A million suns

Arshid Malik

Imagine a million suns shining upon our planet! Would our planet burn under such heat and light? It would, as a matter of fact. What if we were talking about suns that were at a much greater distance than the existing sun, all of them? We would be blessed with a sight never even imagined. The brilliance of a million suns shining upon our planet with the same soothing effect that the existing winter sun has on us. The very thought of it lights me up. And what if one day we were to get up and find utter darkness upon our planet earth. No sun to light up our planet. It would be dark out. We would wonder as to where did the sun go? Did it disappear or collapse unto itself as happens to be the case with many a stars, one would question oneself. Or is it clouded out by some unseen spectre? How long would we be able to do without the sun? Not long, I guess. What would science say about this unusual and unheard of disappearance of the sun? Meetings would convene under artificial light and discussions would ensue about the probable causes of the disappearance and possible ways and means of finding the sun and somehow restoring the era of sunshine. There would be hope and lots of it as a matter of fact because that is what makes this race survive. There would be hope that one day we would be able to find the suns in its all glory or perhaps it would itself unveil itself and shine upon the planet in its pristine glory. For with no sun there would be no life. We would wither as would the animal and plant life on this planet. How long would the glories of science be able to carry us forth without the sun? A single sun, we are not talking about millions.

She called him Aftab (Urdu for sun) even though his name was Zubair. He had this thing about his face which bore resemblance to the sun. His face was always shining – lit with a broad smile. And for all reasons he was like the sun for his whole family. The day he was born a shimmering brilliance adorned the house of the Bhat’s – the family into which Zubair was born. He grew up to become the heart and soul of the whole neighbourhood. His very smile would light up your heart. He stood tall and had sharp features. His mother, Aisha Jee, was profoundly worried that he would fall prey to some evil eye and she almost always begged him not to go outdoors. Aftab was a loyal son and always listened to his mother. He would stay indoors most of the time and play with his kid sister. Even though all mothers happen to have this kind of a thing for their sons but Aisha Jee was too deep into it. Brought up in a household that was tilted towards the Sufi tradition Aisha Jee would make it a point to visit at least one Sufi shrine to pray for the good health and fortune of her son Aftab.

Zubair was only eight years old when his birthplace turned crimson. There was an uprising against a very suppressive regime of rule. People died. People were murdered. Blood, human blood painted the streets red. Nights as well as days turned into battlegrounds between the soldiers of the governing regime and the ones who sought freedom. There were protests and there were deaths, countless protests and deaths. Innocent blood mingled with the brooks that watered the fields where Zubair’s father tilled the soil which he owned. Tough times were ahead and Zubair’s mother was worried to death about the safety of her son.

Aisha Jee revolted against her husband who was too keen on giving good education to his son and he wanted Zubair to become a doctor. Aisha Jee wanted her son to quit studies and stay home. She only wanted him to be safe and secure. She could not afford to lose him. Some neighbours supported Aisha Jee and eventually Zubair dropped out of school. Even though he was not willing to drop out of school but his mother’s “bordering on a psychotic attitude” towards his safety was all too much for Zubair to under weigh everything. With blood on streets whose mother wouldn’t go a little “psychotic”? Aisha Jee would never let her son Aftab leave the house no matter what happened. Zubair was rendered tender as he was barley exposed to the sun.

A few years passed and Zubair was now tending to household chores which included handling the produce from the family’s farm land. He was twenty four now and even though his face had turned paler he had not lost the sun-like demeanour that lighted up the hearts of one and all.

It was a crisp summer afternoon. Zubair was reading a book out on the mud porch of his house. His mother had gone out to buy some bread. Zubair was frightened when the main door shook open all of a sudden and a kid from the neighbourhood yelled “Your mother is hurt”. Zubair rushed to the main entrance and started running out towards the street. All kinds of fears crossed his heart. What had happened? Was his mother alright? He was still running when a powerful hand grabbed him by the torso and hurtled him towards another who punched him hard in the face. Zubair fell and could barely see as blood rushing out of his nostrils splat into his eyes. Some abuses were thrown and some shots were fired somewhere nearby. This was the last that Zubair’s lazy village saw of him. He was gone and always forever.

Aisha Jee had been hurt by a kid riding a bicycle. She returned home soon enough to find her son Aftab missing. She rushed out and started inquiring around. There were no answers. Aftab had disappeared forever. Ten years hence the disappearance of Zubair, Aisha Jee hasn’t seen her only sun.


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