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AN IMPECCABLE STINT (EPISODE 2 OF 3)

AN IMPECCABLE STINT

EPISODE – II

THE INTERVIEW

 

Characters:

Qaisar Amjad

Mr. Rodriquez

William Proctor

“I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”

Oprah Winfrey


[“Mr. Qaisar! We have observed your CV and expect you to visit our office today at 1’o’clock sharp. Regards, William Proctor.”]


5

FRIDAY

12.15 PM

Gobsmacking!

Minutes have crossed since I received the message but I am still not accepting that there is still hope. I can still cope.

*HYSTERICALLY LAUGHING*

I am reading the message again. Finger-pointing each and every word. Yes, I am asked to reach at 1.

*LOOKING AT MIRROR*

*ZOOMING IN*

This time tomorrow where will we be
On a spaceship somewhere sailing across an empty sea

I slowly touch my throat, gulp and feel the movement over there. I shake my head in shock. I am still wearing the shorts I vomited and piddled. The exploding heart has slowed down in these past few minutes. The house is silent. My shrieking ears have gone deaf. Push, my fatty, is returning with contentment by seeing me normal but after sniffing my shorts, she leaves within the seconds disgruntled.

Although, this is just a response to the job opportunity so I must not fall deluded believing that I will get the job. They are obviously calling me for an interview. And there will be many more prospects waiting for their turn. Which means I will not be alone. I will be surrounded by many bootlickers with no quality experience but strong reference. Or I may be adjoined by the candidates with fake CVs who really are digging jobs like me but do not have work experience. But will I get the job? I cannot refuse to visit the office just because I am not prepared for this. Forty-five minutes is too rapid and difficult to manage coming out of a suicide attempt to reaching the office.

*THINKING*

A suicide attempt! Yes, Qaisar. A few minutes ago, you were about to take your life with a sorry note to your brother. Is this the sign? Was Qaisar waiting for this all these months? Is this why you lost your job?

Gosh, my hands and feet are still shaking. I feel stomach ache. I have to be sober and try to come back to my senses. Ponder, Qaisar! Ponder! I’ll take the bath and wear the most suitable attire for the job interview.

Oh, wait! My car! *palm slap on forehead* Oh my car! It is at the car repair shop. I emptied my wallet this morning. I don’t have money for transport. It is a very important moment in my life. I see no other solution than asking my neighbor for a favor. And I hope my neighbor be kind enough to lend me some money as I feel embarrassed to ask them every week. I am afraid that one day, I will disappoint so many people when they ask me to return.

*THINKING*

I am thinking but I am not thinking. I am confounded but excited. My brain, my throat, my stomach is still sensing the aches. Recovery will take time but I don’t have enough… time. So what I am going to do is prepare a strong coffee and take a quick cold shower.

Relax, Qaisar! Everything will be alright. This message is the indication that I will have good news by the end of the day. Be optimistic, Qaisar! Be optimistic!

I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t want to see
I feel the world below me looking up at me


6

ONLY 40 MINUTES AFTER ATTEMPTING TO COMMIT SUICIDE

To the receptionist, “Good day, madam. Mr. Proctor asked me to show up at-”

“Mr. Benjamin!”

An old man in his sixties dressed in an impressive classic Burberry suiting approaches me. He resembles Mark Rylance.

“I beg your pardon, Sir!”

“Are you Mr… Benjamin?”

Oh, a British.

“No. I am Qaisar Amjad. And and I was asked by-”

“Aaah Mr. Qaisar! The name is William Proctor. I mailed you an hour ago to join at this precise time. *looking at his watch*

“Oh! Mr. Proctor! Good to see you, Sir.”

“I cannot share both the titles simultaneously. You can simply call me by my name. But if you still insist, then add Mr. and avoid the first name.”

“Very well Proctor Sir. Ssorry, Mr. Proctor.”

“Are you in haste? Do you have an appointment at two different places at a similar time?”

“No no. Actually, I wasn’t ready for…. Mr. Proctor! Maybe we should discuss the reason I am called for.”

“Mr. Qaisar! Please have a seat in the guest room. Be prepared when your name is announced. Then I will respectfully escort you to Mr. Rodriquez.”

*nodding* espectflee scort you to Mr. Rodriquez. *losing confidence* Understood. Thank you.”

When I enter the guest room, it is already full of my competitors looking for a white-collar job. As soon as the door opens, they all stare at me. Some of them smirk to make me feel sheepish. I have undergone this all my life. I remember such similar awkward memories like my parents introducing me to their entire ugly extended family in the hometown when I was a kid, or when I was stepping in the school bus and then in the classroom for the first time and in the waiting rooms of the hospitals.

3.00 PM

I have been sitting for the past couple of hours and almost a dozen candidates have left. And then, when the time is near to call my name, I realize that I have come to the office empty-handed and looking around hither and thither like a nincompoop. Like a panicked Basil Fawlty. In hurriedness, I left all my project notes from my previous works behind. I look at my palms and then bury my face in it. My palms had the boldness to hold a knife but cannot occupy with the documents. I have badly forgotten the documents on the dining table. *reasoning* Is this why some of the candidates were smirking at me?

I raise and look at myself in the mirror and to my misery, I notice that the visible portion of my shirt between the sides of the suit jacket has visible marks of my old sweat.

“Mr. Qaisar Amjad! Your wait is over. Let me escort you.”

*BLOWING AIR*

At the corridor, I am receiving a call. Oh my God! It is Nizam! I forgot to call him.

“Brother! At least answer my phone.”

“I.I.I’m so sorry. I am about to give a job invertiew. Call you later, bye.”

I step on Mr. Proctor’s shoe. What a terrible mistake! While I stepped on him, I notice that I am wearing a pair of running shoes.

“Oh, I am so sorry, I.I.I don’t know how did I step on-”

“Never mind Mr. Qaisar. It was-”

“A.Allow me allow me to collect your documents and and *thinking* your coupons, Sir”

“Pardon?”

“Coupons, Sir. These are, are they?”

“It is coupons, Mr. Qaisar, not coupons.”

Humiliation at its pinnacle! Never came to my attention aaalll my life that the correct pronunciation is kew-pon, not co-pun. And here I slipped my tongue in all innocence in front of this old British gentleman.

“Oh, I get it. A.Actually I-”

“Mr. Qaisar! *grinning* Let me state you a fact which you do not realize while being in a jiffy. You are not the only gentleman who discovers the nervousness of listening about his fate from the interviewer. Did you notice all the gentlemen and gentlewomen who were sitting before you?”

“Yes”

“When they came out of the room, they behaved the same way as you. One of them actually couldn’t reach the interview room and left for the restroom. *laughing* So, you see! You are better than-”

“Thank you, Mr. Proctor, for the tenth consecutive motivational speech. It is very certain that you should take rest from escorting the candidates and drink a glass of water. Now, if you are done, will you please be kind and send Mr. Qaisar to my office?”

“And *smiling* this was the voice of your interviewer. I wish you the best of luck.”

Mr. Proctor leaves me at the door. Bare hands, sweat on my shirt and the running shoes. I have already chopped more than enough onions. I take a deep breath and knock at the door.


7

“Come In”

*ENTERING THE ROOM*

Tall man *speculating* in his forties of height near 6 feet sporting long hair brushed back and a stubble beard. He is watching polo through his binoculars outside the window with a folded arm.

“May I come in, Sir?”

“You already are in, Mr. Qaisar.”

Oh wow! His attire is desire. He is dressed in Brioni suiting perfected with Brown Cartesio jacket and his hardwood floor is knocked by his Kenneth Cole’s Oxford shoes.

*HANDSHAKING*

*FAKE SMILING EACH OTHER*

“Thank you, Sir. I am happy to see you, Sir.”

“Happy? Why?”

“Because of *eyeballs down* considering me for the interview, Sir.”

“Have a seat.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Why are you hoarsing?”

“No, Sir. It is just the dryness of-”

“Take this glass of water.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“This morning, I found your response to my offer in the junk mail. I don’t know how that mail moved to that category. But anyhow, I found your CV interesting and informed Mr. Proctor, the one who escorted you, to message you to visit us.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“And now, you will address me, Mr. Rodriquez.”

*NODDING*

“Ok, Mr. Rodriquez.”

*CHECKING CV ON HIS TAB*

“Your latest job ended three months ago. Why?”

“My direct manager didn’t honor the agreement. My working hours were fixed for 8 hours a day. But he made me work for 11 to… 10 to 11 hours several times which was not acceptable to me.”

*scoffing* Not acceptable to you? *surprised* Why? Didn’t your boss pay you overtime for working extra hours?”

“He did. But this led towards work stress *he is listening carefully with eyebrows near his eyelashes* and I was not able to balance my mental capaticy, oh sorry, capacity between home and office.”

If I haven’t committed suicide a few hours ago, my English certainly will make me in a moment.

“For how long were you working there?”

