Metro Mensch in India
Story by Dr S A Hafiz

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The Silent Quest
“Ambeeline Kando Kunjo…”
 Beevi Thatha asked
She was repeating her never answered question again:- “Boy, have you seen my Ambeel’.
Ambeel was the family name of her husband. She had been asking the same question about him for some time. I, like the other kids of my age, had been facing the same painful question as long as we could remember. I had been keeping a sympathetic  silence, unlike my cousins of my age who had always tried to howl at her to make her more and more mad.

In our tradition, ‘Beevi Thatha’ was a respectful reference for the elders. But the truth was-nobody knew her real name! Every one called her Beevi Thatha even us kids!

Who was this Ambeel…? No one knew exactly. Our mothers and aunts in their lighter moments, when asked about Beevi Thatha recollected sometimes…Nothing, they just simply re-collected what they had heard about Thatha so far! They said, they heard Beevi once saying in one of her (in)saner moments…-“I was beautiful, as beautiful as a heavenly Houri! My nose was, once, as sharp as a sword and was always adorned with ‘Nagamanykyam’

You know my girls; Nagamanykyam is the possession of nagam - the snake. It keeps that diamond for centuries and centuries with it and then gives it only to one who deserves its love!

And I was loved by snakes too…!

And snakes please only those who are magnificently beautiful and shakingly sexy-
I was both!

Snakes are beautiful - you just dissolve at the beauty of the oily, glistening, dotted, cross lined ‘designer’ snakes.

I loved snakes as much as they loved me. They flourished in my dreams, twisted and mated.

In my dreams appeared Ambeel! And snakes threw him to me like a ‘Nagamanykyam’ as a love filled gesture. He descended to earth only to love me, and possess me!

Our marriage was set for midnight. On that day, at night, he came riding slowly a black horse, like a musical note of a trumpet! He wore a crown of flowers and glittering gold chains. Yes, he was a Prince of Red Flowers!

The brown eyes of the black horse were staring at me in that lighted darkness. He must have desired for me for a ride! On that melodious night we tied the nuptial knot. The knot was woven with silken threads dreams and desires. Desires of the soul! What was my soul singing and musing at that moment…? Never I knew!

I believed I am his ‘Scheherazade’ and he is my ‘Shahriar’ the eternal King and Slave of the ‘Thousand and one Nights.

After tying the nuptial knot he put me on the back of the black horse- who might have had his most exhilarating moment ever in his life by having me on his back - his hair rose and ears rose!

Then, suddenly I, remembering the ‘Thousand and One Nights’ turned his aroused ears hoping that it would fly.

And it flew!

Flew to the heights crossing the seven skies and Heaven. Heaven and Hell were past behind us – The ‘Scheherazade’, my king- ‘Shahriar’ and our beloved flying horse.

Suddenly, to our surprise and shock we found that a Jinn was following us.

Jinns are supernatural beings and you know what this Jinn looked like?

He was as tall as the tallest fruit-bearing palm tree. He looked as handsome and naïve as the ‘baby’ sun. He placed his long and broad hand on my shoulder. I felt his arms like a strong iron pole- he lifted us up, kept me closest to his chest.

-Then too we were flying
He then started throwing out questions:
The Jinn asked:
-Where are you taking her?
-To my palace]
-Where is your palace?
-In the heaven of my mind
-Who is she?
-My most beloved
-So now you are in the most exotic moment
-Of course! Now I want to enjoy my life fully, to make it a festival of emotions!
-Do you know the most tragic moment is always there next to the most exotic moment? He continued – do you know solitude is the ultimate solace? You know real love is another face of frozen solitude? Have you ever realized that?

Ambeel replied:
-No there is nothing called solitude in my life- I was flooded with, still flooding with, will flood with nothing but joy and ecstasy. The ecstasy of love!
-You see now I am an embodiment of love!
The Jinn was still holding me close to his chest.
The Jinn laughed – he said: “I will make you understand what I told you”. He gazed at my Ambeel. Gazed and gazed and a kind of cruelty was flowing into him…

His grip on me loosened- I was filled with the hope of returning to Ambeel But…

But the Jinn, in his most cruel moment dropped me suddenly and I fell down on earth like a shot down little Green Bird - It bled in my mind! All I could see was the dumbstruck face of my Ambeel and that too was only for a flash of a second. I have never seen his face again. Since then I have been in search of my Ambeel and he too must have been searching for me in the ‘wilderness’ on Earth- To fill in the blanks of Time and Love!”

