My Encounter With Farheen.

Varanasi, also known as Kashi is a city of Religion, Culture, Colors, Temples and Festivals. The city is bathed in the purity of the prolific Ganges. The captivating aroma of the censers envelops the city in the moth hour of evening. Sitting on the banks of this serene river in the cold winter evening I marveled at the strength of the city. How for centuries this place held on to it’s beliefs. How it never let the gradual progress in technology plunder it’s faith or it’s culture. The holiest city in India where several spiritual books were written. And it’s not surprising why people often visit this place for peace of mind, enlightenment or even salvation.

My purpose however did not involve any of the above. My reason for visiting this blessed city was a wedding. Not a family wedding but a “My father’s close friend’s daughter whom I never met” wedding. I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to it. I was hardly interested. The only factor that urged me to pack my luggage was to visit the place where I spent the initial 4 years of my life.
We had moved from Varanasi 14 years back. In search for better opportunities, progress and facilities. Urbanization, as you may call it. But flashes of broken memories still teased me. As if waiting for me to re-live them.

But I’m not here to tell you about my visit to the place or my experience. I’m here to tell you about something or rather someone I met during my 3 days stay. And this it how it goes.

I was sitting in a room packed with ladies chatting. Frequent giggles and “I don’t really mean it” compliments swept the place. Sweets and fancy starters were being served and crunches and bites were audible. The room was decorated with lighting and flowers. Daisy’s I suppose, but who cares. I sat in the corner of the room. Observing people like I usually do. I saw busy waiters waiting for this darn thing to be over. Boys flirting their way with the bridesmaids. I saw the bride’s father heavily occupied with several papers, a cell phone in his left ear and also pointing the direction to some guest.  Little kids running around, oblivious to the occasion.

When I was done with my share of observing, I dived my way in my cell-phone. Trying to pass the seemingly long hours. I was engrossed in reading my facebook homepage when someone came and sat beside me. Without looking up I shifted to the side to make room for the other person.  After a few minutes I saw a hand in front of me, “Hi, I’m Farheen.”
I looked up abruptly,  half-expecting  an interesting conversation.
“Aakansha.”
I must admit that the girl was probably one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen. Don’t doubt my sexuality, I’m straight. But sweet lord she was mesmerizing. I only wondered at the number of approaches she might be getting. She wore a white dress with a cloth covering her head. She had pale white skin like snow and black glistening eyes that shimmered with a starry glow.
“So you’re here from the groom’s side?” she asked with a warm smile.
“No, from the bride’s.”
See, I’m not really good in starting a conversation and I’m even bad in continuing them with a stranger. This obviously applied here as well.
For a moment we were silent. Then she asked me a question that was well, spontaneous.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Well.” I said befuddled, “I want to be a columnist..” She nodded in appreciation.
“And you?” I asked, judging the flow of the conversation.
“Well , I don’t think I’ll be able to become something. My parents will get me married after I finish school.”
Before I could say a word, she got up and said, “I was here for the bride’s make-up and looks like I’m needed now. It was nice meeting you. Bye.”
I sat there frozen. I barely listened to what she said. My mind kept  focussing on  ‘My parents will get me married after I finish school.’

I couldn’t believe how someone could something so atrocious and despicable to a person. I was furious at her condition. I wanted to help her. I was frustrated and wanted to get some fresh air.  It agitated me that she wasn’t ALLOWED to fulfill her dreams but the thing that bothered me more was her genuine acceptance of the situation. How hopeless she was. There was no air of struggle or fight in her. Maybe because she gave up. Such a beautiful girl who needed to appreciated by the world lived the life of a prisoner. I barely think any boy got near her, let alone APPROACHES.

I came back to my city after the jaded wedding. For some days I thought about her. Planned to help her when I grow up.  But soon I got engulfed in my own daily routine and carried on with my life . But her memory is still etched in my brain. What happened to her.  Whether she’s married or still makes up the brides. I can’t possibly know. And I’ll be staunchly honest to you, I don’t even want to know.

Alan.

“I’m still not able to absorb it,” she said trying to ignore the lump in her throat.
I handed her the glass of water which stood on the table, patiently waiting to be acknowledged. It was a warm September evening. Quiet, except for the low rumble of the clouds. Just like there is absolute quiet before a thunderstorm. I turned around to see the sky overcast by dark grey clouds. The huge glass window right beside me gave me an awfully large view of the rain that was predictable. It was very soon when I could see large blots of raindrops racing their way across my windowpane. I took a deep breath.

