Lovers

In a dark corner of Jubilee Market, a young man in his late twenties fumbles with his keys, trying to unlock the door to an abandoned shop. The fact that the lock is rusting into oblivion isn’t helping either. The yowl of a stray cat echoes faintly in the nearly empty street.

“How much longer, Saad?”

His face contorts at the sound of her voice. He puts on his best happy face before turning around to face a visibly perturbed Ayesha. Her burqa is dusty from the long walk and her hands are fidgeting, either from fear or excitement, he didn’t really know—or care. The full moon is the only source of light in the narrow Saddar lane, bathing in the darkness of the late night load-shedding hours.

He moves close to her, leaving the keys dangling in the hole.

“It’s gonna be okay Jaan, don’t you trust me?” He says, tenderly touching her cheek. His tone reflecting impatience more than comfort.

“You are so close to freedom, don’t let fear stop you now” he tries his best to feign solace. He was good at that, after all, this wasn’t his first time. She isn’t convinced, but a forced smile proves to be enough of an assurance. He finishes the act with a nod and gets back to the lock.

A knot starts forming in Ayesha’s stomach. Most of the initial adrenaline rush had died out not more than half an hour after she had eloped with Saad. The excitement was being gradually replaced by panic ever since.

Her eyes fly towards her suitcase and her grip on the handle tightens. She can see through its fraying exterior, all that she had packed. She can see her sequined dresses folded delicately in one corner. The seven velvet-covered boxes are stacked in the other corner, bearing most of her jahez gold. Her mother had collected as much as her unfortunate family could manage for her shaadi. They had had such high hopes from a girl who would eventually lead to become a disgrace to the family name. The leather purse is sitting hidden in one of her kurtas, carrying ninety-eight thousand and five hundred rupees in cash. Saad had told her to bring all that she could manage—after all you can’t start a family without enough money.

Her knuckles stick out from holding the handle too tight. Tiny beads of perspiration start forming on her forehead. Suddenly a life of freedom doesn’t seem as attractive as she had imagined. She wanted to go crawling back into her safe bed. All her father’s strict curfews and her brothers’ beatings seemed better than standing in the middle of nowhere. But it’s too late now, she thought.

The creaking of the door snaps her out of her thoughts. She looks up to see Saad, one hand beckoning her to come inside, the other reaching for her suitcase. She hurries into the shop and an awful stench of rotting flesh and stale blood greets her.

While she’s busy keeping down her last meal, outside the premises of this reeking hell, Saad stands running his greedy hands over the suitcase, lust drips from his eyes. Oh what lengths he goes through every time to feed the monster inside of him—to keep it content and satisfied. If only this one also goes smoothly, and he may quiet the monster for the next few months. Until he finds another girl. He remembers the girl–she can’t find out. Not now. He spins around, only to his relief, to find her gagging in a corner. She still doesn’t see, stupid bitch. A chuckle, inaudible to Ayesha, leaves his mouth.

He carefully lifts the suitcase and drags it into the shop, cautiously locking the door behind him, making the least possible noise. Its pitch black inside, but he has been here too many times to know where everything sits. His hand slides across the wall and finds the rechargeable bulb. He turns it on and the shop is filled with a blinding white light.

The “furniture” is distinguishable now. A small plastic table sits in the center, surrounded with three chairs. A metal shelf with three levels stands on one corner. A dirty white cloth, with stains which look like paan spits, is carelessly draped over it. Next to the shelf is a ripped black leather chair— like the ones you would see in barber shops. A small door in the opposite corner is ajar revealing a plastic bucket placed below a dis-balanced basin.

Ayesha turns slowly, giving an uncertain look to him. Her hand is covering half of her face with the edge of her dupatta, in an attempt to block the putrid smell.

“Saad—”

“I know it isn’t much–” he cuts in, moving closer “–but now you are here jaan. You can turn this place into paradise.” He leans in, leaving a few inches between his body and hers. His hand slides to her waist and snakes up her back where her bra would clasp. She stiffens and wriggles out of his grip. He had never touched her like this before. Saad is taken aback. She can’t refuse him. He owns her now.

“What’s the matter? Don’t you love me?”

“I want to wait till the nikkah” She says in the bravest voice she could manage, which comes out as a whimper.

“What?” His lips turn into an ugly smirk. “You want to wait till nikkah? I see.” This could have ended in less pain if she would have just played along. The monster inside him stirred. How dare she refuse. She had annoyed him.

