Takbeer Salati was born and raised in Srinagar, Kashmir. She is pursuing her doctoral research which analyses everyday politics and relevance of identity and representation through Saadat Hassan Manto’s short stories. Her various short stories are published in Samyukta Fiction, Muse India, Cafe Dissensus, Life and Legends and Cerebration, Parcham. Her work has also been longlisted in the list of best South Asian Short Story Writers 20 under 30 in The Bombay Review 2021.
The mulberry tree outside their house had a unique history. Though, it stood erect for almost fifteen years giving juicy berries round the corner, the tree also played a significant role that marked some prosperous events in their family. She had just been declared their daughter-in- law and everyone knew the tree would blossom even more this summer (for some reason). Her new place had a huge garden with handpicked plants which was thereaupatic to her in-laws a number of times. The garden as she was shown had trees of quince apples, french beans, pumpkins, and red chilies, the gypsy weeds etc., which made the garden breathable. She had just entered her new house after her wedding. She was just twenty – eight years old, an English Literature doctoral student just as her husband. Many people had thought and talked about them. Each one of the comments had not jotted down her love for him. Many others had thought they had managed to find themselves because of literature . While, he was more into Urdu poetry, she was more interested in the short stories which she both read and wrote. They had just met twice before he decided to get married to her. For her it was a fan moment. Her husband who was already then a well-established poet was out of her league, at least that is what she thought to believe. And it had happened, she did marry him. She did shift to her new house and soon realized there could ever be a life outside of her own house.
It never occurred to her that she would be shifted to the new house as ‘bride’, ‘daughter-in-law’ till she did. An effort by her parents of finding her a groom after she finished her PhD had been on cards for some time. Soon it was time for her to realize that she had her thirties yet to grow and explore life, with her husband. In her childhood, she had never fancied any bride of her family like other children would. For her, dressing up was entirely a futile exercise for women. Those red bridal lehangas irritated her eyes, and suspected if she would look good in them. Well pinned dupattas, kohl rimmed eyes with heavy gold earrings and necklace was not for her. She always thought she was made for four squared windows and book almirah /library where she fancied herself to be a writer one day. In her childhood she had never fancied any bride of her family like other children would. For her makeup was a futile thing that brides had to do out of convention. The way she saw married women through their bra-straps, the way they would smile at their husbands would made her feel quite old. Was she becoming old or was she old? She would think. And it had happened, she was married to a writer and how.
Except for an addition of a grandmother and the absence of the father, the family was quite similar. They woke up around 6:50 am and wished each other the first ‘salam’. For a change they would love to listen to ghazals of an era which were unrecognized to her. She knew and heard them every morning when her husband would increase the volume and evening when her husband would check his assignments. During her growing years, if she would knew anything of Urdu literature it would be from her mother who was a graduate in the language. She had heard names of Galib, Mir Taqi Mir, Iqbal and Hali but for her husband Nadeem Qasmi, Firaaq Gorakhpuri, were the only one who had made a mark in the history of Urdu literature. As far as she was told, her grandfather was one of the most learned men of her family. He had even written a novel on his travels to the Holy Place. Moreover, in the place she lived, nine a.m. meant everyone must have already left for their respective work. Shops used to close at nine in the evening, in the daylight noises and cries from all over the social groups could be heard. Her parents’ home had a shopkeeper, a cop, a rebellion, a sportsperson as neighbours but in her new place, she had a hospital and two to three houses that would do anything for the family.
And then, there were her new family and their stories. Story telling as a part of everyone has been a close form of art with families in Kashmir. She remembered how her parents used to tell her about the encounters, the way they have seen city of Srinagar grow from the crises and conflicts. Her new family had their share of stories which included the struggles of her mother-in-law to raise her children. In addition to these stories was added the story of her wedding and the story of the lucky husband. On the stroke of midnight, when her husband had come to her house to pick her up India and Pakistan were on the grounds of a known cricket stadium playing their finals. You know, said one baarati, India and Pakistan cricket match is the only match in Kashmir which has a full audience .
Tch! Tch!! the groom’s uncle said in a light note when he signaled at the scores.
Pakistan is going to lose the match!
No, uncle. I have had watched matches where the team needed two runs out of one ball. The cricketer struck a four and they had the match in their court.
And a time would come similar to the match. Two kids sitting in the middle of the row of men talking about the dreams. What do you think, dream should comprise of? The other replied it should comprise of huge buildings, big houses, more money and lots of chocolates. The uncle sitting next to them laughed. Chocolates? Hmmm. It seems likely; you are going to destroy your teeth. But now the countdown had just begun! Fifteen minutes past the feast and the match. The cricketer on the field had been famous for unknown reasons according to the guests present there. The commentator on the online mobile phone raised his voice over the bowler coming in full speed. And it is OUT!! The minute he claimed his innings over a folded prayer mat was taken out from one of the baaratis. You know cricket and faith go hand in hand. The groom looked tensed. More than the wedding, he was afraid for the cricketers and their play. It is possible in Kashmir, to hear the shrieks of men and women over Pak’s win. It has always been like this. The groom thought. The guests were still poised even in the hour of such anxiety. No one knew who was playing in the team of either countries, but that fascination of seeing someone win and lose had them over. The wedding feast was in progress. Twelve dishes down like six wickets!! For both the events of the wedding as well as the cricket match, the groom was examined and put to test. Some even said, you must be lucky for the win. Everyone had chosen their favorites. It was the last ten minutes. The bride’s family was preparing for her farewell. The moment she stepped down the stairs covered in her shawl, the guests shouted loudly. Yayy! Hurrah!
They had won the match. In Kashmir, people don’t really understand the game but they do understand the politics. The groom had turned out to be lucky. He had both the win and a wife to his credit now. Past midnight, the groom’s car drove from the streets and crossed the bridge. He kept holding her hand inside the car till they reach her new home. For her it was a start of new life, home and family but for him he already knew the game is in his court this way or that way.