Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chapter no. 14: The Test (III)

Time and tide wait for none. If it could have been possible, everybody would have stopped catastrophes in their lives. However, life is all about bracing hardships courageously and moving on. Ilaaf had also become a spectator – of his own life. He had been apathetic lately. Considerable time had passed since court had adjourned yet Ilaaf’s mind was still tangled in the proceedings. Saqib and his lawyer’s weak evidences, Muazzam Rana’s tricky questions and absence of Qandeel had all but made the affairs grave. His bail was also been processed successfully. Adnan was taking him to Farmhouse. Next convention was been scheduled after five days and it was possible that verdict will also be given then. He was sure now Saqib will not be able to prove him guilty. He also knew that Qandeel would not be released until case is closed. During this, he had witnessed himself how she was dragged into this matter and media was ridiculing her, defaming her relentlessly. Each trick of his Baba Saayin was on a roll and he – Ilaaf Lashari was a mere spectator just to keep her alive. He was reminded several times in these two days, that the day he tries to help her in escape or in any way at all, will be the last day of her life.  

He detached himself from everything just so he doesn’t endanger her life because of his passion. He also had come to terms with Qandeel’s decision so that she could live. Now, he was concerned about Qandeel’s safety more then his own happiness and contentment.

He didn’t hear a single word Adnan said during the journey. His mind was replaying all those things people said in and out of court, the language they used for Qandeel, how they had dragged her along with her honesty into mud. There was a time when he couldn’t even bear a single offence uttered for her and now he couldn’t even teach those provocateurs any lesson for their foul words.

“I deserve all of it; for being a son of Qaiser Lashari, for loving Qandeel. The wretched person like me is worthy of this treatment.” He replied coldly when Adnan tried to assuage him.

Adnan ignored him though. He was happy for his release and he intended to celebrate it despite of Ilaaf’s mood.

The news of his release had reached before they arrived there and Rishi with his gang received them cheerfully.

“There should be some celebration, Rishi.” Rishi agreed with him.

“Lala, everybody wants a feast in the evening and ---.”

“And?” Adnan inquired curiously.

“Nothing as such, we just want to have a match between our Changez and your Jangli. It has been ages since we had any, and the occasion is fitting as well.”

Adnan laughed out loudly. He had thought he would demand something promiscuous but then Rishi was aware of his moods so he couldn’t dare ask for more.

“Yes, let’s refresh our Jangli and have a match.” Adnan was all smiles. “Let them out of their dens, feed them properly and get them ready for evening. And you will see my Jangli will beat the pulp out of your Changez.” Rishi walked away, laughing hard. Adnan also got busy as he was continuously receiving calls.

The large porch was empty now. Ilaaf scratched the marble with his keys. It felt like everything was finished. Yet the truth was nothing had started yet; life had taken a role of a merciless captor, he had to mourn before having a chance at happiness, his stars were turning away too soon and he was forced to sit a test for which he wasn’t prepared.

He had become more infirm than the autumn leaves. The only woman he ever wished for and loved had rejected him even before acceding to him.   

After a considerable time he examined his handiwork. He had ruined the marble but it wasn’t as ugly as his life was at this moment. He didn’t have the courage to go inside so instead he decided to trek the surroundings. Those uneven pathways so much resembled his bleak life and perhaps they had become his companions for his life.

When light began to vanish, he decided to check upon Qandeel. He heard Adnan and his men in the stable area, where they were holding a match for their dogfight.

He saw Noori running towards him when he was crossing the corridors. It seemed she was looking for him.

“Sahab ji, follow me quickly. There is something wrong with bibi ji.” She was panting.

He got worried. “What happened to her?” taking long strides towards her room he inquired of the maid.

“I am not sure, sahib ji. May be she is having an epileptic seizure. I went to clean her room, she went into balcony then suddenly she started emitting strange sounds.” 

Ilaaf came into her room. She wasn’t there. He went to the balcony where leaning to the railings, she was gasping for air. He paused for a second then went to her. She didn’t look well. She was pale, her hair out of their hold, she was having trouble to breathe.

“Qandeel what is wrong?”

She, out of nowhere, grabbed his collar. He was bewildered.  

“You people are sick, savages. You have no regard for human life or for animals.” She was hysterical, out of control.

He was unable to make sense of her blabbering for a moment, he looked ahead, two wild dogs were grappling one another ferociously and he understood her reaction.

“I am going to stop them. You don’t worry.” He attempted, unsuccessfully, to calm her down.

“You are also one of them.” She certainly wasn’t aware what she was saying.

He told her to come inside but she ignored him and continued to talk incoherently.

He couldn’t decide what he should do then he freed his collar from her and held her by shoulders. He was afraid her condition would go worse if she continued to be in their sight.

“Leave me.” She tried to shake his hold off her but he was stronger and brought her inside.

“I said leave me, you savage!” She started pummeling him with her fists and continued shrieking, unstoppable. Ilaaf was in great consternation. He didn’t know what to do. He tried to bring her to her senses by calling her name but to no avail. Then suddenly her screams decreased to mumbling.

Ilaaf noticed she was drifting away. Her body went limp. His forehead puckered.

“Please Qandeel, stay put.” Nevertheless, she had become unconscious and he caught her before she slumped. Ilaaf sat down automatically with her in his arms.

Everything happened so abruptly he couldn’t even take it all in. He looked at her unconscious form in his arms, she was so close he could touch her easily; but it was no time to entertain these thoughts.

“Bring some water!” He ordered Noori.

When she was back, he sent her for Adnan. She was afraid of his temper right now.

He pulled her up a little and tried to get some water inside her. It slipped down her chin because her lips were clenched tightly. He put the glass down and sprinkled some water over her face but useless. He moved her hair back from her face and patted her cheek, one last attempt to bring her to senses. No success.  

Her breathing was even as if she was asleep.

He looked at her face and then couldn’t blink his eye for a while and at that moment his heart wished to kiss her forehead, her closed eyes, her cheeks and her lips. Apparently that was a wrong move, a dishonesty, but what if he could steal that single moment from many true moments of life, what if he could touch Qandeel’s eyes and lips once while she was unconscious. There was no time to think because if he would start thinking he would certainly have lost that moment. For a while he kept every thought a side in his mind, wanted to live in that only moment when his life his candle was so close to him.

He brought Qandeel more close and then touched her face with his lips. It was a soft soothing feeling that penetrated his whole body. He kissed both of Qandeel’s eyes one by one and then her cheeks and then when he was about to touch her lips he suddenly stopped, a strange feeling prevented him to do anything else.

A strangled sound was coming from her mouth as if she is trying to breathe but cannot. It was so low that one had to move very close to hear it. That blew him as if someone punched him squarely on chest. He was ashamed of himself. At this critical moment when she was in desperate need of medical aid, he was thinking to fulfill his own desire. He admonished himself for unethical behavior. And to think that I love her, he was angry at himself.

He lifted her up and settled her on the bed. He rubbed her palms and started over again the procedure to bring her back to senses when Adnan and Rishi entered the room.

“What happened to her?”

“Why don’t you ask your men instead, why did they choose the same spot for their bloodlust fights which could be seen from Qandeel’s room?”

His sarcastic tone was enough to make him realize the situation.

“I never knew bibi ji was of a faint heart that a mere dog fight would make her go unconscious. I thought she was very brave.” Rishi put in.

His discussion made Ilaaf burst with anger.

“I didn’t ask you to comment!” He roared and Rishi was subdued.

“Think about what we should do next. It will take time to call a doctor from city and it will be dangerous, as nobody know we have kidnapped Qandeel. Qaiser uncle will not approve of it as well.” Adnan tried to sort out the situation.

That ignited Ilaaf’s fury beyond limit.

“To hell with you and your Qaiser uncle!” He thundered.

Both Adnan and Rishi thought better to remain silent.

“What are you looking at! Get out of here now!”

“Ilaaf, I --.” Ilaaf didn’t let him finish.

“You can go away. I don’t even want to see your face.” They both were surprised at his behavior but then Adnan thought better to drop this discussion. They turned to leave.

“And listen.” Ilaaf called them back. “If anything happened to her then I will gladly tear you and your men apart.” He growled like wounded beast.

