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THE EDGE OF FEAR - S. A. Hamid (India)



-         S. A. Hamid (India)


He always lived on the edge of fear, right from his childhood. Brought up on stories of demons and fairies, djinns and ghosts, his fertile imagination magnified them to the extent that he couldn’t sleep without his mother. The rustling of the leaves outside his window was some evil spirit, come to harm him. He even felt afraid in the toilet, a dimly-lighted, dingy room with cockroaches that would sometimes crawl up his naked leg as he sat in crouching position on an ‘Indian-style’ seat. This was the cause of constipation that he suffered right through his childhood. When some guests suddenly entered the drawing room where he happened to be playing, he would hide behind the curtains and wait silently till they departed or if discovered, he would quickly run away. Once, when he was playing in a room of his house one hot summer afternoon, he suddenly saw an apparition, a man in white dress from top to toe, cross the breadth of the large room. Sure that it was a djinn, he almost froze. That his parents had named him Diler Khan, or the fearless pathan, was another matter altogether.


After school, he got admission in an Engineering college in another city. He was afraid to leave the protective comfort of his home and be on his own, but everybody reasoned with him not to miss this chance of studying in a prestigious college. Filled with a sense of foreboding, he packed his bags and boarded a general compartment of the train as was the custom among students from middle-class families those days. When his parents came to see him off at the station, another senior student of the same college who was travelling in the same compartment assured them that he’ll take care of Diler. They had occupied single window seats facing each other. After some light conversation, the senior student Fareed offered his sheet to cover themselves for the night, their legs stretched on each other’s seat and said good night to each other. While Diler was dozing off, he felt a hand caressing his legs. He was so terribly disturbed and afraid that the only thing he could do was to remove his feet from Fareed’s seat, but he kept running his toes all over him. He couldn’t muster enough courage to protest, but pretended to be asleep, while being wide awake the whole night. In the morning, when they reached their destination, he was horrified to know that he had been allotted the same hostel where Fareed also resided. There was another fresher, Anil, sharing the room with him, a friendly and intelligent boy and they instantly became friends.


Ragging was part of college life those days, more so in colleges running professional courses. Seniors had to be treated with as much respect as teachers. The usual ragging in a group he could somehow manage to bear. But one evening, there was a knock on the door. He was filled with fear and apprehension on seeing Fareed standing at the door. ‘Hello Diler, how are you? We haven’t met since the journey on the train, so I thought of paying you a visit.’ Diler could only mutter hello. Fareed asked Anil to leave the room for an hour, which he immediately did in deference to his senior’s instructions. Fareed enquired how Diler was adjusting to the new environment. ‘Don’t worry’, he said, ‘Nobody will dare rag you when they know you’re under my protection.’ After these reassuring words, he came directly to the purpose of his visit. ‘I fell for you at first sight. You’re so chikna (vulgar slang for fair, good looking boys with smooth skin)’. Saying this he sat close to Diler and started pawing him all over, kissing him on the lips. Diler could taste the cigarette that Fareed had smoked before entering the room. He was terrified. ‘I’m going to be raped, sodomized’ was the thought that formed in his mind. He had to do something. There was no point in shouting as one hand of Fareed was already covering his mouth in anticipation of such an action. His trousers had already been taken off and he could feel Fareed’s erect penis on his bums, trying to find its way in. If I succumb, Diler thought, this will become a routine. In sheer desperation, he gathered all his strength and kicked Fareed. After he could stand up, he tightened his knuckles and planted a few boxing punches at Fareed’s stomach. Taken by surprise, Fareed slumped to the floor, holding his stomach. ‘You want to bugger me, you son of a bitch, take this’ and he kicked him all over his body. ‘I don’t care if I have to leave this College, but I won’t bear this, you bastard.’ The floodgates had opened; anger had overpowered fear. Fareed lay on the floor. Diler pulled up his trousers and told Fareed ‘Get out. Do what you can to harm me. I don’t care.’ Fareed was too stunned to reply. He couldn’t report the matter to the college authorities because all the students would make fun of him that he was beaten up by a fresher. He quietly got up and slowly walked away, never to meet Diler again.


When his anger subsided, Diler couldn’t believe what he had done, but he could sense the change that had come over him, a metamorphosis. During his first vacations, he was travelling home, again in a general compartment. A woman, who looked around thirty five, occupied the opposite seat. He had never talked to a woman outside of his immediate family and he blushed in front of girls who in turn giggled at his shyness. She had covered herself with a sheet and was reading a magazine. Most people in the compartment had dozed off. Suddenly she lifted her foot and placed in on his seat between his legs. Diler didn’t know what to do. Her toe rubbed his inner thigh. He involuntarily put his hand on it. The woman smiled and parted her legs, the index finger of her right hand pointing towards the floor. Diler could either remove her foot from his seat or succumb to her desires. He looked around, slipped soundlessly to the floor under her sheet and let his tongue do the rest. Her increased breathing and her hand on his head told him what she wanted. After a few minutes when the pleasurable movements of her body had subsided, she gently removed his head. He slowly resumed his seat, wiping his mouth with his handkerchief, savouring the taste of her juices on his tongue.

The memory of the white-dress djinn was at last erased. Exorcised, he fell fast asleep.