All those things which Masru Uncle avoided telling him and never said anything about, were now in front of Tanishk like an open book.
Now it was very easy to know the reason because of which Masru Uncle was so angry from his family that he neither remembered them nor did he try to meet them. In two meetings, Tanishk came to know everything. He even brought the Uncle’s family to his home. But the family that Tansihk had met was not completely Uncle’s.
Ananya was not Uncle’s daughter as Uncle had married her mother after she was born, she was with her mother already. Now Ananya lived in Leh and taught children in a monastery. Her mother had started making garlands and bouquets in a shop in Leh after her husband had left her.
The mother-daughter duo had come to visit Srinagar and while roaming in the market, they came inside this emporium. After seeing the photograph of Masru Uncle, the mother was sure that the name of her ex-husband on the board outside, which she was astonished to see, belonged to him only. When she came here and introduced herself to the boys as Masru Uncle’s relative, they seated them inside with respect until Tanishk came, as common courtesy demanded. And so, Tanishk came to know a lot more about his late uncle.
Both of them were staying in a cheap hotel and as soon as Tanishk offered them to come to his home, they agreed after a little thinking. In the evening, they arrived at his home along with Tanishk and their luggage. It was not heavy anyway, it included a small suitcase of the daughter and a bag of the mother. Some clothes and a few things as per ladies’ needs and habits.
Tanishk and Hasan saw their home come to life for a few days. As soon as they arrived, Ananya declared that they had come to Srinagar only for four to five days and after that, they had to return to Leh where both of them worked. Tanishk did not ask them to lengthen their stay.
But in these three-four days, as Tanishk came to know about Masru Uncle’s family and his life, Ananya and her mother learnt that where, how and with whom did Masru Osse live after leaving Japan.
They went back after four days. But now they had a reason to visit Srinagar and the doors of Ladakh-Leh were open for Tanishk. Tanishk called Ananya’s mother and Uncle’s wife as Mother only. But he also knew that Ananya did not consider him as her brother as she was not the biological daughter of Uncle.
Anyway, Ananya was a girl who remained lost in herself and minded her own business. She had got herself busy teaching little lamas at the monastery. Her mother had also worked at the shop for a long time. Tanishk gave them precious parting gifts. After they had left, Tanishk was engrossed in a dilemma. He thought that Masru Uncle was responsible for his upbringing and he had received a hefty compensation after his death. Should he give that amount to Uncle’s family?
Tanishk could not decide. He convinced himself that rather than giving them a big amount of money in a single go, he will help them from time to time. He will pay off the debt by giving them gifts every now and then. Because still, he did not know what had caused rift or separation between Uncle and his wife. Whether Uncle was happy and satisfied with them or not? If he had been happy then would he leave them? And how did he get married to Ananya’s mother? Why had that simple man accepted that woman who was the mother of a daughter? And if he had accepted her then why did he reject her? There were dozens of questions whose answers were hidden in the mists of time. In such a case it would not have been a wise decision to hand them over a huge sum of money by being emotional.
If Tanishk sat down thinking, he would just keep thinking.
Whenever he got time, Tanishk would learn Urdu and Hindi from an old man from the neighbourhood. Though Hasan and Rubaid talked all day and by listening to them, he had practised the spoken languages. a retired teacher who lived a little bit far away, Sharafat Ali, taught him at night. At first, they became friends but one day when Sharafat Ali told him about his poor financial condition, this offer came out of Tanishk’s mouth in a light mood that he could teach Tanishk Hindi-Urdu in exchange of three to four hundred rupees per month.
Tanishk and Sharafat Ali started meeting every night after dinner. Talks and teaching took place together. It was Sharafat Ali who told Tanishk that countries like India and Pakistan have a very high population whereas countries like Japan, Australia, Russia are facing a shortage of people/population.
Tanishk was surprised. Yes, he knew that this was the case but he had never paid any attention to the cause behind it.
