Monsoon Dreams

Dec 15, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Fiction

She leaned back into her lounger as Mukesh serenaded her. Closing her eyes, she felt his voice roll over her like a never-ending stream of silk, azure in color, the color of the passive sky, the one thing she wanted to touch before she died. She was floating, drifting into sleep, when a sudden burst of screeching put an end to the singing. She glared at the gramophone, staring it down, silently ordering it to resume spinning the record again. But no one took orders from her; she had learned that the hard way.

Sighing, she got up and went out onto the gallery, hoping that the salty sea breeze would whip off her disgruntled demeanor and leave her renewed. Rejuvenated. She remembered reading somewhere that sea salt was good for ‘rejuvenating’. Probably some skin care company, marketing gimmicks, she scoffed. These commercial types wouldn’t stop at anything. But who was she to judge? They had won. They ruled the Karachi skyline, had touched it before she had.

But she had won too, in her own right. Living alone in a cosmopolitan wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Yes, there was detachment, people kept to themselves. Not many asked probing questions, who had the time? She could move anonymously, just one in a crowd. No one told her she ate too many chocolates which were bad for her diabetes, no one knew about her diabetes. And that got to her. She wanted to be told off by someone. It would make a nice change. But not many knew that a Sarah Zubair dwell in a high-rise apartment building, at one edge of the Arabian Sea.

She had willfully broken ties, pried off the fingers clamped on her throat lest she suffocated. Then, it had seemed to be the only way. She second-guessed it now. Should she have been submissive, letting them steer her life into alleys darker than the one she lived in? She didn’t want to be yet another statistic, so she fled to the only place she could think of, Karachi; the only place where she could merge in and melt into the concrete, leaving no trace behind.

It had been a long climb and she was grateful for all the help she got to make it easier. The Parsi woman, who had lived next to her in her first ever apartment, could have been her fairy godmother in a skirt. A job, a broken down but functioning car, and compassion were a few of the things she had given her. She wasn’t a fairy godmother, for fairy godmothers don’t die. But Farahnaz Billimoria did.

She had landed on the concrete steps of Grieg Plaza on M. A. Jinnah Road. It wasn’t far from the train station but Lahore seemed light years away. And from the way her body had ached, it was as if she had run all the way, desperately trying to shake her brothers’ shadow from her tail. An apartment in this building was the only one she had been able to rent at the amount she had at hand. She knew she was leaving a lot behind, maybe that was the only reason they chose to forget about her.

The plaque outside the building said it was built-in 1911, and it looked every year its age. The windows and doors shook whenever the strong monsoon wind paid them a visit. But it felt homely. That was enough for her. She lugged her suitcase up the stairs, her rebirth had begun.

Aunty Farahnaz was the one woman welcoming committee of the building. A teacher by profession, spinster by choice, matronly by nature, she was the mother Sarah had lost, the sister she had left behind and the friend she had never been allowed to have.

“You, my dear, are one of the stronger ones from our kind.” Her voice was resolute even though her hands shook as she took the tea-cup from Sarah.

“Running away is a sign of cowardice, aunty.”

“It takes strength to reject your life and build a new one.”

“Maybe, but I wasn’t brave enough to confront life, was I?”

Like a tiny bell tinkling, that was how her laugh sounded, “Bravery is just another word for stupidity. Sometimes you get lucky; sometimes you get your head on the block.”

That was what came back to Sarah while she stood on her balcony, watching the wind change the sandy beach, one grain at a time. She was selective with her memories. Unlike the waves who, with silken fingers, deposit everything on the shore into their depths, she kept what was important for her soul, what boosted her ego, what kept her reasons clear.

“Don’t ever go back. Don’t you ever go back; even if they come and grovel at your feet. Don’t be the woman you defeated so long ago.”

“I won’t.”

Aunty Farahnaz had passed away a month ago, and Sarah was fighting hard to keep her promise to her. She had run away to keep her brothers from getting a bargain off her. She had broken all ties to save herself from being forced into marriage. But what had she done, she asked herself now and again. She ran willingly into a dead-end. Isolation. Had she wanted to, Karachi could have been much more than the hiding place that she had needed it to be when she first came to it. But she had been scared. She did not want to be unearthed again, stripped of her rights. She had come a long way from being a young girl with dreams to a woman with nothing to look forward to.

She had contemplated going back once but thought better of it. The only thing that would greet her was a brutal death. A disgrace, that was all she was to her relatives.

The salt was wrapping itself around her mind now, and coffee, she was craving for coffee. Her kitchen never ran out of instant. The floor whispered beneath her feet, she found comfort in the tiny voices.

And then there was an intruder. The phone kept up its steady ringing till she picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”

“Sarah?”

“Yes?”

“Didn’t think we wouldn’t ever find you, did you?”

She put the receiver down and walked back out onto the gallery, and stood there for a long time, smiling at the sea. She had come a long way and the monsoon wasn’t going to drown her so easily.

The Author

Aspiring novelist, not-really-a-closet poet, blogger; Maryam is a sophomore at Kinnaird College, majoring in Media Studies. She is forever ‘adopting’ words that have been forgotten. She writes letters to Sylvia Plath whenever she is bored . She hates being told that she should be studying Literature.

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2 Comments + Add Comment

  • I am in love with this piece.
    Read it thrice already.
    Its beautiful, MashAllah.
    Thank you for sharing it.

    Current score: 1
    • Thank you, Komal. =)

      Current score: 0

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