Clouds Without a Rainbow in Them by Ifra Rashid

“I am preparing for NEET”, responded Fatima to Mehreen on the phone. They had been talking after a while since appearing for the 12th class examination together. “I want to give it a try, rest is upon the Almighty”, Fatima sounded positive who was preparing to leave her home in Kulgam to join a tuition centre in Srinagar and prepare for the forthcoming NEET examination.  Her mother, Zainab, was stuffing  her bag, reluctant to send her eldest child away from her but Fatima’s father, Abdul Salam, a shop-keeper, had big dreams for her daughter as she had been a bright student all through. “Is didi going to stay away from us” murmured Faiz, Fatima’s younger brother studying in the 5th standard in the Government run school in the village. Fatima was all ready to step out as her grandfather stopped her to give his best wishes, “Stay steadfast my child, live up to your name. Always remember after what great personality you have been named. Strive hard, my dear. May Allah always protect you”, said Fatima’s grandfather with teary eyes and choking voice.

After bidding farewell to everyone Fatima boarded her cab. The journey was going to take a few hours. She was distancing away from her roots and coming closer to her dreams. Her eyes beamed brightly. Her eyes had a striking resemblance with the eyes of a wanderer who finally sees his destination, yet yearns to reach there. There were the delights that she caught in seeing long straight rows of green and red vegetables stretching all over. She carried the burden of expectations but she knew the mountains are to be climbed not carried. Keeping her spirits high she silently wiped her tears and looking out of window she was lost again in the abyss of her thoughts.

On her way, they were stopped twice at different checkpoints of the forces and were asked about their whereabouts and destination which irked Fatima. “Why are they after us every time”? Fatima looked at her father who was busy discussing the current scenario of Kashmir with the driver of the cab. Fatima like every other teenager was deeply affected by what she saw around her. The brutalities, the atrocities all over made her blood boil.

Once she reached Srinagar, she knew it from the very instance that the journey towards her dream had begun. The journey that in no way was going to be easy. But Fatima was too determined to be shaken by any jerks. From the first day at the new place, Fatima started burning the mid night oil. Within the short span of time she became the favourite of her teachers. Known by every student for helping nature, she would readily share her notes and help everybody around.

She always topped the weekly tests and her parents could visualize the bright future that awaited Fatima.  Fatima made every possible effort. She dreamt only of the day when she would enter the premises of the medical college, the day when she would take the Hippocratic oath, her parents crying in joy alongside. Her fervour to serve reflected in her dark brown coloured eyes. She had always been a sincere child that’s why everyone hitched hopes on her . It was evident that these hopes would fly high and would not be dust ridden. With these hopes she grew some fears. 

The fear of losing sowed its seeds. But Fatima didn’t let these fears sprout. She uprooted them with her immense faith. Nothing daunted her not even the fear of failure. It had been months since Fatima paid a visit to her home. Her parents insisted her to come over for few days . Fatima was reluctant but she was missing her mother profusely so she agreed. She bought a few chocolates as demanded by her brother Faiz. She was off to her hometown . While travelling she had this strange feeling of desolation. Something was keeping her aback from going home. But her desperation to hug her mother overpowered every other thought. Fatima was received very warmly on her arrival. “Oh! How soothed are my eyes to see you my dearest Fatima Jaan” said her grandfather. Her mother hugged her as tightly as she could. She didn’t let hold off her for a few minutes. “What have you done to yourself? Don’t they give to anything to eat? You look so pale. You have ignored your health. How will you concentrate on your studies if you are not physically sound?” said Fatima’s mother out of concern. “People won’t visit a skinny doctor”, said Faiz, in a flippant manner.

“Being skinny is so much in vogue but how would you know you have only been to Kareem Chacha’s shop. You live only to eat chocolates. Now I have no plans of giving you one I bought from the city “retorted Fatima teasingly. The next few days at home were filled with jubilation. After a long time, she dined with her family. Her mother prepared her favourite food. Fatima was full not only by the food but by all the love.

Fatima visited her relatives who lived in close vicinity. Everyone was delighted to see this budding child who would one day make everyone proud. The next morning Faiz came running and shrieked, “Didi, someone near Kareem Chacha’s shop said that the 12th class results would be declared today at 2.00 PM. Fatima was filled with feelings both of fear and excitement. As the time of result declaration came near, the family gathered in the living room, Fatima’s mother, father, grandfather and Faiz all waiting in eagerness. Fatima typed her roll number with trembling hands. She closed her eyes and heard Faiz say “Didi has made it, it’s a distinction”. Fatima was overwhelmed being hugged by her near ones. She was showered by sweets and wishes. She was moved, her toil had paid off. But the work was half done. There was a long way to go.

The next day Fatima had to leave for Srinagar but her mother wanted her to stay back for a few days. “Stay for two days more, your maternal uncle wants to see you and will come back from Jammu in a day or two.” Fatima reluctantly agreed to stay just to see her mother happy. As the day progressed there was news of an encounter in the nearby village. From the morning itself, Fatima had been restless; something was troubling her peace of mind. It was time for lunch and her mother called her downstairs, “Fatima, Faiz come and have lunch.” To this Fatima responded, “Amma, Faiz is not here.” “He must be playing outside, let me see” said Fatima’s mother.

After a few minutes, Fatima’s mother came rushing back, “he is not outside, I looked around.” Fatima quickly called her father who was busy serving his customers in the shop.” “Faiz is not around, Amma looked for him.” Fatima father came back home only to find his wife weeping. “He must have gone near the encounter site, bring my son back”, she cried bitterly.

 Fatima had already left to look for her brother. As she ventured out in quest of finding her brother, she ran helplessly but couldn’t track him. All she could she was people marching towards the encounter site. Her heart ran faster when the thought of her brother’s safety crossed her mind. She sent numerous prayers towards heaven. As she reached the end of the village, some young boys were running towards the direction from where Fatima was coming. They were being chased by the forces. They were firing teargas shells and pellets. Fatima was too occupied to pay heed to what was happening around, little did she know what was to befall. Suddenly the forces fired towards Fatima. The pellets that came out of the short gun hit Fatima right in the face. She felt a burning sensation around her. She leaped in the nearby field. The boys rushed towards her, as they lifted her up, everything started to blur. Her horizons shrank. Everything seemed to fade. The shouts, the sense of other people holding her and she passed out to discover her dreams would fade too.

Fatima was rushed to the hospital. Her parents were informed, Faiz had come back home shortly after Fatima had left to search for him. Her mother began to beat her chest, she was inconsolable. As Fatima was being operated, doctors would only conjecture about her eyesight. One of the doctors said, “it’s only Fatima who will reveal either the good news or the horror.

Fatima gained consciousness. She was crying in pain, “Mye traw, yele traw mye (leave me, let me go), calling out to her mother. Her echoed in the hospital premises. Watching this scene, even some nursing staff couldn’t control their emotions and more attendants circled Fatima’s bed.

The bandages around Fatima’s eyes were being removed. Everyone was as still as they could be. Fatima opened her eyes. The first words that came out of her mouth left everyone heart-broken. The words struck like lightening. “Why is it dark Amma. Please turn on the light, I am scared”. To everyone’s consternation, her wide open eyes, the dark brown eyes, the eyes which gleamed with hope were robbed off their shine and splendor. Fatima was shattered, so were her dreams. Silence took over her. She didn’t utter a single word for days. Only salty droplets flowed from her fathomless eyes. The girl who aspired to be a source of light was left to dwell in darkness for the rest of her life. The yearning eyes spoke only of desolation!