“Three years, Mr. Rodriquez”

*LOOKING IN THE TAB*

“It says two years here.”

“Yes, I think two years. But overall… five years.”

“And you were appointed as?”

“BM. Brand Manager.”

“A Brand Manager. Hmm. Gooood. So what were your responsibilities as a BM?”

10 MINUTES LATER

“I notice you do not bring any folder or document with you which I find quite strange. Even a flash drive of your works supporting your lengthy details would have convinced me. So how can you help me understand your potential as a BM as the oral presentation is not enough, you know?”

*GULPING*

“Mr. Rodriquez! Believe me, if I had time to prepare a.for for the interview then I would not have raised your doubts by coming empty.”

“I am not doubting your capability. But it is quite strange to understand that you were not ready for this. Candidates who seek jobs are always ready for the call. *head shaking like NO* I am sorry but-”

*EYES POP AND MOUTH OPEN IN SUDDEN SHOCK*


8

“What?”

*GULPING*

I am not able to maintain myself at all. My composure is compromised. He shook his head. It is over. I was an imbecile to arrive here with no preparation. I should have requested for a-

“Are you alright? Take another glass of water. Feel free.”

*DRINKS IN ONE BREATH*

*NODDING*

“Alright”

“I assume you took my ‘sorry’ as rejection. I was about to say sorry if you mind because I find the response terrible. That is it. That is what I was going to say.”

Duffer you, Qaisar. Duffer you.

*MUSTERING THE COURAGE*

“Sorry to facially embarrass you, Mr. Rodriquez. Actually, this is the first call in three months for a.any job. So I was lost.”

“If you don’t mind, may I discover what have you been doing for the past three months?”

“I will try to sum up in a few lines. Basically, I have arrested myself at home because all my savings have been incurred on my brother’s education, *voice breaking* shopping, bills, rents, etc. I tried to mail about the job vacancies in this time period but failed to get any response. I lost all my money and had to seek help from my friends to pay the rent to the landlord.”

“And did you physically hunt? for the jobs? anywhere?”

“I did.”

“Only one brother with you at home?”

“Yes. My parents left the city due to the financial crisis a few years ago. At that time, I had a job and good money enough to help myself, my brother, and send a few to my parents. Now, they are not aware of my current situation because I don’t want to-”

“bother sharing, heart-breaking account, to the parents, who depend, upon you. Yes yes. Hm.”

“Yes, Mr. Rodriquez. But not that they require my financial assistance currently. They are in a much better situation then they were when they moved back. They are a large migrated family so they have each other’s back.”

“Migrated from?”

Pakpattan

“Forgive me?”

“Pakpattan. Not a very well-known city like Lahore.”

“Ahaan”

“But very prominent for the shrine of *thinking* a local legend.”

“Yes yes. There are myriads of shrines in Pakistan as well as in India.”

*SMILING*

“Feeling better?”

*NODDING*

“Where you from? If you don’t mind.”

“I’m a Luso-Indian. *thinking* I’m a HispanicKeralite from Malabar. My people are Syrian Christians. But *apologetic smile* I’m an Atheist.”

*PAUSE*

“Mr. Rodriquez! You asked about these months and that is why I spoke in length. And I know that this has nothing to do with my work. But thank you for listening to me as a person.”

“Hm”

“Therefore, I sincerely request you to give me time to prepare myself for the next day.”

“You mean Monday.”

“Oh yes yes yes. Today is Friday. Kindly give me one more chance. I promise you will listen to no complaints when you conduct another interview.”

*PAUSE*

“Do you realize Mr. Qaisar that you are selling yourself pretty quickly? I understand your situation but you do not have to drop yourself that your professional appearance compromise at your current situation.”

“My apologies, Mr. Rodriquez. But my life heavily depends on this job. It took three months to finally get a response. I don’t know what would have happened if I had not received the message. Sir, you are the boss. We have different economic situations. *smiling* You will understand my situation only if you are in my place.”


9

*scoffing* In your place? *smiling* In your place? Mr. Qaisar! Are you assuming that the man in front of you has enjoyed an ideal and perfect life? Without any suffering or hardship? Do you ween that employers or those employees in senior positions or those working at some collar jobs with high pay never face difficult situations?”

*HESITATING*

“I.I never meant that, Mr. Rodriquez? What I want to make you understand is that I am mentally disturbed in my life for some time and that is why I am not able to impress you in a job interview.”

He separates his folded hands, stretches his palms, brings close to his chest and tries to make a point.

“You are mentally disturbed in your life because this is how you feel in the given circumstances. And believe me from your most exhausting brain and heart that I have seen worse cases than yours. Every individual in his/her magnitude of depression and stress behaves and believes that he or she is at the lowest possible form of life crisis. They behave like any normal human caught in flu or body ache. I am not a doctor but a human with the emotional experience.”

*THINKING*

“Mr. Qaisar, how old are you?”

“I am 28.”

“28 haan! *grinning* You feel you are facing the worst crisis at 28 haan!? Are your parents alive?”

“Yes. Both of them. Like I told yo-”

“Both of them? *raising eyebrows* Both of them? Now imagine a 15-year-old boy in the hostel been informed that his parents have died trying to save the house on fire.”

I am unmoved for a few seconds and not believing what he just said. I am honestly lost for words but trying.

“I.I.I am sooo sorry to know this, Mr. Rodriquez.”

He lifts from his chair. Inspects outside. No more polo. Fills his pockets with his hands and speaks to me.

“They were burnt in our home where I was born and raised with my toys, cards, cassettes, music player, childhood pictures, drawings, and countless memories. My sister was teaching in the kindergarten as the fire ate our house in daylight. She was six years elder than me and at 21, she agonizingly screamed that it affected her brain and also lost her voice.”

*DOOR OPENS*

“No more candidates today Mr. Proctor. Inform them to call on Monday morning. Thank you.”

*DOOR CLOSES*

“While *pointing at himself* this prodigy returned from the hostel, myself and Suha, my sister, were taken by my childless uncle and aunt who later admitted me to a better school and Suha, who was not able to teach further after losing her voice, was married to an old businessman. Three years later, I lost my sister in her maternal death. So I was alone at 18. Mr. Qaisar! *grinning* Have you lost anyone in your family?”

*BREAKING PAUSE*

“No, I haven’t. My parents are old but alive and my younger brother is with me.”

*TAKING HIS JACKET OFF*

“We humans are a subject of comfort and torture. Somewhere, we are responsible and somewhere, we are put to test. Young man! Realize that you are put to test and your case or crisis is not that bad as many others are suffering. Be thankful Mr. Qaisar! Be thankful! Look at you! Only three members of your family are depending on you. And *looking in the tab* you are not even married, are you?”

*SMILING*

“No, I am not.”

He hits politely on the table and sits back on his chair.

“Are you engaged? Or committed to someone?”

“No Mr. Rodriquez, I am not.”

He shakes his head in bewilderment.

“So why are you so depressed? Look at me! *pointing at himself again* I am married with my lovely wife and four kids. 3 daughters and a son. The fifth is arriving soon in a couple of months.”

“Oh congratulations in advance to you, Mr. Rodriquez.”

“Thank you, young man! But try to understand my point here. You are a bachelor and your depression is nowhere close to a married man like me.”

*SMILING*

“I understand, Sir”

“No, you don’t understand, young man! *lifts from his chair and stands nearby* When I was 24 and I married the woman I loved. She gave me twins. We were bubbly. One day, the company went bankrupt and it shut down within a week. After all the promises, the owners didn’t pay a penny to me or any worker. It was a recession period but somehow my family and I survived. Some helping hands and some labor force. With work, I was preparing for my graduation exams. But I gave up due to no money. And the family was my obvious priority. It took 18 months to get a new job, 18 months young man!

Today, I am worried about my young girls. Every father naturally is. Every time they see me, they insist to hand them some money and I cannot refuse. And this belief kills me, what if I meet the crisis again? So I have more things to worry about, Mr. Qaisar.”

“It is very understandable that you are a practical man who has encountered more difficult times than me. Maybe I have solutions but I am not thinking that deep to overcome the crisis. But I fear that one day, those who helped me in difficult times may question because it is their right.”

“See, my experience and moral teaches me that when you help someone, never ever expect for a favor in return. Never. And ever. If they are able to help you in return or repay you, it is up to you to accept the aid or money or just simply refuse in good spirits. Your friends at least helped you to pay the landlord recently. That is what you said before, right?”

“Yes, yes, they helped me.”

“Goood! At least you were helped by your friends.”

“What about you? Did you happen to-”

“Yes. *laughing* A few years ago. Before joining this company, I was broke and lost much of my earnings in a failed business venture. That resulted in fake promises to my landlord. For two consecutive months, I sought financial favors from my friends but no help came. It was not their fault because none of them were that financially stable as I was before my business failed.

