ASYA FF: Prem Kahani Hai Mushkil (Updated Ch. 130 Page 90 Oct. 11)(Page 7)

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Posted: 2015-06-26T12:39:31Z
Himmatein Ataa Karo, O Madadgaar, Maula

Chapter 9
 
At the Concierge Desk, Asad got the information about routes, distances, and the time it would take to reach Agra. He wanted them to be in Agra at least by that evening not wanting to drive at night. He called his office to reschedule some meetings, book hotel rooms in Agra, and have his driver reach there at the earliest.
His shoulder and neck muscles felt stiff. As he rotated his neck and stretched his arms, he felt a hand on his arm. He turned to see Tanu, and his hopeful and tentative half-smile slipped.
What was he thinking? 
Zoya never ever tried to touch him the way Tanu always tried to cling to him. For all his harsh words regarding her lack of manners and etiquette, Zoya, despite having been born and brought up in the US, was never touchy and feely with him or even Ayaan. She constantly hugged Ammi and Najma but never once tried to stand too close, or touch him, or hold his hand. The one time she had held his hand was to bandage it when he had cut himself. She seemed to intuitively sense people's personal boundaries and balance it with her genuine warmth and compassion. 
And, like an ass, he had made fun of her lack of boundaries and limits that night.
"Aapko apni hadein nahin pata hain," he had mocked her.
He half groaned in despair and self-loathing as every past word and action came to haunt him. How could he have been so blind and such a fool?
"Kya hua, Jammy? I know, your shoulders must be hurting after such a long drive. Yeh Ayaan aur Najma bhi, kaise bacchon ki tarah zidd kar rahe the. Why insist that we go to Agra? Aakhir humein nikaah ki taiyariyan bhi karni hain ghar ja kar." 
He pulled his arm from under her oppressive grip and said patiently, albeit somewhat resentfully, "It's OK Tanu, I'm fine. Aur main Ayaan aur Najma ki khushi ke liye kucch bhi kar sakta hoon."
She made a face. He was warning her, was he? Setting limits. 
You'll have to try much harder, Jammy. And even I know, you're too much of a gentleman to not give in to my plans for you.

As he looked away from her, suddenly Asad remembered the day Zoya had hugged him.
His hands fisted.
Heartbroken at not being able to find any clue about her father, she had blindly turned to him for comfort and like an idiot he had taken forever to hold and comfort her when she needed it most. He relived the sense of her soft body quaking against his as she wept bitterly. That day he had seen her defeated and beaten. More so than the first time at the dargah. 

He should have held her closer and tighter to ease her pain, brushed her hair off her forehead and wiped her tears with his thumbs. 
He had certainly wanted to. 
But that day he had taken far too long to fight against his desire to crush her in his arms, kiss her tears away, and never let her go. She had quickly disengaged herself and looked mortified and apologetic at having come so close to him. He couldn't help but compare her to Tanu and hated himself for not recognizing Zoya's kindness, strength, and integrity, sooner. 
Asad moved away to join his mother, and Tanu grimaced as she let her arm fall away from his.
Dilshad noticed this chilly exchange. I have to end this. I will not see my son live this way his whole life. I won't let him throw his life away for a mistake which I still refuse to believe he made.
Mind made up, she felt more cheerful today.
Allah would make things right.
 
They checked out of the hotel, loaded up the car, and piled in for a half-day's drive to Agra.
Ayaan stretched out and relaxed in the third row so that he could relieve Asad later. He lazily strummed his guitar. Najma turned around to look at him in delight. She was having the best time of her life. She hadn't spent so much time with Ayaan Bhaijaan and loved his playfulness and contrast to Asad Bhaijaan's seriousness. Such a great idea this was. The best road trip ever!
"Play something for us, Ayaan Bhaijaan," she urged.
Ayaan chuckled and said "sure, but I'm not too good. Bhaijaan is much better."
"I know," Najma piped up, "when you're driving then may be Bhaijaan can also play something for us. But right now please, koi accha gaana ho jaye."
Ayaan fiddled with the guitar self-importantly and then grinned and said, "OK, but only if you all join in."
He began with the song "Challa" from the film, "Jab tak hai jaan." 
Only Najma and Zoya knew some of the words so they joined him. Even he didn't know all the lyrics. Najma teased him.
Asad was relieved to see that Zoya was beginning to be more involved in Najma and Ayaan's antics. She smiled more these days.
After a few songs that Dilshad had never heard, she told Ayaan to at least play a song or two that she knew the words to.
"Kaun sa play karun badi Ammi?"
"How about this really sweet song, uthhe sab ke kadam dekho rum pum pum?' " 
But Ayaan hadn't heard that one.
"Oh I know an old song, and it's really fun." 
He started singing "Pyaar tumhein kis mod pe le ayaa" from "Satte pe Satta."
Dilshad slapped her forehead and shook her head tragically. But she laughed as Najma and Ayaan belted out the silliest lyrics.
She remembered bitter-sweetly when she had gone to see this film with Rashid. They were newly married then, and Rashid would sing this song in his besura voice later on, just to annoy her.
"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," she mused.
Ayaan was feeling more playful now.
 "Mona darling, can you play the guitar? You are so multi-talented," he kidded,  "I'm sure you can play at least four musical instruments."
Zoya smiled and shook her head, "no, Aapi wanted me to learn the piano and I did for four years. And yes, I can play a little guitar."
Ayaan's jaw dropped. He hadn't expected that answer.
Najma's excitement could not be contained. "Ooh," she jumped up and down in her seat, "now you have to play something for us."
Zoya started to protest, but Ayaan and Dilshad too begged her to play a little something for them.
Shyly she said, "I know only this one song well. It's my favorite and I used to think of it as my theme song." 
She laughed self-consciously.
Ayaan tried to hand her the guitar but sitting with two other people so closely was not going to work. She hoped that the seating arrangements would deter them and get her out of this mess. But she hadn't known the force known as Ayaan plus Najma. They squeaked and nagged and bleated till Asad had pulled over, and Ayaan had exchanged seats with Zoya.
She was mentally kicking herself for even telling him that she knew how to play the stupid guitar.
 
With everyone settled in, and the car on the move again, Ayaan and Najma turned around to look at her with twin puppy dog expressions.
And her heart lightened.
She laughed softly. "OK, OK, I'll do it. But I may be rusty. It's been a while. And, you all have to join in, or I'll feel too silly. I don't even know if I remember all the words."
Experimentally touching the strings she tested a few chords and hummed softly. Tentatively first, and then growing more confident, she sang her favorite song that Aapi had told her was also her Ammi's favorite song which she would sing to her as a baby.
"Aaane wala pal, jaane wala hai.
Ho sake to iss me, zindagi bita lo,
Pal yeh bhi jaane wala hai."
Dilshad turned around, surprised and mesmerized. She loved this song too! In fact, it was on one of the cassettes that Rashid had made for her.
Zoya's soft voice floated above them. It broke and caught in some places, but brought a smile to everyone's faces.
 
Asad's heart sank. 
He thought about her earlier words, "I used to think of it as my theme song." Had his indecisiveness and fears done even more damage? He remembered how that fateful night she had barged into his room to unburden herself, and how she had looked half-timid but still so self-assured.
These past few days he had seen her go completely silent and yet display a tragic kind of dignity and maturity, that a month ago he wouldn't have imagined her capable of.
He took his hand off the steering wheel and pressed his knuckles tightly against his lips. He ground his lips against his teeth unconsciously punishing himself and breathed a heavy sigh. He couldn't believe the irony of how, now that he had admitted even to himself that he fell a little bit more in love with her each day, that they would never be able to be together.
 
They soon stopped for lunch and found out about a local dargah that though small, was frequented by travellers of all faiths. After paying their respects and offering prayers, they once again took to the road.

Tanu was finding all this feel-good togetherness absolutely suffocating. 
She felt caged in the confines of the car sitting elbow to elbow with Khaala and Najma. Once in a while she got to sit up front with Jammy but that was getting to be such a bore. He kept stealing glances at the rear view mirror. She wished she could rip out that thing so then he would at least concentrate on the road ahead. How they hadn't had an accident as yet, she didn't know.
She tapped her fingers restlessly on the armrest and pursed her lips. "Patience, meri jaan, patience. Sabra ka phal meetha hota hai," she consoled herself. 
She pressed her palm to her stomach. 
Dilshad's eagle eye caught that gesture.
 
