It was a typical karachi evening. Cloudy and windy. As if they would have rain showers any minute, yet there was no rain.
The whole family was gathered in the lawn for an evening tea. Mawra had baked donuts, fried samosas and was serving tea to them.
For some unknown reasons, she was smiling and happy today.
"Aliza's wedding is scheduled in July" Bibi jaan informed while taking sips from her cup of tea.
"That's some good news" , said Amna Suhail smilingly.
"When did you find out Bibi jaan? " asked Suhail zafar, picking up one of the freshly baked donuts.
"Zehra called up in morning. They are all coming to karachi on july 4th" replied Bibi jaan
"Oh my God, this leaves us with a very short time Bibi jaan, I haven't done any shopping at all." Mawra was worried like any other girl would have been. Aliza was her first cousin, her aunts daughter, residing in Uk, the wedding was scheduled to be celebrated in karachi, so everyone was flying back home.
"As if we are done with our preparations!" Bibi jaan said promptly and everyone smiled.
"its good though, the kids will be having their summer vacations during wedding" Amna Suhail said happily.
"But mom , what about our summer holiday plans, weren't we supposed to goto Spain this summer? " Imad Suhail asked, making Mawra catch her breath for a moment. Apparaently he was more interested in his trip than this family wedding.
"Obviously we can not go." replied Amna
"Why not mom?" her disappointment was apparent.
"Since this is our family wedding and we have to do a lots of preparations for it, there is no time for the trip beta"
Mawra was heart broken. And a sudden realization came to her. That unknown reason for her happiness today was not that unknown after all, she was happy because she was told by Daniyal Malik that their trip to Spain was final. Just the thought of seeing him again had brought her cheery self back.
"We have a full month of June free for us, why cant we go to Spain in June" Imad was insistent, and secretly mawra was being thankful to him.
"Well something can be done you know", Suhail Zafar participated in conversation, he could not ignore the disappintment in Mawra's eyes and the agitation in Imad's voice. He was an affectionate father. "Imad is right, we can manage to go in June and come back well before wedding." he smiled.
Amna was apparantly not happy with the decision, she had a lots on her mind since she would have to host the guests from foreign conutries. But for the sake of her children she kept quiet.
"Dad you are great" , Mawra and Imad shouted out aloud.
She smiled once again.
There wasn't anything which could have made her much happier than being in spian this summer.
On hearing his husky voice , she had to have a look at her wrist watch , exactly 10 am, meaning 7 am in Madrid. Was he still sleeping? She wondered.
But hearing his spanish murmurs, she could figure out he was somnolent.
"Mi amor, didn't we say good bye a few hours ago? "
For a moment Mawra was stunned, on one hand she was wondering about his unfathomable whispers while at the other his hoarse voice was taking her senses away. She didn't know before, a sleepy manly voice could be magical.
"A few hours ago? In fact I am calling you after a few days , I'm sorry to have disturbed your sleep. Ill speak to you laters." she said politely, still feeling guilty of having him wakened up.
"Oh , i am sorry , who is this? " he was coming out of his sleepiness after all
"Oh dear, that's You, I thought.... forget it, is everything alright at your end Mawra? you don't usually call up at this hour."
"There is a long break before my next class and I haven't spoken to you for sometime so I thought to give you a call" she smiled.
"Great. and thank you for waking me up or else I would have missed my important meeting. Mondays are always difficult to get up you know" he was now sitting with his back resting against the headrest of his bed.
"Where is Maria? Can't she wake you up if you are late to work"
"She will never do that, when she already knows how late I slept. She is like a caring mother who cares for her child's sleep more than anything else " his smiled
"Why did you sleep late?" ,this was unintended.
I should not ask such questions, she warned herself, and deep down her heart, she wanted to find out who he said goodbye a few hours ago.
"I was visiting Ibiza" he lighted his smoke. "Spent my weekend there, and we returned quite late."
She did not dare to ask "We". Instead she said "Ibiza"
"A group of islands near Valencia, where one could reach through a ferry or may take a flight too. A small piece of heaven on earth. When You visit Madrid, Ill take you and your family there too" He said affectionately.
