When the death had been curfewed in
Raafi Ul Islam
Something had set in and the whole town seemed to be a reflection of an old house under a spell, with the only exception that no doors creaked and no shadows haunted. But with time that too happened.
A stillness that surrounds an ice block surrounded this town. Such suspension however, could not stop the throb of the hearts to reach out to the open ears and thus Rashid, upon his return from Florida, had to lend his ears and forget about the rest of his senses.
What secrets could a little throb hold – old memories or fresh wounds? Who knows. For hearts are the independent warriors that never forget to beat their drums, no matter a victory or a defeat.
In case of Hyath, Rashid’s hometown in Kashmir, poplars surrounded it like the giant trumpets, pitifully leaf-less and without a voice. The Western winds did come, but, dazed at the stillness of the town, they dared not to harm its deadly peace. On his arrival, Rashid had to travel many a miles on foot to reach his town as the clock had been reversed in this part of the world and the invention of a wheel was a breakthrough yet to happen. No cars, no carts. Locked Masjids, bolted post offices. Garrisoned schools and curfewed souls.
“Paradise Welcomes You”. A sideway sign greeted Rashid and words jammed in his mouth like a sea-weed.
He walked amidst heavy steel-boots which seemed taller than everything else. Like a boat caught in the middle of a reckless storm, he prayed and even begged to reach ashore. But curfew – it is a silent storm that apart from life, invades dignity, freedom and honor. It cripples human existence and creeps into the human psyche like a wild-creeper around an old house.
A little further, a voice called out to Rashid. He turned and saw nothing except an empty street, shuttered shops and ready-to- kill troops. He resumed his heavy walk and then again – a voice. But this time it seemed nearer and a voice very much known to his ears. His heart began to beat faster and he tightly clenched it with his right hand. In curfew hours, beating hearts can be mistaken for the ticking bombs. He was nearing his home and suddenly the voice turned into a human figure – a man and then into his father.
“Baba!” A bag dropped, a tear trickled and a sudden feeling of joy and worry crept into Rashid’s voice.
In hugging his father, he hugged his own self and his arms seemed to cleave right through the body of his father. His father held his face in his hands and kissed it incessantly, as does a lost traveler drink from a sudden fountain. His dry lips didn’t hurt him and left no marks even.
“What are you doing here Baba?”
“Don’t talk my son. Come with me. Quick.”
Rashid followed his father into one of the innermost streets of the town and not very far from their home. He cupped Rashid’s chin again in his hands and tears dribbled like a warm drizzle and watered his marble-white beard. He kissed him again, on his temple, his hair, his eyes and then drank from his stream of tears.
“Let us go home father. There is curfew on the streets.”
“Pardon me Jaana, my son. I couldn’t live to see you come home, get married and narrate to me the tales of the uncurfewed world. I am sorry son. I am sorry.” He panted with grief and his heart joined in the procession, beating its sad drums.
Apart from turning back the wheels of time, something else had also been topsy-turvied in this part of the world. Here fathers pleaded their sons, not for life, but for death, which also never came easy.
“What are you talking about Baba. You don’t seem to be feeling well. Also Mama must be waiting; let us head home”.
“O’ dearest, you don’t understand. I have been dead a day before. Waiting for my burial has been like waiting for the almond blossoms. My dead body lies in my house and I can’t be at ease without the burial. You know, you know, you are my dearest son, my brave and strong child. You go and persuade these army personnels my son; I am feeling cold out here.” Rashid’s father begged his own child with a strange urgency.
Something akin to fear and dread flowed into the eyes of Rashid and before he could say anything, a voice flaring from the speakers of the army vehicle and ordering people to stay indoors and not move outside, interrupted Rashid’s train of horrified thoughts.
Heading towards the direction of their home, Rashid’s father kept pleading his son like a son to his father. Apart from turning back the wheels of time, something else had also been topsy-turvied in this part of the world. Here fathers pleaded their sons, not for life, but for death, which also never came easy.
“Please Baba, keep moving.” Rashid could only manage this much.
“Forgive me son. But, how could I bear the cruel forces inside my home, which your mother and I built with our blood and sweat. And your mother; all my life I have loved her like a sage. How could I bear their baleful presence, their strange and palpable lust. I am sorry Jaana. But what else could I have done!”
Nearing their home, Rashid gently knocked on the front door and waited for the response. However, nobody came. He knocked again and then again. In such a deafening silence, his knocks must have reverberated through the whole of the town. So to avoid undue attention of the soldiers roaming the streets, he called out:
“Mama. It is me, Jaana. Please open the door.”
“O’ Jaana, call a bit louder. They must be watering my body with their tears. And please don’t forget my burial. I can’t go inside with you. I am sorry dear. I am sorry. But please let me die.” Rashid’s father folded his hands in front of his son and exhausted his words.
Suddenly the door creaked and with it Rashid’s father’s figure retreated back and disappeared. The door opened and there greeting Rashid was his mother, whose words like her tears had also dried out. She looked up at his son, who hugged her and watered her eyes with his own tears. No words came out still. Not a single cry.
Over her mother’s shoulder, Rashid’s eyes got fixed on something. Something that froze him. There, awaiting burial, his father stood lifeless and still. The death had been curfewed in.
Author is an M.Phil student at International Islamic University Islamabad and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Views expressed are author’s own and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions