By Maj Agha Amir Ahsan, Sigs (2nd SSC)
Our hosts were my senior colleague and his wife, who had got married recently but still living with us in the bachelor quarters, waiting for married accommodation. Their room was next door to mine and we often met, that is why I was quite close to her and was continuously teasing her. Other bachelors were quite formal but listening very intently to my remarks and laughing to make her more bashful. She was desperately trying to divert my attention, but I usually am quite a pest. We were sitting in our local departmental club, and most of the people in other groups were also known to us.
She succeeded at last, ‘You have a secret admirer brother’, she told me looking straight into my eyes. ‘Where’, I started looking all around.
‘You will frighten her, just calm down and casually look at the table on our right’.
I did, and there she was literally staring at me, but started looking the other way as our eyes met. She was quite charming, in her late teens, dark brown complexion, and a sweet smile. Just to be polite, I also started looking the other way.
Now, it was me who was the butt of the joke and the whole group was now laughing on the remarks of the lady on our table, because I couldn’t keep my eyes off the girl on the next table, and would glance her way every now and then.
Theirs was the largest table and it seemed like a big family gathering, I was delighted to see an old friend of my father joining them. I walked over to him as soon as he was settled, to pay my regards, he met me very warmly and introduced me to his friends, she smiled sweetly when I looked at her and said hello, I took a little longer look at her than the other people. It was a birthday party and she was the best friend of the birthday girl.
I could not keep my eyes off her, when I returned to my own table, most of the times I found her lovely large eyes looking back at me and she would start looking the other way, but soon she started taking longer in shifting her gaze, and by the end of the evening we even had a match and she kept staring into my eyes till I was forced to look the other way lest my lady host would have noticed and cracked a joke on me.
It was a small town with very traditional Muslim background, young girls did not come out without their traditional big chadors, enveloping all except the eyes. They were usually very shy and would not talk to strangers, and very seldom come out unaccompanied, as such this was very unusual and she was very different from the crowd. She talked and laughed quite loudly and had a very nice laughter and she laughed easily in a very distinct voice.
Her voice was very pleasant and had left an indelible mark on my auditory sensors, so I recognized it at once when I heard it on the phone. I was in my office, and though had not been able to forget her, but had no hopes of meeting her again. I was really surprised on how quickly she could trace me down to my office, and her guts to have actually called me, after all it was just a weekend in between.
People who have not seen the World without cellular phones may find it difficult to understand, but the romance and mystery created by the automatic telephone exchange is something I miss in this new dynamic World. It was really fun to call people without CLI (Calling Line Identity).
‘Oh, it is you’, I said abruptly.
Now she was surprised, ‘Do you know who am I’?
‘Huh! No, I don’t even know your name; the gentleman who introduced us did not tell me that’.
She was flabbergasted; she had no idea that I would recognize her so easily. ‘How did you recognize me’?
‘I can’t really see your beautiful eyes through the phone, so my dear Watson, it must have been your beautiful voice’.
Her laughter was much more beautiful on the phone, and it was a very long laugh, I waited for her to finish, ‘what was so amusing’, I asked.
‘You are lucky, I have read Sherlock Holmes, otherwise your beautiful joke would have been wasted on a country damsel’.
‘As I don’t know your name, in fact I have decided to call you Watson’.
‘Me? Watson? As you said a beautiful girl like me? Watson?’ she was almost talking to herself.
‘Watson is a surname, could be a man or a girl, Jack Watson or Jill Watson’ I said.
I had very recently been jilted in love and very lonely. Where I longed for company, I was not prepared for a new relationship. An innocent friendship between a man and woman was not acceptable in our society. Her behavior could not be explained, she was sort of discreet about our relationship, which consisted mostly of her telephone calls to me, I could not return the calls because she never told me her number. Although, at times I would pass an uncanny remark or compliment her in a flirtatious manner, but it was always a joke and taken as such.
