Wednesday, December 10, 2008

THE PALADIN'S MOTHER

It was Meera, Nafeeza’s neighbour’s daughter who had first told her about it the next day. ‘Nafeezumma, did you hear about the bombing and firing? Its all over the news, come home and see it on TV. There has been a terror attack in Delhi.’ Nafeeza hurried over to Meera’s house. There it was, the horrific images playing back to back on the TV. Images of blood splattered across the ground, clothes, shoes and baggage drenched in blood strewn across, relatives of the victims huddles up, their faces grief stricken, many of them crying, some too shocked to react. Fire and smoke were emanating from the building nearby. Nafeeza watched in horror as journalists and reporters frantically tried to brief the viewers on what had happened. ‘How can people do this Nafeezumma? How can people be so cruel? Look at that small kid crying! Why does this happen?’ Meera looked at her old and wise neighbour who always had answers for her. But Nafeeza could not say anything. Indeed, why would anyone want to do all this? She knew the pain of having lost a child. And now, probably two. Why?  She had no answer. Quietly cursing the evil times, she left from the place.
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'Ameena, could you come here for a moment?’ Nafeeza called out to her daughter.
‘What happened umma?’ Ameena asked irritably. She was obviously annoyed at having been summoned when she was busy at whatever it was that she was doing.
‘Could you get me a glass of water child? I had a bad dream today’.
‘How many times have I asked you not to sleep during the day? You worry so much and you keep thinking about bad things, then why wouldn’t you have bad dreams? Hold on I’ll get you water’. 
‘I saw Afzal’, Nafeeza whispered.  
Ameena gave her the glass of water and pretended not to listen.
‘I saw Afzal in my dream Ameena. He... he doesn’t look well’. Nafeeza accepted the glass with trembling hands. She shivered slightly. She looked at Ameena for some response but Ameena remained passive. She appeared to not have listened to anything her mother had said. 
‘I’m talking to you Ameena. Can’t you hear me?  I’m telling you that your brother is not well and you choose not to listen? How can you not care?’
‘Umma! He’s been gone for 7 years now!! Seven years! We have no idea where he is, no letter, and no calls! If he were still alive, surely he would’ve tried to contact us by now! I’m tired of telling this to you umma. Please get this into your head once and for all.’
‘Afzal would never have spoken to me like that. He was not a good student but he was a good kid, my Afzal. He’d never have let you speak to me like that’, wept Nafeeza.
Ameena looked apologetic now. She sat next to her old mother, ‘umma, I didn’t mean to be rude or hurt you. You are worrying yourself for a lost cause. We’ve been trying to tell you for two years now. Haven’t we searched enough umma? See how weak you have become worrying yourself? Where is that old strong umma of mine? You’re not one to live a lie. All I’m saying is once you accept the truth you might be able to handle it better than being hopeful and worrying yourself. I love you umma.’
‘I have hope Ameena. That is why I’m still talking to you. I will never lose hope Ameena. Nothing and no one can survive without hope. Your brother is out there somewhere and I know he isn’t well now. I’m a mother, I’d know.’
Ameena shook her head. She has known her mother for 19 years. She was not one to give up so soon. And all along when the rest of the family was convinced that Afzal was no more in this world, Nafeeza never listened. She would always accuse them of not caring enough. That, had Ameena’s father still been alive, he would’ve found out about Afzal’s whereabouts. Nafeeza believed that her son was trapped somewhere with no means of escape and no way to reach them. And she fiercely believed in it.
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Nafeeza was old and weak and arthritis had rendered her unable to walk without a limp. If it wasn't for her tremendous will power, she would've been crippled by now. But she wasn't someone to give up so soon. It has been years since her husband died and she had looked after her children all by herself. Her first son had died of a hole in his heart when he was only one. Now she had two daughters a son. The eldest daughter was married to a man and lived in Dubai. The youngest daughter, Ameena, had finished studying and was at home. Her uncles were searching for a suitable groom for her, which wasn't very difficult. Ameena was a beautiful girl, much like her mother and had many suitors. As for her son, Afzal, Nafeeza had no idea where he was. 
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Three blasts-gun fires without ceasing-3 terrorists killed-2 still inside the building. Nafeeza was still trying to grasp the magnitude of the event the next morning when her brother ushered her into her room. ‘Did you see the news paper Nafee?’ 
‘No iqqa, I saw the news at Meera’s place yesterday…’ 
‘They are looking for an Afzal’, her brother cut her short. Nafeeza stopped abruptly. Her eyes shot at her brother, first with shock and then disbelief. She struggled for a minute to come up with the right words and then slowly said, ‘My Afzal would never be part of such an execrable deed. That is not how I raised him.’ 
‘Oh Nafee, we don’t know where he has been for the past 7 years. How do you know this is not our Afzal? I’m sure people are talking now Nafee. Everyone knows we don’t know where Afzal is. What do we tell them?’ her brother snapped.
‘Tell them the truth iqqa; that we don’t know where Afzal is. But the Afzal they are looking for is not my Afzal. I know for sure.’
‘Ha! Your Afzal was never good for anything. I don’t think I have any doubts. He is not good for anything else. He was insecure and ashamed of himself. He sounds like someone who would do something like this’
Nafeeza tried hard not to scream. ‘You thought he was dead. You all thought he was dead and gone. How can you be sure it is him now? You never appreciated the kid when he was here. Stop blaming him for everything. He is not with us now; leave him alone at least now! Let him be, please iqqa. I know my Afzal will not do such a heinous thing. He will not. He surely will think of his umma. He may have been an under achiever but he was a good boy’, fought back Nafeeza. ‘Leave me be iqqa. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. You can tell the whole world whatever you want to. But I know it isn’t true. My Afzal is a good boy’, she said storming out of the place.