“Qandeel is my life and I can take care of her, alone. I don’t need any of you.” Adnan left silently.

Ilaaf looked at her for a while. Her expressions were calm and so were her breathing, may be she was sleeping now. He felt better. In that untidy attire, she still maintained her aura.

He came into balcony then and called Yusuf Mairaj. He explained her conditions to him.

“There is no need to worry. You will be able to handle her.” He explained to him how to do it. Ilaaf was curious that Yusuf Mairaj wasn’t worried in least bit. But then he understood his composure as he explained the precautions regarding her illness.

“I am sure you will be able to go about it. My daughter is immovable at times but she is equally sensitive as well. Any unexpected accident reduces her to this form and she always needs to be taken care of whenever such a situation arises.” Ilaaf didn’t interrupt him. “I am certain you will be the one to take care of her when I am gone. I have total trust in you and in your love for Qandeel. This world is cruel. You will need to shelter her from this cruelty and keep her safe from evil intenders. I know you can do this.” Yusuf Mairaj kept on saying other things also. And Ilaaf was surprised at the amount of trust this man put in him despite of knowing that he too was a feudal like his father. In addition, he could become ferocious at any given time. He didn’t think himself worthy of this trust. 

After the call, he came in the room and looked at her peaceful form. So she had CND. Ilaaf was familiar with many psychological illnesses yet this one was new to him. Yusuf Mairaj had told him that this illness was a rare one.

He settled in the chair near bed. He didn’t want to make more mistakes with Qandeel. He needed to keep his distance from her. It perturbed him deeply that in his passion he would prove to be a trouble for her.

Also, he couldn’t leave the room because she needed to be handled as Yusuf Mairaj had explained. She will be alright when she will wake up again. He took out a pack of cigarettes to pass this interval.

Why she had to be so exquisite, so complete? Why he was attracted towards her like he hadn’t been to any other woman! Why her very existence was the reason of his pleasure and fulfillment, why being close to her was an exhilaration of its own kind. Why the desire to touch her as soon as he looked her and the desire to kiss her as soon as he touched her was always there inside him, and how unfortunate he was that remained unable to look, touch and kiss her.
Ilaaf watched all his desires, wishes diffusing in the whirling smoke. This smoke was temporary. But what about that thick fog of separation which had covered his entire life like a dragon guarding treasure. This curse had concealed all of his hopes.

(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chapter no. 14: The Test (II)

Qandeel leaned against the door. She held her breath and sob until Ilaaf’s steps faded away. A long silence prevailed like in a ruin, where your own breathing causes commotion.

He had gone from this room, from her life but had he from her heart too? She couldn’t answer that. Would she ever be able to take him out of her heart, she didn’t know. Qandeel tried to feel her pulse but silent. She strained her ears to listen to the rustle of the trees against air but either her ears had stopped working or terrible silence had engulfed her surroundings. There was only one relentless voice that was melting this cold-hearted girl.

“Qandeel I love you.” Someone had axed her legs to the knees. She fell on the carpet with a thud. She emitted nothing but a sob. “Do not punish me this way.” Someone had flogged her. She lied down and sobbed.

“Do not ask me to not to wish for claiming you.” She wanted to cry but something greasy and thick came out of her nose. She cleaned the blood with her dupatta. Everything was a blur despite of lights being on. She tried to breathe by getting up and the locket around her neck grazed beneath her. She held it up to her face and for the first time, the Glorified Name written on it started her heart again. She felt she could breathe, her vision cleared. Pearls like tears soaked the carpet.

“This Only name has the cure for every grief. No matter how much hurt you are, take this name for once and heartache will go away.” Baba’s voice breathed life into her and the dams in her eyes flowed.

Lying on her right, she cried violent. She touched Allah’s name to her eyes. This grief had torn her to pieces.

“Why did you do this?” She complained to Allah as a child does when her mother hits.

“Why did you put him in my heart? Why did you make me love him so much when he doesn’t deserve it? Why did you do this to me?”

She sat up. “All has gone. You have finished everything, Ilaaf. My pride and honor you finished everything in cold blood.” She had taken a decision when she had made Ilaaf go out, but now she could feel the impact of it; how hard it was to act upon it. She had never experienced this kind of ache before. It was the destination, an ache of separation, which she had decided for them. Moreover, she did not want to back of from this decision. His every promise had proved to be a hollow; he was not eligible to fulfill her conditions. He had faltered on the very first step and she could not trust him anymore. There is much more to life then love and Ilaaf had nothing to give her except his weak and impaired love.
It was not acceptable to her. She needed a strong man who could stand for her, fight for her; not like Ilaaf who could not take a single decision on his own.

She washed her face and went to sleep. She slept until noon and woke up when Noori knocked the door.

Qandeel opened the door and went to wash her face. Noori set breakfast for her. Rishi was also there.

“Bibi, please wash yourself, your clothes are very dirty. The cupboard has all the necessary things.”

Qandeel looked at them then resumed eating

“I am fine in these dirty clothes. Keep your suggestions to yourself.”

After breakfast, Qandeel asked Rishi, “Where is Ilaaf?”

“Sahab was gone before day break.”

“Sahab’s bail has been accepted?” She pried.

“Not yet, bibi ji.”

“Then--- how come he was here?”

He was silent for a while then said, “Lala brings Sahab home every night. Yesterday Lala brought him here.”

Qaiser and Ilaaf Lashari have the audacity to diss the law this way, and I expect good from a person who has made law their backyard maid, she thought to herself.

She felt anger and not hate towards him. She had always been unable to hate him no matter what. She didn’t have any way to know the reason behind this. Rishi had gone and she surrounded herself with thoughts. She didn’t have anything else to do all day.

By evening, her concern for Baba had reached its height. She felt the need to know he was alright. She had never been away from him like this.

That is why she asked Rishi to stay when they brought dinner for her.

“Has Ilaaf arrived?”

“No, not yet. Lala has gone to take him.”

“When they arrive, tell him I need to talk to him. There is an important matter I need to discuss.”

“I will pass your message, ji.”

She managed to take few morsels then got disheartened. She was missing Baba so much her heart was perturbed. She paced the room for a while then sat down when she got tired.

Someone was coming. It would certainly be Ilaaf. She thought and her heart fluttered. It still accelerated for him.
She covered her face and took a long breath to quieten herself. She had to pretend being cold and distant from him. However much it would tear her, she had to get the message clear to him that she felt nothing for him now.

He came inside.

“You wanted to talk to me?” she gave him an empty look. That confused him. “You said you wanted to discuss something important.”

“Yes, I needed to talk to you.” She stood up.

“Yes?” There was an ocean of hope brimming in his eyes. That same ocean had come into her eyes last night and he had thrown her into a desert. It was time to reciprocate it.

“Don’t misunderstand my wish. I need to talk to Baba. I haven’t listened to his voice since tomorrow; he would not be able to bear my absence, as you well know he’s a heart patient.”

His hopes plummeted but he didn’t comment.

He took out his cell phone, dialed the number, handed it to Qandeel and went to veranda. Phone rang a few times at other end then Baba picked it up. Relief washed over Qandeel. She felt light now that Baba was fine.

“How are you Qandeel? You are safe, na? Nobody harmed you, did they?” He asked so many questions in a single breath.

“I am fine and safe Baba. Nobody has harmed me yet nor can anybody dare to do so. Have faith in Allah. They can’t do anything to me. I will be home soon.” She assured him.

“Yes I know my child. They will keep you until court has given verdict, then they will release you.” All pieces fell into place while she talked to Baba; it was a cunning plan. They got her resigned through Asghar Sahib, and then they kidnapped her and discredited her witness by giving her kidnapping the name of ‘leaving on her own accord’. All of their tricks went quite successful.

“Saqib is also looking for you as court will convene tomorrow. He knows that without you he will not be able to prove Ilaaf, guilty. Anyway my child, we did what we could. We cannot help Saqib any further. Right now, my only concern is your safety and life, Qandeel. Please take care of yourself. I will wait for you.”

Qandeel started crying, she wasn’t sure for how many days she will be away from Baba like this.

“Ilaaf made this call for you?” He asked.

