Neeha Roomi was only twelve when she was raped for the first time. She was a famous model and she used to dance on Arab T.V. This is how I came to know her, though I didn't really know her personally. Abdulla had come to take me to the bar where there was going to be a special show of Neeha's dancing. She was a good friend to Abdulla and Abdulla had come to tell me something he knew I would want to write a story about. He knew I was a writer and I knew he was a good storyteller, so he spoke and I listened.
Pouring the wine and passing the cup to me, Abdullah slowly mentioned, "Rape is a very common thing in our country."
"So what is strange in that if it's common in our country? Some are dropping bombs in mosques and others are raping poor girls. Above all our leaders are raping the whole land, while we are exchanging talks about our fatherland like a volcano vomiting. Let us drink and forget our aching prayers " I replied indifferently while clinking my glass with his.
The unmistakable theme song from Magnolia Girls snaked through the resounding beat from the one of the most reputed Arabian nightclubs.
I stood looking out at the sunset disappearing behind the fast shut eyelid of the ocean, like a golden ball growing smaller.
"Did you not hear what I just said?" asked Abdulla with a sound of anger in his voice, thinking I wasn't listening or that I cared not to what was happening in our country. He set his glass down heavily seeming very annoyed.
"Yes, I heard you. Speak, I'm listening."
Abdulla stared at me then added, "Neeha left home. She was sold to a Brothel house and was exposed to endless rapes." Abdulla walked toward the window where I stood, with both hands in the pockets of his pants, as though in thought. He then turned his back toward me. I could tell something was not right as he walked toward the table.
"We all know this thing has been going on like this for ages." I said, "Once a girl is sold to pimps, they are endlessly raped. What great stuff to write about, huh? What do you people think? Can such plain hurtful stories be converted into literature?" I frowned.
"She was raped by her father."
"Yes, facts are always strange, my dear writer."
"No, Man could not do a thing like that. Nor beast." I cried.
Without a smile Abdulla spoke words, which were hard for me to believe. When he told me that Neeha was raped by her father; I could scarcely believe my ears.
"No, no!" I shouted. "Her father could never do that."
"Believe it, my dear writer." Abdulla stood staring at me.
"Shall I continue?" he asked.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to hear more or not but it seemed Abdulla was giving me a good story to write about. Neeha seemed to me a good person. Why would anyone want to rape her; especially her father? I knew Abdulla wouldn't lie to me because we had been friends since college, and I had never known him to tell me anything that was not true. My heart developed feelings I never thought I had. Why her Father? It was such a bitter truth. As I sat with my face in my hands, pouring out my heart, Abdullah poured himself another drink of wine.
"Care for another?" he asked offering me my cup.
"No, I just want you to tell me more about Neeha."
Abdulla proceeded, "I was in my teens when Neeha was born. She was the daughter of Fatima Dai. Dai is the title for the women in the villages who earn their living by singing at weddings, and births of male children. These women live to entertain others. They make people laugh, children happy. Lovers use them to deliver secret messages while elders delight in them. They are like minstrels. They live on peoples' joys, though no one cares for theirs.
"When I became a man, feeling the stormy urge for sexual desires, my friend Raheem revealed another secret of Fatima. He told me about the feeding time for young men. Feeding time was the sexual training time for sex. One day I stole five rupees, fee for feeding, from Grandmother's old box and walked to the dark hut of Fatima. I reached her muddy and dirty room like a thief and knocked at the door. My hands were trembling. She came out and looked at me.
"She had a strange look on her face. Is your mother okay?' she asked.
"'I'm not here for my mother. I have come,,,' I paused.
"'Don't be afraid,' she said, tell me frankly why you would come here in this darkness? Is your cock disturbing you?'
"'Cock?' I could not understand her pun. I don't have a cock.'
"Her loud laughter startled me.
"'If you don't have a cock, then why are you here? What is it you will do with me?'
"I begin to realize what she was saying. I started to laugh and without any hesitation I answered, Yes Fati, I am here for feeding.'
"She held my hand and took me inside.
"'Where is my fee?' she asked.
"I gave her my five rupees. The next thing that happened was quite disturbing for me."
I looked at Abdulla with tear stained eyes. I could not help crying over Fati. I waited to hear what else he had to say.
"There was an intolerable smell in her body and mouth. She did everything knowing I was immature. But when she told me to run away I looked at her. Why should I run?' I asked her.
"'Because now it is feeding time for your father. Your mother is pregnant, you know.'
"I felt as if someone had thrown a bomb on me. I ran and ran until I came to an open field, near a graveyard. That night I wept bitterly. For many years after I remained abnormal, sexually. It was exposed to me like a stinking smell of a dead animal. I even stayed away from anyone who spoke about her.
