UNKNOWN 
An leaf from an expat’s diary

Mind strayed. Like the seagulls circling the sky by the bay.

It was dull all around, despite the lovely weather – gentle breeze dotted with beautiful spells of rain – a rarity in the desert land.

Choked, I felt a mad cry being strangled down my throat and I reached out to my water bottle as my lips went unusually dry.

The air-conditioner suffocatedme and I turned it down and lowered the car windows letting a gush of fresh air in, which filled my ears like smoke.

The music was unappealing that I turned it down.

Nothing was alright and it was just a dull day. Like that day the poet chose to bury herself alive for the worms to eat her up or the day that she chose to close her head in an oven.

The mystery of a headless body haunted me – how could I ever stand the scene? I felt nauseous and grabbed the bottle again. Gulping down water, I rubbed my chest, as though to make sure I could still feel the thud of that fistful red lump within.

Few faces with eyes that ran the black of poverty beneath them, like a sack, staring into nothingness, on a dim lit verandah, flashed into mind.

A frail woman who hugged a toddler tight, a girl in her early teens by her side, an old man in a creaky chair whose loud coughing shattered the terrifying silence in regular pattern and a youth whose expression painted irritation and anger at the universe.

“Where is he? What happened to him? He has never been cut off for such long a time…” the old man’s thoughts raced back to his son’s young aged face.

He has been gone almost ten years now, far from home and was doing some odd jobs in a foreign land to make both ends meet – burdens of a big family.

He used to make occasional calls, sent letters and regularly some money that kept the furnace alive to feed five.

“It has been a month and more…where did he go? Is he okay?” the father moaned within.

He missed his wife, who he wished was alive to share the pang about their missing son.

Days after the marriage he was gone and came home just three times in all these seven years - she heaved a sigh.

Those few but warm moments of love and lust, were enough for her to know her man and she trusted deep with – he would not stray. Another woman would never take her place, she was sure.

“But where is he? What happened to him? He pushed all limits to make sure that his family was fed. The little money that reached every two months, she felt, smelled his sweat…

She missed his fragrance, and she hugged the toddler tighter swallowing a lump.

Last time she was swinging in his strong arms, Abbu told her “study well and you must become an officer.”

“Yes Abbu,” she said loving the sport every bit and it was the best moment of a girls’ free life!

“Abbu where are you?” she silently sobbed.

She missed the long walks and talks swinging carefree in her Abbu’s arms.

“Why can’t he call once and say what is he up to?” blood rushed on to the cheeks of the youngster.

Ever since he dropped school Abbu was not happy with him and not very chatty whenever he called.

“I want to come with you and work there,” he told Abbu last summer when he came.

He remembered the look so stern on his Abbu’s face which slowly gave way to a gentle nod in yes, adding ‘let’s see”.

He missed the reassurance that his Abbu, be it from somewhere far, was there, to fall back on to, like a hard rock beneath his feet. The long silence at the other side of a telephone irritated him…

The little boy who slept peacefully on his mother’s lap smiled…

An angel in his dreams and by the side of the heavenly glory was his Abbu, serene in white, and looked like a fluffy cloud.

Suddenly he laughed as he always did when his Abbu tickled him and threw him up in the air, landing right back into his muscular arms.

He woke up from sleep mumbling “Abbu” and pointed toward the sky with a sleepy smile.

The old man wiped his tears that trickled down and his wrinkled hands shivered…

Panic shaded the woman’sface and the girl sobbed loud. The angry young man, threw a mud pot breaking it into pieces.

All eyes, except that of the child’s were sagged and were dark.

A headless body, marked “UNKNOWN” remained cold in a morgue tray in a faraway land, a land which Abbu told his children, was a ‘fairy land’.

A tag on the tray read thus:

POLICE REPORT: Body found headless in an under construction building. Head separate inside polythene bag hanging from a rope. Suspected suicide / murder. Investigation underway.

A seagull flew so low that it almost crashed on to my wind screen. Its painful cackle scared me and the rain drops that splashed could not, for once, soothe me…

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