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Running Away (Chapter 4)

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Fakhir? Him? I was guilty of betraying a man who loved me, but I was betrayed by the love of my life too. Isn’t that how the world works? Fake promises and empty words? Not revealing the true motives behind anything and not being sincere to anyone? I questioned God’s existence when I abandoned him. Did I kill God in that moment or was he already dead when I became what Akram was by betraying Fakhir?

Betrayal? I betrayed and got betrayed and I know how it cripples you. Trusting someone so much that in the end, you forget how to feel anymore. Being at the top of the world and someone pushes you. Speed, darkness and coldness embracing you. Gravity calling you back to your roots such that when you fall, you don’t fall on the surface where you once started the journey from, but instead, you sink 10 inches deeper into the core with no way of escape.

 It was my 6th month in Jahaan ara’s kotha and by now I was devoid of any emotion and my identity was no more than of an insect in the bitter dirty pit of the earth. I had by now admitted the fact that I was to die in the kotha and my coffin was to be carried out from here. Ironic how it was all true but instead of being in a coffin I was going to be dumped in the sewers.

“And in the stars that fill the sky

In the sun that shines so bright

In our stars that have aligned

I would say a million times

That

I LOVE YOU”

This poem of his echoed in my mind, crashing and tumbling across the barriers of pain and I realized that even in agony, I was smiling. My naive poetic lover and his magical words, the sole person who made me smile till the end. It’s strange how sometimes when a stranger meets another stranger, they fall into the pit of attachment so deeply that even the risks seem of no danger.

“Hi! You seem awfully down”, I remembered he said to me when he first came to me in the kotha.

I looked up from my bed at the shadow of a boy in his 20’s, neatly dressed, resembling those rich lads I sometimes saw in Lahore’s posh malls on my visit with Akram. On our first encounter I was rude.

”Don’t be nice, just get it over with and leave!” I was angry but amused at the same time because up till now none of my clients had ever talked to me that way.

“I’m not being nice. Anyways, my name is Fakhir! And you are?”

I was astonished, since nobody had asked me my name here before.

“Dur-e-Shahwaar” I responded. I remember a certain feeling, as if something in me was blooming from the decay again and I switched on the lights to get a good view of this “Fakhir”.

A tall young man with small eyes and a bit of plump cheeks and a button nose was standing in front of me. This was odd since boys like him don’t ever come to places such as these, unless they belong to the blue collar community.

“Nice! I’ll call you Durre! Mind if I sit?” he asked me.

“Sure, sit. You paid for it and I owe you.”

He sat in the front chair and I noticed that he had a charming yet sinful grin on his face. Something awfully attractive and devilishly charming in his ways. He ran his hand through his puff every now and then.

“Relax! I’m not going to do anything so you better calm down that anger. I paid for the night, don’t worry. I may stay or leave, don’t know about that.” And he lit a smoke.

“You don’t know? That’s a first.” I replied because this was all confusingly amusing and then he told me.

Fakhir’s father was the senator and his mother a human rights activist. His parents were divorced and since Fakhir was the sole child, one can imagine how spoiled he was. His parents wanted him to become a civil servant but since he was more into arts and poetry, he had made a plan on how to make his parents succumb to what he wanted. His “bachi”, inferring that he had a lover, had left him for another man ever since he denounced being in the government service and, caught with a broken heart, some friends recommended him to come at the kotha.

“To heal a broken heart, you replace the void a person created with a new someone”, he said.

“But I’m a whore, there should be a difference. No?” I replied.

“Does it matter? I just want to talk. I’m not going to touch you; I respect women. Besides, I have a lot on my heart and mind that I want to talk about and you’re the perfect person to listen to my rant.” he said, laughing cheekily.

A typical line that some men used on me before. Well, many did and asked me about myself and how I ended up in the trade, but I always remained quiet since I knew how strict Jahaan ara was towards females who interacted with the customers, beating them up and taking their food away for days.

That first night he talked and talked about himself, which was sweet in a way because he gave my opinions the same importance. This was all sparingly strange but nice, because it had been long since I was given importance or in the true sense of the word, respect.

“It was nice meeting you Durre. I had fun talking. I’ll come again.”

To which I nodded, since all the men who came here said the same thing and left. It was 6 am when he left the first day, that too when someone knocked on the door since the business was now closing and the police was here to collect their share of the income.

