tagRomanceThe Scarface I Hated Pt. 01

The Scarface I Hated Pt. 01


India is a land of immense diversity. Often cultures, languages, castes, perceptions clash. Human values still rules supreme. This story is about the journey of a Muslim orphan girl trying bravely to face the life that poses difficulties. But, she braves on.

It's a romantic story because love has the capacity to overcome social deficiencies.

Some names and words may be unfamiliar. I have tried to give some meaning to them in brackets.

Chapter-1: Meherunissa

Only the great Allah-Taala (the Lord Almighty) could possibly be privy to the information as to under what compelling circumstances my parents named me Meherunissa and swiftly left together for the Jannat (heaven) leaving me under the care and guidance of Chacha and Chachi (father's younger brother and his wife).

To be fair to them, I was not ill-treated. I grew up with rest of the family. But, they never wasted many words on my parents except that they were big blots on the good name of the Anwars (my Chacha).

Fortunately, we all went to Schools and I turned out to be better of the lot in studies. When I finally landed a scholarship for the college education, things got a bit complicated. Chachi demanded to know that why the scholarship could not be transferred to my sister. Thankfully, Chacha persuaded Chachi that I could contribute monetarily if I got a good education. That tilted it in my favour. Incidentally, my other two sister's enthusiasms for School were confined to getting away from home. I completed my graduation and got a teaching position in an important School. The money that I was bringing in kept Chachi in a comparatively good mood.

20 summers had passed and things had started changing. Chachi wanted to get her elder daughter married and streams of eligible bachelors were invited on a daily basis. Somehow, the results were disappointing and to her extreme annoyance, a few made dubious remarks indicating that instead if I could be made available for the alliance, they could be more accommodative. Chachi, at first stopped my appearances in these mehfils and then became increasingly irritated whenever a prospective groom sent in a negative feedback.

The behaviour of the alliance seeking crowd surprised me too. The comparison between me and the great Noorjehan was limited to the illustrious name only. But now, I too started noticing myself and after some critical analysis concluded that "I was passable, maybe a little more than that". I looked at myself and reasoned that for all these 20 years, I was oblivious of myself. I did not know whether to feel good or bad; happy or sad; exhilarated or humbled. But I did notice myself. The woman in me suddenly wanted to bloom.

But there are a lot of hindrances to a good idea. I never had an idea that it would be soon.

One evening I came back from the School, collected the dried clothes from the clothesline and started folding them. Suddenly, my uncle entered, like a thief. I was surprised since he usually returned late but today he was early. With him also entered Chachi and I knew something was brewing.

There was an uncomfortable phase of hemming, hawing, and fidgeting. I waited for them to speak. Slowly, both regained their composure and my Chacha launched into a monologue as to how saddened they were when I was left an orphan by my parents (of course they died due to their own stupidity) and how despite all their financial difficulties my Chachi embraced me wholeheartedly and how my own comforts always took priority over their own children and how today no one would dare raise a finger at them accusing that they haven't looked after an orphan child to their best. Still, there are always some ungrateful shaitans who would say so many things but ultimately, it's Allah who sees it all and he will judge. This was verbatim Chachi's script, clumsily delivered by my uncle.

I was interested in knowing what was coming next?

Here on, the water turned a bit murkier. Uncle was ill at ease but with sustained nudging from my Chachi, he said, "Meher, we are getting old and your Chachi goes through sleepless nights thinking what will happen to you in our absence." Considering that Chachaji was only 51 and Chachi considerably younger, I wasn't that sure that they would make an early exit from the ethereal world.

Undaunted, uncle continued, "After all, you are in our care and we are responsible for your future. So, we have arranged your marriage. To a very good boy, mind you. Very good. You are educated and you know it's a man's heart that is important. Looks and money, everything will go but heart? It will remain forever."

What could I say? I kept quiet. Suddenly, my marriage had become their priority. There had to be a catch somewhere.

