A 55-year-old Zulekha sits in her balcony, basking in the winter sun. The wrinkles on her face glisten
when the sun rays reach her skin, filtering through the tall tree standing up right next to her house. Her
grey hair matches the color of her now dropping eyes. Her frail body occupies a small portion of the big
armchair she is sitting on, slowly she moves her trembling hands towards the coffee table kept near her
chair. In one hand she holds a big mug of black coffee while she reads from the diary she is holding in
the other hand. The diary she reads from today came into her possession when her hands didn’t tremble
and her eyes didn’t droop.
Today as she sits in the winter sun, warming up her old bones and reading the diary she started to write
as a teenager, nostalgia grips her tightly. Midway through a sentence a crooked smiles spreads across
her wrinkled face and sometimes she just stops to stare into the nothingness. A different memory crops
up in her mind, with each page she turns. Sipping through a mug of coffee, she takes a break from reading
and turn to look at the sparrow sitting on the branch of the tall tree. Sometimes Zulekha’s mind used to
wander around the tree and its inhabitants, how long has it been here for? Why don’t these birds ever
leave their nest and fly away to a better place? Is the life inside the cover of this tree peaceful and
The sparrow now sitting on the branch of the tree turns her head towards Zulekha as though she
recognizes her and wishes to communicate. This little bird has been Zulekha’s companion now for more
than three months. Often people question Zulekha, about her quick aging; she just gives a big laugh
and says “It’s a deep, dark secret!”. Zulekha’s bones need the sun more than ever this winter season
hence she spends most of her winter afternoons in the balcony. Her reading partners range from her
favorite tan colored diary to old/new newspapers, magazines from her trunk and books she borrows
from her neighbor. But her little companion sitting on the branch never misses out on any of the
winter afternoon rendezvous.
It was almost 15 years ago when Zulekha moved into this house, she shifted into a new city, a new
house and a new identity in order to escape from the label of ‘a divorcee’ the society was waiting to put
upon her. Sweet college love turned into a sour and rotten story of betrayal and pain when her husband
walked out of the nuptial bond. With a few memories of love, marriage, and romance packed in her
suitcases and a legal paper to prove that humans didn’t care for affection and emotions in hand, Zulekha
planned to write a new chapter of life.
After moving to Shimla, Zulekha opened a new chapter of her life and started to live a life where she
found solace in solitude. Her apartment was located on the outskirts of the city. At the age of 40,
Zulekha was settling in with a new identity, new home, new city, new life and a new job. One day while
she was unpacking she was reminded of the day when she left her ancestral home and parents at the
age of 22, she was dealing with something similar even then. As a young girl when Zulekha broke free
from the bonds of family, in search of a new identity which she could call her own, she never knew she
would again be looking for an identity at a later stage of life.
Zulekha as a young girl and even as a woman found family and societal pressure never easy to cope up
with. At 22 when the redundant and illogical norms of Old Delhi felt like too much of a pressure to
handle, Zulekha knew it was time to leave. At 40 when her infertility gave her husband and college love
a reason to switch partners, she knew it was time to leave again.
Strong and confident at 20, a successful woman at 30, betrayed at 40, critically ill at 42, lonely yet
satisfied at 55, the life of this girl hailing from Delhi-6 had surely been a roller-coaster ride. After she
found her new abode in the queen of hills, she joined a school of differently-abled children where she
spent time with kids with special needs. Just when her life had started to get back on track, she
developed chronic coughing which later on turned into lung cancer. She was diagnosed with lung cancer
42. The day the doctor diagnosed her illness, she broke into a fit of laughter and said: “This definitely
had to happen, after all the profit I provided to the cigarette companies!” She laughed and smiled until
she reached the door of her apartment, a certain darkness awaited for her inside the door.
As the cancer spread through her lungs, and her chemo sessions turned out to be painful and
unrewarding, Zulekha’s body turned pale and weak. She stopped working at the school, and started to
use the time left on her hands, to pen down her journey of life, in a memoir titled “Meri Zindagi”.
Zulekha had a strong hold over the language of Urdu, all thanks to the Maulvi Sahib who used to the
cane quite many times, but made sure that his students had a strong command over the language by the
time she was 10 years old.
It was around 4 o’clock when Zulekha moved back into the house, her maid was busy preparing some
dishes for the evening party in the kitchen. Zulekha slowly moved into her room, and walked towards
her study table, she sealed the enveloped lying on the table and wrote an address on the top of the
envelope. Today was Zulekha’s 55th birthday and she was celebrating it with the few friends and
colleagues she had made in the years she had spent in Shimla. The evening party was full of fun and
frolic, Zulekha was helped into a chair before she cut the cake that read, “18 till I die”.
The days and nights during the winter months have a different effect. Sometimes one feels warms and
sometimes the cold grips just too tightly. A month later, when the streets of Delhi were celebrating
Christmas, an unexpected and sudden knock on the door startled the inhabitants of a house located in
one of the dimly lit streets of Old Delhi. An old man with a curved back received an envelope from the
courier boy and slowly walked back inside the house which looked old yet strong. The old man handed
over the enveloped to the lady lying on the cot with her spectacle case. The old lady strained her eyes a
little bit to read the name on the envelope. Her husband, the old man brought a study lamp closer to
her bed to make it easier for her to read.
