Sep 20, 2011

A mother's love

It was a pleasant evening. The sun was just dipping beyond the horizon, a cool breeze was making its way through the closely packed huts and the usual stench seemed lesser. The mongrels seemed to have disappeared, leaving behind nothing but silence, broken only by the occasional cry of one of the toddlers who seemed a dozen a dime, in this colony. Somewhere far away, if one really strained their ears, they could hear what seemed like a quarrel between two old women. Then again, one could also lose themselves in the the soothing yet lost melody, as the widow who lived in the last hut on the left tried sing away her sorrows. To one eye, it appeared a perfect scenario. To another, almost an eerie calm before the storm..

And a pleasant evening it still was, when Ni'mah came skipping in to her home. She hurried to her mother, who was busy in the little portion of the hut that had been designated as the kitchen area. "Ammi Jaan" she said, "My teacher called me very good today. I wrote the entire tables of 9 before everyone else." "Hmm, that's good. Your abba will be very happy" replied Shafana. Disappointed with not having received the excited response she wanted, Ni'mah continued, "Nobody else did it for ten minutes after i finished. The teacher said i was very smart!" Lost in her own thoughts, Shafana again absently replied "Very good, sweetheart." Disappointed, Ni'mah turned towards the door and was about to exit, when she saw Ahmed jaan running through the colony, screaming at the top of his lungs..

At first, it seemed like he was being chased by the scourges of hell themselves, but soon, as he got closer and closer, Shafana heard the commotion and joined her daughter at the door. 'They're coming.. They're here..' he seemed to be shouting. 'Who is here?' wondered Ni'mah to herself. She turned to ask her mother, but stopped halfway when she noticed the expression on her mother's face. Shafana was shocked. She had heard of all the mobs which were victimising Muslims, but she had prayed fervently to Allah, that they would never come this way. She had heard too many horrifying stories of how the mobs had destroyed & desecrated entire families to be able to keep courage and she felt her feet give way..

Being the bright girl she was, Ni'mah immediately ran over, picked up some water and sprinkled it on the face of her mother, who regained consciousness, appearing ten years older than she had done ten minutes before.
"What happened, ammi?"
"Nothing sweetheart, nothing. I must be tired. I didn't eat properly in the afternoon."
"Ammi, what was Ahmed jaan saying? Who is coming?"
"Ni'mah, my dear, you know that your abba and I love you a lot, right? You're the prettiest, smartest girl in the world."
"Ammi, tell me.. who is coming?"
"*sigh* It's the Hindus. They're coming in mobs. It'll be alright. Don't worry."
"Ammi, why are they coming? Why would i worry?"
"Nothing sweetheart. Some people did very bad things to Hindus on a train. Some of them think that every muslim should be punished. Don't worry, nothing will happen to us, Allah will protect us.."
"But ammi, doesn't Allah get angry with people who do bad things? Isn't that what abba keeps telling me? And even my teacher at school tells us that Hindus, Muslims, Christians and everybody else is equal. Isn't it, ammi?"
"Ammi, why are you crying?"
"Nothing, Ni'mah, nothing. Yes, you're right. Allah does not like people who do bad things. He will punish whoever did any wrong to anyone. But the Hindus do not believe in Allah. They have become blind with anger. Allah will protect us. Allah will forgive them.."
"But ammi, even if they don't believe in Allah.. is it still not wrong to do bad to others. Aren't they still human?"

Before Shafana could reply, screams began to escalate through the colony. From the doorway, Shafana could see men dressed as priests and whatnot dragging out women from the homes, striking them mercilessly. Then, she noticed something which froze her in horror at the sheer magnitude of the vulgarity. Afsana, her friend's 12 year old daughter was stripped naked and being passed around amongst the wolfish mob, who, it appeared by the dancing lights of their torches, had developed vulpine teeth and devilish horns. Afsana's mother lay nearby, her clothes in shreds and some hairy beast on top of her, while more beasts with greedy eyes surrounded the scene like vultures, waiting for their share of the spoils.

Quickly bolting the door, Shafana huddled in the corner with the now silent Ni'mah, saying all her prayers, hoping that the mob would not come their way. She thought of how much she loved Ni'mah, her abba and how much he owed to him. She thought of what she had just seen and though she wanted to throw up, she couldn't muster the courage to move from the corner she was huddled in. Much though she tried, she couldn't get the scene out of her head. All of a sudden, the scene seemed suddenly surreal and she saw Ni'mah in place of Afsana.. Overcome with disgust, she tried to push the image out of her mind. But before she could, she saw vivid images of herself, knife in hand, trying to fight away the beasts, and seeing that there were too many, putting the knife through her daughter's heart, feeling like it was going through her own..

Ni'mah, who was already shivering, shuddered as there were loud thuds on the door. She could hear chants in praise of the Hindu gods outside. She didn't want to go out. She wanted the door to remain closed, forever. It felt very comfortable in the warm embrace of her mother. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she saw her mother grab the kitchen knife. Was she going to fight away the bad people? As the thumping increased, the door began to give way. As it slowly but surely started to move out of its hinges, Ni'mah's heart began to pound and she turned to look at her mother. Her mother was crying, very clearly. And then she noticed something peculiar. Her mother's hand, holding the knife seemed to be raised. It was now moving down, it seemed, towards Ni'mah's heart and she slowly watched it come closer and closer..

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