Joined: 14 September 2006
With Aryan settled in for the night and Kaka watching over him, Sultan finally had time to stop. Time to stop making arrangements, time to stop making phone calls, time to stop running - just time to stop.
It had been hours since the shooting happened at Madhu's chawl during the Holi Celebrations. Immediately after the last of Bhujan and his goons were chased off, Sultan knew that he had to leave. He had to leave because he had no other option - he had to keep her safe.
Sitting on a rickety chair out on the porch, he looked out into the dark night sky. It was a clear night, not a single cloud could be seen. The stars were twinkling like diamonds and the air was fresh. Taking a deep breath, he felt his body sag almost molding into the wood frame of the chair as the weight of that day lifted only slightly.
He brought his hand up to rake it through his hair to try and alleviate any frustration he could, but instead, he stopped it in midair as the color of his hand caught his eyes. His hand was red. He was still dressed in the white kurta he had worn in the morning. He was still colored in the gullal that she'd used as a warning to get his attention. It was reminder of how the day had started and how it ended. It was a reminder of how her day and started and how it had ended.
Staring at his hand, he thought back to the morning when Madhu came to wish him and Aryan a Happy Holi. She came dressed in white which made her look absolutely regal. The splash of color from her dupatta was the perfect contrast to the simplicity of the white she wore. She came with a full pooja ki thali in her hands, ready to put the sacred tilak on their foreheads.
He remembered the smile of approval she gave when he had handed Aryan the small pichkari's for him to play with. He remembered the look of shock on her face when he'd rested his hand behind his head, indicating he too wanted to be blessed by the God's from the tilak she had in her hands. He remembered the joy and fervor in which she danced. He remembered her astute awareness of everything around her.
She had been dancing to her heart's content when she noticed someone offering Aryan a sweet - something even he hadn't picked up on. True to her protective nature, she tasted if before she let Aryan anywhere near it. He remembered the small prick of joy that he felt at the fact that someone other himself and Kaka was worried about Aryan's well being.
He remembered the softness of her touch when she had helped him up after Aryan and mischievously pushed him by the colored water of the pool. He remembered that she tried, and failed, to control her laughter at seeing him in such a stated. He remembered that endearing smile.
He remembered to joy and delight in her eyes as she ran from place to place, avoiding being colored by anyone. He remembered the warmth emanating from her as she hugged each and every person of her large, extended chawl family wishing them the best of blessing during the festive season.
That was the Madhu that he'd seen for the first time. That was the Madhu that made him believe for a second that his life could have color in it. That was the Madhu that made him think that maybe, just maybe, he could live a somewhat normal life.
And then, he remembered he was lying to himself.
He remembered the panic he'd seen in her eyes when she'd come to warn him about Bhujan's men ending up at her chawl. He remembered the sheer terror as she searched around for Aryan. He remembered the worry in her eyes when he had asked her to go inside saying he'd take care of it.
Anger, frustration and disappointment ran rampant through his veins as he remembered seeing her shake was she held a gun. The uneasiness and fear were apparent in her voice as she threatened Bhujan that she'd shoot him necessary. Handling guns was part of his life so it was easy for him to assume that everyone else would be able to handle them as easily as he did. It was simple really. There were only four steps.
It came naturally to him, because that was the life that he lead. Everyone in that life handled these objects in the same manner that he did. It was like having a third hand, available whenever you needed it.
It wasn't until he had seen her shaking that he finally registered how different they were.
He remembered the taunts and accusations the people of the chawl had hurled at her. They had dared to say that she had no concern for their safety - that she was being selfish. He would have said something but he was so ashamed that he couldn't even formulate words.
How could they not see what he saw? She was...PURE
Without giving a second thought about herself, she had bent over backwards for him and Aryan. Her number one priority was to keep Aryan safe - Sultan was just part of the package. She had stood by her decision going so far as to say that, if given the chance, she'd make the same decisions again. She was unapologetic about her beliefs. She held her own ground not for once faltering or needing rescuing.
It was at that moment, as he stood in the middle of the chawl holding Aryan in his arms, that he realized just how tainted he was.
He was the most notorious don in the city and she quite possibly was the kindest human being in the entire world. He lived a life of crime, hate, bloodshed, dishonesty, cruelty - you name it. She lived a life of love, happiness, simplicity, humility, honesty and faith. He carried the hurt from betrayal in his heart allowing it to spill into every waking moment of his day. She carried pain in her heart but never once let it dictate a single moment of her day.
His life was stained. And if, because of the choices he made, she came to be hurt, he'd never be able to forgive himself. What little self-respect and pride he had left in his eyes for himself would disappear the instant anything from his world hurt her.
Aryan, as his son, couldn't get away from it - not yet any way. But Sultan would be damned if he let the blackness of his life overshadow the brightness of her life. Making a decision, without any explanation, he took Aryan and Kaka to find alternate assistance until he could get his mind together to figure out the next step.
Through some trusted connections, he managed to secure a small cottage for the three of them - a cottage miles and miles away from Madhu. But not before making sure he hired discreet security for Madhu, her family and her chawl. He wasn't taking any chances with having any one harm her. He ensured that she'd never see him or even his shadow every again. At the same time, he also ensured that his presence would follow her and her shadow wherever they went.
He knew that the only way to get her out of harm's way was to get her away from him. He knew that the only way to get her way from his sinister life was to get her away from him. He knew that the only way to preserve her innocence, faith, and simplicity, was to get him away from her.
Focusing back on his hand, he saw the red color was fading. The physical sight of the color may be disappearing, but the visual memory and the emotional war were still alive in his mind. The gullal would always remind him that he cannot have the normal life he desires. His day started and ended in the same way. He woke up a don and went to bed a don. Her day started and ended in an unspeakable way. She woke up a carefree girl ready to celebrate an auspicious festival, but she'd ended her day as a changed girl after having coming so close to shooting someone.
The world was a cruel place - it needed people like Madhu to keep it from going straight to hell. However, she could only remain Madhu if she was away from him.
After all, his life, his world and he himself were all...,TAINTED.
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