"I am not sure if we are coming over"
"I have spoken to Suhail already mi querida , You get done with your exam and start preparing for your tour de Spain" and for Mawra Suhail , these were the best words she wanted to hear that morning.
"I got to run now Mawra, lets speak some other time. Thanks again for your call. " hurriedly he said, already wearing his slippers and going towards washroom.
"When can I call You again? "
"Anytime you wish to, making sure you are not missing out on your studies. Now go back to your class and have a good day amiga"
With that he was gone.
But for many days to come, she could not forget the magic of his sleepy husky voice.
The large white mechanical umbrellas were gathered to make a canopy over the large courtyards expanding outside the Prophet's mosque. During sunny mornings and extremely hot afternoons the shades provided by these huge umbrellas were significant, specially for those pilgrims who could not catch their Congregational prayers inside the masjid due to heavy crowd.
Under the shade of one such umbrella , he was resting. Though he was still restless, To his right , as he tilted his head high, he could see the huge deep green dome, the symbol he was familiar with since his childhood. It was the symbol of the city of Prophet. It was the symbol of His resting place. It was the symbol of Islam.
A passerby went past him asking something in Arabic. He politely excused in English that he doesn't know the language. In a white long Arabic gown, if someone mistook him as an Arab, he wasn't wrong. He looked like one of them, with his tall height, strong built, fair complexion and brown hair, he looked as one of them.
At some distance an Arab family was resting, the kids were playing around, the husband was lying down under the shaded umbrella, the wife was serving qahva and sweet cakes to them. to Daniel Malik, they represented a perfect family.
Suddenly he found his eyes dampening. How unfortunate he had been. In his 42 years of life, he couldn't make his own family. He had many women, but never had a wife. He used to think children were a burden and something painstaking to take care of. He made a fortune by earning day and night, but now he had no one to spend this money with. He had all sorts of branded clothes and now he was only wearing these long white gowns. The most expensive hand made shoes he owned were of no use to him now, as most of the time in the vicinity of the holy land, he was barefoot.
He used to make fun of the people who did this, and now he was following their footsteps.
There was no set of rules or code of dressing to be followed in the land of Prophet, yet as soon as he arrived , he started obliging, he began following, he started resembling, his own Prophet.
A tear ran down his cheek.
"When You reach Madinah, You feel like doing what Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did, You tend to dress like him, You tend to wear fragrances he used to like, you want to pray like him and very slowly and gradually you follow his footsteps till you find yourself falling in love with your own Prophet (SAW)"
He could hear her whispering in his ears.
All of a sudden, he was missing her beside him.
All of a sudden, he wanted to seek his better half.
She was freshly out of shower, clad in a peach bath gown covering up to her knees, her long wet hair was covering her from her shoulders down to her waist.
Clearing the steam of her bathroom's full wall mirror with her fingers, she was drawing irregular images on it
and then after a while when the haziness of the mirror evaporated gradually leaving a clear image of herself , she realized she had rarely given herself a diligent look.
"what kind of hair do you have Mawra? " just today her university fellow Saba asked her. As at campus she was always head covered , saba hadn't yet had a chance to see her hair.
And there in the mirror, watching her long dark straight wet hair, covering her back completely, made her wonder what kind of hair does he like for a woman?
She was tall, taller than an average woman around her. she was slim but not lean, her body had curves , many women would desire to have . She was fair, but not too white, and a skin that was blessed with a natural glow.
Her eyes were brown just like her dad. The kind of eyes which speak their own language.
And her feet were beautiful.
Undoubtedly she was blessed. With all the beauty that a woman can desire to have. Unfortunately till a few days ago she was unknown of this fact.
Until she met him.
Until the realization fall over her that she was falling in love.
Until it was too late.
And now as she was watching her long legs, creamy skin and rose complexion in her bathroom mirror, she wanted to see herself from her beloveds eyes.
And kept wondering, if he would like what he will see.