“Yes, Baba.” She said.

“Let me talk to him.”

She came in balcony and handed him phone. She couldn’t say anything because of tears. Ilaaf started talking to him. She went inside and sitting on bed with her head resting on knees she cried her heart out. She didn’t know what Baba had said to Ilaaf. She wasn’t expecting any good from him now. How could he help her if he couldn’t even help himself.

He came inside. “Please Qandeel, don’t cry, it really bothers me.”

“You are the reason I am crying, Ilaaf Lashari. You should be happy to see me helpless like this.”

“You are getting me all wrong.”

“I don’t hold you for any thing at all. You are nothing for me from now on. You are a mere stranger. I do not know anything about you except your name, like rest of the world know you because of your ancestors. You alone have no identity, individuality of your own. You are a feudal and prospective politician and nothing else. Nothing further. 

A shadow passed over his face, an ache settled deep down in him. All his dreams shattered in that instant and Qandeel saw it all, felt how her words were perforating his very being yet she was indifferent to it. She too was stabbed; her dreams had also been crumbled. If Ilaaf had to go through all of this then it was his own doing.  

“You can go now. If a need arose, I will call you.”

A drop fell from his left eye. He couldn’t even blink his eye.

“There’s no place for Ilaaf in Qandeel’s life or in her heart.”

“Don’t say that.” He managed to speak.

“We have a similar relation as of a captive and a captor; and that too until I am here. When I am gone there will remain nothing between us.”

 “Qandeel, I ---.”

“You have lost me forever Ilaaf.” She started sobbing, her head on knees. She didn’t check if he was gone.

Qandeel looked at the empty room and came into balcony. She stood where he was standing and looked at the surroundings.

The pastures, susurrus, dewdrops, whisper of the leaves, the bowed branches, perfumed vines, had him. He was everywhere; in every scent, in every movement, that weak and coward Man who couldn’t even give credit to his love.

“Go away Ilaaf. Leave my life and heart like you left this room.” She said to herself.

How weird it was, the man whom she had ordered to leave governed her heart. She had become like a worshiper in a temple who believes in God yet sits in the feet of idols.

(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chapter no. 14: The Test (I)

Ilaaf was sitting in semi-darkness, waiting for Adnan. He was curious why Adnan was late to pick him from lock-up. As he now used to take him home by twilight. Sitting by the wall, he was missing Qandeel as usual, his eyes closed, when Adnan came.

“Let’s go. Already we got late. I need to tend to other business after dropping you home.” He looked anxious and in hurry too.

Ilaaf didn’t pry and got up.

There was silence in car too. Adnan never stayed silent for long so Ilaaf got a little worried.
“Is everything alright?”
“Yes, don’t worry.” His cell phone rang. Ilaaf noticed his forehead creased when he checked the number.

He received the call and ‘hmm-ed’, ‘ahan-ed’ all through it.

“Don’t worry; I am coming there in half hour. Don’t go there nor send Noori now. I will see to it myself.” He ended the call.

“What happened? Where are you going now?” Ilaaf’s curiosity piqued.

Adnan looked at Ilaaf. Ilaaf saw guilt and helplessness there. His heart thudded.

“Tell me, what has happened Adnan?”

“You will know in a while yourself. I cannot tell anything right now, till then, stay put.”
Adnan veered in another direction, which was like an indicator to Ilaaf that they weren’t going home.

“Where are we going?”

“To the farmhouse.”


“I told you already, you will know.”

He sat in silence but he was confused.

Half an hour later, they were in lounge and Ilaaf was waiting for Adnan to tell him what is going on.

Adnan went into a room. When he came out he had some thing in his hand. He offered it to Ilaaf. He stood up. It was a black long cloth. He couldn’t fathom anything and touched it convulsively.

“What is this?” He inquired but a shudder went through his body when he took it in his hand. He had all the wonder in the world, in his eyes. How could he forget this dupatta. She was wearing it when they had met that day. Moreover, that unmistakable perfume was hers. It invigorated his entire body.

“Isn’t it Qandeel’s---?”  Then he came to his senses. “What have you done to Qandeel?” Adnan couldn’t reply to him.

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO QANDEEL?” He grabbed him by collar.

“I didn’t do it happily, Ilaaf. You know I can’t stoop this low. I was obliged to carry it out or else Uncle Qaiser would have ordered someone else to do this.”

His bloody eyes even scared the hell out of Adnan.

“I need to know what did you do, Adnan Bhatti?” Each word was thrown out to him; his hold on his collar hadn’t slackened a bit.   

“We’ve kidnapped her for few days.” Ilaaf couldn’t decide what he should do. His ears were ringing with outrage. He hadn’t thought his father would go this far. 

He pushed Adnan back with all his might and roared.

“You have degraded me not only in my eyes but in Yusuf Mairaj’s and Qandeel’s too, Adnan. I will never be able to face her. She will not even want to look at me let alone talk to me.”

“Forgive me, yar! I was forced to do that.” Adnan could plead only Ilaaf.

Ilaaf sat down and tried to control his anger. Then he remembered something.

“Where is she? Is she alright? You people didn’t hurt her, did you? And what’s her dupatta doing with you?” Adnan related to him the episode.

“You guys are sick, beasts. I shouldn’t have expected any good from you all.”

They were silent for a while.

“Think about what we are going to do next. Let go of whatever happened.” Adnan said.

“In which room you have kept her?” He asked seriously.

“In next to yours. I had thought that there will be everything of her need but---.” Ilaaf looked at him.
“She locked the door ever since she came and didn’t even open when Rishi begged her. She’s threatening of harming her if anybody tried to enter forcefully.”

“What are you talking about Adnan? She hasn’t eaten anything since evening?”

“No. In fact, nothing since morning. She didn’t take lunch in office then we brought her here and she locked the door when she came here. She hasn’t opened it yet despite of much insistence.” Ilaaf held his head in frustration. “She is such a headstrong and determined girl. I have never seen one like her; you were right, she is different from other girls. The way she made us run in whole of the ward was drove me insane.” Ilaaf didn’t comment. He was thinking.

“Ilaaf please you go to her and tell her to stop being stubborn; eat and stay here for few days and don’t create more troubles for us. I know you can do this. You are the only one she will listen to. She is not ready to listen any of us.”

How weird this test was; Adnan had the hope of him passing it when he wasn’t even eligible to attempt it. But he had to go through it. Success rates could be determined later.

“Tell Noori to bring her dinner, I am going to talk to Qandeel.”

Ilaaf first went to his room and brought first aid box. He had her dupatta in other hand. Noori brought food tray behind him.

“Stay here until I call you.”

At that moment, standing in front of that door, he could only hope for it to open.

He knocked and his heart drummed loudly on hearing Qandeel’s annoyed voice. He said all the things he thought were appropriate. His heart refused to beat when he heard the door being unlocked despite of his expectations.

He pushed the door and paused at threshold.

Standing in the middle of the room without dupatta she was looking at him. Covered with dust all over, bruises on the face, with tired eyes, she was still the most beautiful woman in this world for Ilaaf Lashari.

Ilaaf called Noori; she put the tray filled with food on centre table and left.

Ilaaf closed the door. She was still looking at him with passive face and empty eyes. He couldn’t decide what to say first. Should he apologize for his father’s behavior? Ask her to trust his love or should he tell her to eat?

He came towards her like thirst driven traveler move towards a shore. He stopped right in front of her.

She looked up to him and the expression in her eyes squeezed his heart.

Ilaaf extended her dupatta towards her. She hesitated for a second before taking it.

“I am not sure what to say to you at this moment because I don’t know whether you will believe me or not.”

She didn’t look him in the eyes this time.

“Whether I believe you or not, do say what you want to say because I need to hear it.” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing for a moment.

“Not now. First eat something, then I will dress your wounds and then we will talk if you would still want to.” Qandeel nodded. Ilaaf was surprised of her submission. He wasn’t expecting it.

She sat on sofa. Ilaaf offered her juice and sandwich, which she took willingly. Ilaaf was at ease now. Her being hungry for such long hours had bothered him. He went to veranda for fresh air. He looked back at her occasionally. She was indulged in food. Ilaaf couldn’t help smiling at her, seeing her eating like this.

