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After driving for two hours, navigating through the rush hour traffic, I reach my destination. My back is sore from riding my Kawasaki Bajaj, weaving through heavy traffic, dodging people jaywalking, as well as bumping into sudden potholes and speed breakers that took me by surprise.


I climb up the stairs, and after sensing my presence, the automatic glass doors slide apart. I see her in the waiting area, talking empathetically to a sobbing lady. Empathy is the quality that she always carries like a diamond studded crown on her head. She notices me as I look at her. She continues expressionless knowing too well, both have acknowledged each other's presence.


The scorching summer heat proves too much a challenge to the overworked air-conditioners, that barely manage to keep the waiting area warm rather than cool. I go to the washroom to freshen up. The sleepless last night reflects in the mirror, as my tired eyes take in my disturbed appearance. The splash of fresh cool water feels refreshing, washing away the layers of dirt and grime that found home on my face, as I rode through the congested city and traffic to reach here. 


I wipe my face with the paper tissue, chucking it into the wide open mouth of the penguin that stands, as if waiting to throw up all the trash that people callously chuck into its bulging belly. I pass another dustbin, a penguin in a similar state, before plonking my tired self into an empty and warm iron chair, directly in front of a whirring wall fan. The breeze feels cool on my still damp face.


She now stands with a middle aged man, unshaven and ruffled, who nods to everything she's explaining, pointing to papers in the file she holds. She’s halfway to where I'm sitting, when the loud sirens of an ambulance stop her in her tracks. She retraces her steps back to the emergency section.


I brace myself for a long wait. I push the three coveted words that I'm impatiently waiting to tell her, to stay down in my throat a while longer. Last night was very tense. After putting forth my decision, all she'd asked for was until today evening to make up her mind. I deduced, the very fact that I'm sitting here is proof enough that she's made up her mind. Will she accept still remains to be answered.


From childhood to today, she’s been my constant support. Her shoulders have seen more tears than that of my mother. The most in a day, being when I broke down after finding my mother hanging from the ceiling fan clutching my photo to her bosom. The act that had freed my mother from being a victim to my father's brutality every night. She became my friend for life that night. She seemed to have worn the same expressionless face of last night, on her face once more, when she silently acknowledged my presence moments ago.


Her life hadn’t been easy either. Daughter to conservative parents, she had fought and struggled for her right to education. Young, beautiful, hardworking and empathetic, it isn’t a surprise that the noble and golden hearted woman is the head nurse at 32.


I am jolted back to earth by the loud wails of a lady. I see her hold the lady dropping down to the floor, wailing loudly and hitting her chest repeatedly with both palms. An involuntary reaction to pain, loss and despair, to the news of a loved, near and dear one's demise. A curious child seated behind me asks her father – “What happened daddy? Why is aunty behaving like a mad lady?” The father unable to answer, instead diverts her attention. “Come! Let's get a chocolate.” I see her consoling the wailing lady till some of her relatives take over.


I look towards her with a steady gaze in eager anticipation of her approach. Alas! She rushes back into the emergency room. My wait gets longer.


My phone pings. I eagerly open it. I clam up beyond expressions and emotions as I read the text message. True to her name, she proves to be quick witted and sharp. The message is crisp, precise and to the point, leaving me with no option to reply.


I rethink my strategy, about the three words I'd planned to utter. She must be prepared to hear them too, now that she’s called me here. My eyes search for her. I spot her at the entrance to the emergency section. She’s handing over a paper, a prescription probably to a lady holding an infant. 


The text message I received moments ago has taken me to the edge of the cliff. Whether I fall or fly, now depends on the three words I'm yet to utter. Should I? or shouldn’t I? is the question that torments me now. I feel like a fool for trusting her. For believing her words. For failing to see through her façade. And now I am doomed.


I own a leather manufacturing unit in the all famous slum – Dharavi in Mumbai. Though not big, the flourishing business gives me the comfort of a sea facing two bedroom apartment in the well known Mumbai suburb – Mahim. I drive a mid size sedan besides the Kawasaki Bajaj and earn a disposable income to boast of a decent lifestyle. It was enough to convince her, my gateway to settling in Dubai. The dream has now travelled from my mind to my sinking heart, further sliding down, to lay crushed under my heels. The text message I just received has that effect on me. 


I see her talking animatedly to a handsome man in white coat. Is she blushing? My mind now plays games. She’s only probably joking at some joke he’s cracked. I console myself. What’s the point in getting confused with useless thoughts when I've already decided about the words I'm to utter? I decide, being suspicious isn’t going to help.


