“ No,no,no………This is madness. Today only a few people have some suspicions, but the way you behave , I am sure one day you will be a pronounced offender. Ah, how bad it would be…It will be difficult to face people. Your character, family prestige …everything will be gone.
“ Now please tell me: why don’t you stop thinking about Naseer Sir? You better listen to me. Naseer Sir is retiring ( from government service) in few years time, and you are so young…it’s madness…you would only ruin yourself !”
While Saba was seething and giving her mind to her, Taranum was only staring at the door of the staff-room . She was , as if wanting the door to open, waiting for Naseer Sir to come out…
Saba just grabbed and shook her.” Here I am talking with you and you seem to be lost in your own make-believe world!.”
Startled, Taranum just regained her poise and looked at Saba with all the innocence- “did you say something to me?”
Amazed, but also sad, Saba murmured :
“Well, this is all futile…”
Looking at Saba, Taranum couldn’t help but laugh it out.
With seriousness written all over her face, Saba said: “Look Taranum, I am your friend, much more than your sister, and after thinking it out very seriously, I would suggest that you better stop thinking about Naseer Sir. It is a very tricky and thorny path and better not tread it.”
Smiling at Saba’s empathy, Taranum put her arm around Saba’s shoulder, and said, “Saba I swear, I am helpless. I can’t help it. Naseer has come to become the sole aim and focus of my life…”
Without letting Taranum complete her sentence, Saba said, “Taranum your Dad wouldn’t let it happen…”
Giving it a thought, Taranum said, “He wouldn’t go against my wishes. Thus far he has never ever gone against me. He would do anything for me. He has been both Mom and Dad to me; he can’t undermine my likes, my wishes, my desire…”
“Look Saba, Naseer Sir too is a single; well, he may be a bit older but it hardly makes any difference. He looks still so young, as agile and energetic as anyone even less than his age. He is so handsome. He is like a challenge to me and after a great deal of thinking I have taken up this challenge …”
After hearing all this from Taranum, Saba just felt so sad. “Now, I am afraid of you, and I curse the day when you fell ill during the college picnic, which is when Naseer Sir got this chance …”
“How mean of you! … you are cursing and I am just praising the day for that was when I got the chance to get so close with him. That night when he came to drop me home, he even met my Dad; and afterwards Dad and I talked for quite a while about Naseer Sir.”
“You remember Saba, when two of us came to the university for admissions, and the last date for check-in had already gone by…? It was you only who introduced me to Naseer Sir at that crossing across the lawns. Naseer took great pains and it is only because of him that I got the admission. Had I not met him on that day, today like most of other girls of my ilk, I would have been sitting home, imprisoned within the four wall of my house.”
Saba could see Taranum’s eyes turning moist while she was recounting all this. She thought she better change the topic so as to change the mood.
“Ah, you are mad, I was just kidding. Well, this heart is a thing… it takes wondrous flights, dreams of impossible things…”
“No my dear, you can’t just laugh at my dream. You better fall in love yourself first, then you will come to know what it’s all about!”
Saba replied: “You know life is like a bus station, where you meet so many strangers who are headed for different destinations. So why ruin calm by falling in love with a stranger?”
Taranum said: “Saba do you think that we have met just to part? Well, this is not how it is. What if the classes will be off in couple of months; after exams are over, I will enroll for the PhD, and mind it, I won’t let it go, until I succeed in my ‘mission. And yes Saba, I just forgot to tell you that yesterday I met Naseer Sir at the library and he told me that this Sunday he is coming to visit us at home. You just pray to God that Dad too like him…”
Hearing all this, Saba said, “Taranum you tell me, have you and Naseer sir ever talked about your relationship?”