It was very strange. Circumstances were worse yet the fact that she was so near to him was intoxicating him. He couldn’t know what turn conditions will take but his heart was reluctant at thinking about anything else. This moment was everything to him for now.

When she was done eating, he came inside and sat beside her on sofa. There was a wound on her forehead and a small part of her cheek was blue. 

He cleaned and dressed the wound and applied some lotion on blue mark. At the same time, he was wondering at Qandeel’s uncharacteristic behavior. She had let him sit near her and touch her without any protest.

“Are you hurt somewhere else?” She looked up at him and extended her palms.

Their eyes met when he took her hands in his. She was looking at him fixedly; there was a strange expression. Then all glitter in those eyes went off and she looked away again.

Her soft fingers felt good in his hands. At last turn of the bandage, he had an impulse to kiss her fingers but he thought better of it. Some of the desires in life cannot be acted upon; even if the person is luckiest on earth.

After first aid, he started pacing the room. He couldn’t decide how to present his dilemma. Qandeel was also silent.

“I don’t have any part in whatever happened and is still going on. In fact I am a spectator in this case.”

“I am aware of it.” She said. This jolted him.

“I am ready to confess each and every of my blunders but Baba Saayin and Dada Saayin will never let me do it. They have tied my hands.”

There was a silence for sometime. Then he saw her coming towards him. She stopped close to him.
His heart rate had never accelerated like this in his whole life. He wanted to quieten it down in case she would hear it. Her eyes contained infinite questions, desire to know innumerable things, wonderment and what not. He felt he would never be able to shake off the hold her eyes had on him.

“Do you love me?” She asked, expressionless.

“Infinite. I cannot even explain it in words nor in passion.” He answered fervently. However, it had no effect over Qandeel.

“Do you want to marry me?” This question was equally perplexing.

“Yes. Today. Now.” His fervor exceeded.

“Would you then listen to me?” He couldn’t tell why she was asking all of this.

“Yes, you just need to say it.” He couldn’t help himself then and took her hands in his.

“Say it, no; order me. You are my life, how can I refuse you.”

Qandeel looked at him silently and took her hands from him. Ilaaf watched her ardently; thinking may be she minded him holding her hands. However, it was not that. The thing she did next was very much unexpected from her. She held his face her touch was warming. He had become a statue beneath her hands.

“Those who love are not afraid of anything at all. They face every hardship zealously. If you love me then please honor me by confessing your mistake in court. I want to see you speaking truth. You don’t need to care about anything at all but me and our love.”

He was dumbfounded.

“Believe me, Ilaaf. I will ask Nauman uncle and Saqib bhai for your forgiveness, myself. I will beg them if I would need to. I will make them concede to take blood money and if they won’t agree then I will stand-by you in every trial. I will wait for you, will visit you in prison. I will entitle my whole life for you. Moreover, I will marry you the day you will come out of jail. This is a promise from Qandeel Yusuf to the man who loves her, to the man who can put aside every relation, every handicap and stand for truth.”

All blood drained from Ilaaf’s face. He looked at this innocent girl, begging him fervently, with empty eyes. She had no way of knowing that Ilaaf had already promised his father, a large price, for her life.

“You said you will go to any lengths to make me believe on your love. Now is the time to prove it, not only for me but for you as well. The entire world has turned against me, they are defaming me mercilessly and I don’t have anywhere to go now. You can clear my name with your confession; wouldn’t you do it for me?”

His gaze became hard. He was torn between giving this woman her pride and honor for the love; in return, she was giving herself to him, and in keeping her alive.

“Tell me Ilaaf, you will protect our love and me from being disgraced, no? Seek truth in the court? I am sure you will never disappoint me.” She was still holding his face--- and Ilaaf—he wanted to kiss her fingers, he wanted to cry in her arms until entire grief flowed out of him but he couldn’t do it. Not now, when she hadn’t given him this right. In addition, the condition she propounded was the reason his father was looking for to kill her. Qaiser Lashari knew what Qandeel meant for Ilaaf and he had refrained from his resolution just because Ilaaf was adamant. If Ilaaf goes to court and confesses then his father would take no time to act. The likes of them are always ready to pounce.

He wanted to disappear from there. He wanted to do anything but to answer her.

How merciless the times were. The only woman, he had ever loved, was asking something for first time and he was thinking of ways to refuse her.

“Answer me Ilaaf.”
He gently removed her hands from his face, tormented. She was waiting for him to answer.

“Forgive me Qandeel, I am helpless to fulfill your wish.” At epitome of helplessness his eyes spilled. His answer had stunned Qandeel.

He saw doubt in her eyes. She couldn’t take in the fact that Ilaaf had refused her.

“What has compelled you?” She inquired expressionlessly.

Ilaaf couldn’t think of a way to relay to her the fact that his despicable father had forgotten how to treat a woman. For him, the girl Ilaaf loved was worthless and her life was of no value.

“Baba  Saayin and Dada Saayin has threatened me that if I don’t remain silent then---.” Words choked him.

“What?” She asked

“I can’t tell you what is it but it has bound me to listen to them.”  He completed his sentence haltingly, ashamed.

Qandeel kept her eyes on him and stepped back. He was expecting some reaction but none came. She was flabbergasted.

“Leave here at once, Mr. Lashari.” Her distant tone was agonizing for him. “And kindly refrain from idle talk next time. I don’t need your empty words or your defective love. I don’t need a weak man like you. I reject your proposal right here so do not waste my or your time further.”

It was as if someone had given him goblet filled with poison and his thirst was so intense that he had to take it. It was a test of its own kind.

Ilaaf came near her. “Qandeel you can call me names, hit me, but please don’t ask me to go away.” His voice shook. “I am weak; I am a criminal of you and of many other people. Still I love you, its truer then anything else. Please don’t punish me this way. Don’t ask me to not wishing for claiming you, please don’t!”

He held her shoulders but she pushed his hands away and stepped back.

“Don’t you dare touch me! We have no relation at all. Just go away.” Her tone cold and eyes empty.

“Qandeel, at least ---”

“I SAID GO!” She bellowed.

Ilaaf felt there was a wall of strangeness between them. She had gone far from him.

He had an urge to sit near her feet and beg earnestly of her.

“If you don’t go right away then I will jump from veranda.”

Ilaaf stepped back unconsciously.

“Go away and don’t show me your face again. I will not cause any trouble for you people when I am here, just don’t try to meet me or talk to me till then.” Like a lost gambler, he stood near door, mourning over his defeat.

“And inform your dear friend too that if he tried to force me to comply then he will be responsible of outcome.” Verdict had been announced and he was left to burn in that fire, may be forever.

“Now leave!” she ordered.

He looked at his lamp one lat time hopefully and then left the room. There was only darkness left in his life. Qandeel locked the door again. He looked at the closed door; happiness and contentment had been lost on him.

(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chapter no. 13: The Plan (III)

Night was very dark as if all the stars had decided to never to return.

Yusuf Mairaj’s life was overcastted. The night and day become sunless when a man’s only lamp is snatched from him.

“Qandeel” He had only one word on his lips and his eyes streamed all day long. He sat with his back to the pillar, missing Qandeel all the time and praying earnestly for the safety of her life and honor.
Din Muhammad had stayed with him for some time asking to be forgiven because he had been unable to protect her. What could Yusuf Mairaj say to this old man? At this bleak hour even his sister, nephew, relatives and friends had left him alone. He could only be grateful to him that he at least tried to protect her.

He was thinking about Qandeel late in the night, where would she be, had she eaten anything? Was she safe? How these men had treated her? All these questions were cutting to his heart. He couldn’t think of any way to start looking for her. Where should he go in this metropolitan? What could he do to bring her back safely? Could he get justice in a city where her daughter was kidnapped in broad daylight? Wasn’t it easy for the likes of Qaiser Lashari to close all the doors of justice in his face? All these thoughts were making him weak with grief.

Kamran Ali had called him a little while ago but he couldn’t talk to him properly. He kept on asking what was wrong but he was unable to give his grief words. And now his heart was sinking with each passing instant.

