As she walked on the road she suddenly felt that some one was following her, or at least, walking side by side. She was petrified by the very thought as to why someone followed her. She stopped, glowered around with hatred in her eyes. She found none. ‘Is it my hallucination?’ she whispered and resumed the walk. Just few steps and a similar feeling spawned within her, as before, struck her mind, making her paranoid. She strolled a few more steps and again stopped after trying a detailed look. Yes, something was walking alongside. She gazed down on the road and saw the long black image .
It was a shadow!
She felt enraged and tried to hit it with her foot. But she could strike the road only and rest of the shadow remained in tact. The shadow was interesting in its nature. It at times grew fatter, at other times very long and sometimes did a sort of mimicry with its actions. She had been watching it for some time .When she tried to slap it, the shadow also waved its hand. When she tried to use her feet it changed its direction as fast as she moved her feet. She had been observing these actions which got her angry and occasionally infuriated her. ‘why are you following me ?’ she sometimes asked in hushed tone but getting no replies irritated her. The other thing which made her seethe with anger was the colour of the shadow.
It was always black!
She did not have any liking for black colour as she thought it being the colour of deep sorrows. Colour of deep unrest and colour of sufferings. She wanted that this should not follow her.
Sometimes she tried to recollect as to when did it start following her. She remembered the child hood when she was a lovely buxom kid with chubby face and two tufts of hair braided towards her shoulders. But then she played and tried to hit it. As she could not hit she giggled and tried more and more. During the days of her youth she smiled at it and did not try to hit thinking that people around may poke fun at her. But for sometime now it moved along as and when she walked. Sometimes making her feel unsafe and sometimes petulant.
One evening when people had entered their houses and the day’s hustle and bustle had come to a stop she heard the sound of foot steps. Couple of people were possibly running around her house. She got up and tried to analyze as to what was happening. So did her young husband. Then she saw some shadows moving in different directions.
Shadows , black shadows!
As she watched shadows making different images a sharp sound ricocheted. This feeble but sudden sound was followed by shadows running out of the compound of her house. She ran faster towards the spot from where feeble sound ricocheted and the sanguinary sight shook her from top to toe. Her whole body became palsy as she silently fell on the ground. Life, for her, changed altogether.
The very idea of it plunged her into delirium at times and occasionally made her stutter.
She had seen it walking with some other people also. It changed shapes as the people took various positions . With someone bending on one knee and stretching one arm lot of smoke would be spread among the people. The smoke was highly toxic. At other times she felt that fire would come out of it making someone drop down like a tree sawn at stem and then blood would ooze out . At some point she saw people’s body developing small pores and blood coagulation resulted .At times the eyes would get damaged forcing the sufferer grope in blindness. When she saw the smoke and then blood for the first time she started hating this . She cultivated extreme hatred for smoke, oozing blood, groping and the dark colour . All these, she felt, were anti thesis to life. Life she loved so much. Life of happiness. Life of joy and enjoyment. Life of great virtues. But this black shadow was harbinger of dullness, sorrow, tears and wails.
She was a metaphor for Kashmir, her native place, her heaven on earth. Some time back a vast verdant filled with beautiful flowers. But over the years thistle had spread all over which caught her as she walked .
Suddenly, some people realized that she was sinking down and may fall on the ground. They came nearer but their shadows spread in front of her. She was in a way encircled by the shadows, rather a web of shadows caught her like an insect in the trap. She tried hard to beat the shadows but could not. The sudden attack from the shadows baffled her. She slithered down. People around her tried to make her take swigs of water but drivel dripped down the corners of mouth.
Her body and her shadow did not separate!
Shafi Ahmad is a novelist based in Kashmir.