The following is a work of fiction and satire and any resemblance to any person or event would be utterly shocking
A University professor- who had gone to insane levels to marry the love of his life – once stated in the class: “When someone’s heart (he meant lover’s heart) is broken, the heavens wail for seven continuous days.” He later confided in me that this astonishing ‘fact’ was passed onto him, many years ago, by an equally heartbroken and irate lad whose cousin the professor was courting.
And here I was, in Mumbai for almost two weeks, nursing my heart-break and the skies only spewed fireballs.
They say the home is where the heart lies; and I had left my heart in Srinagar- the city of sadness. I was informed that valley was witnessing a bout of unseasonal snowfall and my mind flashed back a couple of months to one of the sweetest days of my life:
On one bone-chilling cold morning, I had finally managed my rendezvous with my beloved, at the Bund. Earlier that morning I had messaged her that I was wearing the traditional cloak- the pheran -and the over-excited her wanting to see how I looked in the gown insisted on our first solo meeting. Up until now I had foolishly carried one or the other friends with me whenever I had to meet her, but now every fear and apprehension had vanished from my heart. For her I would have taken any plunge, every challenge head-on and come out triumphant.
I clutched on to my phone with my right hand, while the other held the umbrella over both of us. A faint snow was falling, lending an otherworldly special-effect to our ‘date’. Prompted by an unexpected impulse, she shoved her hand in my pocket and fished out the handkerchief-my khini rumaal– and wiped her nose. I stopped, bend my head and laughed. She looked back and chuckled. It was surreal!
BUT now it was time to bid farewell to this city where there was nothing left for me, or so I believed, except pain-inducing memories.
My Daadi– my dearest grand mom, always lamented that I had become weak- kamzuar gomut. I had retained my gym-trained muscles but for my grand-mom good health meant more than just having a good physique. The underlying reason for my falling health was love and the subsequent ‘self-orchestrated breakup’. So, another reason to leave was to prevent my grand mom from seeing me in this wretched state.
Falling in love was the biggest mistake of my life; the second big was falling for a girl with who was a total contrast to me. While she was always cheerful and sporting a smile on her glorious face, I seemed to be in a state of constant constipation; she was an extrovert and fun loving while I was a recluse and boring. She liked Big Boss and I watched Breaking Bad (I have graduated to The Game of Thrones); she loved Jagjit Singh while I listened to Eminem. But even after such differences we shared a love for chicken leg- beaw.
With its fast-paced and cut-throat competitive life, Mumbai proved to be a blessing in disguise. However, the downside of experiencing such ups and downs in my life began to be show in my writing; I lost my grip on my forte- Satire, humor. I failed to churn out those side-splitting humorous write-ups that had earned me a considerable renown and had come to define me. I wrote a script for a horror-comedy, nevertheless, titled Puranay Mandir Kay Peechay Wala Mandir.
I don’t have any memory of any Kashmiri Pandits living in our area nor were there any burnt-out houses anywhere in the vicinity. A single Hindu family lived in our locality and there rarely came out of their palatial house.
There was a crumbling temple in our neighborhood in whose courtyard I used to play cricket when I was little. The place was also a safe haven for drug addicts and vagrants and it was a common sight to see young boys passed out on the floor. The caretaker of the temple never bothered to chase us out of the complex, fearing for his safety perhaps or may be because he liked the bustle in the otherwise deserted temple premises.
Suddenly, one day the place became out of bounds for the neighborhood boys. The idol stood gazing, morosely, from behind the iron walls of the temple as everyone disappeared quite unexpectedly. I too stopped going to the place and instead devoted my mental faculties in helping Mario get his princess, finishing the last stages of Double Dragon and improving my record in Road Rash.
Word spread that a boy had seen a ghost-driven chariot circumambulating the temple on a Thursday morning, just before dawn. As reported, the ghost had sworn upon the deity that he won’t spare any of the kids who had desecrated the sanctity of the temple by playing there. It was later learnt, however, that the rumor was floated by a lad of dubious character who wanted to keep the boys away from the temple at the behest of the caretaker. There was one apple tree in the temple as well and the caretaker had promised the lad that he can keep all the apples for himself once he had dealt with the others. So the boy ventured on a not-so-holy mission of spooking the little boys out of the place by instilling fear, of a non-existent ghost, in their hearts.
Back to Mumbai and my script: With this childhood memory I penned down a script, mixed a rich dose of humor to it and submitted the final draft to my employer. It worked! My script was approved but not without all the ‘vulgar’ words edited out. It was my first step towards self-actualization (whatever that means) and I was heading home to celebrate my first big break.
When the plane crossed the mighty Pir Panjal mountain range, I imagined the familiar fragrant smell of flowers greeting me at the Srinagar airport with rejuvenating breeze flushing all the stink of Indian drains out of my olfactory lobe.
At home, Dadi had the usual complaint- kamzuar gomut- but this time I felt my Kamzuri had a different reason altogether as I was on course to forgetting the vestiges of my previous life.
But everything I had envisioned didn’t come true. News trickled to me that she had spurned a number of marriage proposals for one or the other ‘trivial’ reasons: This guy is too old for me; that guy is a sood khaur (banker); I don’t like this baldy; he resembles Danny Denzongpa; that boy’s mother seems wicked.
Even though I had run far, far away from her, a part of my heart always longed for her. Like what is mentioned in The Alchemist, everything was now conspiring in helping me achieve her: I was nearing the “marriageable age” for an urban Kashmiri and my parents soon began sending feelers to make my intentions about marriage known.
Then one day our stars aligned perfectly and we chanced upon each other at Lal Chowk. It was an unexpected meeting but we were destined to meet; to complete our unfinished story; to end our miseries, our pain and affliction. She had reduced to a skeleton. She looked frail and in a pitiful state. And here I was – her tormentor, her culprit, her secret keeper, her love- staring at her, eye ball to eye ball. The world around us ceased to exist. It was just me and her; her and me. It didn’t matter if we caught everyone’s or no one’s eye. She lunged forward and threw her arms around me. Every indiscretion, every affront and every apathetic response was forgotten at that instant. I wanted to return the gesture but decided against it. She cried her heart out on my shoulder. It felt an eternity. Once done with the outpouring of emotions, she lifted her head and stared at me like she had never seen me before. I had missed her- her crazy antics, her uninhibited show of love and disgust. But it was all falling in place now.
Soon she spilled the beans in front of her mother and sister. I too had no choice. Our families got involved and finally we got married.
And then we never lived happily after that.