• 24 Mar - 30 Mar, 2018
  • Salaar Laghari
  • Fiction

While at the cafeteria, Professor Zeeshan held my photograph. He showed my picture to the three students who were sitting across him.

“Let me show you a little experiment,” he said while showing my photo to his students.

“Okay,” one of the students answered.

The four of them stood up and left for the ward. As they arrived inside, they saw those four women Omama, Shehla, Eruj and Farheen sitting together on separate chairs. They were sitting quietly, but looked upset. Professor Zeeshan asked his students to just stand back and watch, as he went to speak to them.

“Ladies, I’m going to ask you something,” he spoke to the four patients, “And I only need a one word answer to the question. Not more than that.”

He showed my picture to Omama and asked, “Who is he?”

Omama made an angry face and replied while shrugging my photo off, “Saad.”

He then showed the picture to Shehla and repeated the question. She started acting weird and wanted to express her anger, but couldn’t speak up.

“Just tell me his name,” the psychologist said.

“R… Rashid,” she muttered.

He then quickly moved towards Eruj and asked her, “Tell me his name quickly!”

Eruj started weeping and answered in a tender voice, “Abdullah.”

Shehla stood up and was losing control. The nurses came and held her from the back. The professor then quickly showed the picture to the last patient, Farheen and said, “Tell me this guy’s name.”

“All these women are lying,” Farheen argued, “He is not Saad, Abdullah or Rashid. This guy’s name is Ahsan.”

The three psychology students were quite amazed, looking at the patients and their responses. One of them asked, “Why are they all calling him with different names?”

“They all were probably betrayed,” guessed another student, “Maybe this guy in the picture played love with these four women and hid his real identity.”

“Why didn’t they know about his real identity?”

They had a mystery before them.

Two months ago

It was raining heavily during the night, as I rushed towards the building. I felt cold and climbed up the stairs as fast as I could. Omama was standing at her gate, waiting for me to come and held a towel in her hands.

“Come on in, quickly” she said.

“Thanks,” I said, entering inside the building.

We went inside and wiped all the dirt off my hands and face. She held a cup of coffee and said, “This is for you.”

“No, thank you dear,” I told her.

“Come on, please take it,” she insisted.

“Ok, keep it. I’ll drink in a while.”

We sat on the couch and then for a moment looked at each other. Feeling awkward, I turned to the left and closed my eyes. She took a breath and said, “So, how are you Saad?”

“Yeah, I’m better.”

“Was the journey difficult?”

“No, not at all.”


I then eased into what I wanted to say, “Omama… I came here to say something today.”

“Ok, what is it” she said paying her utmost attention.

“Look, you know we’ve been together for a long time and you also know that I have always liked you very much.”

“Yes,” she said.

“I don’t know how to convince you except for being completely honest.”

“Go on, please say it.”

“I am in love… truly in love with you. I really can’t stop thinking about you.”

She smiled, as I said that to her.

“I haven’t felt like this for anyone,” I continued, “You are the…”

“I accept,” she interrupted me in a delightful tone. “I’m willing to marry you, because I also love you.”

I felt a bit confused, so to clarify my feelings I said, “No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say we should get married. I said, I just wanted to confess my feelings.”

“Wait, what?” she was surprised to hear that and asked, “So you’re saying that you don’t want this relationship to proceed into a marriage?”

“Well, I’m not ready for it at the moment, but my feelings of love were something that I wanted to share and the good part is that you love me back.”

“How can we call it good? You’re talking so strange and unjust.”

I didn’t answer. She stood up and went to pick up the cup of coffee for me. As she turned around to look at me, I had left the room.

“Saad! Saad!” she yelled after me, as she saw me leaving.

Omama angrily put down the cup and picked up the towel. To her surprise, the towel was totally dry and clean. It had no stains nor was it wet.

“He didn’t even use the towel,” she wondered. “He was just pretending. His love might have also been a pretentious act, which was why he got scared when I suggested getting married.”

