The Shadows of the Evening | Fareeha Khan

Article Posted in: Short Story




Published, May 2016, Issue XVI of Ashvamegh


Introduction to the Author:

The writer is an Associate Professor of English, a researcher and freelance writer. She has got five research papers on socio-linguistics to her credit. She has two published poems, The Lost Thread and Burnt Alive, Buried Alive in The Criterion International and Typoetic. Us. She contributes regularly in The Daily Dawn and currently she is working on her first novel.



The aura of evening got darker, duskier, more mysterious, heavily enigmatic, greatly magnificent, acutely stranger and shades of darkness grew with elapse of every passing second. Sara, sitting by window, with withdrawn curtain, looked outside at the growing silhouette, without looking. She was a woman in her mid twenties. Luxurious raven hair falling on her shoulder could remind anyone of water tumbling down from across the hills into lush green meadows. Her aquiline nose betrayed arrogance, strange inexplicable pride that exuded an air of stubbornness, imbibing with haughtiness her nose possibly described her character more than any other physiognomic feature of her demeanor. Sara’s chin though dropped at the end which exhibited thoughtfulness. She sat by the window with drawn shades. Though shades were drawn from the window but they fell on her destiny like dark curtain, refusing to be lifted, defying any single, strayed sunshine to come in. Her destiny, her future and her fortune everything had been thwarted by this one dark curtain, this series of the tangled webs woven by fate on the window of her destiny. “I wish I cease to exist” she thought morbidly. The instant thought of putting an end to her life was so powerful that she was nearly swept away by the gush of its force. She rose only to sit again. “Oh, what would I do, where would I go, what a mess I have made of my life” she brooded, lifted her chin to be drooped once again in melancholy. “I have lived and I now I am dead” The feeling of annihilation was so immense, so influencing that she felt her senses going numb.

Sara was the only child of a Muslim mother and Hindu father living in Victoria, North Australia. Sara learnt about the ugliness and sordidness of love when she was five years old. Somehow, down beneath the heart of her hearts she commenced loathing love. She knew love could not be that belligerent so as to invade minds, vanquish thoughts, and conquer souls. Somehow, somewhere, deep down inside she knew love and what love could do, even when she was five. She was acquainted with her parents’ strange relationship with each other, a relationship that professed to be based upon love but that invaded thoughts, subjugated minds, and tattered apart the fabric of decency. It was a strange relationship and stranger were the ways that she, Sara Kumar, aged five was learning.

“Monza why don’t you try to understand I have been raised brought up and thrived in an entirely different culture, I have different ideas, I can practice them as individual. I am an individual; I want to be an individual not someone’s father, not someone’s husband. Let me breathe, let me walk, let me fly, let me move. Is it asking for too much?” The effete voice of her father echoed in the ears of five year old Sara, it still echoed in the ears to twenty two year old Sara. This was an enigmatic voice, strained and tried, full of regret, imbued with repentance. She hated love when she saw her father slapping her mother for the first time; she hated love when she saw her mother not coming home at nights, sometimes for days. She hated this divine feeling called love when both of her parents fought with each other physically, crushing her soul spiritually.

She didn’t know who told her the story of her parents. She did not remember that. Anyways it mattered little. The fantastic saga of love and hate had been conveyed to her. Monza Siddique, 22, Muslim Pakistani and a descendent of a migrant from UP, India fell in love with Rajesh Kumar, 24, Hindu by religion and engineer by profession. Muzna’s conservative family was against her father’s decision of sending her to Sydney for studying English Literature. They could not understand why Muzna could not study in Pakistan. But her father, an honorable pathan, remained adamant. Perhaps this one decision was the commencement of the ultimate doom, the forthcoming catastrophe that engulfed them all alive.

The big monster of traditions, customs and values, of norms and culture had opened its wretchedly ugly mouth to swallow Monza’s family. Little did they know that this monster was a voracious. He had a huge appetite that could eat anything and everything ranging happiness to togetherness. This grotesque monster loathed the sound of laughter. So it ate them up, all of them, at once, instantly and immediately.

