Way too late


Muntaha Amin

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He sensed the opportunity—that, he could run away. And without considering anything else, he held his breath and made his way out of the torture camp—which lay besides a picket. He ran like an arrow. He was dragged in there by army after being suspected to be a militant’s relative. Interrogation session had just started with the other inmates when he just succeeded to flee, fortunately.

It was a cold midnight. And chilay kalan had embraced the whole valley—making it icy cold. He was panting as he ran as fast as he could. He had to cross an orchard to reach his home. While stepping into the orchard, he saw something unusual. Crouching with hands on his knees, he looked at a distance and saw a mound of something. It seemed like a huge sack but it was moving. Damp darkness had engulfed the scene. He could not properly see the object.

He grew curious as he hadn’t seen any such thing before on a dreary midnight in an orchard. He was at a distance and wanted to see the thing—but, he was scared! By now, he was perspiring and shivering. As he advanced further, he started sweating despite an intense cold of winter. He swallowed and walked some steps further. He saw something like a human figure struggling against the weather. It sent shivers down his spine. He felt tremble and shook in each and every part of his body.

Militancy was on its peak those days—so he thought, that it might be some torture victim—who would have been smashed and thrashed after being attacked by army and left to die in the biting cold. But the thing he saw the next moment made him chatter, and he closed his eyes. He could not believe what he saw…

He saw a naked girl shivering with deep marks and profound scars on her body. She had the imprints of fingernails on her neck. And her body gave the sight of a dreadful victim as if attacked by a pack of wild wolves. He panicked, got a sore throat! And, he could not gather his senses to think what to do. He was scared but his conscience would not allow him to get away and run.

He mustered all the courage, and covered her body with the chaadar he was carrying. He took her along with him to his place. Along the way, he kept thinking how the previous night army had raided the village, assaulted some young boys and created havoc all over. He felt extremely helpless.

The girl was numb and expressionless. Her shocked face was but in constant supply brine—tears gushing like raindrops from her eyes. He ushered her into his home. She moved in slowly. His mother flabbergasted when she opened the door. She was not able to get what her eyes were witnessing at the moment. He led the girl to a small room and told his mother about what had happened all along. She started mouthing obscenities and cursing the beasts who had harmed the fragile creature.

And then she bathed, draped the girl with a blanket and gave her some clothes to wear. She even dressed her wounds. “Don’t worry about anything, feel at home. And let me know if you want anything,” she told the poor victim. “You will stay with us until someone comes to claim you.”

The girl was given some servings of food and consolations by the boy and his mother. But she didn’t speak a word. She would just cry sometimes and stay motionless. And seemingly, stay numb most of the time. They tried to make her talk, but all their efforts were in vain—for she, would not utter even a single word.

After so many unrequited efforts, they concluded that it might be because of the shock that she wasn’t in a position to make conversations. They now decided that they wouldn’t insist her into speaking. And she might herself speak when she returns to normal state of mind. They hid her in a small room where no one would usually step in.

On the other side, the family members of girl—who lived in a nearby village—had started searching her with torches and search lights. But their search was cut short by curfew—imposed over village in the dead of the night. And they were forced to stay indoors. They were in total dismay, strolling here and there in their home compounds like the forcefully caged animals—who are eager to make their way out in the open.

At boy’s home, the girl was given lot of love and care—but her silence persisted. She passed her days reclining on the couch without motion. Her face remained blank without any expressions. Apart from silence, her other form of expression—was to shed relentless teardrops.

She was beautiful though—had blue eyes, and bold crimson cheekbones and scarlet lips. Innocence flashed from her face like the first ray of the sun. Her hair was raven black. And the boy had started fallen in love with her.

Every day, he would sneak in her room to have a look on her tender face. He talked sometimes, but she would not respond. She just turned her face away every time he looked in to her eyes.

Soon, the boy poured his heart out to his mother. He made the bold confession of his love by venting out all the dear feelings. He, in fact, expressed his desire to marry the girl!

On hearing the surprising confession, his mother grew furious. She told him that caring and sheltering a raped girl do not mean making her part of a family: “You cannot marry a rape victim. What will our community think? What will our relatives think?”

But the boy was firm on his stand. He remained calm and replied to his mother: “Being raped by beasts was not her fault. She needs love and care. She hasn’t committed any sin. And what if, you had a daughter, and God forbid, she had met the same fate!”

The pressing and persuading tone with which the boy was pleading for his love was slowly altering her mother’s outlook. “Why can’t we just think the other way round?” The boy continued. “She is an innocent girl, and once I confess my love to her, she will be happy and will come out of the shock. Then she will talk to me. I am desperate to hear her voice.”

And finally, the boy had a last laugh. His mother gave her nod. Deep inside him, the feeling was sublime. He was not going to care about the society and relatives. All he knew was that he was head over heels in love with her. He was firm on his decision and wanted to marry her come what may.

He was about to rush into the girl’s room—to propose her, when his mother stopped him. She advised him to wait—lest: the girl would perhaps think that the decision of marriage has been taken out of sympathy. The boy sensed the situation and decided to give her some time by delaying the proposal for a few days.

As usual he sneaked through the window to have a look at her that night. To his wonder, for the first time he saw her with combed hair and, dressed afresh. She had applied kohl on her eyes, smiled for the first time and then switched off the lights of the room.

He fell more and more in love with her by recalling her smile all over again. He was feeling her smile–the one, that could have cure every ailing person of the world. That it would have given a new hope to the defeated people. And that it would have set ablaze the toughest of hearts. It shot cupid’s arrow rapidly the moment she smiled.

That night, he dreamed of her as his wife—their future life, their children, and their little world. He could feel the ecstasy overdose by visualising her doing the daily chores in his home—cooking his favourite dishes, dressing the kids for school. The eagerness inside him was giving way to impatience and he would count the days now. In the same state, he retired to slumber.

And next morning, he was woken up by his mother’s screams. He ran down the staircase quickly. He could not forget for his entire life to come, what he saw next. He saw that the love of his life had ended her life! She had hanged herself on the ceiling fan! His mother, nearby, stood motionless.

He at once tried to let loose the scarf across the fan, begged her to wake up, sprinkled water on her face but her pulse had stopped racing. He felt his world crumble. He embraced her and wept his heart out. He lost track of everything. His dreams lay shattered on the floor. Amidst loud cries of wailing and moaning, he saw a neatly folded letter kept on the table. It read:

I am so grateful to you for all the love and care you bestowed on me. I didn’t talk—not because, I was in shock. But because, I actually had lost my voice the moment those wolves pounced on me. I had been a great singer of my village. Now I was deprived of my gift. I was a rape victim with no voice. And now, I was seemingly a burden on your family and my family as well. Now, I am bidding adieu to this world because the most gruesome memories haunt me. I am not able to sleep at night. My nightmares are even scarier. I can’t take it anymore. Thanks again for everything.

The boy fell down screaming, weeping: even if you had no voice of your own, I could have spent my entire life looking after you. I never needed your words. All I needed was boundless space in your heart and your company for a life time. But I guess; I am late. Way too late!

(Muntaha Amin is from south Kashmir’s Islamabad district. She has just passed her Class 12 exams)


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