Our mothers and aunts behaved normally to her, but in their own privacy they made fun of her except my own aunt who had suffered severely in a lost love. Often it seemed my aunt was trying to identify herself as another Beevi Thatha - sometimes it succeeded, sometimes it failed but always ended up with long sighs and tears.

Beevi Thatha appeared!

She started asking-“Ambeeline Kando Kunjo…”(kid have you seen my husband Ambeel)

She repeated…
In a chorus we, the children said: “Ambeeline njangal kande; njangal kande Ambeeline”

In the rhythm of the chorus we said ‘we saw Ambeel’. Then her eyes brightened
Brightened like the sun with full of hope and hope alone which she had been nurturing so long.

She came to me, probably thinking that I was the group leader, gently placed her palm on my shoulder and asked: “evide ente Ambeel… Kanichu tha…”

With tears running down and eyes full of sky, full of hopes, she asked- “where is my Ambeel-show me, give me him back…”

Unable to withstand the emotional burden of that gentle asking, I was suddenly just running, weeping with a mind full of guilty, prickling feelings.

I rushed into the house. Coincidentally my aunt was there, gazing at somewhere it seemed that she was dreaming of, or recollecting something. I almost controlled my tears and when looked back through the window, I could see  Beevi Thatha, asking each one of the others for her Ambeel.

Everyone was dumbstruck, never knowing what to do in such an unexpected scene. When she realized that the last boy was also unable to help her, she lost the lustre in her eyes.

The sun in her eyes went out!

Maybe out of her deep desperation and sheer frustration, she was unable to weep, not even a teardrop.

She sat down at the shades of a Jackfruit tree with a vacant stare, like a bird, which lost the horizon, not knowing where to fly.

BeeviThatha was looking about sixty, with her collar bones projecting more prominently than her once beautiful sharp nose. Thin, anaemic with her face and skin looking like drought-stricken, barren paddy field-with lots of cracks.

But her eyes often seemed full of life.

She would just appear one day and would disappear another day, with her Bhandom - the cloth bag!

‘Precious’ things that bhandom carried were a set of broken glass bangle pieces, a nose pin, an old ragged satin coat of the Rajapart actor of a drama troupe…

She believed that was the wedding coat of Ambeel. And on that angelic moonlit night, her man came wearing that to take her into his life.

Nobody knew how she got it.

She used to stay for one or two days in our small thatched out-house. When she disappeared from the out-house, she would have been wandering in the streets and sleeping in the shades of trees, having nothing for her stomach.

Through the window I could see that she was packing up her cloth bag with its most precious possession-the ragged coat.

She was moving…Where to…?

Someday, at an odd hour she would come back - but not one was sure when -since she was on her long quest!

Somehow I liked to nourish the belief that some day, at some part of the world she could find her husband Ambeel…

Warm air of a long sigh was falling on my shoulder

When I turned round I saw my aunt, who was still carrying the poignant memories of a lost love, living in a self made labyrinth of loneliness and was looking at Beevi Thatha…her going…

She vanished…with a high hope in her mind and shattered images in her consciousness.

Another long sigh was falling on me and a tear drop…It was my aunt.!

After so many years, I now, in my early thirties, still remember Beevi Thatha

When I went back to my city-village last time I enquired about her. Nobody knows where she could be now, whether she is still alive or not.

My aunt is old now - she is more withdrawn, staying with her husband, under one roof-but in two worlds.

Does she still identify herself as another Beevi Thatha in her silent quest for the unfulfilled love…?

Once I had heard that Ambeel was killed by his cousin before the very eyes of Beevi Thatha and on that fateful, sinful day she lost the grip over her own mind.

Since then she was looking for her beloved Ambeel the ‘King Shehriar’ of her fascinated imagination.

She must have cursed the Jinn who failed him.

Often I imagine that her stories are real and she was a Houri dropped from Heaven, who couldn’t withstand the hard realities of Earth.

To me she was the symbol of eternal love, unfulfilled- still in quest of fulfillment, which began right with the Universe.

If not, why did my aunt, who had been wounded severely in a lost love, withdrawn from others, in her very personal moments to identify herself with Beevi Thatha?