Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chapter no. 15: A Meeting, A Separation (II)

That night also passed in tossing and turning. It seemed like insomnia was beginning to become a permanent part of his life. He was craving for sleep yet his mind was whirling with thoughts. Thoughts about Qandeel, about himself and about both of them together, their future which was very much endangered at the moment. Though he was aware that just thinking about something couldn’t present a solution but did he have any choice?

After breakfast he informed Adnan that he’d be visiting city, may be home too.

“It’s good that you brought it up. I was also thinking about it. I have to complete Agha Jan’s chores, let’s go together.” He offered.

“No, you must stay here. Qandeel will be alone and I don’t trust your men.” Adnan was taken aback by his tone.

“OK, then. I will go later in the evening.” He closed the matter.

Before leaving, he came in Qandeel’s room. She was sleeping peacefully even at this hour. May be she slept late at night, he thought to himself. He brought empty salad plate out and locked the door. He ordered Noori to serve Qandeel breakfast whenever she wakes up and ask her to change clothes.

“Bibi ji doesn’t listen to me, Sayin.” Noori lamented.

“Still, ask her for once.” He went out.

Ilaaf visited his home first. Fazal brightened up when he saw him.

He took important stuff from his room and said to Fazal, “I cannot stay here for long. I have come to finish some work then will return to farmhouse. We will talk later.”

“Sayin, jeweler called.” Ilaaf paused. He had totally forgotten that ring which he had ordered on accident day.

“What did he say?” He asked.

“He was inquiring if he could deliver the ring.”

“Call him and ask him to deliver it. Keep it with you. I will take it from you later.”

Fazal nodded and then continued, uncertain.

“Sayin, can I ask something?” Ilaaf became curious.


“Sayin, is bibi alright?”

“Whom are you talking about?” He inquired seriously, having no idea what he had in mind.

“I am talking about Qandeel bibi.” He offered, afraid he would get angry.

“Yes she is fine. What made you ask after her?” He needed to know.

“Because I want her to reach her home safely and then you two should marry.” Ilaaf was surprised at how much he was privy of and found his innocence endearing. How easy he thought all this was.

“I know you since your childhood, Sayin. I always did your work myself. I love you more than I love abba or Sassi. I am witnessing it first time that you are doting on a woman like this, Sayin. I think you love her a lot, Sayin. Your eyes lit up when you see bibi’s pictures so I can imagine the satisfaction you might feel when you see her in real. I want you to be happy and so I pray Lord that everything gets settled so you can marry her.” Ilaaf nodded and went out.

What a twisted sense of humor this world had; a mere servant was aware what this girl meant to him but his own father was so indifferent to his feelings.

He bought few books and CDs for Qandeel and then headed towards her home. Last night Yusuf Mairaj had requested him to meet him. Though he was aware that he would not be able to meet his eye, yet he couldn’t reject his request. That is why he had stopped Adnan accompanying him. He didn’t want Adnan to know that he was in contact with Yusuf Mairaj. 

He parked his car outside the street and strolled to the house. It was an amazing feeling; he was familiar of this place as if he had been coming here all his life when in fact he hadn’t known this place before meeting Qandeel. Even the scorching sun seemed to be greeting him. And that familiarity continued when he knocked on this old wooden door.

Yusuf Mairaj opened the door. He smiled as if Qandeel herself had returned.

“I knew you would visit me.” He brought him inside.

He chose to sit in veranda. Even sweating felt good inside these walls.

Yusuf Mairaj kept on looking at him and that threw him off guard. He looked around to avoid his gaze.

When Yusuf Mairaj started speaking, a rush of envy flooded Ilaaf. He was envious of his life, Qandeel. If only for once fate could give me way, I would switch fathers with Qandeel and then see how she, who accuses me of being coward and weak, could prove herself to be brave, he thought to himself.

Sitting there, he regarded everybody, who had a father like Yusuf Mairaj, lucky. A respected, trustworthy, loving and compassionate person who was as forgiving and cool-headed for an enemy as for a friend. 

