I always knew that I am not to be obedient. I had practically trained myself all along to be a disobedient one. I would deliberately chew down the entire piece of chalk (I would steal it from the teacher’s desk), and later spend the day nauseated due to an over consumption of calcium carbonate. I would deliberately ride into deluged cloudburst, leaving my body half bare, in my early teen years; at night, I would sneeze into the third hour as I had developed the habit of dreaming in wet hair. I would deliberately leave my homework undone, excusing myself from the unaaceptable system of education where I was only asked to ‘learn by heart’, and not any more; of course, I would also never allow anyone to punish me, I made sure that the hysterical tantrum was loud enough. I would deliberately leave out that quirky green kurti which Ma would sew with utter precision; instead I would roam about the town in my tattered pair of cargo.
I was one who was well trained in disobedience. I was a rebel without a cause.
Although I was never aware of Fate’s wheel turning towards me and stepping on my feet right when I wished to cross on to the other side, the quieter side. Fate had actually given me sufficient reasons to carry out my willful insurgency, it always did.
Molested-once, even when my petals hadn’t bloomed.
Molested-again, sometime in my mid-teens in a dark lane, when I was still figuring why I would constantly think about that boy whose was not in the vicinity of my vision for the last ten hours. And that one time when I was grabbed in a dark lane…I was wondering why would someone unknown grab me like that!
I never recognized the faces of the ones who had grabbed me without a proper request. I realized that I was grabbed when I hadn’t even asked for it, I realized that I was grabbed without being asked. My mind automatically jotted down a fact: ‘People do whenever whatever they wish to do. They do not ask. So don’t complain.’ I tried talking to several of the better experienced ones, the elder ones, but they never seemed to agree with each other. One told me that I should forget. One was furious and honked around for a while but never asked me if I wished for the honking. One simply assured me of my fault and ‘so don’t complain.’
But I knew I was angry, and ashamed. I was embarrased of my own sweat. It would smell of some one else, a punjent smell of a burned cigarette. Oh no, I was too young to smoke by myself back then.
So, I continued being the harmless rebel that I was. My rebellion was against me, and I was loading myself with every kind of arms and ammunition to win this revolution. I had to defeat myself. Hence, I remained so…an opponent, a guerrilla, a nonconformist, a separatist against everything around; and strangely enough, I would felt guilty to the charges that I had laid against me. But I never did anything about any of it.
Then one day I met Susan.
And just as once again Fate would have it, I met my Susan right a month before I would discover Cohen’s Suzanne.
Now, my Susan-almost like Cohen’s Suzanne-got me on her wavelength. She would often feed me donuts and burgers, and later some chocolates which would be imported by someone all the way from Sweden. She would all the while look at me, all the while as she spoke of Satan and not Lucifer. All the while she lectured in class of Puck as the sweet harbingner of mischief and not the blood-sucking elf. All the while she introduced Kamala Das; and one fine afternoon, in a coop of a classroom, my Susan told me that Sylvia was a sister to her. All the while she would listen to her playlist and look at me through the corner of her cat-eyed spectacles as I would try to bombard her with the 60’s Rock ‘n Roll. My Susan would then calmly ask me to spend one afternoon at her place for lunch. So I did, and we passed an entire afternoon without a spoken word, only listening to Sufi and Baul, and Qawalii and Ghazal. At times, some songs by Iqbal Bano and Farida Khanum.
A year would pass, and Susan would sit-once again in a coop of a clasroom-and ask, “Did you eat today?”
My rebellious ego was crushed by then. In that one year, I was struggling to live up to my rebellious self; and so I would look up at Susan and say, “you don’t need to ask me that.” Susan would look at me with a clumsy smirk and drop a few toffee on my lap. “You are just you and I am just me. So let’s each other be.” The remaining half of the year would pass in Susan’s phone-calls and my messages.
It would be Susan, for certain, who whould ask me to write my very first academic paper…my paper on Space Across Literature. And I would waste that gifted moment in scribbling Wordsworth and his florid sonorous words. Susan never complained. But Susan had told me that the paper wasn’t mine. It was only a mere student, a thoughtless student who would be unable to grow up to a teacher. Susan told me, ‘so do complain.’ And complain I did. And I never stopped.
