Nida decided to ritualize her mornings for as long as she would be waking up amidst the snow covered peaks colored red in her sister’s blood.
She would come to the same little dhabba she had run into Aaamir at yesterday and have the tea that was too sweet and too milky to possibly add to the bitterness already swirling inside.
She tried to talk to the little girl who kept staring at her for as long as she was there but would never speak. But she was too afraid to speak to the whore from
And so she would serve her, grateful for the respite from having to stare at ashen and sullen faces always spewing anger and religious propaganda that never made any sense, even to her 12 year old mind. She would just bring Nida her tea, touch her fingers as she takes the cup and back away, never wavering her gaze from her face, her hair, her mesmerizing clothes, her flawless grace, her soothing gaze.
Nida liked her too. It was more for her than for any particular need to add discipline or dimension to her painfully empty days of waiting for nothing that she had decided to visit here again.
She could almost forget Rida here. Almost believe that she had never existed. That nothing she had known ever had. In the hustle bustle of every day life, the people coming and going, buying and selling, staring and pointing… here life seemed to go on irrespective of what anyone had suffered. She liked being away from her parents for a little while every day, what with her mother’s incessant crying and succumbing to fits of irrevocable misery every time Nida did anything even remotely reminiscent of her older sister. And her father always reading the news papers from all over the country, always hoping to find something, some mention of the only HCP doctor who had committed suicide and losing his temper at never finding anything. Yelling at her then, unable to figure out where to channel his anger, poking fingers at everything she did until he himself would break down into tears and steal away to his room until mom would go screaming at him to ‘act like a man, if for nothing else than for the one that is still alive’.
So she sat here, exposed mid-riff and all, nursing a hot cup of tea between her freezing hands, basking in the rich aroma rising with the steam from the cup. She tried to think of what lay ahead. Beyond Rida. Beyond loss. Beyond forgiveness. She tried to think of her future, her life but every time it all came back to the childhood days spent in trying to be more and more like Rida.
She had crafted herself into the mould Rida was made of. Speech, style, mannerisms… everything. But try as she might, she could never come to understand what god was for. She had seen too much black to believe that God was white. Too many villains to believe in heroes. To much sin to believe in good. And if he was evil, allowing all hell to break loose in everyone’s life, every day, over and over just to see what makes them tick, what sends them over the edge, why bother believe in him? The fights she would have with Rida when trying to defend her agonistic point of view.
And now Rida was gone, and somehow so was god from her life. All of a sudden in the absence of the only sign of the purported inherent goodness of a god she had ever really known ,she was ready to surrender the lingering doubts and believe unconditionally in the absolute absence of anyone out there looking after her.
It had gotten cold over night. The locals said it would snow soon. She draped her shawl around her body and sat sipping her tea when somewhere behind her a jeep came to a halt.
“You look way too sad for someone so pretty:” she heard a husky male voice say from beside her.
“Don’t bother” She replied without looking at the source of the voice. “Its way to cold, I’m way too jaded, and I’ve heard that line way too many times before.” And took another sip.
“Well..” The voice responded,”Have you ever known it to be this accurate before?”
Now she looked up. Moved more by the promise of at least trying to understand in the voice than the words it spoke. And saw standing beside her with a standard issue army beret in his hands, a tall handsome man with a killer smile, looking at her with such blatant sincerity that she had to gulp.
“I don’t mean to intrude” he said sliding onto the charpai resting across the table from her. “You’re just a little… out of your element. And as I said, way too sad to be alone in an environment that seems as foreign for you as a desert for a fish.”
“I’m not a tourist.” She said looking away.
“And I’m not a guide.”
They sat there in silence. She, looking away at the crowds in the streets. And he, looking at her looking away. He ordered a cup of tea for himself and waited patiently for her to initiate the next part of the conversation.
“They say it’s going to snow tonight.” She finally said, looking up into the sky.
“Probably. It’s long over due.”
“You been here long?”
“Do I look like I have?”
“Do you always make it hard to get a straight answer out of you?”
“Only when I’m looking for an answer that doesn’t seem forthcoming”
“Why are you sad?”
“Why the hell would I tell you that?”
“Because no one else is going to ask.”
She looked at him long and hard, just to see if his gaze would waver. But it didn’t. And she couldn’t help but deny the truth in his words. No one else would ask. No one else even seemed to care. Her family was too caught up in their own grief to deal with hers, her friends were too far away to make a difference. Aamir needed more help then she did. And the locals… he was really her only shot at release.
“I lost God” She replied
Now it was his turn to be silent. He had handled women confused about religion before, but this… this was just too stark, too barefaced to be handled in any of the usual ways. It would be a challenge fixing her, he thought and smiled.
“Did I scare you?” She went on “It’s easier to ask then to help, isn’t it?”
“Are you scared?” he replied dismissing her comment. “I mean of losing God. It’s too precious a thing to loose”
“I never really had him… as such. Just the idea, just the false sense of security that… that he’s there… anyway… forget it.”
“No no, I would like to know more… it’s frightful…almost… “
“You see that’s kind of like how I feel… as in, not knowing whether he is there or not… its..”
“Forget it!” She said getting up.
“No please, I didn’t mean to offend you, Its just that, you don’t expect to have a conversation this drenched in profundity with a stranger every day and I can’t help but find myself helplessly interested in what has led you to abandon whatever little belief you had been holding on to.” He blabbered on while she paid the little girl for the tea and made to walk away.
“Forget it.: She repeated again, but stopped to look at him half sitting half standing, looking desperate. She couldn’t tell whether the desperation was really to know what she had to say or just to make her stay. She decided to leave either way.
“Wait… there’s a party… an army thing. Tonight. It’s basically for army personnel, but civilians here for vacations and such are invited too… will you come?”
All set to say no, she stops in mid-sentence. Army personnel she thinks… the captain in charge will be there. She could corner him and ask him what they have been trying so hard not to answer.
“When is it?”
“Nearby, at my house… you can ask anyone for directions when you’re on your way.”
“Ahan, I’ll think about it”
“Thank you… I hope to see you there.”
“Sure…Bye” She says and begins to walk away.
“Dress up… it’s a black tie sort of thing.” He calls out to her.
She nods her head “What’s the party for?”“