And so it is

Published: July 5, 2014
Email

The entire family relished in making memories. PHOTO: FILE

This piece is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

“Hi love! Care to meet me today?” Rayaan, on the other end of the line, teasingly asked his long time sweetheart.

“Ray, you do realise this is the tenth time you have called me. How can I work if you keep distracting me like this?” Ariana responded, loving the attention he was showering upon her.

“You know my day is not complete until I see your lovely face. How about I pick you at 7pm?”

“Sounds great! But where are we going today?”

Rayaan smiled and said,

“It’s a surprise. I will see you then,” and hung up.

Rayaan and Ariana had both been pursuing their Master’s degrees at Yale University. Rayaan was majoring in biotechnology. Ariana was the best debater among her batch and had three trophies to her name for winning contests. Rayaan had attended the contests and that was how he came across Ariana.

He was impressed at how passionately Ariana carried off her arguments and her sophisticated use of language. He congratulated her when she won the second debating contest and that is how they became friends. Soon enough, they started hanging out, understood each other and became the best of friends. Their friendship, however, bloomed into a loving relationship and after graduating, they returned Pakistan, and informed their parents about this relationship. The families agreed to meet and, before you knew it, Rayaan and Ariana were engaged. They were the perfect couple, compatible on all fronts.

Upon coming home from work, Ariana took a bath, ironed her best clothes, curled her hair, applied some light make-up and waited fervently for her fiancé, all the while wondering what fabulous surprise he had in store for her today. At 7pm on the dot, Rayaan arrived, as promised, in his silver Accord and met Ariana at her door and said,

“You look dazzling in white!”

He handed her an exquisite bouquet of aromatic white, yellow and red roses along with imported white chocolates, Ariana’s favourite.

“This is lovely Ray. Thank you! And you look spectacular in your grey suit. It really sparkles with your grey eyes.”

“Shall we leave?” Rayaan asked, holding out his hand to Ariana.

The young couple drove along the smooth roads of Islamabad. It was a perfect moment. The magnificent Margalla Hills spread out in front of them. The full moon shone brightly above the foothills. It was a cool, star filled night. Rayaan was nervous trying desperately to stay calm; Ariana, oblivious to this, looked beautiful, happy and was being her chirpy self.

While driving on the steep mountain slopes, the night-time, breathtaking scenic beauty and the magnificence of the city enveloping the landscape around them was the perfect setting. Their destination was a French open-sky restaurant on the hill that overlooked the city – it was ravishing. Rayaan had the place exquisitely decorated with balloons of different colours and perfumed, garden-fresh and moist flowers. The dimly lit red and blue lamps, at each corner of the restaurant, gave the place a picturesque look. At one corner, a man sat playing the piano, the melodious tune filling the atmosphere. The ambiance was accompanied with the harmonious music of violins that were played by professional, Australian opera violists. Ariana was thrilled and sat at the table that was especially chosen for her.

“What can I get for mademoiselle and monsieur?” the waiter asked, in his heavy French-English accent,

“Would you like to check the menu or have the Friday special?”

The duo preferred the Friday special. They ate the delectable meal, drank the fresh juice and merrily engaged in the delicate juncture. This was followed by Rayaan serenading Ariana with music and a marriage proposal, to which Ariana gleefully and wholeheartedly agreed.

The date for the marriage was set. Rayaan and Ariana looked forward to the promising new phase of their lives. They honeymooned in Switzerland. They were ecstatic and their affection for each other intensified with every passing day. Their passion and admiration for each other only grew in the time that went by. A couple of months after they were wed the couple moved to London.

A year into London and the couple was blessed with a beautiful baby boy, who they named Jahanzaib and three years later, a lovely baby girl graced their lives. They named Amelia. The parents could not have been happier.

Both Amelia and Jahanzaib grew up to be good-looking, bright children and were admired by everyone who happened to meet them. Jahanzaib, fondly known as ‘Jay’ had a passion for music and had developed an interest in playing the guitar. He took music lessons and aspired to join a band. He derived his inspiration from Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen.

