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Nagma

By P Sasikanth

It’s raining heavy and the wind was strong. It’s night and there’s no power, the city roads got flooded with over flowing drains and there’s no one on the roads except Nagma who kept walking swiftly with firm steps not caring the rain. The trees shook violently and thunderbolts pierced her ears, yet she didn’t care, she kept walking. It’s not that the thunderstorm didn’t bother her, it did, but the pain she’s been bearing for years bothered her much. She walked for hours, first with unbearable pain and then with fuming anger and much later with resentment and melancholy. Finally, she reached the banks of the river, the rain has subsided to a mild drizzle. There was no one around, not even the watchman. She walked down the ghat steps and sat in a corner. Her eyes rested upon the furious river. She got up and descended the steps quickly, at one of the steps her foot touched the cold water, she shivered and stepped back. She paused for a moment and put her foot back again decisively, she walked to knee depth and felt the slippery mud under her feet. She raised her foot for another step, she felt no ground, she paused and withdrew her foot. There she stood, on the cliff of her life, one step forward the river would swallow her into its depths, and one step backwards she would have to go back to her hell hole. Her feet got numb, she stepped back; leaning to the last step she sat in the river. The water reached her shoulders, water swirled in front of her as her memories raced back. If her life can be summed up in one word it would be compromise.

CHAPTER - 1

Her life was beautiful until she joined the college. Under the protective wings of her father and mother she grew up as a happy little child. Since, she was the only girl in her family, there were no compromises with her wishes and she demanded the attention she wanted. Once she finished her higher secondary, she wanted to study further. Against her parents and relatives wish to study in the town, she declared that she wanted to study in the city. Though her father didn’t like the idea of getting parted with her daughter, he didn’t want to make her unhappy. So, he took admission in the SRK Science and Arts College in Vijayawada. Since, home was faraway she stayed in the college hostel. She felt awkward at first, being at a new place and away from her parents. That awkwardness faded away in no time, everyone was nice and friendly, soon she made friends and they roamed and partied together, she felt like a bird in the sky. But soon she realized something, though everyone was nice and friendly there were no true friends to her i.e. friends with whom she can share her inner self, but she ignored this little fact. Few months later a fest was organized and there she met Rajesh, her senior. He was tall, bright and handsome. Though she secretly liked him, she herself never made the move, he was the one who kept looking at her and following her. One day while she was walking back to the hostel along with her friends he came running and proposed her and she blushed. For the initial days she felt as if floating in paradise, in him she found the assurance for her insecure self, he helped her with most of the things she needed in college. Sometimes, he took her to movies and sometimes to restaurants, she felt proud when the whole class discussed about their relationship. Skipping classes during college hours and talking phones till late at nights became a common routine. Then it started, actually it was there from the beginning but she understood that very later. He started pressuring her for sex, at first, he asked her for a kiss, after a lot of bargain she gave in, she had to admit she enjoyed it. Slowly the frequency increased, he would force her to kiss him even when she didn’t feel like kissing, and in the fear of upsetting him she kissed him whenever asked. Then he started pleading for sex, she didn’t agree. It’s not that she didn’t like to have sex with him, more than sex she wanted his companionship and also because she had a future dream for them, she didn’t want to rush until their marriage. She tried explaining that to him, but either he got angry or accused her of not trusting him. And this anger would go for days and weeks, and every single day of this she would cry and plead him to understand her intent. Well, he never did. In turn he threatened to desert her if she didn’t give in. After many futile attempts, finding no way out she finally gave in. One afternoon he took her to his room and they had sex, she was unable to tell whether it was great. Coz it was her first experience and she didn’t have anything prior to compare with and second it was an unwilling emotional compromise which she made for the sake of their relationship. But seeing his thrilled face she told herself that it was good. After that day, they had sex a couple more times. Her mind always nagged upon the question of trust. So, in an attempt to escape her nagging mind, she tried drawing more pleasure from sex, often by hitting off limits. This never worked, the moment she was off the pleasure notch doubts would pop up and immediately fear would culminate, and drive her crazy. The more she buried her fears the more they popped up. She tried to talk to him about this fear to get some assurance; either he got angry for not trusting him or he just laughed it off but never answered seriously. Slowly he started ignoring her, he stopped meeting her often and reduced answering her calls and he even kept distance from her. Fear mounted up and literally ate her up, she became sleepless, became thin, pale and finally turned neurotic. She tried desperately to keep his attention on her, many times by sacrificing her self-respect. In order to keep him close she bargained with sex, this worked only for a while but ultimately finding her no more attractive, he deserted her. This news blasted all over the college, she became the hot topic, people called her a slut, her close friends gossiped behind her back. This made her much crazy and she feared even going to college, and the result was her attendance dropped and her percentage went down drastically. For a while she tried to hang on to that tiny rope called hope which prevented her from descending into chaos, but ultimately, she gave in. One early morning, just as the sun was rising and the birds were chirping, one of her roommates went to the hostel terrace to collect the dried clothes and there she found Nagma, unconscious, with froth foaming from her mouth and with a spilled poison bottle beside.


