Thursday, September 8, 2011

In Memoriam

“Dad, I really can't tolerate this any more. If you can't accept a lovely girl like Ayesha into your home, then I'd rather you let go of me as well.”,

“Then leave. I want nothing to do with you and your filthy Muslim girlfriend. Make sure that filth never enters my house again. If it does, I'll clean it all up; and that includes you. So get the hell out if it'll give you and your piece of trash girlfriend any peace of mind. Get out of my house.”

Shekhar, with an angry grimace on his face, went into his room and started throwing folded clothes of his into a bag. He packed his laptop in another. Most of his stuff was already in his new apartment in Noida where he was to start working soon. Once the packing was done, he walked out of his erstwhile home without another look at his father or his bewildered helpless mother. As soon as he was standing outside the house, in suburban Bandra in Mumbai, he took his cellphone out and called Ayesha, his girlfriend of four years. “Hey honey, I'm leaving my house. For good. I can't take this abuse any more. How goes it at your place?”

“My brother is furious that you're a Hindu. You know that I just told them I want to marry you again. I don't know what to do. He looks murderous. I'm really scared.”, Ayesha replied back in a hushed voice.
 “Then leave. Leave now. Let's just be together for a while. We'll see what we have to do.” 


Shekhar and Ayesha had been together since the first week of college. They were both students of IIT Bombay. Shekhar had always lived in Mumbai for as long as he could remember and Ayesha's parents had moved their a year after her daughter started working in the prestigious engineering institute. The two lovers had recently passed out and inevitably, conversations regarding their marriages had commenced in both households. They were not children to very conservative parents. In fact, their parents had been quite open minded all through their lives. Unfortunately for them, their parents' minds were only as broad as most of the people from their own religious faiths. It had always been hard for them to maintain the relationship in the secrecy that they always had to endure. Hiding something as substantial as love was never easy. They could not present gifts to each other. On the scarce occasions that they did, they had to be carefully hidden away. It was never quite easy for them. However, the time came when they were in their final semester and about to pass out in a few months. Shekhar would soon start working for a Korean electronics giant in Noida and Ayesha was to do her masters from IIT Delhi. They had it all planned out; the plan was perfect. Even if their parents didn't harmonise their relationship, they would still be together. He would be paid handsomely and they could get married in a few more years, with or without their parents' consent. However, they did love their parents. So, of course, they wanted to tell them about their love lives and see where it went. They had no idea just how badly that would all crash around them. 


Ayesha Siddiqui belonged to a middle-class Muslim family. Her father was a government servant and her brother was a student like her. He was elder to her by a couple of years. Her life wasn't at all restricted but her family was quite staunch when topics regarding religion cropped up. It wasn't a healthy household to grow up in, but she grew up well. About three weeks before she was to pass out from college, she decided that it was time to tell her parents what they needed to know anyway. It was a long-awaited conversation which had been put on hold because of their mentality. But that could be done no longer. She wanted to settle down with this guy sometime in the near future and like any other girl, she considered the blessings of her parents somewhat sacred. It was important. At dinner one evening, she decided to bring it up. It had been a few days ago that Shekhar had a similar discussion with his own parents. “Ammi, Papa, there's something we need to talk about.”, Ayesha said to her parents, seeing that they were in a rather good mood that evening. “What is it?”, her mother asked with a smile.
“There's this guy from my batch. He's got a job in Noida recently. I'm in love with with him, Ammi and he loves me a lot as well.”, Ayesha said rather meekly with a smile.

“What's his name?”

“Shekhar. Shekhar Naik.”, came the reply. The news on the television was muted. Spoons were kept down on plates with a clank. The dining table went icy. “A Hindu?” 


“Leave now. We'll see what we have to do. Meet me at Bandra.” Ayesha hung up and went into her room silently. She'd known this wouldn't go well. There was only one other option left now. She packed most of her clothes into a duffel bag and silently, so nobody would notice, walked out of her house. After half an hour, she reached Bandra where she found Shekhar waiting for her. He hugged her and the two of them got into a cab.

“Juhu beach chalo.”

Upon reaching the beach, they walked a bit and found a rocky spot a little away from the more crowded areas. Night was falling. They sat close to each other, in each other's arms, facing the waves breaking on the shore. It was peaceful. They were glad to have left something too burgeoning behind them. They decided they were better off without all that. Sitting there, their presence unknown to the rest of the world, they talked about building their own house. They spoke about starting a family. They talked about growing old together. They were lost in each others' eyes. They kissed and knew that nothing could come in the way of their being together. Not in this world. Not in this era. Not for them. They loved each other too much. They would always be together. Caressing each other, they realised that they had switched their phones off in case their parents called. Shekhar knew his wouldn't. They were too arrogant to consider his emotions or even understand them. Ayesha switched her phone on. As soon as she did so, it started ringing. It was her father. She looked at it like it was an explosive for a while, steeled herself for what she knew would be an onslaught, and answered.

“Please come home, beta. Also bring Shekhar with you when you come. We'll talk this out. We'll see what can be done. We have been very worried for hours about where you might be. Please come home so we can at least settle this.”

