Akshar was covering the accident on the news for the day. It was just one of those things delegated to him; he essentially seemed to have turned into the handyman for the office. From the print media they shunted him to the visual media; there he was covering up for anyone who didn’t turn up for the day.
“its temporary we shall re allot the slots once this quarter is over, until then try out various beats and see what you can come up with.” Here he was covering the beat for a kid reporter who did not make it.
Akshar looked at the old lady, she was dying.
“Please help me, share this with the world I am dying but I want my grandchildren to know that what they are doing is right. This life is too small to live by someonelses rules or be wary because of someone elses memory.”
How right Danielle Berry was, no one ever said on their deathbed, “Gee I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer” but quite a few of them did tell him, tell my story to the world, it was as if they were telling him, someone know that I had altered this existence by contributing to it someway.
ChinarBibi, he knew her personally, she was an expert Kashimiri down calangute he used sit with her many evenings when he felt lost, she had told him her worries, her beliefs her life in Kashmir. ChinarBibi was badly injured, she called him aside,
The refrain was the same,
“Why not, why not, why not” she pondered,”“why not?”And “yeah’ “Akshar beta, shafique and Kristina are outside call them in,”
Shafique chinarBibi’s grandson and his girlfriend Kristina came in, “shafique beta, tell Akshar the story of Abu khan miya, I am not dying as yet, but Allah has reminded me that the doors of his house are opening, so I have to go some day. I want you to know that life is very short, my memory and my learning belong to another day, your memory and your learning are of today these will not be right for your children. We are all like Abu miyan’s bakhri we have to live our life on our terms. Mere Kashimiraa tumhe aazad karti hoon.”
For a minute ChinarBibi looked haunted. She turned to him and smiled,”we are all haunted and haunting.? That is our experience speaking, my memories of my life the stories of my ancestors, they possess me and peer out of the windows of my eyes, I see what they show me and you see what I have seen.”
She was right; changes do occur in almost every aspect of our lives we can embrace it, and leave the past with grace, for ChinarBibi it was burying her daughter in the valley of Kashmir
The old Kashmiri folktale of the shepherd, Abu Khan Miyan wanting to protect his sheep from the mountain wolf would cage it, but the sheep wanted its freedom, to skip up the mountain and fend for itself. Abu Khan had lost many a sheep, with each sheep dying it was like loosing his own child; the last one chancing was begging him for her freedom
“The mountain wolf will wolf you down”
“I will fight him with my horns.”
“Chandini my child your horns not strong yet neither you, you are safer in the cage.”
“Abu miyan I may be safer in the cage, I am comfortable in your affection but I am not free I want my freedom.”
“Freedom is death my child”
“Death with dignity Abu miyan”
This was ChinarBibi favourite story it reminded her of her Kashmir, her grandson Shafique was asking her the same freedom that they had asked in their younger day, the freedom to live and die in dignity, she knew better than anyone else, after all she had paid the price with her blood.
Noorie, shafique’s mother and her only daughter after three sons, had grown up.
Mohamed Bhatt, the peer baba of the dargah had brought the proposal of aslam, aslam being a popular boy, he had a courier business he went all over to ladakh, Jammu, Delhi and sometimes even beyond he was definitely considered a good choice.
“I have seen him with altaf and his crowd” sayeeda Chinar’s sister had told her.
But Sayeeda was eyeing Aslam for her own daughter, after who did not want a well to do good looking son-in-law.
The wedding took place with great fun fare and life was great, shafique was born it was just before he turned a year Aslam had returned from his travel somewhere near anantnag, these trips had made Chinar restless as Anantnag was a troubled area, but as Aslam arrived safe in the evening Noorie and ChinarBibi said a prayer of thanks.
It was the day before the eid, and Noorie was off to the market to buy things she wanted for the next day, saffron, almonds, other requirements for the daawat.
“Noorie Jaan, can you give this parcel to Peer Saheb’s house on your way” aslam called out. Noorie had picked the parcel
“Noorie get him to sign on the paper” Aslam said handing her a paper, a pink pulkari embroidered alfhi, and white salwar, her head covered with the scarf, “allah haafiz” she said as she left, that was the last conversation, ChinarBibi had with her daughter, few minutes down the lane, the parcel she was carrying blew up taking her along with it. Not even her remains were got.
