There was nothing to make this constant darkness in his life go away but a sound like a whistle, which was pushing it quite amazingly. The sound was so near to him that he was compelled to get up and pay heed to it. He was sleeping like this after such a long time so he was very angry at the caller whoever that was.
He got up and checked the time. It was few minutes to 1 in the morning. He checked the caller, Rohail, he was quite surprise and then worry took over.
“What is wrong? Couldn’t you wait for morning? I was sleeping after such a long time.” He said in a sleepy voice.
“Only you and your father can sleep in these circumstances, Ilaaf.” Rohail’s cold tone and the taunt wiped the sleep off from his eyes.
“I don’t know about my father but I had been sleeping after so many days and you are very well aware of it.”
“I would have believed you if I hadn’t known you better. I cannot believe you tried to satisfy yourself in the name of your father and have kept Qandeel for four days.” Ilaaf felt like he was slapped squarely in the face. He was insulted. He was stunned for a moment and then said.
“I hadn’t ever thought that you too would think about me in that way.” He replied.
“And I also had never thought that you would take part in that saga with your father. I am aware of your helplessness in the case but your silence in Qandeel’s kidnap proves that you’re equally involved in it.”
“I cannot explain it to you nor do I want to. And it doesn’t even matter since the person who should believe me is not ready to listen to me then why should I bother with others!” He was hurt.
Rohail was silent at other end. May be he was trying to digest these revelations.
“Why didn’t you do something to free her?” He inquired after a very long pause.
“Baba Saayin’s threats have reduced me to nothing. I cannot dare endanger her life like this.”
“You need to take her to home right now. Under present circumstances, you must not worsen your already tarnished position.”
“That’s not possible. Baba Saayin have given ultimatum that Qandeel cannot be freed until case is decided and we’ll have to face extreme consequences if I try any such thing. In addition, this time these are not mere threats. He’s quite serious and dangerous.” He sighed and rested his head on sofa.
“You have to, no matter what or else you’ll never be able to face her.”
“As if I can at present.”
“But then there will not be a single chance. Qandeel will never forgive you if you don’t concede now.”
“Whatever has happened?” He inquired carelessly.
“Yusuf Mairaj has been died.” Ilaaf felt like sky had fallen over him. “Even if you’re not directly responsible for his death, you’re included among those factors which led to this and we’ll not be able to help you in anyway if Qandeel decides to hold you responsible for it.” He felt like somebody had snatched the ground from under his feet and he was suddenly transported to vacuum. Rohail was dead right about Qandeel holding him responsible for everything including her father’s death but at this moment he wasn’t concerned about any such thing. Instead, he was grieving over a compassionate heart, which he had lost forever. His eyes filled up on their own.
“Ilaaf, are you there?” What could he have said. He wept silently but somehow the intense grief let loose and he cried without holding down any of it. Rohail got worried over this new situation.
“Take control of yourself, Ilaaf. Qandeel has got only you now and you’ll have to help her endure it. Please be with her, support her, no matter how she reacts.” He couldn’t comprehend how he was going to be her support when he himself was robbed of his only hope.
The momentum of the situation just hit him and he realized how much he counted on Yusuf Mairaj about his present dilemma. He was the only person who always told him that things would be right once again, that Qandeel will believe- he’s innocent- one day, and she loves him. He was the only and such a great man, who had always stood by him and soothed his heart of his grief and encouraged him.
He dried his eyes and tried to compose himself for the coming task. Rohail was continuously assuring him but he couldn’t make out his words as he was thinking about other hard facts, such as, his reaction to Yusuf Mairaj’s death. He wondered would he react the same way if he hears that his Baba or Dada Saayin died; and the answer was quite apparent. Blood relations are not all of it. There are some other lofty relations, which are unconditional and unequivocal. And same way if blood-relations are proposed with condition, if there’s selfishness behind motives then they become weak and insignificant. And Ilaaf was going through the same phase. Those whom he was part of were sacrificing him for their own interests and the irony was; he was mourning over a man, as if he was orphaned, whom he had met just thrice.
“Why is it happening to me, Rohail? Why me?” He was crushed.
“Why Qandeel, Ilaaf? Why she has to go through all of it? She has been snatched her only relation in this world just because of you, she is being made fun of publicly, being disgraced just because she spoke truth. Isn’t it quite too much of a punishment for her truth?” Rohail had made him realize her impediment. Rohail had gotten emotional too, so he continued bitterly, “And look at the irony; you who claims to love her or I for being her friend have left her alone in this mess. We are just watching her being disgraced.”
