This piece may be dust coated and fairly old but Zainab’s memory sure isn’t.

I have beheld many angry pieces in response to the Zainab’s  rape case. Where I find myself fiercely rooting for them, I certainly am not writing one here.
This ones purely for you, Zainab Ansari.
My Daadi says that you do not part with a soul without a valediction. Else, the soul itself lingers somewhere on the edge of an almost; stuck in the limbo between this world and the ineffable void yet to be met.
My words cannot even come minutely close to the kind of godly epitaph Zainab genuinely deserves but here’s all I’ve got.

Because you know, when I imagine an eight year old inking her farewell, I conjure up images of tiny hands coloring on frayed paper boats with broken yellow crayons. I summon up hazel eyed goodbyes and glum flitting smiles. I conjure up flickering candles and tiny leather boots.

I conjure up wasted Polaroids and bated breath. I conjure up bottled letters thrown into the great voids of the sea and the last place that broke my heart. I conjure up cracks in gray pavements and water colors settling on a canvas, creating a kaleidoscope of their own. I conjure up ripped constellated skies and the tissue box my dad handed me everytime I was sad and crying as a child. I conjure up ripples in bluish green lakes and empty promises. I conjure up the tears that refused to leave a mother’s cheek and crystallized right there on her skin ivory.

Change of scenario:
Blue baby clothes are gently put aside and pink ones dug out. People cast sideway glances at Ameen Ansari and pitying whispers reach his ears every now and then.
“Another daughter…”
“Poor him…”
Ameen smiles to himself.
People perceive a daughter as a burden. To him, she is the noor of his eyes. To him, she is the grand rehmat (clemency) God decided to bestow his way.
His heart quivers with the weight of all the love he harbours for her. This fragile heart of his trembles with fear and joy for all that is yet to come for his tiny hazel eyed bird. He fights the instinct to gently tuck her in the palm of his hand, protecting her from the caving silhouettes of the outer world.
He feels the urge to bow before every known god when she flashes her very first smile his way.
Change of scenario:
Fairy strings and soft filtered curtains.
A mini cot and music pouring from an old stereo.
She is held a bit more close as Lata’s voice seeps in and drenches the walls of the baby room.
“Mere ghar aayi ek nanhi parri…”
Change of scenario:
The Arabic name “Zainab” has its roots in “zeenah” and “aab” which beaded together are evocative of a “father’s adornment/beauty”.
Eyes like Darya-e-Swat and a smile as radiant as miles and miles of sunflower fields, she truly was one.
Change of scenario:
Ameen Ansari has a bizarre family tradition. Every year on Zainab’s birthday, he grabs a yellow crayon and marks off her height on a wall.
The gray wall is now constellated with eight yellow stars.
In his head, he plans to mark an eight hundred more. In the bitter world of reality, the eight yellow stars mock him almost as blown out birthday candles on each of her birthdays.
Turns out, eight is an infinite number in itself.
Change of scenario:
Flip through any child psychology journal and the first thing you’d get to know is that an infant clenches his fists when feeling scared or vulnerable to attack.
Police sirens and anguish laden cries.
When the hazel eyed bird like child was spotted in a rubbish tip, her tiny hands were clenched into fists, almost as if she’d secured a butterfly within them.
Change of scenario:
I remember it poured on the night of January fourth.
Maybe God’s way of awakening the dead, cobwebbed souls residing within the shallow shells of our bodies?
I remember my mother stopped my siblings from going to school the following morning. The excuse on her lips was that of rain.
The phobia lurking within her heart was a giant big “what if”?
Hurried footsteps towards our backyard and pitiful cries.
My mother scooped an injured baby bird in her hands and tried to blow life into it.
Mother? Only Jesus could do that.
Change of scenario:
Ameen Ansari failed to comprehend why kafans were supposed to be white. Weren’t all their hearts bleak and paper white already?
And why, dear god, was it so heavy when the person wrapped within it was an eight year old girl?
Dread coursing through his body, he reached forward to peek at her again. Maybe this time she would open her eyes, smile that dazzling smile of hers and exclaim, “Baba, this was an act!”
Glancing at the kafan for the last time, he realised that someone had made sure that it wasn’t all white. Tucked within it were ample of roses. She was practically submerged in a flower field.
Zainab would have loved that.
Change of scenario:
Hustle and bustle.
Cameras and news reporters.
Haphazard questions yelled into a mic.
“What are your demands, Mrs Ansari?”
Gently wiping her moist eyes with a dupatta, she would have preferred to be called Zainab’s Maa in that moment.
“Nothing,” her voice shook as she murmured. “I want nothing.”
How dreadfully sad and helpless can a person be to ask of nothing but nothingness itself?
Change of scenario:
A dining table and an empty chair.
Hours spent longingly staring at it.
They sit around it and debate on the future of the rubbish tip. It certainly cannot stay one any more.
“Turn it into a sunflower field,” she proposes in that brand new, lifeless voice of hers.
“No, let’s ask them to turn it into a children’s hospital.”
For once, they both ached for a four walled messiah of a building where children could go to not get ripped apart but to be fixed. A sanctuary where healing was promised and not permanent damage.
Change of scenario:
As I sit here inking these words under a melting candlelight on yet another rainy night, I cannot help but think of the tiny bird in the backyard.
Would it not have fought against the ferocious forces of bitter rain and wind?
Had it not fabricated plans for when it leaked with sunshine?
My Daadi says that you do not part with a soul without a valediction. Here’s mine.
Till we meet on the other side?
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