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