For Muzna and Rajesh it was like a fairy tale beginning. They met, fell in love, decided to get married and then they stood still. Both of them knew that it could prove to be fatal. They were standing in a blind alley. Period. An end. Fate smirked at their decision of staying together till death doth part them; it was going to be death, yes but not peaceful one. Destiny stood at one side, watching the whole panorama of meeting, staying, vowing, the kaleidoscope of colors, the water fall of jubilations. Lovers live in a state of oblivion, the blissful ignorance and it culminates in paranormal euphoria. Rajesh and Mona knew they loved each other. But the cost of this bliss was never thought about. Monza’s parents reacted as they should have. They pushed her, called her back, threatened to ostracize her, but she never came back. Perhaps she could not even if she wished. However, the question whether she yearned for going back or not hung in air, heavily, unanswered. She, herself, conceivably was too afraid to answer. They, Rajesh and Muzna, never talked about their parents. Rajesh had only a mother and a sister. As an atheist, from Brahman family, Muzna’s Muslim identity did not deter him, even for a second, to think about tying a knot with her. He had fallen in love with her awesome, bewitchingly captivating dark eyes, voluptuously full lips, tall but enigmatic stature, mysterious curves rising from above and falling exactly where they should. The waterfall of her brown hair, whence sunlight filtered through them, shone with such a brilliance that even sun could be shamed into giving way to clouds. She was a complete paragon of beauty, a pagan beauty but the brilliance was blemished. The tarnished spot of her being Muslim ruined her all the brightness, springy sunshine, the warmth of the day all were receded to pave the way for grayish, cloudy autumn evening. The bloom of her youthfulness, the cheerfulness of her demeanor, the façade of her alluring enchantment, all of them could not convince either his mother or his Brahman Sister that he would die without her.

Probably, he would have died if he had not married her. Perhaps she too had died but they decided to live in their companionship. They decided to live but ironically in their life they died. This demise was more eternal, more catastrophic, more devastating than one-time death could have been. Rajesh and Muzna resolved not to go back to Pakistan or to India. Australia with all her tolerance, tranquility, peacefulness, would be their serene paradise on the earth.

One year had been elapsed but only Muzna knew how many days, how many hours, how many minutes, how many seconds were there in this one hour. Every single day of that one year she wished to turn back the clock, reverse the cycle of time and go back Every night she had envisioned her last phone call to her home “Amma, I want to a Hindu boy. Believe me, he is very different, religion does not matter to him” and her mother’s resentment in anguished tone” you will have to choose between him and us”. However, this time, in her imagination, conclusion was different. She would not hang the phone, she would not stamp her feet in agony and frustration, she would stand still, she would not take even a single second to brood, she would only first available flight back to home. Only if time could be turned back. After every fight, she used to wish that her decision to marry Rajesh and leave her family was only a dream, the most horrific nightmare one could ever had, but only a dream. After every walk out by Rajesh, after getting beaten by the drunkard man, after incessant endeavors to muffle her cries in the pillow she wished time could be wheeled back. Little did she know that time had only wings and no wheels for its mobility.

Two years of endless fights, incessant shouts and shrieks, unending sobs and threats their lives took a new course. The news that Muzna was pregnant brought them together. One day Muzna was sitting by the fireside, the golden flames of fire gave a novel color to her hair. Rajesh thought he had never seen such a spectacle in his entire life. Red and orange flames rising from the fireplace, the golden light filtering through her brown hair, the white glowing skin, alluringly captivating eyes with pensiveness lurking in them held him at the door step of the room. He wanted to hold her in his arms, to play with the soft velvet of her hair, to feel her molded frame against him, to touch this siren the way he used to do but then she spoke and the spell was broken. “Raj I wish to be at home” the ache in her voice was so immensely powerful that it made him long to touch the velvety texture of her voice. He wanted to come forward for her but stopped instantly as she continued “I don’t know where I would go, what I would do, what the baby will do, but when love perishes it leaves nothing behind and I want to leave this nothingness behind” “What do you want to say?” his voice was sepulchral coming deep down, from the deepest of the well. “I don’t know as yet I have not decided, I shall let you know later” The spell was broken and the princess was liberated only that she was not the one like before.

Some days after Sara was born. She was christened with a neutral name, so as not to give rise to controversy. Muzna did not speak anything about leaving since that day. She was quite but still complacence could be perceived peeking through her quietness. She had not fought with Rajesh for so many days and Rajesh hoped that everything was going to be fine, that Sara would serve as bridge between him and Muzna, he started coming home earlier and they became one happy family. But one day, at the time of first birthday, the bombshell was finally dropped. “Rajesh I am going away, not to my parents’ home, not there, not anywhere, right now I don’t know where I would go” Muzna, stood at the stairs, holding the wooden staircase, her brown hair flared in the air, her goddess like mouth was open, her white skin glowed under the light of the bulb, the peaks of her bosom stood proudly erect, as if seconding every single word uttered by her. Rajesh stood still, for a while. The silence between them was more deafening than the noise. “It was the biggest mistake of my life” he thought but could not say anything. The regal diva came down step by step, each step she took made a hole in Rajesh’s heart. “Can I live without her?” he mutely asked himself but still death like silence prevailed, “Am I dying?” this question too remained unanswered. “I don’t want Sara”. If Rajesh had thought the worst was over he was mistaken, it was yet to come. “Sometimes it happens that the best of people can prove to be worst for each other. You were the best person I had ever come across, perhaps you still are” the caress in her voice could not get unnoticed. “I wish we could be together but if it is not that I don’t know where Sara would fit in my life” and then she left. This was all she had to say about her life, about his life, about their lives, she left for good without saying much and this was only the beginning of another end for Rajesh and Sara.