“Qandeel is cool of my eyes, Ilaaf. If I could, I would never even let air to touch her harshly. However, this is life and everybody has to face his or her own share of trials. That is why I always stood by her decisions, never argued about them to be emotional and certainly didn’t force my decisions over her. I may have to leave her eventually and it’s better for her to learn to take her own decisions, and it’s good for her that she gets to learn from her mistakes. She’ll gain experience from all of it, I am sure. And also, because I want her to learn to live alone. Her mother too had to face so much opposition in her life; she had to live alone for longer periods before she met me. Her life is a mirror image of her mother’s even her illness is inherited from Saima.” Ilaaf looked at him as he spoke, his each word wrapped in affection for her and her mother.
“And I am also aware of the ordeal you are going through. I know it will not be possible for you to help her in any way in future just like now so I don’t want you to put you in any test by forcing you into any pledge.”  The fact that he didn’t hold him responsible for the present circumstances was astounding for him. “I have only one request for you. An old ill man requests a man who regards him as his father and loves his daughter immensely.” His voice shook; Ilaaf strained his ears in consternation and looked at him closely.

“Always love Qandeel the same way. Always be there for her. Try to guard her life and honor. I am not sure why am I saying all of this to you but I feel like you are the only person in this world for this. Whether you give her your name or not, even if you are unable to stand with her, give her your love always. Whether I am alive or dead, the fact that there is one such person who loves Qandeel more than I do will be enough for me. I could die easily then, Ilaaf. Right now I feel like I am in purgatory. Thinking about her make me lose my mind.”   

Ilaaf held his hands impulsively and said subserviently, “Please don’t worry, I have been unable to get her out of that place yet she is dear to me more than my life. I will protect her no matter what. Although she’ll never want to marry me but I’ll do whatever I could.”

Yusuf Mairaj looked at him inquisitively. “Have you two talked about this matter?”

Ilaaf bowed his head.

“Tell me what did she say?” He lifted his face up.

“She has rejected me.” He was resigned.

“She must have said it under pressure. She can’t be saying it for real.” Yusuf Mairaj’s composure was overwhelming for Ilaaf.

“I think you have a misunderstanding, Uncle. She never liked me before and now after this accident she hates me. She’s so cold and distant towards me.” His sadness was oozed out into his words.

“That cannot be real, Ilaaf”

“It is true.”

“She loves you.”

Ilaaf laughed humorlessly.

“She hates me.”

“My daughter does not know how to hate.”

“She has learned to hate after meeting me.”

“Qandeel only knows how to love.”

“But she has all the hate in this world for me.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“I have.”

“I don’t reckon.”

“I have accepted it.” He was defeated.

They remained silent for some time then Yusuf Mairaj said,

“We’ll discuss it some other day, now is no time for it. Time will decide and then we won’t have to defend our stances,” Ilaaf nodded in agreement.

“I am satisfied now that I have talked to you. I knew you’ll not disappoint me. I was sure that you’ll be the one for her and now I trust you. You will stand by her in trials because your love is unconditional. I am grateful to you.” Ilaaf wanted the earth to open up and swallow him right away, he was that embarrassed at his last words. He hadn’t even done anything for her and he was still so humble.

“Please, don’t be.” He kissed his hands and Yusuf Mairaj took his face in his hands.

“You are just like Omer. Each of your features resembles him.” That jolted Ilaaf.

“You know Omer Uncle?”

Yusuf Mairaj couldn’t answer him right away.

“How?” He inquired again.

“He was martyred, no? And everybody knows martyrs, Ilaaf. Everybody had cried the day he had died. Many had been present in his funeral. Very few people are as fortunate as he was. He certainly was a lucky person and you too are very lucky Ilaaf.”

“I wish it was true, uncle.” He snorted.

“Don’t lose hope, it’s wrong.” He patted his back affectionately.

He got up to leave.

“Qandeel will be home soon.” He tried, unsuccessfully, to soothe him.

“I know.” He smiled.

He turned to leave then paused.

“Is it Qandeel’s room? He pointed towards the room.


“Can I umm..have a look?” He inquired hesitatingly.

“Why not.”

He came inside her room and looked around. Yusuf Mairaj waited outside.

It was a small room. Yet it was more than a world for him. He looked at the bed; It’s here she reclines to read a book or simply lie down and dream. For a moment, he too wanted to lie down there and dream, but he couldn’t.

Then he looked at other things; writing table, rocking chair, bookshelf, computer, wardrobe and dressing table. Everything was sacred for him. He stayed for a while there and then decided its rude to stay longer here so came out.

They came to the door.

