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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.


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