Fatima had lost her husband and younger daughter in an accident twenty years back. Her only hope for survival and her reason to be alive ever since was her elder daughter Salima who was now twenty four.
It was a beautiful evening and the twelfth house of the Mulla Basti in Loni Town of Meerut District was shining bright on the auspicious occasion of Salima’s Engagement with Hadid Khan. Salima was a graduate and taught Math in the Madrassa on the out skirts of Mulla Basti and Hadid was the son of a leather exporter and was a MBA from Germany.
Fatima’s happiness was apparent in her eyes and the to-die for smile. These twenty years had not been easy for her. From being teased and at times molested by fellow men who eyed this beautiful widow with the absurdness of the society they had been brought up in, to running her husband’s tailor shop to saving Salima from the same men when she entered her teenage, Fatima had lived through it all.
Overwhelmed Fatima raised her eyes to thank the one in the clouds for having always shown her way out from the worst times of life.
The Engagement Ceremony went on beautifully. Fatima could observe confusion dancing on Salima’s face and thought it to be obvious. The two of them had walked hand in hand like soul mates for twenty years and now leaving her mother right when Fatima was entering in to the challenging age wasn’t easily acceptable for Salima.
Salima and Hadid were to get married on the eve of Eid on 9th August. The day arrived rushing like flood and Salima looked beautiful in the Magenta Shrara her Ammi had designed and tailored exclusively for her.
Maulvi saab started with seeking Hadid’s consent.
Before Hadid could say “Qubool Hai” a force of police men assisted with female constables entered and ordered to stop the ceremony. The sudden hindrance shocked everyone except for Salima.
“I will have to arrest Salima on charges of Shaukat Ali’s murder.” S.I Siddiqui quoted without explaining much.”
“But what has my daughter done?” Fatima was furious.
“I have evidences and an arrest warrant.” Siddqui said inexplicably.
Salima quietly raised her arm to be cuffed and left without a word of explanation or drama.
World had ended for Fatima once again. She could lose no more and decided to dig it all to the root. Hadid’s family had left without extending help. She couldn’t believe the kind of soul mate she had chosen for her daughter.
But this wasn’t important anyway at the moment as all Fatima wanted to do was save Salima from the misery. She was clueless of how was she going to do it but she headed for the Police Station and decided to speak to “Advocate Neetu Singh” on the way.
Fatima had once helped Neetu in a rainy night when she had nowhere to go and had been abandoned while she was just a few days away from stepping in to mother hood. Fatima had not just given her the shelter and medical aid to bring her child to life but had also helped her to start her practice as an advocate. Neetu had always addressed Fatima as Amma since then.
Neetu went through the evidences while Salima embraced her child. Salima’s Scarf in Shaukat’s hands, and her finger prints on the weapon of murder were enough to frame a case and arrest her.
Neetu took necessary points and went to have a chat with Salima.
“How are you Salima?”
“Allah’s Grace Apa” Salima was calm and smiling like ever.
Neetu was surprised to see Salima without a wrinkle of regret. As if she had done it and was ok with the fact.
“Salima, a few things I wanted to speak to you about -
You have been accused of Shaukat Ali’s Murder. I am sure you realize what a powerful man he was with all those political contacts.”
“Salima, Shaukat always addressed you as Apa. You were like his sister. So what provoked you to the murder? Did he offend the relation? I am sorry but did he…?”
“No No Apa no. He always regarded what he said.”
“So what went wrong Salima?”
Both Neetu and Fatima were desperate.
“Apa, Ammi I know I am disappointing you but truth is what the evidences say and truth is what you already know. Shaukat Ali should have been killed and I do not regret killing him I have nothing else to tell you. I knew this was coming and do not regret a thing!”
Fatima Slapped her.
“No Regrets !! You are all I have. You will regret when I will die alone while you will burn your sins in the jail”
Fatima was dissipated and left.
Hearing to the case started a month later. Fighting the case on behalf of deceased Shaukat ali was Advocate Narayan who was very close to their family. Also present in the court was Shaukat’s elder brother Rahees Ali, a renowned business man and political leader.
His brother was assassinated and he was not to leave a stone unturned. Known often for the kindness he bestowed on the poor people of his region, he had driven a lot of media attention over years and so did this case get all the attention it ought to fetch.
The proceedings went on without reaching anywhere for a few hearings. With a Muslim murdered by another Muslim and a strong political Mullah involved with two Hindu advocates fighting this case against each other and media giving it the attention it least deserved the whole country seemed involved in it.
