It was a cold winter night with houses covered with the shroud of mist. From the balcony, I could see the twinkling shades on the outskirts, adorning the beauty of huge edifices. There were flies buzzing and concealing the golden street lights which broke the silence of a solitary night. Amidst the beautifully painted buildings, my eyes got fixated on an old rusty house wrinkled with the tribulations of horrendous lightning. The society members thought of it to be haunted, but I decided to visit the dilapidated house which seemed to insinuate something to me, maybe the life of that man who lived with his mother, and the house recuperated the history of his life, screaming aloud in its silence, a silence which was really powerful, but still unheard and ignored. When everyone slipped into the blanket for a soothing slumber, and the city enveloped in the blanket of starry trinkets closed its eyes, I slowly climbed the stairs of the adjacent building, spent and slow, contemplating at my decision of tracing the vicissitudes which the house and its members have undergone. I could hear the sound of my heart beating fast, where one side of my mind was protesting to stop, calling it a crazy adventure, while the other filled a sense of assurance in me. I took a deep breath, and laboring through the darkness which obscured everything, I finally reached my destination.
As the glister of stars approached the space, I could see the name plate and wiped the dust on it with my hands tracing the letters engraved in capitals “Faiz Khan.” All of a sudden, I heard a tinkling bell ringing in my mind, echoing the name several times and then came a flashing thought. I remembered my father talking about the man’s mother who died of a severe disease which completely pierced his son’s heart, tearing him apart into pieces. After two or three attempts, I successfully opened the lock of the house. I lighted the torch on my phone and everything around me was completely barren, narrating the tale of lost lives or maybe, the inescapable death, the curse of mortality hovering on us. It felt as if someone was staring at me. A bearded man with an amiable countenance was smiling through the picture hung on the wall, completely worn out and pale, covered with termites which made me uneasy. The room stands as an embodiment of witness, resonating its old memories and lost in its engaging reverie. The haunting smell of the room manifested its composed breath and carried with it a string of emotions, which it wreathed. I came across a book lying on the ground with letters in Urdu scribbled on it. These words seemed to be floating out of the book, reminding their lost existence, concocting with the nerves of the faded walls, a synthesis which was not meant to wither.
Aye! He was a Muslim, 28 years old, who lived with his mother, jobless yet determined. I was too young back then, and the story of his life that my father discussed with my mother did not make any sense to me, but now it has penetrated deep into my mind, questioning the existence of humanity. Faiz was a quiet gentleman who guarded the undisclosed secrets which the impenetrable walls of his fortified soul carried. He lived a secluded life and one could clearly perceive expectations in his eyes to find a job to support his mother. He lived his life in a cold anticipation, where the selcouth spring was still to come, exalted and sublime. No one knew anything about his family, but even though he was reticent about his personal matters, one thing which was strikingly pleasant about him was the way he used to greet everyone with a smile which was so honest, a blessing in disguise to those who could closely feel its warmth. The residents of the Society were averse to his dulcet voice, the reason being his religion, he was a Muslim. They were fiercely sensitive about their own religion and being acquainted with a Muslim increased their fear of defilement which it would cause. For them, he was an outsider who could never integrate into the mainstream society, as the people were reluctant about allowing him to infiltrate into their lives.
His house provided a haven for him, away from the discrimination that he faced in the outside world. He was never able to pour his heart out to his mother, as he feared that she would be crestfallen. I wonder how his stoicism overpowered the derogatory remarks which raged the fire of disquietude in his heart, but its blazing intensity was never discernible on his visage which made the strand of his entity, a quintessence of humanity. Maybe, at night, the sweet-smelling air of the trees touching his eyelids acted as an elixir to reduce the steep slope of his bumpy destiny. His forlorn spirit is now projected on the walls which sustain the cloud of obscure sorrows, while foreseeing the calamitous peril of menacing tomorrow, weakened and blemished by the running furrows. Faiz’s only solace was his mother whose voice had a talismanic effect on him and assuaged his lacerated wounds, but he was anxious that this propinquity might be lost if his mother fades away from the world, leaving him alone in the wilderness of dog-eat-dog world, where he would have to grope for love like a nomad. He secured a job in a new startup as a peon and was paid a sparingly low remuneration, but Faiz was contented with whatever he got.
A few months later, his mother went through an unexplained weight loss with red coloured patches on the skin, unable to sleep at nights due to night sweats. She was detected with cancer, and the doctor suggested that she should be treated with chemotherapy, a treatment to reduce the symptoms of the disease and killing the cancer cells before they start increasing in number. Faiz, after getting to know about it was completely taken aback, tottering on his way back, his hands trembling with the sudden consternation that had just hit him a few minutes ago. It was for the first time that the moving iridescent bead of tear contorted his face, his eyes looking at his mother with a sense of foreboding. He gulped back the tears, choking from inside, and smiling forcefully, he assured his mother, “I will never leave your side.” After they reached home, he could not sleep and kept on staring blankly with brooding eyes, trying to think of someone who would help him with some cash.
