- 09 Feb - 15 Feb, 2019
- 17 Feb - 23 Feb, 2018
I was in a state of total shock. I could hardly think of anything besides the acid incident. My mind was racing and I didn’t know what to do. But one thing was clear: the beautiful face I had once cherished was destroyed forever. I felt as if I no longer had a purpose in life. The driver stopped the taxi outside the airport. I wasn’t moving or saying anything, so he said, “Sir, we have reached your destination.”
I didn’t respond and kept on thinking.
“Sir?” he raised his voice.
I looked up at him and then out of the window at the airport. I don’t know what had gotten into me and why I had decided to leave Pakistan. Somewhere deep inside, I knew I shouldn’t have departed for Dubai and stayed back for Hina. But something pushed me and urged me to continue my journey.
During my entire journey from Islamabad to Dubai, I couldn’t believe what I had witnessed. I probably didn’t want to face reality which is why my mind kept reassuring me. I was in a state of denial. The flight and everything was comfortable as usual but I couldn’t stop thinking about Hina. Slowly, I started to accept what had really happened. The beautiful face I had once known was destroyed and probably the woman too. What caused this incident to take place? What were the couple fighting about? I kept asking myself these questions and desperately needed answers.
While standing at Dubai airport, I wondered, should I go back?
I walked forward and kept thinking, I’ve still got time to save her now. No, I’ll go after my trip and bring justice to her, that’s the first thing I’ll do.
Hours later, I was in my brother’s car. He talked while driving but I barely paid attention to a word he was saying. Noticing my silence, he asked, “You seem quiet, is everything ok?”
“…yes,” I replied, giving him a smile, “Of course.”
“You don’t seem too excited, after all, we’re meeting after all these years.”
“It’s been only two years, Jawad. But anyway, I’m fine, I’m happy. Just a bit tired, that’s all.”
“You’ll feel better after talking to mom.”
We kept talking throughout the way.
Several minutes later, we reached home. I paid my respects to my mother and made it a point to greet her with open arms. She was so happy to see me. I could see the love in my mother’s eyes. I was a bit moved after meeting her but the happy feeling didn’t last for long, my mind went back to thinking about the accident. The three of us were seated in the lounge, my mother started the conversation, “So how’s your job going?”
“The usual, nothing new,” I replied.
“Are you bored with it?” my brother added.
“A lot,” I replied honestly, “But I guess, it’s worth it.”
“Worth it?” he coughed. “You mean the salary, right?”
“Yes, it pays well. That’s probably why feeling bored does not bother me at all.”
“I see… anyway, we are going to a concert tomorrow.”
“Concert? What concert?” I asked surprised.
“Hina Rajput’s concert,” he answered.
I couldn’t help feel a bit shaken as the name remined of the tragedy I had just witnessed. “What’s her name, again?” I asked.
“Hina Rajput, come on, you’ve probably heard of her.”
“I don’t think I can go,” I said, trying to dodge the whole plan.
Because I didn’t have the courage to reveal the reason to my brother so I replied, “I don’t enjoy music anymore.”
“Come on, it will be fun.”
He tried to convince me but I kept coming up with excuses until we finally decided to go somewhere else.
The next day, the three of us went to Dubai Mall. In order to distract myself I visited the Aquarium Tunnel but it wasn’t enough to divert my attention. Later, we went to see the dancing fountains outside Burj Khalifa. For a moment I was thrilled but all that changed in a matter of seconds as I was reminded of the traumatising acid attack.
The day after, my brother took me to Ferrari World. It was a great place. I was really enjoying my brother’s company but I still felt empty inside. The beauty of this city was no match to the beauty I had once known. And disturbingly, it was destroyed forever. However, the picture of the beautiful face was always in my mind. It was all I could think about. I started to walk and merely survived a horrible accident twice. Even the thought of her beauty had become fatal.
Observing my peculiar behaviour, my brother Jawad finally spoke up while we were having lunch at Ferrari World,
“Shahid, as I’ve known you… you have never been this quiet.”
I smiled in return.
“Look, I know there’s something wrong,” he added.
“No, it’s nothing.”
“You should settle down here with us,” he stressed.
“I’ll think about it,” I said trying to avoid the conversation.
“Although, I wouldn’t suggest you to get married as my marriage didn’t work out and ended up in divorce.”
“I know, there’s no need bringing up the subject again and again.”
“You’re right,” he agreed, feeling a tad embarrassed.
We talked for a while and had our lunch. After a few minutes, we left the place.
The next day, as I was watching television at my brother’s home, the headlines reminded me of something I had been trying to avoid: “Acid victims demand justice!”
I switched the news channel for it reminded me of the beautiful face I had been trying to forget. I changed to an entertainment channel but wherever I saw women, it always reminded me of Hina Khan’s face. Perhaps it was just all in my mind but it kept distracting me every step of the way.
