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Throughout the swarming buzz of sound, the patriotic cry is the only one which resounds clearly--it pierces the pounding of the rain and reverberates in the humid air, into the coat of wet grime which makes the streets slippery and brown.
“God bless India!” They wail, they scream, they hold each other and post the tricolored flags on their doorsteps, on their rooftops, on their cars, on their shirts and hats. They don orange saris and pray in gratitude for their freedom. They pour into the streets they were not allowed access to--they sing in loud, clear voices. Victory, at last.
For a moment, rolling thunder masks the anthems of their tribulation and freedom. The sky suddenly convulses and procures a corrugated sliver of blinding light, rendering the firmament a ghastly shade of white and green. It casts an eerie glimmer upon an empty alley, flashing to reveal a petite silhouette.
Torn paper, broken bottles, rotten carcasses of once-cooked chicken, and wet excrement litter the narrow alleyway--the catcher of all trash haphazardly thrown out of the apartment windows, leaking out of torn, unattended garbage bags. Beneath the thunder and the overwhelming enthusiasm from the streets, the quick, sharp pitter-patter of rodent feet is barely audible as they scamper beneath the litter, causing the pieces of scrap metal to clink together.
Beneath even the noise of the rats, a highly trained ear would be able to make out an incongruous sound--the rapid intake and release of shallow, halting, quick and unsteady breaths. The slim shoulders of the silhouette double over onto knelt, bent legs, which press against shattered glass and leak a thin stream of crimson. The shoulders heave, the demure figure shakes violently. Her slim arms tremble beneath the gossamer fabric of her white salwar kamiz, torn and wrinkled. She holds her quavering hands beneath her bent torso--one clutches her stomach, one presses against the torn fabric which was not enough to guard her inner thigh.
Caught against the handle of a garbage can adjacent to her, a soaking, mint colored scarf flaps helplessly against the wind and the rain.
All at once, the thunder ceases--the downpour halts, like the tap of a shower-head is slammed closed.
“Hindustan, Hindustan!” The cries from the streets persist with an unparalleled fervor. “Vande Mataram!”
Slowly, her battered silhouette straightens. Lifting one vertebrae at a time, she rolls into a seated position, her thick black eyebrows furrowed, her delicate hooked nose crinkled as she presses her closed fists into the ground and stretches out her legs. She winces as she places her bare foot flat upon the filthy ground, as it crunches into labyrinth of feces and sharp debris. Her brown eyes glinting with bitter fury and pain, she snatches the drenched scarf from where it is snagged onto the garbage can. With deliberation, she wraps it’s tattered folds around her head, the tip of her long black braid peeking through the end of it.
Finally, she manages to rise to her feet. She tips her head towards the sky, her face reflecting the obscure medley of the colors it emanates. Her lips part--they move as she whispers silently. Her chant grows louder and louder as she places one foot ahead of the other--walking hesitantly down the alleyway, into the teeming streets.
“Allahu Akbar,” she repeats, with greater and greater resolve, “God is great, God is great.”
Her homeland had deserted her, it had reached into her mind and stripped the flag which rested there of orange. Ruefully, she made her way to the crowd. But hers is not triumph--her battle is upstream.
“Allahu Akbar,” she chants, and quietly she declares, “Long live Pakistan.”