“Will life give me another chance?
“I don’t know.”
As she thought of this, she smirked looking into the mirror.
Sitting in front of the dressing table, twenty two year old Ayesha extended her henna adorned hands to touch her reflection.
She wanted to touch her nose pin which looked idyllic on her well chiseled nose and adjust the bindi between her ‘bird-in-flight’ eyebrows. Her paper thin, milky white, supple skin was covered from head to toe in heavy zardozi and gold. She was dressed like an Indian bride. Her heavy jewels told the tale of her parent’s deep affection for her. Ayesha. Their only child.
She looked beautiful. Exquisitely beautiful. The way her mother had always described she would look like on the special day. The day of her marriage. Ever since she could remember, Ayesha had dreamt to live this day.
Her mother, used to tell her: “All girls emerge into fairies on their wedding day.”
When Ayesha was a kid, she never even understood the word marriage, but enacted it in games with her mother.
Sitting in front of the mirror, she told herself, “How right my mother was, after all mothers know everything. Child hood fairy tales do come true. My prince charming Kabir will come today, riding on a white horse, to take me to a world that knows only happiness-where we would live happily ever after.”
Just then fear pooled into her eyes, as she looked deep into her hazel eyes.
She remembered her father saying, “The past does crawl its way out.”
“My body feels leashed to the past. I have not been able to tell Kabir the dark truth of my life,” She told herself.
Rubbing her palms together, staring at the lines on them. She remembered her grandmother saying, “These uneven lines are the secret door way to one’s destiny.”
“What do these indecipherable lines hold for me?”
“What if Kabir comes to know the truth after marriage?” She murmured under her heavy breath, “He can also leave me.”
She played with her engagement ring and thought, “Will he accept me? After knowing everything.”
“I don’t know”
“But I have to tell him the truth.”
“It is already too late.” She whispered feeling the tension build up.
After a few minutes Ayesha’s room reverberated, with the tune, “chhodenge na ham tera saath o saathi marte dam tak marte dam tak nahi agle janam tak.”
The band playing this tune was filling the silence of that night; informing the arrival of the Barat.
“How beautiful these lines are, true lovers never leave one another.” Ayesha said to herself, “May be God is telling me that, Kabir will accept everything.”
He says, “He truly loves me.” I should sms him.
She picked up her phone and typed a message.
“Kabir please come to my room. I have something important to tell you. It is very urgent.”
Her blank mind was staring at the phone screen. Her nervous and trembling fingers were rubbing it.
In a few seconds a messaged beeped.
“Will be there in a while, Busy with the rituals. Have something important to tell you also. And have to tell it to you today. Before we tie the nuptial knot.”
Reading the message Ayesha heaved a sigh of impatience and looked at the wall clock.
She picked the glass of coke which her grandmother had left for her on the table, with a plate of sandwiches.
Ayesha held the glass. Took a sip before her eyes caught the ice floating in the glass. It reminded her, how her grandmother used to hobble a mile every afternoon in the blistering sun that burnt the back of her neck to get her an icy cold coke bottle. Her favorite drink from the market.
“How lucky I am to have such a grandmother.”
Ayesha got up and walked slowly carrying the heavy lengha till the window. Where the cool November breeze kissed her cheeks.
Downstairs she saw a throng of people outside in the garden. Their clothes were spelling how fat their bank accounts were as they chuckled and chortled.
Beyond the bed of red roses, lilies, and marigolds which decorated every corner of the house amalgamated with the bright lights, the silvery sheen of the moon had extended a soft look to everything outside. It wedged through the strained windows into her dim lit room. And shadows danced on a white wall. A wall on which a poster read, “Ayesha’s Memory Bank.”
Pictures covered it’s every inch like a sea of souvenirs. Every photo had a life which it breathed through her hand written tags on them.
In one picture when Ayesha was eight years, she was cupping a cage of a parrot in her hands, with her father standing next to her. And the tag read. “Dad walked the whole day in Chandani Chowk, to get me mitto. My Best Friend.”
Every photo motioned through speechless lips a story.
