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Zikr (PART 2)

Zikr (PART 2)

Zikr part 2 illustration

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 second  part of the story

Some elite merchants were also invited for the function and Malik had arranged an exclusive dinner, both as part of the celebration, and with intention of some business negotiations. Malik’s family did this business since his father’s generation and had gained popularity through the market abroad, but the business was stable through his effective public relation and strong friendships at the grass root level. The dinner was arranged in the house and the servant ladies were around carefully serving the table, to refill the dishes whenever it was emptied. Malik’s house was known for its hospitality, even in the humble surroundings, no guest felt a stranger there. During dinner I told my friend the wish I had in my mind while travelling here, to buy a shawl specially designed by hand for my beloved.

Malik introduced me to Sheba, who was the care taker of domestic works in Malik’s home and said she could be the best one who could do that for me. She was the woman who served tea in the courtyard, she looked somewhere in her sixties, I looked at her eyes and trust me, there was some magic in her eyes and I remembered that old man who was singing love songs, no wonder he fell for her, her appearance was graceful, and her smiles silent, her face was gloomy, or I would rather say It was heavy, like the monsoon clouds, but her eyes reminded me of the bright sun beyond the clouds leaking silver. I remembered a verse the man was singing, and then I was sure that she was his muse. Everybody gathered around in the courtyard was listening to his songs, but what I felt was that all those songs were love letters hidden, only meant for her, and she knew he sung for her, only her. In her eyes was the remembrance of his song too, it seemed she really was in the songs, and it was just an extension of what she lived in the world. I told her my wish regarding the shawl. She invited me to her place to see some shawls she had made already, and some sketches she had made for weaving this season. She made me miss my mother it seemed. Or anybody could feel a mother in her; such was the grace of love she held. She went back to her errands in the kitchen creating a void in me.

After the dinner, while smoking hookah on the terrace, Malik told me who Sheba was. She is the wife of Ahmed, (who was singing in the evening), the famous cloth merchant of last generation, Ahmed; the proprietor of Zikr Shawls and Sweaters. Zikr Shawls were one of the first of the wool dealers in the valley and Ahmed and his wife Sheba changed the fortune of the valley by introducing power loom, it was Ahmed’s efforts to negotiate with the government and to organize the villagers thus to build a way for the electricity to enter the valley. Through the opening Ahmed provided, the valley was able to prosper in the wool business. When Ahmed wished to build a power loom in the valley, it was made possible with the help of Sheba, who organized women weavers and trained them to use power loom, for Ahmed.

Zikr was the name suggested by Sheba, she believed every shawl held a memory, when a weaver weaves, through the time and soul she spared for the shawl, her thoughts oozed into the kith and kin of the shawl and waited to share the warmth.

Sheba sung love songs from the Alif Laila and other Persian stories Ahmed taught her, while she wove. And she believed that, the shawl held the love songs and gave warmth and good dreams to those who wore it.

Ahmed’s business grew with the popularity and good will it gained. Ahmed got the first overseas deal when Sheba was nine months pregnant, Ahmed who believed it a good luck, invested a lot in the deal. Unfortunately the baby was dead by birth and further, the ship with Ahmed’s load shipwrecked with all the fortune. Sheba was already old for a child birth, and the medical report turned out to say she could not have children again. Ahmed faced a huge debt because of the loss in the sea; he had to sell everything he had, including the mills and the house he owned. Zikr Shawls became a fading memory. Malik’s father, who was a good friend of Ahmed, offered them a place to stay, since then Ahmed and Sheba had been working in Malik’s home.

The day Ahmed and Sheba came over to Malik’s father’s place; it was one of those humid afternoons preceding the monsoon. It was silent and there was no wind. After two long decades of running business, busy schedules and thousand tensions, for the first time they had food in silence. They offered Namaz together. No one had anything to say but in the silence of the night, the love they forgot to share for two decades poured out like the first monsoon rains. Ahmed lied on Sheba’s lap, and he cried. Then they went to sleep under the same blanket.

I woke up from the small nap I had after the lunch, remembering Sheba’s invitation. Malik’s house was almost empty, guests left; people were winding up the memories of the marriage, cleaning up. It rendered the heaviness of a farewell, the groom had left with the bride, leaving the house a vacuum of silence. I walked to the backyard, beyond the small fence for the sheep could be seen in distance near the cliff, there was a small but beautiful shack. It was one of those dull afternoons, and I- haunted by the half-slept sleep, a lucid dream, and the tiring journey of a day walked slowly towards their shack. It was just like those regular huts in the valley, but there was something special about the shack. There was a feel of home which was a rare thing. Beyond the shack was the steep valley leading to the stream some fifty feet low, and the shack faced the other valley, and I could see the huts on the other side, as small toys made by 7 match boxes. Among the small match box huts and the greenness, the mosque, with its minarets pointing towards the sky, looked like a turquoise stone.

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(To be continued)


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