All the servants were set to clean the room, diligently. Adnan lit a cigarette and called Fazal to him. Fazal’s face was covered with bruises, it was blue with the beating he got from Ilaaf. Adnan pitied him.
“I am going back to home. Inform me as soon as you hear anything about Ilaaf, got it?” Adnan instructed him.
“Sayin, I beg you please don’t go home but find him. He was beside himself when he left the home and it’s worrying me. He may hurt himself.”
Adnan eyed him closely and wondered if he was really worried or pretending to be. Ilaaf really beat him to the pulp and this man was asking him to go and look for him, what he even meant!
“How can I tell where is he, Fazal? I cannot go and look for him on every street. He may be very angry but he will come back in his time. Don’t worry. And go to some doctor ASAP. You will need to take medicine for these.” He pointed to his face. Adnan usually was indifferent to the servants yet he couldn’t help being concerned for him. Fazal really looked in poor condition.
“No sayien, I know Ilaaf sayien. He has never before raised a hand on his servant. He was furious when he went out of home. Please, for God’s sake sayien, look for him, he may hurt himself and I cannot bear it. I talked to Qaiser sayien and he thought that this is temporary emotional breakdown and he’ll recover, but I don’t believe it sayien, he was not in his senses when he went out. Please you must go and find him wherever he is.” Poor man was choking on the tears.
“You tell me, where should I look for him? This city is so big and he could be anywhere.” Adnan was resigned.
“Sayien, go to Qandeel bibi’s house. I am sure he went there.” Adnan’s jaw dropped open. How could he not come to the same conclusion. Why on earth did he rule out this possibility. Of course Ilaaf would go to Qandeel, first thing when he wakes up, to justify his position. He had admiration for the man in his eyes, how easily he solved the predicament. “He loves Qandeel bibi so much, I am sure you will find him there.” It angered Adnan when Fazal took Qandeel’s name with such reverence but he let it pass.
“Alright, I will go there but it will be very difficult to find him if he is not at her house.” Fazal nodded and went back to other servants and got busy with them in putting the room in respectable condition.
Adnan looked over the lounge once more. It was the same place which Ilaaf decorated with so much care. Each piece was his selection; showpiece, artificial plants, curtains, sofas, central and side tables, and different decoration items. A day ago, this same place represented the splendid taste of an artist and now it looked like a tornado passed through it. Ilaaf didn’t leave a single glass piece in this room. Adnan didn’t have the chance to ask Fazal how did Ilaaf manage to do this since it was not possible to wreak such level of destruction, unarmed. He looked around and found the ‘arm’. Near the beautiful entrance door, one of the slim iron rods, fixed for decoration, was removed. The paint and cement from the wall had come out too, with the rod.
Adnan stared at it in disbelief for considerable time and then called one of the nearby servants.
“What happened to it?” He pointed to a place where the rod was missing.
“Sayien took out this rod and broke all of the glasses with the help of it.” Adnan nodded, non-committal and headed out. Now he was very worried. He couldn’t even dream that Ilaaf would react so violently when stopped from going to hearing.
Those rods were firmly cemented in the wall. The animal power was required to take it out of the wall; it defined Ilaaf’s state-of-mind perfectly.
Adnan was clearly disturbed now. His lips were pursed and his forehead creased. He was barely on the road when his cell phone rang. Qaiser Lashari was calling. Hope flickered in Adnan but what he heard on phone was enough to blow his mind.
“Dr. Khalid was not aware that Ilaaf had a row with us when he went out. Ilaaf came to him to treat his injury. He was in foul mood when he left the clinic and Dr. thought it necessary to call me.” Adnan vowed with himself to find him at once now.
“Uncle I am on my way to find him. Fazal guessed he could be at Qandeel’s house and I am going there. Will report to you if I don’t find him there.”
“I am leaving for Karachi at once. Keep in contact.” Qaiser Lashari instructed him and ended the call.
Adnan increased the speed of the car. Ilaaf was important to all of them, and Adnan himself could not even bear a scratch on his closest friend.