Amelia displayed an ardour for vintage classic literature and wanted to become the best writer in the world. She participated actively in writing contests and received many certificates evidencing her skill at the art. Despite their little disputes and tantrums, the family lived quite merrily.

*******************************************************

The phone rang.

“Rayaan and Ariana’s residence”, Rayaan droopily answered.

A concerned voice at the other end of the line spoke,

“Mr Rayaan, this is Abigail Jones speaking, Jay’s class teacher. I would appreciate if you and your wife could spare some time to meet me tomorrow. This is important.”

  *******************************************************

“Mr and Mrs Rayaan, I am glad you took out time to speak to me.”

Ariana replied, “All in a day’s work Ms Jones. What is it that you wanted to speak to us about?”

“Please call me Abigail. Now, I do not mean to meddle with internal affairs, but is there anything wrong at home? Relationship trouble maybe?”

“Nothing of that sort at all. Why?” asked Rayaan, uneasily.

Seeing Rayaan becoming uncomfortable, Ariana added,

“Well, I don’t think we have ever quarrelled in front of the kids. We have had minor differences but we resolve them pretty well. Jay and Amelia are very close and we make it a point to have family dinners together, read bedtime stories together and hang out over weekends. Is there a problem?”

“It’s Jay. He has not been quite himself lately. His participation in class activities has declined. He hardly talks to anyone. His extracurricular participation has also decreased considerably. He seems to appear a little… troubled. Fearful.”

Ariana, with an anxious look exclaimed,

“I don’t know what could have happened. Maybe something at school? 11-year-olds can have complicated lives nowadays. But we will definitely look in to this matter as soon as we can Abigail. Thanks for calling us in.”

“Where have we gone wrong? What have we not done for them?” Ariana blurted out, on their way back to work, with tears in her eyes.

“Something has stirred him, I cannot imagine what it is but I think we should sit down and talk to him tonight. See what is bothering him.

There is nothing to worry about, darling. I am sure it is nothing but a minor incident at school. We will talk to him.”

 *******************************************************

At dinner time, all four members of the family chatted merrily, watched television and discussed how their day was.

Jay did not have much to add to the conversation.

At bedtime, Rayaan and Ariana tucked Amelia in and turned to Jay to ask him if anything had happened.

“You know we are always here for you, dear. You can talk to us about anything. Did anything happen that has disturbed you? Has anybody said anything to our little boy?”

“No mom, no dad, nothing has happened. There is nothing to worry about. I think its all part of growing up. I guess it’s just my mood-swing phase… haha…  but I will be fine. I can take care of myself. I love you guys.”

“We love you too, dear. Just ask us for anything when you need it. We want you to be happy.”

The parents read a bedtime story like they usually did, kissed the kids on their foreheads and wished them a good night.

*******************************************************

“Jay! Amelia! We have wonderful news! Come down now!” Rayaan shouted, elated.

The children came rushing down the stairs, curious to know what all the excitement was about.

“You are going to have a baby sister.”

Both the kids jumped up and down in excitement – the family indulged in a quick group hug and then they sat down to discuss names. Things seemed to have gone back to normal with Jay and the parents were delighted that things were back on track for their little man.

 *******************************************************

 “Is this about Jay again, Abigail? He seems to be acting pretty normal with us at home, no indications of any emotional disturbances that I could see.” Ariana inquired.

“I understand Ariana, but he is still not quite himself. He appears to be emotionally disturbed, there have been significant behavioural changes in him and his classmates have started noticing the change. He has become distant – hardly ever plays with any of his friends and has stopped playing the guitar altogether. He seems on edge, like anything anyone says to him can bother him instantly. In fact, just yesterday he got into an argument with one of his friends – over a very small issue. He remains aloof in class and, quiet and distant when he is out for playtime. You don’t think he feels he is not attended to, right? That he is being neglected? I understand you are seven months pregnant…”

“But there is nothing of that sort happening. Had I been giving my kids less attention, Amelia would have been reacted in a similar way too. But I haven’t received any such complaints about her. As far as I know, both the kids were very excited about their new sister and excitedly anticipate her arrival” Ariana said, completely perplexed.

