Afzal was getting all the preparations done. Now that he had witnessed Zakir’s rally, he knew his weaknesses and the points where he had planned to attack in order to lure more voters towards his party. His men had contacted the district magistrate and checked with local laws and had also arranged for Afzal’s security. During elections in politics, a murder isn’t a crime, but a ‘move’.
Afzal said a goodbye to Yasmin, who stood at the door with her heart in her mouth. She was afraid to death. She didn’t want her brother to have same fate as their father, who was also killed in a rally by his own brother. She was terrified. Her entire childhood flashed before her eyes as her brother draped his shawl over his shoulder, just like their grandfather – Zafar Shah.
‘Bhai jaan…’ Yasmin stepped in front of Afzal with a bowl of sugar crystals.
‘Ammi used to say that whenever you are going out for a big task, always sweeten your mouth and the victory will be in your account!’ she smiled, showcasing her excitement, but Afzal could read her scared eyes.
‘Don’t worry Yasmin, I’ll be fine. Prepare your best food for me. We are going to have tonight’s dinner together, and don’t forget the ‘kesar-kheer’, you know how much I like it!’ Afzal caressed her face and kissed her forehead.
A tiny droplet of salty tear rolled down Yasmin’s cheek. She was anyways an orphan. Her mother died while delivering her, and her father was shot in a rally, if anybody was left whom Yasmin could call her own, it was her brother – Afzal, and she could never afford to lose him.
‘Bhai jaan, take care. And try to come home soon.’
‘Don’t you worry little one, I’m coming back, very soon.’ Afzal smiled as his men signalled him to come. He crossed the street of his home and stepped into a black bullet proof SUV. Yasmin had full faith in her sister Sana. Sana had provided them all the financial help and aid from her husband Yusuf, and she was responsible for all the rallies and public meetings as well, she knew she would keep Afzal safe.
The rally had to start at 5 pm and Afzal had a target of covering 3 villages today. His rally started at sharp 5 and Yasmin was watching the live telecast on TV at a local news channel.
‘Afzal Hamidi is about to reach in ten minutes and the crowd is already going mad. They all are waiting for another Zafar Shah I guess…’ the journalist excitedly reported the live event, ‘And here we see the convoy of black cars and I guess Afzal Hamidi has arrived.’
‘Assalam-aaleykum. Aavam ko hamara salam.’ Afzal landed on the stage like a storm and greeted the audience in a typical style of his grandfather. Zafar Shah used to address the audience in just the same way.
‘And here we see, younger Zafar Shah Hamidi has arrived. Whole Kashmir was waiting for this moment from decades and now finally, the day has arrived that we can see him in action!’
‘My grandfather made so many promises, and he completed them too. But I’m not here to talk about my grandfather today, because the audience he had at his time – half of them are dead, and other half have witnessed a life of terror, fear and poverty, and today I’m here to make some changes in the way our state is functioning. Today, I’m here to remove the filth that has corrupted the entire state and hollowed the insides of our government. Today, I am here in front of you all, not to beg for votes or to request you to elect me as your chief minister, but today, I’m here just to ask you a few questions – are you satisfied and happy with the government that has led you for over a decade now? Do you want them to be in power and exploit you for five more years? Do you have that much time, energy, patience and tolerance that you will let them loot your houses, rape your women and kill your children in the name of peace and religion? Tell me?’ he paused for a reply that came roaring back in his direction.
The audience surely didn’t want the existing government to go on for any longer. Everyone wanted change, and that change, they saw in Afzal’s voice, his persona, his promises, his speeches and his way of conduct. Everybody, even the older generation, wanted to see this guy take the ceremonial oath after one month. Nobody wanted Zakir to rule them, his father anyways had deposited a lot of money in banks abroad and enjoyed the fruits of filth. The people of Kashmir were desperate for a change now.
‘Do you agree that you want to bring a wave of change?’ he paused again, letting the audience respond and communicate with him. Letting the people have their word. Allowing them to speak, as in true essence of democracy.
‘Do you want to throw the corrupt out and lead Kashmir to new heights?’ the momentary pause again invited public’s response – a loud ‘YES’.
‘Yes?’ he shouted, the people shouted back.
‘Should we throw them out then?’ he again roared in the mic, letting all his energy out and the public was full of enthusiasm, youth dancing at the back end of the rally, the old folks finding a new ray of hope in Afzal’s eyes.
‘As you can clearly see the energy that Afzal has brought with him. It’s beaming all across the stadium, people crazy for him, men, women, children, everyone chanting just one name and that is – Afzal Hamidi. Will he defeat his brother? What will happen of Kashmir this year? Will the wave of change bring anything positive?’ the reporter delivered the live telecast of Afzal’s rally and Yasmin watched it, her eyes glued to the television.
‘I hope you win, bhai-jaan. Allah is with us. I know you will win. I know this year will mark a history in the name of politics. Ameen.’ Yasmin closed her soft eyelids gently in prayer. She could see anything but not her brother losing. It was the first time he was standing in elections and that too, opposite his own cousin – Zakir.
At eleven thirty in night, Afzal returned home from his rally, exhausted. Yasmin opened the door with an excitement and relief. She was glad to see her brother return safe and in one piece.
‘I’m so happy, bhai-jaan. I saw your rally and listened to your speech, word to word. I’m so proud of you!’ she hugged him tight. He embraced his arms around her back and walked her inside.
‘Come, let’s have dinner, little one.’ Afzal caressed her soft tresses and kissed her forehead.
Since their parents died, the brother-sister trio was all on their own. Sana being the eldest, took care of the finances as she had wide and deep knowledge about their father’s businesses, so financially they never lacked a penny. Afzal was more focused on caring for Yasmin, who was his lifeline. He would never leave home without seeing her pretty face. She always gave him hope and positivity.
Quietly in the kitchen, Yasmin set the table for two. Afzal came back after a quick shower and sat on the chair. They had dinner together and Afzal put Yasmin to bed, while he himself went to his study to read some books and prepare the speeches for further rallies.