In this third-person narration, the author maps the unsaid and discounted agony of a young Kashmiri woman caught in the curtailed conventions.
The afternoon saw her well, as the warmth of Sun uplifted her gloom. So did the warmth of the water. Like it was the only warmth in her life. Or at least the only unconditional and unchanged warmth she could think of. Almost every afternoon used to find her under the sky. Somewhere. She also did this because she knew she needed some sort of hope, some support. Who has survived without that and why should she be an exception?
Sometimes she felt that was why humans emphasized on religion and God so much. So that there is hope. Some sense of hope at least. And the idea that someone out there is always listening, always awake, always available. In her moments, she thought maybe God was given to each other as a form of hope.
Atheist. Blasphemous. Condemned.
Being in the Sun and reading mostly made her drowsy. That beautiful feeling of warmth taking you over and falling head over heels for it. Somewhere she was looking for this too. And while she waited for sleep to take over, she used to think about how life would be different if things could be sorted out. If she could find some sort of closure.
She always wanted that. An end to everything that had happened. Things that should not have been that bad, or gone the wrong way. A full stop, if you call it. Like having no one to play with while she was growing up. So she made friends with the plants and mirrors. And me, of course.
She talked to me every night, coming out soon after dinner and singing me songs even though it was she who needed them. Telling me about the day and how she just doesnâ€™t fit in the family.
As soon as she came back from school, she used to go to the garden and sit with them, talking to them. All holidays were spent in the garden, making up people, situations, conversations and food. And even though everyone used to be home then, nobody was bothered about her.
That family was never hers.
She didnâ€™t question God then, even when she had a reasonable question. She was told that faith is beyond inspection. After a while, she stopped asking at all.
She spent hours in the washroom to talk to herself because the other mirror was in her sisterâ€™s room and she didnâ€™t want to be scolded again. Maybe that was why she was always obsessed with mirrors. She wanted to see a person talk to her, even if that was her own self.
For a long time, she had just us.
And now, when she is all grown up and disassociated, she is asked to talk. The irony. Like it is easy to trust people who have always been using your revelations against you. Scolding you and restricting you.
Whatever it was, they always had a reason to scold and restrict. Donâ€™t sit like that, donâ€™t talk like that, blah blah blah. Like you would tell an AI robot what to do and what not. Maybe it would have been better to be a robot, devoid of any feelings whatsoever.
So while falling asleep in the afternoon sun, she got thinking what would it be like if things were ever to change. What if, her parents could see that despite being a girl she had some ambitions, some things that she wanted to do? Or maybe talk to her like the ideal family. Or just like family! Maybe be the support a family is supposed to be.
Or she could run away.
So many times she just fantasized about running away and living in a city where no one knew her. No relations in a city meant she had no social obligations and she could do whatever she wanted without the fear of being judged. Nobody could point his fingers on her and tell her what a girl should or shouldnâ€™t do. She could get a good job and find a nice place and be in peace.
Sometimes, she married.
The guy would always be sensitive and trustworthy. Someone who would be romantic and intellectual. Whom she could go on trips and treks with. Or just sit in my light holding hands, reading poetry. Make up for the lack of emotional support she always felt. Be there for her and not give her anxiety about what he is thinking or how he would react. Or whether doing something was allowed at all.
Sometimes, like today, she went rogue.
She just wanted to shoot everyone in the head and get done with it. Or maybe beat everyone with clubs. Everything could be put to end that way. This friendlessness, this loneliness, this feeling of being caged. Of not being understood or heard.
All her family seemed like a personification of her complications. Of chains and restrictions. And it seemed plausible, at least in her fantasies, that their oblivion would make everything right. In there, it did. Released all the anger and the emotions.
The broken-heartedness she felt due to her own parents, her family loving people more than her. Of someone else always being better, being cherished, being acknowledged. Any day.
Her thoughts remind me of Sylvia Plath and her poem, Daddy.
Like Sylvia, she could see the social norms and patriarchy, all hypocrisy in her family and ending them in her fantasies gave her some strange sadistic pleasure. As if all of it was over now and all that remained was peace. A life to be lived as she pleased. And cherished.
And as the sleep wore off and it was time for her to get back to reality, she thought about the futility of all these fantasies. She wasnâ€™t a psychopath and she could probably never execute anyone.
Even then, she felt it was futile, spending time in jail because you slew family. Probably this closure was meant to be a fantasy only. The only issue with fantasy closures is that once you wake up, you have to deal with the same shit again and it feels worse every day.
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Hirra Sultan is a Srinagar-based writer. Her works have appeared in many regional publications including The Indus Post, The Counsellor Magazine, Kashmir Observer, among others.