- 09 Feb - 15 Feb, 2019
- 13 Oct - 19 Oct, 2018
"Shut up mom! You never help me and all you do is make more trouble for me. Why can’t you leave me alone!” Falak said and slammed the bedroom door with her mom chasing after her. The door was locked.
“Falak you open this door right now! Don’t lock me out. Open this door right now or I’ll kill you!” her mother shouted.
There was a click on the door lock and it flung open. Mom walked in and went straight to the bedside where Falak sat with a pout and tears streamed down her face.
“All I want is a new dress for Ifrah’s engagement. Why can’t you do anything for me?”
“You ungrateful girl! I work hard to make ends meet for you. I pay your fee and take care of all your material, and emotional needs. I can’t promise you new clothes or new jewellery every time you have to go out to a friend’s party. It’s really hard for me to do that.”
“And that’s all you ever care about. My fee! What about my life?!”
“You are useless Falak. I wish you would die!”
Saying this, her mother stormed out of the room.
She was a single mom with so much on her plate. She couldn’t understand why Falak was making it so difficult for her. She tried giving her the best in life and take care of her, but it was never enough. Falak always had something or the other to make her feel miserable and worthless. Her husband also made her feel worthless all the time.
Falak stopped crying and logged onto Facebook.
She checked her notifications and saw that she had several unread messages.
They were the usual requests to join new games on social media.
She wondered how anyone had so much useless time to spend on theses online games. Between college and studies she only had enough time for a little reading or to chat with her friends on social media. She watched movies occasionally with her mom or sometimes on her own. But that really didn’t interest her too much. She really just wanted an adventurous life. She was bored. Being on the lower rung of the social ladder meant that fancy dinners or parties or even vacations were not possible.
She knew her mom tried her best but she grudged her for not trying enough.
Ifrah was her best friend and she really wanted to look nice at her engagement party and that’s how maybe some of the boys would finally notice her too.
She considered herself average looking and despite trying too hard, she never seemed to catch anyone’s eye. All the boys at school and college would gravitate towards the more popular girls. She didn’t matter to anyone, except for freinds’ squad of a few nerdy ones like herself. Her mom was always helping to boost up her self-esteem. She would love her no matter what.
Falak noticed that she had received a friend request. It was a cute boy almost her age. She saw he had two mutual friends. Both the girls belonged to her college. She looked at his profile for a bit before accepting his request. Mom had asked her to be careful of adding boys. But he looked so nice and she almost knew those two girls in college too.
She wondered if she should add him or not. Falak’s mother had her password but she never really checked her phone. Falak thought of keeping him on a limit so that no one would even know she had added him. She pressed accept and went straight to stalk his profile. He seemed like he knew a few famous people in the media. And seemed goodlooking in all his photos. She blushed just thinking about him. He considered her cute enough to add her. That gave her self-esteem an immense boost.
Her mom suddenly walked in.
“Falak, I know we have our differences and I know how much it means for you to look nice at Ifrah’s party. I’ll try and take you to the mall on the weekend and you can buy a nice dress for yourself, only if I can afford it.”
She was turning away to leave when Falak leapt off the bed and gave her a kiss with a tight hug. “I love you mom!”
“You always say that, then get ready to fight again. Let it be. Come on now, I’m waiting for you at the dinner table.” She said and walked away from her daughter. Falak knew she was upset but it didn’t matter anymore because she would go shopping and get herself some nice clothes, jewellery and makeup for Ifrah’s party; and everyone would look at her enviously.
Next day was the usual. Boring lectures at college and gossiping with friends. Falak logged on to Facebook during lunch time and was excited to see Adnan’s message.
“Do you study at KU?”
“Yes! You too?”
Immediately, Falak regretted being so excited. She also noticed that Adnan had messaged her less than an hour ago. She wished she had seen that before. Showing so much enthusiasm in the beginning of any friendship was never a good idea, let alone with a boy. But it was too late.
Adnan told her that he was a student there but due to some family issues he had to move to Malaysia. He was completing his degree in Malaysia now and hoped to return to Karachi soon. His family was here.
Falak could feel an instant connection. She never knew it would be so easy to talk to a stranger, let alone a boy. She asked him a few more questions about his degree and realised they had a lot in common. They liked the same subjects and even their taste in movies and books was about the same. Falak couldn’t believe her luck. She did not feel lonely anymore; looked relaxed and happy. Her friends at college began to notice the change in her and asked her about her beauty regimen.
Falak would laugh it off. She knew that she was falling in love and it showed on her face. Adnan made her feel more secure and valued. He made her feel accepted even when she felt she was a misfit. He helped her deal with personal issues between her mother too.
“You need to understand that she’s just tired and cranky. She needs a break too and she hardly gets it. You just stay out of her way and she’ll be okay. I’m here to give you company and you don’t have to bother her too much.”
Little did she realise that instead of endearing her towards her mother Adnan was giving Falak excuses to stay away from her. A good friend would not have done that. But she didn’t care. She had already become so distant from her mother and found so much comfort in him that she didn’t care either way. After a few weeks of talking and exchanging life stories Adnan began to talk about coming home for a visit and meeting her.
“How can we meet Falak, when I’m in Karachi?”
Now this was serious stuff. She could ask him to meet her after college but she wasn’t sure how she would manage leaving with him. The gatekeeper was very shrewd and would immediately notice and maybe even tell the principal.
“Do we have to meet? We get to talk about everything right here.”
“But I want to meet with you and eventually ask my parents to meet your mom. I want to marry you Falak. You have to help me here.”
