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Sample chapter 5

5. Faizan and Aarti first meet


“Doctor…doctor…the patient is awake” cried a nurse loudly calling the doctor as I found myself in a hospital crowded with many other riot victims. An abrupt anxiousness to enquire about my present location bewildered me as soon as I recovered consciousness.

“Wh...Where am I?” I enquired groaningly as I tried to lift up.

“Relax! You are in the city hospital. You are safe now,” replied the doctor simultaneously inspecting my nerves.

“But I was… How did I get here?” I asked to the doctor as pictures of last attack gradually summoned up in my memory.

“Thank her…. She is Dr. Aarti. She saved your life.” I turned to see her. She was the same girl, the girl in the blue. The divine one.

“You are very lucky. She brought you here just in time” replied the doctor as I retried to lift myself up.

 “Do not move. You were brutally attacked by the mob. You must rest. Please lie down” she replied making me lie down to the bed. The doctor later quizzed me about my family and acquaintances and further informed me that I was unconscious for ten days.

“10 days?” I shouted out of surprise.

“Do not worry Faizan. You are all right now. Just take your medicines on time and cooperate,” requested the doctor and left.
***
It had been two weeks now that I had regained consciousness and I felt much better by then.

“You are recovering faster. You may be discharged soon. Isn’t it good news?” she asked me.

“No”

“No?”

“I mean I feel comfortable here” I replied distraughtly as she was busy in dressing me. “Moreover, I don’t know where to go from here”.

 “You miss your family, don’t you?”

“Yeah (desolately)…I do.” I said as glooming images of riot torched my memory once again. “I do not know where they are. I do not even know whether anybody is even alive or not. I do not know where to find them. Oh! I feel so helpless. I think I should start looking for them right now,” I said her trying to get up from the bed.

“Faizan relax! Lie down. You have not recovered yet, please don’t…” she resisted me from leaving. But I ignored her and tried to get up but fell down instantly from the bed. She further escorted me back to my bed.

“Why don’t you listen? Faizan you are not well yet. You will be discharged soon if you co-operate us. Stop ruining your condition please…” she warned me but I was impatient.

“Then help me find them” I shouted at her. “You know my family right? Help me find them.”

“There is no news about your family. They are all missing and it’s still hostile out there. The rescue operations are on and believe me it’s still not safe out there” she said to convince me. “Get well soon first and then we’ll both go to the rescue camps to inquire about them.”

Aarti tried everything to convince me but I was too desperate to listen to her. And just after two days when I regained some strength, I successfully convinced her to take me to relief camps to quiz about my family and acquaintances. I desperately inquired about my family, and Suzanne, her family, but I failed to gather any information about any of them. I enquired in police stations, my acquaintances, neighbors, everywhere but nobody had any information about anyone. Every morning, I would go out to search them but return back only with shallow hopes. It was a tough time. Sometimes I used to have wicked thoughts about them being even alive. I was alone. More than ever. No one was there to lend me strength. No one to express my grief. No family, no friends, no one but Aarti. Only she was there in the spectrum to literally grip the threads of hope for me to there to live. I had no reason to breath. I barely smiled, in fact wept sometimes when alone.

“I know its tough time for you. Failing in finding someone does not mean that they are not alive anymore. You must not lose hope my friend. Leave everything to his mercy,” she said to me one day convincingly. I looked at her, an innocent girl who had nothing to do with me yet so much concerned about me.

“Thank you…” I murmured slowly.

“You said something?”

“Nothing… just wanted to thank you for whatever you did for me, you know…I owe you my life” I said.

After a small pause she jokingly replied, “Don’t worry. I get paid for that”. I just had a smile of obligation for her as an answer.
***
Often found in the lonely parts of the sanatorium I was less known for speaking. Nurses would complain about my behavior. Doctors would warn me for my declining health. However, I barely heeded anybody.

She was the only one whom I used to listen.      

“Nurse says you never talk,… neither you eat anything. It is not good for your health,” she said giving me medicines. However, I did not respond. She changed the topic to start different conversation.

“O.K tell me something about your family, or may be Suzanne,” she insisted me but I did not even move my lips. Perhaps she understood that her attempts are useless and hence taking a deep breath she thumped my shoulders and stood up to leave.

“She was going to be my fiancée… Suzanne. We were to be engaged next month,” I said in melancholic voice. Aarti sat back to listen quietly.

“She was my colleague. We were in relation for about three years…” I paused.

“Just few days before … I believe some two or three days before the riot, she proposed me for our marriage. And I introduced her to my parents the same day the disaster broke out… same day,” I said in a grave heavy voice to her as tears, without prior warning, found its way out.

