What happens when a wife wakes up one morning to find that she was not sleeping with her husband all this while, but a stranger whom she had known for more than seven years. An emotional turmoil gets unearthed from the charred ashes of memories when this lady starts digging into the past of her husbandâ€™s life. The fact that every current action can be correlated to the past buried somewhere in the recesses of oneâ€™s brain makes this book, which looks like a collection of short stories at the first glance, a finely crafted and woven work of fiction.
Sandeep Sudhakaran, a software engineer developing software for the automotive industry during the day, turns to his laptop to key his fantasied world during the night. He is an enthusiastic and energetic person who truly believes in simplicity, the imprints of which lay exposed in the pages of this book.
â€œAs I told you Hazrat gives life to this book. He is like rain to the Sahara. It is only time that can stand witness. Or perhaps these words as well.â€
The door creaked.
The door was now closed. No light could dare to enter. There was a bulb, with the filament that was glowing yellow, enough to give an outline of every object in the dark, all yellow black against the jet black background. In the corner of the room lay a young girl, my daughter, lying crumbled on the crumbled blanket. In the darkness, it was hard to differentiate who was more crumbled, blanket or the girl.
Beside my daughter, who was about six years old then, lay a bowl and a glass. The glass was empty, while the bowl had rice and some curry in it. It lay untouched. The room had a window, with the glass panes that were covered with hard board to prevent the light from coming in. Beside the window, Hazrat looked into the emptiness. Hazrat turned and looked at my daughter. He looked at her with pity. He turned back and smiled. He believed that he had done the right thing. She was here because her father, Prabhat, deserved it.
Hazrat had been working on the interior glass carvings of a bank when he had seen Nasreen. The emotions that he had once subdued seemed to be just within the reach of his hand, just beside him, unaware he was as he wondered he had not noticed it. He wanted to be with her. But that was never to happen. He had prayed to Allah years back and he had believed that his prayers had been heard. It was true until the day he met Nasreen. He had prayed for keeping his sight away from Nasreen till his last breath, but today he had seen her.
The same tide that engulfed him years earlier had resurfaced. He remembered the class he had taken and the girl who had approached him showing interest in making beautiful crystal show pieces, something that he had perfected and given name at a very young age. He could see the same face, now and then. He remembered the happiest day of his life, the day when he had proposed to her and the day she had invited him to the college which was not where she had studied. He had tried to reason out, â€œWhy could she call somebody to an alien college to express her love?â€
He had found hundred answers but none were even satisfactory. He had dressed at his best and taken his bike all the way to the college which was there somewhere around a jungle. He had believed that there was a secret place there where she would express love. He remained excited as he had taken her directions to locate the place where his love would be waiting for him. With a heart pounding, hands trembling and legs sprinting, he had finally reached out to the place where she had directed.
She was there waiting for him. He could see her, the way he would never have wished to see. He had seen her lip-locked with someone. The happiest day of his life had turned to the gravest day of his life. He wanted to slap her, but couldnâ€™t. He loved her. He realised that it was just what she wanted to express. In another instant, he would have burned but a glance from her boyfriend brought him back to life. He turned back and left, never to meet her again in his life. Not until he met her again, several years laterâ€¦
Several days after examining his life boat since he had seen Nasreen, he had decided to patch up a friendship. He decided to act mature forgiving the past. He carried a bouquet of flowers on the day of Aashiyanaâ€™s inauguration, the home for the spastic. As he approached her when she was alone, he saw her father come near her and she breaking down into tears. He stopped at a distance and watched. Confused, he had hired a private detective agency to find out more.
The things that the detective agency revealed shattered him. They said, she was single, never married and a successful architect. Regarding her personal life, they could not reveal much. They found that she just had a few friends and one friend whom she visited quiet often. They had shown his photo. All of a sudden, he realised what was happening. He hired the same detective agency to find more about the guy and his weakness. They gave away his name, Prabhat. Now he associated the name with the face, a face that he had seen years earlier, lip-locked with Nasreen, Prabhat. And the weakness was his daughter. And now, the weakness lay there, in front of him crumbled.
