‘Yepaerey kyaha chakh karaan, tche kyah chakh sonchaan’ (listen, what you doing, what are you thinking about?)’, shouted an old lady through the window of her house. The shout was loud enough to bring back Tahira, her neighbour, back from what seemed to be her usual reveries.
‘Kenh naw bas behit aases yeti, kyah kareh, yeti kyah roud karun layakh (I am sitting idle, what should I do, there is nothing that can be done here)’, replied Tahira to the old lady.
Tahira’s face seemed to be habitually looking for something that she has lost. In her mid-thirties she wore old-age dejection on her face, but there was something in her eyes that flickered like hope. May be she was waiting for someone to return, or perhaps she was craving for a change.
‘Beyi batah watah khowthe, suena kyah oosuy (Did you had your lunch, what had you cooked?’, questioned the old woman. ‘Aasi oos ronmut bade maaz, waleh ni rasa (we had prepared beef, come take some for your lunch), added the old woman without waiting for Tahira’s reply.
‘Naa ouni na khowem ne Zoon pechni, mae aes ranmit gande aalve (no I didn’t take it yet Zoon aunty, I have cooked onion-potato)’, said Tahira in a low sad voice, which gave a feel of tears in words.
The old woman, named Zooni, said ‘rath ni yi maaz ras oued, tul khe bateh, chaer govuy, maa aas sonchaan zyadeh (take this beef bowl, go take your lunch, it is late. And don’t keep thinking too much)’ and handing over the bowl to a reluctant Tahira, she closed the window of her kitchen.
Sitting down over a fat cushion, she says to her daughter-in-law, ‘kus taawan peow aamis Tahiras, khandar ti moodus laktey, te pateh peyas patre dag. Dohas chi aasan haali haeraan te pareshaan, khabar shoungaan cha’ (Tahira’s life turned out to be a complete mess, her husband died in a young age, and then her only son was gone. She keeps thinking in a state of gloom all day. I don’t feel she sleeps)’.
‘khandaras kyahav gomut aamis, mae na chane tamich pathey’ (what happened to her husband is not known to me), replies Zooni’s daughter-in-law.
‘Kyah wany Shehnaz laloo, su oos mazouer karan te aki doh waech tahanz gooli bez laash gareh, kamis patah kyah govus, rab zanan (Shehnaz my darling, Tahira’s husband was a labourer and one day his bullet-ridden body was delivered at his house, who knows how was he killed, it remains a mystery), said Zooni to Shehnaz. ‘Acha wouth namaz padaw, chaer gov (let’s get up now and offer salah, it is already late), added Zooni.
Tahira was now sitting in her kitchen, trying to take her lunch, but all of a sudden she gets up and goes to the cupboard. She opens it and takes out some paper and a pen, perhaps she wants to write something.
‘waay parmut aasehaam, chith lekhaa Suhail soubas’ (wish I was a literate woman so that I could write a letter to Suhail), Tahira laments reclining against the damaged wall of her house, which seems to consume her for providing support all these years. With the pen in her hand and the paper on her chest, she delves deep into the thoughts of her son and says ‘Suhail soubas lajis balay’ (wish I could sacrifice my life for my darling Suhail).
Tahira is happy, she finds herself writing a letter and enjoys a sort of conversation with Suhail after a long time. She writes, ‘Suhail sobah feiraan ti chuy na maaji huend, baa chesay kuni zaen. Talah wapas yi, baa chasay waen aasan diwan. Gardan ha fetem waen, kamar thokum, aechan haa sorewum gash myani zoowa. Wapas yita, mouj ha chey kuni zaen. Wuchu az ha chey mae gande aalve ranmit, tche chi na khush karaan yim. Walah baa aapraway bateh (suhail, my darling don’t you miss your mother, I am alone please come back. I keep looking for you, my neck sores now, my back is gone, and my eyes can’t see properly. My darling come back, your mother is all alone. See, I have cooked your favourite onion-potatoes, come I will make you eat with my hands)’.
She further writes, ‘talah mae haav katen aasi tche pellet aamit, az maa chey dag aasan. Lajsaya balay (common, show me where had the pellets hit your body, does it still hurt you, my darling).
‘taleh mae wan tche chukh zindey, mae haav kous goel chi maji hinz maayi maaran) Tell me and convince me that you are alive, show me the violence, and the death that kills the love of a mother for her children.
‘baa chas aasan dohas raatas chouney sonchan,ninder ha gayem kaamen (I keep thinking of you all the time, even sleep is a dream for me).
‘tche cheya patah su yaadi kul yues ruyouth su chuy logmut hokhni, wallah that traav aab’ (do you know the pine plant you had planted is going to wither, come and water that. Make that grow again).
‘Waen ha yizi jaldi pan ni maeji nish. Theek paeth rouz zi. Beh khudayas hawal (do come soon to meet your mother. Stay safe, Allah bless you)
She wraps up the paper in a white cloth and goes to post this letter to her son. After travelling some distance, she enters a gate which resembles the local post office. She takes the letter out of the pocket of her feran and drops it into a box. But, soon she is shocked to find herself on the grave of her son and she has ‘posted’ the letter into it through a crevice. She trembles with fear and a sense of loss jolts her essence. The flickering hope of her eyes seems to be dying away and she gets up finding herself in a pool of sweat.
All of a sudden a cat enters the kitchen and after devouring Tahira’s lunch accidently kicks the tumbler of water. Tahira is alarmed, her eyes open up and she finds her heart beat racing up. She leans against the wall of her room and soon the flicker of hope replaces the gloom and fear that was there. I felt it is this flicker of hope that is giving Tahira a reason to live; Hope sponsors life.
About the contributor: The name of the researcher is Jamiel Ahmad, he is from the province of Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir). Presently, he is pursuing his Ph.D from the School of Languages and Comparative Literature, Central University of Jammu. He has completed his M.Phil. on the topic “Exploring The Half Mother, Curfewed Night, and Haider: a Biopolitical Study” from the same university. He has published a number of research papers in journals like English Studies in India, Literary Herald, Langlit, Criterion, and also published a few book chapters in various books like Studies in Vijay Tendulkar’s Silence !The Court is in Session and Studies in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines. Two of his book chapters on Kanthapura and on “Hero and Hero-worship” are currently in press You may catch him at email@example.com