Sunday, August 18, 2013

Chapter no. 17: This Life is a Desire (II)

Qandeel’s mind was already made up that she would go to Islamabad to her aunt but she didn’t want to arrive there at this hour. Qandeel didn’t want to give Shama khala the impression that she left home under an obligation. The truth was, she left her home because of Ilaaf or else it was not possible for her to leave this city. Qandeel was born here, spent twenty-two years here and it naturally became dear to her. There were Baba’s friends, Kamran Ali, Hamza Shahid and Ayesha Omer. The roads here were familiar, every street close to her heart. She could not tell yet for how long she would stay away. Qandeel wanted to spend her life here but fate had other plans; unbeknownst to her. She wanted to stay away even from his shadow. She wanted to dwell somewhere where she wouldn’t hear his voice, couldn’t feel him and certainly not think about him. And that was not possible while remaining in the same city as his.
Qandeel needed to spend the night somewhere. She went through her options. She could not go at Maryam’s because her family didn’t like her or at least Qandeel felt so. If she would go to Hamza Shahid’s place then it would mean a longer stay, which she couldn’t allow to herself under present situation. She wanted to first arrive at Khala’s home and then inform him of her decision. She was agitated; an unknown fear was urging her to leave this city at once. Her heart was gloomy about the decision but she ignored it. Only Kamran Ali could provide her dwellings for a night on a condition that he’d not inform Maryam and Hamza Shahid until she reached Islamabad. Qandeel knew she would be able to convince him easily, and that was the only way to her peace of mind.
Qandeel took a taxi and arrived at Kamran Ali’s home. She was having qualms about her decision. She did not have any way to know how Aliya would react on her sudden arrival at this hour. Aliya has always been cordial to her but Qandeel could not foretell or trust anybody since recent turn of events and that was cultivating suspicions in her mind. Qandeel had to act so she ignored the voice in her head and rang the doorbell. It rang in a distance and every passing second was wringing her nerves. Qandeel wanted Kamran Ali to open the door. She wanted to ignore Aliya for as long as she could. It would be even better, Qandeel prayed in her heart, if Aliya stay asleep and Qandeel spend the night in their lounge without Aliya being aware of it and Qandeel would leave their place as soon as the day dawns, before Aliya wakes up. But this prayer was also rejected. How unlucky she was, there wasn’t a single passage out of this continuous misery.
Aliya opened her door and her eyes popped open when she saw Qandeel standing there. Qandeel said the Salam, not giving her a chance to speak and thus avoiding the endless inquisition and offense. Aliya invited her inside. Qandeel followed her and Aliya paused seeing the hand carry in Qandeel’s hand. Qandeel wasn’t surprised from her reactions, in fact she was getting used to of the stares and inquisitive eyes which she ignored quite artfully and moved on to her purpose without giving her a chance to even open her mouth.
“Can I meet Sir Kamran?” Qandeel continued right after the Salam.
“Yes – wh – why not.” The curiosity made her incoherent.
Kamran Ali came out to see who was on the door.
“Who was it?” His eyes fell on Qandeel right after he asked. It was a little jolt for him also, though of a different kind, to see Qandeel in his home at this hour. He was concerned at once.
“Qandeel, you? At this hour?” He was very worried.
Qandeel was mindful of Aliya staring at her.
“Sir… ummm…” She wasn’t sure from where to start. Then she said abruptly, “I don’t want to live in Karachi. I will go away in the morning and till then I can’t stay at my home.” She was not even aware what she was saying.
“What happened? Did anybody say something, anything happened? Did you tell Hamza Shahid?” He asked all the questions at once.    
“No, I haven’t told him yet and I request you the same please. I can’t live alone at my home so I decided to go to Islamabad, at Shamma khala’s.”
“Why the sudden decision? You were decided to live at your home last evening.” Her answers were unsatisfactory to him.
“I can’t tell you anything now, please.”
“That’s OK. At least, sit down.” Qandeel obliged.
“I just mean to spend night here at your home. I will leave at first light and will even wait at the airport if flight is late. Just promise me that you will not tell Hamza Shahid anything till I am here?”
He was thoughtful for sometime before he spoke.
“Of course you can stay here as long as you want.” Kamran Ali was about to say more when Qandeel noticed Aliya coming toward them. She had a sick feeling in the stomach.
“Kamran you can’t let her stay here without my consent.” Kamran Ali looked up at her. “I don’t think it’s good for us to let her spend the night here. You should send her to Maryam’s or Hamza Shahid’s.” She declined her request without much ado.
Both Qandeel & Kamran Ali stood up.
“What do you mean? Qandeel came to me for help and she can stay here. Yusuf’s death doesn’t set us apart. In fact I have more duties towards her now. Your insensitiveness can hurt her, please don’t act like this.” He was pleading to Aliya not only with words but with his eyes also but she weren’t heeding to any of the gestures.
“Listen to me Kamran; Qandeel is no ordinary girl. Everybody knows her and this will create many problems for us.” Her demeanor was degrading.
“Come inside, we’ll discuss it there.” Kamran Ali was flabbergasted. He wasn’t expecting Aliya to be so uncooperative in this situation.
“No I am not going anywhere. And one thing is final; she will not stay here. It is my home and I cannot allow you to invite anybody without my permission.”
Before she could say more, Kamran grabbed her arm and towed her inside, out of Qandeel’s earshot. He didn’t want Qandeel to hear nasty stuff anymore.
Qandeel suddenly felt very tired. She was surprised how well she pocketed the insults flung at her this time that her tears managed to remain inside her eyes and the fact that she was still standing at this place.
She did not have to eavesdrop on Aliya and Kamran Ali; she could hear very clearly, what Aliya was saying in loud voice, obviously for Qandeel’s benefit.
“I cannot bear this disgraced girl inside my house one minute. And I advice you as well to not to have anything to do with her now. Yusuf Mairaj is dead so there’s no reason for you to keep any type of association with her.” Qandeel was reminded yet again that her only shelter was nowhere to shield her from cruel world. She will have to bear the verbal lashing; alone. “She disgraced her own father and she wouldn’t care less for our esteem. Nobody is ready to take her then why should we.” Kamran Ali was trying his best to calm her down but all in vain. “Tell her to leave the house at once or else I will go to my mother’s place and will take Saad with me.”
Qandeel backed away a few steps.
She must leave this place at once. She did not want to be called a contention along with vile woman.
There comes a time when travel is written all over your fate, even when your feet are all bruised and you have courage left in you the size of an ant. Even if all you want to do is to curl up into a ball and fade away; move. And that’s what she did; moved.
Qandeel looked at her home key for the last time and put it on the centre table in the lounge. She turned around and came out of the door. She couldn’t walk straight, her eyes couldn’t see past the void, her ears shunned all the sound. Qandeel stumbled on the stairs and her hand grabbed the railing to gain posture. All was a blur. She did not choose to go to Phupho’s house because she knew Phupho would throw her out the instant she would see her. But now she regretted why did she even come to Kamran Ali’s place. Aliya’s words were hurting her more than throwing her out of the home.
She was blind. Qandeel lost the sense of direction. She was just walking, away from the maddening world. When came to her senses, Qandeel realized she left her hand carry at Kamran Ali’s home. And now she only had her hand bag. She did not want to go back to that place and after all, the hand carry only contained some clothes and other stuff which could be sent to her any time so she was not worried about it. Qandeel held the hand bag tightly, put the dupatta on head and walked on the pavement. She did not have any clue as to where to go. She wanted to keep walking along the road but knew that it is inappropriate and dangerous for a young respectable girl to walk the roads unattended at this hour of the night so she had to find a place to spend the night. But where?
Qandeel was exhausted and still she could not think of anywhere to go. She sat down to take a breath and broke down into tears.
“Ammi… Baba, why did you leave me alone? See, I am wandering on the streets and nobody is ready to provide me shelter.” The deserted road prevented her from being harassed by passer-bys. “If you really had to go then you should have taken me with you as well. This world is a very bad place, nobody will let me live here. Please let me come to you.” She cried helplessly.
Qandeel was continuously searching her mind for the solution and finally decided to go to airport where she could wait in lounge safely even if her flight would be late. But she also wanted to visit her ammi abbu in the graveyard, for the last time. Initially her plan was to visit them in the morning when Kamran Ali would be dropping her to airport but now the plan was changed.
Qandeel hailed a taxi and arrived at graveyard.
The place was very poorly lit. Qandeel squinted her eyes in the semi-darkness to acquaint them to the darkness. She walked cautiously toward her parents’ grave, guessing from memory. She finally reached to, first ammi’s grave. Qandeel knelt beside it and touched the headstone tenderly. Then she walked two steps and turned towards the heap of sand under which was lying her Baba. There was no headstone yet but she knew there would be one in few days and what will be written over it.
“Everything went according to your wish Baba. You got your desired day, Friday, ammi beside you and soon you will have your headstone.” Tears flowing. “You always said I am stubborn, I don’t rest until my wish is fulfilled. But see, this time you won. You got everything you wanted. You left me and I was not even able to stop you. I am all alone now. You wanted it, didn’t you? You were restless for ammi, life was suffocating you, you couldn’t wait to join ammi and now finally you have. And I, I have always been unlucky. I don’t have anybody. I am helpless.” Her sobs were the only sound in the silent graveyard. Her eyes stung but she didn’t care. She filled her hands with the sand and cried.
Qandeel heard somebody calling out and looked around who was speaking.
That old cane was tuck-tuck-ing towards her; the same sound which frightened her and she always wanted to run away from it. But not tonight. There was no fear, no apprehension from this sound.
Chacha Khera came towards her, leaning heavily on his old cane, lantern in other hand.
“Who’s it?” Chacha Khera stooped a little over Qandeel to look closely.
Qandeel couldn’t reply to him. Her face glistened with tears.
“Oh, ‘tis you, Yusuf’s dhee?” Qandeel nodded. “What you doin’ here at this hour of night? You could’ve com’ in de mornin’ to meet yer daddy.” Chacha Khera never sounded so sweet in all those years.
“There will never be a morning, Chacha.” She sighed.
“Na, putter! This ain’t way to talk. The One in the Heaven will be angry. ‘tis a dark nigh’, me concede but when the time for mornin’ will com’ then no darkness will be able to cove’ it, ‘tis ol’ man’ word; a bright mornin’ will com’.” Qandeel saw gloom and dark everywhere in her life. Chacha Khera bent down to sit on his toes and put his hand on her head. The gesture was so overwhelming for her, she closed her eyes. Letting the relief wash over her.
“I know luv, you dun have anybody in this world but we can’t interfere in God’s business now, can we? Don’t you worry my child. Everything will be fine again.” Qandeel saw the twinkle in old man’s eyes and she felt ashamed of herself because she was well aware what her eyes contained; nothing. Everything was empty about her.
“Nothing will get well now, Chacha. I am an orphan now.” And started crying again.
“Oh dear, don’t cry. Be patient, surely Allah is with patient.”
Qandeel nodded and stood up, “Chacha, I am going now.” Chacha Khera patted her head affectionately and made way for her. She looked at her parents’ graves one last time. She didn’t know when, if, she’d return to them.
Qandeel walked a little more on the road and then sat in the corner to take some rest. She was scared now. Fatigue and hunger were winning over her. She wanted to sleep but couldn’t close her eyes because of the ever present danger. She wanted to reach airport as soon as she could but there was not an ounce of strength left in her body. She rubbed her eyes to make sleep go but it was futile. Her mind was too tired to make not of any resistance and then miraculously the cell phone in her handbag rang. She was thankful of this invasion in her sleepy head and attended the call.
“What is wrong with your voice? What happened?” The questions woke her up.
“Khala, I am not fine.” Qandeel sobbed over the phone.
“Come to me wherever you are. I was just scolding Sohail why did he leave you alone there.” That brought Qandeel to full attention. “I was so worried for you, dearest. I can’t even sleep properly. Come to me, I will take care of you, my sweetheart.” Khala started crying and Qandeel wanted to run into her arms and cry her own heart out until it was thoroughly washed and sleep in her arms. “I was telling Sohail that you’re not alright. That something is wrong with you and he kept on rejecting it, calling it my over thinking effects.” Qandeel also started crying. They were talking when Sohail came on line and inquired where’s she. Qandeel told him and his voice was strained due to worry.
“What are you doing there at this hour? Why are you not at home?”
“I was too agitated at home and was missing Baba so came here.” Qandeel edited the reasons.
“Go back home and pack your things. I am confirming your seat for Islamabad.” He instructed her.
“I don’t want to go home. My stuff can be sent to me later any day, I just need to meet Khala.” There was silence for a while at other end and then Sohail said,
“Alright, stay there. I am calling my friend Imran. He’s coming to pick you and will drop you at airport. No need to take taxi, OK?”   
“OK.” She said
“I will call you back in five minutes.” Sohail said and disconnected the call.
Slowly she stood up and was going back to the graveyard when her cell phone rang again.
“Imran is coming in fifteen minutes. Stay away from the main road.” He also told her car number and color, for just to be sure.
Qandeel stood by the main gate of the graveyard. She was going to a new place, perhaps a new beginning. Cool winds were whispering their farewell to her, caressing her softly. She was going to miss this city so much, she knew it. But she couldn’t decide whom she would miss the most nor she wanted to hold any prisoners.  
The silent metropolitan was reflecting her mood; melancholy was congealing inside and out.