For the first time in his entire life did Adnan Bhatti call upon Allah, fervently. The same Adnan Bhatti who never bothered with religion, rules and the Creator Himself was beseeching Allah in his heart, praying for the safety of his friend. And at that moment his heart gave in to the notion of love. He admitted that love exists in this universe or he would never be worried sick for Ilaaf this way.
In utter helplessness, the infidel’s yearning for miracle brings him closer to Faith. These fifteen minutes compelled Adnan to traverse the intellectual path spreading over fifteen centuries. The only dear thing to him was Ilaaf in this world. The man of steel nerves could never think of losing his dearest friend. He knew he could never survive the anguish it would cause him, mentally at least. He didn’t want to lose himself. He wanted to live. And his existence was tied to Ilaaf’s happiness, and he could never think of compromise that, at any rate. He wanted to return the favor of friendship. He did everything to take Qandeel out of his friend’s life; now he wanted to bring him back to life, which didn’t seem so difficult at the moment. He knew his efforts and sincere friendship would turn him into old Ilaaf. If only he could save him this time, changing wouldn’t take time; he thought. His mind was in a jumble. He had never before felt the need to use his thought processes to this extent or in this direction.
Adnan saw Ilaaf’s car at the corner of the street. The driver’ side was open and the keys were in the ignition. He switched off the ignition, pocketed the keys and locked the door. His eyes searched the place while he walked towards Qandeel’s home. He never before went to her house himself but when their case was going on, he had the chance to visit this place.
Adnan was relieved that he’d finally find Ilaaf in her home but that made him hate Qandeel more for what she was. Earlier when they were in court, he remembered, how she scoffed at the fact that they even had something between them and now she had him inside her home. He was disgusted at her. Adnan was sure that Qandeel is a notorious girl. She would not let the big fish, like Ilaaf from her hands now that he was totally besotted to her. She could easily exploit his feelings. The ordinary girl, with no sound background would act exactly like that. Adnan was worried about so many things. Ilaaf’s reckless obsession for her and his future.
He was just few feet away from her home when he saw something that ran his blood cold. Somebody was lying on face down. His body was half on the stair leading to the house and half lying rudely on the ground. Adnan immediately got it was none other than Ilaaf. He ran madly to him and tried to roll him on his back. He also saw the lock on the door but he ignored it. “Ilaaf!” Ilaaf’s eyes were open but sightless.
He gathered his lifeless body in his hands and patted his cheeks to bring him to consciousness. Adnan noticed Ilaaf’s body was uncharacteristically hot and his pulse was slow, almost inaudible. He knew he’s running a fever.
“Ilaaf, wake up, take hold of yourself. Everything will be alright, man!” Adnan pleaded. He wasn’t expecting that Ilaaf would respond but he did. His eyes shone with some familiarity. Ilaaf was struggling to get up. It relieved Adnan somewhat because it was impossible for him to take Ilaaf to the car, alone. And he was in dire need of the medical treatment.
Ilaaf stood up slowly, weakly but not once did he try to acknowledge Adnan’s presence nor did he say anything. His manner was unusual as if he was expecting somebody else.
Adnan was silent and remained beside him. Ilaaf stooped a little and Adnan knew he is making sure the lock is there. Adnan saw the bandage on his forearm and wondered how he got this wound. It looked serious.
“She’s gone.” Ilaaf’s voice sounded so distant.
Ilaaf straightened up and still didn’t look at Adnan instead his eyes had that far away look.
“She has gone.” Adnan could still see there was no recognition, whatsoever, in Ilaaf’s eyes.
“She left me. She rejected me.” Ilaaf’s eyes were streaming profusely.
Somebody squeezed at Adnan’s heart. He had never seen Ilaaf so out of his element, so barren.
“My Qandeel left me. The light of my eyes deserted me forever. I am now blind to the world.” He started laughing in the middle of weeping and continued to do so while his tears spilled over his face.
Adnan grabbed his arm and said, “Ilaaf bro, stay put.”
