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