Somebody knocked on the main door and then entered. He didn’t look up on the sound. He wasn’t interested anymore who came by and who left.

“Yusuf what is wrong with you? Are you sick again?” Hamza Shahid and Kamran Ali sat beside him. Yusuf Mairaj was cold all over, he was shaking badly so couldn’t respond to them.

“Sir, why are you sitting like this? Where is Qandeel?” Kamran Ali asked him. They both helped him to get up and brought him inside. He also brought water for him. When he started feeling better he told them what had happened.

“I was expecting such a thing from Qaiser Lashari and you too were aware of the outcome, Yusuf. This man can go to any lengths.” Hamza Shahid offered his opinion.

“I am only worried about Qandeel. I am afraid they’ll harm her, they are low people. They didn’t take pity on Saima and Ayesha even when they didn’t pose any threat to them. And Qandeel has impinged on their reputation by deciding to be a witness against them in the court. Qaiser Lashari will cross any boundary and would even kill her to safe his reputation and fame.” Yusuf Mairaj voiced his fears.

“They cannot harm Qandeel as long as Ilaaf is by her side.” Hamza Shahid tried to soothe him and Kamran Ali was shocked when he listened to this.

“This thought helps me to move forward but what if he’s in lock up and keeping him in dark, they try to----.” He couldn’t complete his sentence.

“Everything will be alright Yusuf. Allah will have mercy on us. You were aware of the results when you gave Qandeel freedom to act as she willed. Now have courage. Your daughter is brave just like her mother and you also have to face this situation courageously.” Hamza Shahid was assuring him.

For sometime they debated over what should be their next step. Both friends were of the opinion that an FIR must be lodged even if it’s not acted upon. Hamza Shahid discussed this situation with his son on the phone and felt better after the call.

“Get up Yusuf, we are going to DSP Mansoor. I have talked to Safeer and he’s also going to be there. Everything will be alright. Circumstances are not that worse that our daughter is kidnapped on a gunpoint and we stand like spectators. Inshallah, we’ll know whereabouts of Qndeel by morning.

They both helped him get ready to go outside.

Yusuf Mairaj’s cell phone started ringing when they were at the door. He looked at it uneasily. Before it rang, he had completely forgotten it.

“Check who is it calling, Yusuf. May be its about Qandeel.” Hamza Shahid made him attend the call.

It was an unknown number. The voice at other end had always proved to be a trumpet in his life.

“You are worried about your daughter, and certainly yearning to meet her. Don’t worry Yusuf, I am, like others, with you in this grief.” His laughter had ignited a fire in his entire body. “You are an intelligent and fearless person but sadly you cannot do anything to save your daughter’s life or honor. Nothing at all.” His tired nervous system couldn’t retort back to this sadist. “But don’t you worry, my friend. I have always been your buddy so I am thinking about your betterment this time too. Your daughter is safe in my men’s hands until you don’t make the mistake of lodging a complaint for her kidnap.” Yusuf Mairaj had to hold the pillar or he would have fallen, face down.

“Keep in mind Yusuf, if you prove to be as foolish as your daughter then only you will be responsible for the outcome. I have been ignoring both of you but this time if you trick me, your daughter will join her awaiting mother. Don’t even think I am unaware. I have surveillance over you and I will know if you try to go against me. You will find your daughter’s body in a dump or may be it will not be needed since you will not be able to even recognize her.”

At that moment he had regretted that why he had never learned to curse someone. Why couldn’t he silence this man by cursing him? But he felt like his tongue was stuck or he had become dumb.

“Your headstrong wife separated Omer from us and made a rebellion of him. You always encouraged her. And now your daughter is defaming you at your old age and you are a foolish man, you always listen to women and let them act. You are responsible for whatever is happening. At least I cannot sacrifice my reputation and son because of your daughter.”

He sat on the floor. All courage was sapped from his body. Hamza Shahid and Kamran Ali came to him. They knew from his reaction to who had called.

“Your persistent daughter’s life is being spared just for you, and I am giving you a candid advice, bare your daughter’s separation silently and she will be freed once case is decided or else ready yourself to dug your young daughter’s grave. Decision is in your hand” Call had been disconnected but he held the phone to his ear. Then it slipped to the floor on its own.

There was vacuity in front of him.

He looked at Hamza then Kamran and then someone else too. It was Saima. His Saima was standing behind Kamran, looking at him.

In 22 years, he had seen her roaming this place; she had always come to assuage him, to share his happiness. She had never left him alone and so she was here now.
He saw her smile. That smile was his life’s asset.

He felt he could breathe again; there was hope, light in this life to live for.

“Yusuf, talk to me. Why don’t you speak!” Hamza shook his shoulder.
And he was brought to reality. He felt courage in him.

“Nothing will harm my Qandeel.” He said.
He told them details of the call.

“These are mere threats. He can’t do any such thing.” Hamza Shahid said.

“I don’t care what these are. I only care for my Qandeel now.”

“What then---?” Kamran Ali inquired.

“I will not lodge FIR for Qandeel’s kidnap.” He told them his decision.

“But this is not the solution.” Both friends tried to convince him. But he remained firm.

“I don’t want to expect anything from that sadist. My daughter is my responsibility and if I need to be a coward to save her, then so be it.”

Then Hamza Shahid acquiesced to his decision but Kamran Ali remained against it. It was going to make no difference anyway.

Yusuf Mairaj came to his room when they had gone. He could smell a familiar perfume their.
She was there, with him; giving him strength.
Qandeel’s bag was still lying on sofa. He touched it lovingly then went for ablution and stood for prayer.

If the weakest father in this world could do anything for his helpless daughter then it was a prayer. And he was sure that no sadist dare cross that border and hurt his Qandeel.

(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chapter no. 13: The Plan (II)

Qandeel was looking at the proceedings silently. She couldn’t bring herself to ask or say anything to Baba.

It was a Monday morning. She had informed at her work that she’ll be late. Yusuf Mairaj had gone to a bank first and transferred all the money in his account to Qandeel’s. She was astounded and angry at the same time. She didn’t understand why Baba was doing all this. He had already handed Qandeel her Islamabad account documents which he had opened many years back with her Shamma aunt’s consent when they went there to stay with her. Qandeel was not told any details about it and she never tried to know about it herself.

When she saw the papers, she was surprised to know that a large amount was present in it and it kept on increasing with each passing year. She asked Baba about it but he told her that Shamma aunty will be able to explain it better and left the matter.

They went to barrister Asif’s office next. This time Qandeel knew why they had come. Yusuf Mairaj had decided to transfer house in her name, in his life. Now he needed her to sign a few papers and also so she could meet the barrister for future matters.

Qandeel was complying with all of it but was at a loss that what made Baba to take these measures suddenly. What in the world had happened that he was compelled to be done with these undertaking. She wanted to ask him, to show her displeasure over it because she felt that with each proceeding she was slipping away from Baba and this feeling has always been painful for her.

They came out of barrister’s office and walked silently. She needed to talk to him but this was not the right time. Also, she was getting late for office. And she didn’t want to discuss it in haste anyway. She wanted to dispel all her confusions.

“You should now go to your work, Qandeel. I will walk a little more then will go hospital to Hamza Shahid to ask after Sabeeha bhabhi.”

She looked at him and something happened then that made her stop.


He too stopped and looked at her.

“What do you want to say Qandeel?”

“Baba I love you very much. I want you always by my side. I cannot even imagine being away from you.”

She didn’t know why she had said those words. May be some fear came forth inside her.

“Promise me you will not go anywhere. I cannot live without you. I have nobody in this world but you.”

She took a step toward him and held his hands. He was looking at her, taken aback.

“When did I say I am leaving you, Qandeel?” He asked.

“Then why are you going through all of these measures? Account transfer, house transfer, etc. what is this?”

He smiled and pushed her hair back from her forehead softly and said, “I had to do all of this one day so I felt why not today. You don’t need to worry yourself over these trivial things.”

March’s hot sun was having no effect over her but the place where Baba touched was heated too much.

“I am always near you Qandeel, even if I am out of your sight.”

His soft hand was like a cool flake on a burning heart. Suddenly he stepped back and signaled the passing empty rickshaw quickly.