Ilaaf was agonized. He felt like his heart would burst out but nothing of the sort happened.
They were both silent for a time, then Rohail said, “Anyway, we must focus on present situation. If you want to give yourself a chance with Qandeel then you must take her to her home before dawn. Uncle Yusuf will be buried after Fajar prayer and you’d surely not want Qandeel to lose the chance of seeing her father for the last time.”
He felt he had taken a permanent role of an oppressor in Qandeel’s life. He disconnected the call and sat down, head in hands. He was thinking about how he would break this news for her and how she’d react. He was cursing his fate at large. He stood up anyhow and went to freshen up. While washing his face, he thought soon Qandeel would either be slapping this very face or spitting on it. Or worse, she’d lose her senses. He had witnessed how much she loved Yusuf Mairaj; he had been whole world for him since her childhood and he had the inkling of knowing what it feels like to lose all of your relations in just a blink of an eye. And would he be contented to just stand there and watch her suffer, part of her dying and he doing nothing?
There was none of the happiness, contentment, peace left in his life anyway.
He put on his sandals, took the keys for Qandeel’s room, braced himself for the upcoming tornado and came out of his room. Farmhouse was silent. Adnan had come back late in the evening and so he was sleeping, against his habit.
He had thought-out the plan in his head en-route Qandeel’s room. He had decided he would ignore Baba Saayin and Adnan until after he has taken Qandeel to her home. He had been compelled to pass another test amidst of so many and he didn’t want to fail this one at least, no matter what. Qandeel had lost her father because of him, now he didn’t want to add another cruelty over it by refusing her the last chance of seeing her father before his burial.
He unlocked the door quietly and closed it after him. He didn’t want anybody to wake up and find out and for that he had to be careful. He wasn’t even sure how she’d react, hence closed the door to avoid commotion.
The room was dimly lit. He opened more lights and came to Qandeel’s side. She was sleeping peacefully and he hated to interrupt her but he didn’t have any choice. He had to act fast.
He switched on the lamp on her side but she didn’t budge. He was unsure so he called her name. She moved a little but didn’t wake up. He had to shake her to wake her up.
She woke up with a start and her sleepy eyes widened when she saw Ilaaf.
Ilaaf stepped away a little.
“You, here, at this hour?” Surprise had made her incoherent. She got up and wore her dupatta.
“Yes, I came here to wake you up.” He didn’t know what else to offer.
“But why?” She was perplexed.
“I need you to come with me, quietly. I am taking you home before dawn.” He said.
“But a little while ago you were listing off all the dangerous consequences that will follow if I leave here before the case is decided, so why the sudden change of mind?” She wasn’t content with his first answer.
“This is no time to argue. Do as I say and come with me. I cannot answer all of your questions as of yet.”
“But still, I will not come with you until you tell me the reason. I don’t trust you anymore.” For a moment he was angry at her stubbornness but then he caught control of himself and said.
“I will tell you on our way, right now my priority is to take you home safely and it’ll be very difficult for me if Adnan wakes up, so please try to understand.”
“OK, I am ready.”
Ilaaf cautioned her to come after him without making any noise. Qandeel put on her sandals and followed him. Lounge was empty and silent. Taking her along with him, he passed through the main entrance. Adnan’s Prado wasn’t in the porch which was a good sign for Ilaaf. He already had his key and pistol, for just in case, with him.
They came out of the main gate. Gatekeeper wasn’t at his place so they kept on going towards the car and then at that very moment the gatekeeper materialized out of nowhere.
Ilaaf came to attention at once, ready to act.
“Sahab, where are you going? And this girl…” Gatekeeper’s mind reeled for a second to see her outside and he took off his pistol from the holster.
Ilaaf moved her behind him in no time.
“It’s necessary that we leave now Basheer. Don’t stop us.” Ilaaf said to now-very-alerted-gatekeeper.
“You can go wherever you want to but she will stay here. And Lala has ordered that if she tries to run away then I can shoot her.” Chills ran down Ilaaf’s spine on his words.
“Then, shoot. And shoot at me first so that you get the best from your Lala.” Ilaaf’s fury rendered gatekeeper confused. Ilaaf took his pistol out of his shirt and removing it’s safety catch aimed at Basheer.
“Your Lala will kill you if you even so much as lay a finger on me. Whereas I can shoot you and none will hold me for anything.” This was not Basheer was prepared for. He couldn’t decide whether he should act or not.
“Open the car and wait for me.” Ilaaf brought Qandeel from behind him and handed her car keys.
