Read Part 1, Part 2,Part 3 and Part 4
He had read her note several times.. Kissed it where her lip stains were..Ached for her even more..
It was 14th of February 2002.. A day had passed since Sara left.. It was like a hundred years had flown without her for Shiven.. He desperately wished she would call him.. He wished he had never let her go back... The day never seemed to end.. It was Valentines day.. Last year he had spent this day with Sara..That was the first time they had met outside but in the confined space of a movie theatre..
When he returned home from office, there was a loud ring from the hall.. It was his landline phone..
"Hello Shiven.." said the voice that calmed him and also gave him goosebumps..
"Sara...." he had breathed into the phone..
"Shiven..I love you Shiven..."she had said with a passion he had never heard in her voice..
"Oh Sara.. I love you too.. Sara come back.. " he cried.
"I can't Shiven.. My life is here now.." she said choking with tears.
"Sara let's get married.. Forget the religion..Forget the differences.. Lets just get married.." He had made his decision..
"How Shiven..how? How can we forget everything?" Her very question pleased him.. it meant she was ready to consider the option..
"Sara I will get a transfer.. We will move somewhere northeast.. We have no contacts there..No one knows of our affair in Mumbai.. Your family won't be able to link me with you.. I won't ask you to convert to a Hindu.. If we are not compatible with religion we will both change to Christianity.. It was you who said that all religions are just ways to reach God right? The God is same Sara and he wants us to be together.."
He had said it all in a single breathe.. His mind was already working on the options he had just given Sara..Move northeast..towards the hills..or maybe Kolkata.. make a new life... with Sara..
"When?" she asked meekly.. That was the happiest moment of his life.. He loved her direct way of talking..
"Give me a week baby.. I will arrange everything.. Call me regularly till then.. Will let you know when I m ready and then I will take you away from there.. I Promise.."
He was excited.. He had to make all the arrangements for their eloping and marriage. What was difficult was he had to do it all alone as involving anyone else spelt danger..
Sara had kept her part of the deal. She called him everyday in the evening when he returned home. It was slow progress but he progressed nevertheless with their plans.
She called him on 21st February.. The plan was on its last leg..
"Shiven.. I cannot call you for sometime.. I m going to stay in my joint family.. All these days I was staying with my grandma and my cousin. I don't know when I will return back to this place.."
"Sara we would have to move anytime.. How will I let you know?"
"Ok.. I will try to call you somehow.." she said but with a doubt.. His heart sank..He kept his hopes thinking about their future in a few days..
HE was getting frantic as she hadn't called in 5 days.. Then on 27th February she called..
"Shiven... I m scared.. "she said with a stifled cry.
"Sara..are you alright? " he asked..
"Shiven they are talking about my nikaah.. with Aftab.. a family friend.. Shiven I have no more courage to hold on.."
"When is he coming to see you?" Shiven asked.. A rage filled him thinking about Sara with anyone else..
"Ok first March you will meet your future husband.. But not Aftab..It will be me.." he assured her..
"How Shiven?" she asked innocently between her sobs..
"Listen, go back to your grandma on the pretext of visiting her before the nikaah keeps you busy.. That will keep you out of the scrutiny of your extended family.. Call me tomorrow evening and I will tell you what time I will reach Ahmedabad on 1st.. We will move out of Ahmedabad on 1st itself and don't carry much luggage..only the essentials and your documents would suffice.. Be careful honey.. I love you Sara.. Trust me Sara I will take you with me and keep you happy always."
"Shiven I love you for this darling.. I trust you. I will always be with you.." She felt assured..
On 28th evening he waited for her phonecall but she didn't call.. He had her Grandma's address and phone number.. He rang up even there..All lines in this route are busy.. Anticipation was replaced by worry.. He paced about waiting.. He boarded a bus for Ahmedabad.. When the bus was barely 5 kilometers from the outskirts of Ahmedabad they were stalled.. The city was under curfew. Hindu Muslim riots had broken and shattered the city.. The bus was made to return.
He lodged himself in the lobby of a motel.. He had to meet Sara.. It was 1st March..He had to fulfill his promise..
A tv set played the latest news from Ahmedabad.. The Hindu mob had attacked Gulbarg Society in Chamanpura suburb of Ahmedabad. This was a Muslim housing society..
His heart rate increased.. He was sweating profusely.. He pulled out the small chit of paper he had scribbled her address on, hoping that he would be wrong..
But he was not..
She had gone to her Grandma who stayed in Gulbarg Society.....................
The next few hours were the worst hours of his life. His calls to the hospitals, police stations, Sara's relatives in Mumbai, her familial home , her Gulbarg residence...nothing brought information about her.. Added to it was the curfew in the city.. No one could enter the city..