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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chapter no. 17: This Life is a Desire (I)

“Young man, you should not be reckless. At least think of your family if not of your own well being. You landed into another problem right after you came out of one.” Dr. Khalid’s tongue was as quick as his hands. Ilaaf was unmindful of the things he was saying. His thoughts were above everything else, still stuck on Qandeel.

“A lot of your blood is wasted but it will heal quickly since you’re young.” He, smiling reassuringly, went to wash his hands. “Come back after two days for regular check-up.” He instructed Ilaaf.
Ilaaf eyed his bandaged arm. It was hurting alright, but that was far less than what her words were doing to him.

“How did you get it, by the way? Were you involved in a fight?” Ilaaf was expecting that question to come much earlier. He looked up at Dr. Khalid and said.

“Nothing in particular. Got it from a knife.” He said and left it at that.

Dr. Khalid understood he doesn’t plan to divulge much so he did not press much.

Ilaaf bent down to pick up his shirt, when Dr. Khalid said, “Be careful, young man! Your life is precious to your people. And to tell you the truth,” apparently amused, “You are the golden bird.” The joke halted his hand in the air.
He turned around and looked hard at Dr. Khalid.

“Of course, you and Qaiser Lashari think of me as a bird and so justifiably try to keep me inside the cage. But that’s the problem. I am no bird and hence not destined to be imprisoned in a cage.” His tone clipped.
He was sure Dr. Khalid would immediately call Qaiser Lashari and tell him about his injury but he did not care. Oblivion enveloped him, leaving him numb to the world. He lost his biggest bid and now he didn’t care less for anything.