Tonight she is looking sensational, nothing unusual for her.
What a better colour a woman could choose for a night out than what she has chosen already. When did she find out red was my favourite? She is wearing a crimson red double layered , flaring top with denims, to me it is a perfect outfit for this summer night. And there is nothing about Helen Martinez which is not perfect.
She is enthralling, charming, exciting, sensual and sexy. A few women could ever match her charms. Not that she is the most beautiful of all the women I have been with, yet there is this distinct style to her that is unmatchable. Or is it that I am going crazy about her and losing my senses?
Well, to this day I have never gone overly drunk. I never exceeds the limits of decency.
Probably the way she is looking tonight is making me addicted.
Or may be it was the abstinence of her company when I was in Pakistan has taken me back to her with much force.
Its past midnight at the La Corolla, my favourite tapas in Madrid. Nightlife in Madrid is bustling as usual. We are enjoying our tostas with beer.
"You are so tanned, Dan"
"Is that a complaint or a complement? " I smiled
"take it the way you like ", she charmingly responded.
"ah! mi amor, gracias. Its the blessing of the East"
"I can see that. Did you find some charming woman as well? " now this remark smells sarcastic to me. But I am glad, she is being jealous.
"I really didn't have much time to spend it with women there, but as far as I noticed, Pakistani people are beautiful."
She winced. "You are saying because you have roots there, mi amor."
"Well that's merely my observation, but then I never said they are any match to You novia."
"That's the reason I don't trust men, they are charmingly new for every new woman."
"Wouldn't you rather call it guts? " I winked.
and at that she flings her elbow in my left arm, and I don't even want to stop her!
He was sitting infront of Bab-e-Jibril, the door in the vicinity of the great dome of the Holy mosque in Madinah Al Munawarra.
It was the third consecutive day, he was in the same state, stumbling and wobbling he would come to the same place each day , standing and watching, people going in and coming out of the mosque. He knew this was the door used by Angel Jibril to bring holy messages from the Almighty, in the form of Quranic verses. Just thinking about the phenomenon and the intensity of the sacredness of this very place would make him tremble, until he could not stabilize his limbs and would fall off to floor.
He would sit there for the whole day , unfelt, unseen, undone.
He was unable to even join the congregation, being gathered there for five prayers a day.
He was unable to enter the Holy mosque.
There was this persistent feeling that would remind him of
his sinful life,
his unholy attitude
towards the sacredness of this Holy place.
As if his whole life story was being re winded for him, he was ashamed of his own deeds and could not consider himself eligible to seek entrance to this sacred piece of earth.
He wanted to seek forgiveness but he did not know how.
He was unsure of his acceptance by his own Prophet and by his own Creator.
He was going through a phase of transition, from darkness to enlightenment. Yet he was in the midway, and as one comes out of sheer darkness and faces sudden exposure to bright light, the inner soul of Daniel Malik was going through blindness in front of this brilliance of emaan.
He was moving up from the dark hole to an illuminated surface.
Even though she had the time zone differenc between them in mind, very absurdly she had started waiting for that "oh so important" phone call from the early evening hours.
That little ray of hope in the depth of her heart would tell her, she had to wait,he would be calling anytime.
It was quite late now, she had a test the next morning and certainly she wasn't studying. The clock struck midnight and then her hopes began to go down. She snuggled into her comforter , turned off her bedside lamp, which was the only source of light for that moment, and plugged onto her earphones to some FM radio channel. Lately she had been hearing much radio, specially the late night shows. some sad ghazals matching her recent mood.
And then when she was least expecting, her cell phone started ringing.
It was him.
"Hey amiga, sorry Im so late. just got back home"
"This late" she asked
"Its 20 past 8 here but must be terribly late for you, actually I thought I should not disturb you at this odd hour but then giving it a second thought, I wanted to keep my promise" he explained.
"I was waiting and if you didn't call, I would have waited all night long."
"How unfair. you should not compromise on your sleep for anyone amiga." His tone was like a big brother now and Mawra didn't like it much.
