20th May 2013 10:30 a.m.
Jammu- Srinagar Highway NH-1
She could not bear the loss of a father as her car traversed mile after mile through the coiled mountain passes. With each turn the vehicle took in the mighty Himalayan range, her heart sank more and more in an awe. On their way back home, here she was – ready to be left again in a ransacked Kashmir. Staring out of the window; she continued escaping the reality as much as she could. She dared not look into his eyes for they might have drowned her again back in the intimate times of togetherness. It had not been long enough since she had found him and it was not even long when she was about to lose him again…she never knew he mattered so much to her. Only on this second travel, did she realise that it was the last journey they were undertaking together. They were not going to meet again… or at least not going to live together the way they would. And with each heartbeat as they neared their destination, this feeling rose to wrench her within like a hapless kinked bird; though she could not show.
She had a lot to talk but nothing to say about her own worn out face… how could have she pleaded him to stop and take care of her, throughout her life? He was not meant to do so. They were just the wayfarers destined to beautify each other’s path; destined to meet and destined to part…suddenly, she seemed to run against time…in a run where she was desperately chasing her own past so that the future could not conquer her and bring her some new loss…she just wanted to stop everything… the driver who drove faster, least concerned about her… the man beside her who was to part his ways from her… and most importantly, the child in her who still ran naked to a cache of its unmet love…a sudden vehement desire orphaned her… a desire of not to be orphaned again.
lo abhi jalne ko kuch baaqi bhi tha… aur
hum samjhe; wo aaye hai maaatamgiri ke liye
(And look there was something still left to burn: And
How I thought he had come for a mourning!)
Her lips quivered resisting the uproar of her unexpressed pain and her eyes fluttered, concealing the upsurge of her unabated agony. She could not help but surge in the rising tempest of her unrequited love. She rose and fell as her chest heaved with each rise and fall of her emotions. It continued stinging her with the bane of her obscure past, while she could do nothing but pretend that everything was just fine; and that she was certainly not missing the man beside her, who had taught her the essence of fatherhood. Pummelled by the tides of his stark memories, she kept struggling on the troubled waters of survival. Hadn’t she hid her face in his arm-pit and slept peacefully beside him? Wouldn’t he dig at the reason each evening for her inexplicable silence? As each wave splashed against her glum face, she wondered how could have she placed this stranger in place of her father, and maybe she should have never done it at all. Truth is truth, unaltered and adamant against everything; while appearances, deceptive. And the truth was that her own father had died long back, when she was a child. Watching herself plumbing the depths of despair and desolation, she anyhow chose not to believe anything, her mind dictated. All she wanted; was an immediate end to one of her worst nightmares and be safely ashore in his protecting arms as soon as possible.
Slightly turning towards him to steal his one last glance, she could not stand the questioning gaze in his dim-lit eyes. His face stood unmoved against every infliction she endured. For a fraction of a second, they both shared a mutual stare which she would value throughout her life, she thought. However, resisting as much as she could, she finally broke… broke the best way she could…with least botheration about the world that could have inherited its allegations… she broke; against her own established image of a strong warrior…she broke; though with courage in her soul and fire in her eyes, she broke; underneath his armour, shielded and protected; underneath his shade, she broke as he cupped himself over her weak body…she broke, as though never to be mended again; as though never to face him again… she broke open all the bars that had disciplined and ordained her life as she broke before him like a small child (fearing loneliness on a busy street)…
She clutched to his chest and immediately pushed her face hard against it, while the sullen sky above turned even hazier. She selflessly winded her arms around his broad waist like an incapable destitute, that neither of them liked. Pulling his shirt violently into her drooling mouth, she finally begged him not to go. Not to desert her as such… That day, she broke all the rules, as she broke openly with no fear or control. It had never happened before. And yes; her eyes had never cried before.