The drugs in his glass of milk were so strong he woke up well after noon. He was shocked to discover that court session was long finished, resulted in devastating his hopes and resolutions for the court day. He was determined to confess his crime, tell the truth. To clear Qandeel’s name that was on everybody’s tongue like some cheap perfume. He wanted to, at least for this once, pass this test of love, to be able to face the world but every hope crumbled down to nothing. He lost against time. He was frustrated and angry. He beat Fazal relentlessly. He was wild and out of control. Fazal, poor soul, suffered all of it silently. But Ilaaf was not satiated. His anger and frustration increased more and he drove it out on every piece of glasses he could get his hands on. Ilaaf threw every exquisite piece on the floor, breaking it, imitating what was happening to his heart. He broke all the windows in the lounge. He wouldn’t have hesitated beating Adnan if he would have been anywhere near his sight but Adnan was lucky he didn’t visit Ilaaf that fateful day and went directly to home.
Ilaaf still could not recall how long he roamed on the road, driving in no particular direction, exactly like his thoughts, wandering all over the confinements of his mind. Many a times he had to stop the car as tears made it impossible to see anything. He cried like a child, helpless and lonely. But that also didn’t help so he surrendered to last option. Ilaaf went to Qandeel to make the case for his love. He tried to beseech her but all in vain. How could he forget that he was not deserving of begging to her. But he did not complaint for how she treated him because he was worthy of this treatment. And this wound, he mused – however much it hurt – was a souvenir of her hatred.

He came out of the clinic and sat in his car, not sure where to go. Recently his world had shrunk remarkably. It was a revelation. He realized sadly, he did not have any place to go where he could have a peaceful night. The tears came again. Ilaaf made no effort to hide or shun them. Why should he now, he thought. There was no difference if he cried publicly. His heartbreak removed the fetters of disgrace, embarrassment, and humiliation from his conscience. Ilaaf didn’t care about it anymore.

He did not want to go home. That was a cage where he was chained and suffocated.

So where should he go now? He asked himself. Should I go back to Qandeel; he mulled over it. What she would do; he was reasoning with himself. She would shout, fight me off but then she has every right to do so. She refused to yield to his pleading and turned him away but he was desperate for her. His love for her increased all the more making him want to follow her even to the end of the world, if the need arose.

He started the ignition, decidedly. He was going to Qandeel, yet again.

Since he already tried to beg of her then why shouldn’t he complete the role and become a beggar. She couldn’t keep him from seeing her. He wouldn’t say a word to her, he devised a plan in his head. He would keep sitting in front of her house, waiting for her to come out. She would come out of the house and then he would drink in her face, her lively image, even just for once a day would suffice for his burning love, to quench his thirst. The more he thought about it the more he gave in to the idea. She couldn’t drive him away from the street. It wouldn’t matter if people would laugh at him, throw stones at him, call him names. He doesn’t mind it. A majnun relishes his position; the attire becomes his venture. And he desired nothing else. Like a moth fluttering around the light, he too was happy to be around his beloved and being a beggar was not as much a high price.

His mind was in a whirl wind, lost in it’s own turmoil yet he reached to her street. And wasn’t it astonishing, he mused, that he managed to do it without any conscious effort. Fatigue came over Ilaaf. This street was his destination, the salvation which he badly needed. He wanted to retire here, to call off his journey, and call this sacred piece of land his final abode.

He didn’t remember beyond reaching the street. Whether he switched off the ignition or not, if he had his keys in his hands or he dropped them somewhere on route to her house, and if he closed the car door. He remembered nothing. Ilaaf staggered toward her house, like a drunkard.

He was still disheveled, unwashed, his clothes untidy and smeared. Ilaaf didn’t take anything with him when he entered her street. The only thing important to him was to see his beloved’s face and that’s what pulled him towards his destination. He was impatient to renounce everything else.

His legs refused to carry him anymore when he neared her door but before falling he looked at the door and he felt like a bucketful of kerosene was emptied over him.

He fell on his knees, hard, and looked at the lock closely. He didn’t have the key to this lock. In fact, he didn’t have key to any lock whatsoever.

The smell assaulted his senses; Ilaaf was suddenly at a precipice.

He stared at the lock, which sealed his fate. He was baffled.

Qandeel was gone, from her own home because of Ilaaf. She was gone from his life, leaving him alone. She bereft him from not only her love but also the chance to see her.

Somebody pushed him from the precipice. His body fell down with a jerk.

She was gone.

The lapping flames welcomed the kerosene, eager to consume the body drenched in the offensive liquid. Ilaaf’s body caught fire immediately, melting in the fierce inferno. He felt himself becoming the part of this vociferous liquid, consuming him rapidly, mercilessly. There remained nothing but flames.

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chapter no. 16: The Grief (III)

