Your eyes pour the moonlight on my path as I turn my back to you. In the dead of the night, I walk with my family, away from my home, my street, my town, and what was till yesterday- my country.
There are other families with us. Snaking their way to Lahore railway station. In fear, pain, and certainty that their lives are not theirs anymore. It can be cut, morphed, or smoked out within a matter of seconds. Even if they get on that train to Amritsar and arrive there in one piece, they would just be a wisp of what they once were.
I walk. With a volcano in my chest where my heart used to be. My heart is left crying on that terrace. The terrace where we used to meet under the moonlight. When it was still the moon that lit up the night. When your head covered in hijab was still in my reach. And the moon in my cupped hands was still in your reach.
I carry a small load on my back as others. It will help us in getting to a new nation that is about to be my nation. And build a new life. From the ruins of a life that has been uprooted.
The air is still. A rare gust of wind brings the acrid smoke. And wails. From people unknown. From the far end of the town that I can no longer call mine. I doubt if it would ever be yours either. You may be too numb to its embrace.
My family moves in a huddle. Alone, amongst a sea of people. Clutching each other’s hands. As if we could be more lost than we already are. My father, mother, brothers, and sisters are watchful, looking back every now and then-half expecting the earth they are walking on to swallow them.
We cross the end of the road, the edge of the town, and the border of the wilderness beyond. But I know you are still watching me. With your eyes as dry as mine, your spirit as broken as mine, and your heart trying to console itself on that terrace.
The terrace I can never go back to. And you may never go back to.
All because a man drew a line. Quashing the hearts to choose a side; pulling the threads it had formed till they snapped, shattering it. Brushing the fragments under the carpet of darkness.
I have walked to the brink of what held us together. After this turn, you will not be able to see the speck that I have become now. The speck that has entered the vortex created by time.
Will we ever meet again? I don’t know. But know this, till there is skin on my back and breath in my lungs, the air around me will whisper only one name – Yas…min.
When the news of your family leaving town made no ripples in my family, I knew we were never meant to live together.
I leaped up the staircase to the terrace, to meet you for one last time. You were there. Forlorn. The full moon weighed down on us. You didn’t dare to cup him to give me.
You just uttered three words- “Jasmine, forgive me”. It made my world crumble around me, slowly, one brick at a time. I didn’t say a thing. There was nothing left to say.
You left. With your family. Along with many others. Turning your back to me. Walking away from a new nation that had turned its back on you.
You didn’t look back. Till you reached the very edge of the drop from where you could never climb back. Not in near future.
I hoped you will stay safe. When you walked through the rubble and dodged the murderous mobs baying for blood. When you squeezed into the train. Till you reached Amritsar.
I know it will be a hard life for you. You will have to find a new place to call your home. New job to sustain your family. And a new heart to start making threads. Tying you to new soil, people and life.
I wish you find someone to give the moon to. If not on a terrace, maybe by the campfire; to laugh with and share your stories before partition. And never stumble at my name when doing so.
I thought I would never go back to the terrace. But you see, that is the thing about the people who get left behind. They have to revisit the terraces, houses, and streets that led to their hearts shattering into a million shards. And smile, even as the shards pierce their soul.
Time will flow. Upstream. For me. But it will flow nevertheless.
A young woman cannot live alone. Not in this town. There will be talks of my nikah. It will be to a good man. There is no escaping it. I hope I would have grown a new heart by then. One that wouldn’t beat the syllables of your name- Ra-aj. For his sake.
Seasons will change and I will be a mother to the children of a not-so-new nation. They will be taught about how gruesome the partition was and how the other community turned into traitors and had to be driven away. They will grow with venom in their hearts for the footprints you left behind.
If I grow a voice back, I will tell them- no home is more wrecked than the one where brothers turn into enemies.
I will still have hope in my heart. No, not about ever meeting you again. But the line that ripped us apart will become blurred and the angry little men will be lulled in the vortex of time. Maybe not in our lifetime, but someday.
Till then know this. I never believed the moon could be mine, but I never doubted you wanting to pluck it for me. Some things are beyond the reach of lines drawn by the man- moonlight and madness.