Short stories

Amma Badbadi ka Darbar

Once upon a time in a big town called Emaan, there ruled a Thought as tyrant as any other king in the brutal history of this world. The Thought had so ruinously infested the town, that it could be felt in its soil, the clouds in the sky brewed storms in its praise, and the townsmen learned verses about its wisdom – which they eventually failed to comprehend themselves.

“O The Tyrant Thought,
You emerge from The Naught,
Your wisdom and praise is all we sought,
O’ The Tyrant Thought.
O’ The Tyrant Thought.”

They’d chant in unison, scrutinizing every syllable of each word. The word ‘Thought’, they’d emphasize, should come out of the throat like a squeal, full of Pain and Fear. They hummed elegies about writers, dissenters, freethinkers, the lost of the lot, the crazy maniacs without a purpose in life. The Heirs of Hell, they’d call them and pleaded mercy for them.

Trees of Emaan danced in the wind of arrogance, birds chirped the songs of fear, and frogs in the pond sang lore of The Valiant Thought, the master of their conscience. The townsmen scrupulously communicated within the barrier of the thought, for they believed that the learned men- the descendants of thoughtkeepers – would curse them with hell, a place as miserable as life. Amongst such curses and influences, lived Khala Rashida, in a tattered hut at the end of the lane. A wooden slab hung outside her muddy hut proclaimed that it was Amma Badbadi Ka Darbar, a name that townsmen had graced her with. A Babbler, The Vagabond.

Amma Badbadi wore bangles of different colors, different patterns, from different cities, that she had bartered with her tales, her melodies, her philosophies over the ages. She danced in her own ecstasy, and looked into distant lands as if searching for something- something bigger than life, and death.
“Oh sons, my sons, what I seek is beyond good and evil, right and wrong, Godly and ungodly. You ask me what it is. I tell you it perishes in me like a repressed memory, a thought that sets back everytime I want to gain it. I am driveless, but not hopeless. Oh sons, my sons, what I seek is freedom. Freedom from my own chaos, my own menifestations, my own bearing. Oh sons, my sons, look beyond the thought. My thought. Your thought.” She would carol on her daily pilgrimage to the town. But in contrast to her announcements, there was a calmness on her face, a kind of peace one sees on the face of an accomplished person, not a vagabond like her: devoid of meaning in life. Everyone in the town avoided her, even the most insane of them. (Secretly, in their wretched hearts the townsmen admired her tranquility, her gentleness, her welcoming attitude.)
“Blasphemer”
“Devil”
“Mad woman”
“Disgrace.”
“Clueless creature.”
These are the few words she was accustomed to, but even then she maintained an eerie calmness in her. Nobody liked the mad woman in the town, except the children, but they too, for their own mischiefs and naughtiness.
Amma Rashida would collect the children and recite them a story that she’d eventually disagree with, and then start a new one, for further disagreement. Her industry of thoughts was stormed, but her calmness was a trademark for her peace. Even the children didn’t quite understand her, let alone the adults. They’d play naughty tricks on her, pulled her legs, called her names that their parents taught, and hit her with a stone. But nothing would budg her. She would go on and on with her rantings, collecting them near a tree.
One day, the children of the town couldn’t find her anywhere in the town. They looked near the tree, beside the pond, in all the houses, but in vain. Only one place was left and that was her Darbar. Two kids accumulated the courage to go to her home, where she never entertained anyone. But their anticipation was added to their curiosity and they decided to take the risk. They thudded down the lane, and finally came near her home. When they entered the Darbar that remained unlocked all the time, they heard something that is too astonishing for words to describe- Amma Badbadi, the peaceful epitome of the the town, crying.
“Oh sons, my sons, look beyond the thought.” she cried.

– Shehwaaz Khan
B.A Eng. Hons. , Jamia Millia Islamia

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