Pallavi woke up by evening. It had been almost twenty-four hours since she had been brought to the dark room. She was scared when she saw the eyes under the black turban wound all round the face. She had screamed and he had let her scream. With a paining throat and broken mind, she had crumbled into sleep. When she woke up, she wept again, then screamed but met the emotionless eyes of the turbaned man, drank the glass of water and went back into slumber. Now as she woke up, she looked around. There was no one. She saw the filament of the bulb flickering. She ran to the window to see where she was. She could not open it. She ran to the door. It was locked.
She punched her fist on the door and tried to open it. Nothing could be heard except for her own screams. She looked around for something, looking carefully at everything in the room. There was not much, two chairs, a small table with a flask on top, the crumbled blanket lay below, a block of metal or something, some pieces of wood, a cupboard which was empty and some biscuits left open in the corner. She looked at the ceiling. She could see a fan and a tube. She started hunting for switches in the dark. Some time later, she was standing on the table reaching out for the switches. She switched on the first switch. The tube flickered and then there was the white light.
The light almost blinded her for seconds. Suddenly she felt the room in new light. She saw a clock and a calendar that she had missed earlier. The time was 7:30, but was it evening or morning she could not tell. The block of object that lay beside the chair looked all covered in dust. She went near it and put a finger. A mark appeared. She drew a line, the line mark appeared. Tentatively, she pulled the blanket and started swabbing with a sprinkle of water from the flask. Her excitement grew when she saw a blue and red coloured fish within the glass. She took the blanket and rubbed it more, this time vigorously. After about one hour of work, she stood in front of it. The glass block with two fishes, red and blew appeared frozen in action in the crystal clear glass over the colourful corals on the grey rocks.
On top of it lay a something like an ash tray. But that too was crystal made like leaves knit together and a red heart laying there inside. She tried to remove the heart along with the leaves but it seemed to be fused with the glass block. The glass block looked like a stretched S, giving it a look like a wave. She tried to remove the heart shaped glass expecting it to be fused. It was out. Suddenly a weight that she had not expected was in her hand.
The door opened and closed. There stood a man, tall, very tall, covered in black turban except his eyes. But the expressionless eyes that she had seen earlier now twinkled. Pallavi placed the crystal heart into the leavesâ€™ casket. She wanted to scream but there were some invisible hands that caught her throat. The sound didnâ€™t come out.
â€œHave your food. You must be hungry,â€ he said taking away the bowl that had food and keeping a basket full of fruits.
â€œI want to go home. I want to go to papa,â€ Pallaviâ€™s broken voice spoke to the stranger for the first time.
â€œI wish I could take you to papa,â€ Hazrat said smiling, â€œNow have your food.â€
â€œI want to go to papa,â€ the little girl repeated. She kept repeating when Hazrat gave a cut apple to her. She ate it. She came towards Hazrat and touched him and held his wrists with her tender hands. â€œUncle please, please take me to papa.â€
Hazrat turned to her. Without casting an eye on her he said, â€œYour papa is a bad man and I am sent by god to teach him a lesson.â€
Now Pallavi was speaking steady.
â€œPapa said that there are no bad people. It is only that circumstances make people do bad. My mother is also not bad. She keeps scolding me but she scolds me because she likes me. Papa says that if she did not like me, then she would not have scolded me,â€ she said almost in one breath.
Hazrat was now paying attention to what she was speaking.
â€œTell me, who do you like more. Papa or mama?â€ he asked.
â€œPlease take me to papa!â€
â€œTell me, why do you like you papa?â€
â€œPapa never scolds me. My mama always scolds me. Papa always takes me out. He gives me chocolates. All papaâ€™s friends are my friends. My papa is the best papa in the world. So many people come home to give gifts to papa. Most of his patients come to give gifts. Mama says that he saves his patientsâ€™ lives, that is why he gets gifts. My papa is very good. He is not bad,â€ Pallavi looked as though she was going to get slapped.
The words were ringing in Hazratâ€™s ears. He looked at the gift he had planned to give Nasreen when she would express her love to him. That day had never come, so he had never touched it again. Dust had settled on it with time. Dust had also settled on his memories. But now, it was staring back at him, the two fishes, red and blue over the corals.
â€œUncle. Please uncle. My papa is not bad. Please take me to papa,â€ Pallavi was now holding Hazratâ€™s arms, trying to jerk them wildly.
