Female and fragrance I cherish the most – or should I confess that feminine fragrance intoxicate me immensely. Now that I shun a woman, avoid to converse with her, this never was my wont previously. So I admit over again that woman and smell emanating from her being, always infatuate me irresistibly.
The day she entered my office, rather just to cast a casual glance at her face, desire stirred within me to minutely observe her whole being, bit by bit from top to toe. Incidentally, I had only the night before finished reading Geoffery Archer’s book of stories, “A Twist in the Tail”. This tale about the loving lady Amenda Curzen was haunting me overwhelmingly. I dreamt the whole night through intermittently, it was an incomplete dream, and rather I may define it as insatiate.
Initially it appeared blurred, then gradually above the high-heel black sandal, supple legs emerged conveying subtle moves over a chessboard. The dream rewound and then started to replay. The recurrence of the similar scene irritated me incomprehensibly and frustration overtook me as I failed to make out a vivid delineation of the silhouette.
When she entered my office my mind still boggled with the thematic situation of the story. Her voice roused me. However, my eyes did not straight converge on her face, my gaze hovered around her legs. I have not as yet revealed the array I follow while viewing girls. Hold a moment, let me recollect — perhaps I first survey lips resembling juicy red slices, lips of every size, cheerful and fresh, coquettishly contracted and agape; or it may be that I peep into eyes, deep lake-like wide eyes black, blue or brown, engulfing the whole around.. Nay, I must admit I behold not a face in pieces rather view it in full shape. My sight is engrossed only with its complete view.
Nonetheless, never on any occasion had I perceived one, starting from the feet. The Archer’s tale lingered still in my mind, and inadvertently my eyes went over her feet in the first instance. The story ran that as Amenda Curzon entered the club building, chess tournament was in progress. She wore black high heel vellot shoes. The preceding night my eyes had been feasting on her pliant shining shins. Here was it altogether a different case, which almost shocked me. Her shoes, if really black, had lost their entire original luster due to constant use and want of polish.
Subsequent shock followed as these clumsy footwear exposed feet and ankles of sallow complexion. My eyes traversed her body upward listlessly as nothing attracted them to hover awhile at any spot. Oh! I forgot to tell that the moment I saw her dark feet and ankles showing from the trousers, my fancy of pure white shins was miserably shattered, I almost lost my composure, and I felt bifurcated within. It crossed horribly my mind to pull down her painchasso as to cover all the clumsiness of the sandals, feet and ankles.
I quite understand the absurdity of this entire feeling, but I can’t help because of my poetic imagination about the creation of the fair sex, which intended to fill the whole cosmos with beauty. The preceding night I had seen the same beauty (though not in its perfection) in dream. How I wished that moment its partial hues surrounded me like a rainbow. I think, I have already mentioned that nothing in her body so attracted my gaze as to linger a while on any spot of it.
She walked a few steps and took a seat in front of me.
“Sir I am Bushra, widow of Shah Nawaz! ”
At this I saw her with some concern. Not only I, everyone in the office knew Shah Nawaz very well. With this introduction, I was tempted to cast a thorough look on Bushra to satisfy my curiosity. Nawaz had married this potter’s scion offending his kith and kin. For her sake he had snapped betrothal with a girl hailing from his own family. I peeped again into Bushra’s eyes, apparently of black hue, but a through gaze found them emanating dominant grey. If she raised her eyelashes to see, the throbbing heart of one doubtlessly drowned deep in them. The tapering face was neither oval nor plump, it was sallow yet transparent. The mouth was shaped like a bud, lips designedly drawn lines as if done symmetrically with a scale. She conversed in low soft tone touching the heart outright.
One would be well convinced that Busbra was worth many a feud. Marrying her resulted in numerous estrangements, but Nawaz lived on intimately with Busbra. This he had told me year and a half before, following two months of their marriage, the time he worked under me in the main office. Whenever he had something on his mind, he came and stood before me repeatedly without uttering a word. This compelled me to ask his problem myself. That day he repeated the exercise thrice in the same mute way. I cast a meaningful glance on him whereupon he pulled out a folded application from his pocket, unfurled and placed it before me. He wished to be transferred at the Cantt. branch. On my asking the reason he said: “Sir, it is not possible to go to village daily from here.” Saying that he blushed so profusely that I could not help smiling at him. He was posted at the Cantt. Branch.
