Chapter 3- A Bride's Departure
Zainab was sitting in her small house, in a small kitchen, making dinner in her small silver cooking ware. How excited was she, finally, the apple of her eye was going to be wed off in the most pompous of manners. There was going to be a big feast, a menu with so many dishes only fit for a king. She was preparing for this day all her life, the day she held Sakeena for the first time in her life. She was a beautiful baby, perfect in every way. Sakeena had gripped her finger immediately, it was like she knew, this baby that was just born; she knew who her mother was. In Zainab’s eyes Sakeena was everything she wished she could be. Through Sakeena, Zainab began to live her life from the firsts she learned all the way to her graduation from university.
Zainab sighed a heavy sigh and began to wonder what kind of marital life her daughter will have. Will she be happy with her husband? Will he love her? These questions always seem to bother Zainab, it’s the fear of the unknown that makes her cringe. She was giving her daughter away to people she doesn’t know, a boy she never saw grow up, a man she has no knowledge of deeply knowing.
“Oh Allah, have mercy on me, and please give my daughter all the happiness she deserves” Zainab lifted her head to speak to the heavens above. These very words she utters every day when thoughts of Sakeena flood her. A sense of relief befalls Zainab from the utterance of this prayer and only then does she return to the mundane task in front of her. But today was different, there was no flooding of peace in her body. Something seemed off today, the burden of her thoughts did not lift, instead they seemed to be getting heavier.
It was the screaming of her name that reverberated in her ears and brought her crashing down to the ground. Zainab’s throat tightened, she couldn’t respond all of a sudden. The only thoughts that were floating in her mind were of Sakeena.
Bursting through the door came in a young boy. Sweat was trickling down every inch of his body. Zainab stared at him as if in a trance while he was heavily panting.
“Khala...Zainab... must...follow...come... please!”
“What is wrong with you Shuja? Why are you panting like a dog? How many times must I tell you to take it easy?” Zainab came out of her trance, annoyed by Shuja’s appearance.
Zainab hurried to the watering can, a beautiful piece of earthen ware hand crafted from clay. It was impeccably designed, so smooth with small patterns of flowers and herbs gently popping up from smoothness. Zainab adored this matka, it was a gift from her mother’s for her wedding. Zainab too had made a special one for Sakeena, it was packaged with the rest of her dowry. The matka was used to keep water cool and clean, perfect for hot summer days producing the same cool water that a refrigerator can. Zainab poured water for Shuja into a steel cup.
Shuja sat on the bare floor of the kitchen, panting for air and dazed at the same time. He reached for the water and hurriedly gushed it down in one big gulp. Zainab shook her head against such ill mannerism.
“Calm down and drink before you choke on it”
Relieved from the freshness of water Shuja came back to his senses.
“No time Khala, you must come with me, it’s Chacha Jee and Sakeena baji"
“What?” Zainab stood frozen hearing the names of her husband and daughter. Was everything okay? Were they hurt? Did Sakib have another heart attack? Thousands of questions came bombarding down into Zainab’s mind. She began to feel light headed, the room seem to be spinning around her or was it the floor, maybe she was standing still and the floor may be spinning around underneath her.
“Khala Jee! Please, there is no time to explain you must follow me”
Without a second thought Zainab grabbed her chadder covering herself and begun hurriedly following Shuja. There was no time to walk, when she finally realized that Shuja was taking her to their fields Zainab began walking briskly until finally breaking out into a run.
Zainab couldn’t believe her eyes, the whole village seemed to have been gathered around their corn field. She began to wonder if she should have brought with her the medical kit that the doctor had assembled for them just in case Sakib experienced another attack. Zainab forced her way through the crowd. Shuja was screaming from the back to make way for Zainab. He was surprised that so many people had gathered in 10 minutes, it only took him that long to get Zainab.
Shuja remembered walking by only to be met with the wailing and screaming of Sakib. After Sakib, Shuja is the second earliest person to the fields as he needs to milk his cattle. There he was walking down the same dirt path he has always walked in silence for the last 15 years. It such an earlier time that even the breeze refuses to make noise by gently rustling leaves. Shuja was busy in his mind with the tasks of the day when Sakib’s voice screeched through his thoughts and slammed his mind. Never in his life has he heard such a painful sound. It couldn’t be Sakib Shuja thought. Sakib hardly speaks above a specific tone even if he is screaming at someone; which he doesn’t ever do.
But the sound was so piercing that Shuja couldn’t ignore it. He ran through Sakib’s corn fields following the wailing only to be met with a sight that set even his own shadow to run backwards. There was Sakib laying beneath the feet of a woman, a beautiful woman... a dead woman. Nothing was making sense Shuja he’s state of mind was confused between fight or flight. Shuja took a few steps towards Sakib, touched his shoulder’s slightly only to look up to the most beautifully treacherous sight.
There she was in all her glory, decorated in gold necklaces, earrings, bangles. She was wearing a nau-lakha decorated with pure white pearls and emeralds. Her hair was spread neatly across her face. Each of the strands of hair decorated in white jasmine flowers and roses. The breeze made each strand dance while spreading the scent of jasmine. Rested on the crown of her head was a gold tika with a large diamond looking stone right in the center. Her bangles dangled down her arms the gold being the backdrop to the crimson. Shuja stared at the deep red that seemed to be smearing every part of Sakeena. With the jasmine scent taking over he hardly noticed the pungent smell. Shuja was in a trance of the site, the beauty and the misery of it. It was only after his brain came out of the shock that her beauty created that Shuja noticed that beautiful crimson was blood and that scent was jasmine mixing with blood which seemed to be quite fresh. Looking her up and down Shuja came upon this beauty’s eyes. There they were, big orbs of emerald and gold, just like the ornaments she adorned shining brightly against the sun, mesmerizing him; intoxicating him to the point of tipsy.
Zainab could hear Shuja behind her, shouting at everyone to clear the path and let Zainab through. What was everyone gathered for? Zainab’s heart was pounding against her chest with each beat she could feel it against her rib cage. It was pounding and pushing as if trying to get out of her. The beating of her heart swarmed over her ears blocking out all other noise. The world no longer existed...
Pushing and shoving through the swarm of people closing in on her transported Zainab into a different reality. Everything around her was alien, she didn’t recognize the faces, the voices, or the road she was taking to where; she couldn’t remember.
All Zainab heard around her were whispers of the women and piercing stares of the men. Walking through the maize field, fear struck Zainab, she was confused as to what was going on. To her surprise there was a clearing in the middle of the field and in the middle bent over was Sakib. Zainab couldn’t believe her eyes, her husband bent over anything was shocking, the man didn’t even offer prayers to God, let alone fall to the feet of a person. Sakib looked bewildered and lost, the light from his eyes had gone out. No longer did his eyes glimmer and dance to the light of the sun. They simply lost their shine, their life, it was as if Sakib had lost his soul. His arms were wrapped around a cross, clutching to it as if his life depended on it. Zainab’s eyes slowly followed Sakib’s form up to what he was holding, to a long cross and a woman hanging from it. What caught Zainab’s eyes were the gold jhumkas that were dangling from the woman’s ears. They looked so familiar, as if she’s touched them before.
These were my mother’s, and her mother’s before. I want you to have them and give them to your daughters. Think of it as a small family tradition that we are to carry on. Generations from now this small relic will be a symbol kept within our family. A symbol of how our women are strong, like you Sakeena.
Zainab’s memories came crashing down on her, how can it be?