Sensing discomfiture, Chachi decided to take over. In a nutshell, she explained with surprising lucidity that my marriage had been fixed to a boy named Imran and there was no necessity of my seeing him because it has been done by them already (They were not my enemy and how much do I know about these things anyway?) Unfortunately, our economic condition was appalling and in case there were some deficiencies in band baaja etc then I should pardon them. As such they were such colossal waste of money. The marriage was to take place 7 days later. I needed to resign from the School, collect my dues and start life afresh as ordained by the God Almighty.

With that, the exited.

Bottom line. Everything was decided and I had no options.

Well, here I was. Well educated, employed, reasonably good looking but still enslaved to the social imperfections. I was supposed to have no choices, no aspirations and therefore an unlikely future. I was not entitled to voice my opinions, my concerns, my likes, my dislikes.

I was cattle. To be fed, fattened and sold.

Should I protest. To whom? I need not cry, nor lament the fact that I am only in custody, to be released to the highest bidder. For Qurbani.

The easiest option was to accept things as they came. Have we not been instructed precisely this? Don't complain, don't resist, don't say no. Say yes, always and every time.

There are wounds that never show on the body. Laurell K. Hamilton

Chapter-2: Alone

I sat alone, miserable and time stood by my side, offering no hope.

Was it happening to me? I had thought this happened only to others. I was secure in my own small cocoon. It was fragile but I never knew that. My life, howsoever pedestrian had a pace and maybe an elusive direction. The great force of life suddenly brought me down to my knees and I looked up towards a vast emptiness, a nought.

Since childhood, I have been severely challenged on the emotional quotient. I could not cry even when appropriate. I would always be standing at a corner twirling my thumb, not knowing what to do when all our kith and kin would launch into wailing and weeping (often false). More often than not I would be reprimanded later for being rude and arrogant. Invariably, the blame would fall on my 'never been seen' mother for my bad upbringing. Genes after all were all too pervasive.

I seriously felt that this was a fitting occasion for me to cry. But lack of training failed me.

I had never seriously contemplated the absence or lack of parents. I never missed them because I never had them. Whether they were good or bad or indifferent made no material difference to me. There was so little discussion about them at home that they were just a nebulous image in my mind. Of little consequence, of little importance. Of course, Chachi very rarely spoke about my mother except when she had to reinforce my deficiencies being a direct responsibility of my mother and It affected me very less. My father was never ever spoken at home. I didn't even have a picture of them. Why? I do not know. I should have tried to find out one. But I never did.

I never remembered anything about my parents. Not even at School. To be honest, the type of School that I studied in and the type of friends I had, it was more of a time pass for all. It was a girl's School and all our energies were focussed on cinema, affairs and other girlie things. We all learned giggling and conspiratorial tones but never anything serious like career, higher studies or even politics. I on my part allowed my life just to float around in frivolities. Maybe, later when I received a scholarship, I was myself surprised. My parents were conveniently non-committal by their absence.

Today, I thought about them more than all these 20 years put together and I felt disloyal, a two timer. I could not gage my complete disinterest till today. Since my life moved on with much deterrence, the path of least resistance was that much easier. A bit self-centric, I had to admit. I was amazed at my complete ignorance about them and felt a trifle lost.

Did my parents have interest in me. They must have protested when I was born, a girl. Who wanted a girl? But they called me a princess. Maybe they were happy for me. For the first time in my life, I felt that void in my life and I missed them. Had they been there I would have fought, expressed my anger, thrashed about. But they weren't there. Not for me. Chachi wanted to protect her daughter from harm and that harm came from me. That what's a parent does. I couldn't blame her. I felt completely distraught and helpless. I wanted to shout, "Mother, where are you? Why aren't you there when I need you the most." It was hopeless.

I felt a strange sensation in my chest where the heart beats. An agonizing pain broke through that little heart and the dam broke. I cried. I cried like never. In my tears, I found my parents. I felt them near me and that steeled my resolve. I would no longer beg anyone for anything. If uncle has looked after me for 2o years, I will not hold back my gratitude. I will do what he says. So be it.

