The Flood – I
The Jhelum and Dal Lake had finally found a common course to cart off whatever was left on the banks and areas in vicinage. Roads and subways had long been inundated, leaving everyone to arrive at his destination at his own peril. Communication like a mad man’s imaginations was reduced to soliloquies. People all over the city had long left their homes, their memories and the mundane sundries. But all colours emerged well-disposed in the dark, there were volunteering agencies working tirelessly to serve the mankind in the Valley which was completely submerged in water. Everyone had mysteriously widened their contracted chambers of their hearts like the flood that had exceeded its merciless wings to grab what all it can, as booty.
Basharat was looking dreary like the overcast sky that day because the sky and the soil were fighting a deadly war. The sky had taken a pledge to erase the writing on the walls, while the soil was offering its vast belly to neutralize the flow.
Something was eating him up slowly. And I was the pick of the bunch. He sat beside me perhaps enriching his partially buried lines explaining his plight to encourage hopes. I read his face and the broken lines from his lips. Like my unrhymed half written poems, I found him struggling for the rhyme.
“Why are you so overwrought today”, I asked.
He hardly paid any attention and I too didn’t bother to insist. After all one unrhymed half poem knows the other ill rhymed verse. Whosoever had visited to their relatives were stating the same tale but adding a handful of chili powder or a pinch of pepper to make the narrative believable. In these unfavourable conditions, rumours roam about like a leaked signal from a damaged transmission reaching to erroneous ears to propagate a narrative without narrator.
Basharat continued to sob and like water currents hitting the bay of my heart. I ignored his rush like I used to or he used to. We had but one component very similar in our making and that was to ignore each other deliberately. But his sobs had put on a severe dress of pain and I realized his dilemma.
“Why are you groaning heavily”, I asked again.
“Aba jan, my father-in-law is sick and he is stranded at Bemina”, he informed.
“So what, why don’t you pay a visit”, I responded.
He looked like a remissly coiled tuft, messed up with so many ifs and buts. The sky had once again exposed its horrified racemes to shed the withered petals down in the form of rainstorm. He was looking at the changing folds of the dim castles on the sky frequently. His eyes were fixed at the deadly expanse that was flooded with patches of outrageous clouds. The fearsome patterns up above were ready to proliferate the already expanded hem of pain down on the surface.
“My wife is tossing her wrecked frame here and there like a fish in the frying pan”, he narrated painfully.
I realised her troubles. Her cascading eyes I imagined like that of a river trying every weak wedge to unburden its belly.
Her face looked like that of mine when I was not allowed to see my mother when she was fighting the battle of her life in ICU wherein, machines were barking and I was forced to sob heavily outside that deadly room. I felt for Basharat’s wife as my emotions crossed the barriers of logic and brought together all my streams to ruin my beds. The flood that had tossed me to unknown shores, whereon, many like me were waving at the people watching at the shores only to witness the forlornity of mankind amidst their own limitations.
“Shall I accompany you”, I asked reluctantly.
Without second thought he nodded his head in affirmation. The nod was vigorous and I felt his want. The flood within him had left him in the middle of callous waves; he was indeed looking for a steersman and my offer was unavoidable. His face all of a sudden called back its lost gleams, but mine was gradually losing. I had just passed a sweeping statement of my being generous. I was not serious enough to accompany him. He passed a hopeful smile at me and the latent innocence in it bruised every fiber of my heart. I had no option but to obey my bounteousness. My pretence had put me on the sharpest of the blades and there was every chance to be sliced. I was not willing to be bold for I was never like him perhaps. But then my words had added the necessary oil in his lamp of hope and now I had to surrender my nerves to let his lamp glow.
“Wait I shall inform my wife”, he said and left.
I shouted at him, but my voice had already lost its penetration and I was left there like a rock ready to be hammered.
He moved briskly and waved at me from a distance to ensure my stay. I too raised my hand to ensure him. Between these waves Kama relumed the snuffed out flame from the candles of Basharat and his wife and my presence was the wick to supply oil.
The stories were horrible, so were the experiences witnessed by the people. The dreadfulness wringed the guts of one and all and I was not an exception.
“Why should one pretend to be brave when he is feeble beneath his breast?” I whispered. I was the worst hit victim of my own verdict. My mind was not ready to accept the challenge but my heart was indeed ready to inflate its capacity.
The flood by some mysterious reason had brought the people of Vale closer than sunny days. So many valiant versions were available and I was the one, may be unparallel to them, but forced by emotions to be among them. To be brave means to have a great will power but in my case I was only a faint impression on the sand. Faint enough to misdirect myself not to talk of others.
Strength is a secret I realised. It comes to you not by musculature and might, but by nursing a simple idea with the milk of faith. I let myself be drowned in the flood of sobs which had entangled Basharat with the hope that he might be carried to the safest shore with the least or no harm.
“Why should I decide my fate, let my fate decide for me”, I ensured myself.