Darkness shrinks away however dense or black it is. Even if the people desire to cling onto it with all their might, wishing to lose themselves in it, is all in vain. It never stayed for her.
She wanted to lose herself in this nameless abode but she realized that the life is too cruel to give you what you wish for; when she wanted her life filled with light, life pushed her into utter blackness. It plucked her father from her existence. Now that she wanted to give in to this gloom, everybody was pulling her out of it against her wishes. Hers was an anguish filled with woe; a woe for the separation, a separation which was decreed for her. Separation from her mother when she was born, then her father taken away from her, soon there will be a gulf between her and her honor as this society already decided to forsake her. Then the separation from --- Ilaaf.
Her eyes flew open and she bolted upright. Room was filled with sunlight, there was nobody else with her.
“What am I thinking?” She admonished herself. “Does he still occupy a place in my life?” Thousands of questions, rising in her heart, went unanswered.  
It was happening since last two days. Her train of thoughts never paused, her mind was in total control of her heart and her heart was a different story. It surrendered to Ilaaf. After all that happened, her love for that despicable man was unshaken. Baba always said, she thought to herself, that he is the one for me but see what happened. Baba and I are disgraced and Baba died just because of him.
She got off from the bed and came to the dressing table. She looked long and hard at herself in the mirror. She was ruined because of that man still she could not take him out of her heart. How could she be so weak that she was not able to slap him or curse him?
“I love you Qandeel.” He whispered in her ear.
“NO!” She screamed, distressed. “I don’t love you. Did you hear it? I don’t love you!” She covered her ears so that she won’t be able to hear his voice. “You are a murderer of my father. You are heartless. You ruined me. I hate you. I hate you with every bit of my being.” Screaming at the top her voice, she sat on the floor and started scratching at her face with her nails. “I will never forgive you, never ever!” She was slapping her face now. “I will throw you out of my heart and life. Go away; just leave me alone. Why don’t you go away!” By the end of it, she was sobbing terribly.
“Qandeel, control yourself.” Somebody held her by shoulders. She pulled away without looking who it was.
“Go out of my life.” She wept bitterly.
“Where is Ayesha? Ask her to come here right away.” Hamza Shahid said to somebody.
She folded her knees and lied on the floor still weeping. Then the familiar compassionate hands straightened her in sitting position.
“Qandeel, my child!” Qandeel stopped crying and looked up at her. This face compelled her to embrace life once again. Since last two days; Qandeel was sleeping in her arms, eating from her hands, getting washed by her. She used to come out of the room in the fresh air simply because she asked her to do it. Qandeel was being like a baby, tended by this angelic woman.
“Ayesha Khala!” Qandeel exclaimed, lost for words and hugged her like clinging to the dear life itself.
“Please control yourself Qandeel dear. For how long you will go on crying like this. You are aware of how much your tears would hurt Yusuf bhai.” Her soft fingers were caressing her hair. That calmed her down a little. Ayesha Omer kissed her forehead and wiped her tears. She also asked her to wash her face and freshen up. Qandeel obeyed and came back to sit on her bed.
Everybody was present in her room. They were all silent, waiting for her to say something. She looked at each face; Maryam, Hamza Shahid, Kamran Ali, Sohail, and Ayesha Omer and began, “I am very sorry that each of you has to endure because of me.” She was composed now.
“We are not enduring at all. What we all want from you is that you must look forward now. Step out of this sadness. Life will become very hard if you will insist to remain inside this shell.” Ayesha Omer held her hand. Qandeel looked at her. She always felt there was magic in her touch and it always soothed her as if she was somebody close like a blood relation.
“I will not give you a reason to complaint ever again. I will be brave. I will work to realize my Baba’s dream.” She continued. “He asked me never to give up and I will definitely pay attention to it. I cannot promise to begin the new life but I will face the hardships and move forward.”
“That’s like a good girl. Life should never stop. It must always move forward.” Ayesha Omer patted her cheek.
Qandeel tried to smile and realized it is so hard.
“Qandeel I wish you wouldn’t live here alone. Yusuf also thought so.” She looked at Hamza Shahid. She sensed he was quite silent for last two days. She was seeing him in this manner for the first time. Qandeel realized he was as much saddened by Yusuf Mairaj’s death as she was.
“Tell me what do you want me to do and I will.” Kamran Ali already told her that Yusuf Mairaj was her guardian now and he couldn’t afford to be careless with her now.
“I want you to decide for yourself. I cannot be Yusuf but it will be my utmost intention to be like him. I will accept and second your decisions.” She regarded him silently. Qandeel could not tell if his haggard look was because of the endurance he was going through or of the sudden responsibility, he had to add to his life. “That is my promise.” He finished.
“Come to Islamabad with me Qandeel. Ammi does not want you to live here all by yourself.” Sohail said. She also wanted to meet Shama Khala but the idea of uprooting from here suddenly failed to make sense to her. She was not able to take a decision as of now.
“I don’t have any objection if you decide to live with your Khala. But if you want to live in Karachi then I would very much like you to live with me at my house, just like my daughter.” Hamza Shahid was benevolent as ever.
She looked at Ayesha Omer who was intent on Hamza Shahid and Shohail. Qandeel wished Ayeshe Omer would make the same request to her to stay with her. She could not fathom the pull she felt every time she was around this wonderful woman. May be because she was ammi’s friend and Qandeel felt the same rush of love, reserved for mothers, whenever she saw her. Or may be there was some other reason, which she could not know now. But she was dismayed when Ayesha remained silent all through this discussion, never once did she offer anything. May be, Qandeel thought, it didn’t cross her mind. She discarded the idea of living with her as soon as it entered her mind. Why on earth, Qandeel thought, would Ayesha Omer make such an offer to her. They were not even related so why would she express such a notion. And also, her family would not approve of this settlement. Just because I have hopelessly fallen in love with her does not imply that her family would put up with me. She was trying to reason with herself despite of her wish.
Qandeel wanted to cry all over again. She wouldn’t have to think about all these difficult things if Baba would have been alive. She wouldn’t have needed to take this painful decision of leaving her own place and living with somebody else. Her eyes glistened with the unshed tears. She had to make an effort to halt the tears right there.  
“I cannot decide right now.”  Qandeel began her voice hollow. “I respect your concern but I need to thought it all out before deciding upon anything and I will let you all know about my decision. I want to live here at Baba’s place for few days. I am not yet ready to leave it at once.” And then she came out of the room when it became too much to keep it inside her.
Qandeel, sitting on the stairs, watched the light disappearing into the night. The evening of 25th March was gloomy. She started missing Baba. They used to sit and have their tea right here.
“I want to die on Friday because Saima also died on this day.” A tear rolled down her cheek.  “And our graves will be side by side so you will not have to recite Surah Fatiha twice. We’ll listen together to whatever you have got to say.” His solemn intentions ringed in her head.
Qandeel heard Kamran Ali and Sohail behind her; she wiped the tears and looked at them. They came to sit with her, distracting her with trivial things.
“When are you going back?” She asked Sohail.
