The sun blazed hot and burnt Jasmine’s nose.
She smacked her lips and kept looking for Vivek, who, moments ago,
was tagging along clutching her saree and blessing the hawkers sitting
cross legged on the pavement.
Where could have he gone in a matter of seconds? Surely she was not careless enough to let him wander off for more than a minute or two.
For every turn she maneuvered, every man she seized, she felt a surge of current make her hairs rise all through her spine and die instantly.
Why, that man had no right blocking her way selling those dammed ear-rings. In her eagerness to quickly get past him, she kicked his shins rather fiercely. The pole carrying his imitation jewellery scattered all around and in the commotion a crowd gathered round her. She jumped across an old couple and then she saw him, sitting beside a furry black, speaking animatedly, pointing towards the gathering. She rushed towards her and pulled her twenty one year old child into a tight hug!
“What were you doing here? Why did you leave moma?”
“This dog needed me ma. He was hungry. I gave him a vada pav and told him where I can be found, if he ever needs me.”
“Where did you get a vara pav”
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”
“Mathew 6:26” she sighed and recalled the verse his son was most fond of. Each word matched and reflected her life.
“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Jasmine was born Jyotsna Sharma. A devout Hindu family, his father worked as a clerk in a heavy machinery factory that made electrical equipment and as a part time local priest for the community. The kind of priest that conducts yagna and Havan in homes for aggrieved people on request.
To imagine his plight you must take a burning ember on your heart when he found out his daughter wished to marry a Muslim man. Being a progressive Hindu family, in a country where secularism is as elemental as fire, he agreed.
Jyotsna became Jasmine and bigot a son. Her father-in-law pulled out three five hundred rupee notes and gave it to the first boy he found on the road. Her mother-in-law gave Jasmine a solid gold bangles with elephant heads engraved beautifully on.
They named him Aaqil, the intelligent one.
Everything was good for a while.
Then, one day Anwar, her husband fell ill. The doctors said it was the final stage of a life threatening infection. Two or three months at most was what was left to Anwar.
Anwar’s uncle said, “that’s what happens when you ignore God’s teachings, he was supposed to marry Sunaira but threw everything out of the window.”
Anwar’s mother nodded.
Uncle continued “There’s still time. Divorce this infidel and see if the God has in him to forgive us for his sins”.
And so it was agreed. But Jasmine didn’t cry!
But Jasmine couldn’t return to her parents. Her father had vowed not to look at her face again while he was alive. So one night she took Aaqil, who was three, and fled to Mumbai. She sold her gold bangles and with a decent amount started a graphic designing consultancy. For five months she earned as much as Anwar earned for a year. Even more. But Luck had a tendency to run sour whenever she smiled.
Her boy, now 15 was having difficulty sleeping and kept having visions. Of saints and sinners. Of Gods and Angels. She was scared but she didn’t cry. She had, in her bid to make the boy love all religions, taught him both the Gita and the Quran. Suddenly he was getting visions. Once again the doctors were summoned to alleviate her pain and once again they ended up hurting her more than she could expect. Her kid was schizophrenic. He saw the twelve apostles around himself. He would teach love, kindness and compassion to everyone and anyone around him. He would live in his own world with unleavened bread and manna.
Jasmine took him to a psychiatrist. For eight years since it was first diagnosed, she took him to a psychiatrist. The graphic design consultancy proved to be a little lower on the budget so she brought a Dremel and started to sell hand engraved pebbles online.
She took Aqil to a church. Outside a few kids were begging for food. He talked to them and they said they hadn’t eaten in two days!
Aqil opened the gates of the garden and said, “Behold! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.” But the pastor called him out for blasphemy! How could he claim to be the son of God? Was it not the Satan himself who allowed for the destruction of God’s own garden and allows himself to be called the son of God! After-all, the pastor always fed the kids in the evening after the prayers.
That night Jasmine bought a copy of the New Testament hoping to learn why the pastor called her kid a demon.
She started calling him vivek and kept at the antipsychotic treatment. For twelve years she took him to his sessions, kept at his drugs and medications and maintained a close watch. This kind of close watch that only a mother can keep. She sometimes wondered what was the meaning of all this. Why her! All the religious texts explained that this was God’s was of testing your faith. She thought it just happened. For twelve long years she suffered but kept working to earn money that eventually went to treat her boy. One day when they were reunited after a brief episode on the street flea market,
Vivek said, “I’m not Jesus, Ma!”