“Go Qandeel. You are getting late for your office.”

She nodded and moved ahead but then stopped. She had a strange impulse. She wanted to run and hide in Baba’s arms. Hidden from this world and its inhabitants. This impulse was like when a baby deer is left among wolves and it wishes to be with its mother. She looked back to him that may be he’d take pity on her and will not ask her to go away.
But he was smiling.

“Allah hafiz.”

Now it was not possible for Qandeel to return to him. Baba had given her into Allah’s protection and nothing could be done now. So she settled in rickshaw silently and when it lurched forward she felt like she has lost her Baba forever.

This fear inside her was killing her every second and she had no way to know the reason. He had talked about his death many times before, had soothed her heart, had talked about all the transactions he had carried out today but still she was weak inside. And she couldn’t name this feeling.

Office proved to be a distraction. She was instructing Sajid for left over work when she was informed that Asghar Sahib was asking for her.

“Sir were you asking for me?” she inquired in intercom.

“I just needed to confirm when you will be in your office.”

Qandeel was surprised. He hadn’t checked on her before.

“And yes I need to talk to you but a little later when I am free. Until then kindly remain in your office as I will have difficulty in tracing you.”
She put down intercom. She was perturbed by it.

There was so much work so she couldn’t know how much time had passed. Sajid went for lunch and she continued discussing a project with Tanveer on phone, then she checked emails. Her intercom buzzed. Mr. Asghar had called her in his office.
Qandeel checked time. 02:30 pm, lunch time. She was hungry so ate two biscuits hurriedly, instructed Sajid, who had come by then, to write today’s report and went for Asghar sahib’s office. She knocked and entered. She was asked to be seated.

“I tried to convince you many times to take back your decision about being a witness, Qandeel, but I think you are not only stupid and emotional but also dangerously compassionate which is poison for a journalist.

Qandeel was perplexed at his speech. He had never been this clear about any matter.

“I thought for about two days and came to decision that we cannot work together anymore.” He stopped and looked at her.

Qandeel was calm and remained passive.

“I too had guessed sir that sooner or later you will ask me to leave this office. And so I had prepared myself for termination letter.” She replied coolly.

“I don’t want to terminate you.” That surprised her. “I want you to submit resignation letter. That will be better.”

She was unable to calculate the difference between resigning and being terminated and anyway, she had decided to comply. She also couldn’t think of a reason for not submitting her resignation letter.

“When do you need it Sir?”

“Now. And tell everyone that you resigned on your own accord. Don’t worry about work. Tanveer will handle all of it. You have half an hour to submit your resignation letter.” He added dryly.

Qandeel came to her desk and started writing it. She didn’t think of typing it. She wasn’t worried least bit. In fact she was so calm and organized.

She finished writing, signed it and started collecting her stuff. Tanveer and Sajid were busy working on computer so they didn’t notice her actions.

She saw Asghar Sahib coming towards her when she was leaving her cabin. Qandeel handed him her resignation. He looked at it and smiled enigmatically. Qandeel couldn’t fathom his reaction and decided she needn’t to.

“Thank you, Qandeel. Now come and bid farewell to your colleagues or else they will certainly be sad not to meet you for last time.” He went to the main hall quickly and Qandeel couldn’t understand why he wanted to go through these rituals. He praised her work in few sentences and informed them that she had resigned because of some personal matters.

She stood silently while he was talking.

Sajid and Tanveer had also come there and she noticed they were taken aback. They didn’t, like everybody else, believe that Qandeel could decide to leave work suddenly. 

Qandeel saw deceit in Asghar Sahib’s face and in his eyes but she didn’t care. She needed to leave that place. She felt like being choked.

She thanked every one with typical words after Asghar Sahib and took her leave. She felt like being released from a prison after coming out of there.
Sajid came running after her when she was in hallway. He had come from another door. Tanveer was standing a little farther.

“Miss, how can you leave your job like this?” He asked at once.
“Just like everybody else go.” She replied lightly.
“But you weren’t inclined a little while ago.”
“It takes an instant to take decision.”
“I don’t believe it. I know its Asghar Sahib’s deceitfulness.” He was always angry with him.

“Whatever it is, I have to go now.”
“I too will leave here if you go.” He said like an obstinate child.
“No Sajid, don’t leave your job. Your sister is going to get married and you need it. And I will be fine. I was here for a little while anyway, you don’t need to bother yourself for me or else I will also be sad for you.” Sajid bowed his head. May be he was crying.

“Listen, Sajid. I have always treated you like my younger brother and you also respected me which I will never forget. Everything will be alright, don’t worry. You are not thinking straight.” He nodded.

Qandeel said bye to him and looked at Tanveer, he smiled and waved at her.

Taking small steps she came out of building and took a long breath. There was something that had changed in her life. Now she didn’t get worried over little things like she used to. In fact she always remained calm even in the face of difficulties. Baba was right, when Allah chooses someone for responsibility, He also gives them patience, perseverance and courage. 

When she thought of Baba, she wished she had wings so she could reach him at once. Now that she was free from her job she could spend more time with Baba.

There was much time left in office hours to finish and so entire road was empty of any traffic. She had to walk that long road to the point where she could get a rickshaw easily.

Like always she shouldered her hand bag and walked on the pavement.
She passed two streets. There were one or two persons on the road. When she was passing the third street she heard some footsteps behind her and before she could react to it she felt something hard touched her back.

It took just one second to surround her. She looked around her to take in the situation. There were total five. Two on her right and three on left completing a circle around her. They were all strangers. They had arms, their faces hard and ferocious and still she wasn’t afraid of them. She studied their faces silently then an ache in her back reminded the person behind who had his pistol to her back. Without thinking she turned to face him and she exhaled involuntarily.

Now she understood everything.

Adnan had that same ash grey pistol which he had taken out in store that day.

Qandeel noticed he was looking at her closely. May be he was looking for the signs of fear. Qandeel wasn’t afraid at that moment which astonished her but then so was Adnan.

“Why have you come? What do you want?” She asked calmly. She knew they would come to threaten her sooner or later and so she had prepared herself unconsciously.

“We’ll tell you later what we want. Right now you are to come with us silently.” Adnan was serious.  

“Where and why are you taking me?”

“I don’t think that’s necessary to tell you. Do whatever you are ordered. You can ask questions later.” He came around to her back again.

Qandeel was surprised that he adhered to manners.

“And if I refuse---?” She could hear alarm bells ringing at full volume in her head but her mind was working furiously as well.

“Then we’ll have to forcefully take you which I don’t want to do.” His men were waiting for his orders.

“Qandeel Yusuf is not an easy fish whom you can take easily.” She had decided she will not go no matter what.

She had calculated that they will not harm her and that brought odds in her favor. If for once she could lose them she will be safe.

Her retort angered Adnan. He twisted her arm and brought it on her back. A sob left her mouth. Her anger also flared. Her wrist was in Adnan’s hold and inevitably she decided to act.

“Adnan Bhatti has dealt with haughtiness before. An ordinary girl like you is nothing as compared to those big shots. I can pick you against your will but I don’t intend any displeasure so you better do as I say.”

Qandeel’s badly aching arm turned her anger into melting volcano. She looked above, in the sky and prayed to God.

“You have dealt with hot shots before but this ordinary girl will deal with your haughtiness far better.” She rammed her elbow in his ribs as soon as she finished her sentence. Adnan doubled up not because of pain but shocked because he wasn’t expecting any such action. His hold slackened for an instant and that was what Qandeel wanted. She flurried away from his hold and stopped after running few steps. She looked back at all of them. Nobody could understand anything for a while. Then Adnan took control of himself and of the situation. 

“Stop Qandeel or else I will not be responsible.” He belched like a buffalo. All of his men were at ready.

“Come with us. If you think you’ll be able to leave unhurt then you are at mistake.”
Qandeel knew it was a mere threat. They couldn’t even afford her to get scratched.

“You have arms and you can kill me. You are at liberty to carry on.” She smiled a poisoned smile. And may be this time her fearlessness astounded Adnan. She too was perplexed at her behavior. She was utterly fearless.

