Rivaj - Minaal Maan

Updated: Nov 30, 2020


Illustration by Rihab Nadeem

Prologue


He had been on his way to getting wasted the day he had met her, and he still remembered that day as if it were just yesterday; the dying rays of the sun and the faint scent of an approaching rain shower in the air. He remembered the dull throb in his temples as he was walking through the wet streets of the City of Gardens. It had been a long day: a stream of unwanted clients followed by an even larger stream of insults about not putting in any effort.


He found himself unconsciously rubbing his left wrist, and winced as he realized how sore it was. Images of a man pinning him against the wall only a couple of seconds after he had greeted him raced through his mind like a movie on repeat, and he was reminded yet again of just how brutal human beings could actually be. He knew his arms would be covered with bruises, he could practically feel them through the thin material of the silk shirt he was wearing. The shirt had been picked out for him and he had not been given a choice about whether he wanted to wear it, but then again, when was he ever given a choice really? He had accepted the fact that his body was not his own a long time ago, and had even gone through a phase where he had wanted to cut off his own limbs if it meant acceptance in regular society, but had concluded that there simply was no place for people like him in this world, no matter how hard they tried.


He smiled softly as a flock of pigeons flew past him and was amazed at how close they flew to one another. They did not grow up with their original parents either, but were brought into this world and then made to find their own way. Soon, they found a flock they could call their family. People like him, he realized, were like those pigeons.


The noise of the traffic around him now seemed to ring in his ears as he neared his destination, and his blood nearly sang inside his veins as he thought about the few hours of sweet detachment that lay before him. He had enough money to get him high on the cheap hash that could easily be bought near the shrine, and that was all he needed; just a few hits that might help him forget for a while.


His own parents had left him out on the street in a bloodied towel, he remembered Razia Bibi, the madam who ran the enterprise he worked for, telling him once. She had found him, fed and clothed him, and raised him so he could earn for himself, and of course, this was the only way he could earn for himself. There was no future for people like him, no likelihood of an actual career. His body was not his own and he should be grateful for all these years that he had been taken care of. He owed her a great deal, he had always been told. So any money he made would be divided between her and himself. She had a right to it because she was like his mother.