One Vote

Sunday, April 17, 2016 ahmad jalil 0 Comments Category : ,

Water. That was the only thing on her mind as she ran around on the hot sand with broken chappals in her feet and holding her one year old son. The worn out chaddar that she had draped over them was doing little to block the fervent Sun above. She had wrapped the little boy in an additional sheet as well as she carried him in her Sun-burnt hands. She was utterly helpless, there was nothing but the neverending stretches of arid desert everywhere she looked. The dry searing air was only adding to their sufferings. Her sweat drenched body was tired and severely dehydrated. But no matter how much she wanted to rest, she could not. She could not bear to lose her Mithoo, her one year old angel. She looked at his face;
"Shh.. everythng is going to be all right", she said in a feeble voice, more to herself than the infant.
It seemed like only yesterday when the huge lorry had arrived to pick them all up, she and her neighbors, although several years had passed. Their Chaudhary sahab wanted them in his political procession. They were promised free food! How generous was he, she thought. Her chudhary sahab. It was a tradition in their family to cast their vote to him and to go whenever he needed them to show off his strength.
“After everything he does for us, he deserves our support!”, that’s what her father used to tell them. So whenever he sent for them, they went.
Everything was on fire.  There was a terrible, constant throbbing in her head. Mithoo was burning up too. She needed to quicken her search for water. If she didn’t find it... If something happened to her boy... No! She couldn’t think like that. She made a small mound of sand with her hands and laid her son over it.
“Mamma will be back sweetheart. Mamma will be back with fresh water”, she kissed him softly on the head and then headed out in search of a well or a small stream, any source to provide them with some water.
She could still hear the tunes they danced to in Chaudhary sahab’s jalsa. There were patriotic songs as well as melodies signifying their leader’s bravery and honesty. She was in the front row. That was the first time she had come here without her father. She was so proud of herself. She was doing something so big and important all on her own! Their Chaidhary sahab needed all the support he could get, right? So she danced to the patriotic songs and raised slogans in his favour every time he made a promise to help his people and make their country better in his speech. And in the end, they all got free biryani! God bless the generous Chaudhary sahab!
She was sure he would come. After all, he had made all those promises, right? He would not abandon his people. The people who voted for him. She lied down for a moment. She hadn’t been able to find anything to satiate her thirst. The weather was getting hotter, if it were even possible. She had to get up. She knew her condition would only worsen with time in the blistering heat of the desert. She could not lie down. She ran towards her son to check on him, whispered comforting things to him and then again started searching for water. This became her routine. She would come to see if her Mithoo was ok and then again return to look for water.
How excited were they on their way back. She told everyone how the nation had found its true leader.
“God bless our chudhary sahab!”, she said, “my father told me if there’s anyone who’ll do anything for us, it’s that man. Look how honest he was! And he said all the things that we think and feel, hasn’t he Chacha gee? I’m telling you, he is the only true leader we have now!"
His true leader. When would he come, she thought? How much longer would she have to wait? They were his voters. They were his ‘people’. Surely he wouldn’t leave his people in such a peril without any help, right? No! He would come. She was sure that he would come.
She hadn’t heard Mithoo cry in a while now..
“Oh God.. no.. please"
She wanted to go and check on him. She wanted to make sure he was well. But couldn’t bring herself to do that. It was easier to hope and convince herself that her son was ok... and alive than to actually go and see why had he left crying. She couldn’t make herself accept the obvious truth here. It was difficult for an adult to survive this scorching sun in such a hot and dry weather, let alone an infant. Her Mithoo was gone but somewhere inside her she wanted to cling on to the fragile hope. The hope that she would find water and everything would be okay, that her son would grow up to become a doctor, that her Chaudhary sahab hadn’t deserted her.
“I’m here Mithoo, mamma is here. Everything is going to be okay”, she whispered to no one in particular. She needed to find water.
Suddenly her eyes fell upon something shiny in the distance. It almost looked like .. a bottle? A water bottle! She knew that the odds were heavily against her. The bottle was most likely going to be empty. But she forced herself not to think like that. That was her last hope. She knew she couldn’t go on for long. She gave her tired body one last push and started running in its direction.
“Water... water for Mithoo... Please God..” she hardly had taken a few steps when she fell. Her body was shutting down. Her dehydrated brain was refusing to go any further.
“Just a few more steps... I can...” she started crawling towards it. She had to get to it. Inch by inch, she propelled her body towards the rusty old bottle.
“Mithoo.... Chaudhary sahab... water...” She was dead before she reached the empty bottle.
                                         __________

One year later.
Enrique's Tonight blasted through the bar as they sat together at the farthest table churning down their vodkas. The bartender had the whole bar cleared for them. The cameras both inside and outside this place were shut down. All the entrances and exits were covered by heavily armed security guards of those men.
A man came running through the door, yelling at the top of his voice.
“Chaudhary Sahab! Chaudhary Sahab!”
The man he was referring to looked up at the incomer.
“What is it, boy?”, he asked, completely drunk.
“The results have come in!”, he cried, “I have some really bad news sir. You lost by one vote.”
“What? By ONE vote?”, he stood up in rage and threw his alcohol bottle on the floor. The bartender immediately came to clean up the mess. The other men sitting at that table started telling Chaudhary sahab how sorry they were at his defeat and that they would stand by him no matter what.
“This is indeed a tragic news Chaudhary Sahab.. Just one vote and you’ll be on your way to the big house”, said one of them.
“Yes, Gulnawaz just one vote. Just one freaking person! One!" he said as he took a big swig out of the wine bottle.. “And you!”, he pointed at the bartender, “Bring some girls in here now! This liquor alone is not going to be sufficient now.”
Everybody ignored a small tv fitted on the wall opposite to where those men sat, on which a young news reporter was talking about the thousands that had lost their lives to draught in Thar and areas around it.

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