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Experiences of women in conflict zones is very different from those of the men, even if they are active participants. A short story on the Kashmir backdrop.
The doctor congratulated her with a cheerful smile as she put the sleeping little cherub in her lap, “You are so fortunate the jawans found you and brought you here. You were in such a bad shape you could have lost your child. You have a healthy baby, God bless her.”
How grateful she was to the complete strangers who helped her deliver her pretty daughter in the temporary shelter she had been shifted to by the army jawans!
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Shyna had met Asif in a pub in New York while studying for her masters in computer engineering and had, very soon, fallen for his dimpled smile and rakish charm. He was serving as a doctor in an American hospital and was quite popular among his patients. Within months, she started attending the late night meetings in the upscale pub run by a fellow believer. Soon, she was convinced about the veracity of the diktats in the holy book and the war against the non believers. The hitherto hep, modern, jeans-skirts-shorts wearing confident young woman even took to covering herself with the hijab to conform with the instructions of her religious preachers. She felt quite proud of herself when she and Asif were chosen to take the fight forward for their faith. They acquired a new alias with the complicity of their allies in the govt offices, and flew to Kashmir.
Shyna and Asif spearheaded the espionage mission against the Indian army and masterminded the hacking of their computers, gaining much vital information about army positions, their installations and their anti-terrorist campaigns, earning much applause from their bosses. And then came their new commander, Ashraf… with his ogling-eye!
She was ordered to ‘marry’ Ashraf… she winced as she recalled how she had literally begged the ‘supreme commander’ to let her marry Asif, gone down on her knees even though her faith prohibited her from bowing down before anyone other than God. All to no avail – even Asif looked the other way!
She was a dutiful wife, always by her husband’s side, aiding him in ferreting out the secrets from the enemy computers; blowing up schools, hospitals, trains; making no distinction between believers and nonbelievers, soldiers and civilians, child and adult, woman and man. Getting pregnant was the last thing in her list of priorities, but when it happened she was simply overjoyed. She did her best to hide her pregnancy behind her thick veil as they were in the middle of a crucial mission, their most coveted one till date. And when Asharaf and others finally came to know of it, she was already in her fifth month, too late to abort the child.
During this stressful time, Asif – as the team doctor – was her constant companion and aide, looking after her health, nutrition, medicines and rest requirements with ample care. She continued to be the tech guru of the team planning each step of their most vile mission with precision. Two more months passed. The rains now restricted her movements to their secret camp deep inside the dense forests in the upper reaches of the Himalayas.
And then came the deluge.
Everything happened so suddenly that they had little time to react. The men gathered the laptops, the satellite phones, the guns, the ammunition and the money. And left.
Shyna continued to sleep all this while, unmindful of the storm outside, unconscious under the influence of the drugs Asif had injected into her body before fleeing with Ashraf.
A heavy downpour washed away the tent over her, thundering clouds and rumbling rocks woke her out of her drug induced somnolence. Still in stupor, she tumbled and fumbled over fallen trees, vomited all over herself, but determined to save her child, moved on clutching her abdomen, defying the freezing cold winds, the blinding downpour and hunger.
A couple of hours later, a passing army convoy found an unconscious heavily pregnant woman on the washed out national highway and rushed the now-in-early-stage-of-labor veiled woman to the nearest flood shelter. It was here that she delivered her daughter behind hastily put up dupatta curtains, aided by the bare hands and caring, compassionate voices belonging to complete strangers. The comforting hands of mothers still grieving the loss of their children in the landslide had wiped the sweat off her forehead and soothed her parched throat with spoonfuls of heavenly water.
A medical team from Delhi had stopped by to check on the health of the stranded people and provided medicines and some food.
The deluge had washed out everything from her misguided, tormented mind. And had become her saviour, and her little one’s too!
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She looked at the little cherub through the curtain of tears clouding her eyes. A nurse from the children’s home had brought her lovely daughter to her solitary cell for feeding.
Shyna had planned to sneak out of the temporary flood shelter where she had given birth to her child, as soon as the waters receded and the train services resumed. How could she snip off the wings of her innocent daughter before she had even grown them? How could she imprison her even before she had tasted the joy of freedom? She had hoped to reach Delhi undetected, ask her local contacts to get the baby’s name added to her passport and fly to safety in America. But what she had not counted was the intelligence acumen of the Indian army.
Her tent and one mobile phone accidentally left behind by Ashraf and Asif while fleeing to escape the deluge, had been found by the army’s anti-terror unit while scouring the underbelly of the jungles. Every link had gradually fallen into place and before she could plan her escape, Shyna had been tracked to the flood shelter.
The moment she saw the army commandos stealthily getting down the jeeps at a distance, she realized in a flash that her time was up. Carefully she tied the sleeping baby to her back, picked up her meagre quota of food and medicines and sneaked her frail body out of the tent.
A kind Gujarati truck driver noticed a young woman and her infant crying by the puddles on the national highway in the dead of night and offered them lift till the nearest railway station. The poor farm hand mumbled to him in a distinct Bihari accent how she had lost her daily wager husband, all their money and belongings in the deluge. The trauma had led to a premature delivery. Overwrought by her sad tale, he had even offered the grieving woman some money to buy a train ticket to her village so that her daughter could be nurtured in the loving and secure lap of her grandparents.
The desolate railway station enticed Shyna with a promise of some much needed comfort. As she approached the lone bench on the deserted platform, she noticed them!
Even their civilian dresses could not hide the taut bodies and the guns in the pockets of the two army commandos from Shyna’s trained eyes. Quickly bending down as if to pick up something, she moved her eyes around the station to find an escape route.
Ladies washroom…the light blinked at some distance.
She entered the dimly lit washroom, thankful for the brief respite despite the stench. It was also time to feed the weak and weary baby who had slept through the journey unmindful of the risks her new mother was taking to save her two weeks long life.
And then she saw a pair of hawk eyes glinting ferociously at her. The events happened after that in such quick succession that she still struggles to put them in sequence.
It seemed that the commandos had followed her to the washroom and as soon as they heard a gasp, and some muffled screams, they banged the latched door down and pounced at the man clutching the slender neck of the woman.
Ashraf was killed on the spot. Shyna had never been happier seeing a dead body riddled with bullets.
She had surrendered and had turned approver. Her confessions and vital leads led to the arrest of Asif from his secret hideout in the higher reaches of the Himalayas.
Here she was, serving a ten-year sentence, still repentant for the five years of fanaticism and ruthless murders of innocents, but happy for her one year old daughter growing up fine under the tender loving care of the motherly matron of Palna, the children’s home and school run by an NGO. She just prayed fervently that God would shower his blessings on her daughter and protect her from carrying any scars from the traumatic experiences of her childhood.
The nurse tapped on her shoulder and broke her reverie… “laao, bachhi so gayi hai” (hand over the child now, she is asleep).
The prison door was locked shut suffusing her with an air of happy anticipation of a new beginning…….of the closure of her past, finally!
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Image source: shutterstock
Curious about anything and everything. Proud to be born a woman. Spiritual, not religious. Blogger,
Wonderful and very sensitive!
Thanks so much 🙂
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