CHAPTER – 2

Nagma sat before the mirror indecisively, trying to get ready. It was long after the poison episode, three years passed. As soon as she was discharged from the hospital, her parents immediately took her home. Her parents put no questions neither to her friends nor to her teachers, as they felt the damage has already been done. And at home everybody was happy that she was alive, no one asked her why she took such a decision, they didn’t want to upset her. Her family became an eyelid to her eye, at first, she wouldn’t talk to anybody and would sit hours gazing blankly. At times she shouted on anybody who tried to get near her. But slowly as time passed, with the love and affection that her family showered she was able to bury her wounds in the depths of her heart. She started getting normal, she gained some weight and she even got back a little of her usual chirpiness. When her father asked whether she stills wants to study through distance…, she declared that she didn’t want to study anymore. And when her father wanted to get her married…, she denied, she didn’t give any reasons for that. But one night she overheard her parents discussing her reluctance for marriage. Next morning, she narrated those painful events to her father in order to explain her reluctance for marriage, she witnessed her father getting crushed bit by bit as he heard it, by the time she finished he was visibly devastated. He hugged her and wept bitterly. It took many weeks for him to recover, the very first words he uttered after that were of her marriage. He explained how secured she would be in a marriage, and how they would search her a nice groom and how they would protect her when something goes wrong. He suggested that she could see as many matches as she wishes to and can marry only after scrutinizing. She agreed. This was her third match she was still reluctant and didn’t want to marry in a rush. But hearing her mother call one more time she went downstairs into the hall to see the boy. The moment she saw him blood flushed to her cheeks making her blush. A sweet pang of pleasure hooked her heart and her legs shivered, she sat in the chair quickly. Back in her mind though it kept nagging that looks could be deceptive, she wanted to forget that for a moment and get drenched in his masculine aura. In no time they were sent to a room for a private chat. He was nice, cultured and formal. He asked her a few questions about her interests, hobbies and education. When she told him that she discontinued her degree, he responded very positively and assured her that it was okay. She was surprised and this surprise gave her hope, so she decided to ask all the doubts that her mind kept nagging. For each one of them he gave a deep and meaningful answer, even to the question of why he didn’t want a dowry, he gave an elegant answer. She liked him and wanted to marry only him, she told her parents and since the boy too liked her, the arrangements started. They talked on phones regularly, often late into nights. She told him everything about her, except that terrible relationship. He never asked her the reason why she discontinued her degree; but he always wanted to, this she understood much later. One night while talking on phone, feeling assured that he would understand, she narrated her terrible relationship. When she had finished, for a few moments there was silence on the other side. After a long silence the conversation resumed but went uneasily and ended up abruptly. She feared that he would call off the marriage, but he called the next morning and explained that he had no problem in marrying her and he even appreciated her honesty. There were no bounds to her happiness, she felt that marriage was her salvation, she was overjoyed and couldn’t contain herself until marriage. The frequency of the phone calls increased, and they started meeting and going places often. And within a month they got married. They shifted to the town where the boy worked, leaving her family behind with a heavy heart she went away to start a new beginning. For the first few weeks it was heaven indeed, but slowly things uncovered. He became more silent, he never shared any of his personals with her and he was quite unpredictable, he looked grim and upset for a moment and the next moment he would be all loving and caring husband. Few days he would be over protective and few days he would treat her as a stranger. Though she found this weird she tried to adjust herself very much but one thing she was unable to get over was, whenever she was on phone, he wouldn’t leave her alone. He