An Event That Moved Me
Mirror doesn’t reflect a pretty face. But in this world of pretense, it’s the closest to truth one can ever get. When you are filled with guilt, all you see in that mirror is a reflection of history that you want to escape; the permanent scars of shame that cram and almost disfigure your face.
Hence, the night proves to be a welcome dark; a natural blind from this condemning world. It’s a hide from those probing eyes; an escape from the day; a blanket from the harsh sun so the heat doesn’t burn the skin. But soon the cold silence puts me to sleep. Sleep is an escape for some. It’s also a torture for many. It helps the nightmares to invade my room and I wake up screaming, almost gasping for breath. Then her soothing hand touches my skin and her warm cuddle tries to comfort me. I lay my head in her arms and she places a kiss on my cheeks, “It wasn’t your fault”, she claims. I smile. Her words don’t make things better for me, they won’t change a thing; but there is never a use arguing over the same matter every night and she, my beautiful wife, will never put me in the wrong.
Mirror reflects a pretty face. It helps you hide that scar so the world sees the face that you intend to portray. It helps you in showing the world only that side of the truth that you are willing to expose. It’s the closest to your truth that they can ever get.
It always looks like every other day before you find its name in the books of history. The lull before a storm, the calm before all hell breaks loose – the silence that prevails, tends to blind you from seeing the oncoming chaos!
So it was like just another afternoon that day. Zakir and I were strolling in one of those small lanes of Byculla. The summer sun shone brightly and we were waiting for the rains. The sun-filled sky deceived us into believing that the dark clouds were a long way away. If only we could predict the future, we could’ve changed the today.
Zakir Ali Beig - my neighbour, my brother, my security blanket. Zakir - your ideal son. Zakir - your friend in need. Zakir – your God in flesh and bones. Everyone loved Zakir. Just a year elder to me but I felt really tiny before him. Growing up in his shadows, I tried to breathe in as much of Zakir as possible. It’s not about how much of the idea you are filled with, but it’s how much of that idea you have become. Zakir was an idea and we were just dreamers.
We were loitering around the BIT chawls when it happened. Rush of footsteps, smell of fire, crash of shops; within ten minutes we were the helpless audience to a cinema of mayhem and destruction. There never was a warning or we never heard one. The houses burnt in the background and a group of people rushed in our direction. I tried to run but Zakir stopped me – the only mistake he ever committed. Then, just like that, without the rise of the curtains, the drama began, and Zakir and I became a part of it even before we knew our roles.
The blow was hard. When my head hit the dirt, it felt like a million pins were being jabbed in my head. The bleeding was profuse, the pain was agonizing; “Kill me”, I prayed in my head, but death isn’t always your dream-come-to-life. It embraces you just when you start dieing to live. Otherwise, it just keeps playing with you.
In that blurry moment of confusion and intense fear, I looked at Zakir. He was held down by the power of a sword, its blade piercing his skin just enough to keep the blood flowing but not deep enough to kill him. “Your name kid”, someone demanded from me as he drove his sword and fixed me to the ground. Words aren’t your best friend, not when a sword is sticking to your throat. “Amir” I intended and “A.. A..” was all that I could manage. “Amardeep and Zakir. He is Amardeep. Zakir is me.” I heard Zakir’s voice rise sternly above all the maddening chaos. When fear fills you, you become a machine, you cannot think, all you do is observe the world and store it in your memory, so it can haunt you as long as you live. “You? Zakir? And him? Hindu?” The guy holding me down asked Zakir. “Yes”, he said firmly. The day we learn to accept death as a fact of life, we overcome fear. “Good. Kill him.” The man holding me down ordered the one, standing over my helpless God. Zakir smiled at me. Zakir – my safety blanket. Zakir – my life. Zakir – now dead.
As the violent feet moved away, I noticed Zakir’s lifeless body. His head lay besides it, not a part of it anymore, his eyes still focused on me, the smile on his face undisturbed and I could almost hear his voice saying, “You are safe now Amirjaan”.
Lock the doors, switch on that burglar alarm and go to bed. Chances are you will see the morning sun. Chances are the locks, alarms and every other security devices will protect you from the night. Or sometimes everything fails. Nothing works; or in spite of it all, the night enters your home, your room and fills your life.