She opened the envelope two find two letters and a sealed brown envelope inside. The two letters were
written by two different people, one was her daughter – Zulekha and the other letter was from a man
called Gautam. She quickly unfolded Zulekha’s letter and began to read –
Aaj bhi mere haanth ussi tarah kaanp rahe hai jiss tarah uss waqt kaanp rahe thein jab mainein ghar ka
darwaza khola tha, uss ghar ko alivida kehne se pehle. Mainein kayi baar kalm uthaya aapko khat likhne
ke liye par meri ungliyon nein mera saath na diya. Aapka udaas chehra aur Abba ki gusse se tamtamata
hua chehra mujhe rok deta tha. Dadijaan nein toh mera naam bhi khandaani shajre main se nikalwa diya
hai. Aur bhaijan nein mujhe zinda hone ke bawajood meri namaaz janaza padhwa diya tha. 33 saal
pehle jab mainein ghar ki dahleez langi thi, mainein kabhi na socha tha ki main kabhi unn galiyon main
wapas kadum bhi rakhungi.
Par har saal jab Eid ka chand dikhayi diya, jab mainein zindagi ka ek saal rote haste guzaar diya aur jab
kabhi aapke itar ki khushboo nein mujhe tang kiya, main unn galiyon main aayi, kayi baar aayi. Mujhe
laga tha ki rishtein unn kadiyon ko naam hai jo humein kabhi aagay nahi badhne dete, par mujhe kya
pata tha ki rishte uss ehsaas ka naam hai uss yaad ka naam hai jo zindagi ka maanein humein samjhate
hai. Kabhi Abba ki daant, toh kabhi aapki siwayein ki meethi se khushboo aur kabhi humare ghar ke
baghal waali masjid ki azan, koi na koi bahana mil hi jaata tha mujhe unn galiyon main wapas aane ka.
Par jo dahleez main laang kar bahar nikal chuki thi ussi dahleez ko phir se paar karna mushkil tha.
Ammi mainein jo bhi khwaab bunein thein apne ghar ki aangan main charpayi pay lete hue, unn sab ko
asliyat main bhi mehsus kiya. Main ek kamyaab aurat banni aur jiss ehsaas nein mujhse muh mod liya
tha uss ehsaas ko mainein Shimla main mehsus kiya. Main ek biwi banni, aur ek maa bhi, mere kayi saare
bache thein, har saal bachein badalte thein, aur unke saath saath main bhi badalti gayi. Unn bachon ke
saath rehkar mainein bahut kuch seekha.
Aaj main khushaal zindagi guzar rahi hoon, main akeli hoon par mere andar ki har besukooni nein ab
sukoon ki shakal le li. Mere dil aur dimag ko kayi maayusiyan nein jakad rakha tha par meri bimari nein
mujhe ladna sikhaya. Jab sab kuch dhundhla sa lagne laga mainein apne kalm se kagaz pay kuch yaadein
likhne shuru ki aur phir sab kuch khoobsurat sa lagne laga.
Choona tha mujhse aasman, par ab waqt aaya hai do gaz zameen ke niche so jaane ka
Aye Zindagi tunein mujhe bade hi khaate meethe sabak sikhaye, kabhi pyaar se toh kabhi sakhti se
Tu isse pehle meri ruh se bewafai kar jaaye aur meri saansein thum jaaye
Main tera shukriyada karna chahungi, uss har sabak ke liye, uss har ehsaas ke liye, uss har yaad ke liye
Aye meri pyaari zindagi tujhe bada ustaad koi nahi
Apna aur abbu ka khayal rakhiyega Ammi, main aapse milne jald ji aaoungi. Aur Abba se kahiyega ki unki
beti nein unka naam kabhi bhi miti main nahi milaya.
Aapki beti, Zulekha
With tears rolling down her eyes, her mother opened the next letter from Gautam –
Meri aapki mulaqaat kabhi bhi nahi hui hai, par Zulekha ki ammi ko Zulekha se juda har shaks achi tarah
se jaanta hai. Aapki kuch tasveerein main bhi dekhi hai mainein. Zulekha aap dono se milna chahti thi
par apne haste muskuruate hue chehre ke saath naa ki apne kamzor aur beemar shaksiyat ke saath. Yeh
khat Zulekha nein apni saal girah ke din likha tha jo mujhe uska ghar khaali karte waqt mila.
Zulekha ki likhi hui kitaab hum agle mahinay aur naye saal main launch kar rahe hai. Uss kitaab ki ek
copy aapko bhi bhej raha hoon. Mujhe yakeen hai yeh aapko bhi behad pasand aayegi. Zulekha aap
dono ko bahut chahti thi. Main book launch ki tareekh, din aur pata apne agle khat main bhej dunga,
aap aur Abbu zaroor aayega.
With her trembling hands, Zulekha’s mother opened the brown envelope, which contained the copy of
her daughter’s book titled “Meri Zindagi”. On the back of the book, Zulekha picture with her still
twinkling eyes stared back into her mother’s tear-filled ones.
Just another dreamer who weaves her world in words and ink. Like to read and write and talk a lot(being a teacher by profession).She has worked with young adults of all age groups which makes her a versatile trainer and teacher.She is currently working with teenagers in a school brushing up their language and literature.Masters in Mass Comm, Former Soft Skills Trainer , IPS, UoA. Drawn from reality, her work is simple, real and easy to connect with.