Part 1 of 2
Avinash had delivered a blockbuster novel, a teenage love story. He was the darling of the country and he was basking in the glory. Every literature festival had him as a speaker and every media in the country wanted his opinion on everything.
But that was over two years ago. However, Avinash was embroiled in the recent allegations by some colleagues, fans and other women about his improper behavior – stalking, groping, sending lewd messages, flashing, attempting rape and even rape. But now with so many women coming out in the open, it was difficult to hide. Avinash knew that proving all those allegations against him would be impossible and his image was taking a beating. Many activists groups were seeking a complete ban on him and his works. He had multi-million dollar contract for next three books. But he had not written a word since his first book. He was deep in a writer’s block. Today he was meeting his friend, mentor, guide and manager– Rehman over dinner. Rehman knew what Avinash was going through. Rehman knew not all of the allegations against Avinash were false. He had tried to warn Avinash of his actions earlier, but Avinash took his position of power for granted.
“Every writer has one great book in them, they seldom have two” smiled Rehman. Avinash gave a nervous laughter.
“But I know you still have many stories to tell”
“I don’t know Rehman, just can’t think straight. I start a few paragraphs and I lose interest. I think characters, think of plots, but nothing worthy” Avinash was candid.
“Avinash you need a break. You need to get away from all this attention and allegations and spend some time finding your writing self. I’ve booked you on a house boat in Srinagar for three months. It belongs to my friend Gulbhaijaan. He is no more but his family will host you. They will take care of everything. This change in surroundings will help and what better place than Kashmir.”
“But I have appointments and commitments…” protested Avinash
“Remember it is your writing that made you famous. Without your writing there is no fame”
“But I need to talk to Manjashree (his live-in partner for 6 years)”
“I know things are strained after those allegations but do you think Manju will say no? Don’t make excuses, just pack your things and leave, here are your flight tickets to Srinagar, three days from now” said Rehman.
Three days later Avinash was walking out of the Srinagar Airport. The whiff of freshness was already making him feel good. The cool soothing breeze was raising his spirits. He suddenly found himself taking deep breaths and filling his lungs with the freshness around him, this felt cathartic. He was convinced this trip to Kashmir was going to be a memorable one. He was received at the airport by Maajid, Gulbhaijaan’s 20 year old son. Maajid had been orphaned at a young age and had taken over the responsibility of his family at a young age.
In one hour they were at the banks of Dal Lake. From there they took a shikara to go to their house boat – Gul. The house boat had beautiful rose wood carvings and the stain glass painted doors. The floor was covered with Persian carpets and it gave a royal look to the abode. Avinash was the only occupant of the two bedroom houseboat and he could stay there for as long as he wanted.
Soon he was getting comfortable in the picturesque locales of Srinagar. The pulchritude of Kashmir was indeed inspiring and Avinash started writing again. He was provided with undivided attention from his hosts and everything he needed was only a wish away. Bed tea to breakfast to lunch to dinner or the craving for numerous mugs of coffee. It was all there. Some days he took the morning rides in the shikaras just before the sunrise to see the beautiful rising sunlight refracting on the mountain snow and slowly brightening the entire Dal lake. Some evenings he just strolled to the Mughal gardens and spent time thinking and typing in his laptop. The locals now started recognsing him as a regular and the kava vendors kept a hot cup always ready for him. The tourists insisted on a selfie and an Autograph and Avinash was more than happy to oblige. Maajid was very dutiful to Avinash and meticulously took care of all his needs. His mother Adida Bi and sister Rahima Banu worked tirelessly in the background to keep the guest content and jubiliant.
Avinash had noticed the presence of Rahima around in the houseboat often and one day enquired ‘Who is that girl Maajid?’
‘She is Rahima, my elder sister’ replied Maajid with a lot of pride.
Avinash did not see Rahima for a few days, then one morning Avinash returned early from his morning sojourn and was pleasantly surprised to see Rahima cleaning the room. Rahima too was surprised to see Avinash back so early. Avinash was stunned by her beauty. Rosy red cheeks, light eyes, golden hair, long neck. Avinash was spellbound. Her hair falling on her forehead and cheeks on one side made her look sublime. Rahima left the room in a hurry. Avinash was lost in her beauty. The next few days he remained lost and kept thinking of her. Avinash was getting impatient. He could just see her around in the house but never in close proximity. He wanted to befriend her and know her better. Soak in her beauty and make love to her. He curtailed his daily outings and often stayed in the houseboat seeking an opportunity to talk to her. Finally one evening Maajid was in the market and Rahima came to give him tea in his room. Avinash had a close look at her- the beautiful eyes, the smooth pink skin and the loose hair falling on her face was mesmerizing. Avinash got up and held her hand. Rahima was shocked. Avinash put his other hand around her waist and pulled her near. Rahima dropped the tray and let out a scream, set herself free from the hold and ran. Avinash was suddenly scared of the repercussions, but a sense of entitlement was prevailing, as usual.
