For a moment Qandeel was surprised to see Ilaaf there. She could never imagine that Ilaaf would reach her office following her. A day before Asghar Sahib had showed his intention to give the responsibility of an interview to her. And she got agreed despite of the work load because she had never conducted any interview before, it was a new experience for her and Qandeel got interested in that. Interview had to be conducted by Tanveer and his team, Qandeel had just to be with them and look after little management related issues, but it was true that if she had doubted a little while talking to Asghar Sahib earlier about this interview that the person who is giving the interview is Ilaaf Laashari, then in any case she would have refused by making any reasons and would have separated herself from that assignment. And now this was troublesome for her, for a moment she got angry on Ilaaf in the same way she used to get angry all the time, and therefore looking him she felt the smile of her face turned into seriousness.
Asghar Sahib was saying something, Qandeel was not attentive towards him that’s why couldn’t hear anything. Unintentionally she turned her head and looked Ilaaf once again. Ilaaf’s eyes met with hers, Qandeel felt like he didn’t want to look into her eyes because he had immediately changed his direction of eyes towards Asghar Sahib. She couldn’t know that either Ilaaf did it under the impression of guilt and embaarassment or couldn’t make an eye contact with her due to the stealing that was caught.
“Qandeel, get the contact number of Ilaaf so that we could remain in contact with him all the time.” Qandeel looked Asghar Sahib.
“Sir, I have to say something.”
“I didn’t see my schedule of this week yesterday, and that’s why got agreed to accept the responsibility of this interview, but today when I rechecked the list of the assignments I have to complete this week then I felt that I would not be able to manage this interview. And I know that this interview is very important for you, that’s why it is better that I should inform you earlier instead that I would not be able to complete the tasks on time. My ongoing project with Khalida and Ghani is also very important. We have to finalize the survery reports this week in any case and send it for editing; I can not dealy that as well that’s why in my opinion you should give this responsibility to someone who can mange it well with full concentration and responsibility.” She was Qandeel Yousuf who had always felt lying as comfortable especially when that lie is harmless and there is no chance for it to affect any other person but is beneficial for herself. She knew that Asghar Sahib was giving so much importance to this interview that’s why keeping hand on his aching nerve she had found out the way to escape.
Asghar Sahib was thinking.
Ilaaf was quiet. Qandeel looked, he was sitting quietly with his head down like he is waiting for the announcement of his punishment, and has no hope to be released with respect and honor.
Didn’t know what happened, for a moment Qandeel felt pity for him but the next moment the angry Qandeel of inside came out and got control over her.
“What you are telling is exactly true, Qandeel. The project on which Ghani and Khalida are working is very important and that’s why I myself asked you to assist them, but this interview is very much significant for our newspaper and despite of the fact that you are inexperienced, you are highly responsible and that’s why I wanted to give you the entire responsibility of this interview. Would not you even be able to take little time for this purpose? While right now we have to see some arrangements as well, the interview will be held later on.”
“Sir, I have told you the whole situation, and now decision is yours. I have an idea about the importance of this interview and just because of this I want you not to wait for me to get free, instead give this responsibility to Daniya, she will manage this interview very well.” Talking about the importance of the interview her tone had critical impression which was perhaps only understood by Ilaaf sitting next to her, because for a moment the color of his face was changed.
“Asghar Sahib, I think Miss Qandeel is right. If she is busy and can not take out time then please give this responsibility to someone else, I will remain in contact myself. Don’t take risk on your important projects due to my interview; it’s not a big deal.” If there is something like to become stony due to surprise then for a while that moment Qandeel had really become a stone due to surprise. She could never believe that these words had come out from Ilaaf Laashari’s mouth and reached her ears. He could be agreed to leave her way so easily, this was very hard to believe for her and especially in a situation where Ilaaf had complete opportunity to bound her through Asghar Sahib, and how easily he was telling Asghar Sahib that he will cooperate with someone else except Qandeel.
“Alright, Qadneel. You must go. Let me think about it that whom should I give this responsibility now, while I had thought that you would mange but anyhow, you can leave.” Qandeel nodded then before getting up she looked towards Ilaaf.
He was looking at her. Qandeel looked; Ilaaf had defeat in his eyes, tiredness and a grief, a grief which had even shaken Qandeel for a moment.
She got up and just then she felt like the ground beneath her feet had grasped her. There was a power that wanted her to stay, either it was the gravitational force or emotional force, she didn’t know.
She took a step, her each step was extremely heavy. Somehow, she reached the door then opening the door she immediately came out of the room.
And coming out, a storm of thoughts attacked her.
Holding the railing of stairs she was standing motionless there. A powerful feeling had just stopped her to go down.
