Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chapter no. 16: The Grief (I)

Qandeel entered her street, forlorn. She could still not believe what Rohail said over the phone, she was numb. Both Ilaaf and Rohail were either unashamedly lying or it was the worst nightmare she has ever had, Qandeel thought to herself.

Standing at the start of her street, she tried to feel the place. Everything appeared normal in the little poles of light surrounding the front doors of the homes in the pre-dawn light and she wanted to believe that everything was alright, that she would knock on the door and her Baba would emerge, smiling. He would cry out, “Qandeel you came.” would spread his arms, ready to hide her from whole world, from every nightmare. She would nestle in his arms and would cry; out of happiness and the sorrow which she endured alone, Qandeel had already played this scene in her mind a thousand times. She was too tired and exhausted to draw the line between reality and illusions. She didn’t know whom to trust. Her tears were unstoppable, making impossible for her to make sense of anything and she wanted to believe what she desired to see.  
She came forward on shaky legs.

“I am sure I am right. Ilaaf is a liar and he must have made Rohail lie too. Or else how can such a thing happen. How can Allah be that cruel to me? He is well aware that Baba is my only relation in this world so He can’t just take him from me like this. I know, Ilaaf’s lie will be caught and Baba is alright.” She was in denial. Something was pondering her heart with a fear of a little child. If there would present some sand in that street then probably she would have hid her head there like an ostrich until Baba would come and take her home.

She wanted to stop, to turn her back to all of this but her limbs were acting on their own, she didn’t know why. Her whole being was in search of only one answer.

“Where is Baba?”

She didn’t have the heart to know anything else for what she had already learned, the knowledge and consciousness accumulated in this lifetime would last long for her to woe over an eternity…

Nearing her house, she saw that the door was open and there were men, lots of them, standing outside it. Why Baba left the door open and why, she wondered, there are so many men present here at this hour. Did Baba decide to lead the prayers today? But how can that be?

She stopped in front of her door and searched for her Baba’s face among them. He wasn’t there. May be he was preparing for the prayer; she consoled herself.

“Qandeel is here.” She heard one of them saying. Every eye was now trained at her as if she was a beggar and nobody could decide what they should give her that would satisfy her.

With her eyes full of questions, she made her way through this sea of men. She came inside her house and that too was filled with people she had neither seen nor wished to see.

She passed the door but this single step took her outside the home rather than inside.

Her feet felt that of lead and eyes wished to see the sun for the last time which nurtured her light for years and taught her to pass it on to others always. She did not have the heart to engage with anybody until she saw her Baba.

Qandeel was taking everything in; the silence among the group of women was explosive. Downgrading sympathy, sadness mingled in hate, and the mocking sorrow eluded her. She pushed herself for one last chance of reaching to him, to hug him, to cry in his arms. She willed her fate to spare her for that last long.
Somebody’s voice fell on Qandeel’s ears, “May Allah never disgrace any father with such a daughter.”

“She ruined her father at his old age.”

“He loved her so much. He gave her so much freedom and she tarnished his name.”

“God forbid, which course, other than refuge in grave, is left for the one whose daughter remains outdoor for four days.” 

There was no need to see who fired these canons. Qandeel felt a hand over her arm; she looked up and saw Hamza Shahid. There were others also; Saqib, Kamran Ali, Sohail bhai, Sami, and Rohail. She wanted to grab Rohail by his collar and ask him where he hid Baba but this felt like too much effort when she was totally drained of strength.

“Qandeel, my child.” Hamza Shahid aptly borrowed Baba’s endearment.

She instantaneously shrugged his hand off her arm as if he was taking her away from Baba.

“Where’s Baba?” The wild pitch was unfamiliar even to her ears. Nobody replied to her query.

She looked at each of their faces then pushing Kamran Ali out of her way Qandeel headed for the main courtyard. It was filled with women and reading Qandeel’s visage clearly, they moved aside to make way for her.

She suddenly stopped in the middle of the courtyard.

The day of resurrection pauses everything. The breeze, the clouds, the sun and its light, the waving of leaves, the movement of trees, the sounds of animals, the sea, the beauty of the river, the falling water, the sliding plant, the eyes, the view, the senses, breathing and heartbeat, everything pauses. And so everything paused for her. Her entire universe shrunk to the single point.

“She proved to be unlucky for Yusuf regardless he always loved her.” A woman said.