Sara Kumar was blessed with the beauty of her mother and grace of her father. But she took after none of them in reality. Her mother was like a quiet stream, moving ahead, and she was flood in a river. She was goddess even to the pagans and Sara was a vamp, a sirene, a diva. The urge to be worshipped engulfed her entire existence. She had learned about her mother from her father but it could not satisfy her apatite to get more acquainted with her. It grew inside her womb, like a child. To his surprise, Sara took more after his mother than her own one. Her beauty was mind boggling despite having brown skin she could turn heads off. Whereas Muzna’s beauty was ripe and full, Sara’s was voluptuous and ravishing. Sara’s body was reminiscent of Egyptian divinity, her comeliness reminded the beholder of Indian regality and ancient goddesses. Her gorgeously tall stature, the resplendent globes on her bosom, the radiant cheeks and smile like moonlight could stir mountains, turn away rivers, alter the course of universe and this happened. The mountains left their places, planets altered their courses, and rivers were turned away when at the age of thirteen she lost her virginity.

She had met Paul Simpson, her high school heart throb at a disco club. Her eye lids were heavy from intoxication, her brushy eye brows were glued together. The thick black mass of her hair were all disheveled, her eyes were tipsy and her feet were staggering. Her quivering hands groped in darkness of the corridor to find recourse to get out. She stumbled, as carpet under her feet seemed to be slipping and then all of a sudden she found herself nestling against a hard rock and two arms. Her eyes were closed and a soft caress was fondling her hair. She rested her head against the hard rock chest. The ship travelling in the desolate, starless ocean finally found the ultimate destination, the complete solace, the wonderful asylum and the rest was all nothingness.

Sara knew life would not the same for her after that one episode which categorically transformed her. The ebb and flow of life had forcefully pushed her so much away from the shore of life that now she could not return, no matter how hard she tried or how vigorously she wished. Nights and days lost their meanings. Not that she believed in love but now everything lost its dimension to her. She was growing up but then she was never ever a child. Not when she was two-year-old and crying for her mother’s lap, hungry and wet for hours, all alone in the house, as her governess was fast sleeping and her father was lost in fanaticizing about things and days that were no more. Not at two, not at five and not at eleven, childhood had angrily distanced itself from her. But now at the tender age of thirteen new facets of life were surfacing. Novel and intense passions acquainted her with clandestine aspects of life. Having come to know heights and lows of passion and ecstasy there was no looking back.

At the age of twenty she was a nobody and a mother of two, working in a bakery. Her kids had been taken away by the welfare department of the state, for she could not raise up them. The black mass of hair once analogized with waterfall had been reduced to a few strands reaching barely her shoulder, the two orbs of fire were extinguished and the volcano imbued with fire of passion became dormant. One evening when she came back from home a stranger was waiting in her small kitchen. “Hello Sara” the stranger extended her gloved hands towards her. Sara looked at her suspiciously but did not say anything. The stranger’s hand remained in the air some time and then drooped. Sara stared at the stranger point blankly “I knew since the beginning you would come to visit me one day, after all this much I owe to you, don’t I? towards the end of the sentence her voice got heavier but this was the only exhibition of emotion. The mother and daughter stood erectly, facing each other loathingly. “if you have come here to seek my forgiveness you are going to be disappointed” hissed Sara. Her cry was replete with inexplicably strange venom “Apology?” the hysterical reply was only a question, a startled, shocked query. “Who do you think you are to forgive me? What I have done to you to seek your forgiveness?” “Yes you are exactly right. Its I who should be forgiven for intruding your precious life, for encroaching upon your ownership, for destroying your dreams, for crushing your identity, for not letting you to be what you want to be” Despite herself tears started rolling down her cheeks. With clenched fists she sagged on the nearby settee. “Please stop it Sara. I don’t know why I have come here. Perhaps to have one sight of you, I don’t know, but you paid for my sins, I am sorry for that. I came here to seek your forgiveness. You are absolutely right. I am sorry for everything I did to you and for everything I made out of you”

Sara gazed into the eyes of her mother shatteringly, mutely. “I want nothing from you, neither the stories of past, nor promises for future. We both are dead so let the dead spirits rest in peace” Muzna kept standing for a while with bowed head then she moved towards the door with her back to Sara. Hesitantly, hurriedly she got out of the door, of Sara’s life, of her own life. Sometimes it is better not to turn back otherwise human beings can be converted into stone statures.

The aura of evening grew duskier, heavier and Sara sat silently by the window “I hope the rain is only outside” she thought.

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