Whatever she did, how did she behave with Ilaaf, was it right? It was true that during last few days she remained busy and didn’t get enough time to think about what Baba had said that day and thus could be able to decide something, but even then did Ilaaf Laashari deserve the same attitude of her? It was not definite that he reached here himself following Qandeel, it was possible that Asghar Sahib would have decided it himself to give responsibility of his interview to Qandeel, and Ilaaf also would be unaware of this whole scenario. Then should Qandeel have refused by telling a lie being so fearless, what she did?
Keeping both hands over the railing she bent down her head and like a guilty one tried to count her crimes.
During last one month, didn’t know how many times she had cursed herself for the attitude of that day and thought that she should apologize as well, then what happened today when he came in front of her, so that she showed the same attitude and behaved in icy cold manner? How senseless she was? That one man who was ruining himself like a mad behind her and whom she had kicked out of her home a month ago, she even couldn’t give a kind smile to that man, where from could bring the courage to apologize? She was narrow-minded, extremely blinkered. People used to say that she is the daughter of Yousuf Mairaj and resembles with him in many habits but in real, it was not true. She was the daughter of Yousuf Mairaj but none of her habits was like Baba, otherwise she would never have treated Ilaaf in a way she had treated him just a while ago. She was the low-minded daughter of a magnanimous person.
She raised her head, and then pushed back her hairs from her face.
“Should I go back?” She asked the question inside. “Should I get agree for this interview? Should I give a chance to Ilaaf Laashari?”
“Yes” the uncontrolled heartbeats ordered her, and this time she fell weak. The egoistic and stubborn Qandeel inside couldn’t resist this time because she knew; whenever Qandeel Yousuf hears to her heart, follows the instructions all the time.
Turning back she moved towards the room of Asghar Sahib, and knocking the door entered inside.
Asghar Sahib surprised a little looking her. Ilaaf also looked her turning his head then straightened himself.
“What happned, Qandeel? Anything special…..” The questioning sight of Asghar Sahib was on Qandeel.
“Sir, I have just rechecked my schedule again and now I feel that perhaps I would be able to manage this interview besides my other duties. It woud be little hard for me, but I will try my level best to do every task in a proper way. I myself have a very prominent idea that how significant this interview is for our newspaper, and this is an honor for me that despite of being so inexperienced you provide this opportunity to me, and I feel sory that I refused earlier that I should have not. If you have not assigned this task to any other person then I would like to mange this interview.” Asghar Sahib smiled as he just got rid of some burden from his head, and Ilaaf…..Qandeel felt like his eyes had disbelief. Perhaps it was hard for him to believe that Qandeel even can bear to look his face.
“Thank you, Qandeel. You have made me comfortable now.” The gratitude that was present in his tone, Qandeel knew the reason of that very well. Hearing the refusal from his assistant coordinator in front of Ilaaf Laashari would have probably hit his ego and now which was satisfied on the apologizing behavior of Qandeel.
“I think that rests of the details are to be discussed by both of you. Right now, I am getting late, in a while there is an important meeting and I have to leave for that otherwise I would have included myself in the conversation sitting with you people.” He looked towards Ilaaf and Qandeel.
“Qandeel, kindly take Ilaaf with you downstairs, and decide the important things regarding the interview. If Tanveer is in office then call him as well so that he could meet Ilaaf too. It’s very important to have a good coordination."
“Yes, sir.” Qandeel said, and then looked towards Ilaaf.
“Come, please.” Ilaaf had so much wonder in his eyes that moment that even Qandeel got worried for a moment that what she had said, and then she thought that she never has talked to Ilaaf in such a respectable and well behaved manner, so he had to be surprised for sure.
He got up like a machine, and then following her came out of the room.
She was going downstairs, just then she looked, with expressionless face and empty eyes he was following her; perhaps in between belief and disbelief a man could have the same condition.
Both of them came into the room of Kashif Sahib, Qandeel had her small cabin at the corner of the room. Kashif Sahib was not in the room, she came straight towards her cabin.
Coming inside when she turned back then she looked, he was stopped at the doorstep of the cabin.
“Come inside, Ilaaf.” He came inside and just then Qandeel looked; despite of the cooling of air condition in the room, perspiration was shining on the forehead of Ilaaf and his face had turned white. She knew, Ilaaf would be nervous because before this neither she had given him so much respect nor did she talk in such a kind tone, but he would turn pale, she hadn’t expected.
“What happened? Are you alright?” Qandeel asked. She was herself surprised on the word “Aap(You)”, before this she had always called him “Tum”. She was unaware of this sudden change, and just now felt that she had talked to Ilaaf with unusual respect.
“I am fine.” He had hardly said.
“Have a seat.” Qandeel said.
He was seated at the chair in front of her, and kept looking her without saying anything. His eyes had still the same disbelief. Qandeel felt embarrassment for a moment. She had always behaved in such a bad manner that now on this change in her attitude he was like in a shock.