At the outskirts of Agra, Ayaan began ragging Zoya and Najma about stopping for servicing at the local paagalkhana. "Thode screw tight kara lete hain tum dono ke. Do char saal aur acche se nikal jayenge."
Najma playfully slapped at him and Zoya laughed at both of them.
"Bahut jaankari hai, you're speaking from experience right, Raabert? Tumhare naam ka special ward hoga wahan par."
Najma giggled and brushed shoulders with Zoya conspiratorially.

Asad smiled appreciatively looking at both their heads close together in the rear view mirror. There was genuine warmth and affection between Zoya and Najma. He hadn't seen any between Tanu and his sister. What had he done? 
And Zoya's love and regard for Ammi was indisputable. She would have taken a bullet for Ammi; she very nearly did. She would have been an ideal bahu and sister-in-law to Najma. He had let himself be blinded by prejudice and outward appearances. While this austere belief system had mostly served him right all his life, when it most mattered, his die-hard principles had bitterly conspired against him. Tanveer may dress conservatively, but Zoya's heart was pure, without malice or spite. She was fiercely protective of Ammi and Najma. 
Exactly like him.  

With a leaden heart, he watched Najma giggle and give Zoya a sideways hug in the rear-view mirror.
Ayaan and Zoya were still bickering playfully. 
He retaliated in mock anger, "Najma, Mona darling ke sar se door reh, New York wale jooyen chhad jayenge."
Still laughing, Najma reached back and swatted his head.
 
Zoya felt at peace. 
In her prayers she had thanked Allah for the time he was allowing her with her new family in India. She had fallen in love not just with Mr. Khan, but his family as well. How often had she felt that Phuphi was exactly like Ammi. And now, she was so grateful to Najma and Raabert for inadvertently melting the ice bands around her heart. They would never know what their playful and unconditional acceptance of her in their midst, meant to her. 
For a glorious second, she had belonged.
She looked up, and her eyes collided with Asad's tortured gaze in the rear view mirror. Her eyes misted, and a frisson of heartache hit her, leaving her breathless and weak with longing. Don't look at me like that, Mr. Khan. It reminds me too much of that video, and when I made the biggest fool of myself.
She blinked, but didn't immediately look away. She wanted to let him know that somehow, she would be OK, that she didn't hold anything against him.


Song in Title:
Kurbaan (2009): "Ali Maula

Edited by Klondy - 2015-06-26T12:40:31Z
Posted: 2015-06-26T12:44:05Z

Kahin Toh Har Lamha Honthon Pe Fariyaad Hai

Chapter 10 


By now, even Zoya was excited to see the Taj. 

They had just finished visiting Sikandra and the Agra Fort.

The armies of monkeys at Sikandra, Allah miyan!

She and Najma teased Ayaan about the real reason for his wanting to come to Agra: wanting to be reunited with his long-lost ancestors, after visiting with aging relatives at the paagalkhana!

He chased them like a madman at that, grabbing Zoya by her waist and swinging her around in circles as she screamed with laughter, and begged to be put down. 

Asad gritted his teeth savagely. 

He wanted to grab Ayaan by his collar and shake him. Hard.

He imagined himself grabbing Zoya from behind similarly, and molding her body to his. He wouldn't have cared who saw him as he nuzzled her neck and tightened his grip on her waist promising her more intimacy in private, later on. 

Oh god! He raked his fingers through his hair. This trip was a terrible idea. It was making him crazy to see her suffer. And now, when she was actually beginning to emerge from her grief, he was feeling cut off and exiled. And to feel tormented by this gnawing jealousy against his own kid brother? Incredibly foolish!

He glanced at Zoya who by now had found a cute monkey family with the mother hugging her baby to her chest and a smaller monkey following them about. 

She eagerly took pictures with her iPad.

Handing her iPad to Ayaan, she pulled Najma into a hug and asked him to take a picture of both of them with the monkeys in the background.

As he tried to focus on the shot, a male monkey came charging out of nowhere, and rearing up his legs, smashed them into Ayaan's backside.

Najma and Zoya collapsed on the ground, laughing hysterically.

Even Asad couldn't resist that sight and wondered if in his jealous stupor he had imagined this.

Dilshad didn't see what happened, but she turned around and looked at the sight before her: Najma and Zoya breathless from uncontrollable laughter, holding their sides, Asad laughing with his head thrown back, and Ayaan looking offended and embarrassed, scratching his head with one hand, and massaging his lower back with the other.

Dilshad wanted to capture this moment forever. 

She whipped out her phone and tried to snap shots of all four of them.

 

Later, when thinking about this scene, Dilshad tried to recall where Tanu was during all this hilarity which felt so right and so perfect. To see Asad laugh like that had warmed her heart and soul. 

Capturing the moment on camera had been a silent plea to Allah. Please give me this. Let this moment be forever. It had been a vow to herself and her children. I will make it right.

And she remembered that Tanu had begged off earlier, and wanted to stay in the car because she felt tired. She had noticed lately that Tanu was acting cranky and not as solicitous of her and Najma as she had been in the past few weeks. How had this girl waltzed into their lives and turned everything awry? 

Dilshad stiffened.

On the other hand, there was Zoya. If it had been Zoya with Asad that fateful night, she would have never accepted a doomed proposal of a marriage of forced honor. She would have taken equal responsibility, and never bound Asad to a loveless marriage. She would have run away in typical Zoya fashion, but not once entered a marriage where there was no love.

Her heart twisted.

But there was something between Asad and Zoya, wasn't there? They avoided each other. But she didn't miss him stealing glances at her. She kept out of his way, and looked shattered. Whenever Zoya caught her looking at her, she put on a fake smile. But her eyes continued to look like muddy pools of torment.

Allah!  


Now, back in the car, she took out her phone to look at the pictures she had taken. She looked closely at a group picture she'd taken of all the kids. Asad and Zoya flanked the others on either side. Asad's face looked grim as he stared ahead, jaw clenched tight. And Zoya stood, shoulders drooping and arms linked with Najma. She wore a slight smile, but it was not the smile that Dilshad was used to seeing on her face. Najma peeked over and grabbed the phone out of her hand to share with Zoya. Ayaan leaned over from the back seat. 

Zoya swatted him saying she didn't want his Bhopali lice to get too cozy with her elite New York lice.

A frowning Asad relaxed and smiled.

With their heads together, the three Musketeers, as Najma had named them, peered at the tiny screen and laughed again at everyone's expressions.

Zoya took the phone and quickly sent all the pictures to her account.

She loved the picture of Mr. Khan laughing. She had seen him like that only once, and it was the best memory she had of him, and of them being together.

 

Najma and Zoya would not let up on Ayaan's encounter with the monkey. "He came to say, sup homie, long time no see,' " Zoya joked.

Even Mr. Khan chuckled softly at this and her heart soared.

"No," Najma exclaimed, "he got jealous of Bhaijaan. How dare he flirt with my wife he must have thought."

Asad felt that he could relate with the monkey.

Ayaan roared with laughter at Najma's quip, and pulled her ponytail.

 

He was so glad Bhai had asked him to join them on this trip. He could see that Bhai too was a bit less tense than he had been at the start of the trip.

Ayaan felt relaxed. 

He was able to take his mind off Mumani's constant threats and blackmail, and didn't feel as guilty about Humaira. Although he missed his sisters and the Zingo Hotties Club, he was having a great time with Najma and Mona darling. Mona was quieter than he'd imagined, but still intriguing. She had seemed preoccupied initially, but was sassy as hell as she verbally parried with him and held her own. And getting to know Najma better was an added bonus. Bhabhijaan-to-be, he wasn't so sure of. She seemed a bit cold, but she did seem to fit Bhai's image of a perfect woman, so who was he to say anything.

 

They parked to go to see the Taj Mahal. They had to park away from the monument and either walk some distance, or take a rickshaw or a horse-drawn buggy.

Najma and Zoya were not interested in a ride. They wanted to explore the dozens of little souvenir shops on both sides of the street.

Dilshad had to be the bad guy since Asad had given up correcting these two. 

"Girls," she scolded. You can walk back and look to your heart's content. But right now we need to go together, so that we don't have to wait hours for you at the entrance."

Zoya touched her hands to her ears, and mouthed a sorry to Phuphi.

"Horse cart!" shrieked Najma in delight. "Please Bhaijaan!"

