Fisherman from the Otherside

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Begum Zaitun was 30, suicidal and very brave.

She had lost her husband a few months ago. At home the slurs were becoming unbearable. They questioned her competence as a wife, as a woman, even as a human being. Begum Zaitun was a fresh widow. From Chhote Khan's much-loved wife she had become Zaitun, the witch. Suicide seemed like a release from the prison that had once been her home.

So she walked. Walked towards the dreaded Chambal. The refuge of bandits and outcasts. The river that circumscribed her small walkable universe.

It was early dawn. Zaitun was walking her last mile. First time out, without her white penguin veil. She found herself a jumping spot, in the middle of the old stone bridge. Suleiman and Zarina, her surviving fifth and seventh born, were with her, on either side. Zaitun had planned to follow her husband. To the end of her walkable universe. The river. The refuge of outcasts. With her entire family. The slurred, 'black-faced' family. She had become a husband-eater. Bad luck buzzed over her head like hungry flies. They said, she should have died in the cradle. Still-birthed. Finished at the beginning.

But she lived.

"Hold my hands and close your eyes," she told Suleiman and Zarina. And she jumped into the Chambal. When Zaitun touched the water surface, it opened its mouth to welcome her. It was a moment. An awakening. A thrill she had never felt before. Zaitun had entered another universe. Not wet, not cold but light-headed and flushed with a silver iridescence.

Suddenly she was not inside the river but walking on it. Walking towards a man with long hair and a beard. He was wearing a white cloak made from a fabric of light. She had never seen him before.

"Who are you, sa'ab?" she asked momentarily blinded by his brilliance. "I am a lost soul, a lone woman: husband-eater and cursed mother... But who are you, sa'ab? Your kind one doesn't see often? Are you an angel? A saint maybe?"

"I am Jesus." His voice was like the chorus of a thousand minstrels, each singing of his own loss.

"Oh the Christian god."
"Maybe... but I am older than that."
"Do you believe in Allah?"
"Do you believe in resurrection?"
"I don't know. What is happening to me, Jesus?"
"Change."
"But why?"
"Because you willed it."
"How?"
"By jumping in the river."
"I had nothing to live for."
"What about Suleiman and Zarina?"
"They are children. They would go straight to heaven."
"And what about me?"
"You? I don't know... Where are my children?"
"They are safe."
"But why did you save me?"
"Habit."
"You mean it is your habit to save people?"
"You could say that."
"Can I see my children?"
"Yes, but first you must see something else. Here, look over there."
"What is this place? Is this what lies beyond the river? It's beautiful... what is this place?"
"This is where you must return."
"Can I enter now?"
"No, not now."
"But... I have nothing to live for... please let me enter this paradise... yes paradise it must be."
"No, not now. You have your children to whom you must return."
"But when will I be able to enter this place."
"Soon."
"How long is soon?"
"When the time is right."
"Oh please don't go... wait.. Suleiman? Zarina? Where did you children go?"
"We were here, Amma. Someone saved us from the water. But you were unconscious."
"Did you see him? The man who saved us."
"Yes. It was a fisherman from the other side."
"What did he look like?"
"Like a fisherman, Amma. Are you all right?"
"Yes, son. Let's go home."

And home they went but Zaitun had changed in ways more than a suicide ever can.


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12 comments:

  1. thanx. wasn't zactly easy to write, coz BZ was my grandma.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, your grandmother?
    I'm moved.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Shukran River and Le Chitelier. The story's been with with me for so long that its retelling was alomst effortless.

    ReplyDelete
  4. why jesus ?
    why give it a name ?
    do u really think that he would introduce himself like that " hi i'm jesus, your friendly neighbourhood God, just hopped by to save ur ass."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Man!!! Another religious tale... its normally grandmothers and mothers who somehow find the time(it being a wrong one for us) to basically stuff religion down our throats... i don't think u shoul've have mentioned the name JESUS.... hehehe maybe 'J' would've been good enough.... but a very very interestin read... most definately interestin... nice.... nice....

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  6. so your muslim grandmother saw a bearded dude who introduced himself as jesus ?

    ReplyDelete
  7. also im not telling you what or how you should narrate your tales i just want to know the reason behind it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yup, that's how it happened... and I thought that was clear in the piece. And if u're asking me why it happened, I have no answer. It just did... suddenly, unexpectedly like most things that are life-changing :-)

    ReplyDelete

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