quite honest and innocent and bear no qualities of a politician.

Before I proceed further, I would like to give you a glimpse of the political scenario of the city I lived in. Saharabad, a city full of communal tensions and hatred. History had it that none of the communities Hindus or Muslims here lived in peace and a kind of cold war always existed between them. My father was a political leader of a Muslim party. He in many ways hated Hindus even more than he loved his own religion. He also had a political rival, surprisingly not a Hindu but a political giant,  Younis Khan, a secular party leader who supported Hindus not because he respected them but to earn Hindu votes. Fortunately or unfortunately, Saharabad was a Muslim dominant area with my father having the major impact and hence most of the time it was him who emerged as the winner. And needless to say that this fact was the biggest annoyance for Younis Khan who could clearly see his career drowning with the dominance of my father over the city. Since the elections were near an atmosphere of political tension could be observed in his camp too.
***

“Sir this time too, Ahmad Khan looks very strong. We cannot bear to lose to him again. Should he win this time we will definitely suffer huge economic losses. It would be his third in a row if he wins. We must do something and as fast as possible,” said one of the ministers of Younis Khan who was restless about the repercussions of the election.

“He is right we must win this election either by hook or by crook,” said another minister adding fuel to his restlessness.

Younis Khan himself was in panic over the issue and so he asked his ministers to do whatever it could take to win him the elections. It would have been his third consecutive defeat if lost. He was frantic enough to do ‘whatever’ it would take to win.  

It is a bitter truth that often in politics peace is shattered for political benefits of one single man. It never matters which political side is the beneficiary, common people are always at the losing side. Be it the age of kings and kingdoms when millions shed their lives to save the glory and throne for one single man, the king, or be it the present time when pre-planned fake communal riots are done in which millions of innocent lives are screwed, again just for the political ambition of one single man, the politician. It is always the common ones who suffer. Something similar was going to happen in my life and I was completely unaware of the silent storm that was slowly approaching towards my peaceful life. Meanwhile as usual in the political seasons, Saharabad also observed political rallies, speeches, promises, boastings and stuffs like those. The heat was at its peak. Both parties did not miss any chance to accuse each other on various political issues. The attempt to gain the confidence of common mass was just fuelling the cold war. For both the parties it was like a knockout match – if not now then never. 

Time passed as usual and voting was done. Elections were over, can’t say peacefully but somehow it was over.               

Meanwhile one day at home Ammi caught me red handed talking to Suzanne on phone.

“O.K. Who is she?” she inquired with a different version of smile on her face, hands folded round and a kind of glitter in her eyes.

I was nervous…and reluctant to confine everything to her at first instance. “No one Ammi. Just a friend”. My hands were trembling and the face had turned pale with shyness which she had already perused.

“Just a friend?... Faizan you can tell me. I am your mother after all. Now come on tell me do you like her?” she asked me as she could clearly notice the grin on my face.

“She is my colleague, Ammi …you will not understand”, I paused for a moment but unmindfully confined everything.

“Fine, I think I am in love with her and ...”

“And?” she enquired with twinkling eyes.  

“…and I want to marry her .”

Initially my mother stared at me but eventually the scary look turned into a smile and further she started to laugh at my edginess.

“It’s all OK Faizan. Why are you so nervous?” She hugged me and promised that she will talk to 

Abbu about this. Nevertheless, to add to my relief half war was won and it gave me a little respite. But the next hurdle was the real obstacle- my Abbu himself.
***

At night, while serving the dinner, Ammi quietly raised the question, “Don’t you think our son is now mature enough for marriage? I think now we should start searching a right girl for him. What do you say?”

Abbu replied astonishingly (in a hard voice) “Marriage? And that too of him? ‘Mr Useless!’ Huh! ”. 

He continued chewing his piece of mutton.

A livid Ammi instantly came into my protection and responded fiercely to sour his dinner. “Why? Have you planned to keep him bachelor all his life? And what is wrong in my son? He is smart, good looking and let me tell you I know a lot many girls who die at him, huh.”

Abbu stared at me surprisingly and murmured, “Girls die at ‘him’? What’s wrong with them?” he said as my sibs who were sitting beside giggled as well.