They piled into two horse carts and were deposited at the entrance. Again Asad noticed Zoya linger to affectionately pat the horse. He saw her tip the driver a little extra. But Najma dragged her by her arm and they raced ahead to catch a glimpse of the Taj through the gate. 

Dilshad clicked her tongue in frustration. "These girls," she groaned.

Tickets bought, and about fifteen eager tour guides fended off, they all trooped inside the gate and held their collective breaths at the first glimpse of the Taj. Thousands of people swarmed about, tour guides held up mirrors against the gate to show the complete reflection of the monument. People posed on the central marble platform pretending to hold the Taj by its tip.

Zoya's eyes misted as she stood before the most romantic monument of the world. 

All clichs fell away. 

She could not believe that she was actually seeing it in all its snowy white magnificence. She had always imagined that the color would have dulled with centuries of muck and grime, and decades of air pollution. But it shone milky white as if untouched by time. The manicured gardens around the Taj contrasted with its whiteness. The pool in front reflected its glory.

Around her, she could hear snippets of historical details from guides.

"...minarets aren't at a ninety-degree angle. They tilt slightly outwards, so that if they collapsed they wouldn't destroy the monument."

Zoya peered at the minarets and couldn't really tell if that was true. But it did make a lot of sense.

" ...Taj has a vacuum foundation so that the Yamuna couldn't cut through ..."

She noticed an elderly khadi-clad gentleman ask his grandson, "Taj Mahal kisne banaya?"

The child innocently replied, "Shahjahan ne."

"No," the grandfather said, "majdoor ne."

Zoya laughed and shook her head. Exactly what Jeeju would say.

She gazed long at the monument without the urge to take a single photograph.

Asad noticed two men leering at her and moved closer to stand beside her while scowling at them threateningly. He rotated his clenched fist.

They slunk away.

She sighed in contentment. This was so right.

"Thank you Allah miyan! For this day, and for all these experiences. Mujhe aapka har faisla qubool hai."

He saw the vestiges of pain lift from her face. Asad too felt his prayers answered, and a burden lift.

 

Slowly, as if in a trance, everyone moved closer to the main edifice. Najma wanted to pose on the platform and take a picture pretending to hold the Taj from its spire.

Again Dilshad gently explained, "after we've visited the monument."

God, correcting her constantly was exhausting. How did Asad do this all day long all these years?

They removed their footwear, covered their heads and reverently climbed up to the central courtyard. Even Ayaan was serious and quiet for a change.

At one time tourists could venture down below to the real tombs of the sixteenth-century emperor and his beloved wife. But now that had been sealed off for restricted access only.

Asad had managed to wrangle special passes for this hallowed visit, and with an official escort, they descended into the cool and dark underbelly of the monument. They walked down the ramp and came into the inner sanctuary with two plainly appointed tombs. The false tombs upstairs were more elaborately decorated.

A couple of people knelt and prayed. 

Zoya loved the simple purity of the site. She could feel the heartbeats of millions of happy and lost lovers from all time, zing through her.

Instinctively, she sank to the ground near the tombs, closed her eyes and lifted her palms to offer prayer. She thought of her parents and her father's gravesite. She thought of how she'd yearned for a family all her life and how she had found her Ammi in Phuphi. 

She had also found love. 

So what if it hadn't found her? She was here, at the holiest monuments built to love and its power. 

She would be all right.

Tears coursed down her face.

Najma and Ayaan looked at her uncertainly. Dilshad too prayed, eyes closed in repose, palms facing heavenwards. She prayed for love and justice, and most of all, for her son.

Asad stood still, charged and evermore connected to Zoya. Her duas rose from his heart; it throbbed in electrified response. 

In unison, they offered prayers for healing, strength, and each other's happiness. Neither felt worthy of the other; their wishes for one another curled up like the incense by the eternal tombs of the emperor and his beloved wife.

 

Song in Title:

Salaam-e-Ishq (2007): "Ya Rabba"

Edited by Klondy - 2015-06-26T12:47:06Z
Posted: 2015-06-26T12:50:53Z

Kahin Toh Dil Mein Yaadon Ki, Ek Suli Gadd Jaati Hai 

Chapter 11



The next morning they had planned to visit Fatehpur Sikri. Asad would take a late afternoon flight back home afterwards.

Tanu had had enough of this company, her feet ached, she felt nauseous, and in general, she was just having a bad time all around. She begged off claiming a headache and tiredness. She also hoped to snoop through Zoya's things; they were sharing a room again. 

It was hotter today than yesterday, and Najma asked Zoya how she could even bear to be in full-sleeves.

Zoya smiled and said nothing. She held up her water bottle to indicate that she was fine. Though in concession to the heat, she had piled her hair on top in a messy bun.

At Buland Darwaaza everyone gawked at the massive gate festooned with giant honeybee hives, and the steep high steps that led up to it.Ayaan and Najma scampered up to the top to admire the souvenirs being hawked by vendors on the landing.

Zoya climbed at a more leisurely pace, and often stopped to take pictures with her iPad. She got some good shots of Najma and Ayaan racing to the top framed against the grand doorway. She turned around to get one of Phuphi climbing up.

Dilshad trailed behind everyone, still deep in thought.

Asad climbed the stairs, a little behind Zoya. He just knew that being distracted with her iPad, and given her famous track record, she was a mere step away from tripping and breaking her neck. She couldn't walk straight without bumping into something, or falling over on flat ground; this was a surefire disaster in the making.

And as if it were a self-fulfilling prophecy, he saw, almost in slow motion, her foot catch in a crevice. Her hair flew loose, and her arms went up to balance and self-correct while her hands still clutched that wretched iPad desperately.

"ZOYAAA!" His heart in his mouth, he raced to catch her and did, before she ended up at the bottom in a broken heap of bones. 

Holding her left hand in his and her waist with his right hand, he gently guided her on to the step next to him, while she fearfully clung to his arm.

Once she had secured her footing, she looked at him to thank him, and time stood still. 

They could not look away from each other's eyes, nor break apart from each other's embrace. His hand on her waist tightened, his head lowered imperceptibly.

A bee buzzed lazily around them and broke their trance.

As they disengaged self-consciously, he felt his temper fray. 

"Can't you be more careful and more aware of your surroundings? Have you seen how dangerous these steps are? If I hadn't been there, you could have killed yourself by being so careless."

Heart still pounding from the near fall, and now his closeness, she lashed out too, "thank you very much for once again coming to rescue this clumsy idiot who keeps annoying you like ... like this bee." 

Her eyes flashed as she gestured wildly, "what's it to you if I fell? Aapko kya farak padta hai main jiyoon ya maroon? Just stay away from me!"

She saw his eyes widen and nostrils flare; his temper evaporated to be replaced by pain. Asad grabbed her elbow in a vise-like grip, unaware that his fingers were biting into her flesh and that he was hurting her. 

He ground out harshly through gritted teeth, "don't ever say that! Mujhe farak padta hai. I pray that nothing bad happens to you. Ever."

And with that he flung her arm away and jogged up ahead of her. 

She rubbed her arm where he had gripped her and looked at his receding back through blurring eyes. She remembered when he had said, "if something happened to you I would have gone crazy." 

She knew this was yet more evidence of his bipolar behavior, express concern, and then bite her head off the next second. 

Do I infuriate you so much, Mr. Khan? 

He had called her by her first name again. He always did when he feared for her safety. But then, just as quickly, he reverted to Ms. Farooqui. He did care for her, she knew that much. But he was fighting his attraction for her because he did not see her as fit or worthy of being his life partner. 

Zoya half-sobbed. 

But then, scrubbing her eyes, she decided that anger would be a better defense mechanism. Otherwise she would just turn into a mushy puddle of self-pity. 

And she was done crying. 

She would get over this even if it killed her.

 

Dilshad saw the entire scene unfold, though she was too far below to hear the words exchanged between them. But she did see how he had been following her just a little behind keeping a close eye on her, and how he had leapt to hold her before she fell. She also saw how they gazed at each other and reluctantly parted, much too long after he had safely set her down.

This is it! I was right, she thought. This is what's meant to be. Allah, please help them find their way to each other. Don't give them a lifetime of pain and heartache. I lost my true love, but let my children be blessed with the happiness it brings.

Inside, she noticed the two giving each other a wide berth, but Asad kept glaring at anyone who dared look at her, and periodically glancing over at Zoya who studiously avoided his gaze.


"Steer clear of Jahanpanah six packs Zoya! You don't want to club him to death and cause Phuphi pain, do you?" She gave herself a pep talk. 

