Series 5 Finding salvation Part 2 ‘The bloody bride’

He's a Muslim, they'll kill him. They'll rip him apart! I've given up my next life to keep you safe. I cannot save him

Fatima Raza August 07, 2016
Read part one of the Finding Salvation series here.

He could hear footsteps. It sounded as if someone was approaching but at a snail’s pace. This gave time for his heart to slow down. He stood hidden partly behind an old pillar. The silhouette came to light, whatever dim light was on at that time, and an old man came into view.

Dragging his slight self by a cane, he slowly thudded his way towards a bench. Saleem saw him sit down on the bench, completely oblivious to his presence. The man took something out of his pocket. Trying to focus on the object, Saleem edged closer to the bench to keep out of the old man’s sight. He did not have to tiptoe though; the man was engrossed in thought. Saleem thought of going up to him and saying something.
“Should I? Well I have to pass some time but more importantly, ask him what in God’s name is he doing here at this hour? And at this age?”

Saleem cleared his throat. The man looked up from his watch. Alarmed, he asked Saleem who he was and what was he doing there. Having told him the reason for his presence, Saleem asked him,
“Sir, may I ask that what you are doing here in this weather and this hour?” The old man replied,

“The weather has never bothered me and the hour…Well I have arrived right on time. Although your presence here might be a problem. Why don’t you go to the back and stay out of sight. This is a very important meeting for me and if someone senses your presence, I will not be responsible for the consequences.”

Saleem opened his mouth to ask the million questions that had popped into his head but the sound of a train interrupted him.

The old man stood up suddenly as if he was electrified.
“Quick! Hide, hide!” he said to Saleem in hushed tones.

Saleem sprinted into action and quickly got out of sight, lurking in the shadows behind a pillar.
“Why am I listening to this man?” he wondered but then a train approached and Saleem forgot what he was thinking.

The sight that met his eyes was unlike any that he had ever seen before.

The awaited train finally chugged its way into the tracks. It was ancient. It seemed empty yet there was a distinct buzz of conversation coming from it. Saleem spotted someone walking inside the train; he could see a dim silhouette through the window. The old man had reached the door; he held a hand up towards the train, and assisted the person down the platform. As the person disembarked, Saleem noticed it was a young woman.

As she walked into the light, hand in hand with the old man, he was stunned by the sight of blood on her face. There was a gaping hole in her right cheek. He winced at the sight of open flesh and bone of her face. She seemed to be in complete harmony with her face, as did the old man. Saleem took a few steps towards them to have a closer look. They stood there, hands entwined, eyes locked, gazing lovingly at each other. There were faint murmurings as if they were talking in hushed tones but their lips remained still. Saleem walked closer still, bewitched at the sight before him. He didn’t see the trash can right ahead until he crashed into it. The sound startled them. The girl’s gaze fell upon Saleem and she gasped.

Looking at the old man with horror she said,
“Amjad! Who is he? What is he doing here? They could be here any minute now.”

“He is nobody. He will stay out of sight. I warned him.”

The man reassured her and gestured at Saleem to go back to his hiding place.
“Have you lost your mind? He is a Muslim! They will kill him. They will rip him apart! I have given up my next life in exchange to keep you safe from their wrath. I cannot save him,” the girl said frantically.

“I cannot let this ruin my time with you. I wait for this day all year long. I have waited all my life. Forget about him and come with me. Sit and talk to me,” the old man tried to soothe her. He took her by the arm and moved her away.

Saleem finally broke his silent vigil.
“Woo Woo…Uncle! Wait! Hey lady….what do you mean I will die and who did you say was coming? And why does it matter if I am a Muslim?”

It was then that Saleem noticed her attire. She was wrapped in a faded yellow sari. Laden with jewelry, she had long hair tied in a braid with flowers woven in her hair. She was a bride. Well, an old trampled one. The flowers in her hair were rotten and her bangles, broken. Adding the open wound in her face, she could have been hideous but there was something about her eyes that made her serenely beautiful. She sat down on the bench, looked at Saleem, and started explaining.

Stay tuned for the third part of the series Find Salvation.
Fatima Raza

The writer is a Research Associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, and holds an MPhil in International Relations 

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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