“Tonight. I wanted to take you with me but I understand that it will be very difficult for you. Ammi will be very disappointed but I will see to her. You must take care of yourself and remember that our home is always open for you.” Qandeel nodded.
“Give my love to Saba, Talha, Faiza and Bisma bhabhi.  Say my salam to Subhan uncle and tell Khala that I will come one day.” The small talk really helped to distract her.
Hamza Shahid also came out. He and Kamran Ali were relieved to see Qandeel in better spirits.  Maryam was inside with Ayesha Omer.
“I want to go to the graveyard; will you please take me there?” She asked Kamran Ali.
“You have already visited it twice Qandeel.” Kamran Ali chided her. She bowed her head. “It’s late in the evening, anyway. We will go tomorrow.” She agreed then asked after a while, “Tomorrow is the hearing, right?” Kamran Ali pursed his lips in disapproval but Hamza Shahid remained patient and nodded.  
“Saqib bhai didn’t visit me after that day. May be he thought I am of no use anymore.” She said thoughtfully.
Hamza Shahid cleared his throat, “actually, no. He is under a misunderstanding and thinks…” He couldn’t continue though.
“That I stood as a witness against Ilaaf because I wanted to blackmail him into marrying me. And then I ran away from home, so that I don’t have to be present for the hearing when I got a deal with Ilaaf.” Qandeel’s hollow voice resonated with the venom, injected into her in those last two days.
Both the men were rendered silent.
“I don’t have any complaint against anybody. Neither Sami nor Phupho, who held me responsible for my father’s death. Not even Saqib who thinks I am a liar and a fraud; he went directly to the graveyard and didn’t even come to the home for condolences.” Her tone devoid of any feelings. “I decided to stand as a witness on the faith and order of Allah. I don’t care what people think about me. I have done my due part and I am content with it.”
Hamza Shahid patted her head.
“You are a brave girl. Yusuf was right to be proud of you.”
“I want to go to the court tomorrow.” Qandeel said.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Kamran Ali interjected at once.
“Please. I want to see if I could protect my witness.”
“They have already prepared everything to prove you are a liar.”
“I know that already. But I don’t want to hide. I want to meet it head-on.”
Kamran Ali was against the idea of her visiting the court but Hamza Shahid permitted her. Qandeel was grateful for his understanding her situation.
They came inside. Ayesha Omer and Maryam prepared the dinner. Qandeel was feeling better now. Maryam had to leave after Maghrib prayers. Sohail also left as he was scheduled for his flight. Qandeel and Hamza Shahid sat together, he was telling her about her father’s last wish.
They sat for dinner together. Qandeel ate from Ayesha’s hands. Her every action brimmed with love, always overwhelming Qandeel. After dinner they sat in Yusuf Mairaj’s room while Ayesha Omer prepared tea. Dr. Lodhi also visited which was a pleasant surprise for Qandeel since he had specifically come to meet her. He also carried some reports of Qandeel’s medical tests, which he insisted upon taking yesterday.
Hamza Shahid suggested they could go out if he wanted to have privacy with Qandeel but he waived off any such suggestion and started talking,
“According to your CT scan report, there is nothing wrong with your brain. Other reports are also normal but still I am very worried about you.” Qandeel listened to him silently. “The speed, with which your condition is changing, is worrisome. Your irregular breathing, involuntary jerks of the body, talking while unconscious and now the strange dreams you have started having, point to something dangerous; for both your health and future.” Kamran Ali and Hamza Shahid were worried. “I tried hard to convince Yusuf to take you England for some check-ups but he never budged. And I am going to advise the same to you. I will help you in documentation even taking an appointment with Dr. Scott will be easy, only if you say yes.”
“I cannot yet decide about it.” Qandeel replied flatly.
“Try to be reasonable Qandeel. You don’t have Yusuf anymore to take care of you when you get these attacks. You now have only yourself. You cannot fight it alone.”
At the mention of Yusuf she hid her face to keep the tears inside her eyes but couldn’t control her sobs. Who, indeed, would collect her when she would break down.  
“I didn’t mean to hurt you or make you cry, dear.” Dr. Lodhi touched her head.
“I know uncle you are thinking for my own good.” She spoke through her sobs.
Dr. Lodhi told them that he’d visit again and left. Ayesha Omer came to sit beside her and kissed her.
“I don’t want to leave you but I wasn’t home for two days and I really need to go now.”
“I am aware that your routine is disturbed by me. Please don’t worry, I am fine now.”
“No, I am not disturbed by it. You are just like a daughter to me.” Ayesha Omer smiled. Qandeel made an effort of smiling back at her.
“Take good care of yourself. I will visit you in a day or two.” Qandeel nodded. “And I will approve of it if you stay with Hamza Shahid. I don’t think it’s a good idea that you live here alone.”
“Will you come to meet me?” Qandeel inquired.
She smiled benignly. “Yes, of course, my love. I will visit you wherever you decide to stay.” She hugged her, planted a kiss on her forhead again and left.
Hamza Shahid and Kamran Ali wanted to stay with her but she insisted that they should go home and that she will be alright. They couldn’t stand against her insistence and left.
She closed the door and instead of going in her room, she entered Baba’s room. She lied down on Baba’s bed and closed her eyes. Sleep was far away from her so she stared at the walls.  
For the first time in last three days, she actually felt the gravity of her loneliness. Qandeel marveled over how much had changed since past few months.
Life was peaceful, normal and that man had turned it upside down by rudely intruding into it. She wanted to hate Ilaaf instead; she fell in love with him. Then she wanted to make that love her strength and was exploited by it. Nothing was left now. Her life was rampaged totally. It was a pile of ashes. A spark, of Ilaaf Lashari’s love was still breathing underneath it and Qandeel was not sure what else this spark would consume from whatever remained of her life. Tears came forth on their own. She was missing Baba and partly because she found herself trapped in the cage of Ilaaf’s love. Night passed by weaving between the states of consciousness and unconsciousness. When she woke up Qandeel tried to think about new prospects this day might bring, but she had little hope. Since she had zero appetite so a glass of milk was sufficient for her.
Leaned onto the pillar, Qandeel listened to the memories resonating in the air. She played back each moment she spent with Baba in this home and let the tears flow.
Qandeel realized she was getting late for the court and got up. She checked herself in the mirror, took her handbag and came out of her house. She was locking the door when Kamran Ali and Hamza Shahid arrived. She suddenly felt very guilty that she was added to their worries.  
“Come with us. We’ll drop you to the session court.” Kamran Ali announced.
“No, I can get rickshaw. Don’t worry.” Qandeel replied.
“We are capable of dropping you there. Let’s go.” She couldn’t refuse Hamza Shahid.
They accompanied her well inside the court as the journalists tried to net her.
“We’ll be back by the end of the session and pick you. These journalists will bother you even after the end of it.” He said.
Overwhelmed by the behavior of these journalists, she barely managed to nod.
She was alone now. Bracing herself Qandeel stepped inside where their session was scheduled. Hearing wasn’t started yet. She saw Saqib standing few feet away and smiled at him. He stared hard at her and came to her.
“What are you here for?” He asked deprecatingly.
“I was a witness in this case.” She was calm.
“Do you really believe there remains any weight in your witness?” He taunted her.
“Even if it doesn’t have any weight, I take it as my duty.” Ignoring his jeers, she left him there and sat on one of the chairs.
Qandeel’s head was bowed. She heard Adnan and his lawyer and raised her head. Ilaaf was not with them.
The magistrate entered the court and everybody was called to order. Magistrate instructed Saqib’s lawyer to state the reason for the absence of the witness which they promised in the last session. The lawyer apologized for wasting the court’s time and that they don’t have anymore witnesses or proofs. Although he pointed towards the fact that Qandeel, the soul witness of this case was present in the court, to which Muazzam Rana, Ilaaf’s lawyer raised an objection, which was granted to him.