During my career as a therapist I had gone through many cases. Cases like these weren’t new to me. But each time I hoped things wouldn’t turn out like my intuition told me they would. This time was no different. This girl in her young-adult age, sat on the black wooden couch facing me. She looked at my private library and office with awe. The trophies and not to forget my little ivory pen-stand that my brother brought from China. The golden-yellow light of the little lamp in the corner cast a sombre hue along with the sky overloaded with rain.

“But I won’t be able to help you if you don’t tell me distinctly.”, I said with my patient voice that I’d been trained in.

She closed her eyes as if trying to recollect the horror that I was equally frightened to hear.

“It was 4 months back, 28th of March.” she said. “High School was like our second home. Like every teenager we had our share of fun. We had all sorts of children. Gawky. Nerds. The “I’m the Best and I don’t care about the rest” kind. The “Little Own World” type. The “Social Butterfly’s”. “The Genius”. “The Bullying Gang”. Just like every other schools.

But there was one boy. One particular redhead with spectacles too large for his clumsy head, that was alone. ALWAYS.
I remember the minute details about him because he had been with us since kindergarten. His name was Alan. He had light brown freckles dusting all over his face. A Batman Backpack and a Green-Lantern Bottle that he always carried. He always kept his distance from people. Keeping himself aloof. I wouldn’t call him feisty or ambitious, but he sure was dedicated to his work. ”
She heaved a burdened sigh of grief.
“All these years, we thought of him as a freak. We gave him nicknames. Made fun of him. Hit him. Tore his homework. Some even threatened him. Made him do various kinds of activities and he did all of them out of fear.”

“I’m sorry, you said ‘WE’? Were you also a part of all this?” I asked already knowing the answer.
“Yes,” she hesitated.

A cold drop of tear rolled down her cheek. She fidgeted and sat in a more comfortable posture.

“We had our summer break and our school was taking us to this Annual Science Fair. It’s focus was on the practical application of science so it was held outdoors. A big ground in a huge  arena. There were too many stalls. All displaying their products to the fullest potential. We as usual weren’t interested. Our attention was more on the lake not very far from the area.  We decided to escape from that place and made our way to the lake. After getting very close to being caught, there we were all giggling and euphoric. Clicking pictures, some boys even swam in the lake. All of this turned out into a Sunday afternoon picnic. We had beers, sandwiches that we stole from the snacks section.

We were having fun when someone caught the boys’ eye. We saw Alan not very far from the lake. He was filling a beaker with some water. For some experiment or sample, perhaps. The boys didn’t wish to lose this opportunity. They marched towards him as if trying to grab a turkey. They surrounded him and started to nag him. Pulling his shirt. Pushing him. Hitting him, pinching him.

I sat on the side watching all this. To be honest I felt bad for him. A guy like him didn’t deserve to be treated like that. But I was too BOLD to do something like that. To STOP them.

One threw his beaker in the lake. He ran to grasp it. One of them held him while the other kicked him in his gut. He winced in pain.
‘You want that beaker, why don’t you go get it yourself?”
Saying this, they threw him in the lake. For a moment everyone was laughing, finding every struggle of that poor boy hilarious. But after a minute there was silence. We froze. We knew what had happened. The motionless body after a minute of failed struggle swam on the lake. Everybody ran away from the spot without caring to at least fetch the boys body. Like a coward, I ran too. It was today in the news that I saw the coverage of his demise. I haven’t been more guilty in my entire lifetime.”  she started sobbing.

I sat there still. Listening to this disgusting, gory tale of teenage. Only the clocked ticked in the paralyzed silence between us. The sound of rain audible hitting the glass of my window pane. A bright flicker of lightening struck above us. And I could hear the crickets in my backyard.
In my mind I wondered why people don’t see the right from the start. Why do they need experience for an obvious thing. I was succumbed to despair. I wanted to say a lot of waspish remarks. But all I could manage to say to her was,
It wasn’t your fault.”

The girl on the Beach.

