Her Sewayin are famous. A niece once said, “Achchi khaala you pour the sweetness of your personality in your Sewayin. There is no other explanation for its uniqueness.”
Fresh Khoya is a must. Good quality milk has to be boiled on slow flame for quite a while so it becomes thick, the right amount of sugar and then a concoction of soaked walnuts, almonds, raisins and pista. After all the ingredients, comes the unconditional love that she pours in abundance. Sakina Begum was making the Sewayian with the same zeal today as well, as she always did. The only difference was, none of her children were celebrating Eid with her this time. She had stopped expecting anything from her husband long back, who was busy lusting for fame and was mostly travelling.
“Aunty here are some dahi badas and chhole. Ammi has made these specially for you,” said Sadaf, daughter of Jamila Banu, a neighbour.
Sakina and Jamila were college mates and the memories of the time spent in the lanes of Lucknow reverberated through the corridors of Anam Regency in Allahabad. They were not the closest of friends but they shared a common passion for Urdu literature. Their bonding on Ghalib and Mir had flourished in the last few years since they became neighbours. Jamila was a widow with one daughter, who was pursuing her Masters in Business Management. Sakina considered herself as good as a widow, since Rifat had been away from home for months now. Their relationship had fallen apart long back. They were an on-paper couple who could disintegrate with even a moderate gust of wind.
Sakina’s children were her oxygen. Perhaps she was alive only because of them, and for them. Samina and Rafey were pursuing their jobs in Hyderabad and London respectively. They always made the best efforts to be with their Ammi on special occasions like Eid. Samina had even sent an air ticket but Sakina was addicted to Allahabad. The rickshaw ride, eyes that searched for known faces with familiar hands rising in Salaam, pumped blood in her veins. She was a retired Professor of the Allahabad University. Each year when the Ramzaan month started, Sakina Begum read out its significance that published in the Urdu newspaper ‘Qaumi Awaaz‘. She spelt out why it was important to practise ‘Taqva‘, the idea of abstinence from bad thoughts, deeds and actions. She always taught her children that apart from abstaining from eating and drinking, what’s most important is to abstain from hurting anyone and from back biting.
Sakina Begum had lived life on her own terms. She too wanted to be as conventional as others but the fact that she was the first girl to complete high school from Kakori (a small town near Lucknow), followed by graduation and then, even post graduation, made her naturally different. She was a trend setter. A job in the University when girls of her age were married and well settled, and then falling in love with a writer who wrote despondent gems! Sakina Begum chose a different path. Or maybe the different path chose her. She has still not figured it out.
Sakina Begum had lived a life of success. Or so, thought the world. She fought against all the injustices that came her way. Till now she had been living in the same house with a husband who had little or no feelings, neither respect for her. But she had made up her mind now. This was the last Eid that her name had the surname of her husband. She was all set to file for Khula, the right of a Muslim woman to seek an official separation from her husband.
Rifat always chided her, “It’s not easy for a woman to live alone. This world is filled with vultures. You won’t survive without me.” When he said, “You won’t survive without me,” Rifat meant that being a woman, she just can’t survive without the name of a man. He didn’t mean support of another human being or concerns of a loved one.
Sakina had bought the house in Anam Regency out of her hard earned money. Rifat didn’t contribute a thing. In fact he didn’t have much bank balance as he always splurged on his drinks, cigarettes, luxurious travels and expensive gifts for friends. He had no idea that his unimaginative approach towards the practical side of life will land him nowhere. Sakina had taken the tough decision all by herself, even though her own brother wasn’t supportive of what she was about to do. Her children stood by her and that’s all she needed. She was quite popular in the neighbourhood; her friends doted on her. Such support is not the best bet but she was willing to take her chances as freedom is all that she sought.
The dining table was decorated with various delicacies. She had cooked biryani and kabab. Her friends were coming for lunch. She tasted the sewaiyan and smiled at the applause coming her way for this unique delicacy. Roshni, the girl who ran errands for Sakina, walked in. A lot of chores were still waiting to be completed. Fresh Roti was to be made right when the lunch was about to be served. The dough was ready. Salad was ready and so was Raita. Room freshener was sprayed in the living room and an incense stick was lit in a corner. Sofa was brushed for one last time and the magazines on the drawing table were properly arranged.
The doorbell rang. Sakina was ready to welcome a new life.