Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Progati - The tale of Progress (Part III)

I would've attended the function with my entourage, complete with my husband, two kids and Abbu, had Aftaab not gotten that urgent call. He had been called away an hour before we were due to leave for the function. He left assuring us all that his work would be over in half an hour. And all of us got ready and settled down to wait. After forty minutes of listening to "The subscriber you are trying to reach is currently not available", I had begun to get irritated at the recorded message. We should have left long ago, the function was due to start in fifteen minutes, and Aftaab's phone was still unreachable. That was when Abbu decided that I should leave.
"Go on, I'll wait with the children. Once Aftaab comes, we will all join you."

And so I endured the hour-long journey alone, in a stifling taxi, the hour seeming longer than it really was. My entire life passed before my eyes in that one hour. Two faces kept coming to my mind again and again. One was Ammi's and the second belonged to Rewa.

By the time I reached the venue, the function had already begun. I quietly slipped into the back rows and glanced about me. The function wasn't a grand one; it was stark simple affair, living up to the clich├ęd writer’s belief "Simple Living and High Thinking". The hall was small, seating about a 100 people. On a low dais in the front, sat the Organizing committee and the chief guest, an eminent fiction writer. I had read two of his books, and found him high on sleaze and sensation and low on intellect. But the truth was that his work sold and thus he was the guest of honor. In the melee of intellectual looking writers, stood out a plump woman who sat in the front row. Her shimmering dark green saree stood out in deep contrast admits the dull pastel fabrics of the remainder of audience. And the diamonds she wore on her fingers, ears and neck certainly qualified to be called rocks! In a glamorous page 3 event maybe, but here she looked absolutely out of place. She sat diagonally opposite me and every time I looked at her face, it seemed more and more familiar.

The nominations were called, and the awards given out. My heartbeat rose to a crescendo when my name was called out in the nominations. The guest of honor was handed the envelope and he opened it. An eternity seemed to pass as he adjusted his spectacles over his nose and read the name written on the card. Then he glanced at the audience and smiled. He said, "The second lady winner of the evening ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Saira Bashir..."

I walked up to the dais in a trance. The chief guest shook my hand, placed the trophy in my trembling fingers and invited me to speak.

"Well, I owe the success of my book to Allah and to all my readers, and I thank all those who have helped me become what I am today. My kids, my husband, my Abbu, my Ammi, and the girl who gave me the courage and inspiration to get started - Rewa, Rewa Shastri"

The customary polite applause followed my words as I descended from the dais. The lady in the green saree sat directly in front of me, and as my gaze fell on her, I saw a look of immense surprise on her face. And now, from such close quarters, she seemed all the more familiar.