“Hai Allah how will Aslam take it,”
“Aslam, beta aslam” Rashid Miya ChinarBibi’s husband had banged on Aslam’s door, but there was no sound from within after an hour, when they forced the door open they found Aslam dead and his suicide note,
He was from POK and his courier business was delivering bombs and guns, he had not realized the impact of his work until his Noorie had died. He did not have the courage to face the follow out of being caught and interrogated so he had volunteered to go to the abode of Allah as a soldier who had served in the Jihaad.
Rashid and ChinarBibi had left all the painful memories at Kashmir and travelled down to Goa, they had never told shafique much about his parents, but now the need for azaadi had raised its head again.
With Aslam it was avam ki azaadi, freedom of the nation, with Shafique it was more personal, a freedom to make choices, freedom to win, freedom to die, it was all about dignity, like Abakan Mayan’s Chandini “Par hum azaad to hai.”
Akshar wondered about the changes that ChinarBibi and Rashid would have had to make. the changes everyone made in their lives, the way people brace up to change even without realizing it, it was only when one sat down and recognized the signs like anxiety, mood swings or being worried did one realize facing change. Though change could be positive, could be faced positively somehow one does not budge from the comfort zone. That was what Chinar was doing letting go of the past, the scar of losing the daughter to an affirmative one of anticipation, welcoming Kristine as putting Noorie to rest with grace and dignity.
Venugopal his mentor had once told him,” changing labels changes perspective, the butterflies in the stomach could be of anxiety or eager anticipation. We decide the stand, and the shift will let us look at things the way it is good for us. We can visualize the possibility, acknowledge the good, focus our energy in joyful anticipation and allow the feeling to carry us forward.”
“Sir how would they deal with unrecognized bodies?”
“Guess they would do a mass ceremony”
The occupants of the car Luiza Tavora and ChinarBibi had survived but the bus that banged into them all fourteen passengers were charred to death. There was an all religion prayer for them, and for all those victims of road accidents.
The day was done,
Gone the sun from the skies,
Akshar was tired, drained both emotionally and physically for him it was coming back to land of living.
The dying man who said” my baby, can you see her, she went ahead of me, I have to catch up God knows what danger lurks there.” Reminded him of Stanislav Grof, that individuals approaching death often experience encounters with their dead relatives who seem to welcome to the next world. These deathbed visions are authentic and convincing; they are often followed by a state of euphoria and seem to ease the transition. May be he was right.
May be that was cultures created ceremonies to help people make the transition from one phase of life to the next.
“Write out all that irritates me about someone and burn the paper with tobacco” Jervis had told him that released my anger, and “tobacco?”
“well it is the carrier of prayers, so I want Lord to forgive me for the vengeance.”
There was Anita who planted a rose sapling on her dead daughter’s birthday, she had lost her 5yr old daughter to an accident, there was Patricia who got soil from her hometown, her husband’s hometown and created an indoor bonsai garden.
Shruti’s wedding shower, archana’s baby shower, everything marking a transition not allowing the fear to settle in and give them that cold feet.
“Well that’s a lot of contemplation, but what would you be thinking on your deathbed?” asked Ptah,
What would I think, retorted Akshar, “may be like ammamma I will say get me the curd my meal is over.”
Or may be like Dodda I shall tell my doctor”I am over seventy, with a great innings in my life, no regrets, let me go gracefully and thank the lord for such a blessing.”
Akshar remembered the last few weeks of his grandmother’s death, his Aunt wanted to distract her from a body that was being released.
“what!gone case is it,”
“yes”his aunt answered reluctantly
“it had better be nothing” his gran had retorted, ”remember Bhagya, this is the only truth of life, today he is gone case, tomorrow I am rest assured, the day after you are.”
Or maybe like his father he would have to be released, akshar’s sister had to sit by akshar’s father and promise that she would take care of herself. Their family priest had told her,”a soul that has gone is calling him but you are not letting him go, let him go let him go in peace, with grace and dignity.”
“Well, let me quote Evelyn Glennie” retorted Akshar want to be able to say on my deathbed that I reached a few people. That would be very nice, just to be able to say that. “of course I would love to on my deathbed looked at as an icon, right now I am taking baby steps to it, but that is the goal. –PS—Kesha borrowed this from me.