When Destiny Beats Love
When Destiny Beats Love10 mins 542 10 mins 542
The children had gathered in the courtyard playing cricket oblivious of the sullen atmosphere in the house. The extended family converged in the dingy room where an eighty five year old Salim was awaiting his last few moments of life. His laboured breathing was an indication that the end was near. Salim's daughter Zahida put spoonfuls of sacred Zam zam water into the non receptive mouth reciting the holy Quran.
Salim also had an idea that his end was near. Amidst heavy breathing, he beckoned his son Ahmad and daughter Zahida to come near to him. Once close enough, Salim asked them to call for grandchildren Dolly and Yasser. Someone yelled for Dolly and Yasser who were playing cricket in the courtyard. Salim held the hands of Dolly and Yasser and put them one top of the another. Although the children had no idea what this meant, Zahida and Ahmad understood the implications. In this insipid gesture, Salim had created a lifelong bond. Released from the hand of their grandfather, cousins Dolly and Yasser again ran towards the courtyard to resume their unfinished innings of cricket.
Back to Mumbai after the death of her father, Zahida frequently played in her mind the last moments of her father's life. Despite her efforts she could not shrug off her father's last gesture of indicating that she should marry her daughter Dolly with her cousin Yasser. How would this decision play out after two decades when Dolly would be of marriageable age? Would Yasser's upbringing in the small town of Allahabad match with the open atmosphere of Mumbai? Engulfed in these thoughts she would often doze off.
Ahmad had a small business venture in Allahabad. Despite his limited resources, he ensured that Yasser went to the best school in town. He was a bright student and excelled in academics. Yasser had grown enough to realize the implications of his late grand father's gesture of holding his hand with that of his cousin Dolly. There were few occasions when the extended family would converge in their ancestral house and Yasser could interact with Dolly. Her upbringing in Mumbai made Dolly somewhat misfit in the constrained culture of Allahabad. She still had no idea of her proposed marriage with Yasser.
Dolly was now sixteen years and joined a renowned Mumbai college for higher studies. She was bright in all respects. Her passion for dance and music made her well known among the students even in the first year of college. Having long forgotten the cultural heritage of Allahabad she was now totally in sync with the life in Mumbai.
Yasser's academic journey was limited to the MBA degree from Allahabad University. A lifetime of financial deficit made the decision easy to grab the first employment opportunity that came. Yasser was appointed as an executive in a private company and posted in the eastern UP town of Gorakhpur. Ahmad had a far cousin in Gorakhpur and wanted Yasser to initially live with them before finding a separate house.
Jamshed was a distant cousin of Ahmad and owned a dilapidated house in the old city area of Gorakhpur. He had lost his wife due to encephalitis some five years back. The family now consisted of just a daughter named Rizwana who had barely crossed two decades of life. Jamshed had mixed feelings when he received the call from Ahmad informing that Yasser would live with them for a few weeks. The last time Jamshed had met Ahmad was about fifteen years back in Allahabad when he had paid a condolence visit after the death of his uncle Salim. Jamshed recalled that Yasser was just ten years old when he last saw him.
Rizwana could not recollect having met Yasser before when her father broke the news of someone living with them for a few weeks. The so called drawing room was rearranged to make way for a sleeping space for Yasser. The initial few days were awkward for the entire family. Yasser would remain confined to his room. Rizwana was always at unease to react in front of an outsider. Her cultural instincts made her extremely cautious of the presence of a male in the house.
In times of loneliness, Yasser sometimes recalled the few memories of Dolly that he had. He could still imagine the moment when grandfather held his and Dolly's hand. The last time he met Dolly was approximately two years back when his aunt Zahida had visited Allahabad for a few days to attend a wedding in the family. Dolly was enticingly beautiful. Yasser had explored ways to interact with Dolly but his efforts could not go beyond the pleasantries. Yasser found it difficult to understand whether Dolly's short attention span was due to lack of interest or preoccupation with ongoing wedding rituals.
Of and on Yasser had also tried to contact Dolly by email and social media platforms. Her response was always there but somehow Yasser could never sense any romantic affection. He had spoken a few times about Dolly's attitude to his parents but they had always emphasized that grandfather's wish would be respected and that they would be speaking to Zahida to fix the marriage date since Yasser had now got a decent employment.
After a week, the initial hesitation had given way to some intermittent communication between Yasser and Rizwana. She perceived Yasser as an intelligent and well mannered boy. Albeit hesitantly in a few days, Rizwana developed a sense of admiration for Yasser. She had made a mental note of Yasser's likes and dislikes and would try to cook food accordingly. That night when she went to sleep, she found herself humming a film song. She wanted to shrug off the thought but somewhere deep in her heart she felt a soft feeling for Yasser.
It was at the makeshift breakfast table one morning that Yasser broke the news that he had found a room to stay and would most probably shift in a few days. No one spoke. It was a good five minutes later that Rizwana asked Yasser why he wanted to move to another place. Did he find some difficulty here? Yasser didn't react but an unknown evolutionary instinct made him feel better. Today was the first time in almost three weeks that Rizwana had spoken in such a direct manner.
