Mehreen woke up with a start. It took her a second to realize that the scream that had woke her up was her own. The room was hot and stuffy and she was drenched in her sweat.She slowly sat up and looked at Mahmood. The room was dark , but she could still make out his silhouette. He was leaning against the wall, she did not know for sure if he was sleeping or not. She sincerely wished he was, but she knew him too well to believe that. He should be very awake.Her screams must have slashed cuts in his raw wounds.
“A bad dream, just a bad dream” she whispered to no one. Mahmood did not make any attempt to acknowledge her. She badly wanted to turn on the lights and look into his eyes. She wanted to smooth out the creases of worries between his forehead. She wanted to make him understand that she was doing the right thing. But she did not have any strength to lose. One look in to his eyes would be enough to weaken her. She knew that he would plead, plead for her to stay. But she could not! She had to avenge Noor’s death.
Noor…her heart still ached when she thought about her. She had lied hours in stumbling in darkness ,unable to accept the fact. She felt guilty, guilty to be alive, guilty to be breathing when her little angel was denied the luxury. The incident had transformed her. She no longer was the Mehreen that she used to be. The hollowness that Noor had left was now filled with anger and hatred. She would not let Noor’s life go in vain. She would make those monsters pay for it, pay for what they did to her Noor!
Mehreen knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep. She had not had a full night sleep in months.She just wanted to get over with everything and she knew the wait was not long. Just one more night, one more night and she would be free, free from all the pain.She would be with Noor,this time tomorrow. She was glad that she did not have to go through her horrific ordeal any longer. Just one more day, she reassured herself.
Only thing she was concerned about was Mahmood. Mahmood was a living corpse, just like her. What would happen of him after she is gone? He would be completely shattered. She sighed guiltily. He should understand, he should have joined her. It was his choice, he was the one who did not want to join her. May be it was because Noor’s scream did not ring as clear in his ears as they did in hers.
Mehreen knew that he was the weaker amongst the two of them. She still remembered how he cried when he learnt that their new born would never see. His sobs had filled the hospital ward, the other patients had flocked curiously to watch him then. Mehreen was heart broken too, but she had never shed a tear. “I have two eyes, they can see for both of us.” She had whispered to the baby squirming in her hand.And she had kept her promise. Noor had seen through her mother’s eyes.She had experienced the colors and the beauty of light,she had known about the shape drifting clouds, twinkling stars and the vastness of the sky, the beauty of her father’s paintings, all through her mother’s words.
Mehreen’s life was literally divided into two phases.Life before and life after Noor. After Noor was born, nothing else mattered to her. Noor’s smile, her happiness , that was all she cared for. That was why she decided to sell of their bakery , leave behind the world that she had lived in, to move to the neighboring town when she heard about the school for the blinds there. Mahmood complied without much protests.He too had loved Noor beyond anything in the world.He too would have let anything in world go to see the smile on Noor’s face.He gave Mehreen the reassurance that she yearned for. He told her everything would work just fine. He would find a job , may be as a helper in a shop nearby until they opened a sweet shop or something. They would build a new world in the new city. Noor would go to school as she always wanted to. She would make them proud one day. Mehreen would smile at his promises.
Everything was going as they had hoped for. Noor loved her school. She was filled with awe when she first felt the letters. She would always talk about the day when she would read to her Mother. She loved to be amidst other kids of her age, the ones who could understand her world of sounds and smells. Mehreen had started making sweets in her house which she supplied to some big bakeries and was saving enough to open a shop of their own. They had good neighbors. They almost got used to the ways of life in the new town.It was gradually becoming their home.
“Ammi, I need a white cane” Noor one day told Mehreen. She told Mehreen how the white cane would let her walk alone in the street.”When we open the shop, you will be busy right?With the cane, I can take care of myself” Mehreen’s eyes were moist when she hugged her only child and whispered “I will never be busy enough to be not able to have time for you dear”.
When the riot broke out,Mahmood was away.He had gone to the neighboring city to get the much anticipated cane that they had ordered for.Mehreen did not know what was happening.There were talks about a burnt train.There were whispers about a very violent mob that was moving towards their locality. People were trying to run away. Mehreen, like many other’s in the locality ,had taken refuge in the home of a neighbor. They closed the doors and sat hoping that the mob would just go away, that they would be spared. Mehreen could sense the fear in Noors whimpers as she sat with her face buried in her bosom.”Ammi..Ammi…” she would whisper when ever she heard distant screams of the crowd.Her soft breaths and silent tears pierced Mehreen’s heart. Spare us God, she kept praying.
