Cupid

‘Ding’

The elevator door opened slowly. Aima looked up from her phone. She didn’t usually look up from her phone.

Who does?

Not at least until you are crossing a road.

And even if people do, Aima wasn’t one of them.

Smartphone was her life. If she wasn’t working on her phone – sending emails and compiling documents – then she was surfing on social media. And if not that either, then playing games.

But it was a whole new world inside the elevator.

Like clockwork, she would enter the elevator from her floor at 9 am.

Like clockwork, the elevator would stop 3 floors down.

Like clockwork, she would look up to register who came in.

Only an acknowledging glance. And she would get the same in return.

But she had never had the guts to talk to him. And what could she possibly talk about in the 15 seconds it took to reach the ground floor.

Anyway, the door closed behind him and the countdown began so did her brain’s routine weird assessments.

15

“He is hot. Last night, when I was stalking him on Facebook. Hot Dayum. The new picture.”

14

“He dresses well. He is always dressed in proper attire. On Friday when I saw him in the morning, he was even wearing a tie.”

13

“He doesn’t seem rude. A week ago when the first-floor old lady started talking to him and wouldn’t stop even after half an hour, he was so sweet with her.”

12

“He looks educated. Didn’t last month I saw him reading John Grisham? If he gets John Grisham, he gotta be educated!”

11

“He has such a nice voice. Yesterday, the phone call he had. What did he say? ‘No, I am busy’.”

10

“Only 10 seconds left. Shit.”

9

“I will talk to him today!”

8

“I will talk to him at the 5-second marker”

7

“Who am I kidding? Let’s just wait for tomorrow.”

“Ding”

Shit.

The elevator was stuck.

“Uhoh! What do I do? Now I gotta talk. Not talking now would be more awkward. But wait, will I die? Shit, I am going to die.”

Just then, she heard someone say, ‘Aima, breathe!’

‘Oh my God. I am losing oxygen. I am already hallucinating.’ She thought.

‘Breathe Aima. Open your eyes and breathe.’ It was that sweet voice again.

Wait, what?

Aima slowly opened her eyes and there he was… TALKING TO HER… HE WAS TALKING TO HER…

‘Uh hi,’ Aima whispered.

‘Hello, Aima. You look like you’ll faint. Breathe. Slowly. Everything will be fine.’

He knew her name?

When? Why? How?

In a daze, she saw him walk past her towards the phone line.

‘Hello? Excuse me, the elevator is stuck… Yes there are two people here…  Yes, thank you, we will wait.’

He turned.

‘See that wasn’t too hard, was it now?’

‘Yes,’ her voice was hoarse.

‘Don’t worry. They are coming to fix the issue. We will be out in no time.’  He was talking so much. He was talking to her. Her crush was talking to her!

‘How do you know my name?’ She blurts out.

‘Aima, we have been living in the same building for the past two years, it will be weird NOT to know your name. Wait… are you telling me you don’t know my name?’

‘No No. That’s not what I meant.’

‘So you know my name?’ He asked again.

Aima forgot all anxiety and kept on explaining herself for another 2 minutes to clear her position. And then she saw it. He was smiling.

“Do you feel better?” He asked.

“Yes!” She said quietly.

10 minutes later when the maintenance guy opened the door, they were very much into each other. Apparently, both had quite a few mutual interests and had decided to meet later that day for tea.

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Destiny

Girls normally don’t do that.

They don’t express their feelings.

Maybe girls are afraid of it.

Or they have been so rigorously conditioned that they have come to accept it as their nature to not be the first to express their feelings.

But she was not going to do that. She had decided she won’t. She would go against all these preconceived notions and would express her feelings first.

She felt she could do that. She felt she was brave.

She felt brave because she could. She felt it was fate that had brought them together. Why else could she have met him after so many years? And why else would he have paid so much attention to her? Why else would he have been meeting her? And in all those meetings, she had had so much fun.

He had been her very first crush. She had a crush on him when they were very young. They were in school. But she could never tell him that. And then they left school. Everybody had parted ways.