It's correct that these prosperous countries have food, employment, land, money but they don’t have the population to consume all this. And their number is even decreasing. Whereas in India and Pakistan, the number of people is very high. There are so many people that they are unable to be supported, if one looks here and there, he will find that their numbers are increasing in all the countries of the world. The population in India and Pakistan is getting out of the utensil of the borders like boiling milk. This milk of the nation is flowing towards other countries.
Yes, that’s true...Tanishk would think.
"You know, here a man and a woman are fertile for twenty or thirty years of their lives. That means that together, they reproduce from the age of twenty to fifty. Whereas in the prosperous countries, women think about marriage and children after thirty to thirty-five years of age. And the number of children is limited to one..maximum two. And after forty, they stop."
"But the same is the case in Pakistan and India."
"No...not at all...what are you saying, five to six children in twenty-thirty years is a norm."
"Okay, then what is the reason behind it?"
"The reason is that in a nation like Japan, people are crazy about their work. From morning till night, a man would be busy in his duty. Now such a tired man would prefer to lie on top of his woman or a bed? And whether you believe it or not, but this is the reason that the woman gets out from underneath him and becomes someone else’s. The field will belong to the one who tills the soil! Or will it belong to the one who fences the field and leaves it?"
Tanishk was now getting better at Hindi and Urdu. Now when he roamed around for his shop’s stock, he would not face any language-related problem. He would go to Rajasthan for 'Jaipuri Bandhej', Solapur for 'Solapuri', he would buy slippers from Kolhapur and sarees from Odisha. Tanishk had seen Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi. He would bring 'Lakhnavi Chikan' from UP to Kashmir. Pashmina would go everywhere else from here. Now questions regarding Masru Uncle’s life were not important for him.
He had been to Ladakh as well. Ananya lived at the monastery. She could come only for some time in the morning to meet him. Tanishk felt hesitation in living with Mother. He came back in one or two days. Mother went to work as well.
Now Tanishk had started reading newspapers by himself. Now he did not need Hasan for writing something as before. Now he was not fond of movies as well. He had not seen or heard about that girl in newspapers or TV for a long time whose picture he had once kept safely in his bag. He had even forgotten her name.
Tanishk was now about to step in the thirty-second year of his life. Sometimes he would wish that he had a family. But he hadn’t met anyone who would talk to him about it nor had any girl...there was nobody at his home who would do something about it. There was Aunty in Ladakh but when she did not even care for Ananya then what would she care about Tanishk.
Care for Ananya? Tanishk thought.
Tanishk had asked Mother if Ananya had become a monk or she just lived there to teach lamas.
Mother avoided the question by this short answer, "Only she knows what she does!"
"Then why don’t you do something about her marriage?" Tanishk asked.
"If it was in my hands, I would have done something. I had married for the second time when I was twenty-three."
"Okay Aunty, can I ask that when did you meet Masru Uncle?"
"Yes, when Ananya was six or seven years old."
"Why? I mean why did you meet Uncle...you were married, right..." Tanishk asked this bizarre question hesitantly.
"What else could I have done, her father never even looked at me, he was always busy with his work…"
"He remained with you only...or did he leave you?"
"Why would he leave me, I left him."
"Then why did Uncle…?"
"Oh, if I would have kept caring for others, who would have cared for me?" Mother said fretfully in a loud voice.
Tanishk did not dare ask her anything else.
Whenever Tanishk met Ananya’s mother, he noticed that she always talked harshly. Every now and then, she would say something which would make others feel insulted or speechless. The other person could do nothing but writhe in agony. Tanishk soon understood that why could not a simple and serious man like Masru Uncle live with this firebrand aunty. But Aunty had a point too. He had never seen Masru Uncle talking intimately or even trying to be friends with a woman even though he was not so old that he would stay away from all this. Tanishk would think that it did not look like a fault of just one side.
Tanishk had learnt one more thing in his training in the U.S. He was told that there is one basic difference between male and female bodies. A man knows about himself and his needs but a woman comes to know about them only when she is told about them. By herself, she can’t come to know about such topics. If she is habitual of sitting with the elders or a boy touches her private parts, only then she comes to know about the pleasure associated with it. With time, the boys find the pleasure that their body gets. The girls are unable to do that.
