Death of a Bride

Farzana Moon

Found this story sitting on my desktop...not a folktale, but a tale told by one of my aunts, whose husband was posted in Quetta. One of the bungalow over there had a sign 'haunted'. After the death of the lieutenant's wife, the orderly confessed to the validity of the strange events, as related in the story. Not sure, if that bungalow still exists in Quetta with the injunction posted on the door 'not to be occupied by any officer', as related to me by my aunt. [FM]

Jamshed! born, bred and educated in Pakistan, was suited more to the role of Don Juan than to the rigors of the army. After his graduation from Hasan Abdal in Abbotabad, he was clamped with the rank of a lieutenant and posted in Lahore, his own hometown. Avid and capricious by nature, Jamshed had never learned to conceal his passions from the opposite sex; especially, if they were beautiful. Courting or jilting each fair damsel by the virtue of his own need, lust or infatuation. No fear, remorse or compunction could ever shackle his 'freedom', as he called it. But fate had other designs, which could not be averted or revealed. An arranged marriage by his mother, whom he loved and revered, became the chosen path to his Destiny.

Paradoxically, he fell in love!

Jamshed had fallen in love--with his own bride? Madly and passionately, in love! Farhat was the name of his chosen Bride, and for a delirious lapse of whole six months, he was drowned in bliss and surfeit. Emerging from these sparkling Waters of Love only when besieged by an order from the colonel that he was transferred to Quetta. Was he to be exiled where his wife could not accompany him till a bungalow was vacated, Jamshed had protested to his superior? Sullen and dejected, he had returned home in such blaze of a temper, that Farhat had declared laughingly.

"Don't look so mournful, Jamshed! A few weeks of separation is not going to kill you. Besides, I need to spend some time with my parents," Farhat had teased.

With tender and mournful sighs, Jamshed had resigned to departure. Once in Quetta, he had grown dull and morose. He would sulk in his barracks, attending the daily drills with the fury of a caged animal. Some astonishing mixture of inertia and frenzy were brewing inside him, his heart heavy and inconsolable. He could not endure this gap of separation from his Beloved whom he had known only for six blissful months. The Sun of his Sorrow, as if sensing his misery and wretchedness, summoned a bright hope one morning. He was informed that one senior officer was transferred to Karachi, and in the process of vacating a fine bungalow, which would prove a suitable residence for him and his wife.

A fine bungalow, as prophesied, came into view, as Jamshed allowed him to be guided by the orderly under some spell of hateur and impatience. His heart was throbbing with excitement, and his mind conjuring up plans for a happy re-union with Farhat. Waving dismissal to the orderly, he drifted from room to room in some sort of frenzy and elation. Oblivious to his thoughts and surroundings, he found himself standing in the middle of an immaculate bedroom. Suddenly, a spurious wave of nostalgia and sadness was curling its way down the very pit of his stomach. An overpowering sense of fatigue! An overwhelming need for rest! The four-poster mahogany bed was inviting him, as if alive, rustling, whispering.

Jamshed flung himself upon the bed, one subtle cloud of a presage hovering above him, but he seemed not aware of its darkening mists. His body was growing limp, the soft quilts under him murmuring bliss and comfort. His whole being was washed with the sprinkling of joy, and his eyes were closing. Somewhere out there was sadness too, and separation? But all he could feel, were elation and intoxication! These feelings were so blissfully, ineffably familiar. And yet, he was not happy. Grief and sorrow were waiting, waiting. Some loss irretrievable, his drunken thoughts were repeating? Joy was returning to him as the unforgettable bride of love. The cold, glittering mists in his head were whirling his thoughts to powdery snow, yet they were reflecting not thoughts, only visions in mirages. Not even one snowflake of a thought which he could claim his own, all were haze and whiteness. Farhat was there somewhere, lost in the cold fury of the vague, ebbing storms. Suddenly, the storms were dissipating. Wafting forth the perfume of unforgetfulness from lands alien and unexplored. He was lulled to sleep, transported to the Eden of bliss and surcease. Awakening abruptly, as if jolted out of the very heavens where the Fall of Adam and Eve had given birth to Mankind. He might have been sleeping on a flowerbed, for his senses were assailed by the perfume of roses and lilacs.