Ammi stared at him and responded even more cruelly. “What did you say? And leave everything aside and explain to me what do you actually mean?” My father soon realized he has done no good to himself and has only invited troubles using words against me. Soon Nanny joined Ammi and the ladies backed me good enough to make Abbu finally pull his hands up on his irking behavior regarding my wedding. Laxity in other matters could be tolerated but she was in no way ready to give him any relaxation in escaping ‘this’ particular responsibility. He finally surrendered before her adamance.

“No I do not mean anything Resham. But you know its election time and I am too busy right now.”
Ammi instantly turned soft on him and replied, “Elections are already over now. Only results have to come. In shah-Allah, you will only win. And I am not asking you to set the wedding tomorrow but we can at least see the girl and meet her parents.”

I kept myself isolated from the talk and simply behaved peaceful like a good son, like, eyes low and mouth shut. However, my heart, it was throbbing 172 times per minute.

Abbu thought for a while, looked at me, smiled, and said, “So it seems that both mother and son have already chosen the girl…hmmm.” He paused, smiled and continued, “Ok I would like to meet the family tomorrow at the breakfast. But right now just forgive me coz I’m too tired and going to sleep”. He said as he yawned and left.

I gave a little smile of appreciation to Ammi. But from inside, a whole wave of tsunami, full of craziness splashed inside me. I still remember that day when I gently went into the room, closed the door and then jumped onto the bed, and shouted as loud as I could, then somersaulted wildly to almost shatter my own bed and behaved as wild as you would have done when India won the world cup in 2009.
***

However, the life of these happiness were quite short as the destiny had some other plans for me. Perhaps for everybody. Everything looked good until that fatal day - the day of results. General counting of votes began and after half counting of votes, Abbu was leading with fair margin. This news bewildered Younis Khan as if his worst nightmares were about to come true. Name, fame, money, luxury and a 30-year long political career. Everything was on the line. Moreover, with debts in millions he would have been compelled to live in fear of being tortured, if failed to pay. The fear of losing everything made him insane. He murmured anything all the time along with a causal agony attached with the fear.   

“This is not good. This is not good,” reiterated a sweating Younis Khan trembling in agitation.
Junaid Khan, one of his party member and a very wicked mind person said, “Sir, this is not the time to chant our mistakes but to do something. We must act quickly.”

“Junaid…my friend” Younis Khan earnestly requested, “Do anything, anything but just make me win anyhow”.

Junaid Khan replied, “Sir with all due respect, why not we rig the polls.”

Younis Khan turned dumbstruck hearing this from Junaid Khan. Junaid Khan continued, “Yes Janab, you’ll have to admit that we cannot win honestly. We are bound to take the indirect route. We must loot the booth or expiate for our dilly-dallying”.

“Shut up! It’s not 80s now. Are you mad? If we are caught, we will lose everything we are left with. Moreover, we would be imprisoned for such act. It is too risky,” responded Younis Khan fiercely.

Junaid Khan replied, “No Sir it’s not. We will not indulge in it directly rather we’ll spread communal rumors and create a fake riot. Once we successfully accomplish that, the rest is just to take advantage of the mess while the police shall be busy in controlling the riot”.

“Riot?” asked a perplexed Younis Khan “Will it really work? Should we attempt it?”

Junaid Khan was a bit overwhelmed convincing Younis Khan. He replied, “Janab please… we do not have time to think. Now or never.”

Younis Khan knew that he has no other option. Moreover, he did not have enough time to think. He had to decide something before the counting was over. Huge financial debts, pressure from party members, lenders and other powerful people plus the fear of existence in politics. All these fears complied up to mount enough fear which consumed his wisdom to compel him to take a vicious decision and unfortunately, he did. Ignoring the gravity of his evil decision he reluctantly agreed to go along with Junaid’s suggestion irrespective of the repercussion and effect on innocent lives.