"What does he think of himself? Sometimes he's so gentle, and then other times he ruins it all by being so mean."

She wished she had used her pepper spray or karate moves on him. So many times she had wanted to clock him for being so ... arrogant and stubborn and ... and just plain Jahanpanah. Sheesh! 

But when, her visions of vengeance and causing him physical pain, turned to those of her wrapped in his arms, she never knew. She was walking sightlessly toward the shrine in the center of the courtyard, and saw nothing except him holding her close to him, lifting his hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, then brushing his fingers across her cheek. In her fantasy, she felt him stroking her parted lips with his thumb before bending his head to kiss her.

She bumped into someone.

Behind her, Asad raised his eyes to the sky in exasperation, and sighed audibly.

 

Zoya dug her nails into her palms painfully. "Stop daydreaming of him, khuda ke liye! He belongs to someone else and she's welcome to him. They can live happily ever after as Mr. and Mrs. Tehzeeb and have an army of little tehzeebs and"-

She dragged her dupatta on her head determinedly, and entered the shrine teeming with devotees and tourists. She spotted Najma and Ayaan ahead of her tying sacred threads to the jaali. Ayaan was ogling a group of young college girls and Najma was rolling her eyes. 

Zoya sighted a woman untie a thread and bend down to her daughter and tell her, "jab dua qubool ho jaaye, tab kissi ek dhage ko khol sakte hain." 

She nearly doubled over in pain. Her eyes, already gritty, smarted. 

Oh god, would she ever get a chance to untie a thread like that? May be you don't deserve to undo a thread, Zoya. Allah must be punishing you for saying, "qubool nahin hai."

With a pang she thought back to how alone and heartbroken she had felt at the shrine in Ajmer Sharif, and how Mr. Khan had offered her his own red string. 

Enough!

She was much stronger today than that day. 

No more self-pity. 

Thanking Allah, she decided to honor her regained spirit and new-found resolve by tying a thread of hope and new beginnings here. May be some happy soul would come, years later, and untie it because their dua had been accepted. She was Allah's instrument. She was just paving the way for future pilgrims' fulfilled hopes. 


After paying their respects at the shrine erected in honor of a favorite Sufi saint who had blessed Akbar with the promise of an heir, everyone moved to explore the palace, and the exquisitely carved private rooms of the emperor and his queens. They heard snatches of monologues delivered by guides around them. Everyone marveled at the intricate cabinet room for the Nav Ratnas, the tomb of the favorite elephant in the distance, the emperor's raised bed surrounded by a pool that would be filled with itar, the symmetrical gardens ... 

The abandoned ghost town was a perfectly preserved slice of history and a testament to an emperor's whim, and his heart's deepest desire. Lingering to read several signs placed around the monuments, Zoya felt a deep respect for, and affinity with the original Jahanpanah.

She smiled ruefully at how she had nicknamed Mr. Khan, Jahanpanah, and then appended the title of six packs to that name, a little later. She blushed remembering him in the bathtub, with his head thrown back, naked shoulders visible above the bubbles. She smiled slightly, thinking of how she couldn't resist peeking at his body from under her lashes and fingers after he had wrapped his towel low on his waist and she had salivated seeing those perfectly sculpted abs. 

Had she walked in on him more recently would she have been bold enough to walk up behind him and soap those wide shoulders and then bend to nip his ear teasingly? And then when she moved away to leave, would he tug her hand making her splash into the tub on top of him to feel every inch of his hard naked body under hers? 

Her breath caught; the color on her cheeks deepened.

But then she remembered his unsuppressed fury that day at her inappropriateness and complete lack of tameez. 

Her smile slipped and blush paled.

Her eyes stung.

She imagined him with Tanu by his side to punish herself for these errant thoughts and daydreams. She would be soaping those shoulders, sharing his bed. 

Zoya forced her nails into her palms.

Oh god, when will it stop hurting?

When you leave ... an inner voice of reason mocked and incited.

This time Dilshad caught the play of emotions across Zoya's face and her heart constricted in empathy. She thought of the number of times she had caught a glimpse of Rashid with Shireen over these years. She wouldn't wish that kind of pain on her worst enemy.

After a late lunch, they dropped Asad off at the airport and returned to the hotel. Zoya entered her room and saw Tanu sleeping. She moved about quietly and went in to take a shower. Standing under the cold shower she let her tears flow freely. All her tightly held emotions and resolve to stay strong washed down the drain. 

Fists to her mouth she thought of how hard it was for her to look at him and wish him a safe flight. She'd opted to look at an imaginary point on his right shoulder and prayed that her voice wouldn't tremble and lips quiver as she said goodbye. 

This would be the first time in about six months that they wouldn't be under the same roof. She sank to her knees and let the stream of water beat down on her. 

Leave, Zoya, she sobbed. Just go. Get out of Dodge. 

She thought of Tanu in the next room. She felt jealous for wanting what Tanu had, and then ashamed of feeling this way. 

There's nothing here for you. You're a loser, a misfit. That's why your Abbu never came to get you.

"Tabhi aapki Ammi aap se chhin gayee," Mr. Khan had said. 

Ammi! 

Ammi!

I'm sorry.


In the bed Tanu heard the shower turn on in the bathroom, and the plumbing groaned.

She smiled as she thought of her day. 

"Good idea to stay back and go through Miss New York's stuff."

After returning from a massage in the hotel spa, she decided to try on Zoya's designer perfume and lotion. Then she went looking in her backpack and carry-on bag. She even tried on a few of her shirts, but the jeans wouldn't fit.

In the backpack she struck gold. There was an old jewelry box and Tanu wondered if there was some expensive jewelry in there that she could try on too. But she was disappointed. It just had some old photographs and letters, and a single earring. So dumb.

Bored, she decided to read the letters. They were obviously written by a man very much in love with his wife but lamenting their separation. By the repeated mention of Zoya's name, she was easily able to deduce that these were her father's letters to her mother. And thanks to her conspiracy with Razia bi, Tanu knew exactly who that man was. 

Tanveer sat back on the bad and laughed with malicious glee. 

Miss New York was grieving for a dead father; Tanu knew that he lived. 

Miss New York was pining for a lost love; Tanu had him in the palm of her hand.

She wondered if she should keep the battered jewelry box, but decided it served no real purpose right now. If she ever needed the contents, she could always get them from Zoya's room in the Khan Villa later.

She rummaged around some more, and felt a round bump at the bottom and took out an old music box. She rolled her eyes. It was the one she had seen in Zoya's hands many times when she was moping around in the garden thinking no one knew that she was crying.

She returned everything to the bag and tidied up. She knew that Zoya would never know if anyone had been through her stuff; everything was too haphazardly thrown together anyways.



Song in Title: 

Namaste London (2007): "Main Jahaan Rahoon"

Posted: 2015-06-26T12:51:48Z

Mere Sapne Sawaar De, Tainu Dil Da Vasta

Chapter 12


In the plane Asad brooded and agonized over every moment since the day she had told him about her feelings. She had avoided him most of the trip, but today he had felt her pain turn to anger. 

And, truth be told, for that he was grateful. 

A sad Zoya was just not right. A fighting and resistant Zoya was whom he had fallen in love with. 

No matter that they couldn't be together. He would cause her pain anyway. He always did.

He thought about this morning and squeezed his eyes shut in shame as he thought how now, he had even hurt her physically. As they were leaving the compound of Fatehpur Sikri, her sleeve had caught and ripped on a rusty nail in a doorway. Everyone rushed to see if she had been hurt, but thankfully she was fine.

Ammi had gently chided her to be more careful, and Zoya had ducked her head as if scolded.

As she adjusted the torn sleeve to cover her arm, he noticed angry welts around her elbow, and remembered, how just that morning, he'd brutally grabbed her arm in a punishing grip.

 

He swore softly. 

This incident made him think of all the times in the past when he had held her just as roughly by her upper arms to yell at her or threaten her. He would violently back her into a wall with barely repressed anger.

Asad remembered how each time he almost lifted her off her feet, and brought his face close to hers to hurl hurtful words at her through gritted teeth.

He must have left bruises then too. 

He had never been so angry nor been so physically aggressive with a woman before.

God, he was an animal!

Worse, although she stood up to him toe to toe, nose to nose, always contradicting him and crossing swords with him, she never, not once, said what she could have: Would he have been as cruel if she had family? A brother or a father to stand up for her? An Ammi to wipe her tears and hold her? 