I see a young man with his leg in plaster cast, slowly limping with the help of a crutch, sit two chairs away from me. He takes out his cell phone and smiles at the wallpaper on the screen smiling at him. His love? His wife? Maybe. My thoughts are interrupted by a power cut that engulfs the room in darkness for 10 seconds. The diesel generator kicks in with a sputtering noise. The wall fan whirrs again. 


The queue at the billing counter has weaned down to one or two hovering around, settling bills and making payments. The waiting room has quietened down, but for half a dozen people besides me and the young man with his leg in the cast.


I see her. She moves her hand beckoning me to come. My heart beats faster. I drink the last gulp of water from my bottle, chucking it into the overflowing penguin's mouth. I wipe the beads of perspiration off my forehead as I walk towards her.


I follow her silently as she guides me to a room. Dr. Aarav Sharma, M.D. (ortho), F.A.C.S (USA), Joint replacement specialist, the name plate on the door catches my attention. I raise my eyebrows in wonder and respect for whoever the person is. 


She opens the door and we enter. Much to my surprise, I find the same young man I'd seen a while ago talking to her, seated behind a huge desk that sports models of various bones and joints as showpieces. He immediately gets up and crosses over to the other side of his desk, where I stand. 


I notice that he is handsome, in his mid thirties, fair with a head full of dark hair, spectacled, with very neat, clean manicured hands, as he extends one – “Good evening! Mr. Ahmed. I'm Dr. Aarav. Pleased to meet you.” I'm shaken for a moment for I expected to have a private conversation with her. “Glad to meet you Dr. Aarav. A great good qualification you have” I say, shaking his hand and pointing to the name plate on the door, while gathering myself up.


“Now, without beating around the bush, let me get to the point. Aairah told me about the conversation you two had last night.” Dr. Aarav continues as I fail to conceal the shock on my face.


“Though, I'm marked present today as ‘on duty', all I did today was arrange for papers. You only need to sign them. You can read it before you sign them.” He hands me the two sheets as I stand dumb founded and confused.


I am caught amidst the cyclone, originating from Aairah, travelling the globe in a circumambulating path to be strengthened by Ahlum, and return as a raging fury in the two sheets that Dr. Aarav hands me over. I failed to see Aairah's calm as the eye of the storm and Ahlum's façade as the storm that she actually is.


“I’d appreciate it, if you sign it right now. It makes everything easy for us.” Dr. Aarav says, as I remember Ahlum once again, my crushed Dubai dream now lying further down from my heels, under the soles of my shoes.


“You can see, there’s no demand for money and there’s no other area of contention for you to not sign it. I don’t see why you can't sign it right now.” Dr. Aarav urges.


Ahlum’s message – “I'm sorry Ahmed. My wedding is fixed with a business magnate and I look forward to a relaxed life in a palatial house in Dubai. Our plans of getting married stands cancelled. This number is not existent after you get this message. Good luck!” Swoons around my head as I blindly sign the papers and hand them back to Dr. Aarav.


He hands me back a couple of pages smiling. “Here’s your copy.” 


Dr. Aarav's document – “Aairah, the petitioner Vs. Ahmed the respondent. Application for divorce through mutual consent” mocks at me.


“We are happy for you and Ahlum. Congratulations in advance. You need to come to court one day for the wedding to be annulled. We will send you the divorce decree by courier or post. I do hope you are happy for us.” Dr. Aarav says as he coyly holds the hands of a now blushing Aairah.


"Though you are a very religious man Mr. Ahmed, as per law, it's illegal to utter the three words now. This document is proof enough." Dr. Aarav concludes.


The three unuttered words – ‘talaaq, talaaq, talaaq’ hiccups in my throat perpetually as I stand shocked and perplexed unable to swallow or spit them out.

*********

Uttering the word 'talaaq' thrice was an easy and popular method for most Indian Muslim men to wriggle out of marriages. Mentioning this word thrice, a practice popularly known as 'triple talaaq' over the phone or even texting was construed as divorce leaving distressed wives of such men to no legal recourse with respect to consent, alimony or child support.


This practice was made illegal with punishments ranging from imprisonment to fines giving women the right to legal recourse only in early 2019.


Kawasaki Bajaj is the name of an Indian Motorcycle brand.


July 04, 2020 17:49

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