Ilaaf kept his pistol pointed at Basheer until Qandeel was inside the car.
“Turn around and put your hands behind your back.” He ordered him.
When he didn’t act, Ilaaf snatched his pistol from him and forced him to face the wall. He hit him hard enough to make him unconscious, at the back of his head. Basheer fell to the ground with a small scream.
Ilaaf made sure he’ll not be up for few hours and then went to the car. He put the pistol on dashboard, took car keys from Qandeel and soon they were on the road. He deliberately avoided main road for the fear of being chased. In dark, their car moved on the by-road used for carts. Qandeel was silent. He couldn’t tell if she was frightened or anxious.
He was in great consternation because he couldn’t bring up the courage to tell Qandeel the reason for this escape. There was total silence in the car, which Qandeel broke as if on a cue.
“May I now know the reason for all this?” He turned towards her. There was innocence, contentment and may be happiness as well, of going home after such a long time but she didn’t know that the person, whom she thought would be anticipating her arrival, is no longer in this world.
He had never pitied himself in life ever but he did now...Intensely. How was he going to ruin her happiness, to bring her to reality, he didn’t know. And just then, when he was contemplating of the ways, more undecided than ever, his cell phone rang relieving him of his dilemma.
It was Rohail and he was inquiring after Qandeel.
“She’s with me. I am taking her home.” He relied on short replies, still avoiding the main point.
“Have you told her the news?”
“Then? You must tell her or the sudden shock will be dangerous for her.”
“You tell her yourself.” He said gravely.
“You will not tell her?”
“No.” The negation ringed clearly in his voice.
“OK. Let me talk to her.” Rohail braced himself.
Ilaaf looked at Qandeel who was trying to guess the caller and the subject and apparently failing to grasp the sense of the conversation. He handed her cell phone.
“Who is it?” She asked, who was in total suspense by now.
“It’s Rohail.” His manner still grave.
Qandeel put it to her ear.
Ilaaf’s concentration zeroed in to Qandeel’s reaction. He kept his gaze on the windscreen and even stopped breathing so that he would be able to hear even the quietest sound, sob, hitch of a breath, anything from her. Every muscle in his body strained and in state of waiting as if in survival instinct mode. That strain became to unbearable point and still no sound came.
He thought about slowing down the car in order to check but then a sound made him turn his head without thinking. Qandeel was silent, still and cell phone had slipped from her hand.
“Qandeel?” He slowed down the car and called her name.
He called her twice and when she didn’t respond, he shook her and she felt as if made of sand, boneless. Ilaaf brought the car to sudden halt and she falling face down hit her head on dashboard. If Ilaaf hadn’t caught her hold then she would have hit wind screen. He pulled the hand break of the car and tended to Qandeel. He straightened her. There was a thin line of blood trickling down the side of her face.
“Qandeel.” Pulling her closer to himself, he wiped the blood off her face. She was white like a sheet and was staring at Ilaaf without looking at him.
“Qandeel, please stay with me.” She didn’t respond. She was out of herself.
She was stone cold. He turned off the car air conditioning system, pushed her gently to the back of the seat and bandaged her bruise. Qandeel tried to drag air inside her but failed. When he sat back she leaned out of the seat, held the dashboard with both hands and her body jerked a few times.
Ilaaf was perplexed, he wasn’t sure what to do so he pulled her closer to him and hugged her fiercely. He rolled down the car windows so that fresh air would come inside. She was trying to breathe but couldn’t seem to take the air inside. He patted her cheek and her back to help her breathe but it didn’t work. She closed her eyes and slipped away.
He sat with her for some time then put her in her seat and pulled the seatbelt across her. He started the car and parked it on a dirt way, where it was out of the sight of passer-bys.
He switched off the engine and looked at her. She was sleeping. He checked her pulse which was normal. It eased his mind. He decided he’d not go further until Qandeel is not in better shape.
was at half hour’s drive now so he wasn’t in any hurry. He looked for his cell phone on the car’s floor which was lying near her feet. He came out of the car and left the car doors open, as a precaution so that fresh air would keep circulate. He went to an opening, near trees and chose a trunk from where he would be able to keep an eye on both his car and Qandeel. He called Rohail and told him about Qandeel’s condition and suggested him to inform Kamran Ali as well so that they would wait if they get late arriving at the place. Rohail was disturbed by this but they had to wait for Qandeel to get better. Main City
He disconnected the call, leaned onto the tree and closed his eyes. But he was still in turmoil so started to pace up the area. When walking also didn’t soothe his nerves then he resorted to only course. He went to the car, she was still sleeping. He took out his cigarette packet, when he was coming out of the car his eyes fell on his pistol and he threw it on backseat.