And one day, the owner arrived at my door. He ordered me to empty the apartment within two hours. Imagine the agony. I was helpless as a husband and unprotected as a father. He was just standing there gazing my hopelessness and I was wandering and staring at the flats in my neighborhood. To my good luck, someone solaced our agitation. One neighbor offered the money to the landlord at the eleventh hour. And then we stayed there. After observing that neighbor, another showed up at our door and gave us some curry. *smiling*


10

“Honestly, I am speechless to your accounts.”

*laughs* Mr. Qaisar! *sits on his chair and both hands on the back of his head* This is life. Always love your family. Always, always love and shield your family. We are different people from different backgrounds for different purposes but one facet which should always remain common is humanity. Someone in the neighborhood was human. I cannot repay him for what he did. And again, if I would ever repay that kind of favor, I do not know if he would accept or refuse in good spirits.

Life has taught me to help people. This reduces the distance between them. Now, you were supposed to impress me by your professional capacity as a BM but thanks to you, Mr. Qaisar, that you forgot to bring your work material to start a different conversation. And this is a very important point that you *pointing finger* must always remember *pause* that things… happen… for a reason.”

*NODDING*

“Because humans today have lost themselves in materialism, violence, self-destruction and greedy competition so they don’t realize. But you, Mr. Qaisar, after all that lengthy heart-to-heart conversation, I honestly believe that you deserve a chance.”

*FLABBERGASTING*

*DIAMOND IN MY EYES*

“R.Really, Mr. Rodriquez!?!? D.Do I?”

“Yes, young man! It will be too jarring and discourteous; and I will be evil to send you empty, hopeless and distorted after that *thinking* tête-à-tête. Today is Friday, so you can commence working from Monday. I will put you on trial and will scrutinize you if you really are capable to work as our company’s BM. If things work well and you surpass my expectation, I will make sure that you are paid with all the possible allowances and provide you vehicle and accommodation. *grinning*

He takes his key, a journal, a handbag. That is it. Interview ends. I get the job. Yes, I get the job!

“Thank you so much, Sir. *shaking head* Thank you sooo much. Much obliged, Sir. *handshakes* I am… I am lost for words and I wish if my parents were with me, I would have invited you to meet them.”

“Otherwise, you won’t?”

“No no no. *grinning* I didn’t mean that. You are most welcome, Mr. Rodriquez.”

He is folding his suit jacket.

“You have no idea how much I am grateful to you despite the fact that I wa-”

*pointing index finger at me* TV?”

“UHD”

“K?”

“8”

“Gooood… NBA?”

*laughs* Clippers

“Drink?”

Guinness

“Attaboyyy!! I have your number. See you on Monday.”

Honestly, that ‘Gooood’ was in Palpatine’s voice. But he has surprised me. What a jolly fellow he is. Such a friendly gesture he has. And he also likes NBA! We actually are watching NBA together soon? With drinks? Am I dreaming? Who does this? I haven’t even started working. Is this for real? I hope this is not a prank. I hope he is normal.

“Leaving, Mr. Rodriquez”

“Yes, Mr. Proctor. Please look after the employment formalities of the newcomer.”

“Will do, Mr. Rodriquez.”

*looking at me* And you! Do not fail me, young man! And never ever give up! See you on Monday. And we’ll plan about watching NBA. Mr. Proctor will also join.”

“Me? *laughs* Oh, I’m afraid I-”

“Come onnnn! It will be fun. This guy has 8K UHD! Even I don’t have at my home. Oh, by the way, Mr. Qaisar! He is Celtics. *sarcastically laughing*

I am confused. Why is he laughing? And should I laugh with him or not. He prepares to leave.

“I must leave now. It was delectation to have you and speaking in length. Come prepared, Mr. Qaisar. Do wash your shirt and wear a better pair of shoes here.”

He kneww itt! And he still recruited me!

“Welcome aboard, Mr. Qaisar.”

*HANDSHAKING*

*WALKING TOGETHER*

“Mr. Proctor! I must admit that Mr. Rodriquez is a very generous and humble man. He is completely the opposite of my former boss. If we have people with such qualities holding the chairs in most of the companies, we employees can never feel distressed.”

“I wish if the global powers would have been that kind and perfect, there would have been no economic crisis.”

“Is he always like this with all the candidates?”

“Most of the times. Yes. He is fond of making people optimistic. But today, he invested more time on this young chap.”

*BREAKING PAUSE*

“One question, Sir!”

“I am not a British, Mr. Qaisar. I am a South African Jew born in Bloemfontein and raised in Chelmsford. A few family members of my great-grandfather were the subject of abuse in the British concentration camps during the Second Anglo-Boer War. In short, you learn from your life… when you lose your family.”

*AGREEING WITH HIM*

“You are right. I can relate to your point somehow.”

“And I hope *smiling* that you won’t lose your… job.”

“I am confident that I am staying here for long.”

“It’s 4 and I suggest we should do these formalities on Monday.”

“Mr. Proctor! I am yet to ask about your position in the company.”

“I am the secretary to the company’s GM and also have my say as a consultant. Enjoy the weekend.”

*HANDSHAKING*

I come out of the building. Then I gaze back at the building to the top. Heavy clouds pouring drops on my head in laziness.

It wasn’t pouring for some time. The weather forecast was sunny this morning. I went to the building empty-handed but I feel that my hands are carrying some weight now. The weight of my fate.

I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world

Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’

A few hours ago, I was about to take my life. I was lost and hopeless. I had an accident this morning. My phone was not mute. I had no money to reach here. I left my documents at home. My e-mail was on the junk. The interview was semi-personal. And this man under his authority gave the chance I was craving for some months. Maybe he was in high spirits before I stepped in to meet him and he may have thought to make the life of any of the candidates. But the point is *thinking* that things happen for a reason. Things… happen… for a reason.

*PAUSE*

*AIR BLOWING*

I am looking around, trying to notice why the vehicles stop at red and run at the green from my wet eyes. I think I understand something. I am clapping and joyously chuckling while still looking around. I am smiling as if I have fallen in love again. I look around the busyness of the city.

Two kids of around 8 licking ice creams at a stall. A woman reading a book on the bench with her poodle sitting near her. The workers lifting bricks and some working on a billboard. I am loving everything whatever I see.

But there are things which provoke me to observe the harsh realities on the same streets. A mime entertains a small crowd nearby and after the act, no one drops a penny to his name. A beggar bundled in torn clothes whines for food and a group of witnesses strangely guffaws over his misery imagining if this is a slapstick. A street singer goes unheard lamenting about the man of words who committed suicide after his poetry fell on deaf ears.

Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley

I help an old woman with a walking stick cross the street on the red signal. She thanks me and leaves. I wave my hand on her back which goes unnoticed. Then a beggar from my back appears to me asking for money. I realize on his face that my wallet is empty of notes. I stare at him.

*NIZAM CALLING*

Aaaahhh.

*RAINING*

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall


11

MONDAY

8.30 AM

“Nizam! Don’t forget to collect your key. I am leaving now.”

“Good luck, brother.”

*DOOR CLOSING*

I have my parents’ blessing. I spoke with them on the weekend and informed about the new job. I pretended that I left the previous job for this and skipped reporting all the jeopardies. Why should I tell them? Why should I?

[“Beta! I am so happy and proud of you. Always work hard and earn good money.”

“Thanks, Ammi.”

“Oh yes. Something I forgot to tell you. Mrs. Khurshid came last night at our place. You know her daughter, Saba? She has returned from Amsterdam completing her studies. Maa Shaa Allaah, Saba is such a beautiful-”

“Bye, Ammi.”]

My car is still in the workshop because the workers later that day left for strike due to non-payment. The neighbor lends me more money as I informed him about my new job. That day, I called the landlord and my friends to inform about the job. Now I am at peace.

I have my Montblanc business bag and derby shoes of Hugo. And there are no marks of sweat as my attire is laundered. So I am missing no chance to give a better impression this time.

And I am enjoying cool breeze hanging in the bus. Above my head, the sun is hiding behind the clouds… just like my recent past. *smiling* And behind my head, I notice a teenage girl making a video of a sleepy passenger with saliva dropping from his mouth and snoring loudly. The scene catches the attention and his nasal thunders chuckle the other passengers, so does I. I recognize the delight on many faces and suddenly my eyes catch sight of a striking girl in a red and white sleeveless fit and flare casual dress of an unknown brand who notices me after chuckling at the sleepy passenger exactly the same time as I to her. She reminds me of Lauren German.

Black Sabbath – Orchid

As soon as we look at each other, my eardrums hark Black Sabbath’s Orchid. We are not chuckling anymore. We don’t care whose snoring has been funny all these seconds. We are glaring at each other. Her sparkling hazel eyes are inviting. She looks at me as if she is daunted with the unwanted coincidence of the chuckling faces fixing the eyes over each other. Maybe she is augmenting her careless mettle where emotions foolishly wander. Maybe she is making a statement. All my conundrums have vanished.

