It was a beautiful day! The weather was just perfect. The sun was up and lit up the small town of Mussoorie with just the right intensity of light. She sat by the window sill, looking out into the world, sipping on her piping hot cup of honey and lemon green tea. She saw her future before her eyes – Warm, Cozy and Luminous like the sun rays.
She closed her eyes for a while. To soak it all in! She was naked, frozen and numb for years. And, for the first time in years, her soul felt love, warmth and happiness.
‘I passed your gate and tried to make a start.
All I knew
was the scent of sea and dew
but I’ve been in love before, how about you?´
The voice of Roxette playing in the background jolted her from her euphoria. Taking her to another warm place in her distant past!
´Why is a pretty girl like you without a boyfriend?´, he asked grimacingly at her.
Startled by such a direction question, she had no answer for him. Soon enough, he dashed into the library while she darted off to her classroom. The next day, she walked into the class, in an emerald green and turmeric yellow salwar kameez, her eyes lined with a thick layer of smudged kohl, and her long hair loosely tied in a braid. He watched her attentively as she took her place amongst her girlfriends. And waited patiently to listen to her voice during the mandatory attendance call.
His heart skipped a beat. Like everyday….every single time he heard her voice confirming her majestic presence in the room. He looked forward to this moment every previous night. He was fatally attracted to her and it was time to begin the wooing game. He started to get closer to her and make small conversations. Mostly teasing ones! To break the ice and get her to see the funny side of him! It was working as per the plan. Haima started thinking of Shami more often, even missing his presence while she was back in her room. She never felt like this way before for him..or for any other boy for that matter. She wanted to be with him all the time and listen to his random nothings and laugh with him all day. And night long!
What started as a sweet casual flanter, slowly rolled into a warm budding romance and finally snowballing into a passionate obsession and madness. Indeed, when love is not madness, it is not love. Together, they flouted every college rule in the book for the grand cause of love. He stealthily climbed up the pipes of the girls hostel and sneaked into her room way past midnight. If he was fire, she was ice. She matched his audaciousness by cracking the security code and breaking into the boy´s hostel without falling under anyone´s notice.
He kissed her passionately and couldn’t stop. As she gently released herself from his warm embrace, she took him by the hand and guided him to a quiet spot under one of the many Himalayan Cedar trees.
‘Come, let´s just sit here for a while before we go back.´, she said.
‘I have a better plan.´, as he nuzzled his head on her soft lap.
´How long are we going to run away from the world like this?´, she asked, while gently caressing his hair.´Haima! Marry Me! ´, he looked dreamily in her eyes.
Óh! Shami……….´, she beamed bright and gay like the morning sun of Mussoorie. Í love you….so much. Shami, promise me you will never make me cry!´
‘Haima, You are my Queen and I, your King! I will never ever let a single teardrop shed from your eyes.´Just then, the forests of Landour were greeted by a sudden outpouring from the skies.
‘Looks like the Rain God has something to say!´, Haima teased her lover this time, nudging her dainty finger on the sides of his stomach.
Shami caught her by her wrist, swept her off her foot and into his arms and whispered in her ear, ´Haima, my Queen! It´s time to elope from here as well now.´ She giggled and approved as he dashed out of the raining woods.
Hailing from the same community, Haima and Shami had little problem convincing their respective families. Finally, they were Mr & Mrs.!
In that big old house
there are fifty beds
and one of them leads to your soul.
It’s a bed of fear,
a bed of threats,
regrets and sheets so cold.
All I knew your eyes so velvet blue,
I’ve been in love before, how about you?
Haima took in a deep sigh as she listened to the song playing on the local radio station. She recalled Shami, her first and only love. His steel gray eyes that she once loved! Once upon a time! And they lived happily ever after. Not!
Haima painfully learnt that life was not a bed of roses and far from a fairy tale. Shami was not her Prince Charming. They were both young when they first got married barely 21.
Shami was a revelation to her. She could not recognise him anymore. At first, he got engrossed in making a good living for them. She did not mind the initial lack of attention and shifting of priorities from her to his career. She could wait….at least that is what she thought.
Things were not exactly bad. It was just not the life she envisioned for the two of them together. There was no time for love anymore. They were living like guests in their own house.
‘Do you still love me?’, She asked him one day, while having breakfast.
He looked at her with a stone-face.
‘Shami? Answer me.´
´Listen, Haima! I don´t have time for such meaningless questions. Okay? Relax and breathe easy. I have to go now.´, he said as he left for his work, leaving her to emotionally fend for herself.
Haima realised she was lonelier than ever before. Shami barely cared to soothe her apprehensions and worries.
´Your home is your career, Haima!´This is also a job. And, I don’t like you going out and interacting with all sorts of men…Hmm, I mean people!´
´Please change that dress. I don´t approve of your choices of late. You are a respectable married woman now.´
´Who asked you to post those pictures on Facebook without my prior permission? ´
´Grow up, Haima!´
It started with mild disapprovals and restrictions. She was not allowed to have any male friends and her every move was closely watched by Shami. Haifa complied Shami´s every command as most good wives would do. After all, Shami was now her Parmeshwar (God).
Soon, they were blessed with a healthy pair of twins – one boy and boy girl. Suhayl and Myra. Haima´s life had some purpose finally and she was occupied and contended in a long time. She thought she had the perfect life – a loving husband and two beautiful children, one of each kind. Or she thought!
Haima was the perfect mother just as she was….as a wife, as a lover and a daughter. She was the epitome of supreme sacrifice. Often, at the cost of her own happiness! Shami became even more preoccupied with his work, knowing the house and children were expertly taken care of by Haima. His social life comprised hanging out on weekend nights with his drinking partners.
