Avenged9 mins 234 9 mins 234
Jehangir Khan was a good son but a wreck of a husband. As much as he loved and respected his mother, he loathed and humiliated his wife. Not that the mother and wife were on odd terms. The older woman in fact had a soft corner for his son’s wife. She often exhorted her son to treat his wife better. But she was always careful to not to overuse her motherly powers lest she annoys him.
She knew he had taken after his own father. There was only so much instruction he would take from his respected mother before bluntly telling her to keep her mouth shut and mind her own business. Having lived in fear and awe of men all her life she had mastered the art of quiet servitude quiet well. Her sense of an approaching temperamental storm was well honed as well. She knew how to avert such a catastrophe.
The same she taught her daughter in law. At first it seemed that she would never learn the fine art of keeping her man calm. Her head had been too full of notions of justice, liberty and equality. These abstract ideas made no sense to Jehangir Khan. All he knew that he was the man of the house and his wishes must be acceded to without as much as a flinch.
It took many years of being Jehangir Khan’s wife for her notions of idealism to boil down stark reality of life. She had begun to accept her secondary status in the household soon after the birth of her daughter. By the time her daughter came to an age of understanding Jehangir Khan’s relationship with his wife had fallen into a predictable pattern. He earned, she cooked. He demanded, she gave. He ordered, she obliged. If for once she showed rebellion or resentment he would stop talking to her. That would set her right in nine or ten days and she wouldn’t be disobedient for six months at least.
As a father Jehangir Khan fared better than he did as a husband. He would have preferred his first born to be a son but they got Hulaya. He hoped his wife would give him a son next time but it turned out Hulaya was to be their only child. It was Jehangir Khan’s own doing.
Barely two months after Hulaya’s birth his wife conceived again. Jehangir Khan’s ideas of modernity and masculinity were at odds with each other. He reprimanded his wife severely for not being careful. He would rather abort the foetus than become a butt of joke among his friends. He wouldn’t be the mullah who procreates every year.
His wife was repulsed by the thought of killing her own child. She protested with all her might. So did his mother. But Jehangir Khan’s word prevailed in the end. He took her to a gynaecologist. She did some tests and refused to carry out in abortion. Her health did not permit it. They went to another doctor who confirmed the first doctor’s diagnosis. When Jehangir Khan insisted the doctor told him to behave like a civilized man.
The doctor’s imperious attitude did not go down well with Jehangir Khan. He would first salvage his injured pride then think of his wife’s life. This time he took her to a quack who carried out a clumsy abortion. There after she conceived thrice over a period of four years. Each pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. They never had another child.
The unprofessional abortion and the three miscarriages along with being Jehangir Khan’s wife took toll on Sulatana’s health. She developed urinary incontinency and high blood pressure. By the time Huliya turned ten Sultana began to have frequent migraine attacks. Her mother in law attributed all of Sulatana’s misery to her not having another child, not having a son. Sulatana refuted this diagnosis. In fact she was glad she did not have another child. It could have been a daughter. In that case she would have got colder treatment from her father than Huliya gets. If he were a male child he could have grown up to be just like his father. Neither scenario would have made life any better for any anyone.
If Jehangir Khan felt remorseful for killing his second child he never let on. Outwardly he pretended to be content having sired a single girl child. As Huluya grew up she began to resemble her father more than her mother. Her striking resemblance to him at times warmed his heart towards his daughter. That however could not assuage the resentment he felt towards her gender.
He often blamed his wife for depriving him of a son. Sultana however had reached the stage of surrender where even such insinuation did not boil her blood. She never bothered to counter the obviously unfair accusation. She deferred her case till the doomsday when they will all stand before the Lord and account for their deeds. On that day, Sulatana was determined; she would hold her husband by his collar.
However, before that day came there was a long life to be lived.
Jehangir Khan’s made enviable amount of money from his garments’ shop. He specialised in western casuals for girls. As miserable as he was to his wife and daughter he had a subtle way of getting around his customers most of whom were young women. Some of them he complimented for their looks, others he cracked a joke with. None went away empty handed. From the small outlet he had at the time of Huliya’s birth he had gone on to acquire a shop at the most sought after commercial location in the city.