She could not connect with this man intellectually with whom she had connected emotionally. By then, almost half the journey was already over. She never knew why she reacted as such, though visibly she had no reason to do so… she never knew why she had seen her father in him, though apparently he was none but a stranger. And she never knew, why had she ushered him in the darkest alleys of her inner self; and had let him see what others could barely imagine. The biggest doubt was had she ever really loved him or just the father she was still searching for. Despite all that had happened beyond her personal consent or control; the only thing clear was that walking down the road; they had just met, and just parted.
She leaned a little to his left and immediately let her body weigh against his with great ardour; as if silently pleading a little mercy for his daughter, if not much. Meanwhile, the car careened around sharp curves with even greater speed. The big mountains stood inert to the little troubles, the young girl faced. She felt queasier and more painful as she watched every tree passing by. With each of them disappearing into a realm of uncertainty, she turned more certain that she was going to lose him sooner. Struggling against her self-control, she selflessly laid her head in his lap, longing for his hand to stroke her dishevelled hair; for one last time. Her deep covetous eyes wanted to save the little she was left with as she looked at grabbing those last moments; and clinging on to them as long as she could. She discovered his inverted face sharing the same pain; and somehow narrating the same tale (though much regulated and properly channelled). Unable to bear any longer, she turned her head upside down, and hid it as such for some time; wishing that none brought her the news, she already knew. It was difficult and so was it suffocating.
Life had brought her to his warm refuge by its own will and now was parting them away, again of its own accord. She continued avoiding looking into his eyes believing he might read her as well, the way she had read his, once. ‘15 kms’, the white milestone read as the car sped to the last station and so did her heart. By now, she had already grown too weary to the situation and miserably fallen silent. She had reached a place where complaining or pleading seemed to yield nothing but more pain. Sighing, she moaned to herself that no one would understand why he meant so much to her. No one would ever understand how she had savoured the date; he had offered her when they first met. She was losing herself with each thought of losing him, because he had cherished and catered to a buried child in her; who had needed love as much as others did. It was not that he would leave her…it was just that she would again be left behind…
Though apparently she was a young girl, in whom an impoverished child was missing this (mysterious) man as her father; yet somewhere somehow it was not clear who was a child amongst the two. It was not clear at all, if truth be told. All that was clear was that the duo shared a parent-child relationship, no matter who was who. What they had uniting them was enough and the individual distinctions mattered the least… for they were in each other… all along…
“Have you ever performed an ablution by someone’s tears?” she murmured cleansed as he wiped the tears off her cheeks.
Rather than responding to it, he again chose to do the needful for her, like he always did. Taking out a pack of biscuits and a banana he had bought her, he offered it to her saying merely,
“khaa.” (Have it)
“Nai. Please.”(No. Please) She replied.
“khaa, naa. Acha, ye le bag mein rakh; raat ko khaana” (Have it. Alright, put it in your bag and have it during the night)
“mera jaana please aur mushkil na kijeye. Please”. (Please don’t make my leaving more difficult.)
The car slowly halted towards the left side of the road. The driver opened the door and so did he. A frightening tumult of her hidden fears suddenly stormed into her eyes, that could have destroyed everything in its way…He was going to leave and so was she. But; all of a sudden, she mysteriously felt an intense energy within herself…a faith in their relation that existed beyond belief, time and space. There was a magical gleam in her radiant eyes and her face shone brightly with the glow, it had never had before. She seemed to be a transformed her. Before I got down to bide them my last goodbye, she quickly slipped his pack of biscuits into her bag and said,
“next time milenge to saath khayenge insha-allah.” ( Let’s have it together the next time we meet. God-willingly)
It never mattered what was his stand in this relationship. At least in his conduct, he had always been sure of his limitations and priorities. He knew how much he could have given/sought while on the contrary, she could never be so wise. The problem was within her. She was the one desperate of love and scared/doubtful of relations. How could have he helped her? The problem was within her. But, she had now learnt that she must tackle it herself and rise above these petty things…she had a faith in the unseen…and most importantly, she had now learnt to walk alone but not without acknowledging love… Seeing him parenting this way, I too discovered a question, that I wanted to ask him, “Baba; if I were a baby delivered in your arms, would you nurse me likewise?”
Taha mughal is an architect by profession. He writes poetry and fiction. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.