"Danny is back before four P.M. for a brief visit. As usual, I run into his arms and bury my face in his neck. I stay there, wanting to get drunk on his smell, wanting to feel some of his sweat. I do not like to be separated from him. Sometimes, after I've gone somewhere, I find him at the front door waiting for my return. He takes me in his arms and tells me how much he has missed me. He squeezes me tight with one hand, and with the other, he caresses my face, calling me "My wife, my life."
Occasionally I like to be separated from him for a few days just to savor this feeling we have -- painful but delicious -- when the one we love is absent. Just for the pleasure of finding him again when he comes to pick me up at the airport. Of reading the emails he sends me from a stop in transit for the mere pleasure of hearing him tell me, "I'm on my way." Only when I am back with him do I feel whole.
I have never identified with a text as much as this one. While I read this book, I only wished it was just fiction. But, the sad truth is that this book is about the real life and death of a journalist Daniel Pearl and this book is written by his wife who was five months pregnant when she was widowed.
2002, I was just a ten year old intently following the news of kidnapping of an American journalist in Pakistan, Daniel Pearl. I read the Indian Express which covered the news on front page with Daniel's photo splashed, a gentle smiling photograph. Sitting in the comforts of my house and living a life that nowhere coincided with him, I imagined him to be a lone journalist on a mission in Pakistan and his family worrying about him back in America. Militant outfits were not much heard of except for 9/11 attacks and terror was only about riots. Then one day, the wait was over. It was confirmed that Daniel was brutally beheaded and Indian Express shifted to other front page news.
2011, I happened to watch Angelina Jolie starrer movie- A mighty heart. I did not know what it was about. As the movie progressed, it all came back to me. This time I was able to connect to the story because I happened to be in love with someone who was away from me. I could feel the desperation and pain in the scenes. In one particular scene, Daniel's wife is shown to be scared of the false alarms of his death and sends "I love you" message to his number. I couldn't hold my tears. She was very much in Pakistan when Daniel was kidnapped. She was a five months pregnant mum-to-be hoping for a very different future than what she was destined to. She lived the ordeal for two weeks, waiting for her husband to return unscathed. I just couldn't get her out of my mind and wanted to ready the book. I looked for it, but the copies were limited and out of stock.
2017, I finally found the book on Amazon. Frankly I had forgotten all about it after my initial attempts. I started reading the book a week back and I have had my heart ripped apart for every page that I read. As a wife, I could not even bare to read about it without having a lump in my throat.
I couldn't stop smiling all three days of my wedding ceremony. Even though my cheeks hurt, my grin wouldn't fade away. I spoon with my husband in my sleep, feeling safe, this is my happy place. I do not feel alright away from him. Every morning, I just hold on to him before he leaves for work, savoring his warm hug, hoping to come back into his arms when I return from work. We stay away from each other when I visit my parents and I cannot hold myself when I reach the airport and see him waiting for me. That feeling of being united after some time away is priceless. There are days when he goes out for business and I spend my time tracking him. Each message is a reassurance that we will be together soon. He stops to send me a message whenever he is out of town, keeping me updated of his location and flight schedule.
Mariane Pearl happened to be a wife just like me! She described the exact same things that were true for her, before that fateful day. Unlike me, she was accompanying her husband to the most dangerous places to search for answers. Two journalists who were on the front line to give a voice to people irrespective of their race, caste or gender. Danny died doing the exact same things.
To be honest, I have had nightmares since I started reading this. We don't have to go hunting for answers in remote corners of the world. Terror strikes us right in the heart of our comforts. It was as if Mariane was voicing all of my fears through her book. Some nights I would think of her when I lay beside my husband, who slept peacefully next to me. I wanted to just hold time because I felt so unsure of all the things in my life. Of life itself. As the book was nearing to an end, Mariane passed on a very positive message which just shows how courageous she is.
In the book, Mariane refers to Daniel as a mighty heart. But, for me she is the epitome of strength. There are things that you expect from a human being, a wife at that, when a catastrophe like this strikes. But Mariane stood strong. Not crying on television when Danny was kidnapped, because she thought there might be a chance that Danny was watching and she had to be strong for him and let him know that she and the baby were well. Not showing fear, because showing fear would mean those who kidnapped Danny had won. Not giving up on life after his death, because she had to keep him alive within herself. To give him a chance at life through their son, Adam. To let the spirit of Danny live through her.
Mariane and Daniel had made Mumbai temporarily their home. It saddened me that Mariane did not have a very good memory of India. I wish she had been treated better, I wish she had received more warmth and I wished we as a nation could have given her a better picture of us. It only shows how inhospitable, narrow minded and reserved we become sometimes when we deal with people who stand for things that are alien for us.
I have reviewed books in the past but I do not think there has ever been a book that has affected me so much. I do not intend to review this book, because this post is not about review, this post is about lives and about strength. This book is about how no matter who you are, some emotions are universal. This book is an ode to a strong marriage of two strong individuals, a love story that continued beyond life.
P.S: Text in bold are excerpts from the book "A mighty heart"