“Everything was going good and everything got torn up in just a blink…everything.”
Later after the conversation she left me to take rest. Was she pained by hearing the story? Yes, maybe she was. But all she could do for me was to reiterate those same old false preaches- ‘Everything’s goanna be all right’. However, maybe, it were these false hopes which was all required at that time. And at times when everything was already screwed up, the cruel destiny still remained unsatisfied and kept planting thorns on my path. The worst was yet to happen.                                                                            

The news of me being alive soon reached the ears of Junaid Khan. He rushed to Younis Khan to yell out the garbage against me in his ears.

“What are you talking about? I cannot harm him. He has nothing to do with all this. He is innocent and is not a threat to us in anyways. He never was. Already the city has turned into a hell due to our actions. I do not want any more killings,” expressed Younis Khan who was now guilty for his gaffe.
Junaid Khan was surprised with the negative response of his leader but he didn’t quit and tried once again.

“Janaab, I know you are hurt. But believe me it is not your fault but destiny. And we do not have control over it. Even I mourn for the people out there” said Junaid Khan pressing Younis Khan to let him incarcerate me. “The state needs a secular leader just like you. If the power goes into the hand of opposition these riots will be a daily scene. I just wish for your good future and of the city, nothing else I swear.”

Younis Khan was adamant on further not indulging in any criminal activity, however, after some fierce arguments Junaid Khan cunningly persuaded him to abide by his plan. Half job was done. 

Now, Junaid Khan needed someone to execute me.  He needed someone who was very close to me, someone very faithful, someone like Aarti herself.
***

Aarti was sleeping in her house that night when her cell beeped.

“How are you ma’am? Is everything going well?” asked Junaid Khan, the caller.

“Who is this?” she enquired (yawningly).

“A well-wisher...who can help you earn millions overnight?” asked Junaid Khan with a cunning flavor in his deal.

“What nonsense? Who is this?” asked Aarti irefully.

“It does not matter who I am. It matters how you can earn those big bucks. Now here’s the dare. Just poison Faizan Ahmad Khan, your patient. I know he is admitted to your hospital. You just have to kill him before he awakes tomorrow,” explained Junaid Khan.
Abruptly alarmed by the words that pierced her ears she instantly pulled her blanket to fire on him, 

“Who are you? You dare not to harm him.”

Junaid Khan laughed and said, “Look, if you do not do it, someone else will do it. But like I said I am just your well-wisher and so I wanna give this chance to you. Maybe I should increase the price. Why don’t you bid your price yourself?”

That got Aarti angrier. She threw her blanket aside to get out of her bed and abruptly shouted at him, 

“Shut up! Shut your nonsense! I clearly understand who you people are. You cut your phone or I shall lodge an FIR against you…you smug.”

It made Junaid Khan angry too. He instantly shouted at her, “You think you can save him. There are many people in the hospital who will readily do the job for me. So better you keep shut now.” He threw his cell down in anger and ordered his men to do the job themselves. Meanwhile, Aarti was thrilled and she instantly rushed to the hospital before they reached there. She did not take chance to inform the police, perhaps she knew they couldn’t be trusted as well. She came to me, asked to get dressed up and move with her.

“What happened?” I asked. But she did not confide anything and asked me to quickly move with her.
Meanwhile, I myself spotted few gunmen outside the window who were heading towards the hospital and it did not take me time further to understand what was going on. At such time only she was there to whom I could trust. We got out of the hospital from the back gate and sprang into the car to disappear. They followed us. She drove the car as fast as she could but that was not enough. Those people too followed us like a shadow. We had to think something different. Aarti showed cleverness by moving the car into busier road and then smartly took advantage of the traffic to disappear from the vicinity.

Later we left the car in the traffic and hid into a lorry to escape from their sight. My mind was too much jumbled to query her. So I just did whatever she asked me to and we both hid ourselves in the truck. It was almost impossible for those people to find us in such big traffic. They looked for us everywhere but failed to spot us. Meanwhile the traffic got cleared and the truck started to move. We did not know what were we doing but there was no question of going back to the town at least for few days. We were very lucky that day to escape successfully.


All the way she kept convincing me as someone like family. And I, I constantly stared at her, thinking why would someone so unknown, whom I had met only few days before, help me and that too at this extent. Nevertheless, there was something that made me feel very peaceful. Maybe it was her presence. And only when the truck covered a fare distance we took sigh of relief. Amid such mess, weariness and fresh cold breeze I barely remember when on the way we fell asleep.


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