Akshara stared at the blank page. The only line that came to him was “Laila came home in a coffin”
Somehow the name Laila in a coffin made him uncomfortable, probably his first crush was on Laila Syed at school and Laila could be the person who inspired the line, “and the child that is born on the sabbath day is fair and wise and good and gay.” She was definitely the toast of the school. the most obvious thing was to alter the name… he thought ‘Fatima came come in a coffin” was good, but again Fatima Miriam Khan was his next crush so that was a no… no… too. So, for now he decided he would go with … but the questions were many like
First why a coffin? The options were three either she was a catholic or a Muslim or she lived abroad. Now Laila was Muslim, Fatima catholic but who was the mysterious woman who came in the coffin? Why call herself Laila when Laila was live kicking and enjoying a great evening with granddaughters. He somehow still could replace Laila with Fatima. So, it was still …. And why coffin… well maybe she died abroad. For the moment however Akshara decided to focus on the coffin the design the wood or material maybe by the time he opened the coffin he would know who was this Laila and Why was she in dead.
Wait a minute there seemed to be some tapping coming from the coffin did that mean Laila was not dead… and when he opened the casket she would step out or was she dead and her spirit was trying to tell him something…the table began to rock too. It took the toppling of the water bottle for Akshara to realize that he was drumming the table with his pen while the table rocked with his leg shaking.
‘Whew now what… at least I got out that one’ breathe Akshara easy. Though the breathing was easy he was uneasy.
“Sagar, I have a sentence can you complete it?’ he asked his nephew calling him up;
‘Sure, go ahead’
‘Laila came home in a coffin”
‘What… oh! Yes, with all this religious intolerance how about Laila the good catholic being mistaken for a Muslim and being killed by extremists. —or maybe she could be studying medicine in Ukraine and got shot in a cross fire. Still better how about Laila being from North East and killed in USA being mistaken for a Chinese?” Sagar had made it more difficult for him. Before Akshara could thank Sagar threw the last suggestion,” maybe she was killed by Islamic leaders for not wearing a hijab. Or still better she could have escaped from some unpleasant place in a coffin with micro pores for breathing” by now Sagar’s options exhausted Askhara.
There was his brother’s grandson playing with toys boats in a water tub.
Akshara considered having Laila rowing in an open coffin fleeing from some catastrophe at this point Laila looked Olive Oly singing “On goes the river and outpast the mills away down the Valley away down the hills” with the shroud doubling as a mast. Well that was too far fetched and having to think of a catastrophe that required her to row out in a coffin was just too much of work.
Akshara tossed a coin, heads she died a violent death tail she died a natural death… heads it was.
Violent death now the options were accident—homicide – suicide. More choices Akshara wished he was like Alice from Alice in wonderland. He would ask, “would you tell please, which way I ought to go from here?’
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” the Cat would ask.
His answer would naturally be, ‘I don’t much care where”
The obvious reply from the Cat would be what he gave Alice, “Then it does not matter which way you go”
‘-so long as I get somewhere,’ Akshara added as an explanation.
‘Oh! You’re sure to do that,” replied the Cat, exactly as he told Alice,” If you walk long enough” since there was no Cat and he was Akshara and not Alice this conversation did not happen.
Somewhere Akshara’s eyes drooped, into a trance like state. The little wooden box before capturing his vision seem to tell him a story.
A young man with a light step and laughter in his eyes, turned up looked at the wooden box for a minute, the smile was now sad. The joyous eyes filled with tears, but the tears flowed through Akshara’s eyes. Rage flamed through him, his heart pumped what felt like bubbles painful and scary.
The young man kneeled before the box a wooden pencil box which could pass of as a miniature coffin, ‘I’ve come sweetheart, your Asif”
There was no voice from within.
“Mere Hasina ko jaaladiya…Mein use chodunga nahi.
Akshara found this intriguing as he raised his head to gulp some air, it was time for the much needed coffee. As he walked to the Cafeteria he crossed the institute’s student gallery. The image caught his attention… A Royal tomb with the casket just like his pencil case. Raising from the tomb was a female figure, quite much like Laila’s figure at school. A young man trying to raise her from the casket and a shadowy man in the background with a blazing torch. The year of death was noted as 1456
The image had so much pain and violence in it.
The next image was a woman ablaze trying to escape…The next Easel had an incomplete sketch of a young man trying to rescue her. There was a scribbling, apparently this was the new technique where the students first created the conversations with word and then brought it to life on canvas.
“Jala Diya mere Hansa Ko.. use chodunga nahi.”
In the shadow was a man holding a blazing torch. The pain and violence in the imagery was raw and vibrant.
In the final slot the image seemed familiar but the light from gave an illusion of man holding a blaze torch. Akshara was sweating profusely then gave a sigh of relief, what he saw was an reflection in the mirror and the lighting gave an impression of a blazing torch.
As he saw the paintings over he realized…Haseena, Hansa, Asif, Asaram were all asking for their pain to acknowledged, their stories to be shared.
Through Laila Akshara wanted to say a whole lot of things. But he could not say that world matters nothing, or the world’s voice or the voice society for they mattered a good deal. They actually mattered far too much. But there were moments when one had to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entire, completely — or dragging out some false shallow degrading existence that world in its hypocrisy demands. He realizes that was his moment now… to choose to share his reality or hide behind is what might have been romance with Laila or Fatima.