Ilaaf shrugged away his hold and stumbled. Adnan made to hold him again but Ilaaf steadied himself and moved away from Adnan’s hands.
“She left me.” He was half crying, half laughing. “But I was never worthy of her so that’s good that she did.” Adnan didn’t know how to deal with him.
“I ruined her.” This time he staggered badly, Adnan tried to give him a hand but Ilaaf fell down on the road.
“Ilaaf, for God’s sake wake up!” Adnan was near to tears now. Ilaaf’s condition was unbearable for him. “I can’t see you like this. Stay put.” Ilaaf slapped him squarely, the moment he completed his sentence. Adnan wasn’t prepared for it and fell down due to the blow. He got up on the knees and looked at his friend, hurt. Ilaaf was staring at him, his eyes bloodshot.
“Get lost from here. I hate you.” Ilaaf was hysterical.
“I am your best friend, Ilaaf. And you said you can’t live without me.” Adnan’s voice dripped with hurt.
“You’re not my friend. You backstabbed me.” Adnan wouldn’t have been more hurt if Ilaaf had shot him straight on the head. “You are the reason Qandeel left me. I hate you, just go away from here.” Ilaaf cried harder and Adnan too couldn’t hold back his tears, which he always scoffed at and called it women’s business and shameful for men.
Ilaaf bend down and started crawling as he had no strength left in him to walk.
“I ruined her. I orphaned her.” He was swaying on his feet. Adnan saw his body lurch forward, lifelessly.
“I even made her leave her home.” He couldn’t stand up now. Adnan reached for him but in vain. Ilaaf fell down and didn’t move. Adnan turned Ilaaf on his back and Ilaaf did not fight him back because he was unconscious now. Adnan tried to make him stand up but he felt very heavy. The truth was, Ilaaf’s condition had weakened Adnan not only mentally but also physically. He realized he would not be able to take Ilaaf hospital himself. He was crying again. He was looking for his cell phone in jeans pockets when two shadows came to him. They bent over Ilaaf, checking his condition. Adnan recognized them; they were Yusuf Mairaj’s friends but he couldn’t recall their names. He wondered why they were here.
“What happened to Ilaaf?” The elder one asked.
“He is injured and unconscious.”
“We should immediately take him to hospital, sir. Ilaaf is in very poor condition.” The other man said after checking Ilaaf’s pulse.
The older man nodded his agreement and inquired about Adnan’s car.
“It’s parked outside the street.” Suddenly he remembered their names. He was feeling better now.
Together they lifted him and gently put him on the backseat of Adnan’s car. Kamran Ali sat with Ilaaf in the back while Hamza Shahid rode in the passenger seat, beside Adnan. Hamza Shahid requested Adnan to drive to specific hospital. Adnan was in much control and he could take Ilaaf to the hospital of his choice but he didn’t object to Hamza Shahid’s request. And besides, they came to help him in his dire need. They asked a few questions about Ilaaf. They talked as if they were acquainted with Adnan, which was surprising for him. And then Hamza Shahid’s magnetic personality was also taking its effect over him. He felt like he was under a spell.
They reached the hospital. Ilaaf was put on a gurney and taken to ER because Hamza Shahid had already phoned the hospital. Adnan had the impression that the personnel there was familiar with him. Doctors attended to Ilaaf and they were sent out of Emergency. They took the chairs in the hallway and waited.
Adnan was troubled by Ilaaf’s condition. And he would never have been able to forgive himself if anything had happened to him. It took seconds and his whole being transformed into prayer, for Ilaaf’s safety. Adnan was never before so tired in his life.
He looked up at the sound of hurried footsteps.
“Oh Usman, thank God you’re here. Please ask these doctors to hurry in whatever they are doing to Ilaaf.” Hamza Shahid rushed towards Dr. Usman the moment he saw him. Dr. Usman told him to calm down and went inside ER.
Every second was agonizing for Adnan.
The door to ER swung open and Dr. Usman came towards them.