No. Not once did she use blackmail to shame him for his bitter words or actions. 

Just once she had reminded him of her lack of a parent: When he had gone against Ammi in suspecting Rashid Ahmed Khan of the worst. Zoya had pleaded with him to forgive his father and trust his mother's instincts.

"She's lost her husband, don't make her lose her son too," she had begged. 

He had turned his back on her in fury then and barked, "Ms. Farooqui, you have no right to interfere in my family matters. Aapko rishton ki ehmiyat nahin hai." 

You have no family, he had implied. 

You're not family, he had declared mercilessly. 

What would you know about fathers or mothers, he had silently taunted. 

He had heard her gasp and known even then that he'd crossed a line. Just like the time when he had cruelly sneered, "isliye aapki Ammi aap se chhin gayeen!" 

And that too she'd forgiven him. How could he have ever said so cruel! And why did she continue to forgive his transgressions?  

"At least you have a father to hate," Zoya'd whispered that night before running out of his room. 

She had only reminded him of her lack of blood relations or legitimate birth then because she had wanted him to reconcile with his father. To prevent him from hurting his mother.


Rishton ki ehmiyat? 

Self-loathing coursed through him. 

Even then he was attracted to her and had used the harshest words as a shield for his emotions. And now his barrage of bitterness had quietly managed to erode her once-invincible spirit. 

Asad squeezed his eyes shut. 

Instinctively he had sensed that all her life she had carried the weight of one fear: why didn't her father come looking for her? "Kya main itni buri hoon?" he'd heard her whisper when she told him about why she had come to India. And like a fire-breathing ogre he had spent all their time together proving just that: "haan, aap buri hain." 

His terrible words kept reverberating in his head, "isliye aapki Ammi aap se chhin gayeen." 

Asad nearly groaned aloud and covered his face.

Thanks to his relentless rejection of her he had doomed her to permanent self-doubt. And yet her steady generosity and grace shone through. 

He'd left her bruised, she forgave him each time. 

He'd scowled and taunted, she smiled or teased him, when, for days after she must have carried marks of his anger on her arms. Is that why she always wore long-sleeved shirts?

Oh god, how could he have ever thought her selfish or inconsiderate? He was the inconsiderate brute.

 

A part of him yearned to imagine the marks he would have instead liked to leave on her body with his lovemaking. 

But he couldn't allow his mind to go down that road.

It was wrong.

He made himself think of Tanu.

He felt resentment boil up inside him like acid reflux.

Asad thought back to his conversation with Ammi. Like her, he couldn't imagine doing anything repulsive like that. And why couldn't he remember anything from that blasted night? That night when he'd won the world and then carelessly squandered it away ...

He had never felt any attraction for Tanu, just fraternal concern, especially after her factory burned down. How could he have had any sexual feelings for her as he tried to console her? 

Why couldn't he recall anything?

Asad ran a frustrated hand through his hair.

 

The only woman who could make him think sinful thoughts was Zoya ... and even though he had held her several times either in anger or to break her fall, wanted to crush her lips with his each time, he had always stepped back and never acted on his fantasies. When Zoya had hugged him in despair, even then he had restrained himself before gently offering whatever little comfort that he could. If he was so self-controlled with the woman he was attracted to, how could he have done anything with Tanu? 

Asad kept thinking why he couldn't remember anything. Had he blocked out his own debauchery?

What if it had been Zoya instead? 

His stomach tightened and he felt a flare of desire lick his insides.

"Zoya," he thought drowsily. "I wish it were you I had made love to. I would have remembered every moment."

 

His mind refused to be reined in now. Visions of what could-have-been darted through his restless thoughts.

He thought of that night when she had nagged him about dancing because he had lost the bet that she wouldn't be able to get any information from the security company about their employees.


Barely awake now, he remembered how his heart had knocked in his chest as he'd seen her scared face thinking he was about to strike her again. 

Oh god, he'd slapped her and she had even forgiven him that! 

That night he had instinctively snagged her wrist to stop her from walking away and pulled her to slam her against his chest while encircling her waist with one arm. He couldn't bear that frightened look on her face.

She wanted him to dance, he'd show her that she'd bitten off more than she could chew. 


He could still feel her heartbeat and ragged breathing as her hair fluttered against his cheek. Some instinct had taken over; he couldn't stop himself from twirling her. Their bodies had moved against each other fluidly, as he dragged her against him once more, this time with her back against him.

Zoya!

Her back to him and face so close to his, he could have bent an inch or two and sucked on her earlobe. And instead of holding both her hands in his, he could have wrapped his arms low on her waist pulling her hips against his to let her know how much he wanted her. 

Because he had wanted her. 

He would have let his hands slowly wander up to cup her breasts to trace and stroke her nipples through her shirt. He would have turned her around in the circle of his arms and lifted her up so that she could wrap her legs around his waist. He'd whisper in her ear how grateful he was for her love of jeans and she would squeeze him closer to her. He could almost feel her hair brush his arms as she arched pressing herself harder against him.

He would have carried her to his room to make sweet love to her. She would have called out his name. How much had he wanted to hear his name on her lips! Just once. 

She'd called him by his first name only once, and that too when she'd been half-delirious from being drugged by that bast*ard Akram!


Or, when he had dipped her, he would have kissed her with enough tongue to make her cling helplessly and breathlessly to his shoulders. And then he would have swept her up in his arms and carried her to his bed, whispering hotly in her ear, "dance isse kehte hain Ms. Farooqui." 


He nearly groaned aloud. Oh lord, why had he kept fighting his growing attraction to her all those months? Ammi and Najma could have been shopping for rings for his engagement with Zoya! 

To fight off the attraction he felt for a woman he loved, and to bed a woman he didn't? How did that even make sense? You stupid jerk! Asad pounded his fist on the armrest. 

The passenger next to him looked at him in alarm.

"Sorry," he whispered and excused himself. In the restroom he splashed cold water on his face. 

 

And still he couldn't stop himself from imagining backing Zoya against the wall in his room to kiss and suck her lips till they were swollen. 

Those lips! 

How often had he felt like tracing them with his thumb? He would part her legs with his knee and thigh, and angle to fit himself just right so that he could drag her leg up over his and grind into her. He would continue to kiss her, nip and lick her throat. Tugging her shirt loose he'd slide his hands in to feel her warm skin and let his hands trail over her stomach ... her back ... he'd unhook her bra to catch her bare breasts tumbling into his waiting palms. He would look long and deep into her drooping eyes as he stroked her nipples with his thumbs. Whipping her shirt over her head he would dip his head to take her nipple in his mouth and suck till she went completely crazy"-

 

The flight attendant announced that the plane would land in fifteen minutes. Asad shook his head as if that could knock the raging visions out of his head. He brushed his hair off his forehead impatiently, and waited miserably to retrieve his bag.

Back home, the silence and emptiness bit at his heels. 

Instead of going directly to his room, Asad wheeled his bag toward Zoya's room and stood at the door looking in. The bed was not made as tidily as he'd have liked. A towel was slung messily over a chairback. 

He almost smiled, but pain gnawed at his insides. 

He turned to go to his room.


Song in Title:

Love Aaj Kal (2009) "Aj Din Chadheya"

Edited by Klondy - 2015-06-26T21:28:14Z
Posted: 2015-06-26T21:27:50Z

Na Hai Koi Hal, Dilon Ki Mushkil Ka


Chapter 13 


On the drive back toward Bhopal, even Najma noticed Tanu being moody. "Aap bhaijaan ko miss kar rahin hain na?" She asked sweetly. 

Dilshad noticed Tanu's fake smile. She looked over at Zoya's lowered lashes as she swiftly turned her face away. She noted her clenched hands and bowed head, and her heart ached for Zoya. She wanted to stroke her head and comfort her: everything's going to be OK. I'll take care of it, she wanted to say. 

She turned to look at Tanu and grimaced. Dilshad thought of how Tanu had refused to eat anything at breakfast opting only for dry toast and weak tea. In fact that had been her diet for some time now. 

"It couldn't be. Such signs so early? I have to move fast."

The trip home felt long, but was uneventful. Mostly everyone slept due to sheer exhaustion. 

 

Zoya had watched the video of Mr. Khan wanting her to stay back so many times, that her phone and iPad were draining rapidly. 

Stop it! Stop tormenting yourself. Just delete this. Cut the cord, will you? 