He runs a hand along his beard and in a sudden calculated movement, slaps her across the face as hard as his masculine ego could allow.

She let’s out a wail, toppling face down on the floor. Tears start welling up in her petrified eyes. Blood starts dripping down her nose. She finds herself unable to move– paralyzed by the happenings of the moment. Paralyzed by fear of what she had been warned against.

He straightens his shirt, walks up to the shelf and lifts the cloth just a little producing a greasy dented plastic cold drink bottle and a cheap chipped cup.

Ayesha finally finds the strength to get up. She turns and watches him in disbelief, her sobs making it very hard to stay still. This is the man she has decided to spend her entire life with. No. This is the man she had decided to run away with. Regret starts setting in. Her eyes dart to the suitcase in the corner. What had she done.

“You must be thirsty” he says in his usual soothing voice, only this time she can actually sense deceit.

He advances on her while unscrewing the bottle and pouring into the cup. That menacing, evil smile was starting to emerge from under that cloak of charm he would always wear.

“Here. Drink up.” he thrusts the cup at her. She knew that tone. That’s how her brothers would sound whenever she would tell them she wanted to go to the park alone. Scarred from previous abuse, she knows better to quietly obey.

She looks down at it and a chill runs down her spine. It isn’t water. The surface of the liquid dances from the ripples created by her trembling hand. Her head flings up at Saad, then at the suitcase in the corner, and then at the locked door. He had left no way out.

“DRINK!”

She jumps at this change of tone, the cup flies to her lips and empties into her mouth, before she has the chance to react. A lump forms in her throat as she gulps down the drug. The warnings of her brothers start ringing in her ears. Oh how she had cursed at them for not believing in love. Love. She wanted to spit in the name of love. He had sounded so charming when he was promising her a life of freedom and independence and relief. All those fantasies of marrying and having kids with Saad are playing in the back of her mind, mocking at her. They had always seemed so beautiful.

She finds her eyelids getting heavy. Her head is spinning but everything feels lighter. All panic is slowly dissolving. Maybe this can be her paradise. Maybe she can be free here. Free with Saad and his love. Nobody can come in their way. She looks at him. He can free her, just like he had promised. The cup drops from her limping hand.

A smile of greedy satisfaction is perched on Saad’s face, as he unzips his jeans. A smile of promised relief is perched on Ayesha’s face, as she drifts into sweet unconsciousness.

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Deserted

It’s chaos in my head
It’s heaven in my head
It’s green trees in my head
It’s deserted, my head
But if you unsheathe your eyes maybe
You’ll find melting pearls instead
Will you then dare
Pay a visit one day
I’ve got a table set for two
And I’ve got cakes and hot tea too
I never run out, they never run cold
Because once you come, you’ll know
In my head is chaos, heaven and trees
But there is no air, and you can’t breathe
The fire of desire, it burns malignantly
Unquenched with all the soul it breathes
Will you then dare pay a visit
Come have a picnic in my head one day
Deception is an art
Mastered by my heart
Unsheathe your eyes
And maybe you’ll see
It’s chaos in my head
It’s hell in my head
Its thorns in my head
Its deserted, my head.

Sinner

A sniff
Of bliss
Ecstasy
They had said
I’d be free
Lord?
Do you hear me?
Now I sin
Do you see?
I have women
And I breathe
What you forbid
And I drink
To spite
The Supreme
Do you see?
They had said
That you’d see
Once I leave
To follow
The devil’s decree
But the only eyes that look my way
Are his, whom You had cast away
And Yours my Lord,
They turn away
Do you not see?
The path I walk
Should set me free
Transgression soothes my burning brain
And keeps the blood from running stale
So I sin and I sin
Again and again
And they say and say
“We’ll set you free”
A life of bliss
They have promised me
But why does the All-Knowing never see?
They trick pure hearts
Into misery

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brave

Sarah had always been scared of almost everything. The dark, her closet, her teacher, Father, speeding cars, the back of her house, clowns, noisy parks, spiders, you name it. And every single person she had been fortunate enough to meet in her short 14 years of life, would make it a point to remind her of that.

And they would always laugh. Everyone would laugh. Everyone would mock. Everyone, especially Hassan.

