‘If thousands of innocents die by drawing a line on the earth then what is the need to do that?’ This was the theme of the movie that was being made for a museum in Washington, D.C. But the project was cancelled. Not only the money that was being given for the project was stopped but its recovery was also initiated. Some of the people associated with the unit which had begged the project, were found to be linked with the terrorist activities. They were also found to be behind the sensational serial blasts in a European country which had taken place a few days back. This studio from Dublin had contacts in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The studio was seized. Many were arrested. John Altamash’s name also came up.
It was found out that many youngsters were recruited for carrying out terrorist activities and were duly trained under the pretext of shooting units at captivating and solitary locations in various countries. In the name of very high expenses on grand films and very long serials, terrorist missions were helped. Through the youth practising dancing on hit songs in the midnight, drugs were delivered in rural and urban areas. Boys and girls were drawn towards such terrible deeds by promises of work in the film industry. Along with the police forces of various countries, INTERPOL had to spend a large sum of money to be alert and pay attention to these activities. Many of the international activities were called into question. Neither the movie world was spared, nor the sports, nor the literary-cultural activities. Even the beauty contests were scrutinised heavily. Hemp, cocaine, opium and heroin were found to be playing a role.
The activities of those people, who had boarded flights after the attacks on the World Trade Center in their response as competitors of art, music or sports, were investigated. It looked as if because of the mental imbalance of a few people, all the history of humanity had taken two steps back. The eccentricity of just a few people kept inventing the latest means of inspection and the international complicacies kept increasing.
In India, the irritation of people towards terrorism increased so much that in the next general election, new people and new parties started coming forward to form governments in states like Kashmir which was isolated and facing special provisions. The public of Kashmir which was tricked since so many years, was now being coaxed to become a part of the mainstream of the nation. Efforts to make them realize the wind of change that was blowing in the country, were underway. People were explained that there was no basic difference between ‘Chaman’ and ‘Gulshan’. And that ‘Kamal’ and ‘Nilofar’ were the same. Whether the lotus was pink or blue, it was linked with peace only. They were told that they must learn to recognise the bloodied hands and see the intentions of the foreign hand. They must be aware of the godless hiding under the veil of religion.
The results of such efforts do not get visible in a day but the beauty of Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir was coming back.
At Tanishk’s home, people saw great festivity going on. Seeing the fair-skinned Japanese groom and bride in Pathani suit and an embroidered sharara, people were happy in their hearts. The preparations for the wedding were done on a grand scale. All the people from the market took part in it.
Tanishk had sent invitations to many people in New York but none of them could come. The Sheikh sent a gemstone ring along with a letter but he could not come himself. The hopes of him coming on another occasion were alive. The people had not seen Masru Osse, the owner of the Masru Emporium but they did see her abandoned wife dancing in the wedding. Many Buddhist Lamas had also come. All the preparations were done by Tanishk’s friends. Rubaid and Hasan had brought their friends as well. Both of them performed many tasks. After all, their employer was getting married.
Along with Sharafat Ali, his friend Mr Khurshid came as well and it was fine till then but while going back, when he started praising Late Masru Khan, Sharafat Ali had to intervene by saying, "You are coming from the wedding...you could have at least noticed that the bride and the groom were Japanese. Whom are you calling Masru Khan?"
Mr Khurshid could do nothing but blush.
"But there was everybody in this wedding, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, who wasn’t there!" He said getting rid of his blush.
But it was because of Sharafat Ali that the groom could speak Urdu fluently. He had found another proof of his talent.
After the wedding, the respect and bustle of Masru Emporium had increased. Now on the owner’s chair, one could sometimes see Ananya and sometimes her mother. Tanishk had now started to use most of the time to travel and grow the business. Ananya’s mother had started doing her old job here as well. She used to order different kinds of flowers and prepare excellent bouquets with her hands. Her flowers and garlands were in demand even in far corners of the city. Whenever a huge function was to be held, garlands and bouquets made by Ananya’s mother reached there. The elderly from the neighbourhood had started to call her Gulbano. Her actual name was a bit longer which was tough to pronounce. Now, who would have called her Narishima. So, she was known by the name of Gulbano.
Because of Gulbano, not only flowers but many other things from Masru Emporium started going to Ladakh. She had been living in Ladakh for such a long time that every now and then, someone from Ladakh would come to visit her in Srinagar.
Once a bouquet weighing fifty-one kilograms which was made by her, went to the army encampment in Ladakh in the car of a high-ranking officer with its flowers being wetted during the journey. Fifty garlands went along with it. It is said that people had honoured an actress of yesteryears and the flowers and bouquets were for her.
