- 09 Feb - 15 Feb, 2019
- 26 May - 01 Jun, 2018
It all started three years ago when Simal’s joyous life turned into miserable one. Every morning brought new problems. It was as if anguish had embraced her. Life was taking revenge from her. The revenge of being born into a “pathetic country”, as Simal would call it.
This country snatched father’s love from her when she was only eight. Her mother used to work to feed her children. Although she got a relatively good life but the word ‘luxury’ remained a word for her as she never experienced it. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Her brother being a social activist was killed on the streets of Karachi by the goons of the powerful landlords and she was being rejected everywhere. Her ideas were considered flop and no one wanted to invest in an inexperienced director’s film.
These three years brought a fate worse than death but for Simal this was not fate, it was the punishment of being born into this ruthless country we call Pakistan. Simal was exasperated of her country and all that had happened in these three years, all that changed her cheerful life and reshaped a blithe Simal into a furious personality.
“I have to escape! I have to fly away from this land!” Simal decided a week ago and today she was on the flight to Dubai.
The plane was all set to fly when a middle-aged man stepped in. He stood beside Simal waiting for her to realise that he wants some space to move to the next seat. But Simal was submerged in her thoughts.
“Hey… umm... I want to move there,” said the man with dark, bristly moustache but realising that the young lady is not listening he faked a cough. Simal in an instance looked at the man.
“I am sorry to distract you, but I have to sit there… beside you,” the individual said.
“I am so sorry… you may move now.” And she moved her legs to the other side so that the man could walk to his seat.
“The plane would be taking off soon,” the short and bulky airhostess announced.
In few minutes the plane was airborne. The late evening felt beautiful with its borderless flow of clarity. The vast, seemingly empty sky stretched out for infinity. It had a smattering of low level flat clouds, spread out to the horizon. The milky white clouds obstructed potions of the endless sky basking in its infinite beauty. The noise of the rickshaws, smell of the wet soil after rain, as well as Simal’s favourite biryani were left behind. Simal was flooded with memories, good or bad, but they were there.
“Hi… I am Sahil Mandviwala. The flight is long, and I cannot sit like a statue,” the young man said.
“Hmmm…” Simal was still absorbed in her thoughts.
“Your good name?” asked Sahil. There came no answer. “Never mind…. well, missing your homeland?”
“Don’t call it my homeland… it was just a country and today I am leaving it... Forever!” Simal said.
“Wow… you speak!” giggled Sahil. “Well, may I know your name?”
“Simal. Simal Rao”
“Hmmm… so Simal, why so much hatred for Pakistan?”
“It deserves my hatred. It took everything from me. My dad died in an accident. My brother was killed by a goon and my mother was diagnosed cancer, just like my grandmother. And I believe that all this is because of this country where even the person who goes to the mosque has the fear of his sandal being stolen!” hollered Simal.
“Umm… I’m afraid I don’t have the answer for your life issues, but I don’t find it a fault of the country anywhere in your explanation.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your father died in a car accident probably because of over speeding which was his own mistake. Your mother was diagnosed cancer because it was an inherited disease, your grandmother had it too. And as for your brother, he became the victim of the VIP culture and the people we vote for without knowing the consequences. Where is the country’s fault?” argued Sahil.
“But…. I mean…you don’t understand…” Simal was speechless.
“I understand the pain of these losses but it’s wrong to blame the country which gave us a lot…Leave it. I’m a bit too patriotic.”
“Yeah, I can see.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a filmmaker but not a successful one because no one invests in my idea.”
“What exactly is your idea?” Sahil inquired.
Simal told him the story elaborately.
“A story of a girl who failed at everything. There were days when she got depressed. She felt rejected, got shunned and turned down, but never lost hope. The devil tried to make her go astray and whispered in her ear that she cannot withhold the storm but her belief and faith in her Creator was staunch. Then suddenly, she changed and came back a completely different person; with a new mindset, new outlook and a new soul. She showed the world that even though they pushed her to her knees, she was, in fact, praying. The more they mortified her, the more she bloomed. Then finally, she whispered in the devil’s ear ‘You said I cannot withstand the storm… I am the storm!’ And she found Allah.”
“Well… I am impressed, I wonder why the production houses are not investing in your idea,” said Sahil.
“Thanks! I am going to Dubai to find some work, so unlike Pakistan, maybe people there could help me.”
“Well, I know a production house. Maybe they can help you.”
“And where is that place?”
“In Dubai, of course,” sniggered Sahil. Simal was confused look but sported a smile.
“Well… it’s near the Emirates Road. You may ask anyone there about the Madlock office,” Sahil said.
