It was Diwali, the festival of joy, the festival of brotherhood, the festival of light. Marigold Gardens was beautifully decorated with diyas, the traditional lamps that the Indians use. The sky was ablaze with the light from crackers and parachutes. Electric lights decorated the trees, colourful crackers such as the traditional rangmashal and phuljhuri added a colourful appearance to the place.
People wearing colourful lehngas and sarees, the traditional wear of the Indians, could be seen dancing together in couples. There were husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters and young lovers. Among these people, Rohit and Suhaniwere special. They were two young lovers, who gripped each other tightly in the midst of the beautiful dancing people. Rohit looked at Suhani lovingly, the fierce eyes of a lover who could do anything for his love. Suhani looked at Rohit with affectionate and loving eyes, the beautiful eyes of a girl who has finally achieved her desire, her dream. They pressed their lips together in a fierce passion, a passion that had no words, only desire. Rohit pressed Suhani against himself, not letting her go. He knew that he loves her more than anybody else in the whole world. Suhani was submissive, she loved him too much more than anybody else. For a long time they stood in the same position, not moving. Finally they loosened each other. Rohit said, “I love you Suhani.” Suhani said, “I love you Rohit.” They again pressed their bodies against each other, as if fulfilling the unfulfilled desire. Suhani’s arm melted, Rohit put his arms around her slim waists and pressed her close. Suhani rested her head on Rohit’s broad and hard chest, breathing fast the odour of his strong body, arousing a tingling sensation in her own body. How comfortable and safe she felt with him! Rohit himself felt aroused by the feeling of Suhani’s breasts against him. He kissedher fiercely all over, as other young lovers danced around them. Suhani gripped Rohit, as to never let him go. They again pressed their throbbing bodies together and then, finally, they let go of each other.
“Do you want a dance, my lady?”, Rohit asked.
“Of course, I will be glad to accept it.”, Suhani laughedand they joined the other people. They danced gracefully, forming the perfect picture of a young couple in love. Suhani’s long and flowing rosy red lehnga and looked a pretty picture with Rohits royal blue traditional punjabi.
After the dance was over, Rohit asked, “We are going to get married tomorrow, aren’t we?”
“Yes! We are! Then I will be yours forever.” Suhani laughed.
“And I yours.” Rohit fiercely replied and they embraced again.
On the way of returning home, they both enjoyed the scene of the houses decorated with diyas and candles and rangolis and the streets decorated with brilliant electric lights. The whole world seemed alight to them.
When they reached Suhani’s home, Suhani’s sister came out to greet them.
“Come Suhani, come. Brought your boyfriend with you? Good good. Please come inside.
“I have just come to escort Suhani home”, Rohit said meekly.
“Won’t you stay?”, Suhani’s little sister asked him with laughing eyes.
“Not today. I have to go to spend some time with my brother.”
“Its okay. But give my sister a kiss before going, please”
“Of course”, said Rohit and kissed Suhani lightly on her lips. Then he went away.
“So you two are getting married tomorrow?”, asked Suhani’s sister.
“Yes. It is absolutely confirmed.”, Suhani laughed and went away.
It was the morning next day. Suhani woke up late. The first sound she heard was a bomb going off somewhere near their house. First, she assumed it as her dream. But when she saw flames leap out from the place where the bomb and smoke fill the area, she realized that it was not her dream.
She jumped out of her bed and ran downstairs. She looked here and there for her sister, but she could not find her. She let out a loud cry when she discovered other houses burning through the window.
She ran to her sister’s bedroom, only to find it empty. “Oh God, where is she?”
This thought reminded her of Rohit, which filled her with horror. She fell down on the floor and started crying. No crying won’t help. She has to do something. Anything.
She ran out of the house and saw people fighting with each other, using knives, guns, bombs and God knew what more weapons. She saw some men advancing towards her with hungry eyes. She let out a scream of fear and started running. She had to escape those bloodthirsty men. She ran and ran until she found a safe corner and sat down. Her eyes were smeared with tears. Suddenly she saw the men who were chasing her.
“They have not lost pursuit!”, she thought fearfully and started running again. She ran through burning houses and fighting people, until a strong hand grasped her arm. She screamed again, but this time there was no escape. She was pulled back by a man into a narrow alley. She fell on the man’s chest and at once recognized the strong odour of Rohit’s body. She looked up and stared at Rohit with tearful eyes.
