‘Revenge’ is my favourite word

Published: August 30, 2012
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I finally understand Khursheed's plight, at a cost I never imagined I would have to pay. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ramazan had begun and my dear Khursheed’s college had ended. I loved meeting her. Every day I would prepare Iftari for her, all set with a bottle of chilled Rooh Afza. She would come, collect the Iftari, stay with me for a while and then leave.

One day she told me that her father had accepted her cousin’s marriage proposal on her behalf and so I should not meet her anymore. I was enraged, furious at the thought of her being with someone else. I just couldn’t let her go away like this.

I thought to myself,

If she can’t be mine, then she shall not be anyone else’s.

The next day I went to her with Iftari like I used to. I sent her an SMS and requested one last meeting. This time my Iftari tray was a little different than usual─ there was a bottle sans the Rooh Afzah. However, there was a surprise in it; something she would not like.

When she came to meet me, I could tell from her facial expressions that she was not amused.

“I told you not to come! Baba is calling me. I have to rush.” she said.

I smiled at her and before she could speak another word, I hurled the contents of the bottle at her.

Acid.

She uttered a long, loud, piercing cry. I could sense how much pain she was in from her shrieks of agony. I had ruined her body. Her wailing had caught people’s attention and before I could be caught, I ran away.

As I ran, her screams echoed in my head, like balls of immediate, fiery guilt.

I thought to myself,

How could you do this? What have you done!

Nonetheless, I kept myself updated about her later. She was admitted in the burns ward of a hospital and her condition was quite critical. There were hardly any chances of her survival.

I was heartless. I didn’t care. I was engrossed in my own worldly affairs and soon enough she was forgotten.

Years passed and I got married to my neighbour. I have two sons now. I love my wife a lot, but she is not the first love of my life.

I am a lonely taxi driver whose wife despises him. She no longer accepts me as her husband and wants to get divorced after ten years of marriage.

It was a warm day in June 2009, when a veiled woman sat in my taxi. Unlike most passengers, she was quite talkative. She talked about the weather, the markets, and the areas we drove through. She randomly enquired as to which areas I travelled in.

I replied,

Bibi, I only drive in this area.

The next day, while I sat in my parked taxi awaiting a passenger, I noticed a veiled woman and a man walking in my direction. Before I could fully grasp what was going on, I felt a wave of immense, scorching pain on my face. Within seconds, she hadthrown acid on my face. I cried as my face burnt; an unbearable pain had taken over me.

The cruel woman unveiled herself, showing me her burnt face.

“Pehchana mujhay?”

(Do you recognise me?)

I fainted from the intensity of the pain and shock.

She was the woman whom I had loved so passionately─ my first love, on whom I had thrown acid. She was Khursheed.

It was in the late 90s that I had met her outside her college. I still remember how she ran after my rickshaw, shouting out,

“Rickshaw, rickshaw! Rickshaw walay, ruk jao!”

(Rickshaw man, please stop!)

When I had finally stopped, I saw a beautiful girl running out of breath, standing next to my rickshaw. Like any man would, I looked at this panting beauty with wonder, from her head to her toes.

She had long hair; her fringes covering her forehead slightly. Her lovely fair skin, blue eyes, rosy cheeks, thin lips, fluttering eyelashes, made me lose my senses temporarily.

My trance was broken when she spoke,

“Tariq road tak jaogay? Allah wali chowrangi kay kareeb?”

(Can you take me to Tariq road? Near Allah Wali roundabout?)

I nodded in affirmation, unable to speak as I had paan in my mouth. She immediately hopped into the rickshaw and covered her head with her dupatta. I looked at her in the rear mirror every now and then.

The next day, I intentionally parked my rickshaw outside her college, silently praying that she would come again. Luck was with me and she was searching for a rickshaw today, too. I parked my rickshaw close to her.

Maybe she didn’t recognise me as she asked me again if I could take her to Allah Wali Chowrangi, Tariq road. I agreed and she sat in the rickshaw. I didn’t need much of her instructions today because I already knew where she lived.

When she handed me the money, I bucked up the courage to ask her if I could pick her up every morning for college. To my utter surprise and elation, she agreed.

One day she finally asked me my name.

I replied,

“Mushtaak”

Then she asked me if I had a mobile phone so she could contact me if she wanted to go elsewhere. We exchanged numbers.

The following night I got a text message from her.

I was surprised. She asked why I don’t talk to her while she’s in my rickshaw. I told her that I kept quiet because I was scared she would get upset. She insisted that I talk to her and I replied to her with a neutral,

“Theek hai.”

(Okay.)

The next day, she told me she wanted to go a park rather than her college and we had a pleasant conversation. Very quickly, we became familiar with one another and started easing up.

This led to many more meetings and I soon realised that I was falling for her. I decided that I should let her know.

The following day, I asked her if I could pick her up as I had something important to say. I got all spiffed up and took her to Paradise Point, where I proposed to her like they do in the films. She said yes.

When I went with my family to her home with the proposal, they did not even let us in. Khursheed’s father rejected my hand in marriage for his daughter due to class differences. He insulted me and my family; his harsh words compelled me to become vengeful and take this horrible step.

Today as I lay on this iron bed in the burns ward, writing this story, the guilt hurts me inside more than the burns on my body. I have lost one eye and my face has been ruined completely. I can no longer drive a taxi and I’m helpless, incapable, incompetent and vulnerable.

I finally understand Khursheed’s plight, at a cost I never imagined I would have to pay.

Correction: A previous version of this post stated the date to be the 80s. This has been corrected. 

 

Natalia.Islam

Natalia Islam

The author is currently doing media studies from the Institute of Business Management.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.