Friday 15 September 2017

Short Story 2017 Shortlist Neelam Saxena Chandra

For The Sake Of Honour

Ayesha felt a tingling sensation on her right leg which woke her up from her dreams. The roof was leaking and a few drops had fallen on her body. She could hear the deafening roar of the thunder. She shuddered. She remembered the time when she would hold her father tightly when it rained. She had always been so afraid of the rain! 

She had been fearful of so many things in life till she had been left with no choice after her father’s death. She had seen her big bungalow being sold. She was a witness to the poverty that ensued. However, she had never been worried about that. That was an ordeal that would pass with time. The fixing of her marriage with a man twenty years older to her was what she couldn’t digest. She had resisted it vehemently hoping till the end that her mother would relent. She wished to study. She desired to work to make two ends meet. She would have been ready to marry someone who was her age. However, her wishes had been brutally quashed by her mother along with the support of her brother, Yunus. “The society will mock at us for having an unwed daughter and we can’t give a dowry for a better marriage,” she had tried to explain Ayesha. This was something she hadn’t understood either at that time or now.  Yes! She had finally left the house of that horrible bastard called Salim!

She got up and peeped out of the window. She stayed in a kholi on the first floor of a dilapidated building. After all, this was what she could afford with no support from anyone. Her decision to leave Salim was not taken kindly by either her mother of her brother. They had explained her consequences of staying away from her husband, they had coaxed her not to leave and they had even threatened her. However, the domestic violence which she had to undergo at his house was too much for her to bear. She wanted a decent life. She didn’t want to be hit at night for putting less salt in his sabzi. She didn’t wish to be beaten black and blue for getting up late in the morning on an occasional day. She didn’t desire her skin to be burnt with butts of cigarette for having talked to her neighbour.
She had begun to take tuitions of students once she settled down in this kholi. This fetched her money as well as love from the tiny tots who came to her. 

The lane outside was lonely. A small bulb glowed faraway – rest of the street lights hadn’t been functioning since long. The intensity of the rains increased. Thunder thumped once again. The wind began to blow profusely hitting the window panes and one of them cracked. The glass fell upon her foot, hurting it. She shrieked in pain. The electricity disappeared just at that moment.
Amidst the chaos in the surroundings, she suddenly heard the feeble sound of footsteps in the lane. She looked down from the broken window. The generators had been switched on in the building opposite to hers and her eyes traced a man walking swiftly in the dim light. The gigantic height, the fast pace, the long beard, the curly hair – was it Yunus? Why was he here? She saw the figure at the entrance of her building and was terrified. Her mother’s voice reverberated in her ears, “You have brought shame to the family. I will rather have you killed than bear the disdain of the society. After all, I have other children!”

She wanted to arm herself with something to defend with. She couldn’t rely on the door, which was too flimsy. Even her kick would have been enough to break it open. She remembered where the kitchen knife was and fetched it despite the darkness. 

Quickly she covered it with the veil in her hands and hid herself beneath her bed. She nervously listened to the sound of the footsteps approaching her kholi. Her leg was still paining – but it meant nothing at that moment. She was trembling. She could never match the physical strength of Yunus. When she was a child, he would often use his muscles to teach her a lesson. It was only because of her father that she had survived with her head held high. She remembered him at this moment. Things would never have been the same had he been alive!

She heard the knock on her door. “Ayesha, open the door! I have come to take you home!” he said. She knew it would be foolish to believe him. Things don’t change so quickly. And if he did wish to treat her with grace, he would have come in daylight! The thumping on the door increased. Despite the coldness in the atmosphere, she began to perspire. Finally, he broke open the door and entered inside. He had a torch with him. He searched for her in the room. There was no place to hide, other than the bed, and he was quick to realize where she could be found. 

He bent down. The light of the torch fell on her scary face. He said gently, “Come out! I will not harm you!”
Their gaze was locked. She said, “I don’t believe you!”
He laughed insanely, “Yes, you are correct! You shouldn’t believe me! I have come to kill you. You have caused us enough pain!”

She took a step back. He lowered himself and tried to catch her. She moved further backwards. He quickly got up and caught her from behind. She turned back and tried to thrust the kitchen knife in his chest. However, he was faster. He caught her hand and threw the knife. Her veil fell down and her feet got stuck in its folds. She was barefoot and she stepped on the broken glass of the window pane once again in her struggle to free herself from the veil. She yelled in pain. By this time, he was in total control of the situation. Hitting her on her cheeks with intense force he said, “I will teach you a lesson today. I will hurt you so much that no woman will induce shame to her family. Can you imagine what Ammi is going through?”

Suddenly, she wasn’t terrified anymore. She knew that death was near- very near. But she wasn’t going to go down without a struggle. The knife was shining behind him despite the darkness. She suddenly bent and caught it once again in her hands. She had immense strength at that moment. She began to hit him with the knife violently. For a moment, he was shocked. However, he soon took control and held her wrist tightly. Then snatching the knife, he threw it out of the window. 

He roared with laughter, “You lose! I win!”
She was powerless. He tied her hands with the veil. Throwing the light of the torch on her face, he glanced at her intently and asked, “Now also there is a chance of my sparing you. If you agree to go back to Salim’s house, I will take you there with honour!”
She said calmly, “I will love to die.”
He looked at her once again. Then he fetched the glass from the table on which were kept the few utensils she had. He poured water in the glass from a bottle and teased, “Want some water to calm your nerves?”

She suddenly saw an opportunity to run away, which she availed. She quickly darted down the steps and into the alley. The heavy rains didn’t deter her. She had to safeguard herself. There was no use shouting. Her voice would not be heard in the din caused by the storm.

She was running as fast as she could. However, Yunus was catching up with her. What she had failed to see was a car wrongly parked. She banged against it and fell down.

She was aware of her being carried back into her room in the lap of Yunus, though she was semi-conscious. He made her lie upside down on her bed. He opened the veil with which he had tied her wrists. She could hear faint sounds of a stool being moved. Finally, he lifted her from the bed. Her eyes opened a little. He made her sit on the stool and tied the veil around her neck as a noose. Then he lifted her upwards slowly. The noose around her neck tightened. She spoke to her father softly, “Abba! I am coming! The place where you stay must surely be better than this!”

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