Sienna Rose Murphy. Aaah! We’d finally come up with a name. I glanced inside that tender cradle, to see those lovely luminous eyes. This had become a routine. I couldn’t get enough of that clear night sky in her wide, scintillating eyes. It was as if all of a sudden, everything had changed. My faith in miracles had restored. And after what seemed like a lifetime, I was smiling again. But in all this exuberance, celebration and merry, I will accept, that a thought did strike my mind, no matter how much I denied it. I used to wonder, what will I tell her when she’s old enough and starts to question the obvious. Will she be a rebel, like those kids they show on tv? Pierced, tattooed. Short hair? Coming home late at night and scuttling straight to her room upstairs? A bunch of useless friends with probably no ambition. But one thought shuddered me. What will happen when she seeks for the answers. Answers I know I can’t hide for long. Will she come in terms with us? What if she runs away .. ? I felt a chill down my spine.
16 Years Later.
A cold wind brushed against my hair. My balcony was always a wonderful place to meditate. Harold always had a thing for plants. He’d sometimes tease me that he could marry a plant if he could. Not that I was ever jealous. I always knew he wouldn’t give me away for anything in this entire universe.
He had planted a Jasmine in our garden that had climbed and made it’s way to our balcony. It was a fresh fragrance. Exotic and sweet. It filtered the air around me and after a quite loud and stale hour inside the room, I was rejuvenated again. I decided to go inside as people had started to search for me. It was Sienna’s 16th birthday party.

And it was like magic how time had passed. I’m extremely delightful to say that Sienna didn’t turn out to be the Gothic, drunken teenager I warned myself about. She was a sweetheart. A beautiful brunette with a kind and warm embrace. She was adored by everyone. A lovely girl with no smell of arrogance, rebellion or disrespect for anyone. She left tokens of her cheer wherever she went. Her mellifluous giggles were a treat to people around her.

Sienna was 12 when I discovered what she had in her. I was cleaning her room when I saw one of her notebook’s. She had sketched almost whole of the city. Every building, every fountain on the crossroads. Students of her class, her teacher. EVERY DETAIL. Flowers, birds, and some absolutely impeccable work I couldn’t even understand.
“There you are?! I’ve been searching for you all around!”, said Sienna almost out of breath.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize, I’ve been here for that long”, I said with a slight shrug of guilt.
“That’s all right, it’s almost time to cut the cake, I need you with me Mom. Come’on let’s go” 
She took my hand and moved forward, but I stayed. She turned around and was puzzled to see the mixed emotions on my face. “What’s wrong?” I just stared at her with content, fear, love and pride. I couldn’t find the right words but out of God knows which of the trillion emotions, I managed to throw, “You know that we all love you right?”

“Yes! Of course” she said, almost sympathetic but still befuddled. I gave her forehead a brief kiss and we tagged along to the living room with the beautiful, majestic cake!
Sienna didn’t have many friends at school. This fact worried me a lot. Although she persuaded me that she was okay. But I couldn’t come in terms with it. I know I just told you that she was a lively and free-spirited girl, but somehow at school, she was different. Plus, when I had asked her to enroll for the art class, she had very kindly rejected the offer. I couldn’t understand. So I dropped the topic.


Next Morning. Monday, 15th of July.

Bye Mom” I waved at her putting my car into reverse. I always thought what went on in her mind. Why was she so worried all the time. And it wasn’t just the worry that bothered me. It was something else. Like she was scared of something she was keeping me ignorant from. I  parked my car and made my way to the most ugliest place on Earth. SCHOOL. If there’s any place I hated from my heart, it was this godforsaken place. I’ve spent most of my years alone on a bench in the cafeteria or library. I had told mom that I had 2-3 friends at school, but the truth is, I had none. ZERO.

It wasn’t because I couldn’t talk, I just thought these people were the most selfish people on the planet. You see, I have this ME inside my brain, I like to call it “The Observer.” This is my voice that helps me form opinions. I keep observing as I walk to my class. Plastic, skinny girls considering themselves to be the “Hot-Stuff”. Lame guys hitting on these plastic girls. Thinking themselves to the best. Assigning nick-names to people. Well, mine was “Weirdo Sketcher”. Not that it ever bother me. These people were too immature to irritate me anyway. Bullying. Random groups. God! I hated  this place.

I came and sat on the last bench. Unpacking my kit to sketch as the class hadn’t started yet. I began to complete the portrait of the Maple tree that caught my eye yesterday.
“Wow, that’s some really cool stuff” I almost dropped my pencil and stumbled upon my table. I looked up to see  a tall red-head with amazing brown eyes. “You know, you really should put this on display”
“yeah, thanks.” 
I replied, confused and a little nervous I don’t know why. “I’m Dean.” He sat down on the table next to me.
“Sienna.”

It dawned upon me, that I hadn’t seen this guy before. “You’re new here?”
“Yeah. Actually I got transferred from Carolina. You know. New Place. New Apartment. Moving on and stuff.” 
I noticed a slight discomfort in his voice. So I quickly changed the topic. “So ..you made any new friends?”, I asked hesitantly. “No, you’re actually the first.” I found a slight relief and pride to be his “First Friend” although I have no frikin idea why. “Yeah, you’re my first friend too.”
“Wait .. For how long you’ve been studying here?”
, he asked with an element of surprise that was expected.

