7th September 2018
I stood outside the Mumbai High court gates my heart pounding in anticipation. I sipped burning-hot tea instantly wheezing in a quick breath as it scalded my tongue.
“Slowly….” Ahmed bhai of ‘Jannat’ tea stall cried out. He had been my only constant along with his little tin shop fringed with an assortment of biscuits and namkeen in the last innumerable years of my multitudinous visits to this Palais de justice.
22 years was Farzaan’s sentence meted last year. He had served more…
I rubbed the tea stains from my otherwise spotless kurta. Farzaan loved whites and I couldn’t wait for him to see me unblemished.
The latest addition to Jannat was the small TV set fixed on a wall by wires in a concoction stranger than the one in my hand. It played a fixed news channel throughout the day, the languorously crackling buzz of the reporters adding to the cacophony of the law seekers and breakers around us.
‘…the death toll of the Kolkata Bridge collapse increased…
… The teams have reached the Duleep trophy finals to be held…
… yesterday, the Supreme court consisting of a five-judge Bench unanimously dismissed IPC Section 377 …
…the group of Bajrang dal activists stormed into the Madrasa claiming…. situation tense….’
Shuddering, I shook my head and returned to my brew. It had grown cold by now, bitter.
Just like my Farzaan.
Just like me.
25 years of iniquitous confinement would do that to anyone and not to mention my soul heavy with guilt. Farzaan was in there because of me. For his unfathomable love for me.
A lone tear escaped its kohl-rimmed confine and I brushed it away, the jingle of my bracelet bringing me back to the present. The blackened silver ornament now missing most of it’s sonorous bells was the last gift from Farzan. With a career in banking, I had enough savings to buy myself many such gold bracelets but this was the sole reminder of our life that could have been.
I finally saw him as I threw away the plastic cup. A shell of his former self with overgrown salt and pepper unruly beard, his stained skull cap not covering the mop of his rebellious mane fluttering all around him; Farzaan stilled, joining his palms to offer a prayer.
He had refused to meet me after the initial two years. He said it was too overwhelming for him.
But that only fuelled my longing. I prayed to every God, right from Maa Durga’s photo in my humble home, to the dark stoned elephant God in the nearby temple. His sentencing happened last year but he had served term already.
Farzaan looked at me decrepitly stumbling towards him and as our middle-aged eyes clashed, something shifted, something churned… I ran unmindful of my saffron stole flying behind me with strange indiscipline. The tiny bells on my wrist tinkled meekly, the drops of the retreating monsoon brushing against my face and mingling in my tears.
“Tara, you should live for the two of us…” Farzaan’s last words before his capture rang in my ears.
A blurred Farzaan fell on his knees crying into his green scarf given by his lawyer. Notwithstanding my weak knees, I fell next to him and took him into my arms.
As the world around us watched, we wept, our hearts speaking what we couldn’t. Orange and green finally met, hopefully forever.
Breaking barriers, dismembering social norms
Our love survived surpassing all storms.
18th September 1993
Mumbai high court
The crowd gathered outside swelled as the court held the initial rounds of trial for the Mumbai blast accused. Farzaan was held on multiple counts. Storing RDX* that was widely used in the blasts and also murdering a security guard.
I stood with a lawyer appointed by the court which I knew was a farce. Chewing tobacco all the time the man was engrossed only in reading newspapers that followed the blast trials and never moved an inch to help Farzaan.
“Sawant sir…” I pleaded desperately as we awaited the trail to begin. “…Please do something. Farzaan isn’t…. I mean…”
“Mala maajhe kaam shikvu nako… Why are you crying for that Muslim fellow? Don’t you know what they did? Don’t you know how many people died in those blasts?”
“Sir, but Farzaan didn’t know it was RDX.” I pleaded.
“And I am the King of England…” he chuckled, the red spittle flying all over the case papers he held.
“Sir, Farzaan did it for his mentor Shabbir Memon. Farzaan only hid the bag for Shabbir. He did it for my heart surgery… he saved my life. Please…”
“…then you should have died. You have disgraced your family as it is by moving in with him. What about that murder charge then?”
I swallowed the lump of anger. “Sir, the security guard tried to molest me…”
The man burst out laughing drawing attention towards us and I hugged the edges of my stole together.
“Do you even know what you are saying? The guard had to be insane to be doing what you said… but why kill him then…?”