And 15 years later, in a foreign country, they had coincidentally bumped into each other. The two who had never talked to each other, couldn’t stop talking now. She could feel her crush revive.

She was falling in love. Again.

They had met each other in a mall the first time. And they had promised to coordinate and meet again.

But before that, before they could establish any kind of contact, they had ended up meeting at a store. It was the second coincidental encounter. After putting all their shopping in their cars, they had ice-cream and talked for an hour before realizing it had already been an hour.

Like they say: If it happens once, its chance, if it happens twice, it is coincidence, if it happens thrice, its destiny.

And it was then she had decided.

She had decided, if they meet again, she’d know they were destined to be together. Meant to be together. Then she’ll propose. She’ll do it. Without regret.

And it had happened.

She had gone on a business trip to another city and he had been there for a vacation.

They were in the same hotel.

Even her work colleague had noticed it. He had noticed that the woman who was extremely professional in her business dealings had actually wrapped each day’s work in a hurry to rush to her hotel. And she would have coffee with her childhood crush each night at the hotel patio.

She found it amazing that she had so much to talk about with him. They would not just talk about their nostalgic memories but also, as Danielle Steel says, ‘talk about everything and nothing’.

They had returned a week later. That is when she had received a text message from him. She had felt excited like a teenager. He wanted to meet up. And she had replied in a second without even thinking how desperate it might seem.

Well, it wouldn’t matter when she confesses her feelings for him, tomorrow.

The next day she got ready with care. She chose a really nice kurta to go with jeans. She chose her best shoes. And she actually took a new handbag for a change. Her heart was beating really fast. But she wasn’t going to back out of it today. No! She wouldn’t.

Soon, she made her way to the open-air restaurant she had suggested.

In the back of her mind, she could actually hear someone say its all too good to be true. but she refused to listen to it.

No!

It was fate. And she had decided to, for once in her life, be expressive.

She got there 15 minutes early.

3 minutes later, she saw him at the end of the street.

He was early too.

He had dressed up too.

He also had a bouquet.

He seemed nervous too.

He saw her from there and waved. He was walking towards her with a smile that was so wide, the kind of smile you have when you are extremely nervous.

Did he like her too?

Could life really be this easy?

Maybe it was. Maybe life had decided to give her this happiness.

And when he was just two shops away, something she had only seen in movies happened.

Everything went slow motion.

A baby stroller on the side pavement wheeled onto the road.

The biker took a sudden turn left to avoid the stroller.

The car swerved to avoid the biker.

It skidded down the road onto the pavement.

She saw it all happen.

She was 10 feet away.

But she saw it all happen.

And she also saw a bouquet full of red flowers go up in the air and the petals all scattered on the road.

It wasn’t destiny after all.

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When There Was Mom And…

Alia slept that night like any other night. Nothing out of the ordinary. A peaceful sleep on a weekday? Stress of the university and yet, a peaceful sleep? That, itself, was extraordinary.

Comfy in the bed, with multiple alarms set, she had her self covered with a blanket. But these alarms were just a formality. Her mom was gonna come wake her up anyway for the morning prayer so despite all those wailing alarms she knew she could steal a few moment more’s sleep.

Her mom would get up, switch on the light of the corridor which connected Alia’s, Alia’s sisters’, and Alia’s parents’ room to the living room, and then get everybody up for the morning prayer.

And then before even any alarm went off, her mom was there waking her up. She didn’t say anything probably due to the multiple Quranic verses she recites after the morning prayers. She slowly removed the blanket from Alia’s face and indicated to her that it was time to wake up.

Alia who always wreaked havoc at being woken early morning when even the sun has not risen, woke up at the first try. So, her mom turned and exited the room and into the dark corridor towards the living room. She must have forgotten to switch on the light. Being an obedient little girl today, Alia got up from her bed and followed her out.

Her mom had already disappeared into the living room but Alia stopped at her door to switch on the corridor light because she was afraid of the dark. As she extended her hand towards the light switch, from her right she heard an alarm go off in her mother’s room and she heard her mom groan at her sleep being ruined.

