LOST IN A SEA OF BLACK
Lost in the streets of Incholi somewhere amidst the crowd my hand snatched away from my mother’s, I sense a feeling of uncertainty, my mind going into frenzy. I look around at the unfamiliar faces, smothered in clothes of black with such sorrow radiating from them that is overwhelms me just being around them. A woman, an old kind looking woman comes up to me and says ‘Beta, why are you alone? Are you lost? Here take this Tabar’rukh (something distributed after a majlis) in the name of Bibi Sakina’, the smell of bread whiffs by. I chose to mature up by that point and I stutter out saying, ‘yes I seem to have lost my way but I am familiar enough with this area, I think I can find my way, thank you for the Tabar’rukh’. Well, it was almost true, I was familiar with it but every street looked the same in Incholi, I knew it would take me some time to reach where I wanted to, I wasn’t all that worried though, my mother knew I was sensible enough to find my way and that no place was safer than Incholi on the 9th of Muharram. But I knew I ought not to waste my time, I didn’t want to miss the juloos and so I started my journey.
The streets were extremely crowded with different assortments of people, the ‘Sabeel’ (a cold or hot beverage providing stall) area was the most crowded of all, but the chill got the better of me I snaked my way into the crowd and grabbed a Styrofoam cup and moved it ahead so that the woman could pour me some coffee. It was extremely hot to begin with and it burnt my tongue because I was slightly overenthusiastic about drinking in a hurry, it gave me a reason to rest my aching feet from all the walking. I sat down at the steps of an ‘Azaakhaana’ (where replicas of Alam are displayed) and looked around, a mother sitting at the corner of the street to quieten her infant, a father handing his child a cup of coffee from the ‘Sabeel’, a young boy showing off his sharp zanjeer’s to his fellows, I took another sip just to realize that I had finished my coffee. I looked at my wrist watch and figured I didn’t want to worry anyone further, better be on my way, pity I would have liked to have another cup of that delicious coffee.
The streets seemed to have narrowed down or was it just the increase of crowd, when I reached the end of the gali the crowd had doubled and I had to struggle to move past it into the other street, I could hear this certain sound of chains, it sounded terrifying, suddenly I caught a strong smell approaching me, a smell of rust, of something I couldn’t exactly capture in my mind until I saw it with my own eyes, it was the smell of blood, I could feel my feet move on their own as they moved towards the opening where the smell came from, I was strongly reminded of a verse from the bible, a verse I had grown accustomed to reading in every other novel, the words they kept on echoing louder than ever until I was overwhelmed with emotion
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
I reach the clearing to witness, a swoosh of blades and the ringing smell of blood, men with their backs covered in blood and cuts, mourning the Karbala incident, feeling the pain and bleeding love for the Prophet(PBUH) and his family. The next thing I knew I was running the other way, I ran until there was no air in my lungs and my feet gave way until I collapsed with exhaustion, I let the emotion flow, the tears would not stop flowing from my eyes, the only sound in my ear were the echoes, ‘I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me’. I cried then for the men bleeding out there, I cried for how the people in Karbala bled on the 10th of Muharram, I cried like a child who had lost it all. Somewhere amidst it all I had lost track on time just to realize I was too exhausted to move, I shifted in a more comfortable position moved myself out of the way until I remembered the ‘Tabar’rukh’ the old woman had handed me, I opened the plastic wrap and ate the bread slowly, it was moist and soft and so after a few bites I got up and looking around realized I wasn’t all that far from my destination. I mustered up my last strength, got up, dusted off my black dupatta and got on my way.
I relaxed at the sight of the familiar road which meant my family would be in the next street, I slowed my pace and looked around at all the ‘Azaakhaanas’ which were open to all today, a bunch of little girls were going house to house, lighting their candles in every ‘Azaakhaana’, the candles looked beautiful and just looking at them I felt my being relax itself, mesmerized in the glow radiating from them. One of the girls noticed me watching, she shyly came towards me and quietly handed me a candle, I said a prayer and with the help of a flame from another candle, lit my own. I said a silent prayer for the innocent little girls, may God guard them against all evil. I got up and started to leave, when reaching the corner of the street, I turned around to wave goodbye, the little girl looked at me, smiled and with a sense of satisfaction I moved ahead.
By now among the black clothes I could see the face of my mother, her face apprehensive, with a ‘tasbeeh’ in her hand; I knew I had finally reached my point. Ammi’s eyes then fell upon me, her expression relaxing now, I knew it was time to get ready for the scolding,
I smiled wondering how in the world was I to tell her how much this one trip had changed me.