Someone just pulled their window shield up, and the early morning sunlight fell straight onto her face. Alba flinched slightly in her airliner seat, her eyelids shut. Her moment of serenity disturbed by the piercing rays of the sun. She opened her eyes and peeped through the nearest window. Beneath her was the city of dreams, Mumbai. Though Alba loved Mumbai more than she could imagine, the realisation of moving closer to it brought fear-fear of the unknown. She shut her eyes once again in an attempt to gather the determination of sailing into unpredictable waters.
She was woken once again by the sun. This time it shined through the flannel curtains of her hotel room. She jumped out of her bed panicking “Shit! He is coming!”; but almost instantly did her brain come up with, “no, he is not”. She had promised herself to be calm and composed and was trying very hard to keep herself together. The only work at hand today was to dispose of the things she carried all the way for Craig’s family. They don’t know her; they don’t want it and their son doesn’t want to see her. That’s what they said. Sitting by the window of her room, these words rang clearly inside her as the sun rose over Mumbai. She shut her eyes back in pain.
This time when she opened her eyes, she was in front of shrine of Haji Ali. It is believed that He grants you your heart’s desire. Millions of Indians visit Haji Ali’s shrine every year for getting their prayers heard, but Alba could not ask for anything. She wanted to ask for peace and strength but instead asked for the happiness of her loved ones. “I love so easily”, she thought. People of our generation would call her either emotional or plain stupid.
Walking back from the Dargah of Haji Ali, Alba heard muffled sobs. She looked around herself but found no one, even the other passersby walked without taking notice. She waited a moment to find the source of the the voice. It came from the farthest part of the sidewalk, where a woman sat, covering her face and body with an umbrella. Alba approached the woman; she could hear her cries loudly. She bent down to ask the woman if she was okay, and if Alba could help her in anyway.
What she saw broke her heart. The woman was poor, covered in bruises and has cried so much, that her tears have died out. It reminded Alba of the ocean of pain she was carrying inside herself. This brought tears to her eyes, breaking her promise of composure, Alba started to cry. She sat down by the side of the woman assuring her not to worry while other pedestrians stared at the well dressed educated woman sitting by an alms seeker.
Alba knew the kind of belief Indian people carried in their hearts and to help this woman, she had to tug on that belief. She placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder and tearfully said, “You believe in Him right?”, pointing at the shrine. “Then consider that He has sent me to help you! Please let me help you…”. The woman went silent on hearing this and held Alba’s hand.
The unfortunate woman was a victim of domestic abuse. She seeks alms by the Dargah of Haji Ali, with her two small girls. She told Alba, “Didi, please get my girls a home, where they can study and get food, so that I can get out of this abusive marriage. With me, they have no future.” It becomes easier to understand someone else’s pain when you too are going through the same. Promising the woman of her help, Alba got up to leave.
She turned at the shrine for one final look and smiled….This was probably the unasked peace that He had granted Alba: a mission to find these children better conditions to live; a blessing to lessen her own pain by soothing others.
So, emotional or plain stupid? Neither. She is nothing but a little good; in an era of lost principles, fake righteousness and right and left swipes.
Dargah– (Persian, also in Urdu) is a shrine built over the grave of a revered religious figure, often a Sufi saint.
Haji Ali– a Muslim merchant, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who gave up all his worldly possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Highly revered in India as a Sufi saint.
Didi– (Hindi) Elder sister.