The best of intentions
Within a short period of their return home, things started falling apart. Looking at his daughter in law, the father could only see a village girlwith a dark complexion, who had no manners or etiquette worthy of his own expectation and sophistication. Denigrating the girl in every possible way, he called her names and his son a fool, and that become the daily refrain for the father.
Nothing that Amena did brought any satisfaction to her father-in-law, who in turn could notgo beyond her superficial appearance; he failed to see her inner beauty, and her simplicity of heart.The son, infuriatedby his father'snagging behavior, went up to him and says "Youwere a man from the village once; now you have no respect for the village people. You are a social climber, a man of uncouth behavior, and a horrible person".
The father in reply said "Yes, I am a social climber; but I climbed up by toiling hard to get where I am now. But now you have shamed me, defamed me, and you have brought this shabby girl from the village that has no sense of living in a house of sophistication".
As the domestic situation worsened, and crept towards a violent exchange, Amena came between the father and son, and said"OK, I will leave with my daughter and you can have your son back.
I am just not going to live anymore in a house where there is no respect for me. I will not let you treat me as dirt. I will go back to the village where I belong". "You can leave, but my granddaughter is not going back to the village with you, she is staying right here"hollered the father with a tone of finality.
Intimidated once again by the father, and helplessly looking at a fractured family, Nadim proceeded to make adecision, but one which wasfraught with possibly a disastrous outcome for his young family. He told Amena "For the time being, let me stay here with the baby in my parents' home; I will take you back to the village. I promise, I will soon bring the Iffrat with me back to the village". Nadim had the best of intentions but on very tenuous grounds.
Deeply aggrieved and inconsolable, Amena sobbingly pleaded with her husband andhis parents that she should be allowed to take the child with her back to the village, but to no avail. Eventually she relented, reluctantly to leave Iffrat under the custody of Nadim, and returnedwith a broken heart back to the village and to her family.The despair of a mother, threatened by the loss of her first born, was written all over her face.
Upon reaching the villageher mother embraced her and consoled her"Everything will be fine. Nadim will come back with the baby - you wait and see". Amena, however, did not believe that it would happen.Her father, irate at the turn of events, said to her"You have brought only shame upon us. You had to marry this city boy who was way above us in wealth and class, and now you are returning home without our granddaughter.
How could you? I had warned both of you earlier - you cannot mix oil and water, they just don't mix. How will we show our face to the village? What will they think of us? We may be farmers, but we do have dignity. We may be poor but we do have self-respect".
Amena could say nothing. She had cried so much, there were no tears left to shed anymore. She was at her wit's end. She was at the end of her line. She tried calling Nadim one last time in desperation .But as fate would have it Nadim's phone was off.
Distraught and demoralized, Amena entered her old room and lay down in a clean simple bed only two feet off the ground.The thatched roof, the mud wall, and the kerosene lamp, all made for a somber scene.She tried to sleep but the picture of her Iffrat comes back repeatedly to haunt her.She just could not sleep however much she tries. Caught between two houses, neither of which had any worth for her - one,too embarrassed to have her back, and the other, happy to be rid of her.
She pondered her choices. She decided first to offer prayers .She squatted on the floor after ablution, closed her eyes, went through the some 'sura's from the Koran, and prostrated herself to the Almighty.
She asked the Creator for His absolution, for what she was about to do was sacrilegious. She then took a white saree, rolled it up to make a rope and hookedone end to a ceiling rod (the anchor point). She then made a noose at the other end and tied it around her neck. She stood on a chair. Once she had both ends tight between the rod on the ceiling and her neck, she jumped from the chair, and hung free. Not a scream, not a shout, but just a muffled choking sound, as her breath receded until there was none left. Slowly but surely the color drained out of her face and the listless body hanged from the ceiling as a living example of a dead person.
The whole process was spontaneous and unrehearsed.The fatal actionwas overbefore the brain was able to process it. Amena had liberated herself of her unmitigated pain and misery. Her physical body still hung there, but the soul had departed, never to be tortured again.
Through a secondary source, Amena's father informed Nadim of the tragedy. He had no desire to talk with his son-in-law directly. Nadim was numbed beyond measure after he heard about Amena's suicide. He wept for a long time. He clung to Iffrat and could not let her go.
His Mother sensed trouble and asked Nadim "What happened?"
When Nadim narrated her tragedy, she embraced Nadim and Iffrat, held them tight to her bosom. It was gut-wrenching, and too heart-breaking for words. The tragic consequences of actions and inactions were plain as day light.
Why did Nadim not go back to the village with his wife? Why did he not wrest the child away from the domineering father, and leave? Why did he let hiswife go back to the village all alone? Why did he lack the spine to stand up to his father? Destiny had played its cruel hand. The chain of events was as unpredictable as it wasearth-shattering.
His father finally entered his room and looked at Nadim with a grimace. He said"So, she was a coward. She killed herself. She took the easy path out".
Nadim looked at his father in disbelief and replied"No, father, she did not kill herself; you killed her; you were the real killer.
You could never accept her; she was never good enough for you; she was a village girl with no taste and urban sophistication. You, a man from the village yourself, chose to vilify this hapless girl from the village. You became the "Brown Sahib". You became educated, but you are still a man without a heart, or sensitivity or compassion. You are an apology for a human being and a hypocrite. You are not my father.
I am ashamed to call you my father". The father was apoplectic now. He yelled at Nadim: "Call me a killer? How dare you? Leave the house right now." Nadim said "Yes, I will leave the house, but not without my daughter. She will go with me. And if you try to stop me, I will kill you". The mother in extreme distress brought Iffrat, handed her over to Nadim and said "Go Nadim, take Iffrat with you and go. I will stand right here. I will not let your father do you any more harm. Please go".
The father, lost for words at the firm stand of the mother, was for a moment paralyzed, and speechless. Nadim walked away from his father's home with the baby, never to return again.
Nadim, after having time to think through all that had happened, returned to the village. He wantedto make amends with his in laws for the sake of Iffrat and himself. He was still in a daze, but he was aware that he could not possibly take care of Iffrat all by himself. So he returned to Amena's home in the village. Amena's mother looked at both the son-in-law and the grandchild, drew them close to her chest, and hugged them.
Amena's father walked in lovingly patted Nadim and Iffrat. "We have lost Amena, but she has left us a precious gift. Let's try to make a new beginning for the sake of Iffrat".
Despite his best intention, Nadim was unable to avert a tragedy. He had lost the love of his life, but he finally had the courage to confront his father and remind him, once and for all, how he had damaged his life and indirectly caused the death of Amena.
The writer is a retired vascular surgeon residing in Virginia, USA