“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)