Sample chapter 2

2. Bereft Aarti


My eyes stick to a photo frame sometimes whenever I dream of my house, which is unfortunately now is bereft of us. It should be still there, perhaps, in our bedroom. It is so strange that even at this stage of my life I still remember every moment, every corner, every memory linked with that house. We got it snapped when she had finally accepted to marry me and there was a kind of celebration all around the country. The TOIs, The HTs and many others had headlined in its first page ‘Finally Aarti says yes’. But there were also some orthodox people who had protested against our wedding. It was a tough time for both of us. Whenever I see that picture moments freeze, time slows down and past memories surround me all around. Then tears, before I realize, huh! …eyes twinkling with tears and filled with emotions pour down. We had snapped it in Saharabad, the place where it all began and all ended.

“Sorry we could not save your wife” This was exactly what they (the doctors) told me when I reached the hospital after I was informed by someone that the hospital she worked in had been attacked by a mob. Then they moved on leaving me desperate, helpless, and all alone in the hospital.
My dear friends! We all love someone in our life and that ‘someone’ too loves us more than anyone in life does. That ‘someone’, who was always the part of the journey and who was always before our eyes when we needed them but we never saw them, thanked them. Sometimes we never respect what we have in present and sacrifice it for the future. However, when they are gone, we realize their importance and unfortunately, it is often too late to recover the loss. Aarti was that ‘loss’ for me now. Sometimes in life, there is someone, whose company is indispensable for us and in no way we are ready to accept their absence, ever. They are important. They are life. Moreover, we want to thank them but often, may be out of shyness or because of the wait for that ‘right time’ to come, we never say it. And when the person is gone, we realize that the ‘right time’ was always there and we just had to pick up one single day and utter out our feelings for them. I too wanted to say this simple word of ‘thanks’ to Aarti, my wife. I just wanted to say thank you, thank you for everything, for every moment she filled in with joy and contentment. Thank you for being there in every those single moment when I was alone, helpless and broken.
***

Back in hospital, Zeeshan, a very close friend of mine read the situation, acknowledged his role, and took the charge.

“Doctor it is very tough time for my friend right now. I request you to leave him alone. I will be looking after the legal procedures further. It would be very kind of you if you discharge the body as soon as possible,” said a sobbing Zeeshan pretending of being strong.

The humble doctor could understand our feelings. Perhaps they always do. The doctor assured him saying, “Sure sir, we understand your situation. Please take care of Mr Faizan. It is very hard time for him. He surely needs you.”

‘Hard time’ that’s what he had said. Huh! It wasn’t just a hard time for me but a time full of emptiness, questions, and a wait that would never end. I was not just depressed, but broken. I was unable to decide how would I live rest of my life without Aarti. I felt helpless. I simply did not know how to live without Aarti. It had been about 20 years now and she had become a habit. I just could not figure it out who would prepare my speeches. With whom will I discuss my planning? Who will take care of me, my life? I just did not know. I had no answers.

Zeeshan helped me move out of the hospital. I was moving slow and random like a bulky piece of object. My face had turned pale, eyes red with tears and hairs disorganized. Neither could I hear nor could I feel anything, may be because I didn’t care to. Zeeshan just pulled me somewhere out of the hospital. As we moved out, we were besieged by a flood of media and public. Though police was there for my security but they could resist only the people, not their questions.

“Sir, your own wife died in the riot. What do you have to say?”

“She was a public hero. What actions will you take against the people involved in the riot?”

“When your own wife was not safe how will you assure public safety to people?”

Zeeshan came in to my rescue and asked me not to heed them and just move with him to his home. But I did not want to leave her. And hence I forcibly pulled my hand back.

“No, I want to stay…stay with her. Zeeshan just let me go. Just let me go brother.”

Zeeshan denied saying, “You look tired and weak. Come let’s go home and have something to eat.” I refused again and denied to go with him.

“No! I have to tell her something. She is going away from me. I have very less time my friend. Let me go.”