A fresh morning follows each stale night, that is the law of the nature but things change. I was no longer the same girl anymore. A part of me died during the night. I worked quietly through my daily chores but I was someone else. This home where I spent all my life now looked a house, an alien land and I no longer belonged here. It did not scare me anymore where I would go next. I belonged to nowhere. In one evening, I was firmly shown my place. My existence was smashed.

The rest of the household was uneasy. People tried to be nice to me. A pathetic effort, I thought. I was a guest in a hotel. Hospitality sans the rights were provided. It was time for me to check out. It was difficult for me to act normal. I worked quietly. What can you say to someone who doesn't protest? Nothing. I went to the School, Chachi escorted me to the door like a VIP. I felt like laughing. The road looked different, the trees, the buildings, all were different. Only the School looked familiar. This was my workplace though not for long. The day went off routinely and now it was time. I knocked at Shubhra Mukherjee's door, our headmistress. She looked up and gestured me to enter. With a twinkle in her eyes, she said, "Ah, who do we have here, Meherunissa. Well, what brings you to this foggy old woman."

Foggy!! She was always being like a friend. Humorous, sometimes naughty but always sensible.

I have to resign", I said.

She sharply looked at me. Sceptical.

"Will you have a cup of tea?" She asked.

I said nothing, kept looking down.

"Sit down." She said.

I sat, the words refused to come out.

She got up, came around the table and put her hand on my head.

"Tell me everything." She said.

In her simplicity, I found an incredible heart.

Chapter-3: Acceptance

My headmistress was patient. She just held me for some time. I narrated my story and my predicament. She heard me quietly. I had no idea how much time I took. At the end of it when I no longer had the strength or inclination to say anything further, she went back to her chair and sat quietly for a long time. Then she looked at me and said, "What's happening to you is preposterous and if you wish to say no, you can. And, I will support you with whatever little strength that I have. But you must tell me what you want."

I told her that my options were very limited and I had decided against any remonstration.

She said, "I respect your decision and I will not say no to you but I am not going to accept your resignation. You take leave for a month and let this letter be with me. Come back whenever you want. This School will always welcome you. I see a great future for you here."

I could not understand what she meant. I was the youngest teacher but here I felt the oneness that I had never felt anywhere. I was sad to go. I got up from my chair and slowly walked out of the room and then the School gate. I looked back. The door was closing on me. I was outside. My feet were laden, this was my home and I did not want to go back to the house that till yesterday was my home. I did not say goodbye to anyone and just walked off.

My feet took me back to my uncle's place. Just out of practice. Nothing had changed in that house but I was no longer the same. I entered and went to my room. I sat on my bed. I had nothing to do. Nothing interested me anymore. My Chachi came in with bowl of kheer. I took it and ate some and left the rest. Then I felt guilty and finished it. With resolve, I went and sat with the family that was mine not so long ago. I tried to act normal and spoke about the School as I did every day. My sisters were quiet and I felt bad for them. I really loved them and so did they.

Meanwhile, my uncle came in and announced the dates and the preparations that needed to be made. I listened. As if I was a spectator to a play unfolding before my eyes. There were discussions about a lot of things. After some time, I went back to my room. Both my sisters followed me. The younger one embraced me. Large drops of tears welled out of her eyes. Both cried, quietly. I kept sitting like a stone.

The next few days passed by. There were endless number of people who visited. Each had their special ideas and advices. Some were sympathetic and some were twisted. Very little was spoken about my parents except that few wanted to know whether they had left something for my marriage or not. Once informed that they hadn't the crowd enthusiastically espoused the godliness of my uncle for having done so much for me. Some advised me to feel a little grateful towards him. And, I did.

Meanwhile, I distributed all my belongings to my sisters. All my clothes but a handful. Majority of the money, I handed over to Chachi who accepted them as a small token of repayment. I kept my books and a small box in which I found some remnants of my parents. One fine dress, few certificates and some books that I had never examined.

Time passed quickly and finally, the day arrived that I thought I was dreading. But I felt nothing much except some detached curiosity. In the morning, a motley group of ladies came to talk to me ostensibly to educate me about my marital duties. But soon they sensed the futility of it all and begged excuses. That suited me perfectly as I had started enjoying my solitude that had become an integral part of mine.

