1 Midnight partition

It was a full moon night ,under the shade of the guava tree ,there were giggles of small children enveloping the otherwise cool night ,Though it was the season of hot summers in Jafrabad thankfully today was a cool and soothing night .

A nightingale dressed in mustard yellow suit was playing a traditional tune on dholak ,a little girl was matching her beats by clattering the silver spoon upside on the instrument to provide the rhythm and charm to the glorious night .

"Girls, go and see if Mehjabin was ready after all its her Haldi[ a ritual in north India] today"

Surraya said in her overly joyed voice .

She was a woman who was in her 50 ’s and hides her true face over the baggage of makeup she wore ,everyday just to stop her husband’s ogling eyes from wandering somewhere else besides her .

All three girls entered the verandah with Mehjabin in between .The ladies stared at her in awe as she approached the flower decorated swing made for her.

murmurs filled in the crowd ,some talked about the secret of immense glow on Mehjabin’s face ,some talked about the rushed decision of Mustafa Zahid (Mehjabin’s father) while some were interested in knowing how much the groom would get in dowry but no one knows the inner debacle the young girl dressed in maroon lehenga was facing .

Gossip was expected ,because Mustafa Zahid's final verdict was a death sentence for her daughter and a new talk of the town.

Just last week only Rashid bhai came from Pakistan to meet his aunt in the neighborhood.

During one of their conversations, the topic of Aslam’s marriage came up ,Rashid aunt suggested to him the name of Mehjabin telling him that she was the youngest in her family ,beautiful ,well behaved so she would definitely be a suitable match.

Next day Rashid reached Mustafa Zahid ’s house but after seeing the vastness of his mansion-like house ,he was unable to step another foot inside ,but with little confidence he still thought of trying his luck.

After knowing that Rashid was the nephew of his beloved cousin Surraya .Mustafa welcomed him.

They discussed about the field work and farmers problems over there and then in between there many conversation ,Mustafa asked about Rashid's family .Rashid took this as his lucky shot to play and instead telling about his family ,he started going all flower and roses about his sister's family mainly highlighting Aslam's name .

Rashid hesitantly asked Mustafa if he could marry his daughter to his nephew Aslam.

Mustafa Zahid just asked about the kind of work he does, to which Rashid responded that Aslam has his own jewelry shop in Karachi.

That’s all it takes for a yes from Mustafa Zahid ,he did not for once consider the distance between a small town like Jafrabad to Karachi ,he did not for once thought about his daughter who never even once crossed the boundary of their house to go even in the neighborhood and suddenly he has planned her fate in not in another city or state but in a completely different country which he himself has little knowledge about but the old hag has already played his game of fate and this time it was Mehjabin 's number and here she was sitting among the smiling and giggling faces .everyone was happy besides her ,everyone was enjoying besides her .

Mehjabin was feeling a rush of emotions and the top of it all was fear .

Fear she will not see her mother again ,Fear of going to an unknown place but not once angry at her father for throwing her like she meant nothing instead she pity him for having seven daughters ….

Her chain of thoughts was broken seeing the surprised face of Ismail bhai (her mother’s brother) .

Ismail bhai slightly knocked at the door indicating that he was here .It was the rule set by the elders "that no man can enter in the place where unmarried girls are ,if it was something important he should knock and wait for a woman to answer him "

"Aapa they want a marriage ceremony tonight " Ismail bhai said, spotting her sister in the corner. Mehjabin’s mother who was silently crying in the corner was shocked hearing the news ,quickly she got up and arranged her dupatta over her head and asked

"But how this is possible ,there are so many arrangement left to be done " She said worriedly

"No need Aapa they said that they want a simple marriage ,our Mehjabin just had to sign some papers and peacefully they will take her with them " Ismail bhai reassured his sister

"But ". .. her mother’s sentence was cut short by the sound of Mustafa clearing his throat indicating that he was here ,all the women present there pulled on their dupatta to hide their faces in respect.

"It’s ok tell them they can come "and with that being said the dictator left .

The women rushed to change into their glittering outfits ,after all no one would have thought that a simple haldi ceremony would be the big day .

Celebration doubled, but the time mother-daughter got reduced ,her mother hugged her tightly as if it was the last time but when she pulled back ,tears welled up in Mehjabin ’s eyes but she knew her daughter too well ,she would not cry in front of her mother because she knew if she cried her mother’s strong façade will break into one thousand pieces , both didn’t utter a word that day because they knew what’s there to say when the dictator gave his last sentence and also broke the nib of the pen.

Sounds of firecrackers ,drum beats were echoing in the large haveli of Mustafa Zahid.

Groom and Bride were kept in separate rooms while their destiny was written as one by some strangers .

At the time of departure a mail came

" It was written that Aslam Khan and his family should immediately return to Pakistan as their shop and house was under threat ,A riot has begun between India and Pakistan and by midnight all trains will be stopped " It seems like Mehjabin’s mother's silent prayers finally fulfilled but.... late .

Aslam asked some time alone with Mehjabin to which some elders disagreed but on pressure from the in-laws.

They gave them 10 minutes in the presence of Mehjabin’s mother.

Some shredded leaves were scattered on the rooftop and cool breeze was blowing sending shivers up spine to already scared Mehjabin, her mother had already closed the door to give them privacy despite the order of dictator .Aslam was staring up at the sky standing confidently in all his glory and Mehjabin was standing against the door holding the door knob for her dear life.

When suddenly Aslam turned and met with her alluring brown eyes ,She quickly casted her gaze downwards ,he approached her but sensing her reluctance he maintained a safe distance .

"I know it was strange for you to marry a complete stranger and trust me it was hard for me too but believe me when I say I will never ever violate your any rights or your wishes .I am not saying that I am perfect and can make life all flowers and roses for you .

It's life and it can be hard at times and will need time to settle but I will be by your side every time. " He took one glance at her and was relieved to see that she had eased her grip on the doorknob.

he continued "I may not be the ideal man you have fantasized about but I promise you that you

will never regret marrying me and maybe in future you can tell me the ideal qualities you want and I will try my best to incorporate into them ."

Noticing the unresponsive Mehjabin Aslam hesitate to ask

"You married me by your choice right ?"

What would that innocent girl be to say she has no answer for his question but for the sake of her mother ,father and most importantly her marriage she nods as yes that was enough to bring a smile on Aslam’s face but that smile soon vanished when the reality of the situation came crashing upon him .

"Mehjabin I know that I just promised I will never leave your side but some things are not safe for you there but I promise that Once everything is settled I will come and take my bride away and that day no one will object " with that being said he said his goodbyes to her mother and asked her to take care of Mehjabin until he returned ,Mehjabin’s mother took care of her promise for years but he never returned ,some say the train never reached Karachi ,some say that Aslam found a new girl there ,and some blame Mehjabin’s fate but only she knew that nobody wants to part that night ,If only she could go reverse in the time and stop this midnight partition then her life would have been something…

But destiny has a very bad habit that it never leaves its story incomplete ,same place ,same face ,different bride ,different destiny…

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