The next night I heard loud music playing from outside the kotha; some woman had given birth to two twin girls and all the pimps in the muhala were celebrating. I learnt here that girls carry more importance than men in the trade. Someone knocked on the door and I sat up for my first customer of the night, anticipating that it was Fakhir for some reason. But to my dismay it was a man wanting his 20 minutes of pleasure.

After he left, I remained in bed for a while. My head was aching badly. Suddenly, there was another knock on the door. I didn’t have the strength to look up and I buried my head in the pillow.

“Hi there Durre!” and with that sound I sat up straight. It was him. Involuntarily, I replied “you’re late!” and he laughed.

 “You were waiting for me?” responded he with a smirk.

Realizing that I had shown emotional leakage, I responded “No! What was your name again mister?”

He gave out a loud laugh “Yeah! Right, tell me am I not your heart’s beat now? A familiar stranger to you? You met me yesterday but why is it hard to not expect a light to shine in your heart’s dark halls.” Said he.

“Come ‘on, your poetic charms shall not work here mister Ghalib.” I replied and he laughed again.

Eventually, his frequent visits at the kotha became regular, and after some months, I realized that I used to wait for him to come. He used to read me poetry of Rumi and Hafez, bring me gifts every now and then and talk about his life- family, friends and the struggle of becoming something big. Days passed, months went by and now I was habitual to see him. Even if I had customers, I would somehow make time for “him”. This wasn’t love, but a certain attachment, a fondness for this man.

Then one day, sitting on my bed, he was reciting the poem “The Joy That Wounds” by Rumi, and his hand touched my face to put the strand of hair I had on my cheek behind my ear. His hand stopped for a moment and in that eye contact, I felt my pulse racing. We were eternal in that moment with his lips against mine, his hands sealed in mine, skin to skin and bone to bone. His exhale was my inhale and the eternal bliss made time stop….

 I didn’t see him for 2 days after that, and in his remoteness I felt my heart dying again. Maybe he wanted his “20 minutes” after all. I could hear my heart calling out for its beloved and it involuntarily cried, the ruined land bloomed once again only to be ruined again, and then he came. Our intimacy carried its form every now and then. I really didn’t mind because pleasure is what I owed him and he paid for. This continued for several months, him and me, till one evening, I felt I was awfully sick. My stomach was upset and I vomited every now and then and my head felt heavy. Jahaan ara took me to the doctor who had a clinic nearby and then the news struck me like thunder. I was pregnant. I knew whose child it was, it belonged to Fakhir. Jahaan ara was happy all the way. She even brought me fruits on my way back and eagerly revealed that she prayed it was a girl, but to me, this news was like a bullet in my dead heart. How could I give birth to a child where I am now? I would be its culprit, bringing it in this world to be called only a “harami”, with no father at all. Would Fakhir even own this child? Who would treat this child with respect? The society shuns us and our illegitimate children behind the walls of religion and morals. What if it was a girl? Would she see the same fate as I did in this place? Would she earn for Jahaan ara too and never see daylight? Millions of questions came to my mind and I planned on breaking the news to Fakhir when he came.

I remember breaking the news to him and how a pulse of joy spread over his face, like those kids in the candy shop. He kissed my temple and took full charge of it all. He was excited and ready to take full responsibility of the child’s expenses but I stopped him for now and told him not to talk to Jahaan Ara about it. Day by day I started to notice a change in him. He used to hate it if he came and I had customers, and suddenly became possessive till one day, the possessiveness hit its peak and he didn’t look the same. He looked like a man suddenly grown up and with an aim.

“I want you to come with me Durre. Leave this, I’ll accept you for who you are. Just come with me, please” Said he.

My heart had been slaughtered once by the hands of a cruel butcher, and I wasn’t going to fall for the lies again. The less hope for my soul, the better it is.

“I can’t come with you. You were a customer and that’s that. My husband sold me here, why should I even trust you? Now leave! I have other people waiting.”

“Let me just take you away! I’m not Akram and we’ll run away. You’re having my child Durre and I love you!”

“RUN AWAY? You love me?” I laughed. The wound on my heart bled again. “Running away?? I’ve been butchered once, not again. Go! Run! Don’t you ever come back. I don’t want this child. I don’t want this baby to grow up and meet an atrocious future.” I realized that I was screaming.

