“Days went by, there came no word of you,
I could hear our Kak crying to its core
I watched your way, Oh Rano,
with my eyes fixed at the door
There are many more Ranos, across the lands,
but you are my life
Come back to me, you,
to God I implore…”
The moon had gone from crescent to full. It had been two weeks since Rano had left the Kak palace. Moomal spent her days staring at the horizon, hoping to catch a distant glimpse of him. She spent her nights staring at the door, wishing that it would open and Rano would enter. Despite Sumal’s several attempts at persuading her to change her state, Moomal stayed the same figure of mausoleum that she always became in Rano’s absence. The sight of him was her sustenance; his voice, her will to live on.
“Go after him, then. Go and look for him. I will come with you”, said Sumal, her sister.
“He could be anywhere. What if we leave Kak, and he comes here?”
“You don’t even know if he’ll come back for you!”
“…how to find him,
where should I go
for my Rano’s footprints will disappear,
once the desert winds blow
I see the fourteenth’s moon bloom,
with all its light to give
But I haven’t seen my Sustenance
enough to live…”
Weeks changed to months, and months to a whole season. Rains came and went, and went with them Sumal’s tolerance of her sister’s state. Moomal hardly ever spoke. Sumal was quite certain that she had gone deaf to any voice that was not Rano’s. Her eyes had begun to weaken. She didn’t blink, let alone sleep, so as to not miss Rano when he came back. Sumal wept in helplessness every night until on one of them, her mind’s shovel hit something. In a desperate attempt to soothe her sister’s condition, Sumal broke the lock on Rano’s trunk which contained his old clothes. Sumal dressed up as Rano, rubbed some sand on her face to look weary, wore his turban and left the rest of the deception to Moomal’s tired senses. And after almost a lifetime, Moomal’s eyes blinked. Her lips curved, the good way. “Rano”, she spoke, as loud as a sigh. She moved. Her arms pulled Sumal into an embrace. Moomal slept like a baby. Sumal lay down beside her on the charpayi, dressed as Rano, and dozed off a while later.
That night, some things were set right. That night, everything else was set wrong. A singular male figure got off a camel and walked through the gates of Kak palace; his white kameez covered in dust, his hands gripping a staff tightly for support. Rano had returned. And immediately, he wished he hadn’t. His eyes caught a glimpse of the charpayi. There she was, his Moomal, sleeping in the embrace of another man, who had his back towards him. Rano felt the earth slide away from beneath his feet. Suddenly, he didn’t need the staff for support. He needed it as a weapon now. Blinded with rage, he leapt at the manly attired Sumal and hit her in the head with the staff several times. He didn’t see it was Sumal. He didn’t want to look at the ‘man’ who snatched his Moomal away from him. He could’ve looked into the mirror for that, actually. But he kept delivering blow after blow and Sumal didn’t move. Moomal was asleep after a lifetime. There was no way she would wake up.
Once he was sure that the ‘man’ was dead, Rano turned to Moomal who, in her dreams, was now happy that Rano was back. The glow on her skin was already coming back. Rano raised the staff to strike her too. He couldn’t bear to see her now. He was going to live with the thought that Moomal was no longer his. But wait…why should only he have to live with eternal regret? Moomal was equally guilty. She should have to live with regret too. No, he would not kill her. She would be cursed to live. Rano left the Kak palace, leaving his bloodied staff by Moomal’s bedside for her to recognize.
“…If my Rano comes beyond me,
Moomal has departed to Eternal life”
Several months later, when word got around that the Kak palace had been deserted, a gang of bandits broke down the palace gate and entered, in the hope of finding a fortune. What was found, however, was the murdered body of a woman, dressed as a man, and another woman sitting by a blown off oil lamp, with her eyes open fixed at the place where the door was. She wasn’t breathing. Beside her was a quill and scroll with a poem written on it.