Alas! The Rattles, Dolls and Other Things that Crawl


Every nook and corner, every road and alley of the village is buzzing with children bursting firecrackers; buying rattles, dolls and other things that crawl. Markets bright; decorated with colorful lights. Men tasked to buy sweets and cakes; women, busy preparing different fares. Houses and people decorated in different colors, wrapped in new colors. Joy, jubilation and felicity has filled the atmosphere. Young girls chant special Eid songs in chorus, while men walk towards Eidgah for congregational Eid prayers. Mawlawy Sahab delivers a sermon about Zakat (Obligatory tax on Surplus wealth) and Sadaqah Fitrah (Obligatory tax on fasting) from the high decibel loudspeaker. People are passing on Eid greetings to one another and embracing each other.

Away from this hustle and bustle, two orphan children, Uzma and Arsalaan, are weeping and crying before their mother for new clothes and Eidi (an amount given to children on Eid). All the children in the village are out in beautiful and colorful attires, the orphans, in torn and dusty clothes. They too want to buy those rattles, dolls and other things that crawl, but, they have no money. They too want to bite into those sweets and cakes, but all of these joys are a far fetched fate. The architect has probably been a little callous here; the scene in this mud house is that of a broken heart and despair. The poor mother, reduced to a mere skeleton, has no answers for her children, tries to console her four year old daughter, reduced to tears, too innocent to understand the plight and helplessness of her mother.

Alas! The widow mother is unable to fulfill the demands of her children, hapless, she has no answers for her children. Arsalaan, eight years old, realizes his mother’s plight, begins to persuade his four year old sister to stay quiet. “Keep mum,” he said, “Papa is coming with new dresses and bags full of sweets for us”. Deep inside he knew his father will never come back, but his sister wiped her tears off her cheeks, and a special glow pushed through the house’ crack. Her red cheeks and pink lips were radiating light, her coarse and uncombed hair spread over her forehead and cheeks narrated a part of their lives. This persuasion from Arsalaan lasted nine day’s, Uzma wondered and kept asking about the arrival of her father’s gaze.

Zareena was stirring a cauldron containing rice on a traditional Kashmiri mud chulha. Longing to cook different cuisines and dishes like other households on Eid but how could she. She reminisces about her late husband, some three years back, he was alive and she felt like a queen. Their Eids were not dull and monotonous. They too bought sweets and cakes and prepared different dishes. The untimely death took a hit at their riches.

The smoke of half-burnt cow dung cakes coming from the mud chulha of their kitchen had turned young Zareena, who was in her late thirties, into a sick and feeble looking old woman of 60. Her grey hair, sunken eyes and fleshless cheeks were evidence. She was like a live corpse, and the people around had ugly hearts. Their conscience was dead, her relatives had abandoned her.

After some 10 or 15 minutes, Uzma enquired, “mummy, where is Papa? Arsalaan bhai said he was on his way.” Both her brother and mother began to weep bitterly. Arsalaan embraced his sister and took her into his tender arms, but, alas! His pockets were empty. He asked his mother for a ten rupee note, Zareena had nothing to give him. She asked her children instead to take their meals, rice and mustard potatoes were too ugly to eat. Uzma refused to eat and asked angrily, “where is the mutton and chicken, where is the fish and Nadru (lotus steam)?” She asked her mother for cakes and pastry. Zareena tried hard to pacify her, Uzma kept weeping and her cries were piercing her mother’s heart. Meanwhile her eyes caught sight of her dead husband’s photograph in a half broken frame, hanging from the mud painted wall of her house. She broke down and began to cry. No one from the neighborhood came to console her on that fateful Eid night.




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