"How sweet and familiar...where did reminds me of? What?" Jamshed inhaled deeply.

He leaped to his feet as if stung by a memory distant and allusive. Jamshed was listening to the voice of his psyche, with delirium as his companion. Pacing! slowly at first, then feverishly and restlessly. Some sort of alien fear which he had not ever felt before, was constricting his heart. Even an inward shudder, from the tips of his toes to the back of his spine, was dwindling the fury in his pacing. This alien fear was fleeing by the virtue of its own craven assault. It was donning the mantle of courage. Casting off the rags of its own fears in Fear. Wearing the shroud of disdain. Revealing the teeth of intrigue and exultation.

"The perfume of roses and lilacs...a mingling of colors? The scent of pine and fecundity? The night air with the promise of an early Spring? Or, the hot, pregnant summer night drunk with the scent of Rat-Ki-Rani..." Jamshed's thoughts were ringing the bells of awe and bewilderment.

He was drifting toward the window in some sort of trance and exhilaration. Standing there rapt and gazing. The moss roses down there in heliotrope colors were waving at him. And the wild-eyed daisies with their supple bodies were reaching out to the Sun. Languid and swooning.

"That raffish orderly, Amjad, did he take the liberty of leaving a pot of incense smoldering somewhere?" Jamshed was turning away from the window, feeling the beads of perspiration behind his back and on his brow. "Must be coming down with fever? A bath and good rest, that's what I need," his feet alone were guiding him toward the adjacent bathroom.

A cold, luxuriant bath, and Jamshed's feeling of confusion and bewilderment were banished. Instead, the sense of elation and mystery was courting his utmost attention. For the first time in his life, he was admiring and discovering the vitality of his youth and health. He could see the purity of his childhood floating up to the surface of his soul. The divine child in him had all the innocence of a young sapling. It knew no fears, no pains, no doubts, but the certainty of being loved and protected. Astonishingly enough, this child knew the worth of Truth. He himself had never sought Truth, yet feeling it in the joy of living.

"What Truth? Something invisible, ephemeral, unutterable? Some bliss in Silence, which the eyes of heart can't see, and the lips of eyes can't utter? Oh, the great Mystery? The Child is speaking to me? Waving at me the fabric of feeding itself on the promise of death, renewing its cycle of birth and surcease? Truth-mystery, eternal, living, unchanging. This Unattainable Within? Present! Absent! Together? The spool of joy, the thread of pain, the knots of wisdom..." Jamshed was easing himself out of the bathtub, as if drunk with the nectar of the gods.

Standing before the foggy mirror, he could neither speak, nor breathe. The liquid mists of the mirror were revealing a form, an apparition? One bloom of a young girl appareled in the moonlight purity of silks, was watching his awe-stricken face with a tender intensity. Numb and paralyzed, he stood there gazing, gazing. No daggers of fear or violence in his mind had threatened him to such abeyance. He was simply smitten by the shafts of her Beauty. Stunned! was the word, he would have used if he knew the naked, unashamed virility of his youth and desire. This lovely miracle was standing right behind him, and he dared not turn lest she disappear.

"Purity, whiteness, delusion! Truth..." Jamshed's very thoughts were devouring this miracle, mirrored over the vanity like an artist's dream.

"I am hallucinating! Yes? Such lips with the fire of rubies even a god can't fashion? The blaze of emeralds in her eyes, the laughing lakes! Dream, insanity, madness? If this is a dream, Merciful God, then never let me see another day without her! Let me sleep, sweet dreams, dreaming away life, not ever waking, not ever? Where is Farhat, Wife, Beloved...insanity, unreason..." Jamshed was feeling giddy, his heart thundering.

The blaze of Need inside him was now a churning volcano. His own dark eyes were kindling with the hungers and thirsts of the Passion famished and scalding. The Fever of Lust was jolting him to awareness. His Need inviolate was licking his flesh to a tingling sensation. Each fibre in his body was longing to crush this Miracle in one everlasting embrace. To devour and violate this Dream. To consume this White Beauty and to consummate the Evil Darkness itself, within him? He swung around, as if whipped by the lances of Fate!