“Oh… ok,” the only thing Simal said before the airhostess interrupted. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have just been cleared to land at the airport. Please make sure one last time that your seat belt is securely fastened. The flight attendants are currently passing around the cabin to make a final compliance check and pick up the remaining cups and glasses. Thank you!”
After touchdown, and as the aircraft was turning off the active runway and taxiing to the gate, the flight attendant came for the last announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Dubai International Airport. The local time is 8pm and the temperature is 25 degree Celsius. On behalf of the airline and the entire cabin crew, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip and we are looking forward to seeing you on board again in the future. Have a nice stay!”
“Nice meeting you Simal… and I am sure we’ll meet again soon. Till then, Bye!” Sahil stood from his seat and moved towards the exit door.
“Hey, your good name?” Simal shouted.
“Sahil!” he yelled his name and left.
Simal left the airport with her luggage. She sat in a taxi and went to the apartment she had already rented before coming to UAE. The cab took her to the apartment where she loaded all her luggage. After giving the payments she decided to go out for a walk and buy some grocery too.
Simal was all alone on the streets of Dubai. No one knew her neither she knew anyone. She took a map of the town and following it she reached a supermarket. She took a trolley and loaded stuff like tea, milk, porridge, instant noodles and some crispy chips. She went to the reception where a husky, little man was standing. He seemed to be a Pakistani but Simal took no chance of being insulted and rather than speaking in Urdu, she spoke in English.
“Please prepare the bill,” she said. After a few minutes the man gave her the bill and she paid the money. Holding the handbag with the grocery items inside Simal went straight to her apartment and started thinking about Sahil. “I should have taken his number. At Least I know him... a bit,” she murmured.
On reaching her apartment, she went in to the kitchen to make a cup of tea for herself. “Simal make one cup for me too!” her mother’s voice rang in her ears.
“I should call mum,” Simal said and picked up the phone to call her mother but she did not pick up the phone. She must be sleeping, I should not disturb her. Simal said to herself.
At night, Simal sat on the terrace with a mug of hot tea in her hands. She could see the tall buildings and the dazzling Dubai, which was waiting to be explored by her. The air that finally hit, plumed in waves around her. “Hmm... so this is Dubai!”
Her phone, kept beside her started ringing. It was her mother’s call.
“Hey, Simal! How are you? Is everything alright?”
“Yes Maa, its wonderful here.”
“Thank God, you’re fine!”
The conversation was long with her mother telling Simal the recipes of the easiest foods to make for herself. She hesitated to tell her about Sahil as Maa was not interested to know anything about the business at all.
“Well Maa, its late… I’ll call you later.”
Simal was tired and went to sleep. It was her first night in the new place and tomorrow she had to find the Madlock office.
Early in morning, the artistic golden sun showed up and turned the dark black sky into a bright blue one, while milky white clouds started moving around the sky. Simal wore her best outfit. It was a white embroidered shirt paired with blue jeans and grey boots. She wore her hair in a bun and rocked a light-coloured lipstick. She certainly looked gorgeous. Simal packed her bag with the script and her laptop which contained the short films she had already directed.
She took a cab to the Madlock office. It was a yellow cab being driven by a tanned, chubby man wearing a checked shirt.
“Oh, Madlock office. I know where it is,” the driver exclaimed.
A tall multi-storey building with several guards awaited her. Such tall buildings are quite common in Pakistan too, but this 75-storied building is really different. Not only it was higher than most other structures, but also possessed an eye-catching architecture which was bound to grab anyone's attention. It gives one the impression of a futuristic mega structure but if you observe the building from nearby, you will see its real beauty. It looked like every inch of the structure has been drawn before its construction. It was a fine piece of architecture, indeed.
“Excuse me, where is the entrance?” Simal asked one of the guards.
“Are you Simal Rao?”
“This way ma’am.” The guard guided her inside the office.
A beautiful young lady sat at the reception. She was almost Simal’s age. The TV in the office’s lobby had a news channel running, which boasted the success of Madlock’s previous film on the box office.
“Hi! Can I help you Ma’am?”
“Yes, I actually want to meet someone who could help me with my film project.”
“Oh, so you want to meet our boss. Come with me.”
The lady took her to a room passing through a corridor with numerous images, awards and certificates pasted on the walls. The lady knocked on the door.
“Come in,” said a voice.
The lady opened the wooden door and took Simal inside. “Sir, your guest is here,” she told her boss.
“Hmm... you can leave.”
The lady went outside and passed a smile at Simal, who seemed a bit nervous.
Have I heard this voice before? Simal thought and tried recalling when suddenly the chair turned towards her.
“Hey Simal! Let’s make a film together but we must go back to Pakistan first! After all we must change your perspective.”
It was Sahil. Sahil Mandviwala. And that’s how Simal’s life changed forever. •