She looked like an angel in her bridal-attire. She looked across the hall and her eyes got fixed on a middle-aged man with as many hairs on his head as his age. Aafreen’s heart started beating like a fast train on the track.The thought of leading her beautiful life with this widower had sent the shiver down her spine.He had two sons who were old enough to be Aafreen’s husband. She was not very sure that she had taken the right decision to get married to this guy.
“marriage? Crap….it’s not marriage.It’s a bargain which can bedeck the future of my younger brothers.”,she consoled herself,”Hope he just keeps his promise.”
Aafreen looked out of the window and witnessed the stillness of the streets of kalupur( a busy locality of the Ahmedabad which had been the epicenter of the communal riot for quite some time). Curfew was imposed in this locality and her ‘abbu'(father) couldn’t open her tire-repair shop for last three days.Her two younger brothers were imprisoned in their own home lest they might become the victims of this communal riot.Her ‘abbu’ was sitting on the old broken rocking chair and sipping the hot tea. He looked at her daughter and muttered under his breath,”How long….how long…….I feel like these walls are enclosing on me.”
Aafreen looked at her ‘abbu’ and a feeling of helplessness crept all over her.
“Aafreen….are you considering that proposal? Please think about your younger brothers.”, her ‘abbu’ muttered everything in one breath without looking at Aafreen.There was a plead in his tone which was balmed by his guilt and helplessness.
Aafreen was no more a kid to detect the untold pressure in the tone of her ‘Abbu’.She would be twenty-one next november.
“Abbu…he’s your age.And what if he doesn’t keep his promise of sponsoring Salim and Rafique…..”,she uttered these words diffidently.She knew that her brothers Rafique and Salim were pretty bright in their studies and lack of resources might hampered their bright careers.Frequent communal riots in the city, abbu’s withering business,insecurity in the community and her own diffidence led her to capitulate to this decision of marrying a man who’s old enough to be her father.
“He wouldn’t….he’s man of his words.Once your ‘nikah'(marriage) is over,he would file your application for emigrating to Canada. And year later,he would sponsor your younger brothers…….”,old man said it in confidence this time.He looked at his daughter and fear of ‘Aatish-e-dojakh'(flame of hell) overwhelmed him.
Tears began to well in Aafreen’s eyes and trickled down her cheeks…….washing away dreams of young Aafreen.She never thought she would die this young.
Her eyes were still fixed on him . All of sudden he caught her eyes and his smile broke her reverie.She was unsure that immolation of her dreams with this marriage would pave a concrete path with its ashes for her family.She prayed silently to almighty ‘Allah’ (God) to dispel this uncertainty.