Next day, I was at Eruj’s home. She was cooking lunch for the both of us. As she came from the kitchen, I asked her, “So, where’s your son?”

“He’s at school, but he’s about to come back.”

“You know, I really like that little guy.”

“He likes you too,” she said. Though, I knew she was lying.

There was silence in the room for a moment, as we both smiled at each other. Suddenly, she asked me, “If you don’t mind me asking, how often do you think of having a family?”

“A lot actually, but I don’t want to enter this ship.”


“Love is a good feeling but not for me. I’m too weak to handle it.”

“So, you don’t want a family? Ever?”

Seeing the disappointment on her face, I made it easy for her, “Look Eruj, my dear, I know where you’re getting with this. You want me to be a part of your family, with your son. You’re very kind to think like that, but let me tell you something, I also want to have a family with you and your son. But it’s not easy.”

At that point, she was surprised to learn that I was also serious with my commitment towards her.

“Tell me something, how hard was it for you to move on with your husband’s death,” I asked her.

“It was awful.”

“Do you want that to happen again?”

“How can you assume that it would happen again? And secondly, the guy responsible for my husband’s death is in jail. That’s what makes me happy.”

“Well, it’s easier to hate, than to love. That’s all I’m trying to tell you.”

“I agree, but why are you assuming that the worst would happen. There are more chances that we would live happily once we get married.”

“There’s no doubt on that but I’m still not ready.”

“Come on, think about it, please. As you’ll be with me, I would gain strength.”

“As I said…” I smiled, “easier to hate than to love.”

“Oh God… now you’re irritating me.”

“Wait Eruj… can I share an interesting story with you? I’m sure you’ll like it.”


“There was once a columnist and he would spread hatred using his columns. This man hated every other person. People he envied, people he disliked because of their characters or people with profane languages. He hated all of them. And through his words he would express his hatred for others.”


“Besides ordinary people, he hated politicians and all the celebrities. He didn’t spare anyone. Because it was easy for him and he enjoyed it. But one day, his life changed. He got married. And one year after he got married, his wife was expecting twins.”

“I see,” she seemed interested in the story.

“Now one day, he lost his wife in a car accident and his children-to be died along with their expectant mother.”

“Oh God!”

“He was devastated. He started cursing his fate because, he had lost his sanity for few days. But after gaining stability of mind, he realised something. For several years, he was not able to move on.”

“But, what did he realise?”

“He realised that all those people he hated didn’t stay in his mind for quite long. People he envied or others like them were soon out of his mind. He was bothered with them for six to nine months. And eventually, he forgot about them. But it wasn’t easy for him to overcome the thoughts of his loved ones, like his expectant wife with the twins. Their memories haunted him for years and he had no option but to commit suicide.”


“Yes, because it’s not easy to love. It’s easier to hate.”

“So, what are you exactly suggesting here? Should I not hate my late husband’s killer or should I not fall in love with you?”

“Actually both, but don’t worry, I won’t dump you or this relationship. If there is love between us then we will sort out a way.”

This was my complicated love for her, suggesting not to love and yet giving hope to her feelings.

Nights later at a shopping centre, Shehla and I were walking by the shops. We weren’t really shopping but were just enjoying the views and each other’s company. She had left her children back at home, as she wanted to talk to me about something personal.

I bought some ice cream for both of us.

“Not for me Rashid, I’m not feeling so good,” she said, as she wasn’t in the mood to have ice cream.

“You ok?” I asked her.

“Uh yes, I am fine but something’s bothering me.”

I got curious and looked at her.

“May I ask what’s bothering you?”

She didn’t say anything, but her gestures showed that she wanted me to console her.

“Alright, tell me what’s bothering you,” I asked.

“I… I think…” she seemed reluctant as she spoke, “I think you’re not completely honest with me.”

“Not honest?”

“I feel that you have other friends besides me and I don’t like this.”

“Wait... what kind of friends are we talking about here?”

“Look, maybe I’m…” she stammered again, “maybe I’m falling in love with you. I know there’s no commitment between us, but, I seriously like you and I can’t accept you with anyone else.”