Sarah had always been a wimpy little girl— but tonight she had been brave. Tonight, she was not afraid of anything. Not of the dark in Hassan’s room. Nor of Mother’s silver knife. Or of the blood mushing in her soft hands, or the intestines spilling from Hassan’s torn stomach. Or the metallic stench of blood running stale. Or the pool of red at her feet. Nothing scared her, not tonight.

Sarah had always been called names, but after her feat of bravery, nobody would. Nobody would mock. Nobody would laugh. Nobody, especially Hassan.

Hiccups

Remember how Mother would say every time we’d get hiccups, that somewhere somebody must be thinking of you, or missing you, or talking of you. And at the mention of their name, the hiccups will stop. She’d say the hiccups serve as a reminding-tool, making us keep our loved ones in our hearts forever, never letting us forget them.

Well, I sit here tonight in the cold of your abandoned room, my face buried in a pillow, wet with tears and blood. The soft muffling my sobs. Your rusting blade is in my hand, speckled with blood that’s been running stale now. It’s 3 am and I’ve been thinking of you. Fresh warm scarlet is trickling down my arms. Have those hiccups come yet? I miss you. Your memories are poisoning my present. Everyday they grow and consume my sanity inch by inch.

Have those hiccups come already? Have you taken my name yet?  They tell me to forget you. How can I? They tell me you’re in a better place. Is that true? Then why would you leave me in such misery? You haven’t forgotten your big sister have you? Why don’t those hiccups come? I’m going mad maybe, for expecting you to think of me. Yes, I must be going mad, expecting corpses to hiccup and speak.

 

What drives us to live (ft. The awkward walkout)

 You know those rare moments, when you’re sitting in your class stifling yawns throughout the entire lecture, and suddenly you catch your teacher say something really deep, and you feel your brain snap and whir, as it tries to incorporate that beautiful piece of wisdom into one of its dusty corners called “deep-shit-to-remember-for-when-life-is-being-a-pain-in-the-neck”?

Yeah no me neither.

Anyway, this reminded me of the time I made a fool out of myself. Our Community Medicine teacher (yes we study that. God help me through this semester though) had said something really controversial, and of course, I had to step in.

“The only motivation for living is sexual desire” says our CM teacher.

Wow.

I actually zoned out for a couple of minutes as I tried to think of all (or any) kinds of counter arguments. This was not true, right? It couldn’t have been. Is this the purpose of life then? Finding the right mating partners? The rest of the lecture was a blur as I prepare myself for this tempting debate.

What about that woman who, blinded by her motherhood, is ready to kill for her child if the circumstances force her to. If she were to chose between her husband/lover and her child, she’d never let go of the kid.

What about that soldier who has left his wife and kids to fight someone else’s battles. His return is never guaranteed and he knows that. He won’t have any women there to fill the gap left by his wife (hopefully), but he still chooses imminent death over love.

What about monks and sufis and nuns who give up every worldly desire to find Him. They don’t want anything more in life than pleasing and witnessing the Creator. How can you ignore this pure, selfless dedication.

And what about our passions and aspirations that motivate us to live when we lose all will to continue with life. These goals have the power to blind you so much so that “sexual desires” might not even cross your mind!

Also, if you think about it, a serial killer who feels satisfaction in his job has his motivations, even if they’re kinda sick (sorry I’ve been binging on Dexter lately).

Anyway, the point is, saying sex drives men is like putting humans and  animals in the same category. I had to talk to the teacher about this (a very stupid decision as you’ll learn later).

So the next day, I muster up the courage and go to said teacher’s office. I had already rehearsed my argument (yes, including the dramatic pauses, in case you’re wondering). I knock on her door and the peon lets me in.

“Assalamoalaikum Miss, I wanted to discuss something you said the other day” I started.

“Yes beta what is it”

“You said that sexual drive is what motivates men to live, I don’t think that is entirely true though. How can you ignore all the other forms of passionate motivations like —”

“Beta, which lecture are you talking about?”

“Uh the one with the uh…which was on last Monday I think.”

Don’t interrupt me woman, I practiced this shit too hard.

 

“Beta, I never meant humans” —you could see the mocking evil smile slowly creeping upon her face— “I was talking about animalistic instincts and how humans are NOT animals, which was the whole point of that discussion. Weren’t you paying attention?”

“Oh”

And then I did something really sensible. I turned around and almost ran out of the office.

Mental note#1: pay more attention in class.

Mental note#2: think before embarrassing yourself in front of other people

Mental note #3: cut back a bit on Dexter.