She peeped through the window as the wind mussed through and its rustling sound remained powerless to stir her. Outside view was not comforting nor was it endearing in the sense that the quietness only reflected the agonizing hours of restlessness within thinking individual. What she has been, bare flesh and blood, fractured breath squealing in bewilderment over the theatre of the absurd, over the angst, the existential ire, the disgust and dilemma of being, the dynamics of a hugely tormenting experience to be a daughter, to be a wife, to be a mother and the multiple shifting roles. What are all these but jumbled up thoughts. Razia, had the wings to scale the heights of sky, to pierce through the dark patches of silver clouds, had the conviction to live her life but all these are thoughts today.
While she was a child she encountered the bias of her parents, the fire of the gender, furrowed face of father, perfidious, shallow society, the subdued willingness of a mother, a hapless mother who wanted to make things happen for her daughter but a woman without the fire of creative energy and without the willingness to be engaged in decision making has to watch things from outside the boundary. Her father, a rather volatile temperamental man, a man of short height, has been through many moons, the rough edges of time did him badly in and amid these the continued fertility of his wife added only bitterness to the cup of woes of which Razia was just a part, a very small part but most of the troubles came from those scallywags sons who loomed and lingered like aimless ill fed bandicoots.
The hot sun left its trail of suffering on the pedestrians, mercury’s rage was unrelenting and the steps of Razia lacked the strength to combat the heat. Wetted to the skin by the sweat that was sultry, its drops racing down to the smoldering cheeks, lapis lazuli eyes warding off the merciless temperature in its elements, she marched on towards the Maulana Azad road, through the gymkhana club, through the budha Marg, through the Ansari market and through the butchers’ lane. She knew she had to finish off the job there only for once she was back home it would be impossible for her to look beyond the window and the heat of the noon was encountered with her parasol. A small girl with lots of zeal thrust upon herself, to usher in a new season of misplaced hopes, to be away from the stamp of poverty hop scotched in utter confusion to break the seal of inglorious birth.
Razia did not curse her father or mother or brothers who walked in sheer sloth, drudgery and failed to see the writing on the wall not because they were blind but for the fact that they flexed the fragile muscles only to produce a warbling sound of despair. She moved on, turned left and right without losing the pace of steps. The building of the Polytechnic College stood rooted to the ground facing the ire and fire of sun casting a regal mantle, a motley crowd of individuals clad in apparent poverty dragged their feet to the hollow precincts of its campus. Islamia Polytechnic College painted in green with Y missing from the polytechnic seemed like an orphaned child razzing for philanthropy. Razia was not impressed with the faded colour of the building, with the dripping mediocrity, with the bearded fellows walking around, with the bottoms of the trousers rolled candidates and the entire ambience. Her scarf was almost wet, the sweat gripped her and she gasped in anguish. As she put the first step forward on the beleaguered campus, the sudden emergence of blindness gripped her and she collapsed to the ground. Her tongue was dry as dust, parched perilously perched her on the streets of doom.
The voice of Abba and Maulana Md Abrar perforated through her ears as she lay in a subdued state of consciousness while her mother was rapidly moving her lips with fingers clung to the rosary. She could over hear, Razia must have been walking alone on the streets during the afternoon and that time is very dangerous for unmarried girls since the spirits normally appear during that time only. Maulana Abrar Md said all these while sipping through the bottle of Pepsi and Ahmad Mian. Razia’s father played the good host. Her mother was more concerned about her daughter and time and again she recited some lines from Qoran and poured in her ears. She relied more on the Suras rather than to believe the weird explanation of a Maulvi who as matter of commercial compulsion cannot look for anything else other than the spirits. The news soon picked rage and the neighbors and Ahmad Mian’s horde of sympathizers zeroed in on the tattered hamlet with anxiety visibly splashing itself to share the grief. Razia was entirely upset with herself for not being able to do what she had thought. She knew now Ahmad Mian would be looking frenetically to get her a man who could be transferred the burden of a daughter as lissome as Razia.
The night fell fast and moved in the corridors of darkness while Razia blinked her eyes all through the night watching the insects darting up the walls and falling from it and still engaged in the act continuously. Razia was fearful of the fact that her freedom was no longer going to be with her and given the uncertainties of a family living on broken pieces of breads shriveled further the last remains of her dream and she hurriedly closed her eyes as if by so doing she could ward off the impending doom. Does she have the right to dream, does she have the audacity to live her dreams, does she have the authority of imagination that can firmly clench its fist and push apart the bottlenecks grappling it? The monologue wandered from one extremity to other, from a cozy comfortable night to the fuss of the morning, from a chaotic condition to the construction of the fancies resting on exuberant imagination, she was in the grip of golden fancies that were as restless as a stormy, arid and parched desert.
The night flowed like a river and so did her thoughts. Amma could be the key to her unseen dreams, to her secret ambitions, to her seemingly wild adventures on a velvet road, but Ahmad Mian was a dim-witted and silly character who could barely think other than the next meal and most of his energy was consumed either in producing kids or scolding the brat sons who moved about the crumbling pavement of imagined riches. Razia knew she will be soon in the throes of an alliance, an imposed one that would be curtains for all her dreams, the final blow to whatever she thought for herself. She decided to have a discussion with her mother before she was coerced into the deadly end.