Qandeel did not understand what was going on initially. Then she tried to read each face carefully and everything started making sense. Muazzam Rana took some names including Asghar Sahab and a few people from her old office. Then he stated their witnesses recorded in the last session which were enough to assassin her character. It came as a blow to her that people think that way for her. That she was an immoral, indecent and arrogant girl. That she could go to any length just to satisfy her ego. That she was after Ilaaf Lashari and this witness against him was an attempt to blackmail him into marrying her. And when she realized that there were holes in her story she ran away, even from her home. Her father couldn’t take the toll and died of the shock. Her father would have lodged the FIR against the kidnappers if she really was kidnapped but he didn’t and it indicates that she left her home on her will.
She never knew she was of this type. She was stunned by these new revelations.
The Magistrate listened to all of this and ordered Muazzam Rana to state the reason for the absence of Ilaaf Lashari. Muazzam Rana presented the medical certificate declaring the illness of Ilaaf.
May be Ilaaf did not deem it necessary to be present at the trivial hearing, she told herself, adding the fact that he already knew the outcome of it. Or may be he didn’t have the courage to face her or he didn’t want to see her altogether.
The magistrate dismissed Qandeel’s witness and warned Saqib on wasting court’s time. There was silence for few minutes and it echoed loudly in her ears. The tick tock of the wall clock, the scratching of an ink pen on the paper and the sound of fan were suddenly amplified for her. The rest was as silent as dead.  
Qandeel heard the magistrate’s voice as if coming from an underground tunnel. He was giving the verdict, of her disgrace. Ilaaf was cleared, dignified.
Everybody was preparing to leave. She decided to follow the suite. It seemed to her, her business was done here. Somebody came up to Qandeel when she stood up to leave. She looked up to see who it was. Adnan. 
“You thought that you could ruin our plan by running away, huh?” The vitriol in his voice fell unaffected over Qandeel. “You are spared because of Ilaaf. Or I could have shattered your sense of duty long ago. You still have time until my patience wears off. Go away from Ilaaf as soon as you can. Or I will not be able to hold myself in check for long.”
Qandeel glared at him and smiled sardonically. “I don’t even give a damn about Ilaaf. I don’t hold him worthy of my hate let alone love.” Her retort wiped the smile off Adnan’s face.
“You are wretched! How dare you curse Ilaaf!” Adnan was livid, he almost spat his words at her. Muazzam Rana caught him or Adnan would have hit her. “Vile woman! I will make an example out of you.” He came out of the courtroom, enraged. Qandeel took a deep breath and she too came out. All the journalists encircled her the moment they saw her. Qandeel stood helplessly among them. She looked around her to call someone for help and saw Saqib standing at a distance. She opened her mouth to call his name just then he looked at her and she saw contempt etched in his expressions for her. He looked away and went to his car, breaking the circle of the journalists.
They flung questions, accusations, assumptions at her and she gaped at them without comprehending a single word they were saying.  
“Ms. Qandeel, is it true that you and Ilaaf Lashari were having an affair?”
“Did you really plan to blackmail him through this case?”
“Did you escape from your home because you and Ilaaf Lashari reached a deal?”
“Where have you been, with whom you were staying all this time?”
She felt defenseless.
“Let me go.” She said and tried to evade a journalist on her right. The three on that side came together and stopped her vehemently. Her dupatta slipped from her head. They were using force against her which was totally unfair and insulting. They were practically shaking her by her hand and shoulder to get the answers out of her.  
Her powerlessness made her weep.
“Baba.” The word came out as a sob. A hand came from nowhere.
“Qandeel, hold my hand.” The voice sounded like Baba’s.
She held that hand without even a second thought. Somebody broke the circle around her and pulled her towards him. It was Hamza Shahid. He took her with him to their car, away from the journalists. Kamran Ali was behind them. They sat in the car and sped towards home.
“Are you alright, Qandeel?” Hamza Shahid inquired, handing her a glass of cold water. They were home.
“Yes.” She managed weakly.
“We got late in arriving there and they got a chance to hound you.” Kamran Ali was very angry.
Qandeel decided to put on a mask of bravery.
“I am fine, believe me. They can’t hurt me even if they wanted to.”
They were planning to spend the day with her but she convinced them that they should go home. She was very guilty of the fact that they were spending most of their time with her when they had their own lives and matters to tend.
“I will come again in the evening. Sabiha might come too. Her leg is improving and she’s very impatient to meet you.” Hamza Shahid reassured her.
“Sir, you are my senior and I am embarrassed that you and Sabiha aunty should come meet me. I will come myself tomorrow to see you both.”
He smiled. “My doors are always open for my daughter and it will immensely please me if you come and stay with us.”
Qandeel nodded. “I will come there. Just let me spend few more days here to breathe in Baba’s memories and his presence. Let me relive the time I spent here with him.”
“I will wait for you.” He said and they both left then.
Qandeel roamed all over the house; reminiscing, collecting of whatever was left of her Baba. Her heart was agitated, hollow. A few women from her neighborhood visited her but she realized they were there to diss her, taunt her not to console her. Shama khala called and asked why she did not come to Islamabad. She gave Khala her old reply that she would come. She wanted to think about it thoroughly before leaving her place.
Rohail came in the evening. Qandeel didn’t have anything to talk about except the formal niceties. He too was very quiet. And there was no question of talking about Ilaaf.
Maryam also came and it dawned upon Qandeel that she didn’t ask Rohail for tea yet. She was mindless of her surroundings, wallowing in her grief yet she wanted to keep the spirit of Baba alive. Not offering the tea to her guests would certainly have made him embarrassed of her.
Maryam told her there was no need for this formality but she ordered them to sit in the courtyard while she prepares tea for them. She also brought out chips and fruits and set a proper tray for her friends. The moment she came back to the courtyard, there was instant silence which felt very odd to Qandeel. She wondered what they were talking about and why did they stop when she came. But she didn’t point it out to them. She put the tray on the table and tried to read their expressions. They both looked like they were slightly angry but she couldn’t think of a reason for that expression.
Rohail took his leave after tea while Maryam stayed until Maghrib. Qandeel closed the door after them and left the tray on the table. It felt like too much effort.  
She switched on nearly all the lights in the house and still could not make the darkness inside her go away. The sadness, loneliness and silence haunted her.
This loneliness was eternal.
She was hungry but her sadness over-rode it. Qandeel switched on the tv but it failed to distract her, she put on the cd in the stereo but same result. She decided to go through Baba’s books and tried to read one, useless. When she got tired of all this Qandeel went to the roof. She watched the stars or the people passing by on the street. Time passed rather quickly this way but then out of nowhere it paused at an instant and her legs gave way beneath her and she slid down to the floor, her back to the wall.
She wished she could be a 15-year-old Qandeel who used to sit exactly like this and sang poems with Baba. She had recently started taking interest in literature and especially in poetry. She now used to recite and hum proper poetry. Qandeel always recited her favorite first.