At the same time Huliya was fast growing into a beautiful young girl. To keep up with his peers he sent her to an expensive school. Armed with quality education, physical beauty and a rich father Huliya went about as if the world was her oyster. She was aware that in a few years her father would find her an eligible young man and marry her off magnificently and with considerable dowry. Her life was as sorted out as anyone can wish for.
From the outside it was impossible to gauge the loneliness of a young woman stuck between a loving but helpless mother and an indulgent but emotionally inaccessible father.
Some more years passed and Huliya became one of the most sought after girls for marriage. Her parents got many proposals but Jehnagir Khan was eyeing a particular alliance. The boy was well educated and good looking. He was a pathan as well. There was just one hitch. The boy’s family was several rungs above Jehangir Khan’s in financial status as well as education. In fact that was the reason Jehangir Khan wanted this boy above all others.
With the alliance in mind Jehangir Khan paid a visit to the dargah of ............ He hoped that his daughter’s beauty would more than compensate for the difference in status. He promised he would lay the dargah’s entrance with marble tiles and get the metallic top of the minaret polished with gold water if his wish was granted. That was a small cost to pay, he thought, to get related to a family like that.
It seemed that the ................found Jehangir Khan’s proposal very appealing. No sooner than he returned home his wife informed him of a phone call from the mother of the very boy Jehangir Khan was eyeing as his son in law. They wanted to come over and meet Huliya.
It took less than a fortnight for the alliance to be sealed. It happened between the fathers. No one consulted Huliya but she was duly informed through her mother. Jehangir Khan began to make preparation for the wedding that was three months away. But first the marble lined entrance and the gold topped minaret.
However fate or rather Huliya, had other plans for Jehangir Khan. Before the first tile could be laid at the dargah, Huliya packed her few belongings and walked out of her father’s house. She left behind a letter informing her father of her marriage that was to take place in an hour at a masjid. He was welcome to attend if he so wished. Sulatana read the letter before showing it to her husband who read over several times before handing it back to her. He looked up the huge clock before him. The golden hour was up. He suspected his wife had deliberately delayed showing him the letter.
He neither erupted with rage nor suffered a stroke. He did not so much as complain of dizziness. Fishing out the phone from his pocket and made two calls. First call he made to the would-have-been- father –in- law of Huliya to call off the wedding and second to the marble contractor to cancel his order. Then he picked his bag and keys and went off to his shop as if nothing unusual had happened. Sulatana did not know what to make of her husband’s calm demeanour. Nor did she know what to make of her daughter’s action.
As soon as she put latch to the door after her husband her phone let out eight beeps one after the other. She unlocked her phone and her heart leaped to her throat. The messages were from Huliya. She clicked them open with much apprehension and saw an excessively simple bride. When her eyes moved to the tall, thin, bearded boy standing next to her daughter she felt a heavy load lift from her chest. She recognised him instantly. He was Shabbir who went to school with Huliya. Sultana had no idea that their friendship had continued even after he moved to Banglore for higher studies. The next photograph had both of Shabbir’s parents flanking the newlyweds. Sultana’s relief knew no bounds.
For a few days Sulatana’s life went uneventfully. As much as she pined to embrace her daughter and hold her son-in- laws face between her palms Sultana could not garner the courage to go and meet them. There was of course no question of inviting them over. For all she knew, her husband was a volcano waiting to erupt.
However, contrary to her expectations the volcano never erupted. Ten days after Huliya’s wedding Jehangir Khan complained of severe headache. The doctor checked his blood pressure and found it alarmingly high. He prescribed medication and controlled diet. The blood pressure normalised within a week, although the medicines were to continue for a long period. The following week Jehangir Khan began to have urinary incontinency. He did not say a word about it to his wife but the load of payjamas and pants in the laundry narrated the tale to Sultana. Just as Jehangir Khan’s comb narrated its own tale. To her own surprise Sultana felt resentment rather than pity at her husband’s state.