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Menace of dowry
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Menace of dowry

With all broken legs and as if weight of heavy Mountain on his back, he managed to reach river bank where Huma’s dead body was lying. Baba can’t bear to see her darling one last time and his sunken eyes were shedding tears as if to dry forever

Post by on Monday, October 11, 2021

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Huma turned twenty-four.  A girl who is always lost in her ‘own world’ with her almond-shaped eyes more often than not stuck at one particular thing and dark-brown eyeballs as stationery as figures of a clock; Huma occasionally finds full time for external world and is usually lost and busy in refreshing her old memories and generating future tensions. This is the reason; her Baba has given her the name – ‘Girl in Thinking Mood’. Anyone meeting Huma first time describes her ‘face’ as secretive as ‘High and Old Mountain’ - which perhaps harbors the secrets of times. But Huma is hardly twenty-four and yet young to be like Old Mountain. Perhaps, experiences and pain of time has made her to be so. As she lost at the age of twelve her comrade and secret-sharing friend – her sweet and caring mother to eternity. Though she loves to lighten herself sometimes by sharing with her childhood friend – Farah. 
Tears trickle down her face with pinkish cheeks sparkling, like ‘pristine dew drops’ on surface of a beautiful flower whenever Huma recalls her father’s trance in bringing her up single-handedly  and grooming her well; giving her most valuable asset of life – education. She remembers every moment of pain of her father for her - like a child remembering each word of Morning Prayer. Perhaps, she feels indebted to him for that and wishes someday in someway through her little endeavour to return back ‘love’ for ‘unconditional love’. “Perhaps mine and Baba’s breaths are interwoven in one fabric of life. Can I ever think of living without him?” --- Line’s that Huma would oft- repeat in front of Farah with the only aim of receiving ‘positive and hopeful reply’ from other end: “He is going nowhere Huma. Think positive.” Huma would always sigh after this and say, “Yeah. I know that. How can he leave for we both love life”? And then take a deep breath and continue… “But you know Farah; death sometimes seems to me as close as death of ‘heartbeat’ and sometimes as far as a glance at Baba’s ‘grayish beard’. What it really takes to be far? I would give it that.” Farah would often dismiss to lessen Huma’s grief, “Only your beautiful eyes. Would you love to live as blind? And even if you die Huma, I would enjoy writing your eulogy, catching your beautiful eyes through camera of my words”.
Baba’s blood pressure levels are up as Huma’s marriage date is drawing near. But in heart of hearts he is as happy as that and has true father feeling over marriage of her daughter. Huma is as restless as a ‘Fish’ in a frying pan ¬¬¬--- looking at her father every now and then and shedding tears incessantly. What kills Huma from within is her Baba’s hidden and inexplicable love for her and her immense and inexpressible love for her Baba. Despite so much love from her father, Huma feels a space in between --- which defines her boundaries of sharing and still harbors a pain in heart which she wants to share in eternal space with her Mother. That pain – language of which is understood by a mother only. All she could imagine is anxiety of a mother while arranging and taking care of ‘little-little’ things on marriage of her ‘ladli’ daughter. Real pain. And real reason to shed tears. Finally, Huma gets married. And Baba has real reason to have a sigh of relief.
Within fifteen days of marriage, comes first demand for dowry. But Baba is ‘big-hearted’ to satisfy demand of daughter’s in-laws’ happily. Huma is a little worried, perhaps, knowing about continuity of ‘demand processes’. First consideration results in dead silence for complete six months. And ‘greedy restlessness’ is again evident on hanging faces of in-laws’. Huma’s heart feels the pain of Baba’s sunken eyes – too feeble now for second heavy demand but ‘criminal silence’ at husband’s home makes her to wait for their utterance for second demand and getting that satisfied, to breathe. Silence is broken and Huma visits Baba but this time for communication of demand only and not for usual routine of her visiting Baba for his health concern. Ghosts of “diabetes” and “asthma” have joined lonely life of Baba after Huma’s marriage.  Huma is all hesitant to put her demand forth and with stone on heart, she breaks her silence. Baba coughs for a while to be able to speak up - keeps his hand on daughter’s head and says: “Nothing to worry about my dear. Am I dead yet? Whatever they have asked for would surely reach them tomorrow”. All Huma reacts with is tearful eyes and then leaves. Second demand is happily satisfied by Baba. But with it starts the war between Huma’s ‘Eros’ (life instinct) and ‘Thanatos’ (death instinct). For Well Known Reasons. As this is the height of perseverance now. But Huma doesn’t let death instincts go wild and win over life instincts and snuffles in a high tune. The Lines of H.W. Longfellow (which she has memorized in childhood) to let her ears hear:
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
 Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
 Is our destined end or way
 But to act, that each tomorrow
 Find us farther than to-day.
This ‘MANTRA’ really works and she feels the beats of life again. Every day with her in-laws’ is not less than a tough State Board Examination. It is hardly one month since satisfaction of second dowry demand and there is much time to make third one. So, why in-laws’ would give her free-lunch? Are girls really entitled to that? Or they have every right to? As per Philosophy of Huma’s Mother-in-law, “cruelty” and “harassment” are actual consideration for lunch given and she practices her Philosophy in Huma’s case well. Huma accepts this lunch and digests it with full perseverance keeping in view her Baba’s happiness for her married life. And reads aloud to herself the lines of Longfellow:
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Huma incessantly fights with her ‘death-instincts’ and everyday passes like climbing a High Mountain. Death is like ‘DRAGON’ - waiting with wide open mouth but not that easy to take her in. For she still weaves dreams of azure in her dark-brown eyeballs. And death can’t be callous to her love for life. It is passage of much time since second dowry demand and time is ripe for third one as now ‘cruelty’ and ‘harassment’ don’t give much sadistic pleasure to her in-laws’. Baba’s almost broken door manages to resist the bang of third demand. Huma is half-living half-dead now. Almost one month passes and demand is not fulfilled as Baba is too feeble this time to manage huge sum within given rather dictated ‘time frame’. For how much time predator could manage without prey? Perhaps, ‘Divorce deed’ is the only modality to get rid of pesky headache. Huma is forcibly made to sign it and she seals her all happiness in her initials. One copy of it is given to her free of cost. And she is given limited time to leave this ‘temporary station’ – from where she procured valuable document of divorce! She leaves for Baba’s home with broken legs. Tears almost on brink of her eyes but she manages to hold them back to shed them somewhere in desolation. She is walking like a ‘living corpse’. Only Earth could feel the weight of her grief.
Huma is too sensitive to go straightway to Baba’s house with ‘poor report card’ in her hand. She walks past the river bank – where she often used to go with her mother to feel Nature in raw. But this time she is almost dead to feel gentle breeze playing with her golden tresses. She sits on river bank with her eyes stuck on river water and sheds tears with full flow. She could feel equal tumult in her heart and the River. Life no longer smiles; it is not sweet now. Death seems like only medicine for this dread pain. Huma keeps gift from her in-laws’ – Divorce deed on the bank of river, perhaps, as last message for Baba and others to see. River water like ‘Angel of Death’ stares at Huma and her ‘life instincts’ silently surrender before it and her body lets itself into dread River. Death of unheard music – and no difference to anyone .Ripples murmured:
Whom to call rogue?
Life or death?
Death is sweet:
Than questioning worries;
Death is sweeter:
Than crossing boundaries.
Even Huma’s last rites would have remained a wish for Baba, had it not been for Siraaj who was in lower riparian area of river for purposes of fishing. Siraaj thought Huma as masquerade of Trout but to his surprise it was body of a known girl from his neighboring village and he ‘rescued’ her dead body from drowning to unknown destination. News about Huma’s death spread like wild fire and also reached ears of poor and already broken Baba. Heavens fell. Baba for a while can’t believe himself as living - as if World ceased to exist. With all broken legs and as if weight of heavy Mountain on his back, he managed to reach river bank where Huma’s dead body was lying. Baba can’t bear to see her darling one last time and his sunken eyes were shedding tears as if to dry forever. Mustering courage, he came close to dead body of his Soul like daughter and with his skinny hand closed her wide-open eyes – which were still dreaming skies. And whispered unto her ear: “I was there to cocoon you in my safe little world. You were to come. Was I dead yet?”
(From RK Archives)
(This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.)

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