Painting: Elia Art
The nadir of despair, have you seen, my friend? Look here.
The broken bones and seared flesh of Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan
The chilling presence of a missing Najeeb from JNU
And a countless under-trials behind the bars on flimsy charges for days on end.
People have always created noise, you might say.
The holler was there off and on, from the concerned, you might add.
We protested against such violence, you might assert.
We always stood by the victims, you might mention.
But, have you looked at your own hands, what are those dark blots?
Are they of blood stains or beauty spots in a wrong place?
Are they wrinkles because of old age or of shame taking its own shape?
Is the hardness of your palms due to resistance or because they too joined the beatings many times?
Remember, the tears we weep have reached their seams.
Know that our bodies have hardened because of your beatings.
Realize, we have understood both our allies and enemies.
Beware, we are coming like a hurricane, not the occasional storms you’re so used to.
With a perennial bellyache, mother would convulse on the floor,
like a centipede, she would coil, holding her belly, she would scream.
Her eyelids always failed her tears, her lips contorted, sobs filled the room.
I carried her pain in my heart and showed it to a Thangal, she is a firm believer.
Sihr is the word! accusations ripe, relatives chagrined, feud ensued.
Swearing on Koran, one after the other denied doing anything.
Some even cried, prayed for her health; gave her medicines, herbs.
Evil was hiding in nooks and crannies, she still convulsed.
Scraps of paper with Arabic numbers in columns and some verses
With red flowers, betel, rice, and a wick mother would circle on her head.
Once it is thrown into the oven, she feels relieved, after an hour, she is fine.
But after two days, bellyache would recur, I would abuse the Thangal.
I went with her to meet a jinn, she felt I too suffered from jinn.
In the black room, one jinn held my ear. I swept my hand, the jinn howled.
The jinn touched various parts of my mother, she screamed often.
On the way back in the train, my mother felt better.
The jinn failed to pluck the bellyache, and I ended up with a panickar.
He estimated the bellyache on his shells; I went to a faraway temple
with jaggery, coconut, and a stipulated amount. My mother still convulsed.
I exhausted fear, belief, and reason and lost faith.
She had eight consecutive sessions and the bellyache went away.
It was an untreated ulcer for many years. She is still a firm believer.
On the seventh day of his death, many rooks came, cats and dogs too.
The feast lasted into the evening, birds dozed, and cats tired, dogs to their fill.
Relatives and neighbours prayed for the soul, some even cried,
after the prayer, ate belly-full, burped to satiety, bid adieu.
The scene repeated once more, on the fortieth day, but with a twist, relatives rushed in, gleefully, hawk-eyed, rooks announced guests, unusually rueful.
Revering the property due to them sleepless nights they spent in between,
Now they said, division must be done at the earliest, lest it hurt the soul.
A half-witted aunt, ready to give up her share, but the sober brother wouldn’t relent,
whatever law gives is his due, croons he, injustice the stupid books teach,
so are men. Ere long the dust settled, the soul found peace with itself,
memories dampened, greed set in, things one ought to get must be won.
The mother and the girls, still grievous with tears and parched lips gasped,
and cursed the fate, howled at the dead, in misery clenched their fist.
The mother, still in black, tramped out of the room, kept her face low
flung the documents on their face, and shut the door.
Originally published here