Quietly!! Lalla is sleeping….
Can’t you be quieter? You will wake the child.
Ever since the little one had come, this was all the conversation he had with his wife. All this ordering around and being asked to be quiet, that too within his own home, was irritating Mustaq beyond words. Even if he accidentally tripped on something or sneezed, his wife would glare at him and he would quietly walk out of the room. He would look at her longingly while she walked around the house with the baby in her hand. She would sing to him and rock him gently, trying to put him to sleep.
He remembered those days during their courtship period when she would sit with him and talk to him alone. They spent hours gazing into each others eyes and nothing in the world ever disturbed them. The only condition on which he had married Fatima was that she would never ask him for a child. He did not want any third person between them and that Fatima was free to walk out if she did not like his idea. Love curtained any other thoughts Fatima might have had at the moment and she quickly agreed to marry him.
For thirty six months Fatima was the apple of Mustaq’s eyes. It was then that they came to know that in spite of all the precautions they took, Fatima had a child growing inside her. Taking it as Allah’s will they brought the baby into the world. Mustaq detested babies. He thought of them as stupid parasites who could not even carry out their bodily functions properly and did not like to be around a baby even if it was his own.
He would come around; soon a day will come when he will start loving the little one… Fatima always consoled herself so.
The days carried on in this manner. One day, Mustaq stayed back at home and did not go for work. Fatima went about her regular duties and finished all the work in the house. She bathed and fed the baby and put him to sleep. She made all her husband’s favourite dishes and for a change, made special kheer too. She knew how good food could put him in a good mood. She saw that Mustaq was sitting in the verandah chewing paan. She informed him that she was going for a bath and asked him to close the door if he was going out anywhere before she came back.
Spreading the dripping wet clothes on the line to dry, she thought to herself that she could afford a leisurely bath since her husband was home and would take care of the child if he woke up or cried in his sleep. She applied the paste of hibiscus leaves on her hair and washed it out. She knew that Mustaq loved the fragrance of the leaves. Today they would have lunch together, much like the old days, before the baby had come and put Mustaq in a permanent foul mood. She would give him all the attention he was missing… thus thinking she proceeded towards the house.
There was something different and she knew it the moment she stepped into the house. For some reason, Mustaq looked pretty pleased. She asked him if he had checked on the baby. With a smile he assured that yes, he had taken care of the baby and they need not be very quiet since the baby was sleeping soundly. He asked her to serve him lunch as he had not eaten breakfast and he was very hungry now. Fatima did as she was told. She served him food and was turning around to go check on her son when he caught her wrist.
“Sit Fatima, sit with me.”
“No Mustaq… give me a moment..let me check on him..”
Sit. He commanded. “Check on him only if he cries or makes any noise. Don’t go and disturb him. And be quiet, he is sleeping.”
She had no option but to obey, he was still clutching her wrist.
Eat, again he commanded.
The food and the dessert were finished.
Fatima could wait no longer, she went to check on her son. When she peeped in, she saw that inside his little cradle, he was sleeping soundly. It was strange that the baby was in such deep sleep, this was not his regular routine. Contended, she went and sat on the verandah where her baby’s father was sitting. He seemed pleased that she was back quickly.
“He normally does not sleep this long. I hope he is feeling alright.” Fatima’s words irritated Mustaq. He could not bear to hear one more word about the baby. He did not mask his feelings, instead growled in a low voice to his wife to stay quiet and not speak about the baby. It was only then that Fatima realized the depth of the father’s hatred toward the child. She wanted him to see sense, but there was nothing she could do now.
“Mustaq please..why don’t you…”
That was all she could say. He rose up and grabbed her hand. Yanking, he led her into the store room and forced her in.
“Stay there. And not a word. Ever since that menace has come, this is what you have become. His mother. Only his mother. As if I am slave meant to take care of you both and fulfill your needs. Have you ever thought about me or my needs? Oh no why would you. Your son completes your world and you can ask Mustaq to shut the hell up and go wherever he wants to.”
From within the dark room, she pleaded again, trying to make her voice as loving as possible and soothe him.
Not only that it was not working, he seemed more irritated at her behavior.
“You were asking me to be quiet all these days.. all because of that monster… I told you not to bring him into this world… but you had to. Now suffer. All this is his doing. I loved you once, but then he came and spoiled everything. I cannot suffer beyond a point and in return for all the trouble he caused me, I silenced him. Forever. Yes. I did that.”
Maybe more words were spoken, but Fatima heard nothing more. No mother could hear anything more. She found the new knife they had brought from the temple fair and with all her might, thrust it into her abdomen. If not in life, in death she would be her little angel’s perfect mother.
My friend Leo and I are writing on the same theme for the AtoZ2015. The word for the alphabet Q that we've chosen is Quiet.