She stood there with tears in her eyes. The place looked the best like never before. She has been to this place since she was a kid. She was born and brought up in this heavenly place. But she wasn't sure if it was in fact heaven as others believed it. She doesn't remember since when but she would often walk through the market place and take the small path across the tea plantation to be with herself. Be it in happiness when she would have felt like sharing it with her mom or in her sorrows when she would like to weep in her mother's lap. In her tranquillity she would many a times remember how she had seen her mother being brutally killed by her drunken father's tyranny.
Shakti doesn't even remember how old she was when her helpless mother had left her all alone in this world. But her mother had no other option left when her husband had sold her off to a rich tourist from
Shakti was told that her mother had gone to God’s place into the mountains since God too needed good people. As she grew older she realized what the truth was. She had always felt like being with her mom when she was here. Today was also no different when she wanted to be with her mother once again. Like never before, she felt her mom closer. She could feel the beauty of the place and how heavenly this place has been over the years. Things have changed and people around her as well. But two things are yet to change! Heaven’s terrace has no signs of change and has stood like it has been taken care of by God’s own people. The other one is her Father.
She was just 14 when suddenly her father had come and claimed to have her daughter. Upon insistence that he had no right on her, he had abused every one of having killed his wife and devastated his family. Everyone knew what he was up to. But no one could stop him from doing what he did to his wife and daughter. He sold his daughter to the brothel in the foot hill. Shakti was just a kid to understand anything about this and before she could realize, she was the prostitute who was wanted by the tourist visiting the place. Having no other choice she had accepted her cursed life and had nothing to gain and lose until she met Rahim.
As she slowly took each step towards the gate crossing the flags tied with faith by the travellers for all their secret wishes to come true, she remembered the first time she had met Rahim.
Rahim was a guy from the nearby village who too had visited the brothel to satisfy his physical needs. His build was of a guy in his twenties. As his eyes had met hers she could see a kind of honesty in his eyes. Though Rahim had come to satisfy only his physical needs but his eyes didn’t reflect an animal. He was escorted by Shakti into a corner room. Rahim broke the silence and asked Shakti her name. ‘Julie’ she had said. Rahim asked her actual name and this time Shakti spoke the truth though she was not entitled to do so. It was after long time that she had shared her actual name to someone. She didn’t know why she was truthful to Rahim. But there was some magic in Rahim’s eyes which perhaps made this 19 year old girl fall in love with him. They spent two hours in the locked room talking to each other. Rahim spoke about his tryst with life and how he had struggled to earn a living for his widowed blind mother since the age of 14. His mother had died a month before and Rahim was in deep pain and wanted to talk to someone. May be this is what he wanted. Shakti listened to him without speaking a word since he had paid for her. She could draw parallel to her life. She had tears by the time he finished speaking. He seemed much more relaxed and better as he had spoken out his heart to someone stranger to him. Sometimes it’s easier to share feelings with a stranger. That was perhaps the case.
Rahim visited the brothel frequently then after and insisted on paying only for Julie. When she was not available he would return back. Months passed by and they realized that they were in deep love with each other. On a thunderstorm night they were close enough and spent the whole night together for which Rahim had to pay extra. Shakti had been touched by innumerable people of who were rich, old, young and poor. She had seen many kinds of people who had one thing in common – an animal within. For the first time that night she had felt love. She had felt the softness in the way Rahim kissed her and took her into his arms. For the first time she had love. That was the happiest day in her life that she remembered.
Shakti was in tears, as she walked slowly looking towards the clouds that kept changing their shapes in the sky. She could see them engulf the distant mountain with their long stretched arms. She could feel the way Rahim used to hold her tightly against his wide chest. She used to get lost in his arms and dream about a better future which she could see in his eyes. He had promised that he would soon take her away to a dreamland where they would live happily ever after. He had started working harder at the mountains cutting trees with much vigour. He had got a new life to live. He wanted to start afresh. He had to earn a good amount of money soon enough to start a new life with his beloved. He had found Shakti and of course her name which was given by her mother got the justice. Her mother had always wanted her to be the symbol of strength. And look today she was turning out to be someone’s strength for life. He worked harder and his visits were not that frequent as they used to be. Shakti didn’t mind that since she could see a bright future. She would often come to 'Heaven’s Terrace' to wait for her freedom. She could see her beautiful hut in the woods. She too had tied a flag for her wishes to come true. She knew it would come true some day. But this was not heaven’s choice.
One day Shakti fell ill and had to be admitted to the nearby hospital as her condition was serious. The reason for the sudden health problem was not known until reports came. She was infected with HIV. Heaven broke over her head. She couldn’t believe it at the first time. She insisted the doctor for a re-examination. But the report was nothing different. Her dreams had scattered. She couldn’t believe that just when she had started living and was happy with her life, God could do this to her. She had always believed that her mother was with God and it was she who had fought with God to give her a better life. And there she was achieving all that she wanted. But that wasn’t true. She was once again betrayed by her own destiny.
After Rahim had come into her life, she had always declined to her owner and fought with the brutal lady who used to send her to the prospetive customers. She had told her that Rahim would come and pay the complete amount for her. But it was Monsoon and peak season for the travellers to visit this Godly place. The brutal lady didn’t have any interest to lose the hefty money that would come during this time of the year. Rahim too hadn’t visited since a month. So she had tweaked Shakti’s arm and sent her to a rich man from foreign in his fifties who had lodged in an expensive hotel. She cried thinking of that dreadful night which had changed her life upside down.
She didn’t know what to do. Rahim was unaware of it. She wanted to meet him and hold him in her arms for the last time. But she didn’t. She had earlier denied meeting him when he had come to meet her. She had been ignoring him for more than a month now. She knew Rahim would never leave her and she didn’t want his life to be spoiled. Thus, she had decided to go away from his life. She was now at the gate where she knew was God’s own place. It looked like never before. She could feel her mother waiting for her at the other side. She could feel her Mother embrace her for the first time. It was bliss. She felt like in the arms of nature. There was a sense of freedom, to have been freed from the shackles of this dreadful life. Her mother must have also felt the same. The place was so peaceful. She could feel the pain of departing from the one you love. Fifteen years before her mother had left her apple’s eye behind and today she was here leaving her life.
Was she actually taking her life away or was it Rahim’s?