She looked up at the night sky and tried to remember the words.
She didn’t know how long was that poem and who was the poet. Her Baba always sung it for her.
Her voice shook but it was the only course to soothe her heart.
She started crying all over again. She had lost everything. The thought that there was no one to live for brought on fresh bout of tears.
The pateince Giver gives the patience and she was blessed with the patience too.Qandeel felt better now, more in control.
She wiped her face and came downstairs. It was very late and she was famished. She was too tired to cook anything so sufficed with the fruit on the tea table. She collected the cups from the evening and was about to go in the kitchen to wash them when there was a knock on the door.
She wondered who could that be and came to the door undecided. She wanted to ask who it was but it would give the impression that she is scared of being alone so rejected the thought and opened the door when somebody knocked the second time.
Qandeel instantly regretted why she didn’t inquire. Disdain was written all over her face.
She was about to close the door in his face when she heard him saying,
“I ask you in the name of your father, don’t close the door.”
The plead was so heartfelt that she couldn’t act on her impulse.
“Why are you here? Whom do you plan to ruin next?” She asked.
“I need to talk to you then you can throw me out of your house.” He was disheveled. She opened the doors widely and looked at Ilaaf closely. He had stubble, his hair tousled, and his eyes were bloodshot.
“What have you got to say?” Qandeel asked wryly.
“Can I come inside?” He begged.
She made way for him. Her mind always went out of her control whenever she was with Ilaaf. It never obeyed her commands when near him.
Ilaaf came inside and closed the door behind him.
She stepped back in the middle of the courtyard. Qandeel tried to control her fluttering heart.
“I wanted to attend today’s hearing but they drugged me and I couldn’t wake up at time.” He started.
Qandeel didn’t want to decide whether to believe him or not. There was no way she could give him another chance.
“I never asked for explanation.” Qandeel said, expressionless.
“But I want you to know that I will not be intimidated by anybody anymore. I will speak truth. And that is why I wanted to go to the court today, to confess, but I was stopped.”
“Whether you lie or speak truth does not matter any more, Ilaaf Lashari.” She said grimly.
“Please don’t say that, Qandeel. I know you suffered so much because of me. You even lost your Baba. I wasn’t aware that my blunder would wreck your life like this or I would never have let anybody be unfair with you.” He came a little closer. Qandeel wanted to step back but also didn’t want to give him the impression that she was afraid of him being there. She was too distracted to ponder over what exactly frightened her about him.
“I promise you that I will tell the whole world you are innocent and pure. I will get this case reopened myself. I will tell them that you have been telling the truth all along, that my father and I are responsible of your Baba’s death.”
He came closer still. Qandeel wanted to move away from him but she was transfixed. His ardor made her stand still.
“I am ready to face the consequences of my crimes.” His face mesmerized her as nothing else did in this world. She thought it unlikely that she would ever want to take her eyes away from that face. “I am not afraid of anyone nor would I let anybody harm you.” She could never come out of the trance his eyes played on her.
 “You can punish me in any way you deem but do not take me out of your life.” He held her face in his hands. She didn’t move even a muscle as if his cold hands carved her into a statue. His tear streaked face just inches away from hers.
“I will leave Baba Sayien and his world and we’ll make our own, away from these tyrants, where nobody would know us.” Her mind was in smog. The only thought remained in it didn’t allow her as so much to reject his love.
She loved him and needed him. She wanted to lean into him and cry; she was sure she could hide in his arms, away from this world.  
“You want me to confess my crimes, right? I will do it. But please do not leave me. I need you more than anything.” He was her only desire. Her heart worshipped him. “I have become very lonely without you. Make me yours.” Every muscle in his body was in earnest plea to her.  
She never before in her life felt weak. His touch was melting her. His insane eyes, overflowing with love for her, were untying her decisions. He could have easily touched his lips to hers and she couldn’t have objected.
“I cannot live without you. I don’t want to live without you. Marry me, Qandeel.” While crying he leaned his forehead on hers. His breath warmed her all over. She could feel the weight of his face on hers. He moved his face an inch from hers and looked at her. His love was streaming in her veins.
“Marry me Qandeel. Make me yours.” He kissed her forehead and she didn’t stop him. She felt like slacking in his arms when a voice whipped her back to her senses. She was not in her courtyard but outside the courthouse among those media hounds.
“I love you Qandeel. I would die without you.” She could see him but her ears were hearing the despotic accusations against her.
“Is it true that Ilaaf Lashari didn’t want to marry you and you stood against him in this case to blackmail him?”
“Say something Qandeel, even if you want to scoff at me.” Qandeel’s face was in Ilaaf’s hands but she felt a rude hand on her shoulder, hitting her.
“Why don’t you reply? Is it true that you and Ilaaf Lashari struck a deal and you left your home on your own?” She was being defiled and the insult cleared the smog.
“I don’t even give a damn about Ilaaf.” Her own words shouted at her from her meeting with Adnan earlier in the morning.
No, she could not marry him. Qandeel Yusuf was the daughter of respectable people and she could not tarnish their name by accepting Ilaaf. Marrying Ilaaf would only bring dishonor for her. It would drown her into an abyss of disgrace, and she will have to live in it eternally. She could not tag herself with scandals and bear pointed fingers. She also needed respectability in this society and for that; she had to refuse Ilaaf.
She looked at him with new clarity of mind. Ilaaf’s eyes were still brimming with love for her; he was still insanely close to her. Qandeel had to act fast to not to let herself be buried in this moment of extreme weakness. Responding to his love, even for once, in equal measure, as his, would be equal to jumping into a pitfall.
She prayed hard to be stronger at this moment of weakness.
“Qandeel, answer me. My love is harmless. I intent to protect you.”
Qandeel pushed his hands away from her face, adamantly and stepped back. Ilaaf was gaping at her, trying to recover from the onset of sudden harshness when Qandeel slapped his face hard enough to sting. That action in itself was an agony for her.
“After ruining me and killing my father you have the gall to claim that you love me?”
Shock and anguish rendered Ilaaf silent.
“Did you really think that I would believe your words and promises? No, Ilaaf Lashari. I hate you. I don’t even want to see your face. Get out of here right now.”  
“I have nowhere to go without you, except death.” Qandeel shuddered internally. He was talking about dying but she had to be strong.
“Get lost from here and then do what please you. Just go away.”
“No, I will not leave you.” Determination was clear in his voice.
Qandeel was astounded by this. She tried to think, she saw the knife and picked it up.  
“Go away from here or I wouldn’t care to use it. I can’t bear you here for even a minute.” She had the knife pointed at him. Her ferociousness was enough to convince Ilaaf that she may do something and worse, she would hurt herself.
“Put the knife down Qandeel. We can talk it through. I will go.” He tried to talk her into reasonability but Qandeel could take none of it. Every passing moment was making her weak.
“No, you will have to leave here right now.” She moved forward and before she had the time to predict his action, he had her wrists in his iron fist in one swift movement.
“Throw the knife away. Listen to me first and I will leave.” He said gently. But she freed her hand and punched him in the stomach. Not ready for the attack, Ilaaf doubled over. Qandeel turned around but the movement proved to be lethal as the knife slashed across Ilaaf’s arm. Qandeel’s heart skidded to a stop and then started beating violently. He was bleeding.
“Go away. Please, please go away.” Ilaaf was too much in pain to concentrate that she was weeping and imploring.
He looked at her and knelt down on the floor.
“I am your offender. You can kill me if you want to. There is nothing else - but you to live - for in this world.” Qandeel was sure that he was out of his mind right now and would not budge. She stared at him, frantically searching for new solution and finally driven, put the knife on her own throat.
“You will have to go from here.” He shook his head. “Or I will kill myself.” He was on his feet in no time.
“No. Stay away from me. I don’t want you anywhere near me. ” Her grim voice halted him where he was. “ You know I will do what I am saying.”
“You don’t want to listen to me, fine. But put it down, I am leaving. Please don’t hurt yourself, Qandeel. Please.” He retreated, defeated. Holding his injured hand with the other he went out of the house.
Qandeel ran to the door, locking it behind him. She examined the blood-streaked knife closely. She felt sick in the stomach. It was like wounding herself than him. She threw the knife away and lied on the ground, weeping. She was suddenly very afraid of Ilaaf’s insanity, of her weakness and for the love, she had for him. What if he came again? A new fear raised inside her. Worse, what would she do if Adnan decides to avenge that injury? This trial would never end, never! She thought. There was no time to think. She had to decide once and for all. She stood with new inspiration, as she reached a decision. She came inside her room and took out her hand carry. Qandeel cleaned it with a cloth, opened her cupboard and started throwing in it whatever she could pack; her clothes, documents, Baba and ammi’s photos, and her books were all packed. She switched off the lights in the kitchen and her room and sat in the courtyard.
Was she destined to leave her own home this way? She thought, distressed. Until the evening, she could not decide whom to choose; Hamza Shahid or Shama khala. But now she was sure she could not even live in this city. Ilaaf would pursue her and that she never wanted. If she would be in a different city, she thought, more decided now; she would have the chance of taking Ilaaf out of her life and her heart finally. This was not possible to do while remaining in the same city. She switched off the light and came out of the house. She couldn’t stop her tears while locking the door of her own house.
“You not only ruined me but also snatched my abode from me. First, you orphaned me, and then kicked me out of my own house.” She lamented and cursed Ilaaf and disappeared into the night. 