kept tossing around in the room, he pretended as if not bothered but deep inside she knew that he was eaves dropping. One day she tried confronting him of this in a funny conversation, but he reacted harshly. She felt so hurt and was taken aback, but after some time he came back to her and asked for forgiveness, she melted. Things slowly came to normal but his habit of eavesdropping didn’t change. She accepted it, and tried to ignore it. His habit escalated to checking her messages and phone calls. Whenever her friends called, he asked her to put it on speaker, and he dictated her not speak to some of them. She felt frustrated with all this and one day she broke down to tears before him and told him that she felt like a trapped bird. To this he took her into his arms and assuming a sort of magnanimity he went at length explaining how he was so merciful in marrying her, even after knowing her past. And how she should be grateful and obedient towards him for that, he said this as if he believed it firmly. He even said that he was eavesdropping and checking her calls just to make sure that she wouldn’t do those dirty things again. He concluded that he was taking care of her and would take much more care of her in the future. She was speechless and didn’t fully grasp the density of his words. Slowly he started locking her up in the house while he went to the office, he even put spy cams in the house. However hard she tried to believe that it was for her own good, it seemed impossible for her she was unable to contain the pain any longer. So, one day she called her parents and tried to tell everything, next day they came to talk. Her husband became all smiling and all loving husband, even her parents felt embarrassed to bring that topic. But with effort they brought it up and indicated their doubts. He gave them very reasonable and compassionate answers, within few hours the whole blame got shifted onto Nagma. ‘I cannot understand why she had to call to tell her problems when I am here for her, maybe I am not a good husband?’ this was his punch line. How would any girl’s parent react to such a line? Her parents left and while leaving her father suggested that she needs to adjust herself in a marriage. The immediate consequence after this was, he took her phone away so that she wouldn’t call her parents again. He became much rough and harsh during sex, this was there from the very beginning; sex with him was a nightmare for her, she never understood why he had to beat her, abuse her and twist her limbs during the act. When she asked him once, he recklessly told her that it gives him pleasure, he never bothered to ask how she felt. And for her, it was more pain and agony than pleasure. For a while she tried to protest but slowly, she gave up, she laid there like a stone without protesting any of his acts until he finished it. Day to day, her world became much dark and bleak. One day while washing clothes she felt a terrible pain in her lower abdomen, she tried to hold the pain but it was unbearable. She sat down on the sofa and she watched blood started drenching her saree, for a moment she wanted to shout for help but she didn’t, she just watched it and as the blood pooled around, she felt dizzy and passed out. When she opened her eyes, she was in the hospital her parents were there and her husband was comforting them. She felt sad for not dying, the doctor informed her that she had an ovarian infection because of which they no other option but to cut-off her ovaries. So, now she cannot even have children. Though her heart ached a little bit, she in fact felt happy as she saved a life from entering this torment. Her parents were miserable, and for her husband it was just another tool to taunt her, and to abuse her. Days after this hospital episode, today, in the evening she was cutting vegetables for dinner. The sky became dark with heavy clouds, and started rumbling. Her husband unlocked the main door and came in, he sniggered at her and walked away into his room. She silently sat there cutting the vegetables. She heard her husband walk into the bathroom, and within a few moments the power was gone and it started raining. A cold wave of wind gushed in and embraced her, she sat still and felt the music of the rain. Her heart suddenly slipped into the depths and there she saw her whole life in a series of flashes, tears trickled down her cheeks. She got up, kept the knife on the table and slowly walked outside then walked downstairs and then to the road and from there she didn’t know where, she just kept walking and ended up at the ghat.