“Sir that was…” I had been through this so many times.
“That poor guard was a Hindu just doing his job and that bloody terrorist…”
“Sir please don’t badmouth Farzaan.” My neck muscles strained as I controlled my emotions.
Sawant ignored me and walked away. I couldn’t afford someone else.
The court order for today’s undertrials came through and while the public around me rejoiced, I fell into an abyss of misery.
Farzaan was among the perpetual undertrials for section 324 and also under the TADA act.
My despair spread like the arachnid gossamer
My life my soul set to wilt and whither.
12th May 1993
“Tara, promise me…” Farzaan uttered in his velvet-engulfed baritone that never failed to stroke my embers of passion.
I snuggled further into his arms, the blanket sliding down my bare back and a blast of the crude cooler in Farzaan’s studio apartment pierced my sensitive skin. He covered me up instantly.
Farzaan knew everything.
I smiled choked with emotion as I drew lazy circles on the soft mat of curls on his chest while staring at the faded painting of the Ayatul Kursi*, that I had gifted him a couple of years ago. That was the only version I could afford with my driblet of pocket money. The light green walls chipping at various places were pockmarked by dark patches where leakage permeated through poor architecture. A steady stream of sunlight gushed in through a creak in the wall and the dancing dust particles mirrored our hearts…
“What is it Farzaan?” I was shaken out of my reverie.
“Promise me you will live a complete life, free from this communal madness. Reconcile with your folks, study, marry…”
“…Farzaan…” I went on my elbow, the cold flurry notwithstanding this time. “…we are committed and religion has never been…”
He suddenly turned me on my back and was upon me in the next instant holding my arms above my head, his black taveez hanging in mock oblivion. His brownish orbs twinkled as he grinned but his smile didn’t reach his eyes. He came closer and our chests touched sending waves of ecstatic pleasure clenching my core. I inhaled his characteristic musky fragrance I had been used to by now, yet yearned for more. I longed to scale the boundaries of prurience again, despite the marathon rounds the night before.
How I craved for him…
To my utmost disappointment he moved away a little, our bodies still touching and I sensed the tight prodding against my thighs. Why was he fighting the desire?
“Tara, sweetheart, we don’t have much time. I have decided to willingly surrender…” I gasped as he continued. “…this cat-and-mouse game will doom both of us. It’s two months already since the Mumbai blasts happened. Instead, just let me face the fire… I have to pay for my sins.”
“Sins? Farzaan you did it all for me. So, we both are at fault. What about our dreams? In a couple of years, we could have gotten our degrees… married…” I tried grasping the last straws.
“No Tara…” Farzaan sighed, his warm breath fanning my face. “…Please live for the two of us. I will always be with you in spirit… You are my everything… I love you Tara…” his voice cracked and I could feel the pain of hearts splintering, the quiescence around us intensifying.
Before I could protest there was a banging on the door. We dressed quickly as Farzaan pushed me into the tiny storeroom in the corner camouflaged well by the damp wall. The inevitable was finally happening. He kissed me one last time, sliding a thick folder in my hand.
“Your college admission…see it through… for us,” Farzaan whispered shutting the door.
I couldn’t see anything but I heard it all. The strikes of the cane against the skin, the locks of the handcuff…
His blood-curdling screams, their demonic laughter
My nightmares filled with diabolical wails hereafter
15th March 1993
Farzaan and I got out of the black and yellow Premier Padmini cab, symbolic of Bombay. I had been here for over two months now and loved the city.
Everything looked up for us. Though we were young we were filled with hope for a bright future together. We had come so far and Farzaan had been a pillar of strength as I meandered through the curve-balls life threw at me.
But ever since the blasts happened 3 days ago, things weren’t the same. Instead, they brought back the horrors of December last year when the Babri Masjid demolition happened.
Farzaan dragged me towards the dilapidated building. He said his mentor often met him there. Shabbir saab, had helped Farzaan when he had come to Mumbai often in the past few years to make some money before returning to Azamgarh to his old grandparents and me.
But today there was no one and the eerie silence of the place was interrupted only by crows crowing desultorily, and the putrid odour of the open urinal made me want to throw up. I had recently recovered after a very important surgery and my heart was pacing out of control in fear of the unknown.
I gripped Farzaan’s hand as he looked around.
