Every day, after the Ish’aa Prayer (Prayer after sunset), Ibrahim and his three friends would meet at the treehouse they had built at one of the Chinar trees situated behind their garage.
The garage is located near the street and its backyard is lined with Chinar trees on one of which, Ibrahim and his friends relax after the day’s hard work. The surroundings are not well. There is rust everywhere. Most of the time, the garage is filled with old, wrecked, and rusted cars. You will find polythene, plastic, tin, and junk everywhere. It is not a good spot to look at and please your soul. But the backside is the place, you wouldn’t want to miss.
Precisely 12 Chinar trees are lined up in a very serene manner that can please anyone’s soul. On one of the Chinar trees in middle, is a small 7 by 10 ft. cabin which looks like a castle on a cloud.
The treehouse is made of wood. No color, no design, nothing, just simple wood. It has a single window which instead of glass is covered by transparent polythene. In one of the corners of the treehouse is a gas stove for cooking. Those old-school yellowish low-power light bulbs in the middle of the treehouse dazzle with yellow light just like candles.
A huge copper plate is placed in the middle of the treehouse. During winter seasons, fire is lit in it to heat up the surroundings.
In the Autumn season, chinar appears to be on fire. Its leaves are blended well from red to yellow as they are burning with desire.
On one such autumn night, it was raining heavily, leaves making noise with the wind and droplets tripping down, Ibrahim and his friends were walking from Masjid to the treehouse. “SHHHHH…” was the sound produced by rain.
They had brought a trout fish, a bunch of soft drinks and some potatoes were already in the treehouse to make chips from.
The friends climbed the ladder leading to the treehouse one by one until the last person got in. Then they closed the door. One of the friends started making chips and the trout, one began setting up the place and Ibrahim worked to set up their heater.
After some thirty minutes of work, everything was ready. The friends sat in a circle around the heater, food distributed and everything took place under the yellow lamp.
While eating, one of the friends said, “I have a guilt I can never forgive myself for.”
The second one asked, “ what is it? ” , to which the first friend replied, “A teacher in my school once asked me about my favourite food and I said ‘Kabaab,’ instead of ‘Trout.’
“Mine is much bigger than this.” The second one replied.
“And what is that?” asked the first one.
“We had a girl in our school that I liked very much. She was like a sister to me. On the last day of school, she was sitting on my left side in the school bus. Remembering that this might be our last moment ‘together,’ I subconsciously gripped my left hand softly on her shoulder and tried to drag her towards me to hug her, but I realized what I was doing and suddenly backed off. And till this day, I regret that action of mine.”
“So, what is your guilt you can never forgive yourself for Ibrahim?” asked the third friend.
“It is a long story,” Ibrahim replied.
“Where do you think we are rushing to?” the second friend asked.
“I don’t know what you will think of me, but I will share it with you. So, friends… bear with me.”
I studied in Dialgam Higher secondary school and I saw her for the first time in class 9th. She wasn’t special to me. I never intended to talk to her. She was not my type. Her name was Batool.
I was always the center of attention, one way or the other. It was very hard for me to display myself as ‘not a winner in any situation.’
I spent 4 years with Batool, together in one class. We would talk several times a day and it was normal. When we were in class 12th, I began hearing about her more frequently. One day or the other I used to hear from a guy that he proposed her and she would always respond with a big ‘NO!’
As days passed by, hearing about it a lot and often, I began to see it as a challenge. Everyone would say it is increasing her “Rank” and she is extra proud of herself. Some began to say that she is serene just from her appearance and that they knows her secrets. Some would say she changes guys as we change clothes. Some would say all she wants is money and in nutshell, gossip never stopped.
“You claim yourself to be ‘me’?” I said to one of the candidates once. “I’ll show you how I’ll have her… piece of cake for me.”
“She says NO to everyone.” he replied.
“I bet she would have not less than three boyfriends.” My friend replied to him.
“Yes bro, serene girls are always the darker ones.” He replied.
“To make themselves appear ‘angelic’ in public,” I added.
“And are devilish in nature.” My friend added to my statement. After using some abusive language for her, we all laughed.
From the next day, I tried to get closer to her. She responded well. It didn’t take too long for us to get too close.
We would share jokes, make fun of each other, and what not. But she was nothing special with me. She was like this with every guy in our class, it was just me and my friends who always ignored her because she was not our type.
Once, while sitting in the corner of the staff room, Batool passed by. I called her and asked for a selfie with me. She agreed right away and we took a selfie. I still remember the blue-colored walls in the background and that serene, simple pose of her in that photograph. Things were going well. I was neither interested in her nor was she, interested, in anyone. “As far as I know her.”
One Sunday while roaming around with my friends, I saw that guy whom I had challenged about having Batool.
“Any progress yet?” he asked mockingly.
“More than you could ever imagine,” I replied.
My friends asked what were we talking about and that guy told them how I challenged him to have Batool.
“So, what progress have you made Ibrahim?” one of my friends asked me.
“It was piece of cake,” I responded.
After sitting comfortably, I showed them the selfie. That guy totally lost his senses. He could hardly believe his eyes.
“Have you done anything further?” one of my friends asked.
“This is the selfie before doing ‘ANYTHING FURTHER.’” I replied and they all raised their voice “AAAAAA….” As I had done something great.
“Every girl pout’s before taking a selfie, but she hasn’t… what does this means…” one of my friends asked and they again raised their voice, “AAAAAAA…”
That guy went straight to his friends and told them the story and in no time, the news spread like fire. After graduating from higher secondary, I never saw her again. She went to Jamia Millia Islamia to study philosophy and I went to Kashmir University for B-tech and then to Chandigarh for M-tech.
After six years, I got the news that her father passed away because of a heart attack. I decided to visit her house, but my friend Danish stopped me. When I asked for the reason, he told me that her marriage was broken several times because of the story I shared with people and they had added their portion as well.
After hearing all this her father didn’t believe it. Even after seeing the selfie, he would reply, “I know my daughter very well, she can never do this. I have given her the best upbringing, and you can’t judge her on the basis of this photograph and some lies.”
One of the men had replied “your daughter would always appear serene, I knew it from the start that she was pretending to behave so.”
I can blindly believe what you are saying are ‘lies.’ I don’t even need a photograph for this.” her father said.
Danish said after seeing everyone pointing out fingers at them, her father finally rested in peace followed by that serene daughter that he had raised with principles and care.
The father was killed by a daughter and that daughter was killed by her serenity. Do you know what Batool means? It means ‘pure.’
This is not a pang of guilt I am living with, it is a curse. A great Muslim once said, “If I ever found a man coming out of a brothel, I would assume he must have gone there to advise someone about the right and wrong. If I ever found a man coming out of a wine shop with wine dripping down his beard, I will assume he would have gone there to advise someone for which they would have splashed a glass of wine at his face.”
After a huge sigh of sorrow, they continued eating chips and fried fish in the heavy rain.
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