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)