Oh, wait. Some lady holds her arm from the back. She looks back and they are smiling at each other. And she leaves with her at her stop and doesn’t glance back at me. Maybe she is with her. Maybe she is her sister or a friend. Maybe I am thinking too much. Maybe this is becoming my tendency. I remembered Sakina for a moment when she and I fixed our eyes at each other. Our misfiring chemistry led to abysmal farewell.

*BUS STOPPING*

Now I realize how stupid I was thinking about killing myself. The opportunity knocked and I got a new job hours later. And that is why we should never lose hope. Because someone above the clouds is very kind to you. He is testing my patience. He is observing me.

8.55 AM

I have reached on time and I am a few minutes away from 9. It is the new beginning and I hope that I will fit in the working environment with my new….

*STOPPING AND STARING AHEAD*

Why are the cops patrolling down? What is happening in this building?

I walk a few steps ahead. People on the streets are gathering to observe the situation. I ask a few who are standing near the cops. They have no idea. I have no idea. I am getting late on my first day but I am not allowed to enter the building for some time. I must call Mr. Proc-

*EYES WIDE OPEN*

*JAWS DROPPING*

A team of police escorting a handcuffed Mr. Rodriquez out of the building!


12

Mr. Rodriquez is handcuffed! The cops are here for him?

Mr. Rodriquez is arrested? What is going on?

Life ain’t always beautiful
Sometimes it’s just plain hard
Life can knock you down
It can break your heart.

My eyes are not believing the scene I am witnessing. I try to reach to one of the patrolling cars nearby.

“Why is he handcuffed?”

What did he do?

He is three steps away.

“M.M.Mr. Rodriquez! What happened??”

He is smiling. Shaking his head. He looks like he was crying before reaching here. He doesn’t look like if he has slept the last night. The cops are making him sit in one of the vehicles.

“Things happen for a reason, Qaisar. Always remember! Things happen for a reason.”

“Mr. Rodriquez!”

The door of the vehicle shuts!

“Do not fail me, young man! And never ever give up!”

Life ain’t always beautiful
You think you’re on your way
And it’s just a dead end road
At the end of the day.

I stand there as the cops leave the site. Mr. Rodriquez keeps looking at me until he disappears from the scene. I am believing as if he further wanted to say something to me. I am feeling if he is downtrodden by the authorities for being humble and kind to the helpless people like me. The spectators around become pedestrians. The time has passed 9. I am allowed to enter the building. Should I? I can barely move my feet from where I am standing.

But the struggles make you stronger
And the changes make you wise
And happiness has its own way
Of taking its own sweet time.

A silence spells for a few seconds then I see Mr. Proctor reaching towards me.

I am dumbstruck but I have to begin from somewhere.

“What in the world just happened now? I cannot believe what my eyes just witnessed. What did he do?”

“Please come to the office and we will speak on this matter.”

Entering the building and the gate from where he was escorted out handcuffed is not helping me make up my mind because I want to know.”

“Please Mr. Proctor! Tell me. What did he do?”

“I hope you realize that this is not the place to sp-“

“What did he d-“

*RAISING HIS VOICE*

“HE HAS MURDERED HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN!!”

…………………………………………………………………………………………

[“Always love your family. Always, always love and shield your family.”]

No, life ain’t always beautiful
Tears will fall sometimes
Life ain’t always beautiful
But it’s a beautiful ride.


(Soundtracks Used in this Episode)

The Kinks – This Time Tomorrow

Looking at the mirror and touching his throat.

Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall

Nizam calls Qaisar and the rain breaks.

Black Sabbath – Orchid

Qaisar and a girl look at each other on the bus.

Gary Allan – Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

When Qaisar witnesses Mr. Rodriquez escorted out by the police.


(Pictures used in this episode)

  1. https://s3-eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/centaur-wp/theengineer/prod/content/uploads/2015/03/05161100/meeting.jpg
  2. https://www.cpacanada.ca/-/media/cpa-digital-hub/featured-images/2019/05/hub-05-29-jobinterviewlies-hero-1200×900.jpg
  3. https://thereviewonline.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/fire-cover.jpg
  4. https://drnealranenbaltimorepsychiatrist.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Depression.jpg

AN IMPECCABLE STINT (EPISODE 1 OF 3)

AN IMPECCABLE STINT

EPISODE – I

MESSAGE

 

 Characters:

Qaisar Amjad

 “I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”

Paulo Coelho


1

FRIDAY

7.00 AM

♪ Amarillo by mornin’
Up from San Antone
Everything that I got
Is just what I’ve got on
When that sun is high in that Texas sky
I’ll be buckin’ at the county fair
Amarillo by mornin’
Amarillo, I’ll be th- ♪

I have changed around three dozen tracks in the past five minutes. But nothing is diverting my mind. I’m driving at 50kph on a road whose name I never bothered to know. My eyes are wide open to locate my home which I am not recalling for some time because my mind is lost somewhere thinking about the reasons I lost my job almost three months ago.

Why do I cogitate so much when I shouldn’t? Why do people drive reckless? Perhaps they don’t cogitate like me. Or maybe they haven’t lost any job. Or possibly they are not working but enjoying their life on their father’s money. Or maybe I am thinking too much. Or maybe the dystopian ark is too heavy to collide with the sacred tsunami. Maybe I am not driving on the road at all and the other vehicles are honking for fun. Possibly this journey is leading me somewhere but I am not perceiving. Perhaps the reckless driver has an emergency. Perhaps the race of life is settling on the road. No, I am thinking too much.

I should not have lost my job. But what was I supposed to do? That boss was irking me. He was putting me to work for abnormal working hours. He was insanely scolding me almost every day. Despite completing the assignments, he was lambasting me in front of my team. It was humiliating. Perhaps he wanted me to lose my patience and do something terrible. But why was he being so stern?

*YELLOW SIGNAL LIGHT*

50kph… 45kph…

A car on my right, racing at more than my speed. I think he wants to break the signal.

*RED SIGNAL LIGHT*

40kph… 35kph…

A street dog crossing at zebra in front of the assembly of the stopping vehicle but that…

*DHHATTTTTT*

*BRAKE*

30kph… 35kph…

*DHHATTTTTT*

……………………………………

*EYEBALLS ROLLING*

*ZOOMING OUT*

*HEAVY BREATHING*

Oh my Lord! I hit mine on the back of the car ahead in the queue. My foot presses the accelerator instead of the brake in the panic.

My heart is beating fast. My hand is pressing the gear tightly. I am sweating. The driver of the other car reaches my window to shout and argue. The other vehicles are honking. The pedestrians are staring. The driver of that car is still shouting and indicating to come out. Come out of the car.

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

The driver’s family comes out from the car now. A woman of his age, visibly pregnant, questions in front of my car about my possible blindness and driving. A frightened girl appears with a crying baby in her arm.

*GREEN SIGNAL LIGHT*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

Another car from my back shows up to my right, abuses me and leaves.

*SHIVERING*

The driver is angry and cannot tolerate further to the discontinued situation. He spits on my window. The baby is crying out loud. His woman is still shouting.

*HEAVY BREATHING*

*YELLOW SIGNAL*

*RED SIGNAL*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

On my right, the dog is dead. Its bleeding face is towards me. I am weeping. I cannot bear this. I feel I will urinate at any moment.

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

The pedestrians have stopped to watch this freak show. The entire family is yelling and shouting.

*SWEATING*

*GREEN SIGNAL*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

All eyes are on me. The disfigured bloody dog is also gaping at me.

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

The crying baby is not giving up migraining despite migrating from sister to mother.

*YELLOW*

*RED*

*ZOOMING IN*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

*CARS HONKING*

*BLACKOUT*


2

11.00 AM

 

*LOOKING AT THE MIRROR*

*ZOOMING OUT*

♪ All day staring at the ceiling
Making friends with shadows on my wall
All night hearing voices telling me
That I should get some sleep
Because tomorrow might be good for something ♪

My name is Qaisar Amjad. I am a 28-year-old bachelor, born and raised as a foreigner, living in a rental apartment. My parents are Amjad Chishti and Bilqis Amjad from Pakpattan, a city of central Punjab. This is the land where the shrine of Baba Farid is situated. But a long time ago, when they were living here, they sold their property in Pakpattan and moved around 200 kilometers away to Lahore to reunite with my father’s siblings. But they continued to visit the shrine and pay their respect. My father apprised me that our ancestors have been revering to the shrine for the past two centuries and I was born by his blessing.

I haven’t visited my country that often. I was a kid when I went with my parents. Even there, I was a foreigner to my extended families. Those were strange and different species to me and I was alien to them in all sorts. So I was alone and isolated in my childhood. Here, I grew up meeting people from different backgrounds, learned different languages and gathered on many different occasions. I usually preferred to stay out from home because apart from my studies, I had nothing to do.