CHAPTER – 3 - THE SUNRISE

She didn’t know for how long she sat there but by the time she came to her senses, she realized that the flow has increased, and the water was pushing her. She tried to get up but felt paralyzed, her limbs wouldn’t respond at all, she became panicked. In an attempt to get up she made a sudden movement, and the water which was already to her shoulders pushed her forward. She went head down into the river, still her limbs didn’t respond. With few desperate attempts she managed to move her hand and get a hold of the iron bar at the edge of the ghat steps, she held it firmly. Her desire to live grew violently until getting out of the river became her sole mission. Though her body started responding, her legs still didn’t. She held the iron bar with both her hands and pulled herself to the ghat steps. With great effort, struggling against the flow she toppled herself onto the steps. Exhausted, she laid there on the steps breathing heavily, this struggle gave her a strange satisfaction and gave her a desire to live. She neither wanted to go back nor she wanted to die, as this idea settled in her mind the dawn broke. After an hour she went to the Durga temple nearby and there she saw an elderly woman selling flowers. The woman had a lot of flowers, she was struggling to weave them and sell them simultaneously. Nagma went to her to offer a helping hand, the woman immediately showed her a place to sit and gave her the flowers. Nagma wove the garlands, the woman packed them with other items and sold them. Together they finished the sales in no time. The woman was happy and offered her some money and some food. That night Nagma slept in the security cabin of the temple, where the security was a lady. The next day she went again to the woman. There were more flower baskets this time and the woman was waiting for her. Together they wove them and sold them in profits. For the initial days the woman feared that Nagma would ask for shelter so she strictly stuck maintained a business relationship, but that got dissolved in no time. Soon, the duo expanded the business, the flower baskets increased and so did the customers. One night while packing the things the woman asked Nagma to come to her home for dinner, and eventually Nagma ended up as a tenant in the woman’s house. The business flourished; the garland business expanded to selling prayer items and bhakti cassettes. Within six months they established a permanent shop near the temple, the woman gave forty percent of the money they earned to Nagma. One day Nagma told the woman that she was leaving. The woman felt sad but was not surprised as Nagma often expressed her desire to travel. The woman felt like her own child leaving her but she didn’t force Nagma to stay. They hugged and kissed for one last time as Nagma left along with temple touring group that toured around the villages. The religious group needed someone to cook for them and Nagma volunteered. They toured and performed dances, skits and organized prayers in most of the villages. Nagma got adapted to this new way of life. They liked her recipes very much and showered her with praises. She soon gained her popularity as a good cook. She did more than cooking, sometimes she did make up for the kids and sometimes she even helped the kids to by heart the dialogues of the skit. Thus, she became an integral part of the group. In the rainy season they were touring in the tribal villages of Paderu. One day she went out to buy some groceries, and there along with the shop keeper she noticed a man around her age, with long hair and wide shoulders; they kept looking at each other for a few seconds. She felt her heart beat rise, but she forgot him as soon as she walked out of the shop. She saw him many times in those villages, there was something peculiar about him he was always alone and she was sure that he didn’t belong to that place. They had frequent encounters, and whenever they met they smiled at each other, he sometimes even came to watch the skits. Due to the heavy rains their touring plans were altered and they were forced to stay in Araku for a couple of weeks. The man got acquainted with the group and in the process Nagma chatted with him. His name was Muzaffar, and he was a traveler. He narrated his story of how he quit his job and started travelling, ‘Whenever I run out of money, I would settle down in a place, find some work, and will work until I earn sufficient money for my next travel. Once I got the money, I would start travelling again.’, like this he narrated the places he saw and the adventures he did and how he felt excited about things around. Nagma was very much impressed and liked him instantly. One evening he invited her to his camp site, he cooked chicken and biryani for her, she kept chatting while he cooked. They had dinner together and later they made love, true passionate love. It didn’t last more than twenty minutes, but they were the most pleasurable moments of her life. Their relationship blossomed like wild flowers. They roamed in the woods, they went to waterfalls and they travelled the villages together in each other’s arms. There were no prejudices nor expectations between them, they shared everything. She told him how she went through those terrible relationships and how desperately she wanted to end her life many times. Somehow, she neither felt regret nor remorse towards her past, she just stated them as plain facts. And at the same time, she realized the terrific contrast that developed between her past and present life. Of how less burdened and light hearted she felt now and more importantly how her desire to live has brightened up her life. She felt content and happy. One night while they walked back to her camp, Muzaffar held her hand and proposed her,

‘Will you marry me Nagma??’

She smiled.

‘We both love each-other, then why don’t we get married Nagma?? We’ll be happy forever’ he pleaded and proposed again.

She kept smiling. He tried to say something, but before he could say anything, she hugged him, kissed him deeply for one last time, turned back and walked away.


By P Sasikanth



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jhilmil swapnalin
jhilmil swapnalin
May 23, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Writer knows the perfect mix to make a worth reading.

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