“We’ll meet again.”

“Sure.” Yusuf Mairaj smiled. There was something in his smile which he couldn’t pinpoint. “Khuda hafiz.”

He almost ran into a guy who was about to knock at the door.

That guy stopped when he saw Ilaaf and looked at him closely. The woman behind him made a face when she saw Yusuf Mairaj and Ilaaf together.

“Oh, Sami. Come inside.” Yusuf Mairaj welcomed him. “And Saleha apa is also with you, good.” They went inside.

Ilaaf regarded Sami. So he’s Qandeel’s fiancé. What was so special about him, why, in the world, he had to have the honor of being that lucky person, and also without asking for it? He asked himself.

 Sadness surrounded him when he was heading back to the farmhouse.

Adnan was waiting for him impatiently.

“Where have you been man! I have had to be back by night.”

“You can go now. I am here with Qandeel.”

“I am taking Rishi and few other men with me. You will have Noori and Khursheed here. Khursheed will guard the jungle and surroundings; you will have to take care of Qandeel.” Ilaaf nodded.

Adnan took car keys from him and paused again.

“You understand that you’ll have to watch out for her as well, don’t you? Because if she escapes before verdict is announced then I nor you or nobody else in this case will be able to stop Qaiser Uncle killing her.” 

Adnan was dreading that Ilaaf would try to take her home behind him and so he thought it necessary to remind him of the stakes.

“I am aware of that.” He responded dryly and went inside.

There was silence when they all left.

Ilaaf tended to his work and came to Qandeel’s room. He stopped in his tracks when he entered. She was standing in front of dressing table, combing her hair.

He was riveted. She wasn’t aware of his presence. She had taken a shower and changed dress. In white shalwar and light blue shirt, her back to him, her efforts, apparently failing to straighten them made him weak in the knees.

He knocked instead of entering without informing.

She turned back and hurried across the room to her dupatta. She had to leave her hair as they were.

“I brought these for you; CDs and books. It will help you to pass your time here.”

Uninterested, she sat on the bed. Ilaaf began to shelf the books.

“Where is Noori?” She asked.

“May be in the kitchen.” He said.

“What about Adnan?”

“He has gone to city with his men.” He answered her unthinkingly and got back to shelving the books.

There was silence then. Ilaaf looked at where Qandeel was sitting and she wasn’t there. He looked around. She was not in the room.

Alarm bells rang in his head and he recalled her questions. It took him a moment and he was out of the room, took two stairs at a time and rushed towards the main gate. He was furious with himself why he had left her room’s door open. By the time he came out, she had crossed main gate, which was open. She was unfamiliar with the pathways and he was afraid Khursheed would act without orders.

“Qandeel, stop!” He had shouted at her but she ran faster when she heard him behind her. Ilaaf took alternate route, crossed a pathway and caught her in time.

“Stop!!” He held her by her forearm.

“Leave me, for God’s sake leave me and let me go.” She tried to slip from his hold.

“Don’t be foolish!” He held her fast. She continued to struggle in his arms and her hair—wet from the recent wash-- caressed his face. He closed his eyes and went still. Nevertheless, damage was done. His cheek was wet and he breathed her scent from the earlier contact. 

He opened his eyes. He could touch her hair, he was that close. He was intoxicated; he wanted to be closer still. He wanted to lose himself in those thick tresses, to slumber in there forever. But then she elbowed him harshly and he came back to his senses.

He was, for the very first time, suddenly very angry with her.

He pulled her to face him and slapped her hard across the face.

Stunned, her hand automatically went to where he had hit. Her eyes were wide as if she couldn’t believe that Ilaaf could do such a thing to her.

“You hit me?” She asked, shocked.

“Yes. And I will repeat it if you insist on being foolhardy.” He still was very angry with her.

“You cannot stop me. I will go.” She spat the words out at him.

“Let’s see how you will leave this place.” He hissed and then held her wrist briskly.
“Come inside at once.” He dragged her the whole way to her room and she came behind him, like a bird stuck in a rack.

Ilaaf was a man, and strong at that. She didn’t stand a chance with him. And anyway, he
hadn’t let her have her way this time.
Ilaaf had decided that if she would still try to make a run then he would carry her to her room. But she remained silent all the way, dumbfounded.  

He pushed her to the sofa in her room.