"A year later she got married to Gulami. Gulami was the male Dai, having the same status of Fatima. After her marriage I heard she changed. I, myself, saw her burning candles in the dark mosque of the village. A year after she got married she had a daughter and she called her, Neeha. She was very pretty. It was hard to believe such a pretty girl could come from such ugly parents. Later, Neeha's father became a victim to the young men from the Pakistani Army. In those days some men from the army would come and forcefully take you because of some tension on the borderline of India. And if you were poor, you were a scapegoat. As you know, Writer, a poor man is unlucky by birth. Gulami hadn't been seen for ten years. The Indian Army imprisoned him, and when he returned he looked like a hundred year old man. He looked like a moving skeleton with a long white beard. He came back to the village but was never the same, losing his memory at times.
Neeha, in those days, used to go to Mosque to learn Holy Quran, with her head covered. Gulami, her father, turned like a beast."
Abdulla looked at me. "That's when Neeha was raped by her father."
I turned away from Abdulla. It was hard for me to think a father would do such a thing to his daughter. Abdulla started the story again, after having a sigh.
"He didn't realize what he was doing, forgetting at times, because of his memory loss, she was his daughter. Her cries brought tears in the eyes of even stonehearted people of the village. I am sure that even God in Heaven was weeping. It wasn't long after that, Fati and Neeha disappeared. Gulami went out of his mind and disappeared into the barren mountains and was never seen again. Everyone thought that a beast devoured him. Soon everyone forgot about all that had happened, until one night, when I saw Neeha in a dancing club. And now you will see Neeha yourself."
I saw tears in the eyes of Abdulla. The announcer announced Neeha. She was a changed person after going through so much and she was still beautiful. Everyone went crazy over her. I was amazed to see how well she danced. Her every step seemed to hold the breath of life. With a delicate, untroubled style, she aroused the emotions of the people. Her eyes held a feeling of hope and charm, as my mind went back to the time when she was raped and wondered how she could have put up with so much. I was sure that night, that deep down in her heart she was aching.
On the way to the bar to see Neeha, Abdulla wondered if Neeha would dance like she did the last night he saw her. To his surprise, she captivated his very soul. She had a captivating combination of beauty and art. She looked at Abdulla and I with the promise of Heaven and pleasure. She was amazing.
After the show Abdulla introduced her to me.
"He is a Writer. He has a rich heart and great love for life and arts. Would you like to join him?"
A lingering smile of delight came across her face.
"Though we may live in different circumstances, it seems I know you." I told her. "How can we acquaint ourselves?" I asked.
She looked me in the eyes and in a most delicate tone she said, "Do you hear the sound of the sand constantly running? Do you hear the waves splashing against the cliff? Do you hear steps creeping around the wet road on a stormy night? Do you hear the songs of a traveler singing in the vast desert? Do you hear the tragic music of falling leaves in autumn? Do you..."
She wanted to speak more but I stopped her saying: "Yes, yes, you are like me. Child at heart, in this mercantile society. You love nature and arts, where even feelings have become commodity."
We stood from where we sat and walked hand and hand out the door. Outside the bar we saw the waves of the ocean. As we walked together along the seashore, we felt free and got lost in the moment and neither of us spoke.
Neeha looked at me."So you want to write a story about me?" Smiling Neeha bent down, picked up a stone and cast it out toward the huge waves. "What odd chaps you writers are."
"You sell the afflictions of people and gain your reputation, then you die and other editors sell stories about your miserable lives. What an odd desire it is that first you talk about others, and then others talk you about. What a foolish desire of being known. I learned a long time ago, that we should walk away from this life silently. Why can't we all think that all roads lead to the dark grave?"
Neeha noticed the waves had thrown a fish upon the sand and she ran to throw it back in the water.
"Yes, that's it," said Neeha, " We are like that fish. We get out of the water and someone, much like death, throws us back in. In this world we are actually out of water but thanks to death, which takes us back to life. Death, in fact, is the real name for life. The rest is all sand! The desires we have are just love for sand."
Neeha helped me to understand. She was so fascinating. It made my heart beat with excitement. My manhood was blooming with the desire to be closer to her so I could love her forever.
We stopped and looked into each other's eyes. In the twilight of early morning, I could see her eyes glitter. I could not hold back. My desire was to kiss them. I took her face into my hands and kissed her eyes gently. She closed her eyes and I softly placed a kiss on both of them. She remained indifferent. She seemed lost in her own thoughts; while at the same time my heart was over-joyed.
"You are so beautiful!" I whispered. She seemed distant. Looking at the rising sun, she softly spoke, "Yes but, beauty is for beast."
Neeha turned from me, leaving me to myself. I stood
alone on the sands of time waiting for someone to come to
throw me into the water.
© 2004 Muhammad Nasrullah Kahn, all rights reserved
appears here by permission