Hafeez had been climbing for the better part of an hour. Another hour remained until his destination. The view was wonderful. Moss covered pebbles, like emeralds, were strewn before him. The bamboo groves seemed to hug him close, whispering secrets into his ears. He could see as far away as Sangua town, in the valley that stretched before him.
Phawngpui or the Blue Mountain which he was climbing, was covered in a swirling mist, giving the impression that the clouds had descended on to the peak, a perfect abode of the Gods. Maybe the Gods had kept his Ruhana safe.
Weak eyes tried to pierce the misty veil to locate the stone arrangement that had marked the place where he’d left her, hungry, hurting and alone. They had trekked for two nights and two days under the cover of the susurrating bamboo groves and the swirling mists, refugees from the other side of the border. Sleep had weighed down their tired limbs and sure-footedness had lost the battle with fatigue. She’d stumbled on a rock and with a sickening crunch, their journey had halted.
Only half a day’s journey remained for their deliverance. He had to proceed. After making sure she was comfortable, he’d given her the last of their food and water and left. Not before arranging some rocks in a cairn to mark the spot.
He’d promised he would come back. And here he was. The mists suddenly cleared and now he could see the Thalazuang Khamm bathed in the warm golden sunlight. A few more steps and the light glinting off the rocky structure rewarded his exertions.
He imagined his little girl lying there and waiting for him, scared but trying to be brave for his sake, her pitiful reserves of water and food dwindling slowly. When had the realization dawned that he wasn’t coming? What were her thoughts as she lay there, unable to move, a beacon for the large cats that prowled the area? He’d mulled over the questions countless times in the past as he lay incarcerated in the single cell in the little town these past six months, his only crime, the crime of existence. Rohingya is a dirty word, an imprecation. Mercifully, Ruhana hadn’t known that.
With eager steps, he reached the spot. Six months is a long time and there were no signs of his girl or what she must have gone through. The cairn stood there, a silent witness to what had happened. The cliff beckoned in his despair and as he stood on the edge, a delicate little bone, bleached white with the sun and rain, peeped from the dense foliage below.
He must’ve been mad. A sane man wouldn’t have dared go down that steep cliff, but he did. To bring back what was left of his baby and to give her a proper burial, the cairn marking her resting site. Once done, he turned back. He never noticed the pitter patter of little feet following him silently.
Disclaimer: This story is inspired by “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje. The opinions and thoughts expressed in this story are those of the author.
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