My parents were very remote to diversity. Almost every social contact with their lives were the mortals belonging to our own country. When they tuned in to the television, the only programs they watched were the news and entertainment channels of our country. On the road, they used to stop only those taxis whose drivers were their native. In the stores and malls, they stood only in that queue where the cashier was their native. Punjabi was the only language they spoke at home and on the telephone. They spoke Urdu when the national guests of the other provinces showed up. With time, they learned to speak broken English which they improved, again, with time. It was extremely hard for me to adjust with my parents because of our preferences and priorities. Luckily, my parents and I realized that we were people from different backgrounds under the same roof. My parents tried to accustom me and I did try to acculturate them with the norms of a multinational country but we, unquestionably, failed each other.

I have a 17-year-old brother, Nizam. He is studying at home and is not enrolled in any institution due to the costly semester fees. I was paying for his tuition but since I lost my job, paying any kind of money has become a huge burden. We have mutual respect due to a gap of generation but that gap vanishes when we watch the NBA together. I am Clippers, he is Lakers.

3 months ago, my landlord notified me to pay him the agreed quarterly rent. At that time, I was losing my job and the money was already spent on the required domestic expenses. My expenses were already talking as my pay was low and the boss was refusing to raise my pay. Therefore I was out of solutions. So for the first time in my life, I sought financial help. To my good luck, a few friends gathered the amount and I was able to pay to the landlord.

When I lost my job, the prices of food and petrol and the bill for electricity hiked, and it became exceptionally hefty to save money like before. The suffocation period has now arrived and a couple of days ago, the landlord had rung me twice to pay him this week.

*GULPING*

My friends already have done the favor in the previous quarter and I b.bothered them this morning. So I am in no position to ask again within a few hours. I am yet to return their money used in the last rent payment. No no no, I don’t have the courage to ask for the help again.

*PUFFING*

What will they think about me? That Qaisar is raising his asking habit and not seeking a job to fix the critical issues? I do was hunting jobs but no vacancy, no message, no e-mail, nothing. Nothing. And now this morning, I hit a car and emptied my wallet with the remaining notes which were for my brother. Now I am not able to pay for Nizam’s tuition again. But I have to buy more time from Nizam’s tutor and request to pay him next month.

*LUMP IN THROAT*

I have never encountered so much restlessness in my life and this is getting really hard to tolerate.

*PUFFING*

*LIGHTS OFF*

♪ Hold on
Feeling like I’m headed for a breakdown
And I don’t know why ♪

In my room. On my knees. Bowing and pressing my palms on my head. Using my nails on my skull. Then making a fist and hitting on my knees. Then smacking my face until it gets red from one side.

♪ But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see
A different side of me


3

11.30 AM

 

*DOOR CLOSING*

Nizam leaves for tuition. He doesn’t know that his tuition fees are not paid for the past two months. I could have paid if I had not panicked this morning. I must call the tutor before he reprimands his arriving without the fees and considers to scold him.

*CALLING TUTOR*

Author: “Yes?”

Qaiser: “H.h.hi hi sir. Howa you?”

“I’m good. Yes?”

“I want to… *thinking* I want to speak something very important.”

“Is Nizam unwell?”

“No no no. He is on his way to your place. I I want to speak to… about about your fees.”

“You have it now?”

“No no. I mean, p.p.please. Thank you for giving some time. But *sweating* b.but-”

“But what Mr. Qaisar? I am occupied with students here. Will you please be quick?”

*PUFFING*

“Yes yes. Can you please give me *raising index finger in the air* one… one more month, sir? I I promise I-”

“What is this Mr. Qaisar? This is the third time! *glasses off* I really cannot afford this. I cannot say much as I am in the middle of teaching the students. You must consider paying me this month. Okay, Mr. Qaisar?”

*WET EYES*

“Okay, sir. I will… I will conta-”

I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
And how I used to be, me

I keep my phone in the room and come to the drawing room. *tears dropping* The tutor was not attending my calls before because I was embarrassing him giving the same excuse. But this time, he looked forced to utter some words in a higher tone.

*LANDLORD CALLING*

And I am ignoring his call. I don’t know what to say. He knows that my friends helped me the last time so if I request to him for a delay in payment so he may suggest me to ask my friends. And I don’t wa-

*DOORBELL RINGING*

*HEARTBEAT RACING*

*DOORBELL RINGING*

I am sitting down the floor with my hands on the back of my head. My legs are curved as I feel I will piddle any second.

*SWEATING*

*GULPING*

*FOLDING HANDS*

The landlord calls again and I completely forgot to mute my phone.

*RIGHT EAR MOVING IN TAUT*

My phone is in my room. I am standing a meter away from the main door. So I am not aware if he can listen to my phone ringing from a distance.

The phone stops ringing. Pin drop silence for the next couple of minutes. All that I hark is my series of puffing.


4

12.00 PM

*ZOOMING OUT*

I have lost my weight due to severe desolation and depression in these few weeks. I have been regularly losing my appetite due to tensions and not eating in entirety to save the food for long. No job offer calls or emails. No vacancies. Nothing. And here I am sitting on the toilet shirtless and wearing cargo shorts; sweating and looking at my fate in the carving knife which *voice breaking* I am holding t.tightly for the past five minutes.

*TEETH CRUSHING*

This moment was certain to occur because my life w.was not moving nor revolving towards any hope. My old parents in their hometown have been assuming for several months that I am still working *voice breaking* and things are normal here. I know what they have suffered while growing us *teary eyes* and I am in no position to lie to them after *lump in throat* I put them in numerous jeopardies since my rough teenhood.

*WEEPING*

I realized my responsibility only when I got the job the first time five years ago and involved myself in contributing to pay the house rent and Nizam’s fee from my first pay.

*GROANING*

*TIGHTLY HOLDING KNIFE*

Now, I cannot fight from the bonafide miseries and look into Nizam’s eyes *voice breaking* and tell him that he will be able to sit in the examination room.

♪ But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see
A different side of me ♪

*THINKING*

*SWEATING*

Ok ok. *eyes rolling* I will stab myself in the belly. I must make my mind. That is it. Go for it. Go for it. *gulping* Goo for itt.

*BOTH HANDS TIGHTLY HOLDING KNIFE*

*BLOWING AIR THRICE*

*EYES WIDE OPEN*

Gooo for itttt! Gooo for itttt!

*HANDS SHAKING*

Do it! Doooo ittttttt!

*GUHHHHHH*

Oh God! I can’t! I can’t! You mmust do it, Qaisar!

I must do something quickly. Cut the vein? Shove the knife on either skull or heart? But I should do in a rage so that I endeavor a powerful force without hesitating. *lump in throat* Then I am gone in a few seconds. The ravage culminates. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. It is just a matter of a few seconds. *weeping* Then I’m gone. No more pain, no more stress, no more agitation.

♪ I know it doesn’t seem that way 
But maybe it’s the perfect day 
Even though the bills are piling 
And maybe Lady Luck ain’t smiling ♪

Heart then. That is it.

*HEAVY BREATHING*

It is the heart. A hand is enough.

*CLOSING OTHER FIST TIGHTLY*

*CLOSING EYES*

I’m sorry ammi.

*CRYING*

*HEARTBEAT RACING*

I’m sorry abbu.

*SWEATING*

I’m sorry Nizam.

*CRYING*

Oh Godddd.

*SHOUTING*

Oh Godddd.

*MOANING*

Sorry sorrrryyyy.

*HAND SHAKING*

My pregnant Siberian cat, Push, hears my whining, reaches the toilet, stops, and stares at me holding the knife in the air with my eyes wide open. She certainly looks terrified with my strange behavior as if the knife is meant to kill her.

*SWEATING*

*GULPING*

*HEAVY BREATHING*

Throat it is. Is It? Yes, throat. Troat, thrrooat. Throat it is. Shove the knife breaking my trachea *puffing*. That is it. May Lord forgive me. *crying* I’m sorrryyy.

*MOANING*

Now I am holding the knife from both the hands and pointing the tip of the knife towards my throat.

*SHAKING*

*BLOWING AIR TWICE*

*CLOSING EYES*

Give me the strength. *blowing air* Please forgive me, God. *heavy breathing* I failed my life. *holding knife tightly* I failed my family. *gulping* I failed myself.

♪ But if we’d only open our eyes ♪

[*Children laughing on Qaisar in the classroom*]

♪ We’d see the blessings in disguise ♪

[“See beta. This is Hafeez uncle. Come on, say salaam.”]

♪ That all the rain clouds are fountains ♪

[*Father continuously smacking Qaisar*]

♪ Though our troubles seem like mountains ♪

[(On TV) “We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we’ve had one under Obama.”]

♪ Every now and then life says ♪

[“Qaisar! Your name is not on the list!”]

♪ Where do you think you’re going so fast ♪

[*Thugs beating Qaisar*]

♪ We’re apt to think it cruel but sometimes ♪

[“Nizam! Stop playing with your food!”]

♪ It’s a case of cruel to be kind ♪

[“Wake up Bono! Please meow to me. *voice breaking* Please wake up! Please don’t leave me! *crying* I promise I’ll feed you, my baby. Please don’t go, pleeeaaase.”]