The monster in Shami started to unleash more often. Haima was greeted with slaps and blows when she confronted his drinking habits. She was the pushed around and kicked for questioning his whereabouts. The writing was clear on the wall – Haima had to change inside out and make all the efforts for the greater noble cause of marriage. But, Shami could deteriorate to the lowest level of bestiality to uphold the tradition of marriage.
The love that was so passionate and intense between them at the start, slowly started to wane away with the passing years. There was no novelty factor left in Haima anymore and she was not merely taken for granted. She was not valued as a human being. Her thoughts, her dreams, her desires and ambitions meant nothing to Shami anymore. Haima was not an equal partner in her marriage but a subservient one. She had no say in her own life while she had no say in Shami´s as well. He lived his life as per his whims and super-inflated ego.
Haima stuck to Shami not for the love of him or the marriage anymore. She stuck to him purely for the sake of her children. They needed a father, a family more importantly than her own happiness. Anyway, she had sacrificed her life and her dreams. So, sticking to the marriage made more sense than leaving it.
There’s a time for the good in life,
a time to kill the pain in life,
dream about the sun you queen of rain.
Haima sighed deeply as she listened painfully to the song. Yes, she was that queen of rain. For many many years….sleeping on a bed of fear and threats and living in pain! She lived her life in constant fear…for the fear of being misjudged by her own husband, being slapped and kicked with his fist if she dared to disobey his orders, the pain of being like a caged bird in her own home, the humiliation before her own children. She closed her eyes, shutting it tight lest the tears flow out and make her feel even more weak and helpless.
She was her Daddy´s little princess all along. He treated her like one. Never ever had he raised his hand on her. And here, she was supposedly the Queen in Shami´s life. But he abused her like no one else did. Emotionally, he scarred her heart with his criticisms, his jabs and threats. Physically, he left her wounded in many places…from a twisted arm to a black eye to being dragged by the hair and hurled down to the floor. After years of horrendous torture, she felt no pain anymore. Her body and soul had become numb forever.
It was funny, how the man who she fell ´head over heels´in love with at one point of time, was simply irrelevant in her life anymore. His steel gray eyes which made her go weak in the knees once was today, a mirror reflection of his cruel and heartless soul. Everything about him that made her love him once was repulsive to her today.
Years passed by, and there were no more pretensions and lies anymore. Suhayl and Myra were all grown up now at 20 years. They detested their own father with all their heart. They couldn’t stand his overbearing dominating behaviour, especially towards their mother. They couldn’t digest all his extramarital affairs. They wondered how their mother could for so long. They hated his loud and abusive drunken state and couldn’t wait any longer to just throw him out of the house.
´Mama! Divorce him. Just do it. For your sake and ours!,´ Suhayl told his mother.
´Mama, what is stopping you? You don’t deserve to be treated like this? Why are you taking this upon yourself?’ Myra pleaded with her mother.
´You! I don’t love Shami. Perhaps, not even hate him. He has left me numb to feel anything. This marriage is important to me because of you two. I need this marriage more now than ever before because we need your father´s financial support. Especially, you two! ´, Haima reasoned with her children.
It’s time to place your bets in life,
I’ve played the loser’s game of life,
dream about the sun you queen of rain.
Myra looked in her mother´s eyes and asked earnestly, ´Mama, what if I was in your place right now? Would you want me to follow in your footsteps? ´
Haima immediately placed her finger on Myra´s mouth. ´Ssssshhh, Mayra! You don´t talk unpleasant things like that. Of course not! I would immediately rescue you from a monster like that and save your life from misery.´
´Exactly, Mama! We want the same for you. You have sacrificed already so much for everyone else´s happiness except your own. We don’t need any financial support from Papa. Suhayl, you and me will work and support ourselves from now on. Mama, you may not be Papa´s queen anymore. But, you are ours. And we will put our Queen´s life at stake anymore now.´, Myra said with a fierce determination.
´Yes, Mama! Myra is right. You are still in your forties and still have so much of life to look forward to. Go and find that job that you have always wanted to …Dress the way your heart has always wished to…Go and conquer the world, Mama. You are now free. Maybe, a worthy King will land on our doorstep. Who knows, Mama, what lies ahead of your exciting future.´, Suhayl said with a mischievous and hopeful glint in his eyes.
Haima looked at her two children with gratitude and love in her eyes. If there was one thing that came out good in this horrid journey, it was Suhayl and Myra. She regretfully looked into her past and wondered what stopped her from getting out of this marriage before. It took Suhayl and Myra to give her that courage and strength to put an end to this torture and walk away from this man, who she called husband for many years.
Time went by
as I wrote your name in the sky,
fly fly away,
Haima finished drinking her tea. Shami did not take the divorce news too well. As usual, he started to abuse her and threaten her. He blamed her for brainwashing the children against him. But, this was not her concern anymore. She was done with him and his threats. He did not scare her anymore and she had finally moved on. Without him!
It was time to rush to her school. She loved her life and was happier than ever before. She found her true calling as a high school English teacher.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
As she read out the poem ´Fire and Ice´ by Robert Frost to her students, she smiled in quiet triumph. Like their names, Haima and Suhayl, her cold snowy ice demeanour finally put to rest his wild flaming fires. She was the victorious destroyer of the past and the recreator of her own future and destiny.
At last, she was the Queen.
(Based on a true story with liberal doses of fantasy to create an interesting read. If you liked what you just read, please don’t hesitate in letting me know in the comments below.)