Men had barged into the houses. They had burned houses and created a mayhem. The screams of the attackers and the victims were ringing clearer. Mehreen sat huddled in the corner.She would die, but not let them do any harm to Noor. Her heart had stopped when they broke open the door.She felt Noor’s clasp around her neck get tighter.She slowly stroke her baby, but could feel her shiver in fright.”Pray Noor, you will be fine, no one will hurt us” She lied. Mehreen was scared for Noor. She tried to crouch over Noor, tried to protect her.The fighter within her tried to push away the men, when she failed she pleaded “Leave us alone for god’s sake”.She could see hurt people around her ,blood spurting out of fresh wounds.She, for the first time was glad that Noor couldn’t see ,that she did not have to witness the horror that was unveiling around.But she knew, each of those screams would be echoing in Noor’s ears, they would be frightening her like anything.
Before she knew somebody pulled them apart. She tried to hold to her child, but then failed.She did not know what was happening. She was hit, kicked around., raped, beat violently. She did not realize what they were doing to her, she was calling out for Noor. She was straining to hear her voice. From amongst other screams she could differentiate her daughter’s voice. She was helpless, more than once she tried to break free and run to Noor. God knows what they were doing to her little angel.She prayed frantically that they would leave her alive. Something hit her hard on the head and then there was darkness.
When Mehreen woke up, she wondered if she was alive or dead. When the gulp of air that she inhaled caused a sharp pain within, her she knew she had survived.Her first thought was about Noor. She slowly crawled, getting up was an non thinkable feat. Amongst the dead bodies and the whimpering half deads she searched for her Noor, praying, wishing with all the faith that remained that she was alive. And then she found her, in a corner ,bleeding,naked.A frozen expression of fear captured on her little face. Mehreen called her name, whispered to her ear,shook her with all her strength. She knew the truth, but did not want to accept. Her vision was blurred, she lied by Noor’s side,not wanting to let go.Slowly her consciousness faded away.She wished she was dead too.
Mehreen kept slipping in and out of consciousness.In her heart she knew, she knew something sinister had happened. But she couldn’t place the string of memories together.She kept asking for Noor, she did not want to wake up.When she at last woke up ,she found Mahmood by her side.”Where is Noor ?” She asked panic stricken.She briefly recalled crawling in a dimly lit room, turning the bodies around, looking for Noor. Mahmood did not reply.He instead kept on stroking her head. A scream that broke out from Mehreen’s chest stood silent at her lips. She wanted nothing else but to die.She did not want her physical wounds to heal when she knew that her injured heart would never ever heal.She hated herself, she hated the world, she hated everything.
It took weeks before Mehreen could actually sit by herself.She was in some sort of camp.Besides herself and Mahmood, there were a lot of families there.Most of them had lost their dear ones.Some of them were lucky enough to find all their family alive, but had lost all their belongings. Mehreen did not ask Mahmood about their house or anything else.She once inquired if he had got the white cane. Her Noor’s cane? Mahmood had given her a silent stare , the unspoken words of comfort never escaping his lips.
As her body recovered, the trauma in her mind intensified.She did not know what to do.Her life had lost it’s purpose.She was broken beyond comprehension.And then one day she decided to end it all.She decided to take the easy way out.She decided to die.She could not endure this pain any longer.
Mehreen had slowly slipped away from hall where they all slept.She had made sure Mahmood was asleep. She had planned how to do it. A slash on her wrist would be enough.She only had to wait in silence and make sure nobody would find her before it was time. She was looking for a dark corner to hide herself.That was when she saw him. Rafeeq.
She had met Rafeeq in the camp. He had lost his father and sister in the riot. The tragedy had brought them closer. Rafeeq was a great support to Mahmood nowadays. He looked at the piece of glass in her hand and looked at her quizzically.She looked down not wanting to meet his eyes .”Sister” Rafeeq glanced painfully at Mehreen.”I can understand your pain” He slowly whispered.”And I know what you were going to do.The pain of losing your family, more over the helplessness, the guilt of the survivor.I can understand” Tears streamed down Mehreen’s eyes.”But what good is it if you just kill yourself.How are you going to justify your inaction.What reply will you give to your daughter.Your daughter, she was blind, she was only a baby and those monsters raped and killed her” Mehreen gasped, she knew it all the time, but hearing the truth spoken in words was unbearable.She tried to fathom what her kid might have gone through in the final moments of her life.”Don’t you want to punish them Sister?” Rafeeq continued. Mehreen looked up questioningly.