"How could I tell you I have become an insomniac since you have left" silently she whispered to her ownself.
"Have You had dinner?" she asked
"Just had it. Maria Jose wasn't home today, but even when she is not around, she would store so much for me in the fridge, I just have to reheat my meal."
"Maria Jose?" dang..... Mawra Suhail thought she was Helen?
"Didn't I tell you about Maria? she is just like a mother to me, my only family member so far. She had taken care of me since my birth and specially when my mom left."
And after a short awkward moment of silence, he contniued.
"How are your studies Mawra? getting good grades?" he was always concerned about her studies just like her dad. of course she could not tell him how her studies were being effected.
"They are fine and usual"
"Hows Suhail? could not talk to him this week, was extremely busy"
"Are You in touch with baba on frequent basis?"
"Yes mi querida. He is just like my elder brother, my only sourse for a family connection but above all he is really a good friend." she could hear him smiling.
"After all he is my father" teasingly she said
"oh yes you can take all the credit senorina" he laughed.
"Shouldn't you be sleeping now Mawra, too late for kids to be up"
"I am not a kid please correct yourself" she got irked.
"oh really, how old are you amiga, sweet sixteen?" he asked smilingly
"I turned 22 this july"
"wow , stunning, still that counts as a kid to me"
Mawra felt like throwing a pillow on his face.
"Ok. I think I should better take some sleep now"
And his laughter was unexpectedly higher.
"You are an emotinal angel senorina, I enjoy teasing you, but yes you should sleep now or You could not study in your class tomorrow morning"
And reluctantly she had to hang up. For she could not tell him, she had already become an insomniac and the reason was none but himself.
She could not beleive she had actually dialled his cell phone number, for the very first time and that was very unintentional too.
But hearing his ever cheerful voice let her beleive it.
"hola cómo estás mi amiga querida? " he asked
"bueno, gracias senor", Mawra suhail surprised him by replying in Spanish.
"wow, wow, so You understand Spanish? , she could hear him smiling. And her reflex was the same.
"Just as much as You understand Urdu." after ages she was getting her old sparkling self back. "Does he know magic", she was wondering.
His laughter was just as vibrant.
"I am glad to hear you senorina but can not speak longer, for I was already rushing towards a meeting when you called up."
" Oh I'm sorry for wrong timings", she really felt bad to disturb him.
"Not at all mi querida. Can I get back to You when Im home in evening?"
"Sure, why not", though in her hearts of heart she knew he wouldn't call, but still.
"See you then and thanx for the call" and with that he was gone off.
For a while Mawra kept staring at her cellphone, "Did I really call him up?". She asked herself.
For days she was perplexed and undecisive about this call but now that she heard him she found herself in slightly better state of mind, somewhat relaxed, however at the sametime, waiting for his evening call was already making her anxious.
"Is there a way out, my goodness, will I ever find peace."
There was restlessness before, when she wasn't calling him, there is anxiety now, if he will be calling back.
The Azaan for maghrib prayers echoed through the air. It felt as if it was directly being called from the heavens.
People who were already coming towards the masjid, started taking quick short steps. As if that was the most important event of life,this Maghrib prayers, at the Holy mosque of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
For those who were on their pilgrimage to the Holy land, it was, indeed. They had come from far lands, crossing the seas and mountains, travelling with easy means or much diffciulties, coming with love and gratitude, coming with heartcahes and tenderness a heart could never feel otherwise, coming with the ache to meet the beloved, coming with hope to be accepted.
And here came the dilemma. Daniel Malik was unsure of his acceptance.
He had now taken the turn which would lead him to Babe jibril. The door of Angel Jibril leading to the final resting place of the Prophet. Overlying the entrance to the Prophet's mosque was the large green dome which was the most famous symbol of this holy place.
Daniel held his breath as he was standing still, watching the overpowring and dominating presence of the dome of the mosque. There was an unseen tug at his heart. There were unflowing tears in his brown eyes. The shivering of his weakening limbs was intensifying. His breaths were uneven and he had lost almost all his energy to move further.