“So, you are in love with me?” I smiled, welcoming her love for me.

“I don’t want to get heartbroken again. If you don’t want to continue this relationship then just tell me now. I don’t want to raise my expectations. For the sake of my children’s happiness, I can’t get my hopes too high.”

Seeing tears in her eyes as she spoke, I stopped her and said looking straight in her eyes, “Shehla, don’t think like that. We will continue this relationship, and on a serious note. Don’t think that this is your one sided love. I love you right back.”

She believed my words as I maintained eye contact with her. Feeling a bit guilty she apologised, “I’m sorry Rashid, for suspecting you and using those words.”

“It’s ok… everything’s ok, just don’t be upset, please.”

She was moved, and yes, fooled by my words. The consequences of such relationships were not meant to be good.

At a public park, a woman I wasn’t expecting called my name. As I turned to see who it was, I saw Farheen. Expressing my delightfulness, I said, “Hey, how are you?”

“What are you doing here?” she asked me.

“I don’t know just hanging around, I guess.”

“I also came here to walk. But who knew, we would find each other.”

“Yeah, that’s great.”

We started walking and talked to one another as usual. She wasn’t so upset the way she always would be, while I wasn’t speaking as much as I was listening to her.

Unlike other girls, her way of proposing love was quite different and weird. Out of nowhere, she asked me directly, “So, when are we getting married Ahsan?”

“Excuse me?” I felt confused.

“I’m just asking, when we are getting married.”

“Excuse me, but I never said we were committed in a relationship.”

“But I do know that you love me and were planning to propose for marriage someday.”

“What made you assume that?”

“Come on we’ve been together for a long time, you are single and I’m the only woman you hang out with.”

“Don’t you think you’re inappropriately being too straight?” I finally asked her what I should have earlier.

“No, absolutely not.”

“Well then pardon me for my straight answer. My answer is no.”

She looked at me for a while and said, “Is that your final decision?”

I was a bit surprised on her reaction but answered anyway, “We can still be friends.”

“No! Not friends. If you’re not willing to commit for a long term relationship, then it’s over. This moment right now is a good bye forever.”

I raised my eyebrows making sure if she really meant what she said.

“Good bye!” she said and walked towards the opposite direction. I kept looking at her, as she left the park, but then I followed and stopped her there. “Farheen stop, please don’t do this.”

She turned around and looked at me. I politely asked her, “Why are you acting so childish? We were good friends, weren’t we?”

“So why can’t we be a good couple? A married couple!” she asked me.

I was speechless again.

“You love me, but you’re not admitting it,” she spoke in an annoying manner.

“Alright, fine!” I raised my voice. “If that’s what you want, then let’s do it. But not too soon.”


“And let me add one more thing here, you are not usually like this. Today you’re acting really strange and irritating. Don’t be like this again.”

The present day

The three students were sitting together outside the ward. One of them was writing a report. Their professor came by and asked them, “Have you all understood anything about the case?”

“Yes,” one student replied.

“Slightly,” said another.

“These women were hit by a tragedy,” the professor explained, “And all of them were hit at the same time.”

“So that tragedy led to this mental illness?” the student asked.

“Of course, most of the time people end up like this because of a tragedy.”

“Is there a cure for such illness?”

“Well, the scientists are working on it. Some researchers say that medicines are enough to cure this disease. Others, however, differ in their opinion. The cure is not available in Pakistan at the moment.”

“Sir, you told us that one man Zubair Karwani was responsible for their mental condition; does that mean he was the one who caused this tragedy in their lives?”

“Yes, definitely.”

“How so?”

Another student interrupted their conversation and said, “Can I see that photo of Sarim Waqar?”

“Here,” Professor Zeeshan said handing over my picture to her.

“So, Sarim Waqar,” she said looking at my picture, “Those patients know him as Saad, Abdullah, Ahsan or Rashid.”

“Yes, but his real name as you all know was Sarim Waqar.”

to be continued...