OH MY GOD! He proposed, he actually proposed. Falak wondered and was speechless for a few minutes.
“I’m about to finish my degree. My parents are already talking about marriage. But I want them to meet you. It’s you I want to marry.”
“Of course, I’ll marry you! I’m so excited Adnan! I love you so much.”
But then they never actually met. Adnan did come to Karachi and was busy with family and friends, which is why he couldn’t take out time to meet her.
She was disappointed but he promised to meet her next time; and that was all she needed to feel better.
Falak was walking around the house with a satisfied smile on her face when her mom noticed and asked her, “You have some good news to share with me, Falak?”
It gave Asma some joy and peace of mind to see her daughter happy. But Falak’s reply was lukewarm. “It’s nothing, mom. Why do you always have to interfere?”
Her mom simply stood there once again wondering how she could bond with her daughter in a way that would fulfill both of their lives?
Few days later, Asma decided to have a heart to heart with Falak.
“Falak, you know how I’ve asked you to be careful of friends and what they might lead you into? Also, you should be careful of who you add on Facebook and Instagram. You never know who might be posing as a friend but actually be a predator.”
“Mom, all you think about are predators. You really need to be more inventive. And I’m fine. I stay home all day and do house chores with you. I don’t even party or go out. How will I get into any trouble? You’re so silly!”
“Falak, listen to me for once. I don’t want you to get into any bad company. I care about you.”
“No, mom. You care about your bank account, how much everything costs and how I’m such a burden on you, that’s all.”
She bolted out of the lounge with that tirade and ended up in her room to chat with Adnan, whom Falak considered her only solace. Sadly, she couldn’t see through his lies or deception.
He told her about his arrival during Christmas break, which was only a few weeks away and also shared the propsect of meeting her. She couldn’t wait.
But then he suddenly disappeared. She didn’t get any message and whenever she would message him, it would remain unseen. Falak was worried. She became moody and edgy and the mother-daughter relationship began to spiral yet again. But there was nothing that Asma could do or figure out. She blamed it on her studies and the pressure of exams.
Suddenly, he came back online.
“Where were you? I was worried,” Falak sobbed.
“I’m in Karachi. I flew in yesterday. There’s a problem. My parents want me to marry my cousin. They want a formal engagement while I’m here. But I’ve told them I want to marry you. I need you to meet me and we need to run away.”
“Run away? How and why?”
“Don’t be so argumentative, Falak. I told you why. I’ll figure out how. I need to get you to Islamabad where we’ll apply for immunity and then I’ll take you to Malaysia. My parents don’t understand me just like your mom. I can’t be away from you anymore.”
Falak was quiet. She didn’t know what to do.
He continued, “Do you have a CNIC?”
“No. Don’t you know I’m just 16 years old.”
“Ok. It doesn’t matter. I want you to pack a small bag with some warm clothes and bring some cash. I will meet you outside college tomorrow and take you to the airport.”
“But… my mom?”
“Don’t behave like a child, Falak. You are a grown up girl and you can make your own decisions. Don’t worry, I’ll be with you very soon.”
His voice softened in the end and Falak felt relaxed. She knew that she had to do this to escape from her mom’s torture.
That night, Falak slept in her mom’s room and hugged her tight. No matter what, she still loved her and was feeling guilty of abandoning her.
Asma thought that her daughter had finally come around.
The van came at 7:45 a.m. and Falak left.
Adnan agreed to meet her outside the gate at 8 o’clock. He told her the car model and number. She saw it at the corner of the road and sat in. She felt strangely excited but there was also a sense of doom. She waived that off at her sense of guilt for leaving her mom.
However, the minute she climbed into the car and looked at him, her heart sank. This wasn’t the Adnan she had been chatting with all those months. He looked like him but this man was a lot older; old enough to be her dad.
“Who are you?” she asked
“It’s me, Falak. I lied about my age but I’m the same man you fell in love with.” He smiled and grabbed her hand tightly.
“Once we’re together and you’re happy, this age difference won’t matter anymore.”
He had already accelrated the car and Falak couldn’t do anything about it. He reached the main road very quickly or maybe Falak was so dazed that she didn’t feel the distance. All the horrifying images that her mom had painted in her mind suddenly became real. Human trafficking, kidnapping, rape and murder, was this what Adnan had in mind?
He kept telling her how much he loved her and how he would take care of her. But Falak had read enough books and seen enough movies to realise that these were nothing but lies. She knew a game plan was needed. Maybe he had an accomplice at the airport. It would be harder to run. And what if he wasn’t taking her to the airport? What would happen now? She had decided that the minute he would stop, even at a signal, she would get out of the car and run. She would get into rickshaw or a bike and tell the rider to run off with her. It was risky but she had to do something.
Falak realised that boys weren’t interested in her because she was nerdy. But how did she fall for this? She had forsaken her mother’s love and care, and taken a wrong step. She was petrified.
She could see that the next signal would be a red light. She let the car stop, then soon grabbed her bag, opened the door and ran as quickly as she could. She began running away from the stop. She saw a vacant rickshaw and climbed in. She shouted at the driver to get her out of there. He turned the rickshaw around with Adnan screaming and shouting after her. She had done it. She had managed to escape.
Falak began to cry hysterically. She gave the driver some instructions and while he rode her home, all she could think of was how lucky she had been. She kept looking to see whether or not he was following her but he wasn’t. He didn’t need a messy kidnapping with people watching and maybe recording it on their phones. He let her get away. Falak had just been saved from the claws of death. She felt relieved and strangely reborn.