Her finger hovered to make a clean surgical cut. 

But she couldn't do it. May be she'd do it tomorrow. One more look. 

She sneaked peeks at the pictures Phuphi had taken in Sikandra. She loved this shot of him with his head thrown back laughing at Ayaan's discomfort. But she felt a pang when she saw the photos of Mr. Khan with Najma, Tanu and Ayaan at Chokhidani. 

She was an outsider. These four would be in many other photographs. Weddings ... family portraits ... babies ... 

Zoya nearly gagged with the pain that coursed through her. Her eyes stung. She would never be a part of the family that she'd irrevocably fallen in love with. 

"I better start thinking of flying back home. When we reach Bhopal I'll call a travel agent to get my tickets booked. I can tell Phuphi and Najma that I have to leave early because my visa is expiring. Thank god, I've already bought gifts for everyone from Chokhidani and Agra." 

She hadn't known what to get Mr. Khan though. She had traced her fingers over a miniature sculpture of the Taj, but then removed them quickly as if burned by the stone. 

Stupid idiot! Don't you dare! 

Zoya had finally decided on a simple photo frame. She'd have the picture of all four of them printed up in sepia and give him that. No, probably just leave it on his table. She may never be able to look at, or be near him. She'd made a big enough fool of herself already.

 

They reached home in the late afternoon, and everyone left to freshen up and rest. 


In the evening, Dilshad knocked on Tanu's door. After initial pleasantries, she told Tanu what Asad had told her in Jaipur. 

Tanu, shocked and shamed, hid her face in her hands and began to cry. "I'm sorry khaala, I know you must be upset. But Jammy is so kind and upright that he immediately proposed to me."

Dilshad said firmly, "Tanu, I've decided that in light of everything that's happened, we should go to my doctor and have you examined. If you aren't pregnant, then we need not go through with this wedding since neither of you are in love with each other. I just want what's best for my son. We'll go a week from now to fully confirm since it may still be too early."

Tanu was surprised at Khala's openness and smarts. Mentally she knew that this was the perfect opportunity to pass off her pregnancy as Asad's fault, but she didn't like the idea of going to Khala's doctor. And why wait for a week? The sooner they all got the good news, the better! 

"I understand Khala and I agree. But we can go to a doctor that I've been visiting already for when I sprained my ankle. In fact we can get an appointment tomorrow itself."

Dilshad hated Tanu's eagerness. It made her even more suspicious. 

"No, I've already fixed an appointment with my doctor. I'll just ask them to reschedule it for tomorrow."

Seeing that she had no way to wiggle out of an appointment with khala's doctor, Tanu agreed graciously. 

"I'll just have to put on a darned good show tomorrow," she thought to herself.

 

Dinner was a quiet affair. Najma was the only one who was talking about the trip: the shopping, food and the historic places. 

Asad looked at her indulgently. He'd rushed back home today from work.

Even Najma stopped mid-way, surprised that her Bhaijaan didn't tell her to eat quietly.

"Wasn't the Rajasthani food yummy, Zoya?"

Zoya nodded.

Asad sneaked a look at Zoya from under his lashes. She had stopped eating her food with as much relish as she used to. Sometimes, just the way she threw her head back, closed her eyes, and moaned softly when eating kachoris or pizza, or Ammi's phirni, was enough to make him hard. He forced himself to look at Tanu who looked immensely pleased with herself. 

His mood soured. 


Najma started chattering about the wedding functions, not noticing the change in Asad's expression. He looked up sharply at Zoya. Once again she was using her hair to hide her face. But he could see her hand gripping the fork by her plate. She was stabbing her thumb pad with its tines. He nearly shot out of his chair. Asad felt trapped. And helpless. 

Zoya, please!

Clearing his throat, he called out, "umm, Ms. Farooqui?" 

She raised startled eyes to search his face. 

"Could you please pass me the salt?"

"Sure," she whispered, almost harshly. 

Biting her lips, she did as he asked. She passed the salt shaker to Najma. He lowered his gaze apologetically, unable to bear the flash of pain and hope in her eyes. But at least she had unwrapped her fingers from the fork. He looked at Najma. She now talked of dieting so that she could fit into the new style lehengas. 

Tanu intervened, "Najma, I can help design a dress for you that hides some of your flab and makes you look slimmer." 

Najma's face fell. 

Asad frowned and looked away, not wanting to correct Tanu for being so insensitive to his baby sister. How could he have missed this? He wondered how he never had any such qualms about shouting at Zoya publicly, even though she'd never said anything so hurtful. In fact she had always rushed in to defend Najma or Ammi or take the blame on herself. 

He could kick himself for not noticing those things earlier.

"Zoya, will you help me with some fitness training so that I can lose weight more quickly?" 

Zoya nodded, not wanting to share as yet her plans for leaving. 

She reassured Najma, "yes, we can start tomorrow, but Tamtatar you don't need to lose weight. You are gorgeous the way you are. Girls would kill for those curves." 

Najma's smile sparkled, and Asad looked up at Zoya gratefully. 

But she was still talking animatedly to Najma, "we can do some stretches and then go for a walk or a run, but it's too hot outside. Yoga? Have you tried Zumba? It's such fun! You'll love it. Or, you know what? We can just put some music on and dance. That'll be more fun." 

Najma was completely diverted now. 

Dilshad looked at Zoya with new respect and her heart felt full as her resolve hardened. Please Allah, help me find a way to make this girl my bahu.

The urgency was real. 

Just before dinner Zoya had smiled too wide and thanked her for the trip. "I'll always cherish these moments with you all, Phuphi," she had said. 

And Dilshad knew. Zoya was bidding farewell.  


The next day, right after Mr. Khan left for work, loud music could be heard coming from the Khan Villa. 

"Badtameez Dil," "Dreamum Wakeupam," and "Balam Pichkari" kept being replayed while Zoya and Najma danced up a storm. 

Zoya felt light-hearted as she wiped her dripping face with a hand towel. 

Najma lay, nearly passed out but grinning, on the floor. "Oh Zoya, that was such fun. We have to do this everyday," she panted.

"You know what we should do next," said Zoya. "A quick shower and then manis and pedis for each other."

"Yay," squealed Najma. "I love you Zoya," she sighed with contentment. "I wish you could stay with us forever." 

She didn't see Zoya hide her face in her towel.

 

At the clinic, the doctor told Dilshad that the results showed that Tanu was indeed pregnant. Before Dilshad could ask more questions, Tanu complained of a headache and tiredness, and announced that she wanted to go home immediately. 

In her rush to put on a good show, she missed the look that passed between khaala and the doctor. 

Back in the car, while she faked exhaustion and dozed, Tanu congratulated herself in preventing Khala from asking questions about how far along she was. 

"Now she'll have to agree to the nikaah," she silently celebrated peering at Dilshad's somber face slyly. 


Song in Title:

Salaam-e-Ishaq (2007): "Ya Rabba"


Edited by Klondy - 2015-06-26T22:02:32Z
Posted: 2015-06-26T22:07:03Z

Raah Pe Kante Bikhre Agar, Uspe Toh Phir Bhi Chalna Hi Hai


Chapter 14


After a long bath, Najma felt too sleepy and tired for a mani-pedi session, so she promised to do so after a long nap. It was summer break after all, and it was meant to catch up on one's beauty sleep. 

This gave Zoya some time to call around for tickets to NY. Unfortunately, the earliest flight was 19 days from today. She finalized the tickets, making sure that they would not be couriered to this address. She assured them that she would come to pick them up personally. 

She re-watched the video of Mr. Khan saying "mat jao Zoya," and wept silently. Falling back on her bed and huggng her iPad to her chest, she thought of all those moments they had shared when it felt that he would nearly kiss her. 

How many times had she felt his arms around her and looked into his eyes darkening with some untold emotion? 

What if he had kissed her? 

She thought of how recently he was much gentler with her. More solicitous even. 

I don't want your pity! 

Why couldn't he love her as much as she loved him?

She wanted him so bad, it hurt.

How much had she negotiated with Allah? Every waking thought for months. It began with: please don't make me fall in love with him, during their spats and sparring, to: please make him fall in love with me! And now: please don't make him pity me.

Just please, make it stop hurting. 

She needed to get out of here. 

Out of sight, out of mind must have some truth to it after all. 

Zoya sighed. 