“I swear, Tara, he always met me on Mondays at this time and place. Every time it was a small package to be delivered to someone in some hotel but the last time it was a black bag and a heavy one… and the TV news… they say something about the black bags containing RDX.”
“Do you have a number?” I looked around if there was a public booth in sight, but more so to give hope to Farzaan.
“No Tara, there is no number. I don’t know anything anymore.” Farzaan looked desolate and it killed me from within.
“Kon aahe tithe*…?” A gruff voice called out to us.
We turned to see a security guard and my grip tightened. I felt Farzaan tremble too.
“Saheb, we are looking for Shabbir saab….” Farzaan spoke a little over a whisper.
The guard laughed aloud sending shivers down my spine as he gave me a once-over.
“There is someone on the terrace. Go meet him… alone.” He told Farzaan.
“Tara, please wait here. I have to find Shabbir saab.”
I nodded, scared and my eyes didn’t leave Farzaan.
But as soon as Farzaan was out of sight, the guard hugged me. He began to grope my chest and stomach and I wanted to throw up. I struggled to move and began to scream.
The swine only laughed. “Scream all you want Chamiya… don’t I know the likes of you? Let me enjoy a bit too….” He cupped me between my thighs and squeezed even as I screamed in agony.
Suddenly he was off me and he staggard behind as Farzaan stood fuming.
“Keep your filthy hands away…” Farzaan fumed even as I hid behind him gripping his shirt.
“…Filthy…? I am filthy? The likes of you are filth. You shouldn’t exist on earth…” the man wailed.
“Come Tara, let’s go.” Farzaan held my hand and we began our exit from the property.
The next instant the guard hit Farzaan and he stumbled back.
“Let me have fun with this whore too… mil baatke khaate hain…” the guard blurted and pulled my hand. I cried in pain as Farzaan’s gift, a silver bracelet cut into my skin.
Farzaan picked up a stone and hit the guard on the head. Stunned the man reeled and staggered backward and fell. His head hit another stone… fatally.
We ran from the place and caught another cab that brought us back to Dongri. Even as Farzaan closed the door and held me, I knew nothing would ever be the same again.
Everything substantial lay on a sliver of hope
Trust, love all melting away, I couldn’t in rope.
12th March, 1993
I was hooked to the TV set in Farzaan’s home. I had just moved herecouple of days ago after staying at some place belonging to his acquaintance. My heart surgery was a success. And I was breathing freely for the first time since I had seen the light of the day. My family knew it all but my bauji couldn’t afford it with a family of 13 members to support, with his meager railway employee salary, back in Azamgarh. I was the 5th and the youngest accidental child.
I was unwanted.
Bauji needed money to fend for my older brothers’ education, marry off my sisters and settle in his village in Lucknow post-retirement. My heart could wait or the icing on the cake would be if the hole in my heart claimed me….
I blinked back tears and smiled at Farzaan. The love of my life had delivered as promised. He had assured me ever since we got together that he would bring me to Mumbai… the bade wale hospitals and doctors would treat me. And they did. I knew it cost a lot and Farzaan often downplayed my doubts.
But today I was disturbed. A series of bomb blasts had ripped across the city. Farzaan had been quiet ever since the news was flashed on the screen. The reporters were trying to show the dismembered bodies and the harried police were scampering all over with health officials and the near and dear ones of the missing. There was utter chaos as blast after blast rocked the city of dreams.
Farzaan frantically left home cautioning me to stay put and returned very late into the night.
“Farzaan what is it?” I walked towards him worried out of my mind.
“Tara, something is wrong. I can feel it. My mentor Shabbir saab is nowhere to be found. They say he had gone ‘underground’. Even a couple of acquaintances through whom Shabbir saab connected with me have disappeared.”
“Should we leave too, Farzaan?”
“No… where would we go Tara? After 6th December Azamgarh isn’t safe for us anymore. My grandparents are no more. Besides, I have put all my money into renting this tiny home. It’s not much but enough for you to recover completely and for us to start a life together.”
I nodded and that night’s sleep eluded me…
The boomerang was thrown
The seeds of karma were sown
8th December 1992
I ran panting in agony even as my chest capsized. I somehow made it to Farzaan’s home.
