Salim slapped himself and said, “Allah, forgive me.”
The very sight of Sonal Sharma sent a rush of blood to what his friends called “centre point.” Sonal was beautiful. At the age of 17, she had conquered the peak of feminine charm in every possible way. Her physical figure was statuesque. She was flighty and coquettish while dealing with the boys in the class but sincerely committed to her studies and topped the class usually. A future doc. Salim imagined her in the doctor’s white coat with the stethoscope dangling on the perfect parabola of her bosom. They were classmates, Salim and Sonal.
In many ways she was like his mother, reflected Salim. Maria, his mother, was a Catholic of Keralite origin though born and brought up in Delhi. She and Sulaiman met each other on a flight from Delhi to Washington DC. She was a journalist with a prominent national newspaper and was deputed to report the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He was a professor at a Delhi University college and was going to attend a training programme In Washington sponsored by the Indian Council of Social Science Research. Allah, the Merciful, brought them together on their return flight too.
Soon Allah brought them together in marriage. And by the first anniversary of their flight from Washington DC, Maria gave birth to Salim.
When a genocide was unleashed on the Muslims in Gujarat Salim was in his KG class. He returned home in the evening as usual but without knowing that he would not see his father anymore.
Sulaiman had disappeared. Maria’s enquiries with whatever help that the Delhi police were willing to proffer in tracing a Muslim yielded nothing.
Sulaiman had grown more and more religious after his marriage while Maria grew proportionately irreligious.
“You are a journalist at heart,” her husband accused her one day. “Superficial. Never delving beneath the surface. How many killed? What did the politicians say? You never go beyond that.”
“What’s beyond that is also beyond journalism,” she defended herself and her profession. “We can’t write the exhortations uttered by the Prophet and his hadiths. That’s not our job...”
Sulaiman grew more and more restless until the restlessness was transmuted into a phantom by the Gujarat riots. The phantom swallowed Sulaiman. No one saw him ever again.
The vacuum that Sulaiman became entered Salim’s soul. The Sanskrit shlokas recited in his school’s morning assemblies, the Hindu prayers and other such religious gestures, sought to fill that vacuum. God was a joke for his mother. The ultimate joker sitting up there and laughing at us, she would say. But God was a big vacuum in Salim’s heart. A vacuum as big as his father.
When he reached high school, Salim started attending certain religious classes in the neighbourhood madrassa in the evenings. Allah began to take some shape in the vacuum in his soul.
Allah had his father’s shape. Salim loved his God.
Even Sonal Sharma could not shake his love for his God. The love for his God demanded his own martyrdom. Jihad. They taught him that at the madrassa. It was his duty to die for Allah. He would get three-score-and-a-dozen Sonals in Jannah. And the killers of his father and father’s people would be destroyed in the process.
Salim sat in the car in the driver’s seat. Suicide attack, his mother would report in a few hours from now. The crowded Sarojini Nagar market was attacked by a suicide bomber who drove into the market in a car carrying a large number of massive explosives...
Sonal, move away! Salim was not sure whether it was Sonal whom he saw fleetingly in the crowd. Sonal was there among the thousands in the market, he said to himself. So many Sonals. Aren’t they all Sonals?
No, I can’t kill Sonal. Forgive me, Allah!
He drove his car back.
A couple of hours later, Maria received the bullet-ridden body of her son dumped on the side of a deserted road in Ber Sarai.
|For copies click here|
More options soon