“Do not try to escape ever again, Qandeel or I’ll forget I love you. You are forcing me to be rough with you. Whatever I am doing is for your own good.” He pursed his lips. Qandeel didn’t respond. She was still in shock by his reaction.

He went to the door then paused and returned.

“And tie your hair or I will do it myself. I don’t want to see them lose until you are here or else I’d cut them.”

He had no way to fathom the reason behind his bitterness. His nerves were wrought.   

Her eyes were wide in astonishment.

Ilaaf came outside and locked the door.

Some moments make you weak; such had passed over Ilaaf.

He couldn’t shake this feeling off of him even when he was in his room.

The more he thought the less fathomable the things appeared. He shuddered at the thought what would have happened if he had been just a little late in checking his emotions, when he was that close to her. And what if he would have done something—He couldn’t dare think ahead.

She was sacred for him. He worshipped her. How could he think of lowering himself to such level! True that he wanted to make her his but through rightful means, through her willful submission, not by force.

Moreover, this incident had jolted him. He realized that he was a mere human and he could stumble however much he try to be careful and so he decided to not to test his guts until her stay. It is most painful thing to ruin your life with your own hands. An unlucky person would like things this way, however, Ilaaf was not of that kind.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chapter no. 15: A Meeting, A Separation (I)

The same jungle, those wolves and darkness was as vivid as reality. She kept on crying and calling for Ilaaf who was lying just few feet away from her, unconscious from the assaults of those wolves, unable to hear her cries and help her to get rid of them. They were ready to attack her. Then one of them pounced at her elbow, she screamed. Then she fell down on her knees and tried to crawl towards Ilaaf but another of them bit into her ankle. A blood-curdling scream escaped her and then everything went dark.  

She was drenched in sweat when she woke up to. She let out a low sob. Ilaaf was dozing, on a chair, near her bed. In half-lit room, she could see only his face which was shining brightly even in dim light. She tried to catch her breath for a little while and then sat-up, without making a noise. She didn’t want to wake him up. She tried to recall what had happened before she fell unconscious. She remembered every thing; the dog-fight, Ilaaf handling her, of her going off, then coming around again, Ilaaf had patted her cheek to make her sleep and then she had blacked out again, even her dream was fresh in her mind. She marveled at this fact, of her memory retaining everything despite of her being so out of control.

She had her first attack when she was 9 years old. She had witnessed two ninth graders fighting fiercely. Nobody had come to disperse them off. She had never known the reason of their fight because they had been expelled from school after that. Those boys had used stones and clubs, both were bleeding badly until management arrived.
That day, when Baba came to pick her up from school, he found her leaning to the wall; cold all over, pale. She had run to Baba and had fallen unconscious in his arms right there.

Dr. Lodhi took few tests. When he couldn’t make any sense of her illness, he deduced that it’s the same which had befallen Saima. She was told basics about it and they instructed her to stay away wherever fights took place. Gradually she became used to of living with this illness.

She looked at Ilaaf. He was surrounded by ash and ashtray full of butts of smoked cigarettes. It reminded her of the promise he had made to her in the car that day that he’ll never smoke again. She was angry with him but then she thought better of it. Anyway, he had not been able to keep his other promises.

After making sure he will not wake up, she headed toward the door stealthily. She hadn’t bothered to check the time. In these last three days she had thought of all possible ways of escape and she had decided on one; escaping by tricking Ilaaf. And this was her chance.

She turned the handle, locked. She tried to look for the key.

She came back to where he was sitting. There was no pocket on his T-shirt so the key must be in his Jean’s pocket. She sat near his knees and looked at him closely. She couldn’t decide whether she should try to check his pockets or not. Then she looked him again. The room had enough light so that she could see the full sight of Ilaaf.

He was slumbering. His long lashes curled at the ends and were an invitation to get closer. That moment, she wanted to feel his closed eyes under her fingers but some unknown fear didn’t let her. Her eyes fell on his dark circles that certainly weren’t there before. The change of time had compelled him to sleep less. Her eyes glided on his fair spotless cheeks, to the aristocratic nose, dry lips, to a dimple on his stretched chin which looked like a whirlpool when she looked closely. She looked at his hair, which had covered his forehead, the ears and then continued to look.

He was weak, he couldn’t fight circumstances, nor he could defend his love. She had rejected him yet she couldn’t stop herself from wishing for him – as yet.