Just one day she had gone without seeing him. She'd hungered for a glimpse of him on their return. She dreaded the family meals the most. Tamatar would gush about wedding preparations, and her heart would plummet to her heels. Even at the dining table, she felt like a hanger-on. They were all family, and deserved to be at the table. Here she was, intruding on their intimacy. 

But she would be eternally grateful to Phuphi and Najma! Not once did they make her feel left out. 

 

Well rested after her nap, Najma filled the tub in Zoya's bathroom with hot water, and they sat at opposite ends soaking their feet. Music was playing on the iPad. Najma had rolled up her salwar but Zoya was wearing a pair of short shorts that Najma kept eyeing with envy. 

"You look so cute in those," she said for the tenth time. "I wish I could wear shorts but Bhaijaan would kill me." 

Zoya had her nail kit laid out on the edge and held Najma's foot in her towel-covered lap to start exfoliating the skin around the nails. 

"I know," said Zoya, "If he sees me now, I'll be dead meat. But we'll be done before he gets back." 

"Unless he decides to come home early from work." She had wondered about Bhaijaan coming home early yesterday.

Zoya nearly punctured Najma's toe with the nail file. Thank god Tamatar didn't notice her red face nor hear her thumping heart.

A teensy part of her wished that he could see her in shorts. She'd want to see him groan in desire and be unable to keep his hands and mouth off her. She imagined him trailing his fingers on her bare legs and thighs while she arched and wiggled with pleasure in his lap. 

She continued to dream with her eyes wide open, seeing the shorts discarded on the floor and her ankles over his shoulders as he"-     

Najma sighed loudly in pleasure at the foot rub, and Zoya's sex dream popped.

It was such fun to have Zoya around, Tamatar thought. She would miss her so much when she left. She wished that Bhaijaan was getting married to her instead. She would have been perfect for him, always standing up to him and not scared of him at all. Tanveer was kinda boring. But she seemed to be his type.

Now scrubbing Zoya's heel, Najma asked her if she remembered their conversation about ishq wala love from several months ago. 

"Remember Zoya, you said once you fell in love, aap unse ladengi, unse rooth jaya karengi, and you'll wait for him to manao you? Ammi and I love your fights with Bhaijaan, by the way! Do you still feel the same?" 

Zoya bent her head pretending to choose a nail color and let her hair fall as a curtain over her face, "I was just being silly then, Tamatar. Nahin, main unse nahin ladungi. But may be he'll fight with me, kyunki main itni paagal hoon. He may dislike my craziness, and find me irresponsible and childish. Yeh wala laga doon?" she asked holding up a bright pink nail color.

Najma sensed a deep ache in Zoya but couldn't exactly put her finger on it. The last time they'd talked about such things, Zoya had giddily chattered about true love as fun and playful nok-jhonk between soul mates. But now there was a too-serious tone and a streak of cynicism in her voice. 

Her new view of love seemed despondent and heartbreaking.

"When you marry, what kind of person would you want your husband to be?" 

"Main nikaah nahin karungi. I'm just not cut out for it." Zoya said with a dull finality.

"But Zoya, how can that be? Everyone gets married. Every girl dreams of a prince charming!"

"I know Tamatar, but to dream of prince charming, you must have some princess-like qualities, right? And that's not me. I don't want to think about getting married. I want to work, and do a lot of things like travel more. And may be no one would want to marry me. I am too independent and say and do stupid things. I am a misfit in America, and in India," she laughed bitterly to hide her pain.

"C'mon Zoya! You're not silly. You're such fun!" 

Najma couldn't understand why Zoya was talking like this. She cocked her head to one side and looked at Zoya quizzically. Something was wrong. Very wrong. 

And danged if she wouldn't try to find out what it was.

 

Dilshad had just finished talking to her doctor and went to Tanu's room. She knocked and then entered the room without waiting to be invited in. Tanu was on her bed going over some papers and looked up in alarm. 

"Khala? Ayeye, sab kucch theek toh hai na?"

"Tanu the doctor just called. She said that there may be some mis-reading of the tests. They want you to come back in again and do a whole blood panel and probably even an ultrasound. I hope everything is okay with the baby. Please be ready at 4 tomorrow." 

She didn't miss Tanu's expression of alarm as her eyes widened. 

 

That evening before dinner, Dilshad decided to talk to Asad. "I want you to sit and listen very carefully." He did as she asked and looked up at her in agitation. 

"Kya hua Ammi?"

"I took Tanu to the doctor today, and we found out that she's pregnant."

"WHAT?" Asad leaped up and started to pace the floor while running his hands through his hair.

"I kept hoping that it wouldn't be true. That somehow nothing happened that night," he muttered bleakly under his breath.

"Asad!" Dilshad commanded, "sit."

His eyes stormy and face twisted in agony, he sat and dropped his face in his hands. 

But he couldn't sit still for long. He began pacing back and forth again, and eventually walked to his bookcase slamming his fist into its side.

"Asad! Calm down. I have something important to tell you." 

But he couldn't bear to hear anything. All he could see what the end of his miserable life. 

Grabbing his car keys he banged out of his room and the house, as if chased by an army of demons.

Dilshad sighed, "Allah! Never listens, that one." She raised her eyes upward and prayed for his safety and happiness. 

I will make it right.

 

Dilshad walked into the living room, and bumped into Najma. "Najma, be careful."

"Sorry Ammi." 

Dilshad noticed that Najma too was preoccupied. What is going on in this house?

"Kya hua beta?" She asked guiding her daughter to the sofa.

"Woh, Ammi, I'm worried about Zoya."

"What happened to Zoya? Is she OK?"

"I don't know. There seems to be something too sad and quiet about her. Do you think she's missing her Abbu?"

"May be. But did something specific happen?"

"It's strange. Months ago we were discussing love, true love ... you know what I mean, right?"

Dilshad nodded patiently.

"When I asked her about it again today, she seemed really hard on herself. She said that she probably isn't worth being loved because she is stupid and a misfit. How ridiculous is that?"

She continued to muse out loud, "that's just not like her at all. I wonder what's going on."

Dilshad's heart wrenched. She knew exactly why Zoya would think something like that. Her idiot of a son had no sense at all. Knowing Zoya, she knew that that girl would have already booked her tickets to New York by now. 

She needed to fix this soon or something terrible would happen. Too many hearts would be broken.

Allah! Please guide me.


Song in Title:

Dor (2006): "Ye Hosla"


Edited by Klondy - 2015-06-26T22:31:16Z
Posted: 2015-06-26T22:33:02Z

Shaam Chhupale Suraj Magar, Raat Ko Ek Din Dhalna Hi Hai


Chapter 15


In the car, Asad slammed his already-bruised fist on the steering wheel. All he could see before him was a swirling and disintegrating collage of Zoya's face: smiling, angry, sad, happy, naughty, and angelic. A part of him had hoped that they could still be together by some quirk of fate, but now there was no hope. 

"You stupid, stupid jerk," he berated himself for the thousandth time. 

"What have you done?"

Finding himself close to the dargah he wrenched the car to a violent stop. He parked and walked the narrow lane toward the shrine, each step burdened by guilt and angry regret. 

He entered the shrine with his head covered and bowed. Sitting down he glanced at the floor sightlessly. 

Someone coughed, and he looked up. 

And he couldn't look away.

Her head was covered with a white dupatta this time and she was staring stonily at her clasped hands. Tears were flowing down her face just as they had that first time he saw her here. He didn't realize when his own eyes blurred. She hastily wiped her tears and got up to leave after offering a quick prayer.

He nearly got up to follow her, but what would he even say to her? Asad wasn't sure how much longer he stayed after that. It seemed as if every event and encounter was mocking him for thinking himself so principled and morally superior. 

He hung his head and hunched his shoulders.

As he was leaving the shrine, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning around, he stiffened. 

"Jee?" he said harshly and impatiently.

His father stepped out of the shadows and moved his hand away.  

"Ayaan told me that you were getting engaged?" 

Asad nodded assent.

"You look about as miserable as I feel," muttered Rashid.

Asad picked his head and stared at this man. 

"Why are you getting married if you don't love the girl?"

Asad reeled.

"How"-?"

"I saw the way you looked at Zoya right now. A blind man can see that you are hopelessly in love with her."

Asad's head swam. How did his father know Zoya? And how"-?

"You know Ms. Farooqui?"

"You mean Zoya? Yes, in fact I met here for the first time in December as she moped because someone had shouted at her for being irresponsible and careless."