“All right, abba. I'll come. I'll bring Shekhar too. Tell bhaijaan to leave, though. I don't want anything getting messy. I'll come now.” and she hung up.
“We're going to my place. My parents want to meet you, it seems.” Ayesha said to her beau with a big smile.

“Are you sure it's not a trap of any kind? I don't want us to be ambushed.”

“Are you kidding? They're my parents. They wouldn't do that.”

“Mine would. Anyway, let's go.”

They got up and brushed the sand off themselves. Hand in hand they walked. They hailed a taxi and sped off to the Bandra railway station like many other Mumbaikars alongside them. The journey of war against their parents from another generation seemed to be coming to some end. A compromise could be made. They were both quite happy as they boarded the train to Andheri and sat holding each other. 


There were many people on the train. It was just after rush hour. It would it was lucky they got places to sit. They were in one of the first-class compartments. Sitting near the window holding hands, they discussed what might be awaiting them at Ayesha's place. They talked about what they should do once they got there. It was a bit scary to think they might be ambushed but then they had a contingency plan for that as well. Shekhar would wait outside nearby while she talked to her parents, remaining on the front porch. He would show himself only if it seemed safe for the two of them. Otherwise, he would grab her and leave in any way possible. Seemed dramatic but they had no idea what awaited them. A few people entered the compartment with a big box containing a pressure cooker. He smiled at them and said, “Gift for my wife.” and kept it under the seat in front of theirs. He sat down in front of them and they all waited for the train to start moving. A boy selling newspapers came to the window the couple were sitting at. Shekhar bought a copy of The Times of India and kept it on his lap as Ayesha rested her head on his shoulder. The train was to leave in a few minutes. The man in front got up to get some tea and asked him if he wanted any. Shekhar declined with a polite smile. 


A little later, the train started moving. As Ayesha slept on his shoulder, he opened the newspaper to read it. It was the newspaper for the 11th of July, 2006. It was 6:18 pm. The man with the pressure cooker never came back. Neither were Shekhar and Ayesha ever seen again. The fiery explosions that happened just a little later, as the train chugged to the Khar Road station consumed the lives of many in that train. Ayesha and Shekhar's bodies were found but were beyond recognition. Ironically, nothing did come in the way of them being together. As Ayesha's parents and brother waited patiently, enraged and almost ready to rid the Hindu boy who defiled his daughter for good, she died in orange brown waves of fire along with her lover, sleeping with her head on his shoulder, bearing the most tranquil smile on her face. 


PS. This short story was written for "Urban stories competiton'11" presented by Landmark and Grey Oak Publishers. The theme was to set the story in an urban Indian backdrop. 
Relax, people. It won't be published anywhere!


Anonymous said...

Loved the Story .. especially the narration .. But then, honestly, I smelled the ending. Though I was hooked to story, at places I felt a polish was needed.Though I am not an expert, still I feel,the story was lil draggy at places. But on the whole, loved the story, and anything to do with love always catches attention, esp of struggles and all .. :)

D2 said...

@Ms. Nobody :
Thank you for noticing that. It was definitely not one of my best. I was supposed to make it this long as part of the rule that the publishing house required (it was for a contest). I intended to keep it shorter but I had to abide by the rule! And yes, of course, the ending was a tad bit predictable. This isn't something new or fresh.
Thank you for the critique. :)

Miss D said...

I always like the way you bottle your wine and this is no exception.
However, I do wish you could find a picture to go with it because I love your taste in that! :)

D2 said...

@Enchanta : :)
No, I deliberately did not put a picture the way I usually do. The post is unusually long already. And the ending is a bit predictable as well. So a painting or image of any sort would be could unwise, I thought.
But there are other posts for all that. :)

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

Somehow, I was expecting something related to honour killing, but I guess nature has a balancing act.

Interesting read.

Blasphemous Aesthete

D2 said...

@Blasphemous Aesthete : Call it balance, call it justice in a weird way. It's all the same.

Purba said...

Fiction for most, reality for someone. Terrorism has become a part of our life.

But your love birds died an honourable death.

D2 said...

@Purba Di :
It's found its way into all the niches of society. The characters deserved a better ending. But then, that's all that would have got, somehow.

Snow Leopard said...

Beautiful narration, Mr. Sikdar. Though I must confess, the story was a bit predictable, though like Anshul, I too was expecting an honour killing.
But your piece of fiction does bring another question to mind. Is religion really needed? In this age when our rational thinking has developed exponentially, isn't religion something that is holding us back and dividing us?

Swetha S said...

Emotional piece of writing. The ending did really move me. Well narrated. kudos!

Jack Edwards Poetry said...

Very emotional and so touchingly written.

D2 said...

@Snow Leopard : Exactly. Religion is something that will continually hold us back. We can never develop and move forward substantially. If we move 2 steps ahead, religion will take us a step back. But in a planet of more than 7 billion people most of whom are religious people, what can we possibly do?

PS. Yes, I know the story was predictable, but you couldn't predict it! :P

D2 said...

@Swetha : Thanks a lot. :)

@Jack Edwards : Thank you. :)

Anand said...

A nice read Abhishek... Anything related to love will always feel good... :)

D2 said...

@Anand : Thanks a lot. However, I wrote this with the effects of religion in mind. Love just happens to be a very intrinsic emotion.

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