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
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