“Remember Adnan Bhatti that nobody can take away Qandeel Yusuf without her permission. If you don’t believe me then be my guest.”

That response hurt his ego.

Qandeel rolled her bag’s handle around her wrist and looked at her shoes. Her feet were ready to take the toll.

“You can only take away my dead body.” Saying this in firm voice, she hurried into an alley.

She didn’t stop. They were behind her. She was familiar with this area and she wanted to lose them in the labyrinth. That was a long alley and at the end of it there was an old ward which had numerous small alleys. She soon went out of breath. She was running like this after a very long time so she was tired before the alley ended. She knew they would be able to catch her soon because they were men, they wouldn’t get tired soon. She had to cover this distance anyhow. She looked back. There were four now. She couldn’t guess where would Adnan and his companion would be. And she fell, face down. She had hit something when she wasn’t looking. She had put her hands forward and that had saved her face. There were smudges and a little blood on her palms. She steadied herself quickly and then she saw her dupatta had fallen at some distance. She looked again for them. They weren’t far now. She had to think fast. If she went to pick her dupatta she will be caught. She decided to leave it. She took quick breaths, gathered her courage and started running again. She was careful and faster this time.

Alley had ended and the men were also close behind. Qandeel entered old ward and saw children playing with marbles. The men were now very near and she needed to distract them. She was tired and wanted some time to rest a while.

She stopped and looked around her. Marbles were in a plate placed at some height. Those four men saw her standing and assumed she gave in. Children too were looking at her. She wasn’t afraid of them being so close. She knew they wouldn’t harm her and that was encouraging for her. This game had now become like any hide&seek game. She started enjoying it.

They came closer and at this very moment she snatched at that plate, scattered the marbles on the road and ran. They ran after her without looking on the way and slipped over those marbles. Qandeel looked back and laughed automatically. Adnan has these useless foolish men as thugs, she thought to herself. She lost herself in this labyrinth while they took hold of themselves.

She was carefully changing alleys. She was sure that it will not be so easy to lose Adnan like this and that is why she felt the need of a place where she could stay till they stop following her. She stopped to take a breath and started thinking about her next move. She knew it will be dangerous to roam here like this. She looked at her wrist where the bag had made marks. She opened it and looked for mobile. She could ask Baba what she could do. She couldn’t find her mobile in it. Her mind was crippled. She tried to remember when she had last used her mobile; she had texted Maryam while coming out of office that she has left her job, and then she put it in her bag. It was stolen may be. She didn’t know when and where. She worked to calm herself. She concluded that Asghar Siddiqui had conspired with Qaiser Lashari and Adnan to kidnap her. She couldn’t decide what to do next. Now she will not be able to inform Baba at least what was going on. Then she looked at herself. Her appearance was untidy due to constant running and she didn’t have her dupatta. Her problems were increasing as minutes passed. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She saw Baba’s face. She wanted to hide in his arms. She was compelled to come back to her surroundings. She looked around; this alley went into three more alleys. She came forward a few steps and tried to remember the exact alley, that home where she had come with her Baba once to ask after Din Muhammad’s ill wife. The same Din Muhammad who sold vegetables in his barrow in this very place. But still he used to come to their ward often just to meet Qandeel and Yusuf Mairaj. And whenever he came, he brought fresh vegetables from his barrow. She couldn’t remember anybody else who lived here and could provide her a hide out.

She walked to another alley and went to three elderly persons who were engaged in a discussion. She tried to tidy her face and hands as best as she could. They were surprised to see her.

“This is Dawood Colony, no?” She asked them, keeping her voice steady.
This old ward was divided into many areas.

“Dawood Colony comes after second alley.” One of them replied.

“Actually a relative lives here and I cannot remember exactly where he lives. I have come after a long time” This time she ignored their looks and concentrated on her task.

“What is the name of your relative?” Second person asked.

“His name is Din Muhammad. He has a shop in Hussein Market. Many people know him in Dawood Colony.”

“Oh she is inquiring about our Din Muhammad who is our bosom friend.” Third person said.

She was a little relieved. They could take her to Din Muhammad.
One of them gave her directions and also told her sign of that street and that of his home. She was now hopeful that she’ll be able to reach to the correct place and people will not bother her anymore. She hurriedly went inside an alley but she was unlucky because Adnan was there with his two men. He saw her before she could disappear silently.

“There she is!”

Qandeel traced her steps back and went into another alley. Now she was running hard on this path which will lead her to Din Muhammad’s home. She looked back; Adnan was a little far away. May be they had gone into wrong alley before.

Qandeel had memorized Din Muhammad’s address. She continued to run, reciting his address animatedly. Enter into a large alley from round about, then third alley on right hand, then fourth alley on left then second home at left. She remembered.

They couldn’t decide in which alley she had gone to because of distance.

Her pounding heart came to normal speed when she saw Din Muhammad. She ran madly to him. He turned around and looked at her. Before he had time to even show surprise she started,

“Uncle I was searching your home. Some thugs are looking for me nearby.”

She was breathless and her sentences were disconnected but she continued, “Please save me and hide me in your house for some time.”

Din Muhammad tried to speak but then thought better of it. He realized there is no time. He grabbed her hand and went inside. His small house consisted of only three rooms. He explained the situation to his wife in fewer words and instructed her to hide Qandeel. She took her inside without questioning. They could be asked later.

There was a loud knock when they were talking. Qandeel knew it was them because it was unusual. She could feel danger. She didn’t know they would reach to her that soon.
Din Muhammad first looked at the door then at Qandeel. Her heart was beating fast.

“Nothing will happen, dear. Go inside with Naseema.”

Door was pounded hard.

She couldn’t decide anything.

She came inside with Naseema who made her sit in a corner behind lumber. She couldn’t be seen from here. This room was like a store. Then she covered her with a large piece of cloth.

Now the door rattled. Qandeel’s heart was beating in her throat. She thought all went useless. Now she couldn’t be saved.

She cuddled like a rabbit.

Now Uncle Din Muhammad had opened the door.

The loud voices and hammering of shoes made her realize that she’ll be found now except if Allah wills. And she couldn’t know what His will was at the moment.  

“Where is that girl? Quick, tell me where is she?” That wasn’t Adnan, may be his compliance.

“There is no girl. Only me and my wife lives here.” Uncle Din Muhammad’s voice was calm.

“We know she came here.”

“You are mistaken sahib.”

“Rishi search this place, he will not tell where he hid Qandeel.” Qandeel’s remaining courage seeped away on hearing Adnan’s voice.

And then his compliances started searching his house even though he tried to stop them.
Qandeel’s heart stopped for a moment. If she could stop breathing, she could. Her whole body had become a prayer. She sat with her back to the wall.

They had stopped Uncle Din Muhammad outside and started roaming the house to pick on her odor like a dog.

Then Qandeel heard footsteps near to her hiding place. She knew then she cannot be saved. She sat with her head between her knees. She wasn’t scared of anything now because she had tried everything in her power.

She heard footsteps fading away. She couldn’t believe her luck. They hadn’t seen her. She was safe. She thanked God silently.

“Girl is not inside. May be this old man has provided her an escape from another door.”
 That was Rishi, she thought.

Tell me where THE GIRL IS?” Adnan barked the words so loud, even Qandeel was shaken badly.

“We know she came to your home. Tell me where have you hidden her?” She couldn’t know what else Adnan was doing besides roaring at poor uncle. The way he was screaming, she felt either he had grabbed his collar or had him at gunpoint. Din Muhammad was continuously denying him. He didn’t even accept the fact that she came to his home.

Adnan repeated his order a few times and when he realized he is not going to comply, he went crazy with anger.

“She cannot get away this easily. My men have this place covered, tell me where is she. And if you will refuse to tell then I will shoot you.”
His thundering style was enough to convince that he’d do whatever he was saying.

Qandeel came out of her place on the spur of the moment. Her instincts were warning her that something bad is going to happen and she couldn’t let it be. She didn’t know herself what she was going to do, she was shaking badly.

She came out from behind the sofa to the door. She had seconds to decide what she wanted. She peeped out from the door. Nobody was attentive to her. Adnan had grabbed Din Muhammad by his collar. He looked like a hungry lion that had lost his prey and now he was insane with anger.  

