Behind the Lattice: Part 3.

‘Yeh jitni aakhein num hain,ghute dam hain kam hain,
Aur kya kya kuch khud par hi,sehne wale hum hain?’

The ability to trust.

When the world could  use more of it. Unfortunately she lived in a world that made a mockery of it. She’d been burnt, heartbroken even. Not in the romantic way,but by the friends she’d had. Losing friends was hard but in  her short life, one of the first things she’d learnt as that she was expendable. Trust was not a thing that came to her easily anymore and that made her heart ache. She should be better than that,not scarred and bitter like this. Humanity should be better than this. Not a group that delighted in making lives miserable.

Zohra had been astonished the first time Jodhaa requested her presence in her private chambers. To be seen,much less acknowledged, made her heart leap into her throat. She was half convinced she was going to be accused of stealing and unceremoniously thrown out.
Reality,however,was far less dramatic. It seemed that the lady had taken a liking to this gentle girl,one of the few people in the haveli of her age. She had requested that Zohra be assigned to her service. And merely a formality though it may be, she asked Zohra if this would be acceptable to her. After an embarrassing amount of stuttering, Zohra managed to accept. And this was the beginning and end of everything.

Dear reader,take a moment to understand this unusual relationship. A relationship between two women living in vastly different worlds,a uniform appearance though the surface may be. One a victim of a harsh fate,condemned to a lifetime of servitude and loneliness,any prospect of marriage long eliminated by an ill-placed rumour when young. A vicious one at that. That was when she first hid her heart away from the world. Nothing stings like that first hurt,for before that you have not known such pain. You haven’t known that something so cruel exists. You know not your ability to heal and the strength within you. The Other woman,a fortuitous soul, was simply above. Above the populace. Her character untarnished. Her future as bright as the hundred glimmering lights of the chandeliers in her chambers.

Jodhaa often spoke to Zohra about her life. Usually by the candlelight on her vanity unit,as she sat on the richly embroidered red and gold pouffe as Zohra gently brushed away the tangles from her hair. Sometimes she spoke of what she’d learnt that day. A new shloka or perhaps a new raag. Sometimes she spoke of her dreams,her family. But they were not friends,these two. They may confide in each other and speak by the slowly wasting candle’s flickering yellow flame but there was always an underlying acceptance of who they were. And of the line that separated them. But they made the best of the situation and hoped it would be enough.

The other servant girls were jealous of this special bond that no one else quite understood, and were loathe to accept Zohra as one of their own. Despising someone even slightly better off than you were is a human trait as a tale as old as time. Hence she was surprised when Rukmini sought her out after dinner during her first week in the Haveli. The girls were from the same village and in an new world,both craved a memoir of life that was past. They grew close quickly,and soon our heroine found herself trusting the dark-haired, sallow skinned girl who knew more about her than anyone else, for Jodhaa had never seen the life Zohra lived, and it felt a crime to darken her view of this world,which by no means rose-tinted or unrealistic, was still a whole lot brighter than it actually was. And so Jodhaa was a confidante of a suitable subject. Rukmini was her life line in their world. One she held onto dearly.

The two lines at the top are from an urdu cover of Zombie by The Cranberries. Any other references you may find are all intellectual property of their respective authors. I am merely writing this story as I am a sentient being capable of cogitating and rationalizing.


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