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There was not a single day that Nafeeza did not worry about Afzal and his well being; even before he had gone missing. As a child, he had been bad at academics while both his sisters where outstanding students. When his father was alive, he would always compare him to his sisters and mock him for being beaten by two girls. He was a subdued child, who preferred staying at home than going out to play. The neighbourhood children laughed at him for being a milksop. But in spite of all the jeering and sneering, Afzal preferred to stay at home, lost in his world of books and poems or talking to his mother. Nafeeza had a natural soft corner for this child of hers. She believed he was timid and was artistic, but artistic men were never recognized in their own time. She believed her son was special and had the makings of a great man, but her husband used to laugh at her when she told him so. ‘Haha! Afzal? No no Nafeeza, don’t fool yourself. He is a shy boy, not fully grown. He cannot survive on his own. Look at him; he prefers sleeping on your lap to getting dirty in the mud. He is a boy Nafeeza, a boy! How can a boy be so?’ he used to say. His father did love him, but never believed he had any special qualities. Nafeeza often suspected that her husband was ashamed of his only living son and that pained her. She loved Afzal more than her other children for he was always with her and seemed to love her more than he loved anyone else. She loved him more than anyone else because he was mocked at by the others, and she didn’t want him to feel neglected. Afzal was her everything. Yes she loved her daughters, but Afzal was special.
And yet, seven years back when one of his uncles had slapped him for not being able to get a job, he had left her without a word. Initially she had thought he had gone to the lodge nearby and that he’d return the next day. But he never did. She waited for days, weeks and months, hoping for a letter or call from her son but none came. The rest of the family tried to search everywhere, or so they said, but Afzal was nowhere to be found. They had no hopes anymore, not after these 7 years that a boy so attached to his mother could stay away for so long. They were assured that Afzal was dead. But Nafeeza didn’t believe that. Something told her he was alive, and now she worried for something told her he was in danger now. 
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She was not going to believe her brother. What did he know? He never knew her son like she did. He would never do such a thing. So many murders? Surely he wouldn’t. He believed in the goodness of deeds. He was an artistic kid who loved the beauty of nature and its creatures. He could never kill someone. He was a timid and quiet boy, not a rebel. He wouldn’t bomb buildings and shoot at people. He wouldn’t even hold a gun in his hand. Why did he have to? He would think of her, his sisters and all those people who loved him and cared for him. But then, did he know how much they cared? Had she not shown enough care, given him enough love? Didn’t he know how it felt to lose someone you love? He had heard from Nafeeza; about how much she grieved his brother’s death. He would never kill anyone. No he wouldn’t. She was sure of that.
But the fact remained that he had been missing for seven years. Nafeeza knew nothing about his whereabouts or what he did for a living. What if??
NO! She dared not think about that. She might have had as well thought him to be dead. Dead and gone than be associated with such God forbidden evil deeds. She was confused and old and very weak. Her mind was playing tricks on her. Even if the entire world thought he was a terrorist, she wouldn’t believe them. She couldn’t believe things had come to this, her son, her only son, being termed a murderer. 
Even if it was him, it wasn’t his fault. He was a neglected child. No one had accepted him for what he was. That would’ve been the reason he was misled into everything. People would understand that, wouldn’t they? They’d forgive him. He was Nafeeza’s son, everyone loved Nafeeza. She was a nice loving woman and her son had made a mistake, that’s all. But to kill so many people? Was that a mistake? Should she report him to the police? But her only son! What if he was indeed dead? She would be torturing him even in his death. What was she to do?
And she cried, like she had never cried before. She cried for her Afzal, for her deceased husband, for her first son. She cried for everyone she had lost. She cried as the entire nation mourned the deaths of many innocent victims. She cried, hoping that would wash away her son’s sins. She didn’t want to believe it was her Afzal, but iqqa had been so sure of the accusation. What if it was indeed her boy? She cried for long and then slowly drifted off to sleep.
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‘Umma!! Umma wake up. Its Afzal, Afzal is on TV. They are showing Afzal!’ Ameena’s high pitched screech woke up Nafeeza from her deep sleep. She had been dreaming of a happy family of four kids and a mother and father. 
‘Umma come to Meera’s house. There is something you have to see. Afzal… he is not dead. His photo is on TV. You were right Umma… he was in danger... He… he is in Delhi…’ she tried to mange before running off to Meera’s place again. 
Nafeeza sat still on her bed. Afzal’s photo was on TV. Her iqqa had been right. Her Afzal, her sweet child was a criminal?? Nafeeza felt numb. She had given birth to a criminal? He didn’t deserve to live then. But he was her son. Her favourite child, how could she will him to die? She was torn between morality and motherly love. She sat there, her eyes moist but too dazed to cry. And then she heard another yell, ‘Nafeezumma!’ She slowly raised her weak body from the bed and walked towards her neighbour’s house. What was there to see? Her son being branded as the most wanted man of the nation? What was left in it to see? She aimlessly walked towards the house. And there she saw him, his photo on the TV. She did not hear anyone around her as she looked at the face she had loved so much. She looked into the eyes that had given her hope and sunshine. And she slumped into a chair nearby.
‘Umma Afzal iqqa is a hero!!’ screamed Ameena. Nafeeza was suddenly shaken out of her trance. ‘What?’ she asked, perplexed. ‘Umma look at the caption! Local boy saves hostages. He helped the army! He is in the hospital but doctors say he will live. Umma, Afzal iqqa is a hero! The country is so proud of him!’
Nafeeza couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her son, her only son was a hero. She had been right all along. She had believed he was alive. She had believed he was not at fault. Her chest swelled with pride. It wouldn’t be long before she talked to her son again. He will come to her, as a man who has achieved something and he will get a hero’s welcome. All was well. She thought about her husband and brother, and a little smile spread across her wrinkled face. She hugged Ameena and Meera and cried. 
‘Why are you crying now Nafeezumma? Isn’t he fine? Aren’t you proud?’
‘Yes sweetheart, I’m proud. I’m very proud. I’m very happy. God is kind. I’m very happy’.
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46 comments:

:-) said...

poignant read,, Divya.. mother's instincts,, wel portrayed.. n da twist in da end was gr88.. :-)

Fantastic narration,, sumwat reminded me of "Fiza" only da end thrr wasnt a happy one.. :-)

Mahul Bhattacharya said...

WOW WOW WOW!
Simply mind blowing.

Rakesh said...

when i saw length of the post i was put of..and i just hoped that this better be good...and guess wat is was worth reading and spending time on this post...good work

Richa said...

its simply awesome.. so moving anf affecting.. heartfelt.. it is real nice to have reads tht have happy endings :)

Leo said...

hey... i am in college... cant read fully now...!! will do it justice and read after i get home...

just dropped by to inform...
u have got another award...!! :)

in Conjuring Blog...do visit..!! :)

Divya said...

@ muZer

thanks a lot :) i was't sure if i was to post this story, but decided to do so anyway after a friend of mine approved it :D
ah fiza, yeah, now that you mention it.. yeah!
and as for the happy ending, i've been killing too many people in my other stories, so i was intent on giving this a happy ending!

Divya said...

@ mahul

:D yay yay yay!
thank you :)

Divya said...

@ rakesh

hehe.. yeah i was thinking of posting it in two parts, then thought that'd just disrupt the continuity of the story.. ergo, the post! glad you liked it :)

Divya said...

@ richa

thanks babe :) yes, that happy ending was long pending!
yay that rhymes too :P

Divya said...

@ leo

you'll turn me into a pampered BlogoBrat :P
thank you sooooooo much!
oh and read and tell me how you like/don't like it. pakka!!

Think Tank said...

really touching divi ..i think the break did you good

Divya said...