Babri Masjid was demolished two days ago and my family of 11 was reduced by 3 as my grandparents and my young cousin were burnt alive trying to escape to Lucknow. The rest of us were saved as we had moved in with the neighboring Azmis in the dead of the night. We spent two nights in their stuffy barn not even being able to mourn the deaths in the family, while our home was reduced to ashes. The mad crowds went berserk and communal riots were beyond my imagination. Here we were in the minority whereas in other places they were.
That evening I couldn’t take it anymore. I missed Farzaan… he was the only one who made me feel whole. For whom my existence mattered.
“Where the hell do you think you are going?” my father roared as I covered my head ready to leave.
“Where else but that characterless Muslim guy’s place…” My brother smirked. I knew they hated Farzaan.
“Get back in. Let us go back to Lucknow in one piece.” My father raged even as the rest of my family looked at me in disgust.
“No bauji. I can’t live like this anymore…” I had reached the pinnacle long before the riots.
“You should have died when you were born or when you were little…” Bauji wailed.
My amma just overlooked the proceedings as usual and clutching at my thin gold chain, turned around never to look behind.
On my way, I saw a crowd bearing torches walking down the road and I took the roundabout way to reach Farzaan. He lived alone these days and I knew I could stay with him for a while before we decided on the next course of action. I had some of my minuscule pocket money saved with him.
Farzaan took me in and that night our lovemaking surpassed all boundaries as we vented out pouring our miseries into each other.
But my breathlessness too reached a crescendo as I struggled for every breath and Farzaan held me till I calmed a bit.
“Tara, let’s go to Mumbai. I have money saved and Shabbir saab has promised to help me, even with college admissions. Let’s leave tomorrow itself. I have checked a couple of sarkaari hospitals… Shabbir saab has contacts there and the surgery can be done without difficulty.”
This decadent darkness would go away
The ray of hope was there to stay
8th September 1986
The last bell for the day rang and we stormed out of the Azamgarh government school. I was the proverbial black sheep in my family and while my brothers studied in a private school as my bauji paid through his nose, I languished here.
My sisters had finished matriculation and were now being honed to get married. I was jealous of them. My older sister recently had her puberty function and she received new clothes. I didn’t even get a new outfit for Diwali. After all my heart could give away soon…
I walked out and found Farzaan waiting for me at the usual place under the peepal tree away from prying eyes. He hugged me and my 13-year-old heart struggled yet fluttered. Was this love?
Whatever it was I liked it. This was the best phase of my lousy life.
We promised to meet at his place today. He wanted to show me something special he said. At 15, he tall and sturdy. My parents didn’t care about what I did so permission wasn’t an issue and his grandparents were busy working on their pots in the adjoining lawn, where they had their tiny pottery workshop.
But when I reached home, for the first time I found my folks waiting for me.
“What is all this?” Bauji held up a lipstick tube and a tiny plastic kajal box. Since when was he interested in my possessions? I purchased it last month at the fair after saving up for months.
“Its… my lip…lip…lipstick” I stuttered clasping my palms in each other.
He flung it to the floor and tears welled up in my eyes.
“How can you bring such disrepute to the family…?” He bellowed even as my brothers snickered. They always looked down upon me. “…How can I get your sisters married if anyone comes to know of all this?”
“And bauji…” My oldest brother quipped in. “…our Tara is friends with that Muslim boy, Farzaan. That odd boy…” he chuckled.
“Enough is enough… just remember. Despite your weak heart, you are a BOY… Taranath Aloknath Chaudhury. So don’t go around doing girl stuff. If I find you doing this again… then you shall have it from me.” Bauji warned before leaving for his shift.
But like always no one cared and I escaped from the backdoor unseen.
Farzaan stood quietly, staring out of his window. I knew he was waiting for me and I rushed and hugged him.
He turned around and with the crook of his index finger, lifted my chin and bent gradually. His lips touched mine and I curled my toes. My heart went ballistic and I gasped. Our tongues met and to my surprise, I reveled in it…
He slid my pants below my reed-thin hips and that evening I scaled the heights of new emotions.
Hearts swaying on a roll
Today we became whole…
- Ayatul Kursi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Throne_Verse#:~:text=The%20Throne%20verse%20(Arabic%3A%20%D8%A2%D9%8A%D9%8E%D8%A9%D9%8F,to%20be%20comparable%20to%20Alla
- RDX: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RDX
- Mala maajhe kaam shikvu nako: don’t teach me to do my job
- Kon aahe tithe: who is there?
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