Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 3, 1983 p. 47.


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Akhtar Jamal

FRAYED MY FINGERS

Translated by Ahmed All

It was after fourteen years that I could get a visa for fourteen days. And now those days were flying away like minutes, everyone of which I wanted to hold back. I wished that Time could forget its flight and stay, or that the moments could stretch themselves into months. But who could hold Time's needle back? My own people and those of my husband, relatives, old childhood friends, college mates. Mother's and Father's friends, neighbors, innumerable relatives, at every step a new love. For my sake the whole family gathered where I was staying, and the neighborhood got together. In these comings and goings time flew, and only a few days were left for my departure, and I had not yet been able to see Aunt. She was ill or surely she would have come herself with Aasia. In trying to catch the remaining moments that were slipping away fast, I was conscious of my neglecting her. But when I mentioned that I was going to visit her, everyone said that the situation was deteriorating and riots could start any minute, and the question of my going out did not arise. Fire was raging in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and these riots had created a state of tension all over the country. In every family pale-faced, frightened girls prayed to God standing in balconies. When riots broke out in Bhesia, only a station away from Bhopal, anxiety increased.

Yet how could I go away without seeing Aunt? Things might deteriorate further in another few days. So I quietly slipped out, taking my daughter with me, and went to Aunt's house.

She is the mother of my dearest friend Aasia, and a friend of my mother's. My maternal grand-mother and her mother had sworn sisterhood by exchanging scarves. All their lives they loved each other like real sisters.

She was just finishing her prayers. On hearing my voice, she stood up in a fluster, calling me by name: "Billol This is surely Billo's voice!"

As I bent down to pay my respects to her, she said with joy: "Come into my arms. For how many days, since I learnt you were visiting here, have I been dying to see you. My legs have become too weak to walk; and even my eyesight is now failing me. It is with great difficulty that I can walk; or how could I have stayed without seeing you? Come under the bulb. Your face looks like a shadow from the distance. If you had come in the day I could have seen your face."

And I said to myself, why is such love becoming 47


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