The next morning, when he approached his chief director for money, he clearly refused and dismissed his plight by calling him an apprentice who should not take undue advantage. His neighbours who were filled with deep-rooted prejudice for the stranger disregarded his grief as a means to extract money from them, and use it for illegal matters. Their hostility towards him was evocative of the personal beliefs and pre conceived notions which blinded them so intensely that they understood humanity in the metaphor of religion, where a person should be supported only because he/she belongs to our religion, and not because he/she is a human being like us. They were like the Ouroboros, caught in the circle of religion, where they constantly re-worked the definitions of humanity in terms of “good” and “bad” faith. Moreover, the Almighty never created a distinction between the humans. Everyone is unique before his caring glance which he throws on his children. A man could only be judged by his actions and not by his religion.
The neighbours just added insult to his injury which debilitated him, biting him from inside. He was just being a target of their malign suspicions, a storm of misfortunes which had befallen him. He tried as best he could, but all in vain. A small sum of money which my father contributed and Faiz’s savings were not enough to meet the expenses of his mother’s treatment. The months passed by, and his mother started to feel a little under the weather but the situation was exacerbated by vomiting in regular intervals. A doctor was called who gave some medicines to control vomiting and then his mother peacefully went into slumber, unknown of the fact that the sanguine dawn would never emerge.
In the morn, as Faiz woke up, he went on to his mother to ask her about her health, but as he went near, the pillow was partly stained with blood, her mouth open with a housefly buzzing around the brink of her lips but she was no longer conscious to feel the sensation. The bags under her eyes had become colourless and the tiny wrinkles on her forehead were an unavoidable sign of her old age, looking drier. He trembled as he touched her left hand, where he could feel the nerves of his mother but the pulse ceased to work. Her hand was cold and as he gripped it tightly, a chilling shiver ran down his spine. He had a shocking revelation that his mother, the only soul in this world who acted as a catalyst and inspired him to keep going, despite of irreversible blows, WAS DEAD. The flower of Eden who added colour to his life has withered away and turned into a darkening shade of gray. The imperfections of her face were clearly noticeable. It was for the first time when he had studied the symmetry of her features so closely. Her smile was etched in his mind forever. He could clearly delineate the creases on her face, whenever her thought struck him. He looked at her motionless profile reflecting as a silhouette on the wall. She looked emaciated. Faiz was not able to bear it anymore and the first drop of his tear fell on his mother’s cheek who was listening to everything in permanent silence. He burst into tears and shouted with grief so that it could purge the guilt out of him which started to haunt him.
He felt helpless. He considered himself responsible for her death. HE WAS WRONG. It was not him, but the people surrounding him who have pushed his mother to this deplorable condition, an abysmal atrocity perpetrated on both the mother and his son by not helping them. He was crushed under the unfathomable darkness of human intentions who vaingloriously exhibit their sublime ideas of worship to seek blessings from God, but when it comes to showing their love to a fellow human being, that every holy book preaches, they side step the responsibility. Is this what our Almighty taught? NEVER!
When her mother was being carried away for cremation, my father helped by thrusting a small amount of rolled notes into his hand as we did not have deep pockets and lived on an average income for sustaining our livelihood. He accepted it with a benign smile, his eyes swollen but had not completely lost its glint. None of the other neighbours came to meet him. My mother sent him the night’s meal with four chapattis and some dal that was enough to control his hunger pangs. At night, the absence of his mother made the room more subfusc for him. Through the clouds in the sky, the moon brightened the somber shroud of haze and he felt as if his mother was caressing the muted emotions on his face. He realized her mother saying, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” The cloud of agony should disperse. That was his hope. He came to my house to return the platter and thanked my mother. We never saw him again after that morning. Some said that he left and moved to a distant land near a lovely brook; others considered him to be dead. Several speculations filled the air. In a sparingly short span of time, they forgot this benevolent man, who lived in 158.
My thoughts were disturbed with the cooing of the pigeon on its nest, mating with its partner, creating a new life in this desolate house. The feeling that kept pricking me was the bitter truth of devilry existing in us. We are immersed in the ocean of ego, trudging on the path of antagonism with our feet bleeding, but are unable to let go. The thorns of envy are deeply bestrewn in our hearts, that it poisons every nerve, rupturing the sense of compassion and charity towards others. Some have their faces covered with the veneer of dignity, underneath which one could capture a fiend incarnate. Faiz’s mother would have been alive, had the people shown their support. Faiz’s life would have been a rosy picture, but now, a fragmented puzzle with the halo of enigma surrounding his survival. I left the place with a questioning heart, not realizing what would betide, whether the space shall survive the rough ride, or give in to the monstrous jaws of time, dreadful and grotesquely wide.
I stopped and looked back, “Who knows?” MYSTERY PREVAILS…