“Since Kindergarten?”  I tried a failed attempt to hide my awkwardness. “What? You have NO FRIENDS and you’ve been here since 15 years?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s..well..WEIRD”
, he said with a slight amusement.
“Yeah, people usually call me that.”
I’m so glad our conversation was put to an end by the history class. As soon as the bell rang, within seconds I found myself rushing back home in my car. Daring not to bump into Dean.

That night, my mother was constantly forcing me to take part in the Annual Art Fest organised by my school.  And like every time, I was refusing. But I noticed this was something she really wanted me to do. Recklessly, I enrolled myself on our college website. The competition wasn’t until Friday, and I had a whole week. I started sketching my heart out. I don’t think I told you this before, but there’s a reason I never showed my work to people around me. I think they’ll never understand the true beauty of it. The peace it gives me inside. The cool and calm I breathe through my soul. I unburden myself through my sketches. Through this, I connect with myself. And a mere applause and monetary rewards will NEVER be able to balance it’s worth for me. I completed 15 sketches in 1 week. And while I stood on stage with a dead silence in the hall I looked above, beside, below but never in front.

As I returned home proudly with the winning trophy, I wondered if Dean was in the crowd. But the thought wavered away as soon as I reached my place. My mom hugged me but somehow, she didn’t seem as delighted as I thought she’d be. “Sit down, Sienna.” I couldn’t understand. “I think it’s high time we tell you the truth.” She looked exhausted, helpless. I had no idea what was in store for me.
“You’re not our daughter, Sienna.”
For a fraction of second, I thought I’d misheard. But she meant it. I hadn’t been more scared and surprised in my life. “You’re kidding right?” I said. Expecting her to change her answer.
“Do you possibly think I would?” she said with a lump in her throat.

I felt nauseous. I couldn’t breathe. I was numb with complete disbelief.  “And you’re telling me this..NOW?!”
“We were just waiting for the right time”

“And you thought, NOW was a good time?!!”, I yelled at her shaking her a bit.

That was it. I couldn’t think of anything else. A part of me knew it wasn’t her fault. But a part of me hated her for separating me from my real parents. I couldn’t endure this hysteria. I had to get back my posture. I burst open the door and staggered my way out. I could imagine my helpless mother behind me. I chose not to look back. I sat on the over-bridge. Alone. Tears drifting down my face, warming my cheeks. 
“You know you really shouldn’t be here all by yourself.” 
I recognized that voice. It was Dean! I was too weak and vulnerable to ask him how he got here. “I went to your place to congratulate you. Your mom told me I’d find you here.”

“So, I know this is personal, but you’re mad at your mom, for what?”
“She lied to me!!??”
“Okay, but did you consider it even once, that why she did it. Did you not notice that in all these years you couldn’t have a single doubt, that’s how much she loved you. She has supported you just like every mother should.  She has done all her duties towards you. She told you the truth when you were mature enough. You should think this through before making a final decision. But as for now, you should go home. It’s cold ..and dark.and well..I’m hungry”

I went home and saw my mother waiting for me by the fireplace. And sat down near her. There was a silence, not an awkward one. But a rather warm silence.
“You know you were just a little baby when we found you.” she said, her eyes fixed upon the fireplace. “You were so beautiful.”  she closed her eyes and a tear rolled down her wrinkled skin. “We were having a normal walk on the beach when we saw a small little thing rolled in white cloth under a bamboo tree. When we went near it we found you lying there. We were surprised as to how could someone leave a baby at an odd and dangerous place like this. You were so weak. And undernourished. We took you home and took care of you. We made you healthy.

I wasn’t blessed with a child of my own so I took immense care of you. Treating you like my own. When you were healthy enough we went to the childcare community to send you where you belong. But no whereabouts could be found about your family. So we decided to adopt you. I swear to you Sienna, there’s no one in this world I love more than you. I nurtured you and always thought of you as my own. And even if you choose to walk away from me today, I will accept it, because I don’t want to imprison you. And if leaving us makes you happy then I’ll let you go.”

I listened to every word. Remorse. Guilt. My eyes brimmed with tears. “I’m not going anywhere Mom.”

So, this is Me.  I’m Sienna Rose Murphy. Proud daughter of Jane and Harold Murphy.  I sketch stuff that I like.  I have a best friend/crush named Dean. I have started making friends now and I find that it’s not that bad. I love all the few friends I’ve made. But there’s no one in this world I value and love more than my parents.  And yes, I sketch quite often now and my works are displayed in the local carnival every spring.