Taranum couldn’t hold herself at this question. Putting her arm around Saba’s shoulder once again, she said, “Now here you are … You keep telling me that I talk a lot. And yes I do. But… here the situation is entirely different. After going through scores of romantic novels and memorizing lots of love quotes and what not, when it comes to speaking with Naseer Sir, I can’t say a word. I am so choked that it’s like every thought and each feeling gets stuck in my throat. Well, I have heard this is what happens when you are so deeply in love … Now you would ask what about Naseer Sir. Well, he is a professor, and ever so formal. But yes yesterday in the staff-room while he was going through my notes, he told me ‘Taranum, you are a loving girl. I wish I could keep you forever in front of my eyes.’
“Saba, hearing this, I can’t tell my heart skipped a beat. And yes, yesterday after the class was over, I walked to Naseer Sir in the corridor and narrated a verse and sought its meaning. He smiled back and asked me to come over to his room. There he explained the meaning to me in such a manner that I felt all that was needed was a romantic song, then and there. Like a music maestro, he mesmerizes me and makes me sing to his tunes…
“I am sure tomorrow morning the sun of my love will shrine bright and hot, and on Monday entire campus will come to know about my love reaching its goal.”
Gathering the books around her, Saba said to Taranum: “Ok, let s wait until Monday. And Taranum, it is already getting too hot here, let’s move… and yeah, it seems that all the professors, including your Naseer Sir are just enjoying a siesta in the staffroom.”
Laughing at this joke, Taranum and Saba got up from the lawns and went to cafeteria for tea.
Around 3 o’clock, Taranum met Prof. Naseer.
Prof. Naseer: Helo Taranum, how are you?
Taranum (feeling shy) I am fine, courtesy your good wishes.
Prof. Naseer. So, what all is happening?
Taranum: Nothing much. , and yeah… tomorrow is Sunday.
Prof. Naseer: Yes I know it’s Sunday…
Oh yes I remember…
Taranum: Well, I will wait tomorrow morning.
Prof. Naseer: Ok, I am also going somewhere and once I am done, I will come over. I promise…
Taranum just smiled and with a marked shyness just started staring in the ground.
Prof. Naseer: Well Taranum, your bus is here.
Taranum looked at the bus and then wished good-bye to Naseer, who started walking towards the library. Next day, Prof Naseer Ahmed met Taranum’s Dad. Both sat in the drawing room and started chatting while house-helps served tea and snacks. Upstairs in her bedroom, Taranum was, as if lost in her loving dreams, all the time waiting for her Dad to call her down.
After chatting there with Taranum’s Dad brushed her head with his hand and handing her an envelope, he said , “My dear, new you are getting married. Prof. Naseer had come with a marriage proposal and here it is…”
As if on Cloud-nine, Taranum just took the envelope and galloped to her bedroom. It was a dream come true…, she couldn’t believe everything has just worked out so perfectly fine…
She opened the envelope and besides some money found a photograph and a letter in it. Naseer looked fairly young in the picture and Taranum thought it might have been taken a few years back, during his young days. With this picture in her hands, she was about to take a flight across the moon with her beau when suddenly she thought of the accompanying letter. With all the jubilation at her command, she started reading it
Three years back I was transferred here from Mumbai and ever-since I was looking for a girl like you. My wish was granted on the day when you came to me for admission and I was able to help. On the day of picnic, I got to be close with you to know you better. Upon return I met you Dad, and we have since become very good friends. Today we are entering into a relationship. Everybody in the university praises you and I am so impressed that I am about to fulfill a promise I had made with you – that ‘I want to forever keep you in front of me’.
Besides you I am also impressed by the gentleness of your Dad. After thinking a great deal, I had proposed something to your Dad and today he gave his nod. From here I am straightaway driving to the airport to receive my son Tabrez, who is coming from the USA. I have been both parents and friend to Tabrez after his Mom died. I want him to prosper and make a big name. He is a doctor, a cancer specialist, and I have chosen you for him. I want you to become my daughter-in-law. We may be no match to your family in wealth and status, but I assure you that you would get unlimited love in my home.
Yours Naseer Ahmed.”
Syed Zeeshan Fazil is a renowned writer and author of several books. The story is an excerpt from his book “STRANGER ON BLACK HIGHWAY” ( A collection of short stories)