“I’ll be back tomorrow, think about it Durre. Please?” He said and went away.

 I lurched to my bed, thinking about it all. Customers came and went. The whole night I regretted and pondered over how I treated Fakhir, and then it hit me. I can use Fakhir to escape now, can’t I? I don’t want this child, but this is the only way he’ll accept me. I could get away from this place once and for all. He loved me and I didn’t, but it’s not necessary to love back when loved. Why not just escape and give him the baby when it’s born? Then I could be free. Thoughts clustered in my mind and by the next morning, I had made up my mind to go with him. Plans for leaving him when I was out of this place or maybe staying were all for the future, and my focus was on the present, on running away from the kotha. I thought over it again and again being dual minded and, at night, Fakhir came again……

TO BE CONTINUED

here are the previous parts

http://wp.me/p2DY5k-4P part 1
http://wp.me/p2DY5k-4Z part 2
http://wp.me/p2DY5k-5z Part 3

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Running Away (Chapter 3)

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With every touch of his I died infinite deaths. It lasted 20 minutes but those 20 minutes had wounded my heart and soul so badly that I knew that these scars will forever get deeper and lethal but never cease to bleed. I was Akram’s and the concept of one love was engraved in my mind like a carving on a stone that being touched by another man; being the object of his pleasure seemed not wrong but all together hateful. Being a woman I knew I was weak, what’s the point in fighting all these people now when my sole weapon, my knight had abandoned me. He left me at the pity of these vultures and all those promises of “dying together”; “living together” meant nothing but shallow words. The man who is dressing in front of me will be replaced by another soon or maybe tomorrow night. They will come and go and I shall be the object of their pleasure. I was completely dead of feelings, like a vessel that possessed not emotions but only a beat.

“Don’t you have a wife?” I asked the man as he was now wearing his shoes “I do, I have 3 kids too.”

“Why would you come here if you have a wife?”

He laughed a mocking laugh! “Because I’m a man pyaari, and a man’s appetite can never be satisfied.”

“Do you not feel like this is lying? Cheating her love?”

“Pyaari, what she doesn’t know is neither a lie nor cheating, and as for coming here, well! I can pleasure myself on any woman I like with no strings attached. Money will get you pleasure, that’s what I have learnt and pleasure is a woman’s body, why stick to the same old hag when I can have kaali’s (flower buds) like you.”

“But this is a sin, don’t you fear Allah?” I said, almost about to shed tears.

“Pyaari, sin is not what Allah decides it to be in this world, it’s what people decide it to be and most importantly what powerful men decide it to be.”

And with that he grabbed his wallet from the dresser and left. I realized that it’s a man’s world after all; denouncing all the chains that prevented me from progressing when I was home now I finally came to face the reality that it is men who decide a woman’s fate, men who can build them up and break them down. I burst into tears on the bed and after a while staggered to the bathroom in the right corner of the room. I could hear the rickshaws from outside, women flirting with men that passed by, children crying, loud Bollywood music playing from dance performances being held in this kotha, customers negotiating for 20 minutes of pleasure. I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair a mess and my kajal now parched under the eyes and cheeks. The woman I saw in the mirror wasn’t me! Couldn’t be! The woman I saw before me was an insult to the 16 year old Dur-e -shahwar…playing in the fields with her sister, helping ama jaan in the kitchen, those under the tree gossips with friends, those little half-witted jokes with siblings. That was the Dur-e-shahwar I was not the one I saw before me who was betrayed by her lover, deceived in the name of love and happily ever after and now just an object of contentment for white collar men working 9 to 5 jobs, presenting a noble and upright image in the society and being morally virtuous when in reality they were men who cheated, lied, faked their every move and every word just so they can earn and spend it on earthly pleasure. Fearing God in front of people and denouncing him in heart.

The blood trickling down my legs was his lone possession in me and now it was deceased, and soon I shall depart too from here. I heard Jahaan ara talking to Akram “better let her bleed it out and die, we’ll soon bury her. No use of women who betray the trade in my kotha.” It’s painful when the life inside you is dying and soon you know your time is near. To escape from this hell I took two lives with me but proved worthless. “AAAAAAAGH!!” I let out a painful cry as I knew that my unborn was now dead, my only hope died and drained running out through me..

