Theme for Jan 09, 2015 'WOW' : ‘A Foe Turned Friend’ 'Write down your memories, stories, wishes and anything else you can think of about the theme ‘A Foe Turned Friend‘ ’
Nazma continued working on the flames with the coals. She kept poking at them, with a long bamboo stick and tried pouring some ghee too. Ghee always worked like magic in igniting and giving a good flame, but today, the damp coals just wouldn't burn. She tried coaxing them with twigs and pieces of paper too, but the stubborn coals weren't impressed. As though on a moody-reverie of its own, the flame was too weak and she had a whole meal to cook, before they returned. Well, the thought of it made her more angry. Infact, much unlike those stupid coals that simply wouldn't burn, since past few weeks she had been fuming from within. Well, which woman wouldn't be, if their shohar ( husband ) gives the news that he'll bring a new begum ( wife ) in the house soon. Nazma was heartbroken with the news. But protest she couldn't. Their religion accepted not one, but up to four nikaahs ( marriage ) for a man. The society too didn't have anything against it. Infact, the last few weeks, celebrations were in full swing for the upcoming nikaah ceremony. And from a corner of the house, Nazma watched everything in silence, bottling up her pain and her tears. Well, she could do nothing about it. She better accept what her fate had in store, especially, when her two sons were growing up too. Financially dependent as they all were, on the man of the house.
The January chills did nothing for the damp coals, and frustratedly Nazma put a big utensil over the bricks-chulha ( clay-stove ), that had the marinated Dum-Biriyani preparation inside. The food would be for the entire family, so she better hurry, she thought. What an irony her life had become. Her shohar was bringing home a new begum, and here, she was preparing food to welcome them. She thought about the new woman with whom she'd have to share her husband. A feeling of disgust instantly came upon her. Hatred, jealousy had creeped into her heart and though she was a pleasant woman, she could feel nothing good for the new woman. She was her foe, Nazma thought angrily and started poking at the coals again. Allah help her go through all this, she prayed.
Nazma woke the next morning to a terrible headache. Whole night, she lay helplessly in her bed - twisting and turning restless at what was going on in the master bedroom. It was her room till just a few days back, but since the nikaah earlier that day, this room would be occupied by her souten ( husband's 2nd wife ). So, she had to shift to the other much smaller room, near the courtyard. Everyone had relished the delicious biriyani she had cooked, slogging at the stove whole morning, and it was then she had got the first glimpse of Zeba ( her souten ). The girl was young and very pretty too, Nazma had thought; jealousy seeping into her soul, as she rushed to the mirror to see her own graying hair and aging skin. She had lost her shohar, while still being married - her heart gnawed painfully. And night was a torture, knowing her husband was celebrating his suhag-raat with his new wife in the other room. Oh! How much she hated that other woman. As the birds began chirping, thousand hammers banged at her head, making it throb painfully. Nazma tried to ease it with her fingers, but to no avail. She tried getting up from bed, but felt weak and fatigued with all that stress and frustrations. A knock then distracted her.
Thinking it must be one of her boys, she said, "Come in." She had to prepare food for them. Ah! But if only she could get rid of this piercing pain somehow, she thought helplessly. To her surprise, as the door opened not her son, but Zeba entered instead, holding a cup in her hand. Seeing her, hatred began filling every core of Nazma's body. Why had this darned woman dared to come into her room. Well, she had already taken her husband and the main bedroom; did she now want to drive her away from this room as well? Hundreds of disturbing thoughts started buzzing Nazma's mind, multiplying the pain she was already in, by several folds. As though hearing her thoughts, Zeba spoke softly, "I've brought Adrak-Chai ( ginger-tea ) for you. Have it, you'll feel good. I can massage your head too, if you want." She sat on the edge of the bed, holding out the cup for Nazma to accept. "Please have it," she said again.
Hmph! Being the sole reason for her headache, now she wants to serve tea and massage her head too! Nazma thought irritatedly and tried refusing both, by shaking her head with a snort. She didn't want to see this woman anywhere near her. She tried getting up, but didn't have the energy and fell back again, in the bed, with a groan. "You aren't well," Zeba spoke again, "I know, I must be the reason for it some way, as no woman can tolerate her husband marrying another woman, but its not my fault. My father owed your husband a large sum of money, but couldn't repay it; and when your husband suggested this alliance, we had very little choice. We are a poor family."
As the girl spoke with such sincerity, Nazma's anger subsided on its own. She was never a bad tempered person anyways. "Please don't think of me as an enemy." Zeba continued, with her doe-eyed innocence, "You are like my elder sister, and I'll always care for your happiness first." Nazma didn't know what to say to her. Seeing her hesitant, Zeba got up, placed the tea-cup on the bed-table and went behind Nazma's bed. She slowly began stroking Nazma's forehead with her fingers lightly and said, "Just have the tea and relax, you'll feel better in an instant. I used to give massages to my Abba ( father ) and Amma ( mother ) too. And now that I have you as an elder sister, taking care of you becomes my duty too." As her fingers gently pressed her stressed nerves, Nazma slowly relaxed in her bed. She needed this comfort, it felt good. She didn't hate this young woman anymore. Afterall, how could she? She was so soft-spoken, gentle and brought her the morning tea and was giving her a lovely head-massage too - and that was already relaxing her nerves! With a long life that lay ahead, Nazma became certain of one thing - this girl could not be her enemy. The events that happened, wasn't her fault. Nazma stretched her hands and closed them over Zeba's; a foe turned friend that morning! Re-assured, with a smile, she then took the cup to her lips.
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