Allah has created me with the ribs of Azeem Jung, love of my life and my afterlife. The day that cork ball shot by him split open my skull, I knew that we are inseparable. You know, those stitches doctor had on my head, it sewed me to him. Have you ever observed how beautiful his limbs are? Tall, slender and as if sprinkled with gold dust. The curve of his lips is like Cupid’s bow and the pout he makes while clicking selfies is so cute.
I went to meet him next morning at a bookshop, Maktaba Faizan Abulhasnath, nearby our home. He had worn those sports shorts, his calves looked strong and round, a perfect piece of beauty. Allah has created him in leisure. His heavy eyes told me that he too didn’t sleep last night like me. In love the first thing we lose is sleep, and in return we get a thousand and one dreams. I could not speak. I came there because my friend Varalaxmi told me that he will wait for me at Maktaba Faizan Abulhasnath, sharp at two thirty in the afternoon.
He too didn’t say a word. He just gave me sideways glance. A young man was copying some Urdu poetry about love in a notebook and reciting it loudly. I felt as if my blood had rushed to my temples; and my face turned pink like a red velvet mite. My hair which were tied tightly with a rubber band and hair clips, unbraided itself.
‘As if darkness descended all over,’ the young man with the Urdu poetry book said.
‘Hey, you mouse, don’t you dare to go after her. She’s my Bibi,’ said Azeem with a cricket bat in his hand. His eyebrows started sweating due to anger.
I fainted hearing it. I just fainted.
I opened my eyes on Varalaxmi’s lap. Azeem took me to Varalaxmi’s home as he was afraid to take me to my home. Varalaxmi’s home was a safe choice. Varalaxmi was angry with him. She thought Azeem had done something to me.
‘Have you tried touching her inappropriately?’ Varalaxmi’s mother asked.
‘No aunty. I can say on the Holy Quran. I was standing many feet away from her when she fainted,’ Azeem said as Varalaxmi told me later.
‘Has anyone else touched her inappropriately? The bookseller there?’ Varalaxmi asked.
‘I don’t think so. I didn’t see anything like that,’ now Azeem was getting anxious. I too was now regaining consciousness.
‘Somebody must have said very awful things to her,’ Varalaxmi’s grandmother said in Telugu.
I heard her as my consciousness restored.
‘Vara, nobody said anything or did anything wrong to me. I was reading a book and fainted,’ I told everybody.
‘How come?’ Asked Varalaxmi’s mother
‘I know why? These books men write, they are too much on young girl’s mind. All these stuff about love, man and wife relations. It corrupts heart and knocks young souls down. I tell you Varalaxmi. Never read books,’ Varalaxmi’s grandmother said. We all laughed. Azeem Jung’s laughter was the most musical laughter in this world. And I was his bibi.
Within a couple of weeks, old town folks made us famous as lovers. We didn’t know why. We hardly met. We never talked. As if people were just waiting for the arrival of two lovers in the town. When they didn’t arrive, they created lovers out of us both. There was so much heat, noise and chaos in their lives; there was so much hatred and extremism; and there was so much cruelty, poverty and crowd, that love felt like a stream of cool, humid breeze coming out of a cooler. In traffic, smoke and crowd love felt like a string of jasmine everybody wanted to buy and take home.
I was returning home once buying curd for Amma, an aunty came running towards me, ‘Hey girl, stop, stop.’
‘The cricketer has sent this for you,’ she was panting and sweating excessively.
It was a packet of cashew nuts and two roses. I didn’t know what to do with them. I couldn’t take them. How would have I explained it to Amma. Why did I buy cashew nuts and roses when I was supposed to buy curd and come home?
‘I don’t eat cashew nuts. I don’t want it. I don’t smell roses,’ I said nervously.
The woman laughed out loudly. She wore three dozen bangle in her each hand. She was a professional folk singer and sang at wedding functions, birthdays etc. She understood my nervousness. She took out two cashew nuts out of the packet and stuffed them in my mouth. She touched those two roses on my forehead and put it in her henna dyed hair. She went away smiling, getting happy for no reason. I returned home baffled.
Amma saw everything. She was collecting clothes drying on the roof. She didn’t say anything to me even when the bowl of curd fell from my hand in the courtyard. She knew I was in love and I was like a cat on a hot tin roof. Two days later she put a photograph on my pillow. It was Azeem Jung’s photograph. Our marriage was fixed. Nobody cared to ask me whether I wanted to marry him or not. I wanted to marry him but not so soon. I was merely fifteen.
Billo Khala :
This is what your mother told me the first night she spent at our home after her nikah. She didn’t know she was pregnant. She started wearing saris like Amma. She wore chiffon saris with gold or silver thread works. She wore gold bracelets and real pearl necklace, silver anklets and silver toe rings. Her henna colored palms and sole made her look like a walking lotus ivy.
Ammber Pandey is a poet and novelist interested in the spiritual and the erotic. He has written a book of poetry titled Kolahal ki Kavitayein. He lives in Indore, India.