Every day, after the Ish’aa Prayer (Prayer after the sunset), Ibrahim and his 3 friends would meet at the treehouse they had built at one of the Chinar trees in the back of their garage.
The garage is placed on the highway but on the backside of the garage are tens of Chinar trees on one of which, Ibrahim and his friends relax after the day’s hard work. Most of the time, the garage is full of old wrecked and rusted cars. The surroundings are not well too. You will find polythene, plastic, tin, etc everywhere. It is not a good spot to look at and please your soul. There is rust everywhere. But the backside is the place, you wouldn’t want to miss out.
Precisely 12 Chinar trees lined up in a very serene manner that pleases everyone’s soul. On the Chinar tree 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 making up the cabin. 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 single light bulbs in the middle of the treehouse dazzling with yellow light like candles are lit in there.
A huge copper plate in the middle of the treehouse for the winter seasons lit the fire in it and heat the surroundings.
In the Autumn season, chinar appears to be on fire. Its leaves are blended well from red to yellow as they are on fire.
In one such autumn night, when it was raining heavily and the leaves were also making noise with wind and droplets, Ibrahim and his friends returned from the Masjid to the treehouse. “SHHHHH…” was the sound rain was making.
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 began making chips from some potatoes, one began frying 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, heater in the middle, food distributed and everything taking place under the yellow lamp.
While eating, one of the friends asked, “I have a guilt I can never forgive myself for.”
The second one asked for what that was to which the first friend replied, “I was once asked by a teacher in the school for what my favorite food was. I responding ‘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 to my left side on the school bus. Remembering that this might be our last ‘together,’ I subconsciously gripped softly my left hand to her shoulder and tried to drag her to me, to hug her when I realized what I was doing. I suddenly backed off. But 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 to Ibrahim.
“It is a long story,” Ibrahim replied.
“Where do you think, we are rushing to?” the second friend asked him to continue.
“I don’t know what you will think of me, but I will share it with you. So, friends… bear with me.”
I used to study at Dialgam Higher secondary school when I saw her in class 9th for the first time. She was no 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 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 other I will be hearing from a guy that he was proposing to her and she would always respond with a big ‘NO!’
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 he knows her secrets. Some would say she changes guys as we change clothes. Some would say all she wants is money and in nutshell, talks 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.”
“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
“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 whatnot. But it wasn’t just special with me. she was this with every guy in our class, it was just e and my friends who always ignored her because she was not of our type.
Once while sitting in the corner of the staff room, Batool passed by. I called her asking for capturing a selfie with me. she agreed right away and we took a selfie there. 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 neither was she, interested in, anyone. As far as I know of her.
One Sunday while roaming around with my friends, I saw that guy whom I had challenged about having Batool.
“Any progress yet?” he said to me mockingly.
“More than you could ever imagine,” I replied.
My friends asked me 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 told them.
After sitting in a good spot, I showed them the selfie. That guy was gone totally out of his mind. He can’t believe in his own eyes.
“You have 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 before taking a selfie, but she has not… what this means…” one of my friends said and they again raised their voice, “AAAAAAA…”
That guy told this story to his friends, they to theirs and it spread like the fire. After graduating from higher secondary school, I never saw her. She went to Jamia Millia Islamia to study philosophy and I went to Kashmir University for Btech and then to Chandigarh for Mtech.
After six more years, I got the news that her father had 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 stories I had told people and those people had added their portion to it as well.
After her father had heard it, he didn’t believe it, even after the selfie was shown to him. he had replied “I know my daughter; she can never do this. I know how I have grown here, and you are judging her based on this photograph and some lies.”
One of the men had replied “your daughter would always appear serene; I had known this from the beginning for what she was behaving so. I can blindly believe what you are saying are ‘lies.’ I don’t even need a photograph for this.”
Danish said after seeing everyone pointing its fingers at her father, he finally rested in peace followed by that serene daughter he had raised with principles and care.
His 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. One of the great Muslim scholars has said “If I ever found a man coming out of a brothel, I will assume he must have gone to advice the right and wrong. If I ever found a man coming out of a wine shop with wine at its beard, I would assume he would have gone to advise them for which someone would have splashed a glass of wine at his face.”
After a huge sigh of sorrow, they continued eating chips and that fried fish in the heavy rain.
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