A Coffin For Two :
The smell of incense was abundant in the air . Unni whiffed the sandalwood-scented air and looked around . He liked that smell. It bought back memories from his vacations at his father’s home.
At the village, he was expected to wake up early and take a dip in the temple pond before sunrise. A soft male voice could be heard from the temple speakers facing the pond. His grandfather had explained that the rendition was verses from Ramayana. It was meant to bring good luck and hearing it as one cleaned themselves was considered auspicious for a good day.
After the bath, he would go to the shrine with his grandfather and the priest would give him a piece of banana leaf loaded with flowers, leaves, petals, and sandalwood paste. His grandfather would take a small amount of the paste, make a ball out of it, take it towards his nose, smell it and then go ahead to make a vertical marking on Unnis forehead with it. The paste would be cold but smelled divine. Then they would walk towards the workhouse for the Naivedyam ( A Coffin For Two ) .
“Unni, evedey varu!” Someone called him and he was herded back to the present. The air did smell of sandalwood and someone was indeed reading the Ramayana. However, this was their home in Delhi and not the temple back at his ancestral home. His grandfather was here too, but for some reason, he was sitting in a corner. He had arrived yesterday and had hugged Unni before going to that corner. Since then, he had not uttered a word and just sat there, still as a stone. He heard a wail from the bedroom and knew it was from his mother. She had been crying since yesterday morning. He had tried to console her but she had cried harder. His cousins were here too but he could not play with them. His aunt had scolded him when he had asked them to play. Strange indeed (A Coffin For Two) .
All of sudden, six soldiers walked in simultaneously carrying a huge box. It was draped with a huge Indian flag. “Wow,” Unni thought to himself. He liked the sight of that flag . This year on August 15, he would carry that flag to his school. All his friends will be jealous. He will be the only second grader in the entire school with such a huge flag (A Coffin For Two ) .
At the peak of summer, the Gupis Valley in Pakistan created a breathtaking view. Moreover, Aslam knew God had made this land. He had a home at the shores of Khalti Lake with its blue water, tout fish, and mountains with lush green trees. The sight could almost make one cry with joy. Aslam loved this place.
During the summer, he would go to the lake for fishing with his Abbu and during winter he and his friends would play football on the frozen lake with white snow-capped mountains in the background. There was not a day in his life where he did not thank the almighty for allowing him to be born here. Except for today. Today he wanted to run away from this place. He wanted to let go of everything and run, run away from this pain and suffering, run away to a place where he would not feel anything…feel anything ( A Coffin For Two ) .
The smell of camphor was subsequently abundant in the air. Simultaneously, They had started the ritual bath for his father. He couldn’t go in. They had told that a son should not see the bullet-ridden body of his father. Since he was only 14, this sight would give him nightmares and they did not want that for him. “You can see your father’s face in the end,” they had told. He hated them; he hated them all for saying that ( A Coffin For Two )
Why are they keeping father on the banana leaf? It is such a huge leaf! Why have they placed cotton in his nose? Why are they making me walk around him? The smoke from those burning coconuts is so bad, it will make fathers eye sting like mine. These thoughts ran around Unni’s mind. The elders made him walk around his father thrice and then they asked him to pour water from a small vessel into his father’s mouth. He had to do it thrice. It was strange that his mother was crying all the while. Maybe he was doing it the wrong way? Is that is why mother was crying? Was she disappointed in him? He looked towards his grandfather to confirm his theory, but his grandfather sat at the same corner.
All of them stood in front of the white-lined body. An elderly person recited a prayer for the Namaz. Aslam stood behind him. He couldn’t take his eyes from his Abbus body. As the Namaz ended, his uncle spoke about his father. He had been his father’s friend since childhood.
He spoke about their childhood, the trouble they had caused, their recruitment to the Pakistan army, them becoming a part of the same family-becoming brother-in-law’s, and about all the moments they shared together. They had been his best friend and he was proud to have him as his brother-in-law and he wished he were still alive, with them sharing their happiness and sorrow. The women in the home were reciting Quran. Once this was done, the men picked up his Abbus body and they walked towards the mosque. They stopped thrice in between. These stops were meant to prepare the soul for its heavenly journey. In the burial ground, they placed the body inside a six feet hole. They placed sticks in its sides and then an elder recited the Quran.
All of this was meant to bring good luck to the soul, they said. Additionally, Aslam wished he had some good luck, good luck to be somewhere else. He wished Allah had taken him instead of his Abbu. That way he would not have had to suffer through this pain and his Abbu would still be alive. “Allah, give me a chance. Take my life and bring abbu back! Please!”
Why have they placed father on a pile of wood? Do not cover him like that! How will he breathe? They made me take a shower and did not allow me to dry myself. How rude! They are breaking this pot of water and are asking me to walk around him. Wow, fire! We are approaching father with it? Why is grandfather trembling? Wait! The heat will hurt father! Is it a magic trick? Why isn’t father coming out? Father please come out!
FATHER PLEASE COME OUT!
Good evening, welcome to prime time news, sponsored by AGT TMT’s, co-sponsored by Ragno paints. Today’s breaking news. Indian soldiers clash with the Pakistan army in the LOC. 12 soldiers were martyred while six members are missing in action. Around 20 Pakistani soldiers are believed to be dead in the clash.
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