The Home Coming
Fazila was sitting at the window seat of the bus. Much tired as she was, traveling such a long distance at the age of 85, she just could not close her eyes, even to rest. Her large, beautiful eyes, as if unable to hold such myriad emotions, kept overflowing, every now and then. Fazila sat there, unfazed. Her eyes were looking far, far, ahead; as if searching. Everything was flashing past her eyes, as if a visual that had tried to compress the past sixty years of her life. She involuntarily, pressed her hand bag close to her chest. It had a photograph of Rhizwan, who she was getting home, to India, after some sixty odd years. Ezaan, her grandson, was seated next to her. It was only because of Ezaan’s efforts that Fazila was about to cross the border and enter the land where she was born and that she and Rhizwan loved from the bottom of their heart.
It seemed just the other day when Fazila, a doctorate in Economics, had entered the staff room of Presidency College, Calcutta, as a lecturer. It was the first day of job. She was extremely beautiful and true to her name, a really accomplished one. She had always excelled in academics and was a proficient Bharatnatyam dancer as well. That first day itself there, she met Rhizwan, a professor in English and they fell head over heels in love with each other. A significant age difference between them failed to stop the play of Cupid and in less than a year, much to the disapproval of Fazila’s family, both got married. Nothing but being together, seemed to matter to either of them.
The times, then, were very turbulent. India was on the verge of getting it’s long lost freedom after almost two centuries. Intense unrest gripped the country. The political scenario was on fire. The talk of dividing the country on the basis of religion, was on. Without paying much heed to all this upheaval, Rhizwan took his dulhan, bride, to Dhaka, to get her meet his grandmother, who he loved very dearly. Very unfortunately there, he fell seriously ill with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. That was the period when life, decided to take a complete unexpected turn, for both of them.
India got it’s freedom and a new nation, Pakistan was born. Innumerable lives were lost. Equal numbers were torn apart. In the hospital, the ill fated Rhizwan, caught an unknown virus that attacked the lungs and in his case damaged his voice box. He lost his speech and never quite recovered completely after that. He was unfit to travel for months. As it is, travel between the two countries had become a nightmare. Suddenly there were invisible walls that like the countless, this newly wedded couple too could not cross over.
News from India, about many of their family members being killed in violence, kept coming in.Among close family,only Fatima, Fazila’s younger sister was left. Rhizwan could not stand the magnitude of the tragedy that had hit their lives and just went into a shell of his own. Fazila stood strong. She held on with all her grit and determination. There were no jobs for her in that unknown country. She didn’t know what to do to survive and look after Rhizwan. She started doing what ever odd jobs that came her way. She took to giving private tuitions, traveling around, almost the whole day. Slowly she started earning enough to keep going. They had two children, a set of twins, Fariha and Faiz. Over time, she managed to get a teaching job in school and she quickly made her name. Almost single handedly, Fazila, brought up their two children, educated them and got them married. Rhizwan took to drawing. All his drawings were of his home in Calcutta, his school, his childhood. Only once he had drawn a figure; that of Fazila. He never could come out of his shell and around a decade later, just passed away in sleep. Fazila knew how much Rhizwan craved for his homeland, but much as she stretched herself and her efforts, coming to India, could never be possible.
Someone gently touched her shoulder. It was Ezaan pointing out at the border check post. In the next ten minutes the bus, snailed it’s way across the check post and entered the soil of India. Tears had somehow gained speed now. Fazila clutched her bag with Rhizwan’s photograph, as tight as she could. She had brought Rhizwan to his country. They, at last, had come to their home land.