Rashid looked at his son knowingly.

Asad ducked his head, remembering the incident well. It was one of the many times that he had humiliated her for not being conventional and conservative enough for a girl from a proper family with upright moral standing. He squeezed his eyes shut and forcibly expelled his breath.

"We are good friends now. But I haven't seen her recently nor talked to her. Obviously something is troubling her too. She looked heartbroken in there." 

Asad felt torn. He wanted to walk away and never look back. But he also wanted to linger. He wanted to hear more from his father about Zoya and what he meant about being similarly miserable. But he couldn't find the courage to ask him directly. 

Wait, did he just call him his father--?

 

For the first time, Rashid felt hopeful about his son. He could see that Asad was not glaring at him hatefully, but was actually silently crying for help by letting the man he hated even this close to him for this long. 

He felt elated.

"Don't make the same mistake I made eighteen years ago," he said somberly.

Asad looked at him sharply.

His heart ached for his son. He knew too well the pangs of love and regret. To have true love and to turn your back on it. 

Was it a family curse? 

"Don't let the woman you love get away because of some misplaced sense of loyalty or duty. You will condemn yourself to a life sentence of silent suffering and hopeless yearning." 

Rashid's voice broke in anguish. 

"You will resent everyone around you and loathe yourself for the rest of your life. And one day, even your children will hate you for your cowardice." 

He dashed the moisture from his eyes and patting Asad on his back one last time, walked away into the night.

 

Asad stood rooted to the ground. 

He couldn't believe that the words he had just heard were nearly the same as the ones that he had been hurling at himself for the last few days. They were his father's words but his constant thoughts. In just a few days he had felt his spirit battered and soul bruised. And this man had lived like this for eighteen years?

 

His vision cleared as if a muddy veil had been lifted. 

All rancor dissipated. 

He felt a burning but fierce kinship with his father in that moment of absolute despair. He had missed his father's hand on his head all these long years.

Asad's throat wrenched out as if with a mind of its own, "Abbu!"

 

Rashid halted and stood as if carved in stone.  

His heart soared.

He turned and blindly groped for his estranged son who fell into his embrace and sobbed in his arms like a baby.

Neither knew how long they stood there. The street was emptier when they stood apart and looked into each other's streaming eyes. 

The father touched his son's face. His fingers traced his features like a blind man blessed with sight. Brokenly Rashid tried to tell his son to learn from his example. "Wrest the happiness you deserve from fate's cruel hands. It's your birthright. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise." 

Wiping his son's tears, Rashid smiled gratefully. His teeth gleamed in the night. "If I died today, I'd die a happy man because finally I was able to hold my son in my arms and hear him call me Abbu.' I am so sorry for not being a good Abbu to you and your sister. May Allah never forgive me."

"No, Abbu, don't say that. I too have been blind and rigid."

With his hand on his head, the father blessed his son with a life full of joy and happiness. 

"Yes, there will be some tough decisions ahead, but you will be stronger for it. Do not hurt yourself anymore. You deserve to love and be loved. You are a good man. Fight for your love. I didn't, and regret it every day of my life."

 

As Asad drove home that night, he felt as if a weight he'd carried around him most of his life had been lifted.

If only his Abbu's prayers and blessings could undo the fate he'd recklessly signed away.


Song in Title:

Dor (2006): "Ye Hosla"


Edited by Klondy - 2015-07-30T11:14:40Z
Posted: 2015-06-27T10:20:54Z

Khwaab Mein Dekha Tha Ek Aanchal Maine Apne Haathon Mein 


Chapter 16 


"I think Tanu may be lying." 

Finally Dilshad had been able to corner her son, after his return, to tell him about her suspicions.

"What? How can you say that Ammi? Why would she do that? And now you say that the doctor has confirmed the ... the pregnancy too."

"I don't know, it's just a feeling that I have. All through the trip I kept noticing little things. Her diet and gestures ... the way she moved, all of it seemed too familiar. A body doesn't react so quickly after conception. It takes anywhere from 9-12 days for even doctors to be able to say if a woman is pregnant. And if we count from that night, it's been only 9 days."

"What are you saying Ammi? I don't understand. Even so, it ... it does fall within the 9-10 day range you mentioned." 

For a second, Asad couldn't believe that he was even having this conversation with his mother! What had happened in the last two weeks that his life was completely turned upside down? How could he be so embroiled in a situation so distasteful, when he had prided himself as a man of morals and strict principles?

"Asad, you are so nave! I am saying, I suspect that she's been pregnant for more than 9 days."

"What? Do you know what you are saying?"

He had begun to pace again. His hands were itching to do some major damage.

"Calm down! I know, even I couldn't believe it myself. But I have experience and my instincts are rarely wrong. And Dr. Sharma also said that given her body language she may be pregnant for more than 9 days. She can tell us for sure only after more tests."

Asad looked at her with a glimmer of hope shining in his eyes. He dared not hope, but could it be that he hadn't erred after all? He didn't even care about Tanveer's betrayal. Could he finally have a chance with Zoya?

"I have convinced her to go with me to the doctor again for a more extensive check-up tomorrow," she said, patting his hand.

"But Ammi, if you are right, then why will she go with you tomorrow? It's the easiest way to be caught lying. And if she doesn't agree, than how do we prove any of this?"

Dilshad frowned at his pessimism in exasperation. He was behaving as if he wanted Tanu to be pregnant with his child. So many questions of his mother who's trying her best to help him! 

And she was pretty sure he mustn't have asked HER a single one. 

Men were such duffers, even if this one was the apple of her eye!

"Yes, you are right," she continued patiently. Sometimes things needed to be spelled out and diagrammed for this son of hers.

"But she hasn't backed out as yet. So either she'll try to come up with an excuse or... Which is why I wanted to tell you in advance. She probably knows that till the birth we can't determine paternity. We have to keep an eye on her and I also want you to hire an investigator who can find out a little about her background and her life in Kanpur. I am not going to be taken for a fool. I will not let her ruin my children's happiness if she is lying about this." 

"I wonder why I can't remember anything from that night," he muttered to himself.

"What?" Dilshad almost shouted. "What did you just say?"

"I said that I can't recall anything from that night that---"

"Asad!" This time she did shout. 

"Tell me everything that happened that night, this instance. Do not hide anything, you understand?"

Embarrassed, he did. He told her about Tanu bringing him some milk, feeling dizzy, and then waking up to find"-     

In a flash Dilshad understood it all. She knew it would be futile to talk to Asad right now. 

She needed to think more about this.


Meanwhile Asad was paralyzed with doubt and hope. On the one hand, he didn't want to betray the trust of a close friend whom he may have hurt, but on the other, there were some things about her that had begun to nag him. It didn't add up. And the biggest red flag now seemed to be his complete lack of memory of what happened that night. Knowing himself, and thinking more calmly about the incident, he knew he wasn't capable of such an act.

His mind and heart warred.

Finally, he decided to trust his Ammi's instincts, and Abbu's blessings; he took a leap of faith.

He called Prasad to find the best investigator who could do a quick but extensive background check on someone whose details he was forwarding.

Asad exhaled as he hung up. 

Every muscle in his body was soaked in stress; every nerve sent up a silent prayer: He'd risk his life if it afforded him even the slimmest chance of a future with Zoya.


Before leaving his room Dilshad looked at him fondly and put her hand on his head. 

"Don't worry, we will fix this mess. But what did you say to Zoya?"

He looked at her in confusion. "I haven't told her any of this."

She resisted rolling her eyes and clutching her forehead in dismay. "No, I mean did you ever say anything to her about being unfit as a wife or bahu?"

His world reeled.

"Najma told me that they were chatting about love and marriage, and Zoya said that she won't get married because she wouldn't make a good wife or daughter-in-law."

Seeing his shattered expression she knew she was right. He had done the damage, he would have to fix that one on his own. 



That night she had another of her nightmares. And try as she might she couldn't repress crying out. She was so mortified when everyone came to check on her. Zoya dared not look at Mr. Khan. But from under her lashes she saw him frowning. Her heart stopped. Please Allah miyan, I hope I didn't call out ...


Asad frowned. She had had such nightmares before. She looked shaken up but always brushed off Ammi's concern. Regret hollowed him. He wished he could hold her. But no, he was probably a part of her nightmares now.

 

Song in Title:

Dil Chahta Hai (2001): "Tanhayee"

Edited by Klondy - 2015-07-23T09:53:48Z

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