That instant was extremely bizarre. She wished for it to last longer. She forgot who was she and where she had come from; he oblivious, deep in his sleep seemed to her like a Prince and she herself was his slave-girl. He needn’t had to buy her, instead she had sold herself at the price of getting to see him daily- whose days spent obeying him, and nights; watching him sleeping. Nothing else mattered.

On a whim, she touched his fingers ever so lightly. She wanted to kiss his feet as well but managed to touch the toe since he had his sandals on them. 

He shifted when she touched him and that movement brought her back to reality. I shouldn’t have done this, she thought to herself.

She stood and moved towards the bed hurriedly. By the time he woke up, she had settled on the bed, leaning to the crown of the bed, looking at her hands clasped in her lap.

“Qandeel, when did you wake up?” He inquired

She looked up at him. His red eyes were indicative of the fact that he hasn’t slept well for many nights.

“Oh, just a little while ago.” She was careful of her words.

“You should have woken me up. I had dozed off.” He said to her, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “How are you now?”

“I am very well now; you don’t need to worry about me anymore.” She couldn’t fathom herself why there always came a strangeness in her voice whenever she addressed him lately. May be she had come to terms with the fact that they can never be united.

“Of course I was worried. I could never have forgiven myself if something had had happened to you.”

“Nothing happened to me, so far, so you can forgive yourself. As for me, I will never forgive you for what you have done to me.” She saw the same fear and ache filling his eyes at her words.

“I am leaving for now.” He said after some time. Qandeel saw him taking out the key from his jean’s pocket. She regretted. Her hunch was right.

“I am hungry. Ask Noori to bring something for me if she is awake.” He paused and turned to face her.

“It totally slipped my mind. Of course, you’d be hungry. Noori would probably be asleep, I will bring it myself.”

She exhaled after he left the room. He was unaware of her sitting close to him.

Ten minutes later he returned with a trolley filled with variety of food.

She came to sit on sofa. He was laying the table for her nonchalantly. She was baffled the way he went about this chore, which seemed extra-ordinary when he was carrying it out. She mused over his actions and wondered; had he ever done this for anybody else? Why didn’t he just wake up his servants and asked them to do this? What did that mean? She was unable to answer any one of her questions.

Qandeel filled her plate with Chinese rice and shashlik with a little yogurt on the side. She was hungry. Ilaaf also put some rice and a piece of Shami with yogurt but he wasn’t eating like her. It looked like his heart wasn’t into it, he’s just eating out of necessity; when in fact he hadn’t had anything since evening. 

There was complete silence during the meal.

When they were done eating, Ilaaf collected everything on the trolley like before. Qandeel however asked him to leave salad plate with her.

He stopped at the threshold and turned to her. It seemed like he was gathering courage to speak to her. She was fully attentive towards him.

“I will visit city some time in the day, you can give me the list of things you need.” Finally, he managed flatly.

“A prisoner needs only one thing; freedom. And that you can’t provide me so you better not ask me this question.”

 “Alright, I will not ask it again but I have a request.”

She looked at him.  

“Please change your dress. It is so untidy; not suitable for you to wear it anymore. You can wear it right after Noori washes it. Don’t be stubborn, for once please.”

“Are you done? Now leave.” She retorted.

Locking the door behind him, he left, resigned.

Qandeel came to the dressing table and looked at herself in the mirror. Not only her clothes but also her hairs were untidy too. She had already decided in the morning to take a bath anyway. She applied some hair oil and tied her hair. She settled herself on the bed and started eating salad; she always liked to take it after meals. She felt good at that moment.

Who was he? She mused over him. One of the strangest people on this planet. Unique, just like his name. He knew how to love but couldn’t fight for it. He could take care of his servants but not of himself. He smoked branded cigarettes yet wasn’t ostentatious. His eyes resembled that of a lunatic’s yet his mind was sharp like a predator. His frame was like that of steel yet his being was shallow as if consumed by weevil. His face bright just like sun yet his heart as black as night. His fingers that of an artist yet his heart was made out of stone.   

The more she tried to understand him; it became more impossible for her to solve his enigmatic personality.

The only thing which was as apparent as day break and which her whole being attested to despite of her rejecting it, was, however coward he was, he governed over her heart. 
(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)