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The Speaking Infant

Sajad’s new bride was pregnant and the womenfolk of the house was extremely happy because not only were they expecting a new soul in the family but moreso because the expectant lady was a hindu whom Sajad had abducted. Today an infant had to take birth enabling them to stamp her conversion to Islam. There was hustle and bustle in their house for the whole night and midwife, Farzi had paid three visits till midnight. She came for the last time at one O’clock and stayed till dawn when the whole house was as if illuminated with the birth of a lovely male child. Both the mother and the baby were alright. Sajad was roaming in wilderness somewhere and it was not known whether he was alive at all. Nobody, not even Sarla, whose life he had destroyed, was aware of his whereabouts. Her life was in fact destroyed on the very day of separation from her husband. She had seen her husband merely for a month before that fateful night when those looters had entered into their courtyard and one of them had sought for Tej Kishen after knocking at the door.

Sarla recognized Sajad upon opening the door and replied that her husband was not present at home. But looters did not pay any heed and started firing indiscriminately killing threesome including Sarla’s husband, brother-in-law, Ram Krishen and mother-in-law, Leelavati. Sarla fell unconscious on the floor and next morning regained consciousness in an unknown house. There she saw a photograph of Sajad placed on the wall leading her to deduce that she was lodged in Sajad’s house. Farzi congratulated all the members of the family and pleaded for her wages. She addressed Sajad’s mother and said,” I have helped in the delivery of ‘Mujahid-e-Azam’ and, as such, shall accept nothing less than five hundred rupees”. The family was well- to- do and could give even a thousand. Sajad’s mother opened the chest, drew out a gold chain and gave it to Farzi in the manner befitting Begums of Mughal monarchs. Why not? After all Salima was no less than a Mughal queen. Sajad had made fortune in the year long terrorism and, while the family was finding it difficult to cook two time meal till late 1989, in the intervening year things had changed altogether and now the gas stove would never be put off. This was the outcome of the gains from militancy for Sajad’s family. Sajad had become commander of a large group of militants. His house was being guarded by terrorists 24x7. The security used to be beefed up and strictly observed while Sajad was inside. During the past over nine months Sarla aka Shayista had seen Sajad only on ten occasions. She always remained in pensive mood and never forgot her deceased husband despite knowing fully well that he was no longer alive. The memories of the month long association with him were very fresh in her mind as if they had spent years together. Festivities were observesd in the house for the whole week and people in large num bers visit’ed the family bringing expensive and wonderful gifts for the new comer. The visitors mainly included women. Shaban, the baker and Ghulam Rasool, Milkman kept their shops open all the while and supplied essentials needed by Sajad’s family at odd hours.

During this week Shayista could not see the infant she had reared in her womb for full nine months. He was being brought to Shayista only for inermittant breast feeding. For rest of the time he would remain in grandma’s lap for display among the visiting womenfolk. Only the God Almighty knows how Shayista had spent the past nine months. Gradually the visitors’ rush abated and she got more time to spend in the company of her child with an open arm and heart. For hours she kept on staring into his eyes as if asking as to what name shall she call him by. Her thoughts went back in time, when she was thinking of naming her first son as Shankar, and exclaimed, it is not known what name his ‘looter’ father will call him by. In her heart of hearts she decided: “Whatever name he may call you by, for me you shall always be Shankar. Even though I may not be able to call you by this name yet my mind and heart would know you only as Shankar. You were to be fathered by someone else but this looter did not afford him time. If you have really been brought up in my womb you shall have to take revenge foir my sake”. While Shayista was lost in thoughts after murmuring the above words an invisible voice was heard which stated: “Oh mother, do not get disappointed I have to take my own revenge also and shall not be doing any favour to you”. She kept on repeatedly kissing her child in a surprising manner and got once again lost in her thoughts. A month passed without any news about Sajad. Suddenly one evening an atmosphere of festivity returned and cooks were seen busy preparing tasty dishes. A large group of terrorists came in to beef up the security, as was usual, prior to Sajad’s visit. Around 10 O Clock there was such an activity as if some General had returned after a great conquest. Upon entry into his home he straightaway went to Shayista’s room and held the child by his arms, kissing him over and over again and whispered into his ears,” You will be the Prime Minister of my Independent Kashmir and you have to bring about ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa’ in the Valley, rendered unholy by the barbaric Indians. As such, I name you as Mustafa”. A bright light appeared from the eyes of the child and Sajad’s affection for him increased manifold. He spent ten days at home and whiled away time playing with the infant having, as if, forgotten that he had vowed to bring “freedom’ for Kashmir. Later, one fine morning Sajad left his home once again and remained away for about three months. During the intervening period rumours were intermittently set afloat that he had been arrested by the security forces. Some rumours tended to claim that he had got killed leaving his parents worried and aghast while Shayista was unmoved. Whenever her mother-in-law would ask for the reasons of the absence of apparent reaction on her face,Shayista would often pretend bravery saying that he cannot be killed by anyone since he is the father of my child. Whenever using the word ‘father’, she would often murmur the word ‘prey’ within. Evidently she wanted Sajad getting killed at the hands of her son only. These rumours proved baseless and far from truth.