“Indeed. She killed her mother when she came into this world and now she disgraced her father, which he couldn’t take and died.”

Qandeel ignored what she was hearing because what she was seeing was enough to take her sanity away.
Her last wish was granted but how incomplete it was; he didn’t smile nor hugged her. She imagined him looking at her the way he used to, nothing of that sort happened. Qandeel never wished for a partial meeting with her Baba.

Qandeel wanted to go forward and call out to him rather she took a step and fell down. Somebody took hold of her. She looked up at the face. Maryam. The look Qandeel gave her was that one of total helplessness and pity.

“I need to go to Baba.” Her voice came out of a raven and she had galloped back to the old times when she was a little girl and used to call her Baba whenever she fell down in the playground. And she wished that she would remained a child forever and never grew up so none of this would have happened with her nor she would lose Baba.

Maryam helped her to straighten up and walk.

Qandeel felt like she’s finally home when she saw him lying in his bedstead. She sat near him, staring at his serene face. Then she felt the urge to say something to him and let that urge drive her.

“Baba wake up. You were always punctual for fajr prayer so get up, it’s time.” She took his face in her hands and poured her heart out through her eyes and words. “You promised that you’d wait for me. Why don’t you look at me? I am the same, cool of your eyes. Please at least grace me with your smile.” Fear of unknown was gripping at her heart – fast. Her eyes were streaming, her mind stopped denying what her heart already accepted long ago. She was being sawed to pieces. “Wake up, just wake up for once then me too will sleep here in your arms. Open your eyes please, Baba, call my name, anything, just for once.”

In the beam light of that morning the breeze had suddenly whispered. Qandeel heard that whisper in her ears clearly.

“Sing me that song again, please. Let me laugh once more let me live Baba. Your Qandeel is desperately waiting for you.” She could feel her voice drowning in her pain.

“Qandeel, please control.” Maryam sat beside her, holding her by shoulders. She too was crying. How could Qandeel control herself? She was the poorest person in this world. Every relation, her only support was taken from her.

Qandeel looked at Baba again and her grief found the right words. She sang tunelessly.
Everybody gawked at her. She was crying and singing and nobody could make out her words but she didn’t care.

They always sang this song at 23rd March and she realized – belatedly - that was 23rd of March. In a while, sun will be up and everybody will congratulate each other the blessing day. There will be nobody to congratulate her or sing with her all those national songs. It stung hard. Her eyes welled up again. “Baba for God’s sake don’t leave me alone. I will not be able to live without you, please don’t leave me behind.” She was wailing but nothing could make the difference.

Hamza Yusuf came to sit beside her. He took her face in his hands and said, “Sweetheart, don’t cry. Your Baba always wanted to see you smiling and it will hurt him so much if he’d see you now, crying like this. You have always been brave, braver than us, you must make an effort now, for your Baba.”

“I am not brave. Not anymore. I have become an orphan. Why should I be brave now when the one who was my only support left me. Why should I live anymore?” She looked up to his face. His eyes were moist, then he pulled Qandeel towards him, and they both cried together for the man they both loved immensely.
Hamza Shahid kept on consoling her but she was unable to stop her tears. It was the only way to express her deep sorrow over her grave loss.

“Sir, we have 15 minutes to take Yusuf Mairaj to masjid and perform the final rituals for the funeral.” Qandeel jerked her head up at the word of funeral and looked Kamran Ali. Whose funeral are they talking about! She asked herself. “He specifically willed being buried before sun starts to decline.” They were talking about taking Baba somewhere. She didn’t want him to go anywhere. She looked at Hamza Shahid that may be he would intervene but she was disappointed to hear his reply.

“Yes. We must not take anymore time.” He stood up and helped Qandeel to get up too. She looked between Kamran Ali and Hamza Shahid, her mind was spinning.

Hamza Shahid asked Maryam to hold Qandeel. She could feel more than a pair on her shoulders. They were taking Baba away from her. Forever. She will never be able to see him again. Agony. She freed herself and ran to Hamza Shahid. She knew she couldn’t halt so many men at a time so she sat on the floor and held Hamza Shahid by his legs and begged.

“Please don’t take away Baba just yet. For God’s sake let him stay with me.” She was crying, pleading all at the same time.

