Five Hundred Bucks
by Khushboo Khilwani
It's festive season. The streets are decorated, lit up for celebrations, zealous crowds on street, loud noises, bright colors of the market area. Most women dressed in traditional dresses like burkas, shararas, salwars etc. Other women and young girls wore dresses with the heavy embroideries, colorful bangles and their hands painted with traditional henna. Men dressed in the outfit called baju melayu or baju koko which is worn together with kain samping (made out of songket) and songkok (a dark colored headgear). And then?
The visions passed on to the mosque that stood head high at the end of the street, huge crowd out there, people hugging and greeting "Eid mubarak!" Food delicacies are distributed to needy local muslims, stalls around the mosque serving free soft-drinks and food, joy and happiness on every ones face.
There suddenly was the vision of a beautiful, fair, young girl looking lost and lonely, silent and upset in the enthusiastic loud and happy crowd, dressed in casual cotton salwar and kurta, her hair tied loose, sitting outside the mosque, leaning on the wall of the mosque, in a corner.
A stranger came walking towards her who looked like a Muslim Fakir, a very thin man, looking old and wrinkled, sporting a long beard, with an unsteady walk, dressed in ragged clothes, craggy brown sandals, singing Allah's songs in a very jovial mood. He stood in front of the girl, looked very strangely at her and when the girl turned her face to look at him, he walked few steps towards her, stood in front of her, and again stared at her.
"I am hungry since past two days, I want to have some food to eat. Can you lend me 500 bucks?" He said in a loud voice to the girl.
"500 Bucks?" her eyes widened in surprise.
"Oh yah! You heard it right, lady. I said 500 bucks!"
"But, can't you see, there are so many people who are serving food to the needy, then why don't you get some from there? Then your hunger will be satisfied."
"I can't have the food that is distributed. I want 500 bucks from one person. Only then, I can have food. I have been asking many people since the past two days to lend me 500 bucks, but no one is ready. Many are ready to give me 5, 10, 20, 50 and even 100, but not 500 bucks. Please! Don't say no, I am too hungry and if I don't have food maybe I'll collapse. There will be no one to take care and look after me. Finally, I may die of hunger and you shall be responsible for it".
"Okay. Okay. Don't talk too much. Here, take this 500 bucks and leave this place", said the girl, handing the only note of 500 to him.
"Can I ask your name?" asked the man.
"No, you may not" the girl replied angrily.
"Okay. I won't... I won't", he laughed. "But, how do I thank you for 500 bucks?".
"It's okay! I don't want your thanks," said the girl, and turned her face.
"You're a very pleasant looking girl with a kind heart. I will always remember you. Just tell me your name, I have no intention of troubling you, but just want to know your name, if you don't mind?" he said.
"I'm Kusum", she answered.
"Kusum! A very nice name!" he smiled at the girl.
"Don't bother me again! Please leave me now" she said irritatingly.
"Okay. I won't I won't!" he repeated. "One last thing" he said looking at the girl.
"Go on man, I know you wouldn't give up, but this better be the last question!" said Kusum angrily.
"Yah Yah! This is just a last question to you but you need to answer it honestly", said the fakir.
"Tell me, what is your problem? Why are you upset? I will solve your problem," said the fakir.
"How can you solve my problem? Who are you? Some kind of a GOD?" asked Kusum furiously.
"No, No one can take His place. He is only ONE. You just tell me one of your wishes, I'll get it fulfilled, But be honest about it," said the fakir.
"Honestly, I want you to leave me right now. I don't know who you are and why I've been talking to you?" she shouted.
there is something good coming your way. Trust me, but let me warn you, think twice before you tell me your wish. One such wish you seriously want to get it fulfilled," said the fakir.
"Okay", said a confused Kusum.
"Don't worry girl, tell me your wish. Tell me, what you want and why are you upset?" asked the fakir.
Kusum was quiet for some time, and then looked at him hopefully. "I'm a Hindu girl; my marriage is fixed for the day after with a rich Hindu boy but I don't love the one chosen for me. I love someone else but my parents do not want me to marry the one whom I love, because he is a Muslim. I cannot go against my parents' wishes. I cannot hurt them. I have to get married to the boy they have chosen for me, but? I don't want to live my life with someone whom I don't love. Instead I would prefer to die in the arms of my beloved", said Kusum with tears in her eyes.
"I warned you to think twice before you tell the wish," reminded the fakir.
"Ok. Now tell me, what can you do about it? Nothing, isn't it? Now, I think you don't have any more questions, Mr. Stranger! She hooted.
"I've told you this will be my last question, it is dark. I think you should go home now," said the fakir. "GOD bless you! My child, GOD bless you!" He repeated and walked away, silently this time.
Kusum, very sad and dejected, walked down the street towards her home. While walking, she beseeched "Oh God! Now you tell me, what should I do?"
A small boy, riding a bicycle next to her, laughed at her. "Have you gone mad, Girl?"
"Just shut up and get lost from here! you, you donkey, monkey." She yelled at him, giving an angry look.
"You are a crazy girl"? the boy giggled.
"You little monster! Go away or I will whack you!" she said angrily.
"Don't panic! I'm just kidding" the boy laughed again.
"I don't care! Just leave, you monster!" she said again.
"Okay. Bye!" He said, riding his bicycle faster and vanished.
"Was I really furious?" She wondered. "Calm down Kusum, calm down," she said to herself.
She walked slowly, lost in her own world, with no interest at all in the celebrations and the wonderful colors of life around her. She crossed the crowded street and turned to other street, which was hardly crowded.
Since she was alone on the street, she walked in the middle of the road absent-mindedly. A Car honked behind her but she did not give him way. The driver honked again for several times but she did not bother. The driver stopped the car, came out and shouted at the girl furiously, "Are you deaf? You lazy creature, you could have been crushed under the wheels now!"
"Sorry, I'm so sorry!" said Kusum in a timid voice and walked to the left side of the street and stood there till the car drove away from there. The car went off and Kusum continued walking with tears in her eyes.
She made her way to the alley, silent and dark, just as her mood. By now, her walk got lazier and slower. Suddenly, a bike riding full speed knocked and crushed her leaving her bleeding on the floor. The biker stopped his bike and went running toward her. He lifted her up from the floor and ran to the street shouting for a taxi or an auto. An auto came and stood in front of him first.
"City hospital!", he said to the auto driver.
The driver helped him to get the girl into the auto.
The auto started and the boy looked at the girl lying on his lap.
"Kusum?" he said in a shocked voice.
"Azmat" the girl hardly managed to say.
The Boy had tears in his eyes, whereas the girl smiled at him.
"Hug me! Hug me really tight!" she demanded.
"You are going to be fine. I am sorry, I am sorry!" He cried and took her in his arms.
"Thank you Azmat. You made my wish come true. Now I have no complaints. I LOVE YOU! .......I ....LOVE .....YOU,.... Azmat!" she whispered in his ears and stopped breathing in his arms. The End