Woman was created from a Man’s rib, to be protected and sheltered but then I wondered what caused men to trade her, to use her, to manipulate her like that? To deceive her, cheat her. He told me he loved me then why the suffering? I spent my days locked in the room. Girls in the house used to come and call me; tried talking to me but the dead don’t talk now do they? They don’t communicate that’s why they are called dead and so was I. At night men came and went, from businessmen to bureaucrats to lawyers and blue collar men. I became the substance of their bliss. I became what I was today by a man, they made love, talked and even complimented me but I know that during the daylight hours if I encountered anyone of my 20 minute lover they will refuse to recognize me. If society is what made girls like us then why shun us down? Why is it a taboo and refuse to acknowledge it when it was them who made us in the first place? But these are the questions that can never be answered nor will they ever be….

“Whores like you deserve to die! Running away with that lover boy of yours now eh? Remember those who join the trade never escape until death. What was his name again? Speak! Speak you dirty hoe” as Akram kicked my face and I could feel blood trickling down my nose. “Fakhir” as I managed to utter breathlessly. Akram grabbed my face and spitted on it. “No man can help you escape; my lads and I took care of your majnu!” And then memories of Fakhir came storming like waves against rocks in my mind…

To be continued….

Running Away (Chapter 2)

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Running Away (Part 2)

Do you know what they do to girls that run away from home? They kill them in the name of honor so I had no choice of going back and the future seemed bleak. Akram’s behavior deteriorated rapidly, I was now being compared to whores who run away, and ironically I didn’t realize I would soon become one.

“AAAAHHH DIE ALREADY” he screamed as he kicked my stomach once more and the intensity of my pain grew stronger and it was getting harder for me to breathe and at that moment I knew my end was very near. Life is all about impact and how those impacts change it forever and so one day my already crumbling world suddenly came crashing down to the ground. It was June 16 2005 I remember when it happened; he took me to the place where I would suffer an eternity. We went out in the rickshaw and ended up in a shabby area with the gutters full, rotting garbage and half naked children barely clean visible on the sidewalk. The building were tall, fungus inflicted and smelled of piss and paan. Meet Jahaan Ara as he introduced me to a plum faced women with a grin on her face and chewing her paan, her eyeliner thick and smudged. She wore a dark shade of red lip color and a red and golden tight fitted shalwar kameez. It appeared as if she was trying to regain the beauty she once possessed in her youth. We greeted and sat down, my heart raced and I felt that something was not right about where I was; but I had Akram with me so why worry. The woman left after a while and Akram explained how he had work out of city and as I cannot stay alone in a new city this is her aunt that I have to stay with till he comes back. Relief overwhelmed me and I knew I had nothing to worry about, I was safe.

As soon as he left other women came out of their rooms and now I was surrounded by 8 to 7 women who showered me with questions and comment; I got confused “she’s a pretty one” said one “is she the new one?” said another while the youngest among them all or as she appeared to be asked “where are you from?” “Such long hair and big eyes” commented another. “Get away from her!”, screamed Jahaan Arra from behind and silence befell the small crowd around me. “Come! Let me show you your room” and the crowd dispersed with the same momentum as it had gathered. I was taken to a small room with no windows in the farther corner was placed a bed and a dressing table next to it, “sleep for a while you have a busy night ahead” I really didn’t get what she meant by it but the humid made me more exhausted and I dozed off for a while.

*knock* *knock* and the door opened, “wake up sleeping beauty” said Jahan araa in a canny tone “what time is it?” I inquired with my eyes half open still consumed in slumber “business time” said she and at that moment I sat up straight all my sleep vanished in a second. “What business?” “Don’t you know darling, I own you now! What did you think that I was going to cater you? I bought you in 1 lac so get ready and try putting some makeup on, the customers will be coming any moment.”