Politically too someone’s loss was becoming many people’s gain.
Amidst the turmoil was lost unseen a mother broken shattered and left all alone. After several failed arguments CBI looked like the only hope for the case both for the prosecution and the defense.
Case was handed over to the team of Abhishek Vohra, a 28 year old 2009 batch passed out with a hundred percent track record. Extremely heroic in his looks Abhishek Vohra had the ability to give any actor a run for money. But he was a police officer by choice.
Abhishek had solved many cases involving women but never in his life had he seen the epitome of beauty with the like of Salima. Spot less fair skin, blue crystal clear honest eyes. She appeared to be like a goddess.
“A qualified teacher, simple and respectable spoiling hands with blood without a reason makes no sense to me. I got to know he treated you like his real sister.” Abhishek had never spoken to a culprit so decently before, as he did to Salima.
“I have already confessed everything officer. Why can’t this case be closed? I am ready to bear the verdict.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Salima’s voice was soft and sweet. Abhishek couldn’t believe himself. She who deserved bliss laid here in the dark room destined to be a culprit. What could have been so fierce to compel an exquisite woman like her to murder, wondered Vohra.
“Motive of crime and lack of sufficient proofs, until both the conditions are fulfilled, the case cannot close.”
There was silence. Pin drop Silence. Abhishek should have left. The discussion with the criminal was over. But, he couldn’t get his eyes off Salima. He had never felt the same before. He couldn’t keep himself from walking up to her and cup her pretty face in his strong hands to wipe those beautiful eyes. For a few seconds there was no world around them unless Abhishek realized he went too far and pushed off, embarrassed and shocked.
His hands were warm soothing and angelic. Salima as if had lived the whole life in those hands for those few seconds. Life had never been so peaceful as it was in those seconds.
She was one of the most beautiful creations of God. Abhishek wanted to touch her, feel her again. Turn those few seconds to forever. Her voice was so soothing and calm.
Was he infatuated to a murderer?
How could that be?
What could have been so strong a reason for murder??
It was a long night for both of them.
Next day he entered the cell for interrogation. None of them could say a word. He could keep it no more and pressed his lips against her. Surprisingly Salima didn’t resist and responded beautifully as if they had loved each other for years. But that wasn’t true. They hardly knew each other. He took Salima in his arms. He wanted to kiss her, hold her through the night and feel her curves. Passion took over them. They both so much wanted to concede to this feeling that hadn’t left them since they met 24 hours ago. It felt like an age. After a lot of effort Abhishek slowly parted from her without looking into her eyes and left.
It wasn’t love at first sight. It couldn’t be.
He came out of the cell. Hated himself for what he did, for not having been able to hold himself. While his team was still waiting for a meeting he had called for, before going to meet Salima, he left the station without a word. He drove straight to Neetu’s chamber to collect more information. He wanted to save Salima.
“I went through the complete location and this is all I have officer.
Salima didn’t speak to anyone, about anything, not even her Ammi. Her peers never saw her upset over anything unless her best friend Reema who was though a hindu but taught English in Madrassa stopped coming. Post that day Salima had remained sad.” Informed Neetu.
“Why did Reema leave and Reema an English teacher in Madrassa. Doesn’t that take us back to the last year case of rape and conversion of a teacher named Reema in a Madrassa.
You remember the case was hushed because of political pressure??” Abhishek Enquired.
Neetu had already contemplated the same and nodded in agreement. Abhishek’s next move was to meet Reema. Reema’s mother told Abhishek that Reema had killed herself following depression.
“I am sorry. But when did she ..”
“Soon after the case closed. She felt cheated.” Completed Reema’s mother.
The case still stood as clueless. The questions were intact.
Motive of Salima’s crime?
If she wanted to avenge Reema, then why after an year? Had she waited for a year to plan, then proofs against her won’t have been so apparent??This wasn’t surely a planned murder.
Abhishek was sure that the answer lied in the Madrassa. He knew there was something he had missed. Something no one was paying attention to. Salima had already denied Shaukat having ever harmed her.
A few days later Neetu managed to get a Parole for Salima on account of her mother’s ill health. Salima had just one week and from the third day itself Fatima had started recovering.
It was eight in the night on the last day of parole. She dared to go to the constable appointed to keep a check on her.
“I want to confess something to Abhishek Vohra. Can I meet him?”
The constable agreed and she was taken to his Quarter in the Police Colony where Abhishek lived alone.