What would an actress do at an army encampment in a place like Ladakh? But when an actress from Mumbai fell ill in her old age, the doctors advised her to go to a hilly area to recuperate.
She came to Ladakh. She had thought that who would recognise an actress of yesteryears and so she would go out of her hotel for a stroll every morning. But she was recognised by some soldiers on a bike. They turned the vehicle and greeted her.
She was amazed...so she was recognized there as well.
That evening, she was welcomed in the encampment by soldiers and not only that, after dinner, her movie ‘Mere Mahboob’ was watched. The old and ailing actress was happy. Though now she was just part of stories. She had left the world.
Now most of the time, Tanishk remained out of the city. He did a lot of hard work to make his business grow.
But one day, the unexpected happened. People came to know that because of loss of life of Tanishk’s father, Masru, in the fall of the World Trade Center of the U.S., Tanishk had received a lot of money as compensation.
And the word of mouth travelled and reached the police. Now the cops were after Tanishk. For a few days, he had to go to the police station with all the documents, passport and whatnot. But the issue was solved.
As Tanishk had all the paperwork, nothing was left to doubt. At the police station, SI Meenaji became Tanishk’s friend. In a few days, they started rubbing shoulders. In this friendship, one day, Meenaji invited Tanishk to come to Jaipur. Vikas Meena lived at Dausa near Jaipur and from some time, he was stationed here.
It was Vikas Meena who told Tanishk that foreign tourists who come to India, surely visit Jaipur. They come here after Delhi and Agra. Vikas said, "If you can make arrangements for your goods to reach Jaipur, then there are endless possibilities.."
What else did Tanishk need? He asked Vikas about his contacts there and started planning to visit the city. For the goods to reach Jaipur from Kashmir and from Jaipur to Srinagar, there were possibilities for Vikasji as well.
Tanishk had heard about many places to travel in Rajasthan. He had come to know that cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan were tourist spots. Sometimes he wanted to travel to such places just for fun.
After their marriage, he would think about places to go with Ananya. And with mother taking care of everything, they did not have any problem in going out. There was Hasan to perform household chores. Tanishk had started making Hasan write letters at the addresses that he had received from Meenaji. Whenever Vikasji went Jaipur, he asked Tanishk if he had some work there.
One day Sharafat Ali found an opportunity and asked Tanishk, "Tanishk Saahab, we were waiting for the news of your honeymoon after such a grand party and beautiful wife. What happened?"
"Maulvi Saahab, Ananya and I have been with each other already, what is the need for a honeymoon?" Tanishk said hesitantly. Though Sharafat Ali was older than him, their friendship was such that they could talk about anything.
Sharafat Ali tried to reason with Tanishk, "Miyan, you have probably celebrated ten honeymoons till now but after your marriage, this honeymoon will be the most effective and justified as well. Go and you must go along with your wife. This will be your true honeymoon."
"What is true and false here?" Tanishk said carelessly.
"Till now, you must have spilt water from your body hundreds of times for fun, but now it will be a drop of hope for a child. It will have prays for your family’s happiness. A drop of hope! Throw it towards the sky..." After two days, Tanishk and Ananya were at Srinagar airport. With his wife on his side, he had to board a flight after two hours for Jaipur.
Ananya was looking at the planes on the other side of the glass window and waiting in the lobby when Tanishk sat near her with two cups of coffee in his hands. He asked, "What are you thinking about madam?"
"How can this be, your husband’s with you and you think of nothing!" Tanishk said mischievously.
Ananya blushed but then she composed herself and said, "I thought that you would take me to the U.S. and show all those places where you grew up...but you brought me to a business trip. You wanted to go to Jaipur for work. This is only honey and moon."
Tanishk was startled, "Oh, just this? Okay, then you come to Jaipur on a business trip only. We will celebrate our honeymoon in the U.S...I will take you to New York. You will see that city’s life...it has made me what I am...it is really the most creative city in the world and magnificent and majestic as well. Mother will also see that where did Masru Uncle work. She will also place a flower on his name on the wall where lakhs of people come from all over the world to remember those who died in the Twin Towers attacks. Are you happy now?" Tanishk said while touching the cup of coffee with his lips.
"So Mother will also come with us on our honeymoon?" Ananya said while faking anger.
"Oh man, it’s tough to argue with you, you are a teacher, I will always be your student," Tanishk said. Ananya laughed while sipping coffee.
Tanishk said, "Okay then, you don’t want Mother on the honeymoon, then let this trip be our honeymoon, we will visit New York later."
"Honeymoon in Jaipur, what will be special here?" Ananya asked.
"Oh, you will see, just keep counting...we will celebrate five honeymoons in one night..." Tanishk said with mischief in his eyes.
