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 concluding part of the story
Sheba was there in the front of the shack, feeding some medicine to an ailing old sheep. I wished her, she wished me back. She asked me to take a seat and went to keep the sheep back in the shelter.
It was just another valley in the hills, but I couldn’t resist looking at the other side, some mysterious beauty caught me in a subtle way, or it was just my mood that made it look beautiful. I saw Ahmed climbing the valley, walking gently towards the shack, balancing the two water cans hooked to the bamboo staff he held across his shoulder. Ahmed- the great cloth merchant, proprietor of Zikr Shawls, maybe then understood what Malik meant calling Ahmed the hero of the weavers in the valley; Ahmed walked in a rhythm, to balance and to reduce the strain may be, he was strong for a man of his age.
He reminded me of that old man from the story of Ernest Hemingway- Santiago the fisherman. He always had a smile on his face, only little children had the courage to hold such a smile against the world. He wished me far before he reached the shack in a loud, typical way of the valley. He climbed up in strain, and his face looked like a boy tired of playing, with overflowing content. He took me inside. It was a small but a beautifully kept home. A side of the room was occupied by the loom. Near the loom, there was bedding neatly rolled up, it did not look wide enough for two people to sleep, but it was cozy enough for two lovers to cuddle on. There was a photo of Sheba and Ahmed on the wall taken at the time of their wedding.
The window opened to the valley opposite, and the western sun poured in silver light through the window. There was prayer mat rolled and kept aside, on a wooden rack, along with few books. I could imagine Ahmed and Sheba doing Namaz near the window, and that moment filled my heart with an unknown weight. Ahmed served tea with wheat biscuits for me; and emphasized that, Sheba specially made it for the wedding. By that time Sheba came after taking care of the sheep, apologizing for making me wait. She hurriedly went to the cupboard which separated the kitchen portion from the window. She took out a black shawl with floral design in turquoise, red and green colors. It reminded me of the vineyards of King Solomon. And she narrated how Ahmed had sung those love songs of longing and passion of Zuleikha for Yusuf in the time she was weaving that shawl. I stood looking at the shawl, trying to imagine the old man singing in his fragile but passionate voice to his beloved. I saw the remembrance of those songs in the glittering of her eyes. Sheba offered the shawl to me. And she wanted me to accept it as a gift. Ahmed insisted on accepting it, and further, Sheba packed me some more wheat biscuits for the way.
I couldn’t stop thinking of Sheba and Ahmed. The story of Yusuf and Zuleikha, twined with the images of Sheba and Ahmed, poured into the imaginations of my own life. The characters popped up again and again in mixed up patterns, replacing one another from their narratives. I felt the weight of all those lives in me for a moment. I remembered the moment Sheba and Ahmed looked at each other sharing a smile while the old man was singing the love songs in the eve of the marriage. She felt shy like a teenager; and his eyes glowed whenever they shared a glimpse, like a young boy who fell in love for the first time.
My bus had left the valley; the last bus to the town. The sun was setting again beyond the hills that I climbed down. The shawl she gave me was soaked with their story; I carried with the shawl a memory of an ordinary love story, of ordinary people, but there was something heroic in their lives, which I could not express in words. I couldn’t stop thinking of them, may be they were doing their Namaz together, or singing, or just taking a long walk to the orange trees on the hill. It was getting darker. The bus moved down in shaking grumble hindering the silence of a lonely valley, almost like a memory.
Also Read : Zikr (PART 2)
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Anand Sachin is a student of philosophy currently pursuing Mphil in Cinema Studies in JNU, New Delhi. His area of interst include philosophy of shamanism, roots of tribal cultural philosophy. Heartfelt traveller, he finds inspiration in far away places from home; yet holds a passionate nostalgia for Home.