The change proved fatal for him. The Branch was assaulted in broad-day light, fires were exchanged and he lost his life discharging the duty. The Bank escaped plunders. His death in the encounter grieved me much. I recommended a handsome gratuity for him, which received the approval of high authorities. I informed the widow of the deceased about it. At the time she arrived to collect the cheque, I had been for some time under the spell of Geoffery Archer’s fiction, so I viewed her from a different angle altogether. When she sat and began talking in soft low tone, her moving lips enticed me so much that I decided to withhold the cheque that day. My heart yearned her to visit again, sit and converse with me. I cannot recall now what conversation had passed between us, however this much I may recall that her eyes were bedewed as I commanded her husband’s manliness and valour, experiencing difficulty to concentrate my gaze on her voluptuous lips. On a reference of Shah Nawaz’s relatives, she disclosed that condemned as a wretched soul, she had been forsaken. She hinted at the evil ways of the time and that she realized the hazard of visiting the town all by herself. How could she request anyone to accompany, youthful as she was; tongues could not be checked from molesting her. Hence out of disrection she had preferred to proceed alone.
When she condemned times for vicious ways, I thanked inwards my stars that I was not morally evil. My desires had always been innocently harmless. I just saw a flower and my senses intoxicated with its scent. Girls with charmingly smiling faces fascinated me. They attract everyone, but I being a bit bolder, get free with them in order to have a chat, peep into their eyes, and to adorn the cornice of my hearing with the nosegays of their tingling giggles.
Probably I have yet not mentioned that Busbra was in hurry, she feared to miss the last van to her village. I had not felt happy over the situation, rather wished her to stay a while more. As she rose to leave, somehow my conscience pricked for not giving her the cheque that day. I directed her to come to receive it the following Wednesday and she implored that it should positively be given on that day because it was inconvenient for her come down to town so often. I assured her it would be so.
However, the following Wednesday, as I was handling office files and Bushra had not shown yet, Shakila called me on phone. I should introduce her to you as the beauty whose cheeks developed dimples while laughing, and with closed eyes she talked non-stop bewitchingly for hours. She had rang me after a long interval because she had not been in town. Now that she had returned, Shakila wanted me to take off from the office instantly, pick her and listen to her incessant account at a secluded place. I liked her offer rapturously. Why take off. It was part of my duty to go on surprise cheeks of sub- offices occasionally and report on their working. My leaving the office without prior notice was covered by this practice. As is usual in such situation, sense of time was lost. In Shakila’s sweet company, long hours flitted, as if it were, in twinkling of any eye. I did not go back to the office.
Next morning when I reached office, I learnt about Bushra’s visit and her stay, waiting for me, until the office closed. I wondered because the last wagon to her village left by 3:30. “She kept on repeating that Sir, but even then stayed on”. “Where did she go then?”.
“Sir, we have no knowledge of that.”
At night I retire rather late to bed and consequently do not rise early. In haste I prepare for office and never take breakfast with ease nor chance to go over the newspaper. For the latter I make up on reaching the office. The newspaper spread before me covering usual politicians’ statements, accidents, murders, kidnappings etc.. Here and there were sprinkled frivolous activities of wayward youngster eve-teasers, who passed nasty remarks on girls passing by and flirted in many a novice manner, by offering lift in the fastest model cars, ogling and eyeing shamelessly, or appearing from nowhere riding sans-silencer shrieking scooters and snatched away the poor souls’ purses. Their tantalizing activities were prominently reported in box.
Folding the newspaper I put it aside. Hardly had I picked a file then Bushra entered the room. This time I felt no inward urge to scan her in bits from top to toe. Still inadvertently I repeated the process. I looked at her from head to foot and vice versa- my heart sank within as if fathomlessly. She crossed over from the door to the chair and it seemed that incessant roaming had exhausted her. She almost dropped in the chair. I was disturbed.
“Are you alright?”
She stared fixedly the hollow in front of her. A horde of apprehensions stirred within me but I refrained from probing further. In fact I had lost the courage to do so. I gave the bell and told the peon to bring the cheque, which I advanced to her. “Here is your cheque.” She broke down and mumbled in sobs, “Cheque… compensation… what for? for my husband losing his life. or for…. she could utter nothing else, bit her bruised lips between the teeth.
A feeling crept through me as if the last wagon to her villge had run over trampling me under its wheels. I was face to face with a woman Bushra who had cast her dice to be a loser, in contrast with Amenda, the lady destined to be the winner of the last stake.
(Translated from Urdu by Prof. Shaukat Wasti)