“Maryam, please hold Qandeel.” Maryam and two other women stepped out to hold her back from the procession. She wailed, tried to fight them off but they kept on going. She tried to struggle once more and succeeded. Qandeel freed from that prison of hands leaving behind her stole went to courtyard, bare feet bare head she was running behind the men when she slipped on the wet floor, her legs twisted at an odd angle and she fell down. Her knees were badly bruised and she was not able to get up now. Her helplessness made her weep once more.

“Do not take Baba away.” She said into the floor and bowed her down like in prostration. She wanted to become the part of that floor.

“Qandeel, don’t be foolish. Try to be reasonable. C’mon, get up. Let me see your wound.” Maryam came to help her.

“I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to die. I don’t want to live without Baba.” And started hitting her head on the floor. Someone rolled her on her back. She was too dizzy to see or hear. Her world was setting into darkness.

Qandeel was a 5-year-old girl. She was sitting in a swing and calling her Baba to help her get down.
“Baba please come here and help me get down.”

Yusuf Mairaj came out from kitchen, smiling. “How did you climb into it?” He inquired; lifting her off from it, kissing her cheek.  

“With the help of the stool.” She replied.

“And where is that stool now?” He teased her.

“Swing pushed it away.” She pouted.

“My little angel is so brave.” Yusuf Mairaj said, delighted.

“I am a brave daughter of a brave Baba.” Qandeel elaborated, too pleased with herself.

The scene changed. Sometimes she was hurt from the stairs; sometimes a quarrel took place with her playmates. And every time she had her Baba by her side. She was ecstatic.

She opened her eyes and saw Maryam instead of Baba.

“Bring Baba.” She moaned like a child, sobbing. Then darkness came over. This hide and seek went on; whenever she opened her eyes, somebody was always present by her side. Maryam, Hamza Shahid, Rohail took turns among them and she always begged for her Baba but nobody ever called him, suddenly everybody became heartless for her.

Qandeel felt someone pinching her arm when she fell into unconscious last time. In the thick haze of unconsciousness, she recognized the action to be of her school friend who irritated Qandeel to death all the time for her pinching habit. But the voice belonged to somebody else. She didn’t have strength to make an effort on confirming her perception so she let herself drift away. The scene changed again.

“Qandeel is having a CND attack.” A voice exclaimed in the background.

She wasn’t in school, rather at some river. It was turquoise in color. She was standing on the shore. The evening colors reflecting on it’s surface looked wonderful. There were plants filled with amethyst and orange flowers that were picturesque. The golden sand on the shore shimmered and reflected back the lights. Qandeel felt like she was in a paradise. 

The air was chilled. She was shivering despite of wearing a wool coot and boots. She leisurely walked along the shore. The pebbles on there were worth seeing. Qandeel started picking them up and filled her pockets with them. She spotted a house there while collecting the pebbles. It was so beautiful that the scene was incomplete without it. It was made with the unique mixture of stone and wood. There were stairs going into the house. There was a balcony facing up the river and then rooms behind it. Bougainville surrounded the roof and front of the house, it looked exquisite. At the center of the second floor, there was a clock. One of it’s needle seemed like that of pure gold and the other was shining like a diamond. The khaki clock enhanced the red color of the roof and chimney. Both floors had numerous windows decorated with wooden frames. The design engraved in the frames was so fine; it could be seen from the distance. The doorways were wide enough for the whole convoys to pass through them. The pillars seemed to be made of clay. The mountains behind the house indicated to the fact that she was outside the city at some unknown place.

 There were stairs which looked too natural to be made by man. These were total 14 and each unique in their own style. It was impossible to ascend them without stumbling over them. She studied them for a while then started climbing them carefully, enjoying each difficult step. When she came at the top, she looked around and wondered who possibly could live here and then she heard somebody calling her name. The voice came from the stairs. Standing at the eighth step was none other than Ilaaf. She was very exasperated. He arrived even at this place. She started coming downstairs angrily. He was looking at her. She gave him a spiteful look and continued going down. But then at the last step she felt something drawing her to halt. She looked back; Ilaaf was turned away from her. She felt like she wanted to go back to him but she had come too far to retreat so she turned away too. Then he started to call her name again. She wanted to plug her ears to ignore his voice.

“I am giving her a tranquilizer. She’ll be alright when she wakes up in the morning.”

She crossed the last step and ran in no particular direction, away from this man and his shadow. 

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