One day Sajad escorted by a large group of terrorists, came to his house once spent hours with his son and talk to him in monosyllables as if the child was responding to his words. But he was only four months old and far from being able to speak . By physical appearance he was loveable and comparatively healthy. Shayista, who had not given up her hindu frame of mind, would stealthily apply black cormentary in a bid to prevent him from evil eyes. However, she would quickly remove it whenever approached by any family member. The Valley has had a very long history of pluristic civilization with muslim majority bearing more faith in rituals than the hindus. However, in the later part of 1989, situation had undergone a sea change in the same manner as to blowing wind changes the course of sand building a new heap distances far away. Sajad was not remaining away from his child even for a moment thus creating an impression as if he intended to train him to tread his path right from infancy. He would take Mustafa in his lap for important meetings of his group. Mustafa would neither weep nor create any scene in those meetings. He would sit quiet as if he was one among the invited participants. Sajad had by now spent a month at home and unlike past did not appear eager to go. In fact situation gradually undergoing a change and security forces had got full details about what transpired in these meetings. The names of participants, their antecedants/profile and other relevant details including maps had fallen into their hands. Sajad’s close confidants got arrested one by one and the remaining members of the group started doubting integrity of one another. During this period some incidents took place leading to mutual fights resulting in the death of four important functionaries. Sajad was now taking extra precautions in calling meetings of the group and would always take Mustafa along. Notwithstanding the love and affection he had developed for his child, he had a personal benefit to derive for none of his headless acquaintances could muster courage to touch him while the child was in his lap. Some members under doubt were kept away from such meetings yet the security forces would gather detailed information. Upon return fron meetings Sajad would try to keep himself busy in drinking so that the human within does not awake beyond the extent of his affection for his child. One morning when he woke up from sleep the ray of sun entering the room pointed to a paper kept on the table. Though Sajad was yet to open his intoxicated eyes fully he saw the paper on the table and started mobilizing himself to reach there to pick it up. Suddenly his son fell down from the bed and while he turned back to lift him to his utter surprise Shayista charged pistol on him and fired a round that pierced through his arm. In the meanwhile the little child cried,” Oh mother, What did you do? He was my prey”. Bleeding Sajad fell down in a corner.

Upon hearing the sound of gunshot Sajad’s fellow terrorists entered into the room and started holding Sajad while one of them lay hand on the paper that read: Today I will put an end to your story in the same manner as you finished my previous life in prime youth. I had prayed to God at that Last moment that HE grant me next birth in your house only and let me remember everything about my previous life so that I could avenge my ruthless death at your hnds. After my birth I got a number of chances to fulfill my wish but that I wanted to finish off you entire group. That is why I waited so long. Sajad’s colleague was extremely astonished and could not believe that the child, barely five months old could write all this. He felt that there was something more than meets the eye. However, he did not want to take any chance and, therefore, increased vigil in the room. Sajad’s colleagues gave him first aid and meanwhile he regained same for he was now sure that it was Shayista only who had fired the bullet. But then he still weighed the options in mind trying to find an answer to his questions as to why did she do that since she was now the mother of his child. He asked his colleagues to leave the room and urged Shayista to come close to him and reveal all facts. He persued a policy of blowing hot and cold at the same time threatening dire consequences and also displaying utmost love. However, Shayista kept mum for she had lost interest in life. She was not at all worried about her life but her only concern was her son. Sajad lost patience repeatedly threatening her with consequences. Mustafa got up like an Angel, held Sajad’s hand and said,” I am your Mustafa whom you want to make Prime Minister of ‘Independent’ Kashmir to enforce ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa’. Sajad was taken aback more so because he had no belief in ‘life after death’.

However, he was now experiencing the same with his naked eyes in a state of utter disbelief.. “I am the same Tej Kishen, the husband of Sarla, whom you had killed over a year ago.If you want to wash out your sins give me your pistol and get killed at the hands of your son so that this remains a secret only and people donot ever see the father-son duo as murderers. During this conversation between the father and his infant son, Shayista was getting more and more worried with every passing moment despite the fact that her child had revealed his intensions to her before hand. She kept it as a guarded secret and did not even recollect it much less revealing it to anybody else. Pretending a little affection she threw herself in front of Sajad and snatched pistol from his hand before he could understand her real motive. She fired the first bullet into the temple of Sajad, the second one into the chest of Mustafa and the third one into her chest.