Then Rafeeq explained to her.About the mission.About how they were going to retaliate. How they were going to make them pay for each and every life they had taken. Mehreen listened.She found a new energy filling her.She felt a new rage boiling within her.She had to do it.She had to avenge her daughter’s sufferings.She would make them repay, she would make them suffer.
That was four months ago.The plan was in place.When Mahmood had known about it, he had fought against it.”You don’t understand what they are asking you to do. We have lost Noor, what will bring her back…don’t take the burden of such a gruesome sin on your soul Mehreen. ” He kept pleading. She felt hurt that he did not support her in her revenge. Noor was their daughter, not her alone. Did he not feel the pain?
Even Rafeeq could not convince Mahmood. When they suspected that Mahmood might try to tip off the authorities, they decided to keep him in bounds. They kept a watch on him. Mahmood’s pleas slowly died.He had stopped talking to her altogether.Sometimes she caught him weeping all by himself. But then, she left him alone.She had a mission.She did not want Mahmood’s tears to weaken her.
Before she knew, it was the fateful day. The day was painfully slow. Minutes tickled by slowly, Mehreen was nervous and very scared.They had fixed the time as 7 in the evening.That was the aarti time in the temple.The temple would be very crowded as it was the annual festival, they had told her. Take down as many of them as possible. She nodded.It was easy, it was just a press of a button.It would end all of them, just like their violence had ended all her happiness.And she would herself be liberated.
She had wore a heavy sari, had put on the jewelry and the bindi. She looked no different from any other Hindu woman, except for her stony emotionless face. She wanted to say a last good bye to Mahmood, but restrained herself. They gave her a phone and told her that they would inform her when it was time. They were expecting some religious leaders to visit the temple, they wanted them to be finished too.They wanted the impact to be larger than ever.
Mehreen tried to mingle in the crowd as she was instructed to.It was easy. No one gave her a second look.She stood by the temple courtyard. It was heavily crowded. She was scared, but then she closed her eyes and re lived those moments of horror.She saw the frozen face of Noor and it was enough to have pure hatred replace any trace of fear. Her phone buzzed and she slowly raised it to her ears. “Sister” A familiar voice boomed from within.”Mahmood had escaped our watch, he might either go to the authorities or come in search of you.” She cringed.”We don’t have any time to lose.On the count of ten” The voice paused. “Ok” she whispered back.
She stood there counting.It was about time.That was when somebody tugged her from behind.Was it Mahmood?.She turned back. But it was not him.”Noor?”She wondered for a moment. A girl of Noor’s age stood before her, tugging her Sari.”Is that you mother”she asked. Mehreen looked down at the girl, her glance lingered on her angelic face,serenely smiling lips, half closed eyes and then rested on the white cane that she was holding close to her heart. Mehreen’s heart stopped for a moment. With a start she realized how she herself was blinded after Noor’s demise, how she herself failed to see what she was going to do!
What was she going to do? Was she going to hurt yet another Noor?Was she going to deny yet another mother the warmth of love? What right did she have to wipe off that innocent smile?She looked around. There were people all around.Ordinary people like her and Mahmood, kids of Noor’s age pondering at the toy shops!People with their families, they reminded her of her happy days! Why did she not see what Mahmood was trying to tell her? She looked back at the girl, this was Noor’s messenger, she knew it.This was Noor’s way of telling her to stop.
She slowly bent towards the girl and said.”No, I am not your Mother.But I can help you find her” She slowly held those little hands and looked around. A woman was walking towards her, her concerned face relaxing as she caught a glimpse of the child.As she came near, she smiled and called out “Roshni..you scared me”.The girl’s face broke into a grin as she found her mothers hands. Mehreen smiled at the woman. Her phone was buzzing again. She started walking away from the temple, she had suffered the worst pain in the whole world, but she was not going to make those innocents pay for it. She silently thanked Noor for letting her know that. She now knew where to go, she knew Mahmood was right, she had to find the authorities before they found her.
This is a work of fiction, and was in no way meant to hurt any religious sentiments.On a different note, this is my fiftieth post, I would like to thank all those who had taken time to read and comment on my posts. Your words of encouragement keeps me going.