(Warning: Cigarette smoking is injurious to health)
Sajad lit a cigarette, turned his head and blew the noxious smoke over his shoulder. It wasn’t the ‘normal’ behaviour we had become accustomed to with him. Whenever he smoked, he puffed the air towards whosoever was sitting nearer to him much to the person’s annoyance. But, today, something was amiss and we could sense it. He was wearing a forlorn look on his face and was unusually quiet. We were sitting under the shades of the majestic Chinars in the Jhelum View Park on a hot Sunday afternoon; the sun spewing fire.
The lava was simmering inside Sajad, waiting for the right moment to burst out and relieve his bosom. And after suppressing the urge to pour his heart out in front of his friends, for so long, he finally gave up and blurted out: Tamis ha karekh nishean raath. Instead of getting any sympathetic words he received a loud laughter. We burst into guffaws, much to the astonishment of the passerby, and Sajad himself couldn’t fight back a faint smile. After we were done, did the import of his words dawn on us. Every one of us felt sorry for Sajad, for our own inappropriate behaviour and there was silence all around.
This wasn’t the first time Sajad had faced such a disappointment though. In recent past two more girls had slipped through his hands and he was left dejected and Chuabre Yateem. On one occasion he had even served Wazwan at the marriage ceremony of his ex who tied a knot to her cousin working in Dubai. Next time he fell for a girl, destiny played its tricks again and the girl got engaged to an NRK within the six months of the affair. His latest affair didn’t last six months either. The girl in question again went into the share of a Kashmiri Doctor based in America. It would have been wrong to blame Sajad had he developed an entrenched disdain for all the foreign based Kashmiri professionals. But, Sajad, instead of brooding over the “bad experiences” of his recent past, shrugged off these incidents and made a firm resolve to try his luck again.
Every single guy, apart from me, in our friend circle, Day-Dream, had a poignant story to share.
Arif’s ex girl friend, whose name sounded somewhat similar to the opposite of Zameen, got engaged to a guy who exported carpets. His new catch was Rosy, whom he affectionately called Rose. Arif would have drowned in the sea of his Rose’s love, ala Jack Dawson in Titanic, except that there now stood her fiancé, her cousin, between them like an iceberg.
Ishaq’s love-interest from Pattan had reportedly eloped with a truck driver. It was difficult to cajole Amir into spilling his secret but there were murmurs that the girl he loved was betrothed during our University days where Amir had cast his evil eye on her. Amir loved the girl intensely but he didn’t have the guts to propose her.
After my friends’ recurring setbacks in love, we had come to the conclusion that we are a cursed lot; that we are destined to stay bachelors forever. We would often amuse ourselves by suggesting the idea that we should open a matrimonial consultancy. Our bad luck would have earned us a lot of fortune, paradoxically. The modus operandi was simple: An unmarried girl registers with us and chooses any one among us, or all of us, as boyfriend(s) depending on her level of desperation to get married; Wait till six months for the curse to do its job; 50 percent money back guarantee. Why just half rebate, you ask? Because 50 percent will be spent on tea and coffee charges in the swanky restaurants, so that the couple get the real feel of the ‘affair’.
As for I was concerned, I was reluctant to fall in love; so there was no chance of the curse affecting me. Or maybe I thought it wasn’t my cup of tea. Then “she” happened and my world turned upside down.
Lets name her “B” (because A is too banal and clichéd). “B” was a feisty girl who lived, let’s assume, in Florida. In the recent past a world renowned Puppet Master, Jewbin Behta, had conducted a puppet show in the famed garden of Florida. The natives had declared the show a failure because they were the only ones who were not allowed inside the premises. I too was outraged! Back to the story! Miss Florida worked in an NGO named IGSTU that got its funding through Hawala system.
“B” would invariably laugh at her own jokes and at the drop of a hat. She was such a person who would express her hearty laugh at a funeral, instead of heartfelt condolences.