Alia stopped dead.

Without looking toward the living room she squeaked, ‘Mooom!’

Her mom was so shocked that she forgot she was groaning.


Mom: You are up already? Are you feeling ok?

Alia: Did you just wake up?

Mom: Obviously.

Alia: Why did you not switch on the light?

Mom: I just woke up, Alia.

Alia slithered into her mom’s room and for one whole hour, took refuge on the couch.

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A Night of Surprises Indeed

It was a summer night. And you know how nights are windy, especially summer nights in not so developed areas because of fewer buildings? Well, it wasn’t. The air was still. So it was neither hot nor cold. Just dark. I had been working late at the office and being the scaredy cat I am, I asked my dad to pick me up. So I was sitting in the back of the car for some reason which is odd because I always sit in the passenger seat with my Dad.
Anyway, as we made our way from the office, my Dad took a short cut from an unpaved road which had no streetlights and no houses on either side for, I am guessing, miles. The car was new so at every bump my Dad would mutter angrily or make some kind of comment. He likes talking, my Dad. Naturally, the speed was slow
Suddenly we noticed three silhouettes. A woman with headscarf holding a 3-year-old kid in her arm and a 5-year-old kid by her side signaling for us to stop. My Dad being ever too altruistic stopped right next to her.

The woman: G mein Nadeem Hussain ki bewaa hoon. (I am Nadeem Hussain’s widow)

I don’t like such situations. Especially when I have my iPhone with me. I muttered to my Dad to please not stay long. he ignored me but something in his style, it changed. I could sense it.

The woman: hamein haspatal jana hai, ek emergency hogai hai. Lift de dain. (We have to go to the hospital, there has been an emergency, give us a ride)

I kept urging him quietly to not do that.

My Dad: g zurur bus zara gari pakki road pe le loon phir… (Yes sure. Just let me get onto the tarred road, then…)

And then he started driving at the same speed that he had been driving but this time completely silently. The silhouettes followed us at a short distance.
And then the road ended. The tarred road began. The moment our car got on the road and before I could say anything, my dad slammed his foot on the accelerator and we were off.
I turned to look at the failed hitchhikers and I saw them following us.
We made a turn. They were still following us. They weren’t even getting tired.

I turned to my dad: why did you do that? You never do that. You always help people out. She even introduced herself.

Dad: They have been following us for five minutes, why are they not getting tired? She even has a kid in her arm.

I turned and for sure they were still following us and I could even feel their speed increasing. Now I could feel anxiety kicking in.

Dad: And did you even look at her feet?
They were wrong. Just wrong.

Driving at the fastest speed possible for five minutes we started relaxing.

And then, from the window, I saw a kid’s hand on the edge…

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LIGHTS – Screenplay

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

Taimur walks in slowly. He stands at a distance from Hasan.

TAIMUR
You know. Ek zamana tha jb milky
way nazar ata tha

(You know there was a time when one could see the milky way.)

HASAN
Hain?

(What?)

TAIMUR
Puraney zamaney my ek dum tube
light ki tarah aasmaan roshan hota
tha

(During old times, the sky would be as bright as a tube light.)

HASAN
Thank you for the information?

TAIMUR
Balkey wo jo bacho ki stories me
hota tha na k stars guide krte
they, wo isi lye k stars waqai raat
ko roshan krdete they

(Those bedtime stories which said stars would guide the way, that was so because the stars would brighten up the night)

HASAN
Phir?

(Then?)

TAIMUR
To phir kuch yun hua k insan thori
off harkaten krne lage.

(Then the humans started acting strangely)

HASAN
Matlab?

(Meaning?)

TAIMUR
Matlab ye k technology develop krne lage

(Meaning they started developing technology)

HASAN
And thats not good?

TAIMUR
Han na! Ab dekho technology develop
hui to unho ne lights create krna
shuru ki ta k ghar roshan hon.

