That sunny day had suddenly turned into a gloomy one. Dark clouds had come billowing over and covered the bright sun. There was a sudden dip in the temperature too. Sitting and watching by from the window Saira was deep in her thoughts. Old memories were unfurling in her mind but she chose to ignore them. But what puzzled her was these memories flood her mind, the memories which she had repressed and tried never to recollect. Why today then? Was it a premonition of something bad?
Saira lived near the Dal Lake in Srinagar. To keep food in her son’s mouth and hers, and to warm clothes on there bodies, she used to do odd jobs. Saira had not had an easy life. She was married at the tender age of 15 and widowed at the age of 17 years with a 2 months old child. Nothing was easy. Her married years were blissful but the memories were faint now. Her son, Azad, reminded of her husband everyday. Their habits and faces were very similar. She wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be exactly like his father. It was a fateful day’s memory that had started haunting her today. The memory had the ability to pierce her soul every time she tried remembering it. Why then today were these memories coming back? A chilly wind had started to blow.
At the time of her husband’s death, she was too young to understand what had actually happened. After that incident, she had left her native village, she settled down in Srinagar to start her life afresh. She did odd jobs to provide for herself and her son. Azad was now a lad of 12. He had a twinkle in his eyes and was always cheerful. He had gone to his grandmother’s place as she was missing his sound of laughter, the giggling and the shouts of pleasure. The memories brought a smile on the wrinkled face of Saira despite of the environment outside that had turned ominously grey as if signalling towards a storm.
She now remembered that Azad would be returning today. She had made his favourite kheer for him. She was thinking about the cherubic face of Azad and was smiling to herself. Thinking about Azad she seemed to forget about all the previous memories that were haunting her. Her mind was now brimming with memories of Azad. The day he learnt to walk, the day he uttered his first word, his first day at school, and everything. Saira was proud of the fact that Azad was one of the brightest pupils in his school. She knew that one day he would make her proud. The weather outside was turning graver.
Suddenly, she noticed six Indian Army soldiers coming towards her house. They were carrying something on their shoulders. Her heart started beating faster and faster. She has seen this some where before. This image seemed to make a connection in her mind but she refused to acknowledge it. This has happened before. Some how she felt that she was being transported back in time. She wanted to desperately clutch at her present. No. She did not want to revisit her past. She must have fainted. But then everything was so clear in this dream. No, this can’t be real. This is not real. But they were coming towards her house. Coming towards her and carrying with them something that looked like her past which she feared. They came near her house and set the body down.
“Madam, your son was shot dead.”
“He was trying to cross the border.”
“We suspect that he got himself enrolled in the terror camps organized there.”
“He was shot dead while trying to come back.”
She had heard these words before. It was like a flashback to the past that was deliberately buried, but today had come to the fore once again. The haunting images that were tormenting her earlier were being played out in real instead of her mind. But only one thing had changed. The one thing that held her universe. The one thing that had kept her alive.
A shriek of laughter alerted the soldiers. "I knew", Saira was laughing and with tears streaming down from her eyes. And she went away telling anybody and everybody that SHE KNEW.