The old familiar compound consisted of eight flats. And,
by NAYYAR SHABBIR AHMAD
as I entered it - who do you think I encountered - an old
familiar face. “Hullo, Abbas, ” I hailed merrily as I stepped
out of my limo. “Long time no see, ” returned he with a cer-
tain solemnity. He was in the process of getting into his car,
but he strode over and exchanged warm greetings with me.
“I hear, your daughter's getting married, soon? ” he enquired
“That's right! ” I replied. “That's why I've been preoccupied.”
“My! My! how time flies. When I first saw her she was two
years old.” “Well - Now she's twenty-two” I uttered, happily
I handed him one of the two invitation cards in my hands.
“Personally delivered-so you, my friend, had better come.”
“With pleasure, ” accepted he. We exchanged more banter.
Then parted. And, I made my way to my intended target
Which was: Noori! The love of my life. I had to keep her
existence a secret because not only did I have a wife and
children, but, I had a certain position to maintain as a well
respected member of society. I rang the bell and waited.
“Ansar! ” she exclaimed in surprise as she opened the door.
“ What..? ” “I know, I owe you an apology, ” I said hastily.
“I- I was too tied up to come, earlier.” She led me inside
saying, “What good would my crying or complaining do? ”
She was resigned. We exchanged bleak smiles before
we rushed into each others arms and nestled therein.
Yes, there was no use, her complaining. I had to stick to
my commitments and our lives together came second
It had always been that way. She accepted it in silence.
No complaints. No questions. Only a quiet resignation.
“I was afraid, you'd send me packing, ” I uttered in relief
“In the 26 years we've known each other, how I've
wanted to-send you packing-many times, ” she bared.
“But, did I? ” “No, ” I appreciated. “I don't deserve an
Angel like you.” I was saying it for the umpteenth time.
I meant it. “You don't, ” she accepted. “ But, you have
me, for life! ” “How fortunate, I am, ” mused I. Enough!
I had come on business. I thrust the card at her. She
looked at it in amazement. “What's this? ”she asked.
“An invitation-what else? ” “You're inviting me - ME! ”
“Yes, you! ” “To your daughter's wedding? ” “Why not? ”
I demanded. “She's been practically brought up by
you.” “I know-but-but-but......” She was speechless
“But, what? ” I asked unreasonably. “ She expects you
to accept.....In fact, her Mother and I would be pleased,
too...? ” “Speaking for the wife? ” quizzed Noori. I shook
my head.“No! ” I swore. “Both of us.” “Sure, your wife
would be pleased? ” she asked, suspiciously. “Very, ”
I insisted. She was silent and pensive for a moment
Then, she sat herself down by me and read part of
the card out loud. “Mr. and Mrs. Ansar request the
pleasure of your company...” “Will you come? ” I in-
terrupted. She eyed me. “So that your wife has a
chance to gloat? ” asked she looking intently at me.
I was taken aback. I thought, I had heard wrong
“Gloat? ” She nodded. “ What on earth are you...? ”
Her eyes flashed. “As if you didn't know! ” “Well......
yes, okay...I. But, why use that particular word.......? ”
I questioned. “I'll spell it out for you, ” she promised.
“Do..? ” “Your wife has now got you exactly where she
wants you! ” “Where? ” “By her side.” “Not so! ” I argued.
“It is so, ” she threw forcefully. “And, well you know it...! “
I groped. “Your children have grown up to do their
parents proud...If that isn't a gloating matter-what is? ”
“Rakhee, ” (my wife) , “has such a sweet disposition....”
I began. “Nevertheless...” “No...! She's incapable of
- what you call - err-err...” “Gloating, ” she helped. I
glared and continued. “She's incapable of gloating.
Full stop! ” insisted I. “Oh yes? ” she queried forcefully.
Before I could reply she called a truce, as was her
usual way of walking away from arguments. I began
to think about how we had first met. It was I, a junior
executive who had seduced his secretary in his
Office all those years back. And, what had I-a
happily married man given her in return? Very little
-apart from a wasted and solitary life. My own,
hitherto serene existence became full of deceit
and guilt. Ofcourse the upshot of all this was:
My wife's earnstwhile tranquility was destroyed
completely and Noori's plans for a fulfilling future
were stifled forever by egoistic and selfish me.
I began to ply between the two loves in my life.
Not very satisfactory-I know-but....Never once
did Noori chide me about my two-faced ways.
Rakhee did. But, not often enough. She was
very conscious that in Indian society, it was
better to have a husband-however absent
he was......than have no husband at all.
Besides, the children needed their Father
So, it became neccessary for me to be about. And,
as a consequence, unfortunately, sometimes Noori
and I met only occasionally....With the passage of
time those around Noori grew older, fatter and greyer
but she always managed to maintain her charisma
and allure. I have absolutely no idea how she did it.
What I mean is, this, after I had trampled all over
her and she had been left today devoid of husband
and family-and all alone.....And yet, she seemed
the most carefree out of all of us. I brought her out
of her reverie. “Noori..? ” “Huh..? ” “What were you
thinking about, just now? ” “Er-errr...Nothing-really.”
“Something...? ” I insisted. “Well...” she hesitated.
I waited. “Just that, I'd have loved to have had a
daughter with you.” I was more than startled. “I
so wanted your child, too. But-but..you refused.”
“Only because, ” she defended, “in our days, it
was very different. People didn't flaunt their
affairs as openly as they do today.” “You're
right, ” I regretted. “It would never have done
to have had a child out of wedlock, with you.”
“Now, anything is acceptable, ” uttered she.
“Still, ” I sighed. “How I regret -” “Shhh...! ”
she hushed. “I have my regrets, too........
But, what would be the use in regretting,
anything...Hmmm...? All we have is the
present and the future. Let's make the
most of it? ” “You're right, ” I sighed. “Lets.”
When I got home Rakhee quizzed: “What
did she say when she got the card? ” “Just,
“Thank you.” “Will she come? ” questioned
she with some irritation. “So that you can
gloat..? ” “Gloat-gloat about what? ” retorted
she.“All these years, I never had much of a
husband in you....and, now, ” she sobbed,
“ I'm about to loose a daughter, too.........! ”