♪ There’s gold in them hills ♪

[“My wedding is fixed. Please forget me Qaisar.”]

♪ There’s gold in them hills ♪

[(On laptop) “Please come soon beta”]

*MOANING*

I’mm sorrrrry ammmmmmmiiiiii maaaaaaaaaaaa.

*SHRIEKING*!!!

*PHONE RINGING*!!!

*RIGHT EAR MOVING IN TAUT*

*GULPING*

*PHONE RINGING*!!!

*HEAVY BREATHING*

*SWEATING*

*EYES WIDE OPEN*

An uncontrollable painful headache suffers me to vomit on my lower body. My shorts is dirty with the substance. I am unmoved on the toilet seat. All I listen to is my breathing. I cannot gulp anymore. I felt someone was hitting my head with a sledgehammer before throwing.

*COUGHING*

The phone rings again. It may be the landlord.

*CRYING*

This predicament has made the temperature of my body disordered. I am sweating but at the same time, I am feeling icy-cold. I am still sitting on the toilet seat without moving an inch of my body. I am urinating in my shorts. My feet and palms are cold. The heart is beating fast again due to this unnatural phenomenon. I am still not on my own.

*EYES STRONGLY BLINKING*

*PHONE STOPS RINGING*

I take a deep breath. I try to move. For some time, my body was stiff. Only my arms and face were moving. I feel some neuralgia when I distance my head from the wall. I stand up trying to balance myself. Some drops of my urine and vomit were absorbed on my shorts and some dropped down the floor which the shorts couldn’t absorb. The frightened cat runs away pussyfooting. The knife is still in my hand. I take the mobile which I had left near the soap dispenser. It was Nizam. Ohhh. Is he returning?

*VOICE BREAKING*

Has the tutor demanded his fees and send him back?

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I cann’t. I cannn’t.

*CRYING*

*SITTING ON THE TOILET SEAT*

No noo noooo no no.

*MOBILE ON MY KNEE*

*THINKING*

*CRYING*

What else can I do? The tutor is asking to pay three months of tuition fees. I have to pay back to my friends. The landlord is calling me to pay the rent. Nizam is calling me. I am lying to my parents for months.

*REPEATEDLY HITTING PALM ON FOREHEAD*

*REPEATEDLY SLAPPING FACE*

*SHAKING HEAD*

*HAND ON MY FACE*

*PAUSE*

*THINKING*

*SLOWLY BREATHING*

*BLOWING AIR*

I take the mobile from my knee. Opens the photo album and see Nizam’s picture one last time. I am smiling and looking at the bathroom walls. Push ran away because she sensed my death. *shaking head* It is over.

*TEXTING*

“Nizam! Brother! Never ever give up on your dreams. One day you will realize how much I-”

NEW MESSAGE!!!

Re: Job Offer

……………………………

*EYES WIDE OPEN*

*SLOWLY BREATHING*

*HANDS SHAKING*

*CLICKING MESSAGE*

“Mr. Qaisar! We have observed your CV and expect you to visit our office today at 1’o’clock sharp. Regards, William Proctor.”

*KNIFE DROPPING*

Seems like repeatedly forgetting to mute my phone is a good omen.

♪ So don’t lose faith 
Give the world a chance to say

A word or two, my friend 
There’s no telling how the day might end 
And we’ll never know until we see 
That there’s gold in them hills

There’s gold in them hills 
So don’t lose heart 
Give the day a chance to start

There’s gold in them hills 
There’s gold in them hills ♪


(Soundtracks Used in this Episode)

George Strait – Amarillo by Morning

Introductory song played in Qaisar’s car.

Matchbox Twenty – Unwell

Qaisar introducing himself while looking at the mirror.

 Ron Sexsmith – Gold in them Hills

Qaisar making his mind about how to commit suicide.


(Pictures used in this episode)

1) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2016/04/06/EEAPNT-restricted-toilet-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bq7Pfl9MMCa_diGnmd9jnHSzWcL90dqBb9YR4bjIG0oJU.jpg

2) https://i.pinimg.com/originals/58/8c/5c/588c5ce4b2f66d34666a38db86369b1e.jpg

3) https://www.rapidhypnotherapy.com.au/uploads/1/2/1/6/121671427/man-suffering-depression-looks-out-the-window-of-a-dark-room_orig.jpg

7 Points Aurat Should ‘Also’ March For

Aurat March began in Pakistan last year to observe International Women’s Day with the purpose of expressing solidarity with women. With the rise of feminism wave in recent years, many organizations have voiced about women rights and empowerment. It is a much-needed voice.

The March of this year grabbed my attention and I observed many pictures from Karachi and Lahore with women holding banners, posters, and placards. Yes, there were some important messages about honor killing, domestic violence, and individual freedom. But much to my surprise, most of the messages looked like a crusade against men. Although a few were exceptional and spot on, but I think the participants of the march missed the chance to raise the country’s many critical issues related to women. Some of the issues or events which the women should have raised and notified to the government.

There is every possibility that the issues below have been raised by a few but not many and can be voiced the next time such event is organized. Therefore, I am raising a few issues which deserved to reach the advertisement boards and I felt were more important issues than cooking together or finding socks:

01. MINORITY RIGHTS UNDER HUDOOD ORDINANCE

This has been a subject of controversy over the years about Hudood Ordinances (HO) which criminalizes rape and extramarital sex. The HOs which were enacted back in 1979 as the part of General Zia Ul Haq‘s Islamisation process is applied on both Muslims and non-Muslims in Pakistan. These ordinances are of two types; one is Hadd (punishment under Islamic Law) and the other is Tazir (punishment decided at the discretion of the judge or ruler of the state).

But the problem of this never amended 1979 HO law is that it is unilateral towards Muslims and discriminative towards the minorities. The Muslim man will not be convicted under the HO if he rapes a non-Muslim woman.

Under clause 8 of the Chapter of Zina under HO (VII OF 1979), the proof of Zina or Zina-bil-jabr is liable to Hadd only if at least four MUSLIM witnesses are produced to the case. The court is satisfied only when the requirement of Tazkiyah-al-shuhood (TS) is on the table. TS simply means that the witnesses are truthful persons and abstain from major sins. While applying TS, the law indirectly considers the non-Muslims as witnesses untruthful and unreliable.

Due to this reason, the non-Muslim women are not able to register their statement and has to visit the magistrate under section 21. The worst possible damage for a non-Muslim woman getting raped is her pregnancy. The DNA tests will decide if the illicit child is of the rapist. Only then there is a possibility of her getting justice which is by then exhausting and humiliating if she really survived to that day.

In the first place, HO introduced ambiguity into the law by recognizing rape with fornication/adultery in the same frame which is exquisitely horrible. Fornication or adultery is a ‘voluntary’ sexual intercourse between the two but rape is when the one indulges by forcing the other. Former is sin by religion, the latter is a crime by law.

Imagine how many non-Muslims are imprisoned due to the confusion and mess created by these laws. We do speak of minority rights but what about those who are jailed for wrong reasons?

02. LOW PAY SCALE OF SPORTSWOMEN THAN SPORTSMAN

I am not aware of the other sports but let’s not expect any good about women earning some respectable amount as compared to men in any sports because the situation in this matter is worst in cricket.

In Aug.2018, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced central contracts for 33 men and was further reported that the male cricketers were getting an increment in their salaries by 25-30%.

Among the 4 categories, the players under the top category which is A were to get Rs. 800,000/month. This followed by players under category B, C, and D to get Rs. 500,000, Rs. 350,000 and Rs.200,000 a month respectively.

Four months prior, when PCB announced a central contract for 21 women, the board was paying an extremely small amount. As compared to men under A category paid Rs.800k, the women were paid only Rs.100k. Yes, eight times less!

The same case with the women under B, C and D categories were paid only Rs.80k, Rs.60k and Rs.40k a month.

I am not saying that the women should demand equivalent to the amount men are paid in Pakistan cricket. I understand the global marketing, advertising, organizing tours and fixtures, ticket sales fetch more of the board’s budget in men’s cricket than women’s. But paying eight times lesser to women is not justice at all.

Not many families can afford their daughters to step out and play the sports they love as they have to tackle many domestic and social issues. Coming from tough and difficult background stories, physical fitness and health is a huge focus for these sportswomen and I don’t think that most of the sports will facilitate them enough. Maybe cricket in Pakistan but the figures in the contracts above are discouraging.

The central contracts for women were announced a few months ago without mentioning the amount in figures. But what change will there be? And this is cricket I am talking about. You decide yourself what women are paid in the other sports.

03. WORKFORCE AND PAY GAP

As per the new Global Gender Pay Gap (GGPG) released by the World Economic Forum in December 2018, it will take 202 years to close the gap or in other words, men and women will earn the same figure of money in any given position across the globe after 200 years have crossed. This has improved from the 2017 report which predicted 217 years. Furthermore, women today are paid 63% of what men earn.