The following days brought in more news of the riots..more massacre.. more shootouts...
He sat huddled in his motel.. without swallowing a morsel of food.. barely living.. He was helpless.. He pined to hear about Sara...
The morning of 5th march brought him the news he dreaded to hear.. Sara was on the list of people killed in the riots..
He watched her burial service .. In the crowd that surrounded the place, no one took notice of him..
She was stabbed they said.. bleeding to death... Her face was peaceful as they lowered her into the ground.. Her face same as the one he recalled when she had gone to sleep on his shoulders the first time they met.. A pristine quality of her innocence radiating even in her death..
Sara who would have been dressed in a bridal outfit..Who would have lied beside him..Who would have given birth to his baby.. Who would have grown old with him and sat on the porch of his house to enjoy the rains... Who would have loved him..who would have lived.... He saw it all going in the bosom of the earth...
He had gone to visit her grandma who was critically injured in the riots..
"You must be Shiven.." she said as she swayed between conciousness and sleep..
"How did you know?" Sara hadn't told anyone...
"My child... Sara ..my child..." she lamented..
"She was going out.. I asked her not to.. She said Grandma this is about my life.. Last time I ask you to support me.. I asked her if there was a man.. I know what love is ,Shiven.. I understood her the best.. She had blushed and said your name knowing that her old woman would never open her mouth.."
Shiven felt a hundred knives stabbing his heart..
"She came within fifteen minutes..running and fastening the bolt.. frantically trying to shield.. They were 5 men Shiven.. She was no match.."
His blood boiled thinking that 5 bloody men had lusted for her and followed her home.. 5 men from his very own religion.. who had made her struggle for her life..
"My child.. she would prefer to die than in disgrace.. She rushed to the kitchen and grabbed the knife.. She tried shoving them away but they won't relent.. I tried to help , they stabbed me.. Knowing that there was no escape Sara stabbed herself multiple times... They left us there to bleed.. My young Sara died leaving her 75 yr old grandma to struggle.. What would I do even if I live? " she wailed..
He was appalled thinking of the scene.. Thinking of how his lovely Sara had killed herself than be used by those lusty men.. How she had preserved her dignity with her life.. Sara didn't deserved such a gruesome death.. She didn't deserve death at all at this age.. He hated the God whom Sara trusted so much..
He had come to visit her grandma again because she was his connect to Sara.. The person Sara spent her last moments with.. The next day when he visited, he got to know that the old lady had passed away...
For years and years the horrific memories of that week haunted him.. He couldn't breathe in Mumbai.. He had left Mumbai and shifted to Mangalore.. Sara had wanted him to be happy, to move on..What she didn't know was how difficult it was for him without her..
He lived in the guilt of leading her to death.. If only he had made the plans early.. If only he hadn't asked her to move into Gulburg.. If only he hadn't relented to let her go to Ahmedabad again.. If only he had the courage to make his marriage plans earlier than that.. his Sara would have been with him..
He had betrayed her trust..made her cry... left her unprotected.. The guilt of that betrayal ate him bit by bit.. In a way he was dying everyday... On the surface, the storm had calmed.. He married, had a child, fulfilled his social obligation,but deep beneath he died everyday...
Meera for the first time understood the depth of his love..his sufferings.. his guilt..and a new sense of respect was born in her heart..for him..for his love..for Sara..
"She never left you Shiven.. She said she will always be with you.." she quietly patted his back..
He looked at her.. Meera too was crying..
"Shiven she is with you through Tamanna.. She is with you through the love I give you.. She is with you through smiles you spread.. You named our child Tamanna.. She would have been happy knowing that.. Knowing that you have the child she dreamed of.. She will want you to give all that she wanted to give her child.. Sara will always be in your life and she is to be remembered not hidden.. Remember what she said about the girl child Shiven? You can keep her alive Shiven..do what she wished for lesser fortunate girls. Channel your grief into something positive to remember Sara by. Start with working for the girl child..."
Shiven looked at Meera.. She was nowhere similar to Sara. She was a practical minded, worldwise woman.. She had enjoyed the liberal upbringing.. But her sense of acceptance and solution for his guilt made him proud of her.. She was right.. Sara was with him through the love Meera gave him... For the first time he experienced a comradeship with his wife.. He hugged her tightly and that was the last time he cried so badly.. He had found someone to share his life and thoughts.. He felt the burden on his soul lightened.. Maybe he had finally moved on..
Her idea of keeping Sara alive won his respect.. They work together on weekends with NGO and plan to open a wing which would work for upliftment of the girl child.. They plan to name it Sara... Sara lives in the smiles of those girls who get the opportunity to fulfill their dreams..