Now playing: Khul Kabhi ( Haider)
Dusk was settling in. The mountains yonder were a deep cobalt hue that kept getting darker and darker as the sun went down. It didn’t seem to be in a hurry, the sun. It always was in the city. There, it just made the sky turn brilliant shades of pink and purple and crimson and tangerine all at once as it set, ever so rapidly. It was stunning, breathtaking. Almost like a one-night stand. Passionate, ablaze, all at once. Momentary. Here, it was more like a love story. You know the Heer-Ranjhna kind? But without the tragedy. Slow, romantic, unexciting. You could actually feel the sun bid a goodbye for the night with a promise to return the next day. It was like the playfully reluctant goodbye of a lover to his beloved. The darkness was creeping closer from the cluster of tall pine trees nearby. I had always loved the mountains, but it wasn’t too difficult to fall in love with Kashmir even if you didn’t. I fell for her every time the sun set in the evenings. She was at her prettiest then. Just like Imtiaz. It was during the evenings that he would sing Kashmiri folk songs and ballads to me, strumming his guitar, eyes closed, as I sat next to him on the wall that went around the mango orchard next to our college, and we watched the sunset. That was when I fell for him, every single day. He was at his prettiest then.
Imtiaz. I was hopelessly in love with him. It had been love at first sight for me. I too didn’t believe in such seemingly ridiculous sentimental things meant for movies till it became an all too real reality. You know the kind of feeling you get when you’ve been crying too much, or eat too much in one morsel, and you can’t even breathe without it paining real bad? That was how I felt every time I thought of how much he meant to me. His nose was a bit too large. He was never clean-shaven. He had a habit of biting his lower lip, slightly towards the right whenever he smiled. He was breathtaking. It was just that. He didn’t make me smile or blush; he made me gasp every time I saw him. His gaze always made me look away; it was too haunting to be borne. Our hugs would always be long but not warm or comforting. I don’t know why, but I always felt he carried the cold of his homeland with him. Whenever we kissed, he would hold me close, so close that I sometimes felt there were two hearts beating inside of me. He spoke so well. He would tell me stories when we were together, having sneaked out from our hostels to our favorite spot on the wall of the mango orchard. He would kiss my forehead leaving traces there of the cheap whiskey he had been drinking. He quoted Rumi often. He was a smooth, heady combination, much like the liquor he drank. But it was his eyes that captivated you, almost scared you. They were blue, not the deep blue of the oceans but a sparkling blue like the water of a happy lake in bright sunshine. They spoke no stories, they asked questions. They knew the answers, too. Maybe I romanticised him too much, but you couldn’t expect much more from a twenty-year old who lived in the world of old world charms, the Purani Dilli vibes. He fit right in. But even with this whirlwind of emotions he set in motion in my entire being, I could never cry in his presence. He never made me cry.
Even in death. It had been a tremendous sensation when I first saw his lifeless body lying in a coffin, drapped in the tricolor. I felt like my heart had turned to hot, molten lead, and I couldn’t hold up its weight. My chest broke. The sight of him made me gasp again. I wanted to wail with all my might. I wanted that I hold him and kiss him, hold him so tight and so close that my heart would begin to beat for him, for the both of us. But all I could do was gasp for air. He made flowers grow in my lungs. They were beautiful, but I couldn’t breathe.
I didn’t feel too bereaved upon his death. People said I had been like the living dead for the first few weeks after that. Maybe all he made me feel had finally begun to manifest itself in front of the world. It was no different for me. He made me swoon in life, and death. He was much like the valley he belonged to… Oh, that is Ammi calling me inside. She always fears I’ll catch my death of cold, standing out in the cold of Kashmir after sunset. I have been doing that every day, since I arrived at her doorstep a month ago. The Hindu girlfriend of her martyred son who could only stare at her and speak deliriously when she was not doing the former. She took me in, as her daughter-in-law. Her eyes are like Imtiaz’s, you know. They ask questions too.
I need to head inside. It’s beginning to snow lightly. Those fishes need to be cleaned for tonight’s dinner. Not much, though. We are just a family of two widows. Ammi is polishing some silverware by the fire, her treasured “naqaash”. Her eyes glint. I heard the pines whispering. Sometimes I feel, those whispers are Imtiaz’s, quoting Rumi.
He often quoted Rumi.
“Close your eyes. Fall in love.