I would complain to Susan about my brother. How one’s weak persona juxtaposed within one’s addiction could delapidate the other’s childhood. I would complain to Susan about my fight against Fate. Susan assured me, ‘You are a child born against Nature. Seriously? Well, me too.” And I would complain to Susan about my ownself; and Susan told me, ‘You barely know who you are.” I would complain to Susan about conservative Right. Susan liberally suggested to me, “Anyone can be an artist today. But not all are honest.” I would complain, “I don’t even know what I like.” And Susan, giving one of those Swedish chocolates would say, “But you do know what you don’t like.” I complained, “I don’t even know what my priorities are.” And Susan, smirking as always, would tell me, “But you do know what aren’t your priorities.” And my complains were endless. I was complaining for the first time. I had Susan to complain to.
So I grew. And Susan grew. And then one day we both began to expect. I was no more me. she was no more she. We forgot to let each other be.
I did not tell Susan about the recurring deaths. I was only too cucconed to do so. Father died. Brother died. Aunt died. Mother only remained. I still did not tell Susan about the recurring deaths. Then all of a sudden, I never told Susan anything anymore. My rebellion was on the verge of defeat, I had to save it. I had to rebel, and so I chose Susan to rebel against.
On the day that they had hoisted the black flag and thousands of militants marched around me, I marched forward. I marched and marched and marched, until one day I was given a pistol and a few pellets. I wore a brown hijab that day and left the white one at home. There was rebellion everywhere, there was rebellion of every kind. Everyone was angry. Everyone was displeased. Everyone was bewildered. And their bafflement was soon provoked. Everyone was aiming at everyone. And I knew, and everyone knew, that no one knew why. A few people had come to talk to us, and they told us that we were supposed to be angry. We were supposed to not listen but only listen to them. We were supposed to be disobedient; and that was it. I was comfortably disobedient for the very first time. But that hue of indiscipline…that guilt…that pulling back guilt called Susan.
My Susan had refused to be on my side. My Susan was looking for words and not pellets. My Susan was empathizing with those who were preaching Hindutva, and not Allah. I saw my Susan was not respecting my Allah. My Susan was not listening to them. She was busy reading and writing and marking every word. My Susan did not faith in what I believed. My Susan was betraying me! How dare she?
Then one night, when Susan was in her room, trying to shut her suitcase, I peeped through the window. Her white charming face with its worried brow was deeply engrossed in folding her purple dress. My Susan was busy that night. She was hovering around the room, like a pixie who has lost a wing. I knew, I knew I was watching my Susan in the immediate senses now; for I thought my Susan did not know I was there. I had my reasons to think so; because her address was mailed to me only an hour back, and I did not tell Susan about it. I was not saying anything to my Susan.
I leaned very close to the window. There was no wind. Only a sky standing as one great boundary between the earthly pellets and the grand endless existence. The lake outside was still, the houseboats were either too dark or burning too bright; a single Shikara floated close to the bank.
My aim was perfect, and my hand did not shiver. My eyes were fixed upon that glowing face, that familiar loving face. I did not move when her body dropped down on the floor. I waited. I watched her body quake, freeze and ultimately a long breath escaped her half opened lips. I got inside the room. She was looking at me still. Her eyes were locked on my face and she did not batter an eyelid. I wished she would look away, at least this one time she would not look at me. I walked around, collected some cash from her purse, tugged them in my shirt, picked up Susan and dragged her to the lake. One of our men stood there. I told him that I would row her to the place.
And so I carried Susan in a Shikara, the first one to row in the Dal Lake in the last six months. The last time there was one, Abdul Hafiz (the man who had died only yesterday) had treated on some kabab and chatni. I lead my Susan to the far end of the river and took her by the hand, I leaned my body against hers and her body already leaned against mine…I wished to travel with her. But I was done with my wishes, someone else was there now to take care of my wishes. I had devoted my wishes to a poster-boy militant. I threw my Susan amongst the garbage and the flower. I watched my Susan float away forever. And I knew that I would trust her, for she had trusted my body with her mind. And I had touched her body with my heart.