“I don’t know anything.” Din Muhammad kept on repeating. Naseema was begging for her husband’s life.

Qandeel was dazed by their passion. This couple looked like out of this world. They had no relation with Qandeel, and yet they were guarding her without even realizing what is going to happen next to them. She felt ashamed of herself, of her selfishness. She’d never be able to forgive herself if something happened to them, she thought to herself.
She couldn’t endanger their lives like this.

Adnan’s patience was giving way. The time to decide had passed. She couldn’t afford to expect anything from a crazy person like Adnan. She had to safe Din Muhammad’s life.

“Wait. Do not do anything to uncle.” It had taken an instant. She was at the door.

Everybody looked at her. She had her eyes on Adnan and his pistol.

“Put it away. I am ready to go with you.” She said gravely.

Adnan was relieved.
“Nothing would have happened if you had complied before.”

“I didn’t know you were low men or else I would have come.” Her retort made his go face hard again.

She helped Din Muhammad up. “You took too much hardship on my behalf. But I couldn’t be selfish.” Din Muhammad was in tears.

“Angel, I couldn’t protect you. I couldn’t help my daughter.”

“It’s not your fault. May be I am not lucky today.” She wiped his tears. “You don’t worry. They can’t even lay a finger on me. I will be back soon, unharmed.”

“I will pray for you.”

“Hurry up Qandeel. I don’t have time for this.” Adnan said.

“Just coming.” She looked at din Muhammad again.

“Do one thing for me please.” She handed him her bag and said, “Give this to Baba and tell him not to worry. I am alright and will be back soon, unharmed.”

“I cannot carry this chore out. How will I face your father, my angel?”

“Baba knows you did so much for me. Nobody could have done it.” Din Muhammad took her bag.

Qandeel felt it weird that Adnan hadn’t objected on this exchange.

“Let’s go.” Qandeel said. Her calm attitude disconcerted Adnan.

He grabbed her arm but she snatched it back from him at once.

“Don’t touch me. I have given you my word and that should be enough for you. I do what I say.”

Displeasure was written over Adnan’s face.

They were covering the distance hastily. Adnan was walking along Qandeel with some distance. His men were around Qandeel.

“If I hadn’t cared about Ilaaf, I would have taught you a lesson.” Adnan said scornfully.

“I can expect this from a brave person like you.” She taunted him, her tone poisonous.

Adnan was furious but he controlled and became silent. Their cars were parked in a long street.
Qandeel was blindfolded. They were tying her hands also but she absolutely refused and Adnan had to comply to save himself from more trouble. She was seated in the back. They were fully attentive to her.
Adnan was driving.
Qandeel was sitting among them without her dupatta. She was thinking what will happen next. She couldn’t even have imagined in the morning what her day was going to be like.

They came to a halt after a full hour driving. Adnan asked her to remove the blindfold and come out. She acquiesced and looked around her. The structure was standing among trees. It was a farmhouse. Adnan told her to move forward. A middle aged woman, probably a maid, came to her when she started walking. Adnan called her back and held out her dupatta to her.


A fire went up inside her. They were worried about her dupatta but not about kidnapping her on gunpoint in broad daylight.

“You and your men need this dupatta more than me Adnan Bhatti.” Adnan’s face went scarlet.

“I would have given my bangles to you also if I would have them on.”

Without waiting for his response she turned around and took long strides towards house. The maid and Rishi followed her. They took her to first floor; Rishi stopped in front of a room, opened it with a key and told her to go inside respectfully.
His tone startled her. She came inside without any comment. One thing was apparent, none of Adnan’s men had been disrespecting towards her.

Door was locked from outside.

She looked around the room. It was well decorated. She sat on a sofa and started guessing their motive. She wasn’t sure whether they had kidnapped her to stop her from presenting herself to court as a witness or was there any other reason. Suddenly she had a thought. She leaped towards the door and made sure it’s locked from outside.

She was in their control entirely and she wasn’t sure what their actions might be. She couldn’t afford to expect any good from them so she decided to protect herself. She bolted the door from inside, and looked around. One of the many windows was open. She locked it as well. Now she was sure nobody could enter this room without her knowing it. She had also thought of extreme measures in case someone tried to enter forcefully. She took a blade from wash basin cabinet and hid it in bedside drawer.

She was thirsty. She filled half glass with water but stopped. She didn’t want to drink this water.

She put the glass down and came to washroom. She looked at mirror. There was a wound on her forehead; she couldn’t remember when it was inflicted. She had been busy with more important things lately. Then she looked at her palms which were badly bruised. They had stopped bleeding but were covered with dirt and were sore. There were deep marks on her wrist as well due to holding the bag with handle. She would have gotten it bruised if she had held it for more time.
She splashed water on her face; cool water hurt the bruised palms, she drank some of it too and came out of washroom. She saw her form in dressing table mirror; her dress was covered with dirt and she was without dupatta. She had been without it for last two hours and she realized it just yet. Strange.

She turned around and looked at the master bed. She hadn’t run this much in her entire life and every joint was screaming for rest, but she didn’t want to sleep. She was far away from her home, among dangerous men. She couldn’t afford to sleep carelessly in these circumstances. Thought of home reminded her of Baba. It was painful. She looked at wall clock; it was 6 pm. Din Muhammad surely had informed him of the incident by this time.

Then suddenly she broke down. She couldn’t hold it any longer. Sitting on the floor, her head resting on her forearm on the bed she let the tears come.

Then she thought of Ilaaf. Did he know that his father and Adnan had kidnapped her like this? So what if he is in lock-up. He must be aware of their plan. What if he’s not aware of any of it? She didn’t have courage to think anything after that. She felt like a last ray of hope was slumbering. With streaming tears she couldn’t know when she fell asleep.

Someone was rapping on the door and that brought her back to senses.

She looked at clock; 9:30 pm. It was dark outside. Lights were on in the room.
She was afraid suddenly; away from her home, among these beasts. She felt the need to be protected.

The maid on other side asked her to open the door.

“I will not open it. Go away.”

“Bibi, open the door. Please take your meal. We are ordered to take care of you.” It was Rishi.

“I don’t want to eat anything. Go away now. And I will be compelled to go to extreme measure if anybody will try to enter forcefully.”

Rishi begged her for some time but left when she remained obstinate.

Qandeel came back to her place. She was feeling weak due to hunger but she was afraid of unknown, couldn’t trust anybody at this moment so decided to keep the door lock till morning.

She wasn’t even able to go to washroom. She tried to drink water but it hurt her empty stomach so she managed to take just few sips.

Weakness made her lie down again. She prayed to God for help.

Rishi had tried thrice during this time but she remained resolute.

At around 11 o’ clock she heard a light knock on the door. She burst with anger.

“What is wrong with you? When I have said that I don’t want to eat then why don’t you keep to yourself?”

“Qandeel, open the door. It’s me Ilaaf, nobody else is around. I need to talk to you, please don’t persist, and open the door. You are absolutely safe here, believe me.”

Qandeel’s mind exploded, her heart started thundering in her throat and she sat still.

She could recognize this voice among million voices. It belonged to a person whose name her heartbeats sang all the time. But how can Ilaaf come here? Was he released on bail or is he playing a part in this plan?

All these thoughts were battering over her mind mercilessly.

“Qandeel please listen to me once, then you can decide whatever you want, you can treat me whichever way you would like but please open the door for once.”

She had lost her appetite and her strength to take decision too.

She came closer to the door.

“You haven’t had anything since evening. Have your dinner and then you can refuse to see my face.”

It was the person whose face had stuck in her mind

“I deserve your hatred for me, I don’t have a right to talk to you but you can’t take it out on yourself this way. This is senseless.”

It was the same person whom she loved unequivocally. Ah, how unaware he was of this fact! But she needed to keep him in dark about it. She didn’t have the strength to tell him how she felt for him.

“I am the reason for everything that is happening to you but I wasn’t told this plan. For God’s sake believe me Qandeel.”

She wanted to believe him, to listen to him and decide which was right; her love or anger.

She unlocked the door, and stood back.

(Note: Special thanks to Noor-e-hira Shamim for translating this post)