“I think, you are not well.” Qandeel said.
Ilaaf suddenly came out of that state.
“I am alright…..just want to have a glass of water.” He answered by changing the direction of his eyes.
Qandeel poured water in the glass and kept the glass in front of him.
Ilaaf picked the glass and started drinking, and then just in the short gap of three gulps he had poured that water inside his throat.
Qandeel kept looking him. He was really in a state of shock; the shock of wonder.
Keeping the glass on the table he looked towards Qandeel.
“Did you forgive me?” His condition was much better now.
“For what?” Qandeel looked him surprisingly.
“For whatever I did and said that day in the store.”
“But I haven’t apologized yet. First let me apologize.”
“There is no need to, because how I misbehaved with you that day in my home, that was immoral too and for that I am guilty.”
“But you did nothing wrong, Qandeel. After acting in such a wicked manner, perhaps I deserved that.”
“My opinion is different.”
“Because you are the daughter of Yousuf Mairaj, daughter of a man whom God has created with the clay of love, otherwise I am sure that after that incident you would have treated me in the same way throughout the life how you treated me that day.” How true that was, and how stupid she was that could never follow her father.
There was silence for a while. Perhaps Ilaaf was looking things around in the cabin intentionally and she was looking him in intervals, and just then for the first time she felt that the color of the eyes of Ilaaf was not pure black, they had a mixing of brown color. They were apparently felt black on looking but just for a moment the hidden shade of brown color getting overrule and had totally changed the shade of Ilaaf’s eyes.
“I think we should talk something.” After a while Qandeel had said.
Ilaaf looked her.
“About the interview.”
“I don’t wanna discuss anything related to the interview. The day, time, and place whatever you will decide and ask me, I will give the interview. There is no need for scripting as well, whatever you want you can ask, whatever you want you can make it to publish, I don’t care and I don’t have any concerns.” Ilaaf had said in a strange disgusting tone and this was surprising for Qandeel. Ilaaf Laashari had no interest regarding his interview, not even that a single word which will be published in the paper, what affect it can make on his political career.
“If we can not talk about the interview then I don’t think so that we have anything to talk about.” Qandeel had seen the shade of fear in his eyes.
“Are you asking me to leave?” He asked in the weak tone.
“No, I am not asking you to leave.”
“I am asking that what we can talk about then?” Ilaaf suddenly straightened himself; the ocean of surprise was waving in his eyes.
“We can talk about ourselves.”
“What do we have to talk about ourselves?”
“Perhaps you wouldn’t have anything, but I have much to talk and to tell, but only if you want to hear….” Ilaaf had looked her.
Qandeel had seen the shades of hope on his face.
“I would like to hear once.” Qandeel had said.
Ilaaf had just looked her face. Perhaps the extreme of surprise had made him unable to speak that moment.
“Are you saying the truth, Qandeel?” Qandeel felt like his voice was coming from a long distance.
“Yes.” For the first time she smiled, and her smiling and looking Ilaaf perhaps was unbelievable for Ilaaf as well.
“I can’t believe.”
“What can I do for you to believe?” Qandeel asked smiling. She was now enjoying this strange state of Ilaaf in real. For the first time she had an idea that somewhere there is an innocent man present inside Ilaaf Laashari.
Ilaaf hadn’t replied for a while, and then looked her.
“Can we talk right now?”
“I think, I would not like to hear in the office, it looks odd.” Qandeel had said in a serious tone this time.
“So would I, I value your respect and honor more than myself.” Qandeel didn’t feel like he was telling lies, for the first time she had felt the respect for her in each word coming out of his tongue.
“Some other time, somewhere outside, we can meet and talk.” Qandeel said.
“Now…..” Ilaaf left the sentence incomplete and looked her.
Qandeel looked him surprisingly. He was really a lunatic who had no intention to be patient even for a moment.
“This is the office timing, and I have to do some work right now. I can not leave office like this and come with you.” She explained.
“Can you come after the office? I will wait outside.” Ilaaf replied immediately.
For a moment Qandeel couldn’t answer anything.
“There is much time left. And you will have to wait long.”
“I can wait centuries for you, Qandeel.” The restless answer of Ilaaf had made her speechless; there was no way to refuse now.
“Alright, I am coming after finishing my work.” She had given up.
For the first time Ilaaf smiled, and Qandeel felt like he is happy. Before this, Qandeel had never seen such a smile on his face.
“My car has been parked across the road in the parking area. I am waiting for you in my car.”
Qandeel shook her head.
Ilaaf had left, and while leaving had grasped Qandeel in a strange feeling.