“I’m shifting him to ICU. He’s not catching up with the treatment.” He looked worried.
“Doctor – what is wrong with Ilaaf?” Adnan inquired, all tense.
“He has been suffering from major depression. I will be able to report more if I get his medical history. He’s injured and that’s hindering us in treatment so we’re shifting him to ICU.” Dr. Usman patiently explained to him.
“It will go away, no?” Adnan seemed to be on the edge of breaking down.
“Relax young man, Inshallah he’ll be alright. He’s got a major attack and it will take him days to recover from it but he will be alright.” Dr. Usman reassured him.
Hamza Shahid & Kamran Ali stood with Adnan and tried to comfort him. Adnan saw a stranger talking on a phone and that reminded him to inform Qaiser uncle about Ilaaf’s condition.
He called uncle and told him about till Ilaaf’s hospitalization. Qaiser uncle was in the city by this time and he said he’ll visit him. Adnan gave him hospital name and held his position of a sentinel in the corridor.
He would occasionally look inside through the thick glass window on the ICU door and wish that Ilaaf could get up even if just to slap him or scream at him. Adnan wanted to cry but no tears came. It felt so desolating.
“Ilaaf, bro I want to see you walking & talking again. I don’t care what you do to me. If you think I wronged you, I am the culprit then fine beat me to the pulp and I would stand still, just get up, I beg you.” Adnan watched Ilaaf and implored him in his heart.
He saw Dr. Usman coming out of the room and came towards him.
“There’s no danger regarding Ilaaf’s condition. We only need to keep him in strict observation. The time he takes to come in consciousness will determine the course for the doctors.” Adnan was visibly relieved to hear these words. “I think you should go home now. And it will be good if you could bring me his medical history.”
“You will have it, Doctor.” Adnan complied and came out of the hospital along with Hamza Shahid and Kamran Ali. They asked him to drop them at Qandeel’s home to get their car. Adnan decided he’ll send one of his men tomorrow to bring Ilaaf’s car to home.
When Adnan told Hamza Shahid that Qaiser Lashari would visit the hospital, he instructed Adnan not to tell him about their involvement in this matter. Though it was an unusual request yet Adnan couldn’t say no. In fact he also wanted to inquire about Qandeel but couldn’t bring up the courage to do so.
Fajr prayers were being called when he dropped the men at Qandeel’s home. Adnan sped towards Ilaaf’s place; he needed to ask Fazal a few things. He was well aware that there’s no medical history of Ilaaf because he had never had the need to be hospitalized. Fazal confirmed this and Adnan was heading back to the hospital because Qaiser Uncle was soon arriving there.
There was a cavity in his chest even on this bright day.
He claimed that he loved Ilaaf yet he never tried to understand his friend’s true feelings. Ilaaf was in major depression for a month now, and he was unaware of what his dearest friend was going through. He was disgusted at himself. He always assumed that this infatuation is temporary and Ilaaf will get over it soon. He never even tried to understand the depth of the feelings of his friend.
And Qandeel – he thought – if only he knew what she truly means to him, he would have put his goddamn personal opinions aside and wouldn’t have done what he did. He was the sole reason of his dearest friend’s anguish, and he never bothered to think about that. Adnan was perturbed. It was so unbearable just to reflect upon what he had done to his friend, and Ilaaf never complained. These reflections were getting too much for Adnan. The man who had never used his heart was overwhelmed by this hazard, and when he couldn’t take anymore he switched on the radio to smother the mental lashing.
A sweet song was playing on the radio waves and he let the voice fill the car.
“Isey tum dil lagi samjho magar hai zindagi pyarey,
Isey tum unkahi keh lo magar hai banndagi pyarey…”
Adnan’s mind swam in these words and he didn’t try to resist it.
“kabhi socho to ye jano,
Muhabbat khwab lagti hai,
Mager ye ik haqiqat hai…”
The one thing he now believed with all his heart was that love is not an ephemeral insignificant thing. And that, this unexplainable powerful asset held the world intact.