149 countries were ranked in this report. Iceland topped the list with women there earning 85% of what men earn. And guess where Pakistan ended up. They were 148th and above Yemen. Women in Pakistan are earning only 55% of what men earn. Yes, it indeed is embarrassing that the poorest countries in the world like Chad ($919 per person a year) and Mali ($917 per person a year) have a better ranking (145 and 143 respectively) than Pakistan. This disappointing percentage of Pakistan has increased by only 1% since the 2006 report.

The most disappointing factor is that Pakistan is consistently the second-lowest in GGPG for the past five years. So no step has been taken to escalate the rank in the last few years.

According to a 2012 conducted study in the agricultural sector, female workers were earning only 170 rupees a day as compared to male workers earning 300 rupees a day. The women earned 32% in skilled agriculture which was less than half of men (67%).

Pakistan, which is still amongst at least 60 countries with fewer women population than men, constitutes only 24% of the female labor force which is three times lesser than men labor force (82.7%).

04. RIGHTS FOR LESBIANS

(Here I will try to focus only on the lesbians out of LGBTs to stick on the points I am raising in this blog to a certain length)

With the awareness of globalization and increase in liberalization, one cannot ignore the rights of people from a different sexual orientation. Finally, after decades, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled in favor of civil rights for the transgender citizens in 2009. And last year, the country’s parliament passed the Transgender Persons Act 2017 which established protection for transgender people.

Which indicates that there is hope for the homosexual community to get civil rights just like the transgender citizens. Because so far, the same-sex marriages are not permitted and the matter is not generally brought in discussion in fear of the moo-law fascism.

The country still strictly prohibits homosexuality. Forget about the rights of the lesbians, it is considered a crime by law and anyone involved in the carnal intercourse with the same gender are to be punished for at least two years and maximum ten years with a fine according to the article 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

It is quite weird to realize that PPC is actually inherited and renamed from the Indian Penal Code, an Anglo-Saxon law written by Lord Macaulay in the colonial era in 1860. Why Pakistan still follows an almost 120-year-old article 377? The amendment was made in A and B of article 377 but the article itself was not amended.   

Moving towards the globalization, the country is the least accepting the community of homosexuals and are hostile towards them. Homosexuality is still a taboo subject in Pakistan. There was a spark of controversy when the private news channel broke the news of two Pakistani girls tying the knot in the UK.

So what about the people in such minorities then? Either they live as compromised or settle down to a certain country where LGBT is tolerated to live with freedom. Speaking of which reminds me of a case of a lady from Karachi who moved to the UK because of the tormented years of her beatings and discrimination for her being a lesbian.

As per the 2013 survey report of the Pew Research Center, 87% Pakistanis rejected the recognition of homosexuals in the society. But four years later, ILGARIWI mutually conducted a global attitude survey under which 45% Pakistanis agreed that such people should enjoy the rights as straight people.

A very minor percentage of lesbians in Pakistan are not able to stand up for their rights. If the women marching on the streets or sharing support in the social media believes in women rights and freedom, then they should step further and speak about this specific minority. Let them live in peace and others live in their peace.

05. WOMEN IN OLD-AGE HOMES

I think the most haunting imagination of life has to be when you think about getting old. And when I say old, I mean when you cross over 65 or say 70 at least. And what if I add a further misery or a jingle of torture to send you to a center where people of same age live for God knows how long.

It is torture, no? Keeping in mind that you are old and not long enough is the remainder of life to live with a decline in health. And you expect that your young ones will take care of you but they rather prefer to drop you there.

Some actually are okay to end up there because they suffered enough by their own to decide to move there in peace which is also a tragic fate. Enough of haunting? A man in Pakistani society may survive but what about a woman? Her case is more sensitive.

Abdul Sattar Edhi once admitted that the number of old-age homes dramatically increased in Karachi alone which rose from six to ten centers between 2006 and 2010. A few of those centers were sheltering more than 150 people. Do read the stories of the then 67-year-old Fehmeeda and 84-year-old Darakhshan.

Let me clear a very important point here. On a few occasion, their young ones or the relatives are not at fault. Many of the old generations have to move welfare centers because there is no other solution to survive. The pensions at most of the sectors and the companies are not enough to maintain a healthy life. With age comes diseases and the expensive medical bills shape to become a will paper. Should I expect better public toilets especially facilitated for old-age people at all in Pakistan or at least in a few metro cities?

It is the duty of the state or the welfare organizations to raise the bar of building more centers with enough facilities to help them live a better life. At the same time, the women need to voice the awareness of taking the domestic responsibilities of protecting the rights of their old ones especially the women. Imagine the life of people living in rural areas or slums. Those female sweepers, cleaners, maids and servants who spent their life serving the others and stay in their extreme poverty. What are they when they get old? Some measures should be adopted to lead them towards a healthy life above the poverty line before they feel isolated and rejected.

06. VOICE FOR RAPE VICTIMS

Whenever we discuss the rape cases in Pakistan, the first victim who comes in the mind is Mukhtaran Mai, a villager from Meerwala who survived a gang rape ordered by the tribal clan in Muzaffargarh. She broke the headlines in the Pakistan media for some time and even hit the global media including BBC and Time Magazine.

The tragic popularity of Mai has now dimmed with the death of a 7-year-old girl from Kasur, Zainab Ansari, who was raped and murdered last year in January. And there are dozens of rape incidents which became seasonal headlines and disappeared. Many cases didn’t meet justice.

Kainat Soomro was 13 when she was kidnapped and gang-raped for four consecutive days. Her brother was murdered three years later when she voiced for justice. Her father was beaten with iron rods and the local tribunal determined her to be a Kari (the black female who loses the virginity outside marriage). She fought for her right for several more years.

The reason for highlighting a few is to bring awareness to this serious matter which is, unfortunately, happening for decades in this country especially in the rural areas. Can you ever believe that some village councils in Pakistan rules ‘revenge’ rape in some cases?

Most of the rape cases are registered from Punjab province where around 3000 rapes reached the police station in 2017. Almost the similar figures of cases were registered in 2016 too. If I only term crimes against the women instead of saying ‘rape’, 5660 such cases were registered across the country in the first 10 months of 2017.

That year, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported the lowest number of crimes by any province in the first half (202 including 72 rape cases). Balochistan had 354 cases in the first 10 months including four rape cases.

Sindh also has terrible stats. In 2016, there were 2817 cases registered about crimes against women which included 165 rapes and 13 gang-rapes. Next year, the new yearly concluded figures increased to 2934 cases out of which 156 were rape cases in Karachi and other parts, and 47 were gang-raped.

According to the 2017 Pakistan Human Rights Report from the US Department of State, the rapes were frequent but the prosecutions were rare. So imagine the fact that will disgust you that the abovementioned figures from the years 2016 and 2017 are only the cases which are registered to the police station. How many of those cases were then investigated? How many of those files were opened? How serious was the police department to eradicate or reduce the crime? When Zainab Ansari was lost and the case was reported to the authorities, they did nothing. In fact, the CCTV video footage was discovered by the family members when no response came from them.

I wonder such negligence has cost how many scores of lives in Pakistan. According to the Aurat Foundation in the same report (page 38), NGOs alleged the police that sometimes they abused or threatened the rape victims and demanded to drop the charges after receiving a bribe from suspected perpetrators. Some police demanded a bribe from the victims to register the case. According to the 2018 Pakistan Human Rights Report from the US Department of State, three Balochistan police officials were arrested for pressuring a rape victim to withdraw her allegations.

Yes, there were voices against the rape in the Aurat March but what about the rape victims? Who demanded justice for any rape victims? I may have missed some placards if there were but still not on a scale the participants of Aurat March should have.

07. PROTECTING WOMEN FROM ACID VIOLENCE

My final point of concern is about the women’s disfigurement by acid throwing mostly attempted by men. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) of Pakistan, there are up to 150 cases of acid throwing in Pakistan every year due to the domestic abuse. Some other possible reasons can be her ‘inappropriate’ dressing or rejecting the marriage proposal. Imagine, around 150 women in Pakistan are the unfortunate victims of acid attacks with the consequences of possibly permanent skin damage.

Speaking of which reminds me of the case. Almost seven years ago, Alex Rodriguez of Los Angeles Times covered an incident about a gang of four men throwing sulfuric acid on a 10-year-old Zaib Aslam and her mother Parveen Akhtar. One of the four men was recognized to be the ex-fiancé of Parveen’s older daughter.

The acid attacks on women in Pakistan came to global attention only when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge directed the Academy Award-winning documentary ‘Saving Face‘ in 2012.

Naila Farhat was the first prominent name of this century to suffer the acid attack. At 13, Naila was punished by her teacher’s friend for refusing the proposal by throwing acid while coming back from school in 2003. Punishment to the culprit? 12-years imprisonment and 1.2 million fine by the sessions court. So when the culprit appealed in the High Court, he was released with the condition of paying the fine.