"Take care or your business will..." Ananya said.
Then, after a pause, she said laughing, "You will stay asleep in the morning and won’t be able to finish any of your work."
People had started moving towards the gate along with their luggage. Tanishk made Ananya get up by grabbing her arm and both of them started walking to board the aeroplane.
After coming out of the Jaipur airport, Tanishk and Ananya came directly to hotel Grand Uniyara where Vikasji had booked a room for them. It was a quiet but clean place. There was a lovely hill behind it and on its top, there was an old fortlike palace of the royal family of Jaipur.
People said that until the Queen Mother Gayatri Devi was alive, it was full of activity. But after her demise, the royal family started living in Chandra Mahal, situated in the middle of the city and this place was left alone. Though, there was a newly built temple of Lord Shiva which opened for the public once every year. Near that, on one corner of the hill, there was a magnificent temple made of white marble, which was visited by thousands of people from different corners of the world.
Politics and feudal system were mixed in this city’s air which was also known as the Pink City around the world. Politics had made merry here. The feudal thinking of people had also flourished here. It was said that once a king had gifted half of the city to a dancer girl.
When Tanishk and Ananya went outside, there was a guide along with them who was hired by Vikasji. He told them that this magnificent temple had a story behind its construction. It was not made by faith in a religion or some king’s prayers but it was made because of the obstinacy of a billionaire industrialist's wife. One of her friends had constructed a temple. She went along with them to see that temple. The billionaire woman brought along some 'prasad' to offer to God. But her friend with a modern attitude told her that there was no provision of offering 'prasad' to God and one could only do darshan there.
She was at last, not allowed to offer the 'prasad'. She kept saying that if she had brought it, she could as well offer it as it would not be auspicious to take it back. But her friend did not budge. She had to take it back.
So the huge ego of a very rich woman was hurt and she bought the land near the hill at exorbitant prices and constructed this new temple which was far ahead in grandeur than her friend’s temple. One could not offer 'prasad' here as well but money was accepted for its maintenance.
While roaming in the city, Tanishk and Ananya were also told that a few years ago, a famous actress had bought a large piece of land there with some intention but because of local politics, the allotment of her land had to be cancelled. She never set foot here again.
After talking to the people recommended by Vikasji and checking the possibilities in handicrafts in the city with his business eyes, Tanishk and Ananya came back late in the evening. Both of them felt relieved after coming to the hotel. None of them was hungry. They took a stroll towards the backside of the hotel. There was a large field of sand and on the other side, the compound of the royal family’s old palace could be seen. There was a large turret on one side of the palace. But as it was dark now, there was no movement of people here. Tanishk liked walking in the sand. From the backside of the temple, a thin path was leading towards them. On one side of this path, some very poor people were sitting. It looked as if after begging amongst the hustle and bustle in front of the temple, these beggars, weak and handicapped people had come here after the commotion had ended and were now trying to fill their stomachs by sharing the food that they had received.
Keeping their eyes and steps off this scene, Tanishk and Ananya moved ahead in the field. The pindrop silence felt frightening. No human could be seen until far away in that deserted settlement. The mysterious silence of the turret in the distance was attracting them both. They kept walking. As if they wanted to touch the turret near the historical palace and come back. The city lights had gradually weakened and then turned completely off here.
A few small stars and at some distance, the sad-looking Moon could be seen hanging. Tanishk and Ananya, who had left behind the fairs of lights and dazzle, were liking this atmosphere and they were still walking in that desolate and frightening silence. As if they knew such desolations very well.
Tanishk had quietly grabbed Ananya’s hand because of which her fear had decreased a bit. Anyway, she was a girl who was brought up in very tough conditions and she was never fearful of anything. As she had cared for the little lamas in the monastery built on a quiet hill of Leh for so many years, she knew these silences and was habitual of life’s colourless moments. Though after meeting Tanishk, the affections of her life were getting a new lease of life and so, her conscience had grown a bit soft.
But now when Tanishk was moving ahead, she was being dragged while clutching his hand with her feet digging the sand. Tanishk had untied his thick white shoelaces to easily take the sand out of them which was filling them again and again. He would take the shoes in his hand sometimes which would cause the long white laces to swing and hit his knees or Anaya’s ankles. The sand did not cause the clothes to get dirty even after filling them. The white shoes would still shine and the sand would fall after dusting them off. The sand would also feel cold. Tanishk would press Ananya’s hand softly in between which would light a small lamp in the passageway of her fearful mind. In its light, Ananya would come closer to Tanishk. Tanishk would sometimes encircle Ananya’s stomach with his other hand. When Ananya would come closer to him, he would kiss her mouth by leaning his neck. And then Ananya would feel that the darkness was still less and it should have been much darker there. The noises from the temple’s backyard had silenced. Perhaps the beggars and the handicapped were now sleepy after sharing the food because their voices were nor reaching them now.
