Short story: The festival of Eid for the destitute!
Every nook and corner, every road and alley of the village is abuzz with children bursting firecrackers, buying rattles, dolls and other things of their interests. Markets and shops are decorated with colorful lights.People have bought delicious sweets, cakes , pastries etc… Women are busy in preparing different veg and non-veg cuisines.Houses are decorated with paints and colors.Everyone is seen wrapped in new and colorful dresses particularly the children and the women. Joy, jubilation and felicity has filled the atmosphere with Eid aroma. Young girls are chanting special Eid songs in chorus. Men , including grown up boys are walking briskly towards Eidgah for congregational Eid prayers. Moulvy Sahab is delivering sermon about Zakaat (Obligatory tax on Surplus wealth) and Sadaqah Fitre ( Obligatory tax on fasting ) from the high decibel loudspeaker . People are passing Eid greetings to one another and embracing each other.
Away from this hustle and bustle , two orphan children , Uzma and Arsalaan are weeping and crying before their mother for new clothes and Eidee ( Eidee is an amount given to children on Eid) as all the children of the village are out in beautiful and colorful attires . The orphans are in torn and dusty clothes. They too want to buy those whistles, toy guns and other things of children’s interests but they don’t have any money in their pockets. They too want to taste sweet and crispy edibles but all these joys are probably removed or erased from the fate of this brother-sister duo. The architect has probably been a little callous here. The scene in this mud house is heartbreaking and mournful. The poor mother, who is reduced to a mere skeleton, has no answers to console her children particularly her four year old daughter who is too innocent to understand the plight and helplessness of her mother.
Alas! The widow mother is unable and hapless to fulfill the demands of her children. She just began to behave like a deaf and dumb person as she had no answers to her children’s demands. Arsalaan, who is eight years old, realized his mother’s haplessness and began to persuade his four year old sister to keep quiet. “keep mum, Papa is coming with new dresses and bags full of sweets for us”. He said to his sister. Deep inside, he knew that his Papa will never come back. But his sister wiped her tears off her cheeks , and a special wave of happiness and glow spread on her face. Her red cheeks and pink lips were radiating light. Her coarse and uncombed long hair spread over her forehead and cheeks was enough to narrate their miseries. This persuasion from Arsalaan was going to be a nine day’s wonder as Uzma was looking towards the door, and kept asking about the arrival of her father.
Zareena, their mother was stirring a cauldron containing rice, on the traditional Kashmiri mud chulha. She was longing to cook different cuisines and dishes like other households as it was Eid day but how could she because she is a poor widow. While stirring the cauldron, the reminiscences of her late husband began to flash on her mind. Some three years back, she was a queen because her husband was alive. Their Eid was not dull and monotonous. There would be all the sweets, bakeries, cuisines and dishes in their home. It was the ill-fate of the family that their only bread-earner had expired.
The smoke of half-burnt cow dung cakes coming from the mud chulha of their kitchen, had turned young Zareena who was in her late thirties , into a sick and feeble looking old woman of 60 years.Her grey hair, sunken eyes, fleshless cheeks were witness to her plight and pain. She was like a live corpse. And the ugliest truth was that the people around her were insensitive and callous. Their conscience was dead. Her relatives too had abandoned her.
After some 10 or 15 minutes, Uzma enquired from her brother and mother if her Papa will come or not. ” Mummy, where is Papa? Bhaya said that he is on way to home ” . She asked very innocently. Both her brother and mother began to weep bitterly. Arsalaan embraced his sister and took her out in his tender arms. But alas ! his pockets were too empty to buy a single item for her. He returned back home and asked his mother for a ten rupee note. Zareena had nothing to give him . She tried to bluff her children, and asked them hesitantly to take meals. ” Come and take meals ” Said Zareena to her children. Rice and mustard less cooked potatoes were too ugly to eat. Uzma refused to eat and said angrily, “where is mutton, where is chicken, where is cheese and where is lotus stem(Nadru)?” Even she asked her mother for cake and pastry. Zareena tried hard to pacify her but all in vain.Uzma kept weeping and her cries were piercing her mother’s heart like daggers piercing petals. Meanwhile her eyes caught sight of her dead husband’s photograph in a half broken frame, hanging from the mud painted wall of her house. She broke down and began to cry bitterly.No one from the neighborhood came to console her as it is Eid today.
The writer is a Teacher and Columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]