“In that case, I suggest you take Jay to our school psychologist. Perhaps he has something to say but does not want to discuss it with people he knows? It might help him open up.”

After a short spat between the parents about not giving enough attention to their kids, Rayaan and Ariana discussed the matter and decided that it was a good idea to get Jay to go for therapy and see how it works. Unfortunately, tensions between Rayaan and Ariana increased. None of them could figure out what the problem could be and couldn’t help but blame one another for it.

*******************************************************

It was a bright, sunny day. Rayaan woke up to the symphonic jingles of distant church bells. Today was the day Rayaan had married Ariana. It was their 12th anniversary and he planned to surprise her and the kids with a trip to Scotland for a week.

He turned over in bed excitedly and gently moved Arainas thick hair off her face and kissed her forehead.

“G’morning, honey” he said, “it’s time to wake up! You know what day it is today? Of course you do. Today is the greatest day of our lives. Today is the day you kidnapped me forever!” he said, teasingly.

No reply. Ariana usually woke up when Rayaan wished her good morning. She was probably very tired and in a deep sleep. He patted her arm… and that’s when he felt it. Ariana was all wet.

Rayaan pulled the blanket and screamed at the top of his lungs. Ariana was soaked in blood. He checked her pulse. Tears started pouring down his face while he held her in his arms.

She was dead.

*******************************************************

Raayan was completely broken after Arianas death. He couldn’t understand what happened. None of it made sense to him and he decided to shut himself off from the world until he figured it out. He didn’t go to work and stayed in his room for most part of the day; nine-year-old little Amelia, sat outside the door and sobbed for mother day and night, and Jay started skipping his therapy sessions.

Rayaan took a few weeks off from work to recover. He spent most of his time with his children. All of them would bundle up together in bed, cry for hours and fall asleep together on their mother’s bed. Rayaan tried reading them bedtime stories but nothing seemed to help. They cried themselves to sleep despite his efforts.

A few days later, Rayaan decided that he and his kids needed time away and so he took them to Scotland for two weeks. He missed his wife terribly and cried until he fell asleep. He felt deeply remorseful that Ariana was no longer there to console him or enjoy happy times with him. He joined the gym and worked out furiously to vent his emotions and anger.

One week later

Rayaan got up and prepared himself to drop off the kids to school and go to work. It had been a month and he knew he couldn’t go on living like this. He had to pull himself together… for the sake of his kids. After getting dressed, he yelled out for the kids to wake up in the most excited tone he could muster. A few minutes later, he went to their bedroom to see if they had heard him – but the room was empty. He assumed they were having breakfast downstairs, but they were nowhere to be found.

What he did find, however, was a letter lying on the kitchen counter addressed ‘To Dad’. What he read shattered him forever.

Within a few days of having read the letter, Rayaan started losing his mind and was eventually declared unfit for work by his boss. He was diagnosed with dementia and had to be admitted into an asylum. He spent the rest of his days at the institution, until his death six months later.

*******************************************************

The letter said:

Dear Dad,

I know you are heartbroken about what happened to mom. I appreciate that you showed concern and looked after us the best you could – even though you were struggling.

Dad, I wanted to let you know that all those times I had missed my guitar lessons, I attended a little madrassah instead. It wasn’t dangerous at all, so don’t be worried. What my elder told me was that I would never be happy or complete if I didn’t listen to him. It was true dad. He explained things to me you and mom never did. What was right and what was unacceptable. He even said that you and mom would start fighting when my teacher called you. He said it was because you were unhappy with mom. She wore western clothes that he said were a sin. He said that is why you guys fought. He said that because she attended parties, worked outside of the house and smoked she was killing you inside and us, dad. He said that she was out of control and would make Amelia like herself too. I had to protect her, dad. I had to protect you. But don’t worry. Mom is okay now. She is happy because God is protecting her and explaining things to her. My elder said I had to settle things at home before I left. I had to make sure you and me and Amelia made it to heaven, dad. Mom was in the way of it all. So I had to do it. I had to kill her, dad. She is much happier now. He told me that himself. He said he had a special connection and knew more than anyone else. Please don’t be upset, dad. Mom is happy and we are all going to go to heaven now.