When she shifted her glance to the wall, coming close she touched it as if the wall was alive and was a part of her body with which she shared her heart, blood and deep veined emotions. Her own inner self.
Tears welled. She looked at the years gone by. “In a blink life goes by. It just seems yesterday I was in nursery. Mummy, papa and
granny were leaving me to school.”
“My first day. When I cried. I cried because I could not accept their parting for a few hours. And today I would be parting forever.”
She gasped for breath. With a gust she muttered, “Would I really depart today and become some body’s wife? I don’t know.”
“These minutes are plodding by at the same pace. But today they look so long as if seconds are separated from each other by eternity.”
Ayesha’s first family portrait when she was two years hung in the centre.
Her family stood on the green turf, the six family members, mummy, papa had hugged her while her grandmother and grandfather stood on one side and her uncle (chacha) on other.
Their disposition was like a ship, sailing on the green sea. The sun smiling at them, while the sky was painted with strokes of blue and purple behind them.
She looked at her grandfather and her uncle in the picture. The blood in Ayesha’s eyes was cold. Her stony eyes bore into them.
“Sometimes we may live for years with someone without a relationship,” she mumbled, “But when they leave, they leave behind scars, which time can’t also heal.”
Ayesha’s eyes swam to find her perfect family picture on the memory wall. It was in a corner. The ship had lost its bow and stern, but it sailed smilingly.
It was picture of four members, her parents, granny and Ayesha in the center. The tag below read, “My Perfect Family.”
The quietness creaked and cracked in her room, it was like some body’s stiff knuckles were knocking on a plain wooden door, becoming louder and louder by each second.
There was a knock on her door.
“Come in,” she said.
It was Kabir. A brawny young man.
He looked like a prince.
He wore a sherwani over the whitish blanket of his skin, which was complimented by his blue eyes that were embedded deep in the ridges of his face.
“You look beautiful.” Were the first words that came out of his mouth as he walked close to Ayesha.
“You know, downstairs there are so many guests. I am just tired of meeting them.”
“And guess what!! The best part is the panditji still hasn’t come.”
“Are you nervous?” he asked, looking into Ayesha’s eyes.
After a long pause she nodded her head.
Her lips seemed paralyzed. Her mouth had refused to talk.
“You had called me here urgently. What is it?” he asked. “I also have something important to tell you.”
“OK.” With words hardly coming out of her mouth Ayesha said, “Please, first you then me.”
“No, my love. You say.”
Ayesha picked up a diary lying on her bed. It was an old diary. The green cloth on it had shredded. The paper had turned yellow.
Opening it in the middle, she turned a few pages and gave it to Kabir.
“What is this?” he asked, holding it in his hands. “Why are you making me read this now?”
“Read.” It was the only word that escaped from Ayesha’s heavy lips. She felt her heart drowning in the saliva .
His eyes turned to the page.
9th July 1995.
For some people the past is a diminishing road and for others it is a grand meadow which no winter quiet touches.
Today is my birthday. The day when I came into this world. Twenty years back.
I have crossed the threshold of my teens and entered the third decade of my life today.
As I try and remember the years that have gone by, I can feel the pain of my pulsating heart behind my closed eyes.
Just like all others my brain is also mechanized to play the gloomy side of life first.
This time my birthday gift for myself is the most precious.
For the last time today, I will breathe this pain. I will toss it out of my body writing it on paper today, the thorny barb suffering and agony. My body feels suffocated in this airless bubble, this unsaid, unuttered, secret of my life, which my soul has borne for the last thirteen years.
My childhood reminds me what hell must be like.
He took away the baby hood, the innocence, the sense of security just to get a little piece of me.
Every day, he told my family he wanted to teach me, he wanted to see me coming first in my class. These words were veiled by the lust and lechery in his eyes.
Homework for me was a punishment which my body endured every afternoon while my mother slept and my father was busy working in his office.
Putting his fingers on my lips, “Don’t tell anyone he would say, otherwise the devil will rise and take you behind the black door, cut you into pieces and fry you in hot oil.”
Scared of the devil I could not tell anyone the truth as a child.
