She looked out the window and tried to imagine herself in a movie. It was cold, and Lahore was supposed to be smothered in fog. Her head was spinning. She wished she had had some sleep the night before. But all this traveling, it made her anxious. And then she hadn’t been in Lahore in so long. Well, people in movies don’t have headaches like mine, she thought. She sighed out loud.
The family sitting in her compartment had been… well, entertaining for sure. Two old obese women travelling with six children, the oldest of which must’ve been an 15 year old boy (who wouldn’t stop staring at her) and the youngest just a baby, barely five months old, crying continuously. One of the women loved paan, and punctuated her chewing with periodical spits in one corner. The other tried to feed all the kids, taking out cold parathas with achar that filled the entire compartment with a weird smell.
The kids were bored, mischievous and entirely misbehaved, she thought. It hadn’t been easy, the entire journey from Karachi to Lahore. She would’ve never come if it hadn’t been her sister.
She was still anxious when she got off on the platform. She didn’t have any change so she didn’t get a quli (porter). Stumbling, she tugged her luggage as she went out of the station to look for a rickshaw. She knew this station very well. It was associated with warm memories of going away to the village to spend her holidays as a child. She thought of her grandma now: widowed and broke, she had to sell off most of her cattle and property to come live with her son in the city. The land she had left now was only a fraction of her inheritance and dowry combined. Still, it brought enough income for one old lady to shop her heart out, when her health allowed her to do so, that is.
Lost in thought, she had barely noticed the young man standing next to her. He cleared his throat to get her attention. Startled, she took a step back. It was not proper for this young man to stand so close to her, she didn’t even know him! There was something odd about him; he was young and in good health, not particularly muscular, and still appeasing to the senses. He was smiling like he knew her, but clearly she didn’t. But it was changing now, his face… a sort of rapid metamorphosis. He was still young, still a man, but different entirely.
“Would you like to come?” He asked, beckoning to a rickshaw behind him. Inside, there was a young woman, dressed in a plain shalwar kameez and wrapped in a dupatta, but still very beautiful. She seemed vaguely familiar. Unthinkingly, she started walking towards the rickshaw. The fog had covered everything else except for that one rickshaw. She climbed into it as the young man took her bags. The young man got in and rode it into the station, onto the railroad.
As the rickshaw zoomed away from the station, away from the city, all she could do was watch while the young man put on a Nur Jahan song and the girl hummed along. She looked around at the green fields, at the passing villages, at everything.
She saw a train coming right at them. Perhaps two feet away, now one feet away….
Perhaps the prologue toRemembering . Tell me what you think!