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Zikr (PART 1)

Zikr (PART 1)

a painting of a mountain

Sachin Anand presents a heart-warming love story set in the mountains which transports us to world full of vivid visuals and lyrical imagination. Here is the first part of the story

IT was in the time of harvest, when I travelled north, to the valleys of the dry wild mountains where the snow sleeps. It is the valley of the weavers, very famous for the perfection and aesthetic richness and of the hand woven woolen shawls, and clothing. Malik, who owns a couple of power looms and sheep farms had invited me to the marriage of his daughter. It would be great if I could build a better rapport with the merchants and weavers there. And above all, I wanted to buy a shawl, a hand woven, a specially designed one for my beloved; for the day I would ask for her hand. We have not met since long, her letter waited in my chamber for long, before I held it close in my hand. I read the letter again, for the fourteenth time may be, or was it twenty seven? I remember each word of it by now, yet I read it again, I could feel her longing in every word she wrote. The bus journey towards the remote village in the pockets of the Himalayan mountain range took a different turn, the old road climbed up and down through history, by traders, conquerors and travelling seekers, deviated to a less taken path, to a village of shepherds who were noticed only after they started the wool business, in the late colonial time.

The sun was about to set in the horizon when the bus reached there, it was the last trip to that village from the town. The call for Magrib Namaz was on the air from the mosque. The village is on a plateau, the bus groaned with the satisfaction of climbing the untamed uphill. The valley was draped in golden light; maybe it is the arid terrain which gives the setting sun a golden farewell. The horizon is decorated with the tall snow covered mountain peaks. Their presence is like those grandparents for the village, who hold their little grandchildren gently on their lap in an overflowing glow of love. The bus stand  also was the market place with showrooms of different woolen enterprises, all claim the originality of the work and thus trying to hold the name of the valley.

Malik’s house is on the eastern edge, which is the highest point of the village. After that point, the village ends to a cliff beyond a mound. I could see his house far before I could reach there, basking in the light of the setting sun. It was not a big house compared to the urban standards, but it definitely has an aesthetic weight. His house was glowing in the festival mood, people of the village were gathering around his house to participate in the celebration of their beloved patron. It was the Mehandi day- the eve of marriage- they celebrate decorating the bride.

Malik welcomed all very warmly, and that is not one of a pretentious kind which we do generally just for the sake of diplomacy. His warmth comes from genuine friendship, from the heart and that is one of the reasons I trust my business with Malik. He might seem a bit expensive compared to other merchants of the neighboring valleys, but he has never delayed his deal and is very genuine in business. He even helped me finding new deals he could often. He believed in a principle, that there is no growth, until it is together. It’s his loyalty which sticks me close to him as a businessman  and his friendship as a person.

The villagers had gathered for the decoration and cooking for the Nikkah next day and the ladies were gathered around the bride getting her ready. Malik’s daughter glowed like a ceremonial lamp amidst the cheerful people around her; she definitely was the center of attraction. Her face was illuminated beneath the golden veil of Chinese silk. She was lucky to have a father like Malik. I gifted a gold coin as token of love and blessing for her marriage.

Young people were gathered, with songs and dance, which gave the house a festive air, some were flirting, some playing music and dancing, and some sharing glimpses with their beloveds, secret loves, some waiting anxiously for a response, a return glimpse, and some exchanging gifts. The village looked very romantic I would say, and the season was such suitable for the loving souls,  the harsh winter moving away for the pleasant sunny days, this was the time the villagers groomed wool from their sheep, and every twig in the valley bare a flower, as every lover bare a song in the soul.

Weavers of all age joined them eventually, the decorations for the Nikkah was almost done, the feast was being cooked in the backyard, seemed they were taking a break from the works to gather around the courtyard where refreshments were served.

Some youngsters brought a guy to the sitar, he looked energetic even in his visible wrinkles pointing his age somewhere in the turn of seventies. Healthy and strong, with gray hair and happy face, the charm in his eyes was still young. He looked like a worker but there was something in him which was not common in the people. He yielded to their affection. An energetic chap, happy and fresh as a teenage boy even in this age; He sang vibrantly a love song, an Urdu translation of a Persian love story may be, with lyrics so romantic and blissful like of those Sufi poets of the medieval time. The different noises around the crowd gradually silenced to the lover’s song, it seemed for me, the valley was also listening to this rugged old man’s song. May be because of the intense air of love and joy surrounding the moment, I remembered her. The letter was still in my pocket. Warmly, it still holds her words, written in fragile letters, “This silence is like the silence of the god I bow to, in my deepest agony. He never answers, yet always gives a hope, of a presence, of a prayer in silence. I don’t know how or what to talk to you. Know this; this longing is tormenting me. The twilight is singing songs of despair and loneliness. Every evening says farewell without a word from you. When will I hear from you again?”

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A sudden silence shook me from the thoughts, it’s the old man, who took a strategic pause of a performer, to acknowledge the response and curiosity of the audience may be in a dramatic moment in the love story he was singing. I wished if I had an eye contact with the singer, but I could see his eyes were struck somewhere- no; it’s not a strategic pause of a singer, but something more… I could sense the depth of his look, and a hurricane of memories for a moment took hold of the silence before he resumed his song again, in an increased joyful manner. But something was different in his voice. It seemed the entire valley shared a secret I did not know, the secret from a lover’s soul. He was looking at an old woman, who was serving tea to the folk.

 

(To be continued)

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