This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 43; the forty-third edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "LIGHT"
Ash-hadu an-la ilaha illa llah
Ash-hadu anna Muħammadan-Rasulullah……
The muezzin’s call vibrated across the morning air .
Noor sat up on her bed with a start, breathing hard, sweating profusely.
Shaking her head strongly, as if to throw off the last specks of the bad dream sticking on to her memory, she reached for the water jug and drank some water in big gulps, letting some water flow out of her mouth and down her neck, mingling with the beads of her sweat.
It was 4.15 , the time for the first prayer of the day.
It was a fine winter morning. Noor couldn’t help feeling excited, as she finished her bath and prayers.
Today, the 25th of October, 2011, was indeed special, in many ways, wasn’t it ?
She would meet Abida. After three long years.
Abida was fifteen, and Noor was eleven, when they lost their Ammi-jaan to the cruel hands of fate.
Abba jaan had taken to drinking soon after, and he borrowed huge amounts of money from the local money-lender, Aslam Shah.
And he never bothered to repay him.
Whatever little Abida earned from her job as a domestic help was barely enough to feed them, but Abida was always her vivacious self, and a devout Muslim that she was, one could always be happy with her around.
They were literally pulling on, when the equation was re-written.
Shivers ran down her spine, as Noor remembered the day Aslam Shah had barged in to their kothi.
“Arey oye, Abida, whoever that is, where are you?”
He came in straight to the kitchen where Abida was boiling the gruel for dinner, and pinned her on the wall with his right hand at her throat.
Abida tried helplessly to free herself from his tightening grip and hungry gaze sweeping the curves of her body.
“ Your Abba jaan…..the shameless pig ! He has taken money from me, and now I search for him, he’s gone missing. What does he think ? That I can’t get back my money ? Arrey, I have you…. I can get
back more than my money’s worth…you and your sister are enough for me !”, he bellowed, as Abida folded her hands in a plea.
“ Nahi, saheb ji…..leave her alone….you can have me, I’ll come …. But please, please leave her alone…”, she cried.
“ Then come , come to my kothi….NOW !”
“ Release me, saheb ji, I’ll come….”, Abida spoke in submission. Aslam released his grip on her, and stood with his hands on his hips.
She went to the kitchen door, behind which Noor stood petrified.
Between tears and smiles, she told her how she had known this all along, how she had overheard Aslam’s goons enquiring about their kothi when she went to fetch water the previous day, how she had mentally prepared for all this.
“They would kill Abba, Noor. Don’t let that happen, Noor. When Abba jaan comes back, tell him the debt is repaid. And ask him not to come in search of me. You too take care, meri jaan….Allah will take care of us…. I’m sure he’ll show you a good way. Study well….”, she had said, as Aslam dragged her by her hand, forcibly pushed her inside the tonga, and sped away.
Noor had tried running behind the tonga, which had vanished into a thin dot in no time, and she had fallen on the road and wept and wept, till the world went black before her eyes.
Abba had returned the next day, and on hearing the news, had accepted it calmly, whispering ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar’…
Noor had wanted to scream out, spit out her frustration at him, that he was the reason for the fate that had befallen Abida, she had paid the price of his penury…..but his inebriated state discouraged her.
She had quit talking to him ever since.
She hadn’t heard from Abida for long. She had contemplated going in search of Aslam’s home in the next town, where she thought Abida would be, if she was still alive. But her efforts to find out his whereabouts had been in vain.
That was till she received the letter two days back, addressed to her.
Abida had written to her, that she was at Aslam’s home, with three of his other wives, and he was treating her well. She was now in the ninth month of her third pregnancy,having lost the first two in the initial months itself. She wanted to see Noor, she had written. She had invited her home, and had written down her address.
Noor hadn’t been able to believe it! Aslam, treating Abida well ? He was cruel, wasn’t he ? But she would soon know.
She had decided to go the very next day. She had a secret stash of money which she had saved from her job as a domestic help in the village, which she had taken up in Abida's absence, to survive.
Abba jaan needn’t know, she had thought. He wouldn’t bother anyway.
It seemed the night had arrived very soon. Noor’s heart thumped excitedly as she alighted the bus and walked in the direction specified by Abida in her letter. She spotted the house at a distance, judging by the small shop next to it, as Abida had said, and this increased her pace.
She froze as she neared the gate. She knew the gruff voice when she heard it shouting at someone. Aslam.
“You haraami… can’t you cook properly ? How many times have I told you I need the proper amount of pepper on the mutton ? And the gravy ? What other job do you have here, other than cooking ? Tell me”.
Someone whimpered an answer inaudibly.
“ You stupid ! How dare you talk back”, he shouted.
A shriek, the tinkling of bangles, a thud.
Noor hid in the shadows as Aslam stormed out of the house.
She crept to the gate, stealthily to check if she could find who the victim was.
What greeted her was a small rivulet of blood. She followed the trail to its source.
There, in the faint light cast by the yellow bulb in the room, lay a woman, her head against the wall, with a heavy stomach, the salwar turning red-wet with the blood that was forming a puddle between her thighs. She was writhing in pain. Apparently the fall had caused her labour.
Noor didn’t have to see twice, to know who it was.
“Abida, yaah Allah, Abida”, she yelled, running inside, and taking Abida’s head in her lap and trying to calm her down with a hand on her stomach, trying to soothe her.
“ Noor, my Noor…have you come ? I’m so happy Noor”, Abida said, writhing in pain.
Noor sobbed and helped Abida as freed herself from her dress. She didn’t know what else to do.
“ Take my child, Noor. Take my child…..I’m sure it’s a girl, name her Duniya…she’s my world….take her away….I don’t think I’ll live to see the morning light…”, Abida spoke in halting tones, clenching her teeth in pain.
“Yaah Allah ! No Abida, you’ll be fine…..”, Noor sobbed as she helped Abida with her labour.
“ No, Noor….No…do as I tell you,” with a final loud shriek, Abida’s body went limp even as a new life announced its arrival with a piercing cry.
A baby girl, as Abida had said.
Tears clouded Noor’s vision as she tried shaking Abida. She knew Abida had left. She looked at her brown, lifeless eyes, now dead, with a smile in them.
Smile of happiness, or of having escaped the trauma...Noor would never know now...
But Abida had left her world behind.
Noor picked the baby up from the puddle of blood around her. She cleaned her with her dupatta and draped her in a towel that was lying on the chair.
She took her in her arms , took one long final look at Abida’s lifeless body and turned and walked into the night.
She knew what she needed to do.
She remembered seeing a hospital on her way ,some time back. She would go there first. She would get the on-birth check-up done for Duniya. Once that was done, she would take the next bus to some far off town. She would take care of Duniya, her sister’s world. She would be her mother. She would raise her sister’s world in her memory.
Aslam needn’t know. Her Abbajaan needn’t know. No one would know, in fact. And none would care.
Noor walked , with the baby sleeping peacefully, in her hands.
The breaking dawn would soon cast a light on the sleeping world, and the country would wake up to the 26th of October, 2011 to Diwali, the festival of lights.
But there would be one girl who would have lived the life her name signified.
Noor. The Light.
Duniya ki roshni.