It was a starlit night, the lofty mountains embosomed by the darkness and the cold breeze that sneaked through her window reminded Ashima of the emptiness in her life. Ashima was in her mid thirties. Her life was never easy, meeting an accident early in her life she had to drop out from college . After her Abbu’s death she was the sole breadwinner of the family comprising of ammi, widowed sister Zoya and her son Rishab. Ashima brooded over life when a tiny pair of hands clasped her legs and a smile surfaced as Rishu snuggled into her arms. She rested her cheeks on Rishab’s face, held him tightly and swayed along playfully to his amusement.
The lights went off suddenly and they heard a knock outside. Ammi opened the door and informed that the guest their house owner mentioned has arrived. Ashima was about to get up when a jugnu appeared from the dark, it travelled all the way from window, circled over her head and flew to the main door. It was a belief in kasauli, their village, that a firefly hovered over the head when someone was about to fall in love. Knowing this, Rishu wriggled out of her arms and started clapping his hand:
“khala ko mohabbeth hone wali hai” he shouted and ran to the door with Ashima trailing behind.
She felt embarrassed and angry to see that the visitor had overheard them and was waiting with a smirk, flaunting dimples through his stubble.
“I am Zayd Abbas Rizvi” The tall figure mentioned and Ashima felt uneasy at his presence.
“Are you married?” Rishab enquired , Zayd entered into a loud laughter.
Ashima closed Rishab’s mouth and pulled him inside. Zayd saw Ashima’s amputated hand for the first time and stopped laughing abruptly. Ashima realised the awkwardness, “Your room is downstairs” she tried to evade him.
“Help him out, Ashi” Ammi said. Zayd moved down stairs and unwillingly Ashima lighted a lantern and followed him. As she opened the room Ashima could sense his eyes lingering over her. She entered the room , a table was lying blocking her way. She tried to lift it when Zayd moved forward to help her.
“I can mange “She said firmly and zayd backed out. He watched admiringly as Ashima dragged it with her arm and did all the other odd jobs seamlessly.
She placed the lantern on the table and was about to leave.
“jalth hai kiske liye there ankhon ke diye ” Zayd’s voice floated into her ears. Those lines were very familiar and nostalgic to her, she fumbled knocking the lamp. It was about to fall on her when Zayd grabbed it burning his hand.
“Ashima are you trying to pretend to yourself that you don’t recognise me?”
She tried to move past him but he held her hands firmly.
“You disappeared from my life after our accident, because you thought you are going to be a burden for me?” he said.
“Please go away, you deserve better” Tears rolled down her eyes as she nudged him and tried to move away.
zayd pinned her to wall and said “Ammi passed away recently, she had told me you moved on, but in death bed she regretfully told me how she had lambasted at you when you came to reply to my first proposal”
He hugged her “Come back Ashi, I need you, it’s not you who need me “.
She couldn’t stop herself anymore and hugged him back .All the chidings drained away in their tears .
“So here Ashima Khan I invite you once again to my life’, Zayd held out his hands.
Ashima smiled and placed her special hand in his, as the jugnu gleamed high above them silently.
Featured image credit to its owner 🙂