Dear editor,

It is not easy being human. We are casts that came from moulds that are so perfectly set, that the cracks rarely emerge.

We are fired and tempered under conditions that are so quintessential that we automatically, eventually, resign to the informality of unerring raunchiness. It happens inevitably, for the wet clay when it is incarcerated, is constantly compelled to stir.

My story begins on a train bounding endlessly across the plains of Lahore to Karachi. I could have flown there in an hour and forty-five minutes, instead I chose the twenty-two hour travel time by train to dilute my thoughts. Since I was returning from college, after an event full year of feuding, longing, recrimination, repose, exhilaration, emotions that are evoked when one is young and fluid.It was late at night so after a while,  I fell into a tempestuous slumber. When I awoke I was sweating.

The first thing that dawned on me was that I was not alone. On the berth across from me lay a young woman assembled in red threads. Could be she was a bride, but where was the wedding party? Why was she stretched out in such unquenchable relinquish? – her red dupatta partly covering her face, her hair a loose sea of serpents hanging from one side, her slim waist arched in peaceful agony.

I carefully removed the thin covering from her face only to be astounded by what I saw. It was dark in the cabin, so what was revealed to me was nothing like I had seen before. She seemed unconscious; or was I unconscious; I cannot remember. I swallowed in earnest to cease my thirst, but all seemed still. The rhythm of the moving train erased in the soft moonlight, making shapes which kept changing, like ripples spreading over a calm surface, of a lake full of blood. I ran my fingers over that face, over that lucid  body. Was she alive? When my hand cupped her breast I was certain she was, as I felt her heart beat and the rouse of a woman who is swinging between being awake or in a deep state of latency.

And then I undressed her, in that very state.  The body that lay before me was nothing like I had held before. This flesh had been through many changes to be reborn with such utter perfection beneath the light of the moon. So perfect was her physical beauty, it aroused nothing sexual in me. I could only stare, astounded, at the lovely curve from waist to hips, the rounded richness of the breasts, the gentle movement with each breath of the slim belly, and the soft pubic shadow beneath.

A terrifying intensity arose within me as I stayed fixed for a very long time, until it occurred to me that I had to walk away and break the spell.

I left the cabin, and gasped for air in recognition of where I was, in time, space, association, only to find myself walking from one car to another, only to realise too late what I had left behind, when all of a sudden I heard a scream.

I rushed back to discover in sheer horror that my lack of foresight had led to a situation that was as absurd as what I had managed to create in that delirium. She was surrounded by people who were sounding completely inane as they jumped from one conclusion to another, shouting profanities at the girl who was still obviously drugged. After a while I figured out through the commotion that they were her family taking her to her future husband’s home near Hyderabad, to be wed.

A few days later I read an obituary:

Unidentified girl, medium height, age approximate 18, raped and shot on the Shalimar Express. No family present when body was found. Case being reviewed by Pol Road District Thana. No evidence found.

That night, I picked up my knapsack and forced myself to walk away from that tableau, enveloped in a haze of emotions that still jolt me out of my sleep with a ferocious brutality. It never leaves, the intensity of that moment. It always leaves me with such a great feeling of impotency. I am fascinated by my own paralysis. Fascinated by the fact that any human is capable of such dishonorable malignancy, and yet continues on the journey of life.


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