I met her through our mutual friends and she began showing interest in me from the very first meeting. I received WhatsApp messages and Pokes, but I impervious. She made advances which I duly thwarted with utter heartlessness. I ridiculed and mocked her in front of everyone to the point of driving her mad. But she wouldn’t give up and pursued me with the same vigour and zeal which she had exhibited the first time we had met. I had no inkling, though, that the tide would turn eventually and I would fall head-over-heels in love with the same girl whose face I couldn’t stand the sight of.
On hot summer Sundays when the taps at our homes ran dry we would rush to a nearby stream, tear off our clothes and dive in its icy cold waters. The stream lied two kilometres beyond Florida.
So one day my friend Suhaib and elder brother Waseem decided a day out at our favourite haunt, our piece of the paradise where the drooping branches of the Weeping Willows fell into the stream. We piled on into the car and sped away. I was sitting in the rear relishing my pack of chips and coke when I suddenly realise we were passing through Florida. I peep out the window to find a familiar-looking figure coming from the opposite direction. It was “her”; draped in green shalwar and black headscarf that accentuated her fair countenance. But what striked me today was the look of defeat and dejection wearing on her usually happy and cheerful face. She seemed to be in a dismal state; like she had been through the worst day of her life. She didn’t see me but I followed her with me eyes till our car took a turn at the curve and I lost her.
Our titular hero in the brilliant drama series “Sherlock” says LOVE IS A DANGEROUS DISADVANTAGE. Those words began to make sense right away. My feelings about “her” were beginning to change and I could do nothing to stop them. We reached our destination but I couldn’t bring myself to jump into the stream. I feigned illness and watched the duo splash water on each other.
Back at home I recalled every insult I had heaped on her. I felt a mixture of guilt, shame and embarrassment. I wanted to hold her in a tight embrace, no, just hold her hand and seek her forgiveness for every indignity I had doled out to her. I hadn’t been so depressed after watching Mughal e Azam, as I felt on that day. But it was useless to cry over the spilt milk that was laced with the cement of indifference and the fertilizer of contempt.
That night I tried hard to sleep but only ended up tossing and turning till the streaks of sunlight fell into my room. I woke up and made a firm resolve to set everything right and tell her how apologetic I was. I just had to wait for her next WhatsApp message and make my move.
Meanwhile the desperation set in and I would pluck a rose from our garden every morning and pocket it carefully. But our paths didn’t cross for a long time and soon the garden was conspicuously and mysteriously left desolate much to my grand mom’s shock and dismay.
I waited and waited and suddenly the message came on a Monday morning. I replied from atop the cloud nine. I didn’t want to squander this chance and greeted her with utmost kindness much to her own bewilderment. And soon began the continuous round of chatting that only ended the time our batteries gave up.
I had felt so much joy in someone’s company for the first time in my life. Whenever I saw her, my heart beat went through the roof (if we met indoors). Her name sounded music to my ears and I longed every moment for her glimpse. But my joy was short lived.
Instead of blossoming, our ‘relationship’ ran into rough weather over trivial age issues. She was two years older than me and that was the major cause of concern for her. I snubbed her for her “age obsession” but she was unmoved.
Whenever she pointed to the “difference in our age”, I would hit back by reminding her superiority of the imposing physique that I enjoyed over her. Occasionally I would tease her by saying: I have three strands of grey hair on my head, so who is older now?
I was growing frustrated with her and wanted to shut her out. But I realized she liked me so much that she didn’t want to be a part of my life.
Then the worst tragedy struck Kashmir and communication networks collapsed. For many days I didn’t even try and reach to her even though she sent an odd message which I didn’t care to reply to.
A semblance of normalcy returned after the devastating floods but she faded out of my life. Weeks passed and I began to have a strange premonition.
One day when I logged in to my Facebook account, I saw my worst fears come true. She had updated her Relationship from Single to Engaged with.… It was the shock of a lifetime. I closed my eyes fearing the tears might well up in them and thought to myself: THE CURSE LIVES ON.
(Being cast as a Superhero in a Hollywood movie was the author’s favourite childhood fantasy. Now that he is grown up he likes to amuse himself by placing himself at the front and center of his own stories. The above is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person or event would be utterly shocking)