Tanishk used to remember Ananya sometimes.
One day, Ananya called and told him that she was coming to Srinagar for a day. Tanishk felt good.
The students of Ananya at the monastery were being brought to a school at Srinagar for a tour and to meet a guest. Ananya was to come with them.
The children were coming to Srinagar in a bus which started from Ladakh early morning. The journey was long and tiresome. And as it was an educational tour, so it was planned for them to visit important sites in the journey.
After starting from the monastery in the morning, the children reached a very beautiful place where they had to take lunch as well. When those laughing children disembarked the bus, these premises of the gurudwara came to life. This was a huge gurudwara on a hilly road which was maintained by the Indian Army. Operated by the army, this religious place was very clean and discipline was also present here.
On one side of the impressive courtyard, there was a tall mountain. It was said that this gurudwara was established during the times of Nanak Dev, who was the guru of not only the Sikhs but humanity. One day during a journey, he was worshipping while sitting there when a large and heavy stone started rolling down towards him. People believed that some robbers were behind it.
The witnesses had written in the history that the stone was coming down straight towards him in such a way that he would have come under it. But he kept worshipping unaffected and the stone broke into pieces as it approached his back. Not even a small piece of the stone could touch him. Since then, it has become a place of religious importance and this gurudwara was built.
The children liked the food as well as the place. In the journey, they also saw the Indu river. On this path, a magnificent memorial of the skirmish between India and Pakistan in Kargil was built as well.
When the bus reached Srinagar via Kargil, the night had already befallen. The next morning, it was a busy schedule for the kids, so Ananya had only nighttime to meet Tanishk. She came to meet him.
Tanishk was excited and waiting for her since morning. He had also given a day off to Hasan. Hasan went outside with his friends.
It was late at night when Tanishk and Ananya returned home after having dinner. After reaching there, she came to know that Hasan was not at home that day and Tanishk was alone. Ananya said that she would go back because she had to stay with children at school. But Tanishk ignored her.
He was so busy in preparations for sleeping that he did not give any chance to Ananya to say something else. Ananya had nothing but a purse with her and did not have any clothes to change at night.
But Tanishk was in a different mood, he did not hear anything. He grabbed her hand and almost pulled Ananya on his double bed. Ananya could not say anything and lay close to Tanishk silently.
It was dark in the room. It was fragrant.
Even in the dark, Ananya could see that Tanishk was getting closer to her. She was worried that she had not brought any clothes to change at night and was lying down with the same clothes that she would have to wear in the morning.
But perhaps Tanishk knew that. He had heard what Ananya was saying even after ignoring her. After some time, Ananya’s floral top and black skirt were lying on top of Tanishk’s shirt and pyjama on a chair near the bed. Now there was no chance of Ananya’s clothes getting spoilt or wrinkled. Tanishk was like that man who had been hungry and thirsty since ages and a plate of food had suddenly come in front of him. With his agility, it was unknown whether the plate would survive that day or not, let alone the food.
The dark started illuminating.
Tanishk’s fingers had lightened a luminous teetotum by removing Ananya’s bra. With a little movement, he turned and his lips started opening the switch of this teetotum with teeth.
The world dissolved inside Ananya’s mouth. Tanishk was on top of her. Tanishk was like that king Midas who was looking at the gold everywhere around him. He was getting tired by gathering this gold with both of his hands, all of his fingers, both the lips, all thirty-two of his teeth. It was a huge task and the time was limited to just one night. The breaths were getting faster as if they wanted to drink the night as much as they could. Ananya’s breath caressed Tanishk’s axillary hair like a flower garden. Tanishk slipped again and again on the marble of her waist. Ananya’s fingers roamed in his hair as if a bunch of flowers had bewildered some butterflies. The sounds of kissing were scattering in the room like some bees. Tanishk’s feet were beating Ananya’s ankles on the soft bed like the cotton which is being beaten with sticks. His fists wanted to squeeze her chest’s mango field in her throat. Ananya’s tongue had properly dusted the silver on Tanishk’s cheeks. The pleasure was going in every pore of the two bodies like bouncing colourful fish. In the intoxicating environment of darkness, this colourful current was dancing like a dancer in a fair.
