Submissions open for Wingword Poetry Prize 2020

MAYA

Namami Jariwala

"Are the most beautiful things always besides the darkest, grandma?"
asked the 10-year-old Maya. She was a strange and a curious girl, always has been one. listening to her question, grandma replies with a tender smile," It depends on how you define beauty and darkness."
she asks again, "what is your definition of beauty and darkness?"
to this grandma replies, “My definition of darkness would be something undesirable, something unwanted yet powerful. And beauty, it depends on the eye of the beholder, anything can be beautiful, it depends on how you see it.”
“Your mother was beautiful” said grandma.
“oh, I know.” Replied Maya.
Maya’s mother disappeared after her birth, and her father disappeared two weeks later.
Maya was neither naive nor immature. She understood that her parents disappeared but never showed grief even though she was curious about them. She lived with her grandparents in Tulail Valley of Jammu and Kashmir. Tulail Valley, it was said to be a heaven on earth by the locals and the travelers. But beautiful things often hide the darkest secrets.
It was said that Tulail had some strange pasts. People were disappearing, and there was nothing anyone could do. It was one of the most remote valleys, it remains cut off for 6 months every year due to rainfall. And those 6 months was the prime time of these mishaps.
Maya’s grandparents were always worried about Maya, because they knew people disappearing in the past had never returned back. And they didn’t want to crush her hopes.
Maya could see her parents, she met them every day, during midnight near the neelum river.
One night, Maya was sleeping in her room, it was midnight when she heard someone calling her.
She was confused, terrified, frightened. She felt all these emotions at the same time. The voice was soft and clear. With hesitation, Maya asked, “Who is this? Why are you calling me?”
The voice replied, “This is us Maya, this is Mumma Papa”
“Mumma? Papa?” Maya replied.
Maya had no friends, the only company she had were the stories her grandparents used to tell her. She couldn’t believe it was her mom and dad, after so many years. She had tons of questions. Is it really her parents speaking? If yes, then where were they all this time? Why are they here now? This was certainly not a dream. After a moment of silence, the voice called again.
“Maya? This is really us. We wanted to talk to you. Meet us near the Neelum river.”
What to do? Believe it or not? Go to the river or remain inside with her questions. At the end, she decided to seek answers. She had to go, not because of her questions, but because she had hope, hope that they maybe her parents.
She went to the Neelum river. It was quiet yet so beautiful. The water was crystal clear and the moon light reflecting on the water, which made it sparkle. At that very moment, she lost herself, Maya had never seen something this beautiful. The voice, again, broke the silence.
“Maya? I knew you would come.” Said the voice.
“Are you really my mom and dad? How do I trust you?”
“you don’t have to trust me if you don’t want to, but ask yourself, why did you come? You hoped us to be your parents. And, we are your parents.” The voice said.
“Show yourself.” Replied Maya.

There was silence for a couple of minutes, and then a light rises from the river which splits into two. And then, there is Maya’s parents, standing in front of her.
They give her a smile.
“We have to tell you something, and its important.” They said.
“I cannot believe this, after so many years? you suddenly decide to reach out to me? as spirits?” questioned Maya.
To this her father replied, “listen Maya, we’re sorry, but you were too small to take this. We were always there with you.”
“and will be there for you.” Added her mother.
“you have to listen this. We were murdered. Me and your mother didn’t disappear, we were killed.”
“WHAT? Why were you killed? We thought you both disappeared. This is so messed up, who killed you guys? And why did they lie? I don’t understand, please explain.”
Replied Maya.
“before your birth, there were some strange things happening in Tulail. People were missing. So, I and your mother decided to dig in. these missing people were kidnapped and taken to terrorist camps, where they were forced to be terrorists. I and your mother, went so many places to stop this, in the end they found us, killed us and buried our bodies inside this river.”
Maya was so confused, she was puzzled. Didn’t know what to do.
She didn’t know whether to believe the voices or not,
The only thing she hoped and wanted to believe was that the voices were her parents. It was difficult for her to believe that it was really her parents, and moreover it was difficult to digest the fact that her parents were murdered.
And if this was the truth, that they had died, her hopes would vanish.
But, why did they come back?
After constantly meeting the spirits every night, Maya started to believe that they were her parents, but then she did have these questions.
She asked them, that night, “will you stay with me, like this, forever?”
“We never left. But yes, we cannot stay like this forever. There is something you need to do.”
“What?”
“We need you to tell this to your grandparents and the police. They should know about the terrorists and stop people from disappearing. We have proofs of these happenings in our locker, show it to them.”
“okay, I will. But you guys will leave me again, won’t you?” asked Maya.
“we will always be here with you.”
The next day, Maya tells this to her grandparents and to the police, but they don’t believe her. In the end, she asks them to dig the surface of the river, and find the bodies. After hours, they decide to dig the surface.
And when they dig it, they find skeletons and also a ring, which belonged to Maya’s mother. Maya showed them the proofs, the case was thoroughly investigated. But, the only thing hurting Maya was that she would never see her parents again or hear them.


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