Palpable Allegiance
Woman's Era|August 2021
A mid religious probs.
Enakshi J

Present-day Lucknow (near the bus-stand)

A bright yellow bus screamed to a stop a few feet in front of where I paced, ‘Horn ok please’ was scrawled in silver across its back. Everyone beside me on the crowded railway station sidewalk stared.

Tum to thehre pardesi, sath kya nibhaoge was playing at full volume. I could smell the tunday kabab in the air. A fat, ugly looking passenger shouted impatiently through the open passenger window, Bhaiya, ek Lucknavi paan lagao, supaari daal ke. (Make a Lucknavi with supaari).” The sudden attention of curious people was diverted towards this man. Untouched by the limelight that he was getting, he flushed out the leftovers from his previous paan, and spat on the road. The sight of the red paan stains was obnoxious. And the sun seemed eager on sucking out all my energy and draining me completely. I scurried through and waited under an iron shade for a rickshaw. Lucknow had not changed even a bit. It was all the same – the same smell, the same type of people and the same heat. It felt homely yet the feeling of terror engulfed my whole body again.

Present-day Lucknow (Sadar Bazaar)

“Sitara, come for dinner,” screamed Mrs Edriz. Realising that the milk had boiled enough, she rushed into the kitchen to turn off the gas. Sivaiyaan was ready for her lovely daughter. Smelling the aroma in the house, Usmaan Edriz, Mrs Edriz’s husband, was also forced to put his law book down and get ready for dinner. He loved what his wife cooked and could not wait any longer. The whole family ate heartily, unaware of the conspiracies of the world, unaware of the diplomacy that people had now developed.

Sitara was eight years old. She was bright yet coy. Her world was limited to her father and her mother. She loved being with them. But destiny had other plans for her. A few days after this peaceful dinner, her father received a call from Lahore and the news left him distraught. His sister-in-law had passed away leaving behind her twin new-born sons, under the care of her husband, Rehman. Sitara’s mother and father had to leave for Lahore immediately but taking Sitara with them was not feasible because the family thread had the knots of Hindu-Muslim rivalry. Therefore, the couple decided to leave Sitara under the care of Naaz phuphi.

Two days later, the crowd had bats in their belfries. There were fires and gunshots. People killed people. Even children were not spared. The roads had the blotches of blood and the scene could terrify anyone. Fighting for religion, these people had probably forgotten the one common religion, humanity.

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