Due to Naila’s courage to take the matter to the Supreme Court and the efforts of ASF Pakistan in 2011, the parliament decided to pass the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill on acid violence. But the unfortunate part is that maintaining reliable data about the cases were not taken seriously by the federal and provincial governments and due to the reason, the number of cases is extremely low. Based on the monitoring of the media, 96 cases were recorded in 2012, 67 in 2013, and 84 in 2014.

In 2008, the New York Times covered the story of Shahnaz Bukhari, founder of the Progressive Women’s Association (PWA). This organization came to existence to help the female victims of social and domestic violence. In 1994, the PWA began to work on the acid and burn cases. Through this coverage, Bukhari has claimed that PWA has documented nearly 8000 acid attack cases during the period 1994 to 2008 only in Islamabad area. That is a huge jaw-dropping figure from none other than the capital.

The reason to write about all these acidic references is to emphasize that Pakistan badly suffers this type of violence. Throwing sulfuric acid on the body is a serious degree burn with much certainty of the skin to be never normalized or women not surviving the pain or committing suicide. And throwing for the most ridiculous reasons. Even if there are strong reasons, then this should not be the case. This is death before the real death.


The punishment of the last two points should be severe so that the crime rate drops somehow. Many laws have begun to shape in favor of women but there is still time for swift justice. I cannot imagine what and how most of the women especially in the rural areas have suffered in the 20th century.

In my opinion, the ideal government and nation are which advocates the liberty and religious, social, domestic and economic freedom of a woman. I believe that the woman should enjoy her rights and must be served/facilitated with her just demands.

Abdul Sattar Edhi once said that Humanity is the biggest religion. Indeed it is humanity which all the religions emphasize on by different teachings and principles. There has to be no existing religion which does not focus on the importance and rights of the women.

(NOTE: The pictures used in this blog are taken from The News article and belongs to Bismah Mughal).

Concluding my blog with the hope that people in Pakistan understand the significance of the critical issues and raise awareness. Sharing is caring.

Book Review: The Dancing Girls of Lahore (2006)

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The title says it all. British author Louise Brown tours you to one of the shadows of the great Badshahi Masjid, the Diamond Market of Lahore which has a rich history of songs, dances, seductions, pleasures, fake and broken promises; and being a source of pleasuring men for centuries since the Mughal-era. It was once a land where the trained courtesans used to conquer the hearts of emperors.

The Dancing Girls of Lahore is a story of Maha, a classical dancer whose virginity was sold to an Arab Sheikh when she was only 12, but her existence cornered in the Walled City. Her fate is gashed with the timeline the author pens in each of 8 chapters, highlighting her struggles in raising money and children. 

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I am confound shall I pay my compliments for mustering the author’s courage, bestowed in her for shaping a book blazing her analysis, research and token of her lifetime in a historic sex market of Lahore or shall I appreciate the writer’s courtesy towards the humans of entirely different world to whom she spent every inch of monotone…

It is quite a lantern of outcry from the details of a dark frame with hopeless life stories coming from an author who herself is mother of three young children (by 2000). So I find super-naturally an extraordinary writing from a mother who forwards us a tale of a sex-selling mother Maha and her children i.e., soon-to-be sex workers in early teen hood.

Delicacy of the book lies in the anecdotes, descriptions of customers and various individuals, street foods and religious festivals, and history diggings over national and religious significance. Another impressive factor of reading this account is defining/detailing of characters. Not only the leading characters have been pedals of bicycle, also the minor individuals who carry less prominence were folded with some amount of paras.

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Reading the book has a comfort of fragmenting the pages by the headings which will ease the readers to read summarized details. Louise also covers the sorry state of transgender/shemale prostitutes in the bazaar. Also the use of Punjabi and Urdu words forward more output towards the meanings for comprehension and adding swear words ignite the sketches of emotions which is quite hilarious at some moments. Enjoyable parts are where Maha always turn ferocious and begin swearing. The author has made a careful observation of Maha.

Overall, The Dancing Girls of Lahore is a book presenting a terrible insider of a low-morale social life of the poor in the city of hearts but simultaneously a marvelous read of a summarized 4-year timeline in a red light district which guarantees interest towards the author’s explanations and research. It is a heartbreaking story which most importantly focuses of the lives of women residing there and confronting the horrors and cries. A ravishing sorrow…

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Book Review: Moth Smoke (2000)

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Let me be frank and perfectly honest that I am not a novel reader. But I began reading novel since Mira Nair revealed her intentions to make a movie on a novel written by a Pakistani writer. When I read the title of book, it blew my mind. When I read its synopsis, it crew my find. My first novel-reading was Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. And I realized it was a perfect choice to begin novel-reading.

Now I have read the second novel, also written by the same guy, with the impression that the writing will again be cardinal. Moth Smoke was Mohsin Hamid’s first book and published back in 2000. The amazing feature of the writing truly is the expression of words one can sung the reality and stink the brutality. He will mesmerize you the way he reviews the nature, the lifestyle of Lahore and the beauty of feminine. The way things began flowing from a smashing scene to a melo-rythmic scene is very dramatic and hectic.

Set in the late 90’s of Lahore during the times of Indo-Pak nuclear tests, a drug addicted guy loses his job and enters in a love affair of his best friend’s wife. Life is effed up, financially he is getting low, starving of job and getting more hungry of sex. It is a tremendous attempt of explaining a human psychology the way when things go wrong and misery propels you to commit wrong.

The best part is the impression you get from the writer being his first manuscript, how nurtured his pen grows to talk his story. The vocabulary of words and picking the lines to dramatize the scene and bring his nostalgia at any moment is very lively, choosy and natural.

Creativity is astounding as the core characters are Mughal-era-tically named. Then the explanation of each character is beyond the reality. Things work at ease for Mohsin, as the 245-pages book is an easy read and comprehensive divided into 17 chapters. Tumultuous applause for the writer!!

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The Three Witches and No-Ball Dynasty

Abominable or Adorable? The slavery of justice is impeccable…

Once, the 3 witches, who prophesied Macbeth of his becoming king, returned and landed to earth after 4 centuries, this time at Iqbal Park in Lahore. Their ears heard something familiar which was related to them, prophecy. The man on stage was addressing his nation, talking about his movement, cheering his supporters and embarking his wisdom. 

Somehow, the witches stunned when they heard that specific word, Tsunami, which roared his supporters nationwide. They were worried about these people, because last time the Tsunami ever severely hit was a year ago in Japan with the-then over 15,000 innocent lives officially graved. And these participating in park were like ten-fold but they were to their surprise, gay and excited.

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The witches moved to other parts of Pakistan with mixed responses to their wonder. They spot a boy gazing at them. Like if he was about to shout, the witches immediately flew to him to calm the closet. When witches confirmed their personification, the boy spoke up that the play, Macbeth, is taught in his school and always wished to see the witches in reality. When witches asked for the reason of such wish, the boy replied of their importance of prophecies playing the core part in ruling of Kingdom indirectly, as he wished to see them back to give prophesy this time under right hands for his country’s defense.

The witches were impressed but they convinced him of their return to a piece on earth was just under their observation of watching numerous Macbeths who don’t even need any prophecy. The boy wept and ran away, the witches kept touring. They found the army general waiting for martial law, chief justice of the highest court actually waiting for justice, medical students protesting outside their university, engineering students seeking for jobs, TV anchors talking about patriotism, celebrities endorsing shame, mullahs arguing with mullahs as moo-laws and the politicians doing everything but politics. Quite boozy-cal to upcoming elections to decide the country’s fate where such incidents happen. Oh by the way, the witches crossed the line towards north to Waziristan. The militants opened fire on them by taking them as ‘Human Drones’, the witches somehow escaped unhurt.

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All three witches now considered the boy’s wish to come true and challenged each other to prophesy the exact fate of the country. If foretold correct, will vanish her 2 partners forever;

  • The 1st witch prophesied: “The most seasoned campaign of sitters (but not seaters) will somehow win the contest and struggle to lead”
  • The 2nd witch prophesied: “The most trusted campaign who voice for reformation will convincingly win the race and dare to lead”
  • The 3rd witch prophesied: “The good and the bad will win together but work together in opposite ways until the third force intervene”

Normally, when elections are uphold or behold anywhere in any region (you may say legion), whatever you predict or foretell, you actually get results. A country in state of plagiarism but morally adapted to pluralism easily lumberjacks the nation. The school of thought which at least develops interest in book-reading and on-air heated argument, becomes school of fought. Living in this country or being of this country, you are in a state of mind where you are disturbing or disturbed. So do knot disturb.

Soon as the prophecies and results of elections are revealed, Hecate has fallen unconscious at unknown location whereas the witches are yet to decide whether to vanish or not. So after so many no-balls, the ball is yet to deliver to complete the over as you know what I mean. The latest but traditional news is that army general is still waiting for next martial law.