She didn’t tell me her name in the first few days, and I kept calling her Watson. I used to be busy in the morning, so we started to talk in the evening or even at night. It was usually nonsense, and she was always laughing very loudly on my lame jokes. She had the most beautiful voice and would sometimes sing me a song. Not only was her voice melodious, she was also very well versed with music, so one day I asked her, where she had learned to sing so beautifully, ‘my mother taught me’ she said.
‘Ooh, your mother sings as well, is she as good as you’, I thought I was cracking a joke.
‘See for yourself, she has a program on television at seven’, she hung up before I could ask her another question.
I was sitting in front of the television, and there was actually a music program at seven, and the most famous classical singer was to sing, she was my favorite. Something in her tone had told me, that she was telling the truth. She had not told me her telephone number as yet, so I always had to wait for her call. I dialed the telephone enquiry and asked for her mother’s phone number, and rang up. Bingo! There she was on the other end. ‘You didn’t believe me, did you?’ she asked.
‘If I Didn’t, I wouldn’t have found you’, I retorted.
We saw that program while talking on phone; she had obviously seen the program and kept on quipping about it. In between the songs her mother also gave out a recipe of shami kebabs, ‘they sound delicious’ I said.
‘No, mine are much better than hers, and you can decide for yourself tomorrow’.
Next day true to her word, a driver was standing in my office with a very traditional tray holding two dishes, he removed the nice embroidered cover and pointing to each dish informed me, which one was made by his mistress and which one by her daughter. As there was enough for everybody I called all my bachelor friends to my office and we had a very hearty meal. Besides Watson, now she had another name ‘Kebab wali’, she was not amused when I told her. ‘Do you often discuss me with your friends’ she asked.
‘Everybody knows you, they saw you in the club that day and then did you expect me to eat all those kebabs by myself, I shared and they were grateful, asked me to thank you’.
A few days later, I was invited to their home for a cup of tea with her mother. Her mother was a very exquisite lady with very fine manners, the table was very lavishly laid out and she was the most hospitable host. After the refreshment we sat down in the living room listening to her mother’s music. I was the only guest and both of them took very good care of me. Her brother, who had his tea with us, excused himself when she asked him to sing and he was a little shy. Even I was asked to sing, but my genuine excuses were accepted. She was very chirpy and sang some very good songs; the mother declined her insistence politely. It took me lot of effort to finally decline their offer to stay for the dinner. Her mother gave me her autographed collection of music.
‘There are certain things, only a man can tell a woman’, we had now started seeing each other in the club twice or thrice in a week, usually in the afternoon, but today we were having dinner under the sky and there was romance in the air. It was a very large lawn and the tables were quite apart, she took my hand in both her hands and started looking intently, as if reading a book. I didn’t say anything, it was the first time we had touched each other in such a manner. ‘Are you just flirting with me’, the soft touch on my hand had turned into a firm grip, and she was now looking into my eyes.
‘I never flirted with you’, the sudden attack had made me absolutely defensive.
‘Then what do you call this, how would you explain our relationship’.
‘You are my friend, we enjoy each other’s company’, I could myself feel the emptiness of my words.
‘Would you accept another girl as your wife, who had been enjoying somebody else’s company’?
I was at loss of words and kept quiet; we had by now walked out into the car park. Seeing us, her chauffeur had come out and opened the car door for her. She turned around facing me and mincing each word said, ‘You are a Nation of tamash been, you flirt with every girl who comes into your life, forgetting that your own women folk are also a part of and living in the same society, they may also have found some non-committed friends, and then you go out honor killing’. It was very dark, but her eyes shone brightly like a tiger. She waited for a while which seemed like an hour, and then before sitting in the car and slamming her door she shouted, ‘Good bye sir, we may not meet again as I no longer enjoy your company’.
More Articles by Maj Agha
Rawalpindi, a City of Dreams and Demons (Part I)
Rawalpindi, a City of Dreams and Demons (Part II)
Rawalpindi, a City of Dreams and Demons (Part III)
Rawalpindi, a City of Dreams and Demons (Part IV)
Letter to a Chilean Friend
The Chocolate Fairy