Although he was doused thoroughly in water, Thomas walked in the rain without any urgency. He looked back for a moment and saw the police station completely obscured by the haze formed by the rainfall. He was more into the dilemma of facing his wife after reaching home than anything else. The longer he took to reach his home, he thought, the longer he could keep the bad news away from his wife. He ignored many passers by who were gaping at him as if he was a man out of his sorts walking unprotected in the heavy rain. Nothing mattered to him at that point of time. He respired like a tired dog and wiped the water flowing on his face occasionally.
“Love”, he thought, was blind. As the saying goes- Love doesn’t seem to have color, creed, caste or religion. It perhaps, is divine and enchanting or else why would young people leave their fathers and mothers, who had brought them up with affection and care for years together for their lovers? They leave their sweet home and their loved ones for lovers whom they had known only for a few years or even a few months time.
His daughter eloped with her classmate, a couple of days ago and left a note on her table that read,
“Dear Papa & Mommy,
I’m going to live with Shahabaz. I’ll die if I cannot live with him. Please don’t bother to locate us. Sorry.
Those four lines bidding adieu to the people who gave her the luxury of care and compassion for 20 odd years stared at them like demons! Thomas and his wife had already known that their daughter was in love, but never deliberated an elopement. The love affairs blossoming amidst the college lives were not an alien thing to Thomas and Mary; for, they themselves had married after enjoying a good 3 years of love life during their college. Despite their success story, they resisted their daughter’s affair only because their daughter’s boy friend was a Muslim and they thought, as orthodox Christians they had the religious compulsions holding their way. Even if they themselves had stretched a bit and overlooked the religion factor, the church wouldn’t have listened either nor would the society they were living. Thomas had, in advance let his daughter Ann understand that the kind of dilemma they could face would be enormous if she married a person from another religion without the concord of the Church or their relatives. However, Ann, perhaps of her youthful exuberance or perhaps of her lack of understanding of practical things in life, was adamant on her decision to marry Shahbaz. The resistance from Thomas and wife increased steadily and fearing an impediment, the girl might have decided to elope with her lover. What Thomas and Mary could do was to leave everything to destiny and to pray God for their daughter’s return.
Police too were helpless. They too had justifications kept ready when Thomas followed up with them. Like some of our rulers they made it clear that they don’t have a magic wand and in due course of time, if they were lucky enough would trace the couple. Thomas left the police station unconvincingly and without hope, and walked all through the rains dousing himself. He had no where to go, but his home.
When he opened the gate of his house, he stood staring at the front door, and worried about the words that would convince his wife. He wanted to hide his dilemma and console his wife of her misery. However he broke down when he saw his wife’s frail face. Since then tears soaked their days and night and their daughter’s whereabouts remained undiscovered.
Autumn had gone, summer arrived with fervor. The atmosphere slowly recovered from the sodden remains of autumn. Thomas and Mary learned, in the meantime, to muddle through with the mishap and stopped expecting Ann back home. One sultry morning, Thomas heard a knock at the door and wondered who was behind it. From the time when his daughter had left home, relatives and friends took care to stay away from their vicinity and hence he expected a beggar or a door-to-door salesman when he opened the door. He had his foot in his mouth when he saw the person in front of him! It was his daughter pale and fragile, looking at him with her tired eyes. Her eyes were not just giving a fatigue look but were moving incessantly all over the place with fear. She ran inside as if in delirium pushing her father aside.
She turned to her father and said in an urgent and a fearful tone,” Papa, close the door”
Thomas out of unexpected joy mixed with astonishment stood staring at his daughter with partly opened mouth. He quivered and started weeping, the tears of joy flowing copiously through his cheeks. Ann ran towards the door and banged it to close and came back to her father and hugged him; even at that moment her face lacked any soft emotions except fear.
“Sorry Papa… Don’t cry Papa I’m back… I’m back because I’m lucky”, her voice still emanated fear.
Mary woke up in the bedroom listening to her daughter’s voice. She believed it was a dream and lay still. But soon a cold palm touched her cheeks and Mary saw the impossible- Ann sitting beside her in the bed with an insipid face. Mary leapt from the bed and embraced Ann.
“I’m back mom… I’m back… he didn’t want me or a life with me….”
Ann started to weep. Mary stared at her in dismay.
“He wanted something else… not money … not my body…”
Thomas and Mary looked at their daughter dumbstruck.
Thomas lost his patience,” What did he want from you?”
Ann got up and walked towards the window looking at the blue sky and said in hushed tone,” I was a victim of an act called Love Jihad…”
“A what?” Thomas asked in awe.
She didn’t respond to her father’s question and instead continued where she had stopped, “There are many girls like me fallen into this trap…”
She could see the nimbostratus in the sky looking like the remnants of a bygone autumn. She was certain that even that would vanish from the sky once summer hardens. The sun was shining again in her life.