Early in the evening, the maulavi with his team of shagirds arrived and started the proceedings. I was asked my razamandi (consent) to which I answered in affirmation. The same question was asked of my counterpart. The yes from the other side took some time to come. I was surprised. And it was over. My marriage was solemnized, the celebrations and gaiety was one notch below than the lowest level and it was time for me to leave. The groom apparently came with a big crowd of one friend cum driver and they were there to escort me to my new life.

The goodbyes were stressed and perfunctory and I walked down towards the car waiting for me. The groom was already inside. The driver cum friend deposited my luggage consisting of a single suitcase behind and we moved off. The crowd of six waived. My sisters cried, others strained to look pained. I felt nothing. In the car, I looked ahead, not to the new life though, the roads that snaked in front of me. It was a mechanical view telling me nothing, what lay ahead.

In a short while, we reached a decent looking building and my groom got down, sehra and all. We three quickly moved inside into a second-floor apartment. The door was open and a girl of my age was standing there. The groom namely Imran took of his sehra and I looked at his face and an audible gasp came out of my mouth.

The face had a huge and ugly scar on the left side that distorted the face completely.

I had never seen anything so abominable in my life.

My reaction was noticed by all. The girl came forward and escorted me to a sofa. Imran and his driver quietly looked down probably digesting my discomfiture.

I welcomed my new life.

Somewhere between giving up and seeing how much more I can take. The Goodvibe .co

Chapter-4: The Scarface

I sat shell shocked. The scar and the face was the final frontier of my agony. How much more was I expected to bear? Still, that initial expression of shock was unlike me and I felt sorry. The suddenness of the event had completely taken me by surprise. But the damage had been done at a human level. Imran stood there shamefaced and there was complete silence. I looked up and said to no one in particular, "I am sorry." That appeared to ease the atmosphere. Imran came forward and said to me, "He is Suresh. He works with me and drives a taxi. This is Sumitra and she stays here with me. She will take care of you and I am Imran and I work in a car repairing company. You should not feel sorry. I scare everyone, at least the first time and I don't mind it. I am used to it." I sensed some pain.

He did not introduce me to others. I had a hunch that he had already told them about me. What exactly had he said about me and how much did he know about me was a big mystery. We again lapsed into silence. Sumitra asked me if I wanted to change and I agreed. She took me to the bathroom attached to what I presumed would be our bed room. The bathroom was simple but clean and all necessary toiletries were there including a clean towel. I was a bit surprised with the presence of Sumitra who apparently stayed with Imran. She was obviously a Hindu and of a decent background. I could not understand the equation. I forcefully rejected my curiosity and changed into something comfortable and came out. By then Imran had also changed and Sumitra had made some tea. Suresh was helping her.

I looked around. The house appeared frugally furnished but clean. Only the bare minimum furniture's were there. The walls were blank and llight subdued. There was one photograph of a lady on the mantle that I assumed to be Imran's mother. But she wasn't there. Why? As if on a prompt Imran said, "That's my mother. She doesn't stay with me." I was mildly taken aback. Was he thought reading. Imran said that he planned to order some food and wanted to know my choice. I sharply said that I wasn't hungry but immediately realised that I wasn't alone and amended myself to their choices.

Despite the initial shock, the scar continued to engulf my mind. It was bothersome and something impossible to ignore. Somewhere in my mind this made me obdurate and resistant to this entire marriage fiasco. This complete episode seemed a great travesty of justice. Still, the presence of two other people made things a little more palatable and tolerable. Suresh went and brought in some food which was a simple fare. I nibbled and so did Imran. Still, the dinner passed off without any incident and Suresh took leave. And now the most awkward time. We were to sleep as husband and wife. This seemed completely unreal. It was an antithesis to everything that I knew about marriages. There were no flowers, no relatives and no inkling of an event. Suddenly, I remembered the marriage between Wang Lung and O-lan in "Good Earth". Wang had simply gone to the great lady and was handed O-lan in marriage. They came back and their conjugal life had started straightaway, nothing fancy. But that was a story. This was real.

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