Fated Feminist I
“Get into your bed, Kiran!” my mother yelled at me, seeing that I was irritating my granny by forcing her to tell me my favorite story. I completely ignored the rage in her narrowed eyes and the pinching cold of January, and kept pleading for it. For no apparent reason, I would demand granny to retell the woman’s story. My granny looked into my eyes from atop her bed and asked me to get in beside her. The welcoming warmth of her bed soon embraced me. The chill I was feeling while leaping on to the side of her bed melted away with a temperate kiss and an affectionate hug. I looked at her, while she was setting the blanket and the quilt over us. She saw the impatience in my eyes and smiled. She knew that of all stories of genies and princesses, kings and demons, animals and monsters, I liked the woman’s story the most. She was busy in making the bed comfortable and I was looking at her, and I saw her shadow on the opposite wall without any wrinkles or grey hair. I realized that her beautiful round face has dilapidated into soft flesh creases, but her grey went perfectly with it. I felt drawn towards the weak adorable figure. She lay back and started the story without noticing my inspecting gawk.
“Once upon a time, there was a woman named Shahida and she was married to Jawad who owned lot of land,” my granny started gazing into my eyes. “The timid and shy wife had a child of 5 years. Most of the time, she’d stay at home and do daily chores. Jawad was the king of her life, he ordered and she followed.” I literally imagined a king with a crown and sword. “He took care of her; he worked in the fields and fed his family. Life was smooth”. My granny continued, “Her life started to change, when her cow died, which was the only source of milk and butter.” My stomach groaned, and I knew no one was going to wake up and warm the food for me as my grandmother continued the story, “They were shocked by the fact that they wouldn’t survive the harsh winter without dairy and butter. But Jawad and his parents found a way to survive the cold without selling their land; they asked her to bring a cow from her parent’s home. Since she was the daughter in law, she could ask her parents to give her a cow. She agreed, but deep down she was not sure if they would give her their cow. Although they were her parents, they also had to survive the cold. Soon they started the journey. It took seven hours to reach her parents by foot. They spent days there and Jawad already started to think about going back home. She embarrassedly told him that her parents couldn’t give away their cow. They turned her down. Disappointed, next day they started their journey back. It was a hard windy day. Jawad piggy backed their son and he hid behind his father’s back to avoid the icy slaps of winter wind.” My granny continued the story.
Everything went dark for a microsecond and then I realized that I had got into Shahina’s body. The transformation was enigmatic and I felt the cold on my body, I felt the gusts of icy wind on my cheeks; it was harsh and uncomfortable. Although, Jawad was moving quickly so that we could reach home before dusk, he looked back to see me. He didn’t smile. Feeling dejected, I followed him with my head down. I was ashamed of the fact that my parents didn’t give me the cow my family needed. The thought kept coming again that I failed as a daughter -in-law. I couldn’t bring the cow my family needed the most. The thought of seeing my mother in law disappointed when she would see us without the cow kept haunting me. The thought of how I couldn’t live up to the expectations kept creeping into my mind.
I looked at my son in warm clothes, the gleam in his eyes and I sensed the familiar smile underneath the hankie, with which Jawad covered his nose to avoid the winter wind. My tears started to pour, I knew this was hard, but I made up my mind. The wind made its way in my face through the thick shawl, with which I was covering my face. I felt the fear of dying, but the feeling of shame for not bringing the cow prevailed over any other doubts about my decision. I was determined and I knew the only way to deal with the embarrassment was my decision -- suicide.
The journey was exhausting and long, though for me it felt short; life was even shorter. I knew the place where I would take my last breath. Death seemed more comforting than the embarrassment and the shame that I held in my heart. The shame I felt for not fulfilling my family’s expectations was greater than any other thing I could possibly imagine. I was slowing down and the distance between us kept on mounting. I was looking at the noisy cold river, thundering alongside the road. I looked at him and looked at my son and felt angst in my heart. I felt my head heavy on my shoulders and each and every part of my body. I started to walk towards the roaring river. Numb, I began to move closer to the water. Over my shoulder I could see Jawad striding further away, oblivious to the fact that I was already gone; a shadow, never to follow him again. The chilly wind, filled with bitter, biting sand raged over my body. One step, two, no more and in a blink I was gone, I gave myself to the tortured waters a few feet away. Suddenly, with a terrible shock, I was engulfed by the frigid water and everything went black.
I was smashed back into the reality that Shahida was drowning and I was in bed with my granny. I took a breath of relief. My granny was still telling the story, “He shouted and shrieked behind her, but it was too late. He saw her red kurta in the swirling water, he saw her struggling for breath in the water, but he couldn’t do anything, he had no choice, but to watch her die. She was swirling in the freezing water, moving in and out of the chasm of death. He felt his son on his back, sleeping, unaware of the ferocious strong water, tearing his mother’s body from her soul. He felt so helpless, and devastated. All he could do was to wait for her on the side of the river. The death didn’t realize that it was snatching away a mother from her son. People started to gather when he went back and told his parents. They found her body in two days; it was stuck in dry wild bushes miles away from where she jumped. Her clothes were sewed so tightly that the water wouldn't expose her body even after her death, she died protecting her shame”.
My granny finished the story with a sigh. I saw shades of pain coming and going on her face with my drowsy eyes. She realized that, I was still there observing her face that showed clear signs of an abiding agony. She started to run her fingers in my curly black hair and in no time sleep invaded my mind. The night passed, so did hundreds of other.
To be Continue...