My heart sank and my stomach tightened I struggled to breath, I wanted to scream but in vain. Now I knew what a broken heart felt like, how it ached and bled, how forever now till my last breath it will continue to bleed a river so deep that its origin will never run out. Akram abandoned me, my hope my love lost! He sold a love so divine for earthly means and I acknowledged that and our silent intimacy was the deadliest form of lust experienced. What he had was lust what I had was love; it was a funny concept. I lay in the dark, voices being heard from outside and my will to live had gone. Another knock on my door and a shadow entered behind her was Jahaan arra “Get up!” “look at this big eyed beauty, just got her today hazoor and for you special price 65 thousand no more or less” the silhouette of the man now became clear and I saw a man in his 40’s wrinkled and puffy face, small eyes and half bald and he spoke “Jahaan arra I have been coming here since youth, she is not even a virgin, make the deal in 50 thousand and let me have this beauty” I could see his yellow teeth cigarette stained and purple lips under the dim light as he took out a bundle of money and handed it out to her, she smiled and thanked him “enjoy hazoor, don’t be so hard on the little flower now” as she closed the door behind and the man leapt forward towards me a sudden pain went across my heart and I found god in my broken heart…

TO BE CONTINUED

Part one can be read here http://wp.me/p2DY5k-4P

Running Away (Chapter 1)

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“Akram!” It is said that when a person is dying, his life flashes before his eyes, and only then is he able to see his true purpose in this world. My life? It flashed in front of me with a single word and that was “Akram”.  My whole universe summed up into this 5 letter word. I could feel the blood pouring down my legs and now soaking the end of my shalwar, the pain travelling from my vertebrae and spreading through my whole body. Excruciating; like a thousand needles poking in me and making there way to the other side. I wish death would embrace me by now but I guess fate has something else in plan like it always does. Akram still stood there smoking his local Dunhill with a sinful grin on his face just like the first day I saw him in the lucky Irani circus of our village. The same grace of an unfaithful bastard which, at that time, I didn’t really know now did I? And as a hormonally rushed teen, barely 16 and never having stepped out of her village, the butterflies in my stomach were a new feeling which I had never gotten before, and now those memories come back.  Like shooting cannonballs, they exploded, and with each explosion the grip on my stomach hardened and my heart died.

I was 16 when I saw him in the village. We were 7 sisters and had no brother, which made my father resent us all very much and we became constant objects of his disdain. Having a male in the family does make a difference, but where I am today, giving birth to a female was more acceptable. I saw him in the circus and there, I instantly knew from the way he looked that I was head over heels in love with him. The circus stayed for 2 months and in those two months, I fell more and more deeply in love with him, until it was time for him to leave. Do you really know how it’s like to love someone with all your heart and soul and then let them go all of a sudden? Do you know how painful it gets? Like someone placed burning coal on your throat and with each breath, you find yourself nearer to death? That was me when I found out he had to leave in a week. Then he proposed me and my apparently crumbling world was up in the air again. Of course I said YES! Why wouldn’t I? And since I knew my parents wouldn’t agree, we planned to run away! Run away to the city and make our future. That night, I still remember not sleeping with excitement, dreaming hopelessly about the future we will have; two kids (didn’t matter what gender since I knew Akram was very open-minded compared to the men in our village), a small house, and at day he would go to work and I will wait for my beloved to come home, and at night when he’ll be home from a tiring day, I’ll make him dinner and watch him eat and then talk. Then, we’ll watch some television and I will later sleep in his arms. But life isn’t what you dream it out to be, and I was too naive to know that.

“Please help me!” I could feel then the end of my shirt getting wet too now, the blood oozing out and making its way to my skin, sticking to my clothes. The surrounding seemed blurry but I could see him standing there and cursing me, abusing me and my family. “Die already. I have business to take care off”. This is what I made out he said as I slowly felt my feet going numb.

……We came to the city with the money he had borrowed from the circus manager, and managed to get a small apartment in Lahore in the area Mughalpura. It was a one room apartment with a small opening and smelled of chicken because of the butcher’s shop downstairs. The apartment had a small kitchen with a cement shelf and a cabinet. The stove was on the ground. In the bedroom was a big window that looked out into the wall of the next apartment, and a small bed. But I felt like we could make it work and sure enough, the next two weeks were the happiest of my life. I was his queen and he was my king. We went out to Anarkali bazar and he bought me the same bangles I was wearing now and I was happier than I’d ever been until what started a few months ago.

The charm of love wears out eventually, you know? It’s a flame that eventually gives up and dies and then you are forced to make it work. This happened to us too and within 3 weeks it all died away and his behavior took a turn. From being my ever-loving Akram, he turned into a bastard who would get drunk, beat me up and abuse me. I used to think during that time that maybe, just maybe, I did things too fast and should’ve thought them over. When the beatings and the abuse got more brutal I wished I could go home but you do know what they do to girls that run away from home now don’t you?

TO BE CONTINUED