That night when Yasser went to sleep, his mind played back the events of this morning's breakfast. Was Rizwana really concerned about his moving out to another place? He recollected how he felt when a few days back during dinner Rizwana had insistently put a bread in his plate even while he protested that he was full. His mind wandered without any destination. Yasser didn't know when he fell to sleep. He was playing cricket in the courtyard, Dolly was standing near him. She caught the ball and ran away. He ran towards her but she was running fast..... He wanted to catch her but she ran even faster. She faded away in the air. He yelled Dolly.... Yasser woke up listening to his own voice. He realized he was dreaming and the dream was a disturbing one.
The mornings now had a different flavour in Rizwana's life. She looked forward to making tea and carrying it to Yasser's room. The daily routine of preparing meals was no longer a burden, she started finding ways to cook new dishes. Life had suddenly become more meaningful. That night when she got free time she gingerly took out the few lipsticks which were a legacy of her mother. Rizwana felt an unknown urge to look beautiful. She applied lipstick to her lips and saw her image in the mirror. She looked beautiful.
Yasser also perceived the look in Rizwana's eyes. He too felt an urge to talk to her on matters beyond the pleasantries and daily chores. It was Sunday afternoon that Yasser had earmarked for washing his clothes. This afternoon when he made way to the bathroom he found Rizwana washing her own clothes. Before he could trace back his steps, Rizwana apologized and offered to wash his clothes also. His eyes met the sight of Rizwana. There was glint in her eyes. Her hands were full of washing soap. Her unkempt hair accentuated her earthen beauty. Today Yasser realized how pretty Rizwana looked.
It was late evening that Sunday when Yasser received a call from his parents from Allahabad informing that Zahida and Dolly would be visiting Allahabad in a few days and it would be in the fitness of things that the pending marriage gets finalized. Yasser was asked to come to Allahabad for a few days.
With spring in her steps, Rizwana served breakfast to Yasser and her father. It was around second helping that Yasser broke the news that he would be going to Allahabad for a week. In continuation he informed that his parents wanted him to be in Allahabad when his aunt and Dolly come to Allahabad. This could be the occasion when his arranged marriage to Dolly would be finalized.
Rizwana felt giddy. Yasser's information hit her hard. She felt an urge to cry. She remembered the day when her mother had expired. Jamshed felt a lump in the throat. He could sense the feelings of his daughter. For the rest of the breakfast no one spoke. Life resumed in this nondescript Gorakhpur house as usual.
Yasser slept that night with thoughts of Dolly. For a very long time he stared at the photograph of Dolly which he had saved in his mobile phone. Amidst the flow of adrenaline, Yasser went to sleep. He was playing cricket in the courtyard, Dolly was standing near him. She caught the ball and ran away. He ran towards her but she was running fast..... He wanted to catch her but she ran even faster. She faded away in the air. He yelled Dolly.... Yasser woke up listening to his own voice. He realized he was dreaming and the dream was a disturbing one.
Allahabad was as calm as Yasser had left it two months back. He had brought gifts for his parents. He had also brought an expensive suit for Dolly. It was the next day that Zahida and Dolly were supposed to come. They arrived. Dolly looked all the more beautiful in ripped jeans and cropped top. Two days had passed, there was every kind of conversation but no talk of marriage. It was on the penultimate day of their stay that Ahmad brought up the subject of Yasser's and Dolly's marriage. Zahida didn't speak, however when she did her countenance explained her thoughts before her words did. She informed Ahmad that Dolly was in a live-in relationship with a boy. The din and the commotion of thoughts in Ahmad's mind drowned everything else which Zahida said that afternoon.
After Yasser had left for Allahabad, it took Rizwana two days to come to terms with reality. She had faltered in life by believing that dreams may be true. She rearranged the makeshift drawing room in its earlier format removing the cot which was placed there to accommodate Yasser.
That night Jamshed felt uneasy, his angina pain happened at 2 am but he did not tell Rizwana. The next morning he went to his old friend whose son had recently opened a tailoring shop in the next lane. With tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat, he proposed Rizwana's marriage to his friend's son. In the evening five women visited Rizwana's house with sweets and a few garlands. A ring was placed on Rizwana's finger indicating the confirmation of marriage proposal.
Yasser took the train from Allahabad to Gorakhpur in a hurry. The train which usually takes five hours today seemed undue delayed. He felt an ache in his heart. His mind couldn't distract itself from the sight of Rizwana with soap smeared hands.
The maulana was in the last paragraph of his recitation. He didn't need any text to remember his lines. The maulana continued informing the groom that his nikah was being solemnized with Rizwana, daughter of Janab Jamshed, with an agreed alimony amount of Rs 25000. The groom answered 'yes'. The motley crowd of baratis clapped. In a ceremony lasting barely ten minutes Rizwana's life had taken a new path. Among the motley crowd attending the nikah ceremony also stood Yasser. Someone pushed a small packet of sugar and dates in his hands, the token of a successful nikah ceremony.