Before that day, she always felt herself furious in presence of that man. And for the first time now, he was present in her office long and not for a single moment Qandeel felt his presence unpleasant for her infact, perhaps she felt it pleasant. What it was that was liked by her? Ilaaf Laashari sitting in her office, or showing with purity what was lying in his heart or she had liked Ilaaf Laashari? She coldnt decide anything that moment. What need did she have to reach a decision so early? She was never impatient in case of taking decisions, and in her opinion it was better before reaching any decision to think about everything in detail and where necessary, to get the guidance of Baba.
Right now, she just wanted to hear Ilaaf Laashari, what does he want to say? What does he want to tell? Which facts does he have in order to prove his claim? She just wanted to know these things that moment. And she had kept rest of the things in a corner of her mind for a while; she didn’t want to make a mess of thoughts inside her brain.
It took much time for her to finish the rest of the tasks of that day, office timing was ended a while ago and now she was feeling bad that Ilaaf would be waiting for her outside, but she was powerless. Due to the work load, time was over, and that madman…..he himself was interested in waiting, Qandeel wasn’t responsible for that.
Immediately after finishing her work, she locked her cabin, then coming out of the room she called Baba and told that she would be late today, the reason that she told was the office issues, and she didn’t want to take Ilaaf’s name that moment. First, she wanted to understand the entire situation herself and then telling Baba wanted to take his advice.
Coming out of the building she looked. The white land cruiser of Ilaaf was parked in the parking area across the road. Crossing the road she came near and just then she looked. Folding both arms on his chest and closing his eyes, tilting his back on the driving seat, perhaps he was sleeping. Qandeel was surprised and perhaps felt sorry as well, she was so late that he got to sleep waiting for her.
Coming near, she moved towards the side seat and intentionally knocked the mirror of the side seat while the door wasn’t locked.
She looked Ilaaf was shrugging and opening his eyes, he had got up.
Turning his head he looked Qandeel, his eyes were red like they had slumber of centuries. Then rubbing his eyes he moved his hand and opened the door of the side seat.
Qandeel came inside. Till then Ilaaf had straightened himself.
“I am sorry, I got very late.” Qandeel had said while looking into his red eyes.
“No, you are not very late, just two and half hours.” The satisfactory tone of Ilaaf had made her to be wondered. The man hadn’t given any importance to his two and half hours which were wasted waiting for someone. Perhaps love frees the man from the limits of time, but was that lunacy of Ilaaf Love; she hadn’t decided this yet and wanted to decide.
“Were you sleeping?” Ilaaf looked her.
“Yes, don’t know when I got to sleep while waiting for you.”
“Didn’t you sleep at night?”
“I have no difference among the days and nights now, Qandeel. When I feel sleepy then get to sleep, and when I don’t then…….” He left the sentence incomplete.
“Then….” Qandeel looked him with a questioning sight.
“Then I use to pass my time with your remembrance.” Qandeel felt like he had completed sentence with so much difficulty. The color of the face of Ilaaf once again went white, she couldn’t know the reason.
For a while Ilaaf kept sitting quietly with his head down keeping his arms over steering, there was no conversation between them.
“Will we be staying here or will talk somewhere else?” Qandeel asked after a while.
Ilaaf raised his head and looked her.
Qandeel looked, his eyes again had doubt, and on his face the same shock of surprise, and his hands…..perhaps were trembling. And just then for the first time Qandeel had keenly observed his hands and fingers.
His hands were long and the shape of the fingers along with the unusual curving of the nails was looking beautiful. Looking his fingers and his hands anyone could be able to guess that these were the hands of an artist. And Qandeel…..beautiful hands were always her weakness. She used to meet people and used to look just their eyes keenly at first sight, and after that immediately her eyes used to turn towards the hands and feet of them.
She looked at his feet, it was impossible to look his feet in the shoes.
Then she heard Ilaaf saying.
“I want to believe that this is not a dream or illusion, but I am not able to believe.”
She just smiled, for the first time she had seen a man talking like this. And that’s why for the first time she had enjoyed this, looking that disbelief of that innocent man.
“Where to go?” Ilaaf asked.
“Anywhere, I don’t have any objection regarding this; just have to say one thing.”
“Try to control yourself before you drive, otherwise I don’t think that it’s better to drive in such a state. Whether you love your life or not, but I love my life very much.”
“I am perfectly fine now, Qandeel. The belief of your presence is enough to bring me in my complete senses.” She couldn’t say anything in reply, what could she have said in reply of this lunacy.
Ilaaf was starting the engine. Qandeel had again looked him keenly.
His eye lashes were thick and bit turned. His straight poised nose and the slight curve of his chin was charming. If there would be a list of the most beautiful men in the world then, Qandeel was pretty sure that the name of Ilaaf Laashari would have been included in that list. He was undoubtedly handsome and Qandeel was surprised that why didn’t she look him keenly before this.