A LIFE TO LEAD (SHORT STORY/FICTION)
By Neel Anil Panicker
The falcon launched into the air to swiftly become a sharp speck against the sky.
Standing at the edge of the mountain top, Najma looked up and watched the flickering black and white speck in the sky till it turned into oblivion.
Her eyes stooped at the valley below.
Something inside her blurred forcing her to close her eyes.
At that precise moment she had a moment of epiphany.
A long forgotten phrase from a book she had picked up from a bookstore at the Singapore airport terminal area while waiting for her connecting flight to India came alive in her mind.
‘These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.’
She had, since then, tried to make sense of its meaning, more specifically its connect with her life. The result was a cipher.
Now, two years later, standing atop the majestic Himalayas, the wind blowing her auburn hair, the early morning sun’s rays adding a shine to her already jet black glistening visage, she, Najma Hussani, all over of thirty years, found herself revisiting her past to better understand her future.
There she was, a young newlywed Creole woman, forced by an unlucky combination of fate, poverty, centuries old antediluvian patriarchal mindsets and a raging civil war, falling victim to a lifetime of sorrow and subjugation, her pain exacerbated by the mind numbing fact that she was married to a man who was thrice her age and one whose favoured pleasure was alcohol when he was not busying himself raping and beating her black and blue.
That was her life, such a stark contrast from her dreampt of idyll existence, the one she had always longed for___a magical, mystical life, a resplendent marriage full of joy and merriment and a lifetime of happiness.
Cut forward to a year thence.
She had escaped one night her deplorable existence, a well meaning neighboring aunt having hidden her in a wooden box, only to materialize five days later, after having traversed several hundred miles of desert land.
She had become free.
Her mind cut back to the present.
Was she really free?
She now realized what she had been wondering about all these tumultuous years.
Her life, till now, was just an afterthought. Her real life was to begin.
She looked up and thanked the speck that had reappeared in the sky.
How ironical she thought; it took a bird in the sky to dredge up that truth, and bring her back to earth.
To make her realise that some of us are born to lead easy lives and some born to lead harsh ones so that others’ lives become easy.
Hers was the latter.
She turned around to head back to civilsation. To be a groundskeeper, to tend to earthlings, to lighten their footsteps on the earth.
Her gravitation to life’s real purpose had truly begun.