My elder told me that I still have to work hard to get to heaven. He said that now I had to make sure I raised Amelia the right way. You are too shattered, dad, so I have to take responsibility. I am going to join the ISIS. They said they would be able to help me go to heaven. Help Amelia go to heaven and stay protected. I have to make sure no one else becomes like mom, dad. You understand that right? It is a very important mission. I need people to stop becoming like her so that we can go to heaven. You understand that, right dad?

I will not be able to write to you anymore. Everything happens for the best, dad. Don’t worry about us. My elder said he would look after me. We are going on a plane today. To a different country so that I can help Amelia grow up the right way. This for our own good, dad.

Don’t worry about us anymore. We are in good hands.

We love you, father. Always will.

Your beloved son,

Jahanzaib.  

Rida Khan

Rida Khan

The author has Master of Science in Social Sciences and Psychology research. She is a bibliophile and is interested in writing, research, learning new languages and traveling. She is also an aspiring polymath, particularly in subjects: positive, developmental and cognitive psychology, political economy, international relations and world history. She tweets @RidaK92 (twitter.com/RidaK92)

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

  • ullo bata

    yawn….too long for a blog….this should be published in Akhbar e Jahan or urdu digest….Recommend

  • GT

    Is this how things are in Pakistan? Recommend

  • Shaheryar

    This was the best blog I have ever read.. Heartbreaking and terrifying at the same time.. No matter what you beleive, there are some Madrassahs that can be dangerous to our lives.. We should always look around our surroundings! !Recommend

  • Kiran

    I struggled to read the story but had to skip a few paragraphs. Too longggggggg. Unnecessary details and I am sorry but the beginning had nothing to contribut to the middle and the ending.
    Now for the big question, how did the 11 year old find ways to skip his lessons to go to a madrassa ? Were the parents sleeping ? How come an autopsy wasn’t performed on the dead woman to find out the cause of death ?
    Please people, try to come up with stories that atleast make sense.

    To GT, no, this is not how things are in Pakistan. This is all a world of fiction that exists inside the writer’s head.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Lol It’s not THAT bad. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Honestly author, this is one crazy story. But hard to imagine that in a country like England, they will not know if it was a murder and not a suicide. Recommend

  • Fatima Zahid

    I agree with you a hundred percent. Stories like these only gives impression of how misunderstood our religion is. The 11 year old couldn’t possibly understand such complicated things. Plus if they ran away, and the father was well off, why didn’t he search for his kids? This story makes no sense.Recommend

  • fek

    This was by far the worst story i have ever read. A convoluted plot which the writer clearly struggled to tackle. Why did ET approve this?Recommend

  • Mubashir Sabir

    regretting on wasting my 15 minutes.Recommend

  • afshan

    Pathetic pathetic patheticRecommend

  • Ammar

    What a pathetic story it is…totally out of the line…

    At least the country, names, socio economic situation must have been changed to North Waziristan type area to make it a little bit acceptable. ..:)Recommend

  • Depressed Bohemian

    A deplorable sense of plot and dialogue and drama; weak, unmoving prose overall. Only the strong characterisation is there to save face, Rida. Trying a bit too hard, are we?Recommend

  • Bagga

    I always read comments before reading the blog. This way i avoid wasting time in reading useless stuff.Recommend

  • Bagga

    You should read comments before reading the blog (like I do). This way you will avoid wasting your time.Recommend

  • Racer

    Really poor. Besides, I think I’ve read something like this somewhere else.Recommend

  • gp65

    Too long. Doesn’t connect the dots e.g. How did a 11 year old get to the madrassah?
    When the teacher said he had stopped attending guitar classes, did the parents not ask where Jay was going at that time? Did the police not investigate whether it was a suicide or a murder?

    Strange story.Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    Sad story but unfortunately true in many cases. The moral is -stay connected to people you care for .Recommend

  • Fahad

    Unnecessarily too long and too fictional.Recommend

  • saleh64

    grossRecommend