@ farah

:)
aaah i really do hope so! :P

RiverSoul said...

A beautiful story of hope, good will and instincts.
Loved the twist. Really unexpected, considering todays hostile situation
:)
Thankyou for this wonderful post.


We all needed it.

Ps love ur Blog header image
:)

Divya said...

@ riversoul
thanks a lot :)

Toonfactory said...

Wowww...that was a great read Divya...Mindboggling...Thanks for the visit and comment on my blog..where have U disappeared???

Divya said...

thanks.. been busy with this and that and well, was just too lazy to do anything, anyway, all that's done with.. and here i am :)

divinediu said...

how many divyas are there?? :D
We must start like a divya blogger group, huh?

Madhav said...

Nice One Dony! Quite gripping and Great narration!Good twist at the end, Most of the story till the end (including the title) suggested some kinda Jihadi, but nice turn around! Keep up the good work and Keep Smiling!

Leo said...

at this rate, u will become a movie script writer for sure...!!

that was off the charts divvy!! super...!!!

and ur stories have a distinct mallu touch to it too...!!
my blog is in danger...!! :D
divvy the great is on her way!!! :D

loved it loved it loved it!!

Rakib Ahmed said...

good going.... i came accross your blog accdentlly....

its really good...

Meera said...

Very touching!
Nice to see my name;)

Trinaa said...

ur back!!!!!!!! yeaaaaa :))))))

n so am i :D

brilliantly written..u see y i missed u?? sheer genius :))

Divya said...

@ divinediu
lemme guess.. you're divya too?? :P :P :D

Divya said...

@ madhav

thanks maddy! glad you liked it.. your comments are highly valued!

Divya said...

@ leo
hee hee... naaahh i wouldn't think so.. vamana stories were too good!
thanks a lot :)

Divya said...

@ rakib ahmed
thanks for stopping by :)
hope to see you again!

Divya said...

@ meera
haha! yeah.. you have a beautiful name girl!

Divya said...

@ trinaa

tinni tu aa gayi!!! soch hi rahi thi ki kahan kho gayi bachi..
aww gee thankoo thankoo :) you make me flyyyyy so highhhhhh in the skyyyyyy =D

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

God!That was simply amazing!Loved the storyline,the narration,everything :)

Keep it up!

Divya said...

thank you sameera :)

Femin Susan said...

Hello……
This is amazing!! I am so glad to found your blog!
You are welcomed to my blog…….

Phoenix said...

beautiful template and even more poignant and beautiful piece of writing that touches your heart...


you really have a gift!! :D

blogrolling you :)

lukkydivz said...

yaar mujhe bhi sikha do kaise likhte hai yeh sab :O :O

was more like i was reading a novel ;) and i though the ending was obvious, you cheated me :|

p.s - i love ur ABOUT ME :) so cute!!

Sachin Malhotra said...

very nice blog...

pls visit my blog and share ur views...

http://spicygadget.blogspot.com/
http://www.mobileflame.blogspot.com/

thank you

Divya said...

@ femina susan
thanks :)
will do :)

Divya said...

@ phoenix

thank you so much

yes, god has been kind indeed :D

sure.. am glad! =D

Divya said...

@ lukkydivz

haha!! arre waah :) yeh hui na baat ;) that was the intention :D yay! :D

Divya said...

lol.. thanks re.. i had thought it sounded childish and silly but oh well, now i'm happy :P :P

Karthik said...

Heartrending Post!!! Well written.. First time here and drawn by your blog name.... Gud narration!!

CяystąL said...

Mind blowing,Div!
Me too like -->> :-) felt like watching Fiza..except fr the ending ofcourse..
and God is kind indeed..

Awesome!

Kartz said...

That was so moving. Read it all twice over... This has to be one of your best. Of course, I hope *the best* is yet to come...

Peace.

---
Sorry am late! :( Tough days... BSNL ne laga di internet ki waat. x( Well, even being marred has not cured my addiction to the internet. ;)

Divya said...

thank you karthik.. do drop in again :)

Divya said...

@ crystal

thank you thank you :)

Divya said...

@ kartz

haan haan, soch hi raho thi ki tu kahaan chala gaya! thanks for the comment.. yes i hope so too :D
aaj kal sab busy ho gaye hai kyon? bsnl ki galti hai isliye chalo maaf kar diya :P ;)

Kartz said...

Her ladyship is too kind... :)

Peace. Have a nice day.
---
LOL @ word verification - whimp ! ! ! :D

Divya said...

hehe.. they do come up with funny permutations and combinations now and then :P