The congregation for maghrib prayers was about to begin. The imam was giving the final call. People were gathering and making rows even in verandah of the masjid. Daniel found himself illfitting in this crowd. He was unknown to himself. At that very moment he even forgot how to say a prayer.
He felt like weeping. He felt helpless.
He knew only his creator could help him out, yet the irony was he was unsure how to reach Him!
They had just come out of their Ecology class and were moving down the stairs towards cafeteria when Sila surprised Mawra by asking this question.
"Why would you ask that Sila? ". She didn't have a better response to it.
"I will tell you why", holding Mawra's hand she ran down the left over stairs and hurriedly took her to the far corner of the corridor, where it was quieter. To Mawra her best friend Sila seemed starnge at that very moment.
"Since you have been acting so starnge for last few days and since today during the whole lecture of Dr. Shahzeb, You wrote just one name repeatedly in your lecture note book and it spelled Daniel."
Though there was no accusation is Sila's voice, yet mawra felt extremely embarassed.
Can I be this obvious, she thought regretfully.
"Whats wrong Mawra, can't you simply share it with me. You have been so distracted and disturbed. Is everything alright? At least I have a right to know who this person is, no?"
There was no reason but Mawra had tears in her eyes. she never knew , one day her feelings will make her answerable to people she love.
"He is my dad's cousin." she said in a low tone. "was here on an official visit, stayed for hardly 3 nights at my home, I met him merely 5 times, the longest conversation lasted 25 minutes" Sila did not interrupt her.
She paused for a while and then said, " He is a Spaniard, since his mother is a Spanish lady. He was brought up there, he hardly understands urdu. He is somewhere near 39. There is nothing between us. No words, no talks, no phone calls, he treats me like his young cousin and friend and that's it." she paused again and for a moment Sila thought she will begin weeping.
"He's gone now, saying I can contact him anytime I wish to, but I never even tried to do such a thing. though thats the only thing I would want to do these days. He's left but hasn't really. To me he's still here or as if I am not here anymore, as if I have travelled with him to Madrid." and with that , her eyes gave way to tears.
"Initially I thought this feeling of liking him, feeling attracted towards him will go away, but it didn't. I am so helpless. there is nothing I can do. I can not sleep or eat properly, everyone at home, specially mom, think I am sick, I can not tell them, I can not tell anybody what is wrong with me, since I am my self unsure of my own status!"
Sila did not say anything. she gave her a tight hug, there was nothing she could do for her best friend.
In her 22nd year of life she had not known this feeling. She used to make fun of her friends who were going through such a phase. A blank stare in class room where she was hearing the lectures without actually listening to any thing. A blank mind when she was opening up books and unable to grab a single meaning. A blank laughter when she was trying to enjoy a joke thrown by one of her friends.
Suddenly she was being secluded. suddenly she loved being all by herself. She started avoiding company, she grew quiet. All she was doing was thinking, mostly unintentionally of someone she didn't even know. She was immersed in deep thoughts just to come back to surface to breath in. She grew to be an insomniac, she lost her sleep wake cycle. she lost her apetite, she began losing weight. It was all happening for which she had no controls. Constantly being with someone who was living in a far away land. Who was her dad's cousin, almost twice her age and beloging to a totally different cultural background.
Her earliest memories of him was of her childhood when she saw her dad's uncle with a foriegner aunty and their then teenage son. They were so different by looks that she was excited being with them. Her dad's uncle had married in Spain to a native lady and they had a son, Daniel Malik. Being someone with such unique looks and language , it facsinated her to stick around him and he used to treat her as a young child cousin.
There were a few more of his vists to Pakistan which were infrequent. He usually stayed in their house, he was very dear to Mawra's father. They were really good friends. It still fascinated Mawra to be stick around him whenever he was here. She had a deep liking for him since her childhood. But this time it was different. really different!
She was struck badly this time.
She did not know how but she was indulging beyond limits.
Something triggered it, may be it was his ignoring her or that phone call by his girlfriend back in Madrid, when they both were having coffee Mawra prepared that weekend.
