15th August 1947, New Delhi
Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge….
15th August 1947, Bombay
“Aai! I can’t… I think … the baby is coming.” She shrieked as a wave of pain traversed through her womb.
“Aai…hey devaa!… I can’t take it anymore.”
The clank of naked swords signed their death sentence. Her new-born would never see independence. Her destiny had turned turtle, her neighbours, who loved them once, turned foe.
“Aai… Go…go… run away! Save your life!”
“There is nowhere to go…this independence distorted our destiny. How will the power players ever be redeemed of the guilt; this partition has heaped on us?”
The swords slid like cream on soft supple skin and on the gnarled skin alike.
15th August New Delhi
…… At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom….
15th August, Amritsar
“Rubina! Zara ehtiyaat se…” he hollered over the crowds, “keep Najma with you, I am in the neighbouring bogie.”
“Shafeeq, stay safe.”
Shafeeq jostled towards the exit. The zanana compartment was filled to the brim with pathos and melancholy.
The train hooted, this was his last hope to reach Pakistan, his new identity. He wriggled his way out, only to fall flat on the concrete platform. There was no time to waste on sensations of pain and physical injuries.
The clock struck twelve. The air, rant with the war cry “Hindustan hamara hai…”
He had to board this train; his freedom depended on it. The next compartment and the next… he couldn’t get hold of the railing.
The train was moving fast. Strangely, he couldn’t hold the railing, he glanced behind to see the advancing mob. Alas! He saw himself, lying strewn with blood, on the platform, Najma crying inconsolably.
“I am dead. Indeed, our country definitely awoke to freedom but, the independence came with a heavy price. Life traded for freedom!”
……A moment comes, rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends, when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
15th August 2019
“Najma appa, hold my hand and take the stairs, they seem to be rickety.” Said Bhaarat Doshi, president of The Orphans of Independence, a charitable organisation.
“Keep your hand to yourself, you are seventy-two-year-old man, and I am a seventy-seven-year-old girl.” She chided, leaning on his arm.
Najma Khatoon unfurled the tricolour.
“Jan gan man………” reverberated in the air.
Memories and misty eyes have a long association with pain and it often brims over, this was indeed, one of those days.
“Seventy-two years ago, your President Bhaarat Doshi and I, Najma Khatoon were brought here in this orphanage. He, a new-born rescued in Mumbai and me, from Amritsar platform….” she stammered, pain still afresh.
“Remember, it isn’t your religion but your morals that define you. Never take this freedom for granted, we made an extortionate deal.”
Tvarit karaa: Do quickly
Hey Devaa: My lord!
Zara ehtiyaat se: little carefully
Hindustan hamara hai: India is ours
Aapa: elder sister
Photo courtesy: Unsplash
This is an entry for the event #twelve #Five00-10 at ArtoonsInn Writers Room.
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