Seeing that his speed was not decreasing, Ananya whispered, "Do you want to climb?"
Tanishk saw her with glittering eyes. She again asked, "Would you stop only after climbing that turret? Where are you going?" Before Tanishk would answer her, a burst of laughter came from a bush nearby.
Ananya clung to Tanishk’s chest. But Tanishk looked at the bush with his sharp investigative eyes. An animallike shadow walked slowly towards the other side of the darkness and vanished.
"It’s probably a wild animal," Tanishk said.
"Yes, you must have misunderstood, it was that animal’s voice. It was perhaps a dog barking," Tanishk said.
"What are you saying Tanishk, it was not a dog barking," Ananya said while getting away from his chest.
"Oh man, whatever it was, it’s gone in the darkness."
"But what was that?"
"It was a pig perhaps…"
But then the sound was heard again. Tanishk stopped in his tracks as well. This time it sounded like a cry. Ananya encircled Tanishk’s stomach with her hands and clung on to him. She said, "What are you doing, where have you brought us, let’s go back," she screamed.
Tanishk stopped and looked here and there. He had grasped Ananya tightly. The sound had come again, he had heard it clearly. It sounded like a woman’s voice between a laugh and a cry.
"Let’s go back..." Ananya said in a crying voice.
"It’s a lunatic perhaps...but where?" Tanishk mumbled.
"Wherever he is, you come back." Ananya was scared. She stepped away from Tanishk and turned back.
"Someone’s inside the turret maybe?"
"Tanishk!" Ananya screamed. "You come back. Why have you come here...I am scared…"
"Give me the mobile..." Tanishk moved his hand towards Ananya. Probably he wanted to turn the torch on. Tanishk’s mobile was charging in the hotel.
"No, you come," Ananya pleaded.
"One minute...probably on the stairs of the turret…"
Before Tanishk could finish the sentence, the sound was heard again. And he saw that it had not come from the turret’s stairs but a banyan tree on one side of the turret. It was a loud laugh.
And Tanishk felt goosebumps. On a lower branch of the banyan tree, a lunatic woman was sitting with her legs hanging towards the ground and was looking at Tanishk with such piteous eyes as if she was pleading to him to help her in getting down. She was crying in a strange voice. Sometimes when she laughed in between, it looked like she was a lunatic.
Ananya turned back and stopped after a few steps. Now Tanishk was moving towards that woman. Ananya screamed, "Come Tanishk."
"What are you saying, don’t fear. See, perhaps she has climbed the tree and now she cannot climb down."
"She is a lunatic Tanishk!" Ananya said again.
"But she is a human…"
Tanishk slowly started moving towards the tree. As the beam of light appeared from the torch of the mobile, Tanishk stopped again. Ananya screamed. The woman was naked and her tangled hair was scattered on her shoulders like a bush. There were marks of scratches and injuries all over her body.
"Tanishk please..." Ananya was almost crying.
Tanishk took out a large handkerchief from his pocket and spread it over the lunatic woman’s thighs. The laughter and cry of the woman had stopped but Tanishk could not look into her red moist eyes. Ananya kept watching while holding her breath.
Tanishk moved his hands towards her armpits and looked away from her bare breasts. As if he wanted to make the woman climb down the tree by picking her up like a child.
The woman was hesitant at first but then she threw her burden in Tanishk’s open arms. She was swinging in Tanishk’s hands. Tanishk made her climb down and stand on the ground with lightning speed.
But the woman chortled loudly. Her chortle shook up Tanishk’s world. The woman ran inside the turret while laughing like a child. Near the stairs, Tanishk’s handkerchief fell from her thighs.
But Tanishk felt goosebumps again, he almost passed out. The way that she had laughed when his hands had touched her armpits, he could not take care of himself and started walking towards the turret’s stairs with long steps in bewilderment. He felt that the world was ending.
"Tanishk!" Ananya screamed with all her energy. Now she was not scared but it looked as if she was full of some divine power.
"Come back..." She ordered.
Tanishk turned back slowly and after a while, Tanishk and Ananya were walking back to the hotel. Now Ananya was keeping a distance between them. It looked like he had lost self-control.
Tanishk felt that just like the Bible verse, the world was waiting for the turret’s stairs to be remade. He was not highly educated, he had read about the divine battle between the light and darkness in a quote at his shop.
Now Ananya was walking ahead and Tanishk was following her.