â€œYour father saves patients!â€ Hazrat said out, explosive. Then there was silence. He started to rub the freckle on his finger with the other, â€œWhat else does your papa do?â€
â€œMy papa, he helps everyone. He goes to help people even in Aashiyana. He distributes all the gifts that he gets in Mother Teresaâ€™s trust. Papa is good, not bad.â€
The word Aashiyana was ringing in Hazratâ€™s mind. Trying to speak unbroken, he asked, â€œWhy does your father go to Aashiyana?â€
â€œNasreen aunty asked papa to go there. Nasreen aunty is papaâ€™s friend and her sister is there in Aashiyana. Papa gives them free medicines.â€
A vein emerged on Hazratâ€™s forehead. An unknown weight was burdening him. He was trying to join the broken links. Now he could see there still remained some links that needed to be identified. His first impression was that Prabhat had ditched Nasreen.
Then he thought something more. His imagination ran wild. He knew his presumptions were not true. There was a glitch somewhere. Now he had performed an action based on some unreasonable thoughts and fumed and hurt a humble tender girl. In the eyes of Allah, he was a sinner. He had transgressed beyond the moral principle of humanity. He covered his eyes with his index fingers, careful not to disturb the turban, his camouflage. He looked for mercy from Allah. He looked at the girl, pleading from her eyes.
â€œDo you like that block?â€ Hazrat pointed to the glass crystal aquarium that lay with two fishes caught in action. Pallavi nodded her head.
â€œOkay! Have the fruits. I will take you back to your father.â€
The next day Prabhat looked into his letter box. He went to the drawing room and threw the bundle of mails on the table. One of them had been written with a black sketch pen, â€˜Love You Papaâ€™. Prabhat grabbed the envelope and recognised Pallaviâ€™s handwriting. He opened the envelope and read it.
I am the person who kidnapped your daughter. I believed truly that by causing you pain, I am hurting a bad human, punishing a dirty soul. I wanted you to suffer. But I was wrong. I thought that you had been the reason of pain to Nasreen, your old love. Perhaps there is something more I donâ€™t know. I realise it now. I donâ€™t want to know either. That is why I kidnapped your daughter. Now I am a sinner. I know I have done an unforgivable crime and I donâ€™t ask your pardon. I ask you punishment. But before that, I need to punish myself. When I know that I can stand in front of you, I will come to meet you. Your daughter is safe. I have left along with her the only real treasure that I had. Something that was meant for someone else. Now it is for your daughter. Please accept it. She is there in Aashiyana, on the top floor. She is waiting for you. I shall wait until you arrive.
Regretting for every single action in the past three days,
An ashamed messenger.
Prabhat looked around. He folded the letter and pushed it into his pockets. He took the car key and raced to Aashiyana.
He went about looking around at every room, most of them yet to be opened. He raced to the top floor. He looked around and saw a shadow moving out. He raced to the place where he had seen the shadow.
â€œPapa,â€ Pallavi cried from the left side of the room.
Prabhat turned. He saw his daughter running towards him. He lifted her in the air and hugged her tight.
â€œBeta, are you hurt?â€ Prabhat asked examining her with his eyes.
â€œNo papa, uncle did not hurt me.â€
Then looking more serious she said, â€œPapa, there are no bad people. It is only the circumstances that make people bad. See papa, he has given me so many things.â€ She said pointing at the heap of things in the corner.
Prabhat carried his daughter in his arms. Then aware that he had not informed me before leaving, he rang me up. When I took the telephone, he handed his cell to my daughter and said, â€œTalk to your mama.â€
He could hear excited voices on the other end, which were from me but he walked to the heap of things. There were so many toys and chocolates. He opened a suitcase. It had cash in it. He closed it. He saw a cloth lying on top of something rectangular. He removed the cover. In it lay the aquarium that had been caught in action. On top of it lay another letter. He opened and read it.
This is the only thing I think can be of some value to you which I can offer as regret. Please accept it. The other things you can offer to the charity trust.
There was no signature at the bottom. Prabhat was now gathering the broken beads that lay scattered. He said under his breath, â€œYou say that what you have given is of no value. True, it is of no value because it is priceless. I forgive you, if at all I have such a power. I will wait for you, my friend.â€