It was a beautiful day! The weather was just perfect. The sun was up and lit the small town of Mussoorie with just the right intensity of light. She sat by the window sill, looking out into the world, while 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! And feel!
She was naked, frozen and numb for years. And, for the first time in years, her soul felt love, warmth and happiness.
As she looked intently into the morning skies, she was transported back in time to another 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 ready answer to give him. The next day, he couldn´t take his eyes off her as she walked into the class, in an emerald green salwar kameez, her coy eyes lined with a thick layer of smudged kohl, and her long hair loosely tied in a side 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 was fatally attracted to her and it was time to begin the chase. 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! 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 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 there is no 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 girl´s 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 beaming 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 grand old forests of Landour were greeted by a sudden outpouring from the skies. Like it were a nemesis or sage foreboding prophecy of some sorts. Of course, the star-crossed lovers failed to decipher the reading on the sky walls.
‘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. Soon enough, they were married.
And they lived happily ever after……Not! Haima painfully learnt that life was not a bed of roses and unlike the fairy tale lies. Shami was no Prince Charming as she rudely discovered. They were both young when they first got married in haste …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. Or her! 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 she had 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. Haima complied with Shami´s every command as most good wives would do. After all, Shami was now her Parmeshwar (God).
When she could not carry the burden any longer in her heart, Haima poured out her emotions to a trusted few including her parents. But, they always brushed aside her worries, sadness and fears away saying this was just a normal phase in a marriage. Just another of those ´ups and downs´ pattern in any marriage, they said. She was advised to give Shami time and have the patience to work it out to see the positive results.
In the course of time, the couple were blessed with a healthy pair of twins – a boy and a girl. Suhayl and Myra. Haima´s life had some purpose finally and she was occupied and contended after a long time.
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, love and duty. Often, at the cost of her own happiness!
On the contrasting end, Fatherhood had little impact of Shami. He 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 terrifyingly. 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.
Amidst increasing rumours of his affair with his personal secretary and more women, Shami found no novelty factor or any inkling interest in Hema anymore. She was not just taken for granted but was not valued or respected 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 and she had no say in Shami´s as well. He lived his life as per his whims and super-inflated ego.
Yet, Haima chose to remain in the turbulent marriage not for love but purely for the sake of their children. They needed a father….a family more importantly than her own happiness. Anyway, she had sacrificed her life and her dreams, so being in the marriage for the future well-being of her children made more sense than getting out of it.
And so outwardly, she projected a highly confident and happy contended front to mask the horrific reality.
For years, Haima has been sleeping on the bed of fear 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 feeling of being suffocated like a caged and gagged bird in her own home, the humiliation he put her though before her own children. She closed her eyes, shutting it tight lest her tears roll down and remind her how weak and helpless she had become.
Where did that fiesty and bold Haima of the past disappear?
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, 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 detestable by the mere mention of his name or thought alone. His steel gray eyes which made her go weak in the knees in the past was now, a mirror reflection of his cruel heartless soul.
Haima did not remember the last time she saw herself in the mirror fearing her own reflection. She did not want to face up to the reality of the situation. And herself! She did not have the courage to face her own self. More than her parents or her children, she had let herself down with the choices she made at every stage. She had never felt so dejected, miserable and weak like this ever before. Why did she allow so much leeway and give consent to Shami to bring her to this state? Why did she throw away her life for this man? She was engulfed with a huge sense of shame and guilt. She did not like own self anymore.
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 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 while mistreating their mother. They wondered how their mother could put up with this man for so long. They couldn’t wait any longer to get rid of his dark presence in their lives .
´Mama! Divorce him. Just do it. For your sake and ours!,´ Suhayl pleaded with 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 anymore. This marriage is important to me because of you two.´, Haima reasoned with her children.
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, Myra! 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 still have so much of life to look forward to. You have no idea how wonderfully strong and resilient you are. We don´t know if we would have survived even a tenth of what you have been through. Mama, You have been through the worst of hell and survived while raising the two of us. You don’t need to endure this hell anymore. It is time to put an end to this misery for good and choose happiness for yourself. You deserve it, Mama! Forget and erase the past from the memory like a bad dream. Go and find that job that you have always wanted to …Dress the way your heart has always wished to…Make new friends…Go and conquer the world, Mama. You are now free´, Suhayl said with a positive glint in his eyes.
Haima looked at her two children with gratitude and love in her eyes. If there was one thing that came good out of all this, 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 her twin children 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. She gave him too many second chances in the blind faith that he would change someday. Alas! Just like dogs can never straighten their tail, it was impossible for some men like Shami to change their ways.
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 their children against him. But, this was not her concern anymore. She was done with him and his threats. He did not scare her anymore.
She had learnt the powerful lesson of not giving anyone including Shami, the consent to hurt her anymore. She slapped charges of domestic violence and abuse on Shami and had taken legal aid to not just seek justice but also keep him out of their (her children and her) lives. She spoke openly and wrote about her life story in the ardent desire of educating and encouraging fellow women who were trapped in their own choices like her in the past. Today, she stood proud and tall as she was completely in charge of her own life.
It was time to rush to her school. She loved her current 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, Haima smiled in quiet triumph and at the eerie coincidence of their names and references in the poem. Call it poetic justice or Karma, it was the coldness or aloofness in their relationship that sounded the death knell to it. Her 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.
(Author´s Note: Haima means ´Snow´ and ´Goddess Parvati´ and Shami meant ´Fire´ and ´Husband´)
#AtoZChallenge 2018 #BlogchatterA2Z