Abhishek could feel Salima’s beauty all over him. She outshone bright out of the Black veil she wore. Rain had drenched her. Abhishek asked the constable to leave.
“You wanted to tell me something” Abhishek was hesitant.
Salima Denied and looked in to his eyes.
Abhishek from the intuition of a man in love knew it wasn’t the case she was here for. He dared and sat beside her. He knew how much they wanted to finish what had started in the cell. In no time they were kissing again. Their lips locked and bodies shaking. Abhishek removed her veil and then slowly the suit she wore.
First time ever had a man touched Salima so deep. They Wished the rain never stopped. It was November and two days were left to the final hearing. This time was crucial. Neetu was too busy studying and preparing, that it took her some time to realize that Raees Ali sat there in front of her.
“What do you want?”
She was exceptionally rude but Raees kept his calm.
“I don’t know what the verdict will be but tomorrow we will talk. About what happened five years back. I know if I speak today I might sound insecure and case might sound like a reason. But I need to know. Why did you have to abort our child? Why couldn’t you wait for two more days and left on such a note. We loved each other. We were married. Ammi told me you aborted the child and that you hated me and regretted marrying a musalman”
“When your ammi told you everything why are you here?” Neetu couldn’t believe what she heard.
“I never believed Ammi. I want to know the truth Neetu and if this is the truth, I want to hear it all from you.”
“After five years, Raees Ali?
Five years you didn’t bother to know about your child, about me. You believed what your ammi said?
After years now you come to me enquiring?”
Neetu had pain in her eyes and Raees could read it.
Raees didn’t want to explain. He knew something was wrong something he needed to know about and this was not the right time. He left as silently as he had entered. Neetu tried to focus on the case and with great difficulty managed to complete her notes.
Abhishek on the other hand was inspecting the Madrassa again and again. Was speaking to whoever he could and was tearing every element possible. He did this for almost two hours without anything positive and sat for a tea at the khoka near the wall framing the madrassa. He was clueless and lost.
His attention was driven by the old mullah ji wearing a white cap serving tea.
“Only Allah knows what is wrong with this institution. Ali Sahab served his community for almost twenty years. He must be cursing that bitch who killed his son. In fact past one year has been ominous for this place. First, that obscene Reema, then media then tabassum and now Salima. Reema was a Hindu, but Salima she was a musalman? Khuda ki maar padegi uspe dekhna.”
“Tabassum?” Abhishek raised his brow.
“Miyan there was this woman called Tasleena who worked here as a cleaner. She died of a disease, such a kind woman she was. Shaukat miyan gave her 10 year old daughter a job so that she could feed her younger brothers and sisters. But she is missing from the night of the murder and took with her so many things from the madrassa that were expensive and would fetch her money good enough for rest of her life. Pathetic this world is. And see she was just ten and still was clever enough to steal.”
Abhishek’s sixth sense had started tickling him by now.
It was 18th November and eve of Eid again. Fatima entered the court followed by Neetu to find Rahees sitting impatient on his seat. Advocate Nayar smirked.
Salima was still silent and had accepted her fate. The only pain she had was of the consequences her mother might have to face after this.
The person missing from the court was Abhishek Vohra.
Five minutes had passed to the courts proceedings when Abhishek entered. Neetu without telling Salima had already put a special request to the court to present Tabassum the ten year old little girl for her statement in court in the supervision of a Child Psychiatrist Dr. Gupta. Salima was shocked to death, fear entered her eyes.
That was indeed the last thing Salima expected. She never knew anyone would ever know about Tabassum. She wanted to keep her out of it all. Tabassum’s narration to the incidence was read in the court.
“It had been two months that I had joined at my ammi’s place in the madrassa. One day when I was working in the kitchen meant for staff, a strong hand came and held me from back. I was taken aback. It was Shaukat Bhai Jan. He started kissing me unusually. I felt unpleasant. He removed my frock. I pleaded to him to let me go but he unheard it when suddenly Salima Apa entered. She suddenly snatched me from Shuakat Bhai jan. Shaukat Bhai jan slapped her. He told her to stay out of the matter. When Apa saw Bhai Jan was crossing his limits she took the knife kept on the shelf and slashed Shaukat Bhai’s throat. She then dressed me, went out of the room and got some expensive antiques in a bag saying I must leave this city immediately with my family and sell these whenever I need money. She told me never to speak about it to anyone and that I should take care of my siblings. Salima Apa helped me. Shaukat Bhai jan was not a good person. He used to touch me and even compliment me that I will grow up beautifully.”