"A houri straight from the Paradise! Some temple goddess, or a vestal virgin? Dream-insanity, who are you?" Jamshed's very lips breathed fire, ravishing her with the intensity of his gaze.

"Houri, no! Nor a goddess. Virgin, no, a thousand times, no..." delicious laughter trilled on her ruby-red lips. "A dream, indeed, no, but a Sane Reality, as real as the light of desire in your eyes," she was laughing with a wild abandon.

"My dream-reality," groaned Jamshed, crushing her into his arms.

The balmy air from the windows was swirling with the scent of the earth, as Jamshed and dream-reality lay locked into each other's arms on the four-poster bed. Their faces transfigured with joy, and rapt wonder shining in their eyes. They were like a pair of mad lovers, united together after centuries of wait. They needed no words to feed the hunger and unsurfeit of the body and soul, but the scent of Presence and Nearness. The time itself was charged with a dreamy passion, his thoughts crushing disbelief, embracing reality.

"Tell me, are you real? How did you get here? No, no, don't say a word. Stay here, with me, like this, everlastingly! Inside my soul? Never leave me..." Jamshed's thoughts were like the lapping of the waves, blissful and delirious. His unsurfeit knew no Surrender to Love, the hunger gnawing inside him once again, wild, primal, insatiate.

"This is my home! I don't want to leave," this miracle of a dream-reality spilled mirth in some song of joy and ecstasy.

"Your home!" was Jamshed's cry of disbelief and bewilderment. "I want to know all about you, you and you...your home?" he was fighting his lust and desire, his heart pleading and expanding.

"This is my home and purgatory both!" the green goblets in the dream-reality's eyes were brimming with light and mirth. Mocking and sparkling. "I have always lived here. Centuries countless! You can call me the Spirit Incarnate! A spirit restless. Always wandering. Always yearning--for home? This is my home! My curse! I came here as a young bride. Falling in love with this house, home...strange? Had a son, then a daughter. Then I died, young, in pain and hopelessness. The horror of death! The agony in life! I was just a spirit, mourning and lamenting. Weeping, always weeping with heartrending sorrow. Peace, silence, blackness, I could feel all that. Yet, my grief was alive, my soul bleeding. I was inconsolable. Void and Surcease, I was whirled back into the Abyss of Time again. Whole and Tormented. I could return to my husband, to my children, to this home, my Love. I have this Power which I dare not flaunt, or I will be thrown into the everlasting fires of hell. I can be visible and invisible. Oh, the horror of living and dying? Can't recall when I returned last, but when I saw you this evening? You remind me...can't say? I am so very lonely..." she was weeping. Her cheeks wet and glistening with tears.

The bliss of Love! The joy supreme and the agony sublime had bestowed upon Jamshed the comfort of a deep, deep sleep. The livid morning with its first chink of light had awakened Jamshed from his restful paradise. The pallor of dawn was bathing the body of his dream-reality beside him in some ethereal glow and transparency. Cradling his arm under his head, he lay gazing at this sleeping beauty, rapt and astonished.

"This is no dream! How can this be a dream, unless I have grown insane and demented? I don't even know her name?" Jamshed's thoughts were a distant murmur. Opiate and yawning. "I don't even know my own name? I am a child...'noman'...forsaken, abandoned, forgotten. Yes, a man, sick and crippled. Deformed to the very bones. A husband and an adulterer. Doomed! Doomed forever into the eternal fires of hell and perdition..." his self-recriminations were forced back into oblivion by the laughing eyes meeting his scrutiny.

"My lovely dream, do you have a name?" Jamshed's very soul was shuddering with the sense of pain, love, humility.

"My name is Pearl, and I am not a dream," Pearl laughed sweetly.

"Pearl," Jamshed tasted this name in a sweet murmur. "Radiant and glowing. A pearl, well preserved! I have to go, love, sort of work and show my face. You will be here when I get dream, but my Pearl? You will stay..." he crushed her to him, fiercely, maddeningly. The flame of lust was licking his loins like a searing flame.

"Yes, always..." Pearl groaned in ecstasy. The torch of his maleness was piercing her like a brand of steel.