Today I feel yes, I did meet the devil and the devil did rise in the form of him. He broke my fairy tale world. He had changed the course of my life.
Quietness and loneliness were my best friends. I just wanted to be alone. Alone forever.
I was like a bird in a cage, always looking at the beautiful sky, yearning for freedom. And one day I twisted the wires of the cage with my claws. I flew away to meet an angel called freedom, with her there was no fear, no pain and only smiles.
27th June 1990.
I call it the day of my resurrection. I rose from the caprices of my own self. And I realized if you don’t fight for your own self nobody would fight for you.
It is the day of my freedom.
“It is him.”
“It is him.”
Were the words that reverberated our drawing room at 3: am.
My uncle was twenty years old. My father’s only brother. Sat in one corner of the room; there was a slipper in his one foot, while the other one was missing. The foot.
One half of the black pant he wore was loose just like it would have been in his cupboard, hanging from a hanger without any flesh. He had lost his leg when a truck driver had driven his lorry over it.
My uncle did try and defend himself, against the family members, with a few “NO” and incomplete sentences. But he failed. No one listened to him.
It was that night when for the very first time, I did not allow the devil to kill the little girl within me. When my ears echoed with him opening his belt buckle, I could feel the fire with in my nerves coursing through my blood to kill the devil. The impression he had left on my body. The blue and purple marks were yearning to tell everyone that I fought.
Sitting there on the sofa with my parents, I thought I could carry my head high enough in dignity, but I could not name him. I was scared of the devil. And the phobia flew through my veins.
I could see the flames of fire on my parents and granny’s face. With their voice burning in agony as their heart beat roared.
My granny decided to lock my uncle in his room.
“Yes, he should be punished and locked.” My parents’ voice came out louder and stronger than ever.
My grandfather sat in the corner, his hollow eyes stripped of all emotions, sinking in their socket, just staring at me. The flesh along his temples had melted, as his cheeks hang loose as if his bones never wanted to hold them.
His lips creased a smile at me showing his missing teeth.
I just wanted to leave that room. I got up and went to my room. It was dark. I did not switch on the light. That darkness was welcoming; it seemed I ruled it. I lay on my bed listening to the silence like sand hissing on a metal sheet. Drawing sketches of me winning the battle, but the emptiness in me was prodding me that I had lost it. I could see a pink frock of a seven year old girl in those delineations with blood stains.
My breath became heavy I was breathing in bricks, my pooled eyes were burning. Why did God choose me, for this punishment? I had tightly closed my eyes that night, wishing I was someone else.
On 2 July 1990.
I was taking a bath and I could hear voices from outside, my granny was shouting that my uncle was not there in his room. He had run away from home.
Just then through the transparent curtain of the shower droplets. I could see the toilet door knob turn. His demonic feet entered.
I shouted, and I screamed, it was as if the oxygen from this world had all seeped into my lungs.
My parents and granny knocked and banged the toilet door.
“Papa, save me from this man.”
I could hear my father’s love for me when he said, “I will kill this bastard, and I will forget that he is my brother today.”
The door broke open; my father on seeing him was quiet. None of them spoke. It was silence that had sucked everything like the black hole.
After a few hours, the psychiatrist ruled that my grandfather had Phedophilla.
Forever he went away from my life first to rehabilitation center and then to an old age home.
The devil went back behind the black door.
In my computer classes last week I met a boy named Kabir.
I feel like walking with him on an unending road, under the façade of a cloudless blue sky.
When he talks to me my heart misses a beat, I want to trust him and this time I don’t feel scared, my eyes never want him to leave their sight.
I have read in books this is how it feels when you fall in love, maybe I have fallen in love with him, may be the scars that the devil gave me have faded away and the woman in me has been born.
Closing the diary, Kabir kept it on the bed where he sat. There was silence between them. After a while he said, “Ayesha till yesterday it was love but today it is respect, it takes a lot of guts to share your past. I always wanted to tell you mine, but I couldn’t.
“May be I am not as brave as you.
“I was raped when I was in class eight.”