(Yeah well! See, once technology started developing, they created lights for the houses)

HASAN
Exactly. Ta k hum dono yahan pe
kharey ho k baat kr saken.

(Exactly. Hence, we can sit here and talk)

TAIMUR
Han zaroorat poori krne k lye ye
light bohot important hai. Magar jb
insaan is light ko for granted lene
laga to masla start hua.

(When in need, light is good. Taken for granted, however, the real issue starts)

HASAN
Kesa masla?

(What issue?)

TAIMUR
wo light ko without use
intentionally khula chorne laga.
Itni lights ki waja se milky way
galaxy nazar ana band hogya.

(They started intentionally wasting light when not in use. Because of all the wasted light, the milky way became invisible)

HASAN
Im guessing ye lecture mje baaten
sunane k lye tha? For your
information, ye ligt is lye on hai
k me yahan khara hu

(So I am guessing this lecture was for me. Dear brother, the light’s on because I am here.)

TAIMUR
Han lekin wo washroom ki light to
useless on ti na. Mene abi band ki
hai.

(Yeah, but what about the bathroom light, I just switched it off)

HASAN
Mene to nahi kholi light

(I didn’t open that)

TAIMUR
To or kon khole ga? Sirf hum dono
hi to ghar pe hain or mene nahi
kholi

(Well, who else would? Its just us two in the house._

HASAN
mje kia pata…

(How would I know?)

They hear a click. They turn towards the washroom and they see the light switched on. another click. The light switches off.

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Petrol Pump

INT. LIVING ROOM – EVENING
MUSKAAN and ROOMAN are sitting on SOFA and watching
television. The show gets interrupted by an ad and they
return back to their conversation.

MUSKAAN
Its really cute you know. K tm, ek
mard, ye bolo k harassment nahi
hoti. Mard harass nahi krte. You
are basically telling me k mardo ko
ye pata hi nahi k jo wo krte hain
wo harassment me shamil hota hai
ROOMAN
Baat ko doosra rukh nahi do. Mene
ye kb kaha. Me keh raha hoon k
mentality ka farq hai. Ab dekho
hamari dosti is lye hai k me ek
parha likha banda hoon. Mje izzat
krni ati hai. Ghareeb logo ki itni
education nahi hoti is lye wo
harassing behaviour krte hain.
Ghalati un ki nahi hai.
MUSKAAN
So you are basically telling me k
people with resources educated
hotey hain or esa nahi krtey?

In the background, there is an AD on the TV.

VOICE OVER
Challenge hai ye tetley ka
MUSKAAN
Chalo challenge maan lete hain.
Lets prove you wrong.

EXT. PETROL PUMP – AFTERNOON

MUSKAAN is dressed up as a petrol pump girl. She is filling
up fuel tanks. ROOMAN is also posing as a part timer.
They are both free at the same time. A Rickshaw comes. It
stops for a second. The rickshaw driver looks at both the
stands and then moves towards ROOMAN.

Rickshaw driver makes small talk with ROOMAN

RICKSHAW
Bechari bacchi ko itni dhoop me
kaam krna par rha hai. Ham nahi
khayal kren ge to kon kre ga.

MUSKAAN smirks at ROOMAN.

The Rickshaw leaves. A car enters the station. Driver of
the car is dressed in a suit. He is wearing a pink tie. He
is clearly a rich man on a good post somewhere. He takes
the car straight towards MUSKAAN.

DRIVER
(Creepily)
Hello dear
MUSKAAN

DRIVER
Itni mehnat. Do you want help?
MUSKAAN
No Im good. Keys?
DRIVER
Just trying to help? Wese naam kia
hai apka?
MUSKAAN
(Curtly)
Seher
DRIVER
Bohot pyara naam hai. Kaheen parhti
b hain? Off kb hota hai apka?

ROOMAN comes towards MUSKAAN.

ROOMAN
Fine. I believe you. Ab chalen?

DRIVER
Is k sath kia karo gi. Me kaheen
chor doon?
MUSKAAN
Han to ROOMAN batao. In parhe
likhey sahab ko kia jawab doon?

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