He lit a cigarette after cigarette and still he wasn’t at ease. He had become so engrossed in thinking that he forgot about his car and Qandeel. She had woken up and without even knowing where she was, she had started walking in no particular direction.
Pacing up and down,he looked towards his car and he almost had a mini heart attack. Qandeel was not in the car as he had left her. He threw away his cig and frantically ran towards his car. She was not around it. He looked ahead in the road and there she was walking, oblivious of the world. He ran after her and caught her from behind. She was startled from this sudden commotion and began screaming for help.
“Leave me.” Before she could utter another word, he clapped his palm on her mouth and turned her to face him. Her eyes filled with hate the moment she saw him. She tried to squeeze from his hold but he didn’t let her. Instead he dragged her to the point where he had been smoking before. By the time they arrived at that place, she was crying profusely. He made her sit on a tree trunk and held her by her shoulders.
“Please Qandeel, hold onto yourself.” She looked at him. He saw anger, hate, disgust in her eyes for him.
She kept on looking at him for some time then hit him squarely on the chest with her palms. He rolled back and fell down and before he had the chance to get up she caught him by collar and said,
“I hate you! Do you hear me?? I hate you!”
Ilaaf was staring at her. He had assumed she is still not fully conscious; according to her previous record, she had to go in unconscious one more time. But she was already out of that state.
“I, Qandeel Yusuf, accept in full consciousness that I hate Ilaaf Lashari.” Ilaaf felt like he was in an inferno. “You murdered my father. What had we done to you to deserve this? Why did you do this to me?” She was crying her heart out and the words she spoke were so acerbic that he could feel his whole being poisoned by it.
“I am an orphan now, just because of you. You claimed that you love me. Do we treat the ones we love like this?” She was weeping and speaking at the same time.
He wanted to cry but held on. And then out of nowhere, he pulled her into a hug and even she didn’t stop him to do so.
“Call me whatever you want to, let it out of you but please stay put.” He patted her back and tried to ease her tension. She too left herself in his arms and cried more and said, “I will never forgive you. Never.”
“Fine, don’t forgive me. I don’t deserve that.” He wasn’t sure how he had the courage to say that.
Minutes passed while they stood like this- embracing each other-then she moved back and their eyes met.
In the dim light, he saw something in her eyes- other than hate or anger- he wasn’t sure what was it so he kept on looking into her eyes to decipher it. She looked away, as if hiding her eyes. And then pushed him away rudely.
“I don’t need your condolences.” He kept looking her.“I want to go home. Would you drop me or I can go by myself.” Her tone distant.
“I will drop you.” By the time he stood up, she had gone to the car.
Car was filled with heavy silence which was punctuated by her sobs every now and then. It was killing him but he didn’t have any way to soothe her pain. They entered the
. It was almost 4 o’ clock in the morning. Main City
As Qandeel’s home was getting nearer a new fear clawed at his heart; whether he’d be able to see her again or not.
He stopped the car outside her narrow street. He didn’t want to create anymore trouble for her anyway.
Qandeel dried her eyes and nose with her dupatta. Her face had swollen due to continuous crying.
Fajar prayer call could be heard in the distance.
“I don’t want to see your face ever again, Ilaaf Lashari and I pray to God that we are meeting for last time” It came very dry and rough.
He looked at her; her eyes wild like that of a wounded lioness.
“You will never find happiness.”
““I witness that there’s no god but God.”” The prayer call was nailing his coffin.
“You have destroyed me so you’ll never flourish.”
“I witness that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is His last prophet.”” His demise had started long ago.
Her breath hitched. Ilaaf felt like his heart was perforated.
She started crying once again. Ilaaf stared at her tears rolling down her eyes.
“I hate you. But no, you don’t even deserve my hatred. You are only worthy of contempt.”
““Allah is Greater, Allah is Greater.””
He had been kicked; not only by her but also by Allah.
She opened the car door and stepped outside.
Ilaaf looked at the place which she had left vacant. His whole world had been plunged into a total vacuity.
“My daughter has never learned to hate anybody, Ilaaf.” Yusuf Mairaj’s words echoed in his ears and his grief let lose. He rested his head on the steering and his eyes flooded.
“She has learned to hate, Yusuf Uncle.” He was talking to himself. “She hates Ilaaf Lashari. She only has hatred for me. And may be I deserve this.”
He revived the engine and tried to look through the fog plunging onto wind screen and seemed as had stuck to his life and his self.
(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)