That evening the wind was blowing strongly, trees swaying and the lake appeared unsettled. The night dawned quickly. The sky was covered with clouds and the night seemed darker than ever. The night was quieter than ever. There was something unusual about tonight, Avinash could not point out for sure, but a sense of uneasiness was engulfing. He had an early dinner and retired to his room. He did not write that night, he went to bed early. He was awakened by a shrill scream. Something like he had never heard before. He got up exasperated, was he dreaming? What was the noise?. The windows of his room were ajar and the wind and the rains were lashing. The panes were hitting the windows hard. He quickly got up and shut the window. The eerie calmness returned. And he heard the scream again. A shrill loud scream, enough to shatter a few glass panes. A voice of an animal in pain or may be of a woman. Like someone shrieking from the bottom of its stomach. Very loud.Very terrifying. Avinash froze, he did not know what to do? When the scream ceased, he ran to the door. He tried to slide it, but the door was locked from outside. Avinash called out for Maajid. He kept screaming calling out his name. But there was no response. Avinash did not know what to do. He lay on his bed and sometime later, he fell asleep. He did not sleep well after that. A little worried, a little scared but very angry with Maajid for locking him up inside the room. Maajid knocked at the door the next morning with the customary bed tea and biscuits. Avinash asked him angrily ‘What happened last night?’ ‘Nothing, just a stormy night’ replied Maajid obliviously ‘And the screams?’ Maajid suddenly stopped doing what he was. A moment later he feigned normalcy. Just shrugged his shoulders as if to ask what screams? ‘Why did you lock me in the room?’ Maajid now got up and began to leave. He murmured something like ‘For your own good’ and left in a hurry. Avinash kept calling him, but he neither replied nor returned. This was in a complete contrast to the attention and warmth that he had been offered so far. He was worried if his maltreatment to Rahima last evening had anything to do with this.
Babur was waiting at the banks of the river Indus. The year was 1526. Babur had travelled from Samarkand to duel the Lodhis and rule the Indian subcontinent. When Babur arrived, it was way past noon and it would soon get dark. That night Babur and his army had to find a spot near the river Indus. The river was surging with the heavy rains in the mountains and it would take a few hours or even days before they could attempt to cross the river. And importantly the army had to protect the gunpowder for their cannons, the modern lethal weapon of their attack. Babur ordered the army to camp. Babur could see smoke in a distant village and ordered his men to go and buy as many animals and vegetables for the army. He had strictly ordered against plunder and pillage. He did not want any untoward incident on his journey and retain the surprise element in his attack on Ibrahim Lodhi. Sha Aniv was an Afghan war lord, and cupidity had drawn him to join Babur. He was promised a part of the loot from Ibrahim Lodhi for his strong 300 cavalry and horses. Sha Aniv and his men reached the village and started gathering all the goats, sheep, fowls and ducks they could see. The villagers were terrified and gathered along with the headman, around Sha Aniv. Sha Aniv assured them of a return for their animals but the sale was against the wishes of the villagers. Behind the headman Sha Aniv could see two beautiful blue eyes peering. Amirah, the headman’s young daughter was peeping at the proceedings from there. Her beautiful long neck and smooth attractive skin was irresistible for Sha Aniv. Sha Aniv could not take her eyes off Amirah. The headman knew what was coming, he tried to obscure Amirah from his disgusting gaze. Sha Aniv slowly moved towards the headman and pulled Amirah out from behind headman. The headman tried to resist, but Sha Aniv grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and pushed him away. Sha Aniv was tall but looked towering adjacent to the petite woman. His men fell silent. Sha Aniv looked deep in to Amirah’s eyes. Amirah stood there shivering in his strangle. The men in the village reached for their arms, they wouldn’t let a woman’s honor be violated. Sha Aniv’s men got off their horses, pulled out their swords and spears. The ambience was fret with fear. The aura of the place was becoming frightening and silence was gripping the place. The only sound was the grounding of the pebbles under the big feet of Sha Aniv as he walked with Amirah in his grasp. All Sha Aniv’s men gathered around the villagers with their swords and spades pointing at them daring them to take a step forward. In the meantime Amirah pulled out a dragger with her free hand and attacked Sha Aniv. Sha Aniv just held her hand mid-air and twisted the dragger out of her grip. Sha Aniv was infuriated, he did not expect a village lass to be so agile and fiesty. In his next twirl he unarmed her and twisted her right hand behind her back. She stood there scuffling, trying to free herself from the grip. But with her every attempt, Sha Aniv kept twisting her hand harder. Untill she surrendered and stood there still. Sha Aniv brought her closer and smelled her hair and neck. He moved his dirty stinking tongue on Amirah’s long slender neck. He bit Amirah’s earlobe. Amirah screamed less from the pain and more in disgust. She felt a stream of warm blood trickling down her neck. Her ear was bleeding. Sha Aniv pulled a pouch of gold coins from his vest and threw it towards the villagers. His men started to back off slowly. Sha Aniv pulled Amirah along with him. Amirah panicked. She realized Sha Aniv was taking her along. The villagers were agitated. They tried to scuffle with the barbarians but they knew they were no match. Sha Aniv mounted a fighting Amirah on his horse and galloped towards the camp. His men mounted the horse one after the other, gathered all the animals and started towards the camp.
Sha Aniv tied Amirah to a pole in his tent. Amirah kept crying and screaming. Sha Aniv first removed his clothes and then tore hers. She was the most beautiful woman Sha Aniv had seen in some time. He pulled her hair and started biting her – cheeks, neck, breasts, midriff, back. He kept beating and slapping her. He then raped her. Amirah was now in a semiconscious state. After midnight Sha Aniv threw Amirah out of his tent. It was now the turn of his men to rape her. She had stopped feeling any pain. Her private parts were bleeding and her body had turned blue with the beating and the biting. There were teeth marks around her neck and breasts. Her areola was ridden with teeth marks and had turned black. As morning was approaching his men picked up Amirah and took her to the banks of Indus and threw her in the raging river.
End of Part 1
The second and the concluding part of this story will be published on 15.12.2019
Disclaimer: All events and characters in this story are fictitious.