The lost world of Alice in Abadghar by Medha Gupta

It was Thursday, yet there were no flowers laid outside the dargah. It had rained but it did not feel like one of those days when water droplets tickled everything they touched. It had been pouring for days, yet everything felt baked in soil. Rukaiya realised a week had passed since she had taken a bath. But you could not blame her. She was busy looking for pieces of herself in Munawar Abad, a small town near Srinagar.


Rukaiya had spent days looking for a book her father bought her from Lal Chowk. She was anxious to know what happened after the Duchess ordered Alice’s execution. She was hoping and hoping that she would find it, but was afraid, given the fact that the overflowing river Jhelum had drowned every nook of her town. The dilapidated wooden house that she called home was flattened into a square piece of land. The dargah that still stood next to her house had been her only companion for sometime. No, wait…. Hope and curiosity were also her housemates in these days when her life seemed to have slipped into deep waters.


There were two things that Rukaiya had no patience with: hunger and curiosity. For the moment, both troubled her. A glass of milk and some news on Alice’s fate would have soothed her nerves. In fact, there was a great deal that she wanted to know. Where were her friends and family? Why the night of September third changed everything? It had rained so many times before, why did it become so lethal this time? She was giving her classic head massage to Ammi when it first thundered so hard that the bottle of walnut oil she carefully clutched in her hands slipped away. She could still feel the unbearable greasiness of that moment. ‘Allah bachaye,’ Ammi had said, as she jumped from the divan to look outside. Her father was away in Delhi to sell carpets. Every year, he left in the beginning of September and was only to return in February. So, it was she who had to take care of Ammi.


She tried to guess what could have happened. Aha! Ammi might be stuck in Lal Chowk with Farhana’s Ammi. But she herself had to look for the lost world of Alice nearby. Rukaiya was living in Wonderland when news broke that water had reached above the first floor of her wooden house. What was she to do? Ammihad already been stuck in Srinagar for two days. The maulvi who lived inside the dargah had come to her rescue. He had given her an old cot and some warm clothes. They, along with a few others, were living on the rooftop of the shrine which was taller than most of the nearby buildings (whatever remained of the these). It was still waterlogged everywhere. With no sight of Ammi and Abba anywhere, the odds were against her. But she knew she must leave now or the Duchess would behead Alice!



Medha Gupta works as an editor with a publishing house. She loves to eat, chat and make friends.