Rohit said, “Don’t worry Suhani. I have come to take you away with me.”
Suhani hesitated, “But my sister…. and my house…”
“They are long dead by now. Time is too short to tell the whole story to you. First let us get away from here.
They both started running hand in hand. Rohit led Suhani away from the dreadful violence and they both did not stop. They ran and ran and ran and ran. It might have been hours before they reached a peaceful spot, in front of a temple.
Suhani stopped and asked, “What’s all this Rohit? Why are they fighting like this?”
“Yesterday when the Hindus were celebrating Diwali, accidentally a Hindu boy threw a cracker at a Muslim boy. The boy died, and from then it all began…. It’s a communal riot Suhani, a communal riot, which destroys the peace and well being of a nation.”
“But what happened to my sister?”
“When she saw the riots, she ran out of the house to call me. She met me and exactly at that time a bomb fell on our house. I was able to escape….but your sister and the rest of the family…
He burst into a flood of tears. Suhani comforted him, though she herself was burning from within.
Rohit stood up.
“But we will marry today Suhani, and today only.”, said Rohit.
He led Suhani inside the temple. His family was of a priest background, and he knew about the rituals of marriage. They completed the rituals and then Rohit put the red sindoor (vermillion) on Suhani’s forehead. Suhani looked up at Rohit. Rohit said, “I have a gift for my dear lady” and he gave her some bangles.
“Sorry Suhani, I could not give you gold bangles.”
“These glass bangles are utterly beautiful! Don’t worry about gold. Whatever you give me, it turns to gold!”, Suhani said.
They again kissed, this time with a sense of fulfillment in their hearts. They pressed their bodies together and finally they entered the knot of matrimony. Suhani and Rohit then decided to escape to another city, which was only ten miles from where they were. It was already dusk ad the sun was setting, and they had to cross the woods before they could reach the city. The set off. But after going for sometime, they heard the sound of bombs.
“Quick Suhani, come here. We have to escape this together.”
Suddenly the quiet woods was ablaze with fire, with Suhani and Rohit were running through it. It was a long distance, and they had to reach the town. Many a times they escaped from nearing death, many a times they could not run anymore, but braced themselves again. It seemed like hours after when they reached a cliff.
The cliff was not very steep. Rohit told Suhani, “Wait here for sometime, let me see if there is any possible danger down there.”
He went away. Suhani stood and shivered. Oh God please help Rohit. Bring him back to her as fast as possible. She was ht from all the running, but still cold with fear. She looked around. A fire had lit the whole forest, but it was a good distance away from where she was standing.
Suddenly she heard a terrible noise and stared down the cliff, dumbfounded. A bomb had fallen there, and the remaining part of the forest was also ablaze.
“Rohit! Oh Rohit!”, she thought and at the same time she slipped and fell down, and went rolling dwn the cliff. The new glass bangles that Rohit had given her broke and a red streak cold be seen in the place whwere the bangles were. Thankfully, it was not Suhani’s wrist. She rolled down and down, until she came in contact with the cold hard earth. She had difficulty in seeing. All she could see was fire blazing in front of her. The whole forest was ablaze….. and after sometime she would be ablaze too. But what happened to Rohit? With great difficulty she stood up and started limping. There he was….lying down. Suhani almost jumped with joy, but due to her injured leg, she again fell down. She looked at her lover’s face. His face was twisted with pain, but still breathing. He had been shot near the chest and blood trickled down his cheek too.
Suhani could not withstand the scene.”Rohit, Rohit, what happened to you..”, and she broke down crying.
Rohit looked at her and tried to speak. His frail lips uttered the words with great difficulty:
He was silent forever.
As if by magic, at the same time rain started falling and put out all the fire. The rain also washed off the vermillion which Rohit had put on Suhani’s forehead during their marriage. The vermillion, mixed with water acquired a brilliant red colour, and trickled down Suhani’s face. It got mixed with the stream of blood which was flowing from Rohit’s chest.
Suhani did not get any new tears, so shocked was she. She looked at Rohit desperately and look around.
Why, there is a lantern there. Someone was coming. It must be Rohit. This dead body is not Rohit, she decided. The person who was carrying the lantern towards her was Rohit. She was sure of that.
“Oh Rohit, I love you very much!”, and she ran towards the lantern with a new ray of hope.
As she was bout to reach the person holding the lantern, a strong wind blew. It blew off the lantern, and Suhani was left in total darkness.