Juhi7 mins 469 7 mins 469
“The sun slowly floated down the horizon, with the clouds all moving aside stripping him of shelter.
It was not only the sun but Iqbal’s hope too which was going down with it. He was still barefoot with the last thing he had eaten being a day ago. It was getting cold but the tension in the environment was still as warm as it could be he….”
“JUHI come outside how long will you sitting inside with that dumb book of yours!” A sharp voice yelled from outside it was Kamla, Juhi’s mother, Juhi quietly kept her pen down and folded the white pages of Iqbal’s fate and went outside.
“How many times do I have to tell you that there is other real works too which someone has to do other than just sitting in a corner and writing rubbish…” Kamla had a bundle of clothes in her hand and pushed them in Juhi’s hand “Go and give them to Savita Masi’s daughter and tell her we need them tomorrow.”
She quietly took the disheveled clothes in her hand and folded them, and packing them in a pink nylon sheet she went out of the house, smiling at Komal while leaving, she never liked her, Komal was the other name for trouble, she was her Kamla’s sister and Juhi’s aunt who lived in the same area and whenever she came all she talked about was how Juhi is old enough to marry, it was she who had ‘advised’ her mother that class 12th is more than enough for a girl to ‘waste’ in education. “God knows what new information she is going to feed ‘aai’ with” Juhi thought and closed the door behind her.
Komal said with a sip of her tea
“Listen Kamla tai I heard whatever was going inside it is quite natural for girls her age to be lost, but she can’t be forever wasting her time in those little books you know, she has to face a world outside of that, and what is best for her right now is get married, have a family and live the practical life she needs to, soon you see everything will be fine and how long will her father take the burden I mean you see na how day by day the markets are becoming costlier it gets so tough…”
Komal heard all of this and after thinking for a while she said ” Whatever you said is true but where will be get a family for her where dowry will not prove to be a big issue?” “Arre that is what I have come here to discuss with you Na Tai”, “What do you mean?” Kamla smiled her smile and said “I have found a great boy for our sweet little Juhi and you already know him!”
“What? Who and where do they live?”
“Tai be patient I will tell you everything, it is Vivek,
Savita’s younger son…”
“What are you saying they have been staying in the colony with us for so many years we know them so well, Juhi and Vivek are childhood friends, how is it even possible?”
“Tai listen to yourself, you all know them, they are very close to your family, Dowry will not be a big issue you all can negotiate on a price, and they won’t be able to demand too much from you, and lastly you know the boy, he will earn well from his family’s fish business and the entire colony knows how Vivek and Juhi have always been such good friends, I don’t see the harm in them getting married”
Komal kept her tea cup aside and sat rubbing her hand in nervous excitement,” What you have said here Kamla isn’t a very bad idea, in fact it is a very good opportunity for us, can…can you go and talk to them too, I will talk to Juhi’s Baba, I don’t want to delay this.”
“No worries I will talk to them, you all keep the next three days free, I can arrange a meeting soon, but…”
“No buts Kamla if this works out I promise you a gold chain for helping my Juhi”
Juhi was now returning after giving the clothes, Vivek stood in the veranda and teased her “What brings our writer madam here?” Juhi smiled at him and said “Aai sent these clothes for pressing .”
“Ohho no problem Aai isn’t home but when she comes this will be the first bundle she’ll get” Vivek said with a smile, Juhi didn’t say anything else and walked out, Vivek was accustomed with this habit of hers, he knew when a thought occupied Juhi’s mind, or someone’s story nothing else could up take Juhi’s attention.
She walked down street, the yellow street lamps were lit, the sky looked yellowish black around the corners, it was crowded with kids playing in a corner and tempo trying to enter the already choked street the vegetable vendors were now getting ready to pack up, but all Juhi could hear was Iqbal’s and his footsteps, Iqbal’s wasn’t just her creation, he had soon turned out to be a prisoner in her mind flying out of the pages and walking with her on the roads, he was in search of his family or anyone he knew in that destruction struck land and she was busy finding him.
She reached home that night and sat near her lamp continuing from where she had left, “Iqbal now stood in the middle of nowhere trying to walk towards a camp he was lost finding his way, he didn’t realize but there was a small puppy following him, it was limping, Iqbal turned around the puppy got scared its initial reaction was to run but that injured leg wouldn’t let it Iqbal picked it up with care…” Juhi stopped looked at the watch and closing her book she slept unaware of the storm she would be facing next day.
“I will not marry why you don’t understand aai! I have plans, let me fulfill those”, ‘’ we are not sending you to jail, we have waited long enough its time you listen to us, you can do that after your marriage too.” Both Komal and Juhi knew it was a lie, no one in this tricky business ever remembered to look back at their own talents, once pushed into this crowd there was no coming back.
But Juhi was determined she knew what she wanted to do, that evening she called Pihu who lived in the city, she had gone there a couple of years ago and worked in a sewing factory, It was her uncle who had secured that job for her.
Pihu filled Juhi up with optimism and confidence, she offered Juhi to stay with her in the girls hostel, Juhi could work and once her story was complete they could try their lucks with the editors there, and though it was distant dream Juhi knew it wasn’t impossible. She knew she had to leave that place to live her life. She wanted to help her parents; all she needed was that opportunity.
She walked out of that open telephone booth, as she turned she saw Vivek across the street he waved his hand towards her, smiling his lively smile. Juhi felt bad for a second, she felt like she was betraying him, it was safe to say even Juhi liked him but her dreams were what mattered to her most. She knew he would find a better girl, the thought -hurt her somewhat but she didn’t care.
It was the dead of the night, tomorrow they would be fixing the date of their marriage, but Juhi stood here packing her tiny- bag her notes and old books taking most of the space. She broke her little box and took out the eight hundred rupees she had saved. She was late she looked at her house one last time before leaving determined to come back, to prove herself.
The streetlights were still on, she was scared she would miss her bus, and all the dreams she ever had would just wither away and die. She ran towards the stop, the bus had already arrived, but there was someone else there too, as she ran closer she couldn’t believe her eyes it was Vivek, he was talking to the bus driver asking him to wait for a few more minutes, “What took you so long? Here take this, eat this on the way…” “WH....What are you doing here?” Juhi said as a tear rolled down her eye….” “I heard you when you were talking in the booth, take care of yourself; I know you can do this, don’t be afraid.”
Juhi got on the bus the red sun was rising behind her, she didn’t know what Iqbal’s or her future held, she didn’t know if Iqbal would find his parents in that riot, she didn’t know if his story would ever reach anyone, but all she knew that they now at least had a chance.
She got to the window; Vivek looked at her and said “Write about me someday. Okay?”
The bus left with the with the sun of new hope rising behind it.