Her mother was a dull women and most of the dull pulsing of blood was rooted into a body worked up by the excesses of a man who visited her only to relapse into momentary world of ecstasy. It was entirely momentary and that did not come without its share of troubles. The man stuffed the waiting womb without the implications of its impact on the tottering family.
Razia was firm, had at times argued with her mother about the pace of fertility and the subsequent agony. Two sons and four daughters and the machine still was on. She was unabashed she thought, she was violating the sanctity of the parental reverence but she had no choice. She had decided to do something to get her mother relieved of the annual installment of pain that culminated into the additions of little unwanted angels because the resources were shrinking and the profession of Ahmad Mian declined in terms of its relevance and survival. Hakeem Ahmad Mian with boxes of Majoon sitting in the dingy room, waiting for the patients barely found enough to keep both the flame of the kitchen fire burning and the growing number of kids fed to the satisfaction.
Razia took her mother in confidence and got her rendered barren through the medical science without the knowledge of Hakeem Ahmad Mian. He went on exerting himself with the same thoughtless belligerence and ruthless considerations for he was a man who knew his business unmindful of the tortures he committed in the process. Through the many moons, through the many seasons, he could notice that his wife was not responding to his daily injections and grew skeptical about his own masculine strength.
Razia was now a defiant girl, discarded the fear of father, pulled up her socks and resolved to be at loggerheads with Hakeem Ahmad Mian. The proposal was well on way. Her father had chosen a butcher as a suitable match to her self educated daughter. It was pitch dark and Hakeem Ahmad Mian was engaged in a fierce argument with his wife who hardly spoke in her life after she was wedded to a fundamentalist Hakeem. He either sat in his dingy clinic or ran to mosque other than being engaged in the child producing act.
Look, Begam, what is this that all my masculine efforts are becoming a thing of naught and I suspect you to have done something against my will or the will of the God? You bitch has committed a sin. You have lost your fertility through a medical operation. I know it and that rogue Razia has turned this house into a veritable hell. You will face the wrath of Allah, Allahqasam, you will be crashing in hell. You will burn in its fire. The devil of Razia has infected you.
There was no word uttered by a hapless woman, the wife of Hakeem Ahmad Mian but Razia stood outside the closed room, overheard the arguments and when he slammed the face of his wife, the screeching sounds of Razia infuriated him and at the edge of the door the two exchanged a lot of fire. Hakeem Ahmad Mian was unhappy with the two sons, kalam and Salam; one was lame and the other deaf. Nature had stuffed his house with all deformities. The girls were pretty sharp. Apart from Razia, Sultana, Farzana, Rokhsana all were splendidly beautiful but the song of poverty was sung hesitantly by them. The practicing Hakeem with his radicalism only compounded their wails by many a yard. The silence was harsh; the evening swayed ahead limping in a bleak house while the daughters chewed their nails in utter defenselessness against the stark on rushing dejection.
Razia was coerced into marrying the butcher and Hakeem Ahmad Mian was relieved of the troubles within. The butcher was dark complexioned, the dots of chicken pox on the face seemed like succulent cacti and the same cacti pinched the tormented and ripped existence of Razia though she had some other intentions. Hakeem Ahmad Mian used to visit the brothel as he had some patients and there was one in particular who wanted to be treated by him only. The tales had it that in the wake of poverty he celebrated life to the dismay of his clan. He was gay having ruled his family with an iron fist. Days rolled by. Hakeem Ahmad Mian continued his practice both within and without in the absence of Razia and her sisters rued her loss for she was the one as the only influence or support they could have fallen back on and all dwindled to the flickering flame of a candle waiting to be gnawed down to the wicks.
But Razia re-emerged from the shadows of past having discarded the butcher and made her way back to the home , now as a divorcee, as a more resolute and confident individual up in flames against the excesses of her fundamentalist father. The brothers kalam and Salaam were useless fellows. One was to be the successor of his father while the other painted the walls of the colony singing some obscure songs and it was much later that a bizarre fact came to be known about him that he was a neutral gender, an eunuch. Hakeem Ahmad Mian was left aghast when he came to know about it and his frustrations turned gory. He tried to kill him many a time for he thought, he was a stigma for the whole family but every time he did it, he had to face Razia who knew his plans and stood right before him like a rock of Gibraltar and he had to cave in. The hide and seek between the daughter and father continued for some time and both were committed to dislodging each other. Razia knew that her father was more than a worthless and imbecile creature who only knew the dual business of producing kids and running to mosques.
The night plunged deep into the troubles of darkness, the shush about it assumed menacing forms and the two Hakeem Ahmad Mian and Razia were the singers of the hapless tunes of distress. Hakeem Ahmad Mian darted inside the room of Kalam with pressed legs picked up the pillow and began pressing it on the neck of Kalam with all his might. There was a subdued howl of strangled sound generated by his son sweating under the ballistic temper of his father, struggling for breath and from no where Razia appeared like an invisible angel and unleashed the final blow on the head of Hakeem Ahmad Mian only to realize minutes later that the sledgehammer in her hand was stained with the holy grail of her father and its drop dripped on to the ground to leave the night rest in a blissful state of peace.