I put my head down and tried to think for a while. A minute later, I stood up with all the willpower I had and made a decision.
Ok, that’s it! I will bring justice. The first thing I’ll do after returning home is make sure that evil husband of hers is behind bars.
This was my final decision and it made me feel slightly better. Now it was just a matter of time until I reached Pakistan.
For the remaining days of my stay, I spent most of my time counting the number of hours I had till I reached Pakistan. After enjoying a few days with my family, I finally packed and prepared to leave.
I spent my entire flight back home thinking about how I’d tackle the situation. My plan was to go to their house and ring the doorbell. First, I would talk to the husband and ask him why he would do such a thing. Regardless of the answer I would make sure that Hina was being taken care of and then I would try my best to get a new photograph of Hina in my cellphone. And then I would take the entire case to the police.
Nothing about the plan seemed more difficult than having to see Hina’s transformed face. This would definitely require a lot of courage especially for a person like me. But this was something I had to do.
As the airplane landed in Pakistan, the first words that came to my mind were: I’m back… it’s time for justice!
Everything from then on like picking my luggage at the airport to getting my stuff back home was done in haste so that I could focus on my objective.
That night before sleeping, I penned down all my plans for the upcoming day on a piece of paper. I was determined to do the right thing by all means. But one could argue that I was trying to get revenge instead of bringing justice for I longed to see Hina’s beautiful face.
The next afternoon, I went straight to Hina’s house after having breakfast. My heart was beating fast as I eventually reached outside her house. As I stepped out of my car and walked towards her house, I saw something unexpected.
The house was locked. I was too anxious and couldn’t wait. I walked straight to their neighbor’s house to ask about Hina’s whereabouts. A lady stepped outside after I knocked the gate. “Sorry to bother you, but can you please tell me when they’ll be coming back?” I gestured towards Hina’s house.
After finally realising who I was talking about, she answered, “They have left.”
“What?” I was shocked.
“Yes, they left a few days ago. They have sold this house.”
“Oh no… do you have any idea where they are now?”
“Sorry, no, I wish I could help. Is everything ok?”
“Ma’am,” I said politely, “Do you know what happened to Hina after the acid attack?”
“She was attacked by acid?” she asked surprised.
“Yes… didn’t you know?”
“No… now I understand why the ambulance was here a few days ago.”
Realising that this woman could offer me no help, I knocked at the other neighbour’s door. A young adult stepped out of the gate. I asked, “Do you have any idea where Hina and her husband are right now?”
“No. All I know is that they’ve left and the house has been sold.”
“Do you know what happened to her after the acid attack?”
“Acid was thrown on Hina’s face, didn’t you know?”
“Oh my God! Really?”
Surprisingly, this guy, too had no idea about the accident despite being a close neighbour. I however, did not give up and spoke to all her neighbours. Unfortunately, nobody had a clue about the acid attack. But they all seemed to know that an ambulance had arrived at Hina’s home. This confirmed that an acid attack of some sort did take place at her home.
For six months, I had been trying to find the whereabouts of Hina and her husband. It was possible that they had separated and wouldn’t be found together. I considered every possibility and kept searching but they were nowhere to be found.
I had no other option but to give up and move on. With no busy schedule or hobby to keep me occupied, I couldn’t stop thinking about her and continued to regret my past. In my head, I kept asking myself, what if?
The day I realised Hina’s chapter was over, I was so agitated that I couldn’t stop torturing myself. I hit myself with a belt and enjoyed the agony. All the while, I thought about acid being thrown on Hina’s face.
Oh God… I’ll never see her again…
Days passed by, I was emotionally volatile and was willing to give up anything just to see Hina once again. All this torment made me realise that I had actually fallen in love with her. At first, I thought I was only attracted to her beautiful face but now I understood that I cared about her. Perhaps, I also loved her as a person for I had never seen her angry. She mostly had a smile on her face which spoke volumes about her kind heart.
The remaining six months of the year had passed in misery and agony. At times I wanted to commit suicide as I couldn’t get her out of my head. But even committing suicide required courage which I didn’t have.
Someday I’ll find her.
That’s how my mind would reassure me. The thought gave me hope. Was it true? Would that really happen? Only time would tell.
One morning, I decided to go to Hina’s old house before going to work. As I stopped outside, I saw that her house was no longer locked which meant that someone was inside. I realised that the new residents there would certainly know about Hina or her husband’s whereabouts.
I ran towards the gate and pressed the newly installed intercom button. A woman’s voice could be heard, “Yes, who is it?”
“My name is Shahid Minhas,” I answered cautiously. “May I speak to you for a moment?”
“Who are you?”
to be continued...