The Liaquat-Nehru Pact was signed between India and Pakistan, and it provided a ‘bill of rights’ for the minorities of both the countries. According to the agreement, both the governments ensured equality of citizenship, irrespective of religion. A security in respect of life, culture, property and personal honor was assured to the minorities throughout its territories....
Fadil’s town was very near the border, since people in the neighborhood were migrating to the newly promised homeland, Pakistan. So, he also decided to cross the border over with others. But, his wife, Razia was not interested in disrupting her settled domestic life. The new promises, anticipation of new settlements didn't allure her much. Migrating to Pakistan, she believed was not an option at all; for she believed good faith and good deeds would offer them a better life in India itself. Fadil tried to explain,... but Razia kept protesting against the hectic and uncertain shift.
Fadil stood there helplessly for sometime and then, heaving a sigh when he was about to leave, ...Razia spoke, but in a well composed-manner this time. 'Our friends have taken us under their wings and given us refuge, when ever we needed them.... Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs are all living peacefully in our neighborhood; I'm convinced, this migration would lead to chaos ...confusion in the end.' Razia glancing at her husband with an element of disappointment, pleaded, ' you can't be sure, right?'
Fadil, slapping his head, barked,' No...that's easy for you to say. You wouldn't understand the political intricacies. Start packing things immediately, we should move out tonight before things start falling here'. He waited to assess the impact of his words...But, Razia apparently wasn't convinced; a sudden gust blew her hair across her face. She tossed it back angrily and stood up. But then, she slowly restrained herself. She knew some sacrifices ought to be made for survival. But, she became obsessively quiet; her dark veil kept her emotions covered till the evening.
Dark clouds were engulfing the town from the west. The family had early dinner. After dinner, Razia stood up abruptly, tugged at the cloth that covered her face and stalked over to the spiral staircase and disappeared into its abyss. Her borkha screamed as she ducked past her husband.
Fadil was sure that Razia had gone to the Sehgal's residence to say goodbye; but with horror he suddenly remembered that some people were watching them, recording their every move, waiting for them to slip up...and moreover, it wasn't safe for the ladies, so he decided to fetch her. Faiz, their son was fast asleep; looking at him he thought of the crow-babies in the inky darkness. He kissed the boy.
'Hu.rr', he burped and just as he was getting ready to go .....
There was a screeching sound outside, He leaned out of the window. Razia was lying in a pool of blood. An Army truck had crushed her to death while she was crossing the road. A few security people were around her…. But, before Fadil could reach the spot, they picked up the body in the van and whisked away. The ghastly scene drained all the colors out of his face… neighbors tried to peek out through their windows; turned away.
Fadil started feeling claustrophobic now and the stillness scared him... The caravan left an hour back. He had no idea how long he'd been sitting there when he felt a gentle tug on his shoulder. Startled he turned around; Faiz, was standing with his grubby baby hands outstretched.
Fadil grabbed them, kissed them. He avoided looking into his eyes and threw the child on his shoulders and moved out of the house hurriedly…a lone policeman was loitering outside in the alley. The sky that was overcast earlier, turned ominously dark now. The air was crisp and cold. The first drops of rain began to patter…He wrapped Faiz with a dark blanket and started walking. Two little feet gently wedged around his father's neck, went flying up and down rhythmically as they rushed through the wet and squelchy road.
Silhouetted against the black background; the road was looking like a deserted ghost-world ... . Faiz drew his arms together, balancing himself, he placed them on his father's turbaned head .…Faiz was looking exhausted, but his beautiful charcoal eyes were visibly relaxed, ready to gossip all through the night. He lowered his head, came face to face and whispered,' ‘Abbu,... where ARE we going?...and where’s Ammi…? Take me to her, I am hung-ree..’ this time he sounded a bit troubled and worried.
Fadil didn't answer, he kept walking, carefully preserving his pride and propriety. Tears were rolling down his cheeks. Suddenly Faiz's left hand came searching, caressing his cheeks...and pulled back. His small palm glistened with tears. He gently leaned his head, back on his father' head...he could see rows and rows of bullock carts clambering across the ditch into the fields, fanning out puffs of excitement in the distance. A cold wind blowing through the hills drifted him to sleep.
The call for prayer; the melodious Azan was emerging from the mosque turrets; it came caressing the winds and clouds towards the caravan...and woke up Faiz from his brief slumber; the rays of the rising sun had tinged the skyline....a new beginning awed, exhilarated and reassured him...
Fadil kept walking with a mixture of feelings running through his mind. He didn't know where ultimately his feet will come to rest.
It is bewildering to suddenly lose one’s roots, and become 'A NOBODY', he paused contemplatively. The words were haunting him today. It took him a long time to understand Razia's dictum- 'home is where the heart is...'
Disclaimer: This is a work of pure fiction. Any resemblance to anyone, living or dead is purely coincidental. The characters are fictional and of my own creation. The place, time and incidents are purely fictional....