And now that he was gone, she was wondering why her breaths were uneven, why her dreams were broken , why her mental clock was running with the time zone of Spain.
The forty five minutes drive to home from Barajas airport Madrid could easily take longer than an hour on this bustling , rushing evening which is so usual for spaniards living in Madrid. Hailing a cab to home and am already checking and replying to emails on my tablet. The working hours are almost finished in the town so there is no use going towards office.
It was a hectic tour to Pakistan and I was constantly on travel across various cities, but the outcome was successful. Suhail and his family was so hospitable they didn't even let me stay at the hotel. just as Im thinking of Suhail I gave him a call that I have safely landed.
This is the difference in East and West.
Here in Madrid nobody cares if I am back home. Wasn't Helen supposed to give me a call if she was not supposed to pick me up from airport? Back in Karachi, bibi jan and suhail instructed me that i need to keep in touch with them constantly.They care,at times they care too much. And I don't know why, but I enjoy being cared this way.
And this brings an unintentional smile to my face.
She cares a bit too much too. Mawra Suhail. She was one of the biggest surprises for me around this trip. I had no intention calling her a friend, but honestly I enjoyed sharing things with her, she makes me feel younger, takes me back in time. what an emotional ride. one that you never expect from western women.
And now where is my western woman? where is Helen Martinez? I still have to sort it out once I am in the peacful vicinity of my home. Hopefully Maria Jose was taking good care of my home for me in my absence, as she always used to do. She is the only home member who has considered me as her own child.
So he landed, on a land he never felt related to. And why he was here, he had yet to understnad.
Barefoot on this cold marble tiled floor, just as the sun was about to set, his staggering walk was taking longer for him to reach his destination. And where was his destination, he was still not sure. He was like a small kid whose mother went to buy sweets and toys for him and could not return. He wanted someone to hold his hand, to pat his shoulder, to tell him, he can do it.
From "Babe Fahad" one of the central entrances to the Prophet's mosque, he had turned right. and now as he was crossing the unending path that could lead him to his desired door, he noticed his limbs were shaking, his hands had tremors,his heart trembling and his senses snoozing. Travelling across each continent of the world, it never occured to him, he will one day be in this city. He never wanted to. But there were some unseen forces which were planning sequences for him.
And he knew one of the unseen forces. At least one of them.
"Hello, hows it going?" she asked as he picked up his cell phone.
"Getting ready for a dinner, deciding what to wear" he replied scanning through the wardrobe.
"Wear white." she was prompt, as usual.
"Beacause thats my favourite" , she chuckled.
"And why am I suppose to wear your favourite colour,mi amiga querida (my dear friend) ? " he smiled.
"Because thats gonna make you look fabulous"
"and you know that even when you can't see me"
"I dont have to see you, I just know, White is universal truth. We are wrapped in white at birth and at death, we wear white at Hajj, and we wear white when we goto Madinah"
"I never knew you wear white in Madinah." Daniel Could not take it anymore. He felt like laughing but he did not want to hurt Mawra Suhail, his best buddy.
" I do. if not anybody does. Thats my Prophets colour, so thats my favourite colour too. " she was a simple beleiver and he did not want to tease her beleifs, so he just smiled.
"ok Senorina, I'm gonna wear white tonight" and could hear her delightedness.
"And do that when You are in Madinah"
"oh comeon Mawra, you know this can't be. I shall never visit that city.", he snorted.
"You will. When I was there I prayed for you. Allah will call you to his door steps and You will then remember me".
Her confidence at times, began to irk Daniel Malik, but she was so dear to him, he never even imagined to hurt her feelings. so he kept quiet.
And now silent he was, wearing white, bowed head and with blinking thoughts he could feel her very close to him. Mawra Suhail was one of the forces pulling him towards Eeman, towards Madinah.
My words scare me. At times they scare me too much. They let me flow in their stream and make me oblivion of my ownself. I dont know if they effect anyone. What I know is, they effect me, like nothing else could. For I am nothing but words. For I have nothing but words.