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

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chapter no. 16: The Grief (II)

Adnan was furious not only at Basheer but also at his men.
“You scoundrels are a useless lot. Get lost from here and don’t show me your faces.” His men disappeared from his sight at once.
He was pacing the lounge in acute anger. There was an explosive silence in the lounge. He had checked the outskirts of the farmhouse with his men and couldn’t find a trace of Ilaaf or the car. He was sure that Ilaaf would have already taken Qandeel to her home. He couldn’t believe Ilaaf had the nerve to do such a thing. He was nearly driven to either beat his men to the pulp or throttle himself. It was long after dawn. He was chewing his tongue in anger when he heard a car outside. He resolved to put aside his friendship today. It was high time to confront Ilaaf for his actions. Escape of Qandeel when the case was about to be decided was catastrophic. If the court would decide in their favor, then there was a little chance for Qandeel and other’s to go to the High Court. But Ilaaf ruined it in last moment and took her to her home. He cursed this newfound obsession of Ilaaf. It was very exasperating. He was thinking all of this when the door opened and Ilaaf came inside. He kept on going ignoring Adnan. His gait appeared unusual to Adnan; like a gambler who has gambled away all of his assets and now has nothing to fall over at. The same defeat was visible in his manner. But Adnan didn’t want to think about anything.
“You have done your duty towards your love Ilaaf, but remember that now you will be responsible for whatever comes upon Qandeel. Neither me nor Uncle Qaiser can take the guarantee of Qandeel’s safety. He’ll shortly be reported of your endeavor while I was sleeping and you very well know what will ensue then.” Ilaaf stopped and without facing him, listened on. “I don’t think he’ll take the risk of turning over his prize when he’s so close to winning it. And you are aware of the lengths he can go to make sure he wins. If you could just keep your side of bargain then he too would have spared Qandeel. But now he wouldn’t do so.”
Ilaaf turned slowly towards Adnan. His eyes were devoid of any feeling. Ilaaf stared at Adnan for sometime and then spoke, his voice dripped off emptiness.
“Adnan Bhatti, nor you or my father, Qaisar Lashari are God. I will take care of Qandeel myself with the help of my Lord.” Adnan felt something unusual in his tone.
“I have been listening to you people all this time so that I could save Qandeel somewhat but what was the outcome. First she was defamed because of me, then her name was dragged through the news, she was kidnapped in broad daylight and finally she was orphaned.” Adnan couldn’t fathom the reason of this expressionless outburst. “Her father died. She is ruined.” Adnan was perplexed. “I couldn’t hold her back from seeing her father for the last time. I couldn’t become the part of the cruelties inflicted upon her, again and again, by you people anymore. Enough is enough.” His eyes were fearless like that of a soldier who is longing to embrace his fate, standing in the frontline.
“You and Qaiser Lashari can go on, keep on waging. I don’t have anything to lose now to make a puppet out of me.” Adnan was well alarmed now. Ilaaf’s fearlessness was ringing too loud to ignore. “Qandeel has rejected me, this world means nothing to me, I don’t give a damn about life, I would rather hold on to death. I will lay down my own life even if I wouldn’t be able to protect her.” He sounded like a suicide bomber who doesn’t care about anything but his objective. Qandeel was Ilaaf’s sole purpose and Adnan was sure he would take anybody’s life in order to fulfill it. “Keep that in mind and tell that to Qaiser Lashari as well.” He turned his back on Adnan and went to his room.  
Adnan was flabbergasted. He was seeing Ilaaf like this for the first time and he was quite frightened with his new countenance.
He sat down on the sofa head in his hands. He was trying to think about the next strategy in these new circumstances. He felt sad for the sudden death of Qandeel’s father but he still held the same opinion that she was the sole responsible for the present state of affairs. Interfering into someone else’s business would result in the same manner as happened with her, he thought bitterly. But Ilaaf… He couldn’t deduce exactly what was becoming of him. It was as though the girl had bewitched him. Ilaaf was not the same as he used to be. He was no more able to see or understand things properly. If Adnan didn’t care enough about Ilaaf, he would have dealt with her long before. He had never been interested in this particular specie anyway. He had never given consideration or respect to any woman but Bay-Jee and Natasha nor had he ever learned to do so despite of being incessantly advised by Agha Jan. He never came around the fact that the woman could have the splendor in this world. He always took them for granted and expected them to remain silent and passive until ordered otherwise. He always strongly despised headstrong, stubborn, and arrogant women. In the case of Qandeel, he was propelled to shoot her or throw her to his dogs on mere sight. He was bearing her for the sake of Ilaaf only. He could get involved with an opposite gender in the passing but he was strongly against of giving them any freedom or heresy in any matter at all. It infuriated him whenever she would berate Ilaaf brutally. Though Ilaaf always responded to her with affection, it increased Adnan’s hate for Qandeel manifold.
He couldn’t decide on his own what he should do so he called Qaiser Lashari and told him about the recent events. He also cautioned him about Ilaaf’s condition. Qaiser uncle listened to him silently and then ordered him to keep an eye on Ilaaf.
Adnan was a little relieved now. He thought of checking on Ilaaf, just to see what he was up to now. He hurried over to Ilaaf’s room but he saw him coming out of it, his hands filled with his stuff. He was going back as there was no more reason to stay. He stopped at where he was. Ilaaf saw Adnan standing there but ignoring him called out to Rishi.
“I am going to home. Come with me so that you can bring the car back.” Rishi nodded and accompanied him. Adnan watched him silently. Then Ilaaf called Noori.
“Did you clean her room? Did she leave anything there?”
“Yes Sayien. Her clothes and…”
“And?” Adnan and Ilaaf both looked at her inquisitively.
“Bibi’s chain.” She extended it to Ilaaf. The chain had a pendant also. Ilaaf handled it like a sacred object and gazed at it. Meanwhile Noori brought her clothes in a shopping bag. Ilaaf put the chain in his pocket and handed the bag to Rishi. He came to where Adnan was standing. They both eyed each other.
“Before harming Qandeel keep in your mind that I will not take a moment to forget that you were my friend.” Adnan was least prepared for this blow. He gaped at Ilaaf who already headed for the exit.
That day he was like a wounded wolf in the farmhouse. The fact that he, Ilaaf’s oldest friend, was nothing as compared to that ordinary girl was very infuriating. He always loved Ilaaf and stood by him like his elder brother. And Ilaaf, in return wrote him off just like that. His hate for Qandeel proliferated some more.
Qaiser Lashari called in the evening.
“I have discussed it with Muazzam. Everything is in control so we don’t need to sweat over a single thing. I have already met with magistrate and requested him to decide the case in the next hearing, as there is no reason to drag it anymore. Qandeel is also tackled.” Adnan wondered inwardly what that tackling might be. “She is no more dangerous for us. Her four days absence and the accounts through Asghar and other newspaper persons about Qandeel in the last hearing will be enough to discard her as a witness. Saqib Hassan also couldn’t come up with a witness other than Qandeel so I am positive that the case will be decided in our favor. Even her presence in the court will prove to be futile.”
“But I am still concerned that Ilaaf may try to disrupt this chance. He’s not in his senses.” Adnan voiced his fears.
“I have thought it out too as well, Adnan.”
“What is it?” Curiosity and dread fought inside him.
“We will add sleeping pills in his glass of milk, that way he will not be able to wake up on time and attend the hearing. I also cannot afford to take any risks bringing him to the court. I want this case to be decided – and in our favor- once and for all.” Adnan pursed his lips but it was the only possible course left for them to avoid any more adversity.
Adnan’s tension mitigated now that he knew their next strategy. The thing that still bugged him was Ilaaf’s ever-increasing madness for Qandeel. He had no way to abate it even a degree. He was in the lawn after the dinner when Agha Jan called.
“When are you coming back to Lahore?” Agha Jan inquired at once.
“Soon Agha Jan. Why, is there any immediate matter?” He asked obediently.
“No. I heard you are co-operating with Qaiser Lashari in Ilaaf’s case so I wanted to caution you.” He was not the one to beat about the bush.
Adnan knew at once that he got his news from authentic source or else he wouldn’t have talked in this particular tone.
“I didn’t help in it except in court matters. And of course I had to be with Ilaaf in these difficult times.” He didn’t want to deny him directly.
“Still--- I don’t want you to get involve with wrong people. And I heard that the girl, who was a witness against Ilaaf, disappeared. Did Qaiser Lashari and Ilaaf kidnap her?” Adnan wanted to tell Agha Jan that this is the same girl who has made Ilaaf blind to whole world but he kept quiet because he also didn’t want to give him the impression that he is involved in her kidnap. Agha Jan would never have approved of his ‘activities’. He had never even known what was his ‘enterprise’ as of yet.
“I am not aware about any such thing, Agha Jan.” He replied innocently.
Agha Jan instructed him again to be good and behave himself, which he ignored like always then he disconnected the call.
Talking to Agha Jan made him speculate, yet again, how much different personalities they had. He was his only son yet he wasn’t a bit like him. Where Agha Jan was a levelheaded, compassionate, compromising, empathetic person, Adnan was aggressive, cruel, passionate and temperamental. Agha Jan always encouraged him to leave his ways and to be moderate but he ignored his advice and remained stuck to his old rash attitude.
He was always agitated, furious, and irritated. He never felt lofty, heart touching emotions in his life. It was as if he was born with a stone heart.
Then his thoughts steered to Ilaaf and the fact that how Qandeel came between them. He imagined Ilaaf’s reaction when he would find out that he had missed the session in the court and again he failed to do anything for Qandeel. Those two days were spent in thinking about the coming events. Then despite of himself, he visited Ilaaf on the day he was going to be drugged. Ilaaf was deep in thought when Adnan arrived at his place. Adnan was careful to keep to the light topics. They were silent most of the time. Ilaaf was same- desolate- as he was two days ago. Adnan’s heart went out for him.
Ilaaf insisted that Adnan stay for dinner, though neither of them made an attempt on conversation. Smokes loosened him a little and Adnan felt that Ilaaf might be coming around. It was getting late so Adnan was thinking of leaving when Fazal brought Ilaaf’s glass of milk. Adnan could clearly see Fazal is edgy when he put the glass on the side table. However, Ilaaf was very oblivious of it because he was not paying much attention to almost anything.
Adnan stood up to leave. Ilaaf shook hands with him. Adnan shirked, for a moment, at the image of Ilaaf drinking that glass but like a wave it passed quickly and he was at peace that now everything will go according to their plan.
(Special Thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)