Ruins That Saved Me

Posted: January 19, 2010 in Fictional stories

(Fictional story based on the communal riots a  long time ago…)

I was running as fast as I could. The palpitations of my heart resounding within my rib cage. Sweat trickled down my face. My oily hair was plastered on my forehead. My feet hurt and were bruised badly, the sores making it impossible to run. But I had to run if I wanted to save my skin, my life.

 They were coming after me. My pupils were dilated in fear. I ran with the last vestiges of energy I possessed. There it was ahead of me. The ruins from the temple. I blindly ran into the darkness of its inviting sanctorum. I hid behind the decrepit monolith holding my hands tightly around my chest hoping nobody would hear its thumping. I stifled the long drawn breaths, as I was desperate to get air into my lungs.

 Then I heard it- the distant murmur becoming stronger and louder. They were coming. They were gaining on me.

‘She is in there,’ someone screamed.

 ‘Forget her, get the other swine’, another voice exploded in vituperation.

 ‘Don’t let that son of a bitch get away,’ said another.

 ‘You go the other way; I saw five of those bastards run into that house across the street, said another one, his spittle of anger almost reaching me.

 I crouched lower. I had wet myself in fear. Tears streamed down my eyes. I was shivering and shaking uncontrollably.

“Hai Allah, save me,” I cried pitifully and clamped my hands on my mouth as I heard loud footsteps hurrying into the temple. Were there two or three, I couldn’t tell in the darkness? A gruff voice ordered one of them to check the side door. The second man walked to the rear of the temple. The third walked slowly towards the inner sanctum sanctorum.

 I braced myself and held my breath not moving a muscle. I couldn’t move. I was numb from head to toe and wasn’t aware of my own breathing either. Then it happened. My dupatta slipped from my neck and went flying away to the side of the monolith, the whiteness of it standing out besides the dark monolith. I knew I was doomed. It was a matter of minutes before the beast would notice it, I thought. I slipped my fingers around it and slowly yanked it, but that was a mistake I made, for the sudden movement of the white dupatta caught his eye.

 I stopped praying and just waited for the inevitable to happen. A sudden rush of air and the beast stood face to face, in front of me. His nostrils flaring and his bloodshot eyes scanning my face with hatred, petrified me. He had a long knife in his hands and it caught the light of the fading sunlight, glistening with dripping blood of some unfortunate victim.

 His hands stuck out and he grabbed my neck and jammed my head against the wall.

“The bitch is here,” he yelled to the other two. Soon there were hurried footsteps. I knew this was my end and I had neither the strength or will to live. I had just witnessed abbajan and Ammi being slaughtered. I had hid Rasool in a trunk as I ran out hoping he will make it alive and be the surviving member of our clan.

Violent riots had broken out the day before near Simri Masjid over some petty matter. It had escalated and before the army could be deployed a full fledged Hindu-Muslim riot had broken out. Nobody knew what the reason was and nobody waited to know. It was a free for all and innocents from both sides were killed and houses set on fire. I had escaped by the skin of my teeth and as I was running they had spotted me and chased me along with a few others.

The footsteps approached me and the remaining two leered at me, laughing while I cowered in fear. This was not how I had imagined I would die. The last thing I remember was the sound of police sirens outside and I had collapsed in a heap at the base of the monolith. Most of what happened later remains a blur in my memory.

 Twenty five years later I still wake up from sleep having nightmares. Some nights a scream escapes me. Rasool and Saira my daughter-in-law took me to a dozen doctors but no medicine has helped me so far. The ruins saved me. Some strange force helped me survive. Somebody watched over me. I go there often but I don’t go inside. I stand outside, join my hands in salutation and pray. I thank that power that saved me on that fateful day. I lived to tell the story.

 I was asked to identify the mobsters by the police. I declined. I wanted no part of it. I did not want revenge or justice. I just wanted peace and the strength to put it all behind me and move on.

 I had Rasool and Saira and my grand-children to look forward to in life.

 I was lucky to be alive.

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