The young girl was about eleven years old, with eyes so bright and so beautiful that you cannot dare look anywhere else. Her brown hair formed natural curls and peeped out of dupatta like a shy little-child. Her frock performed nice wavy steps as she slowly walked besides my aunt.
For some unknown reasons, I felt my heart-sink . The sight of a young girl, not with her parents but with my aunt, disturbed me. I tried to find answers to the questions, my mind was posing to me. Out of affection, I invited her to me. She paced her steps and silently sat by my side.
I then felt an urge to inquire more about her from my aunt, who is by profession, a teacher . The school where she taught didn't have many teachers. And the girl turned out to be one of her students. Her name was Shanaz. Her father wanted her to discontinue school. Shanaz's mother however was adamant to send her to school. And wanted my aunt to teach her and enable her daughter to stand on her own feet.
I thought to myself that my aunt should not have any problem. But when she drew her concern to apprehension of being transferred from that school, I understood that may agonise the little Shahnaz. I offered tea to the little disturbed-soul. And consoled her that everything would be fine. She did not utter a single word, instead just patiently heard me. By the fall of the dusk, they returned back. But her belittled face refused to escape my mind.
Years went by. We shifted to another place. Shahnaz took a back-seat. And life moved on. I reached college.
An invitation for a cousin's marriage brought back the forgotten memories. Of my village. Of my home. Of Shahnaz.
Once back , I was greeted by a young girl . She offered water to me. I did not have water but the sight of the girl brought an old-face infront of my eyes. I began to work hard on my mind to recall who she might be. But in the meanwhile, someone called out to her, 'Shanaz, come here.'
I felt a strong flow of emotions in my heart. I inquired about her days after we last met. What she narrated, sunk my heart. She was now married with two children. Sudden death of her mother changed everything. Her dreams of education were buried. She had to take charge of household chores.
But then one day, she was married to a man, many years older. Her marriage life was disturbed too. Regular assaults and brutal bearings became a routine. And the one day , everything ended. Her husband too was no more now. She then , all of a sudden, went silent. And left the room, to never return back.
My cousin's marriage took place with merry and I came back. But Shahnaz's ordeal refused to leave me.
Then months later, at the time of Panchayat Elections , I along with my family went back to the village to cast our votes. I inquired about Shahnaz. But to my utter dismay, no body had any clue about her. She had left the village with her children. My mind still veers for her.
About the author: Nasreen Fatima is a student of B.Sc, semester VI, at GDC Poonch. This is her first short story.