Zindagi Gulzar Hai
“You’ve cheated us” shouted Falak aapi’s father-in-law in a shrilling tone. Her mother and father were trying hard to pacify her in-laws.
Falak aapi gazed at the whole fiasco, from a distance, lying on the bed, her nose covered by an oxygen mask and couple of tiny tubes making their way into her nasal cavity. Beside her, lay her newly born son, sleeping soundly, oblivious to the pandemonium around him. She had decided upon his name well beforehand. She’d told her mother “Beta hua to Ishaan, Beti hui to Ishaani”. She wanted to cuddle him in her arms, envelop him in the cushions of her affection and compassion, and enshroud him with the warmth and sweetness of her lullabies. Alas! Her breaths were opposing her endeavors, her pulses falling at the rate of knots. She prayed to God that the peaks and bends on the ECG monitor would hold themselves for a day, before inevitably materializing into a long straight line. She pinned for a day- twenty four strokes of the clock, so that she could spend some invaluable moments with her son. A candle still flickered in her heart; they call it ‘Hope’.
“God has done this to punish you for your sins. You cheated us by marrying off your weak and ill daughter to our son. We will just walkover with our grandson and you can take care of your daughter” said Falak aapi’s mother-in-law. She walked over insolently towards Falak aapi, picked up Ishaan in her arms and sped away towards the exit doors. Ishaan let out an agonizing cry, which wrenched Falak aapi’s conscience.
A minute lining of tears trickled down her eyes. She had spent the previous nine months enduring all trials with impeccable fortitude, weaving the loins of parenthood with the thread of maternal aspirations. However, all her sacrifices seemed to have come to naught. In the race against death, Ishaan had been her motive force, encouraging her to put up a fight. Now that he was gone, she surrendered herself to her fate. Time of death- 7:07 am. Day of Death- Monday, 24th August, just a day before Eid and a week prior to her first marriage anniversary!
My interactions with Falak aapi were limited to a couple of verbal altercations. I found her as a soul of cheerful nature, bubbling with youthful exuberance and yet, at the same time, she possessed the poise and grace that signified the maturity of her intellect. She had been married for roughly eleven and a half months. In spite of repeated warnings by doctors, her in-laws were adamant to carry on with her pregnancy, thereby staking their daughter-in-law’s life at peril.
As she entered her 5th month, Falak aapi began developing serious complications and was almost bed ridden, right until her death. The pangs and spasms of pregnancy had taken their toil upon her tender body, transforming her from a lively and bubbly girl into a hard mass of flesh and bones.
The entity that was full of life was an empty vessel now. I accompanied my Dad to Mureth, her native village, for participating in her final rites. I entered her home and my heart immediately crumbled into bits and pieces. The loud resonance of sobs and shrieks had enveloped the whole environment, giving a horrid tinge to the whole ambience. An avalanche of emotions shuddered my conscience, crushing it with tides of remorse and regret. I found myself incapable to share and comprehend the grief of Falak aapi’s parents. I guess the ultimate disaster for parents would be to see one of their children forfeiting their life in front of their own eyes. I tried to fit in the dreadful atmosphere by offering consolations and condolences to the deceased’s relatives. Post the mid afternoon prayer, everyone rushed to her coffin, in order to carry it on their shoulders, on its way to its final destination, the graveyard.
I looked at her grave, wondering how this six foot, narrow, dark and desolate place is the eventual destination for all of us, the king as well as the pauper. Her body was lowered into the grave. Everyone around prayed for her forgiveness and salvation. Tears swelled up in my eyes, as I picked up a handful of soil in my hand and turned it over into her grave.
In accordance with Islamic traditions, I repeated my action thrice declaring the words “In the name of God, the great!” The ultimate miracle of God is that “everyone knows that death is a certainty, and yet everyone lives in this world as if the angel of death won’t knock on their doors”.
I wondered as if God was taunting us, laughing on our helplessness. Our hearts were aggrieved by Falak aapi’s death and yet we had to brace ourselves for Eid the very next day. Perhaps, Voltaire was right when he said “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh”.
It was the night before Eid and I found no reasons in it to be ecstatic or euphoric about it. I called my Khala Ammi (aunt) to wish her a blissful Eid. Khala Ammi shared by grief over Falak aapi’s death. Her further revelations swept over my despondent mood, replacing it with feelings of happiness and thankfulness. She told me that Kashaf, her daughter and my cousin sister, was expecting and I was due to become a Mamu (uncle).
I congratulated Kashaf and reprimanded her to not to neglect her health issues and advised her to take all precautions possible in such a case. I ascertained whether she had decided upon her baby’s name. She replied in the negative.
I suggested that she should name her child “Falak” irrespective of whether it turned out to be a daughter or a son, as it was a name common to both the genders. Khala Ammi was elated over the suggestion and so was Kashaf. Falak aapi is back among us, due in the course of the next seven months. I thanked God. Finally, I had a valid reason for celebrating Eid!
*Seven Months Later*
I carried Falak in my arms. I kissed her forehead and her tiny, petite hands. Surprisingly, she found solace and comfort in my arms. She was blessed with a bubbly and cheerful personality, facets that reminded me of a long lost beloved.
The title track of a famous serial adeptly explains my current situation.
“Ye maana ki aankhon main aansu hain, dilon main basi bebasi;
Ye maana ki apnon se behtar hain, ajnabi.
Yahan raaste dushwaar hain, aur manzilein us paar hain,
Magar ise jeene ko dil, tayyar hai…
Zindagi Gulzar Hai”
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