I was waiting for my baba, for I knew that when he came back home, he was going to hum himself into the house, pretending that it was just another normal day. And I knew that after he had had his lunch, he would sit in the swing, settle me in his lap, and would try his hardest to keep himself from smiling and looking down into my expectant face.
He had been doing that for some time now. Every other month, when he got his salary, he would bring me a present. Anything. It was not that I had ever desired of something special from him, but that in the very ceremonious way he always presented me with the gift he got me, he became my king in the shining armour.
My twin brothers were too young to understand what he meant to me. They would only keep hold of his fingers until they were given the candies he brought. And the moment they did, you would only hear the sound of the candies being unwrapped! That was the glory of my family, my father.
Mother had died just after my brothers’ first birthday, and now baba was our only world. My grand-parents took care of us all day, but nothing ever diminished my excitement when baba came home from work. I was his princess, after-all.
And that day, I was cheated of my title. My kingdom, my king, the center of my universe. I sat unawares of the sounds around, for I only had my eyes at the door from my window upstairs. I was daydreaming of the probable present he would get me this time, and I was too engrossed to understand that the sounds were getting harsher, and way closer for my peace of mind.
Sometimes a child consciously denies a possibility, maybe that was what I was doing. Maybe I was just pretending that those sounds were not related to our side of the street. But, maybe, I knew. I might have understood that the shouting was coming straight to our corner, and that at any moment, the mob could turn its wrath upon us. I might have known. I might just have.
But I didn’t. For if I did, I would not have stood there, stock still, too shocked to move. Too socked to speak, too taken aback to even consider alerting my grandparents of it. Of the mob. Of the torches lit in their hands. Of the turbans upon their heads. Of the speed of their chase. And of the man they were chasing.
To state it this way, the paper is getting wet. The tears will start to spread and blur the words the ink has created upon the paper. But the long kept agony has to be taken out. Some way, although I am now a resident of a stable social environment, I need this therapy to get myself out of that constant horror of losing the father of my children….
He was about to enter the safety of his home, but someone grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him around, and a knife was thrust forward. Once, twice, thrice. I felt that, the splash of his blood on the murderer’s face. With an inevitable jerk in my whole body, a shriek escaped my mouth, and the world went blank, and I felt my soul slipping out.
Tear drops, falling on my face, jerked me out of the coma I had gone into, and I woke up shrieking and rubbing the wetness of the blood from my face which was not there. Someone was trying to grab me, but I was too desperate to clean my face to let them hold me. The one thing that shook me out of the trauma was the pain I felt in my left hand then. It was minutely bleeding where the drip needle had been scraped off, while a chubby warm hand held it tight to remind me of a presence.
I looked at him. I kept looking, and after the insistent ticking of the clock got to my nerves, I became aware of a tiny body lying beside me on the bed. He was awake now, staring at me, sleep still lurking there, confusion evident in his eyes. Confusion at my ability of recognizing him.
It tore at my heart, I took them into my arms, and cried my heart out into their hair. I cried and I cried. Every other breath, I kissed their silky heads. Minutes ticked by, and a hand came to rest upon my head. I looked up, into my grandma’s eyes, and saw the fear. The fear of losing me to insanity. Trying to hide my agony behind the façade of resolution, a young girl prepared herself to launch into a demure life.
It was right after the division of the subcontinent, that same year. I had been happy that baba had not needed us to shift to a new home, for I loved it there. But the way they took him, I had wanted to change our residence as soon as could be possible. It took years to accomplish that, and yet, I lived each day, harbouring the fear of repetition. One never said such words aloud, and thus I kept a silent vigilant.
But the hurt, that feeling of my entire world crashing down, sustained. Even a few days back, I had had that flashback, and not until my babies laughingly called me, I was again stuck in that immobile phase. If I ever get the chance of redemption at any level, I would change the moment the Muslims of my region believed in their biased political leader.
P.S: The provider of the letter wishes discretion, thus the location, political, and other details have been removed.
Our prayers are but always with the Righteous.