I pulled my hand forcibly and rushed to the ICU where my wife was lying cold and low. I hurried to reach her as fast as I could, trying to save all the last moments with her. As I walked in the room, I saw her dead body lying like a piece of object - silent and motionless. A string of desperations travelled down my heart. I could feel her, and her presence. It appeared as if she was simply sleeping, like as usual she used to. And at any moment, she would be awake and enquire me of my day’s events. I went nearer to her, sat down, and held her hand. I looked at her calm face, moved fingers round her hairs. A tinge of emotions moved down my throat …a raw nerve was touched and I could not help myself sobbing failing to prevent a desperate and inevitable weep. Zeeshan was looking everything from outside but he did not interfere. Perhaps, he too was weeping behind the walls. He listened to me talking to her. Yes, I talked to her. Perhaps people with high comprehension will call me insane but believe me if you have really loved someone you will understand. I was an atheist but she always wanted me to pray to God. And that day I did. I did make a small prayer for her. And I could not waste a moment disclosing this to her that I am no more an atheist as she wanted and I do prayers now for me and for everyone.

“I …prayed him … I swear I did. You believe me, don’t you? I requested him to give me my life back because that belongs to me…even for just a single day or for a single moment. Heaven can wait…” I said in a melancholic voice. “But look what he did? He did not listen to me. He never listens to me. Neither did you. Aarti you cannot leave me here alone. Who’ll take care of me? Who’ll enquire about my well-being? I don’t know my medicine names. I never cared to. I can’t find my papers. I forget to take my watch. I don’t eat dinners. I can’t sleep at nights. Everything’s just messed up without you. So just wake up please. Come back. Come back in my life. I can’t live without you…”
Tears? Yes, tears came in my eyes. But even that did not awake her. She remained cold and quiet. A woman who used to turn restless over my one single minor cough was silent that day. Silent forever. This was not acceptable. No! And the Gods would have to answer. They are equally responsible for the menace. 

“I never prayed to you but she did, always. You owe her devotion and that blind stupid trust in you. She cannot listen to me. So please send my last message to her. Just tell her ‘Thank you’. Thank you for being there all the time I needed her. Tell her that she was not just a good wife but also a good friend, and perhaps my soul. Tell her that I feel myself graceful for every single moment that we spent together, that how much I loved her. Tell her…please… ” I said sobbing and spent the whole night with her trying to live those last moments, every single of them that was left, with Aarti, my Aarti.
***

Next morning some noise of arguments woke me up. When I stepped out, I found some ministers of my cabinet arguing over some issues.

“She was a Hindu. So her funeral must be performed according to the Hindu traditions otherwise Hindus will not like this and may protest against us.”

“No, no, since she married to a Muslim so she becomes a Muslim and her body should be buried down otherwise Muslims may not like this and protest.”

The debate slowly turned serious. I was standing behind them and felt disgusted with their behaviour. Eventually it became important for me to interfere in between.

“She was a Hindu and her funerals will be performed in complete accordance to the Hindu tradition. No more discussions on this issue please”, I interrupted angrily in between.

Mr Ashraf Khan, our party leader, was also present nearby. Cunning and selfish in behaviour, the politician came to me and said, “I know its difficult time for you. But just look at yourself. You look tired and weak.” He ordered one of his men to get me a glass of juice. He then held my hand, acted of being sad and said, “It looks as if it’s been only couple of days passed when I saw you both as newly married couple.(He took a long breath) I would miss her too. However, these are things of past and you will have to prevail this bad time, at least for her. We have elections in this week and people want to hear you. They too are sad. They mourn for you. This is the time to take advantage of the sentiments of these people. You just prepare your speech well and leave the rest on me.”

“I will not be able to speak in public right now and I apologize for that. I am sorry,” I said cutting him rudely in between. His tongue instantly twisted and he muted for a while. “Only thing that I am worried about right now is my wife’s funeral, that’s it. And for the moment please excuse me. I have to go,” I said rudely and left.

Zeeshan was present nearby. Ashraf khan knew only he was the one whom I would listen. Therefore, he went to him and said, “Console him. He is crucial for our victory in election. You are his friend… he will listen to you. Persuade him anyhow.” Though Zeeshan knew, it was not the right time to do that but he could do nothing but follow the orders. Therefore, he replied positively to Ashraf Khan and left.


Later that day, the cremation was done with proper rites & rituals. I kissed Aarti for the last time and lit her body on fire. I watched the flames growing gradually. And as they grew, I could see the past memories surrounding me and literally taking Aarti from me away and away with the flames.