The white vest and undergarment of Tanishk had jumped on the chair to cover Ananya’s clothes so that the breath-holding air of the closed room does not spoil them. And so that their light, which resembled a moonlit night, does not cause discomfort to the eyes, Ananya’s bra and silky blue panties had wrapped up Tanishk’s clothes on the chair to stop them from going back like defiant naughty boys.
The bedsheet saw the earthquake...it also saw the 'Tandava' before the deluge. And now Tanishk’s sun and Ananya’s moon were facing each other. On one side was the boisterous waterfall and on the other was infinite thirst.
The earth’s melodies were soaring to mix with the melodies of the sky. The creation was singing. The world was sleepy. The senses were napping. The ecstasy was having fun. As if all the birds of a jungle were chirping.
Neither the silences had anything to speak nor the voices had something to listen. The shooting stars were falling...the sky was desperate to get fatigued. Now there was nothing anywhere. No obstacle came in front of any flow. The world was being created. The sea flowed from the stones. Shraddha was meeting Manu. Creation was taking shape. Pearls started flowing on small diamonds.
The ceased winds blew again. The night made way for the day.
The school campus was bustling in the morning. The large ground was divided into two parts by a red stripe. On one side were the students of Srinagar school and on the other were little lamas from the monastery at Leh. In front of them was a big stage which was to take some more time in getting full.
Ananya reached on time. Tanishk had come to drop her but he had not met anybody there. He waved at her from outside and gestured Ananya to turn back and went back himself. Ananya was looking fresh today. Children were waving happily at her. Near the stage, some girls were ready with plates full of rose petals in their hands to rain the flowers on the guest.
The next day, all the newspapers and TV channels had this news. The chief guest could not come to that grand show organized near Nishat Bagh. Some scenes of a documentary were about to be shot there to be shown at a famous museum of the U.S. A large crowd of the city’s children was gathered there for this movie on terrorism. But at the last minute, it was announced that the shooting was cancelled. Nobody had authentic news regarding the reason behind this cancellation but it was being said that because of the arrest of a renowned producer of Dublin who was linked with the project, it had stalled and the shooting was cancelled. According to some of the newspapers, a country which was alleged of supporting terrorism, was behind it. The producer of the movie had ties with Islamabad and its shooting was to take place at Peshawar, Lahore, Srinagar, etc. The Dublin producer was found to be linked with terrorist bombings.
When Tanishk read the news in the morning, he called Ananya. The children were going back as the programme had been cancelled. Their tour of the city was cut short too. Preparations for taking them back were underway.
Tanishk asked Ananya to take leave and stay there only. Ananya herself wanted the same thing. But she needed to go back to Ladakh along with the children. Because of the security cover that was provided to them by the government after the cancellation, the school management did not give leave to Ananya. Tanishk himself reached there to meet Ananya and say goodbye to those people.
They could get only fifteen to twenty minutes together. But some of the most important decisions of their lives were taken in this duration.
Ananya had decided to resign from the job. She had also agreed upon the prospect of getting married to Tanishk. She was happy because of this.
Tanishk was very happy while waving at Ananya’s bus. It was decided that after reaching there, Anaya would resign from the job and would come to Tanishk forever.
Even though Tanishk and Ananya had not given the information of their decision to Mother in Ladakh but both of them knew that she would be happy about this decision and perhaps would come to live with them, leaving behind her job. When their shop was there in Srinagar, it did not make sense for Mother to do flowering business for someone else. She could do the same thing here.
Now Tanishk had to start preparing for the wedding which he had already consummated. Now Ananya belonged to him. He was very happy to spend the night with her. Ananya was happy too. Tanishk’s dream of making a family was fulfilled and many little lamas witnessed it. The kids did not know what their Ananya ma’am was taking along with her from the beautiful city of Srinagar! They kept waving back at Tanishk happily...the bus started its journey.