The haze in sunshine splintered with the sounds of army boots and gun-shots was marking the end of morning drills, as Jamshed lumbered to his office under the weight of drunken orgy in his own thoughts. Pearl was the searing, simmering Reality in the cauldron of his thoughts. He was thinking, thinking, till his head was spinning like a world globe. Cracked and gouged. Besmirched with the names of the cities, nations and continents. All were alien to him, as alien as his own enigmatic fury on the map of Undiscovery. Farhat! Where was she? Effaced from the pages of his Life? Lost to the winds. Vacuums in Today and Yesterday, tracing a collage of memories, he could neither erase, nor comprehend. Only blackness! Indelible shadows! Imponderables stark and terrible!

"I am in love! With a ghost?" Reason and sanity were sitting aghast in Jamshed's thoughts. "Are we all not ghosts? Living inside the dream of Reality? Sleeping with Illusion? Waking up to the unreality in Truth?" one shock of a sweet remembrance was cutting his thoughts to smithereens. "Farhat! Dear, beloved..." his thoughts were stunned, paralyzed.

The days, groveling into the mire of weeks, were riding on the chariot of lust and fornication. The scent of remorse was choking Jamshed. He could feel and touch the fermenting of guilt in his Conscience. His very soul was reeking with the odor of doom and death. And yet, he was drifting along like a reed, clinging to the mud and reaching out to the stars.

"Wife, bride! How could I forget--Farhat?" Jamshed was becoming a prisoner to his own Bliss and Agony. Welcoming Farhat in his thoughts with the tenderness of a lover. And making love to Pearl with the animal hunger of a raging brute. "Am I in love with Pearl? Will I forget her as I? No, I did not forget--Farhat, could never? Did I, really? Can a man not love, truly love, two women? What is this love, this hunger? This ocean of hunger...not of the body? Yes, of body and soul. Farhat, the Queen of Love! Pearl, the goddess of Lust? One, the queen of my heart? And the Other, the goddess in my soul. What will I do? What can I do? I will write. Yes. What?" his thoughts could be seen courting grief, if not despair.

"My dearest!" Jamshed was to write in the mad, mad delirium of his own joy and sorrow. "Forgive me, dearest, this eternal wait and separation. This bungalow needs to be scrubbed, whitewashed and furnished to greet you! A few days more, and we will be together. An eternity, love...I am waiting, waiting..." he could not even remember what he wrote and how many missives he sent.

"What is this ecstasy and madness? I know, I know! It is love, pain, oblivion. The violence of my longings, for both Pearl and Farhat, " Jamshed was wading into the waters of sanity and dementia. Longing for the nearness of the One with the purity of grief. And ravishing the Other with the agony of a man possessed.

One hot evening with citron haze in the dusk, Jamshed's thoughts were caught in a whirlwind of remorse and loneliness. He was sitting with Pearl in the cool shade of the garden. She had brought tea and biscuits in a tray and they sat languishing in this quiet retreat of their bungalow. Jamshed was inhaling the scent of moss and lilies by the small pond, and trying to blow away the odor of remorse and loneliness from his thoughts. He was looking deep into the silent abyss within him. Watching it aghast, rather with great fascination. He could see his Bride of Love in there, not One, but many. All holy, all wedded to him, many in One. All sacred in the temple of his heart, soul and psyche! He was becoming aware of the deformity in his thoughts...some sort of paralysis where gloom and sadness were locked into each other's arms, courting Fear. Fear had become his shadow, splintered with the rills of mute rage, suspicion, irritability. Quite a few times, he had pounced on Amjad as if the poor orderly was concealing the rod of nemesis in his eyes. Another shadow! Amjad had become the shadow of his Fear, following him, stealing behind him when least expected? But right now, Guilt, not Fear, was his companion. The guilt, which he could not absolve. The Secret, Terrible longings which he could not share with either Pearl or Farhat? He was drunk with the pain of loneliness without Farhat, and intoxicated by the wine of love in the laughing eyes of Pearl. The mute agony inside him was chilling his thoughts to lumps of silence, when Pearl's laughter spilled music in the air.

"A portrait of gloom! though sweet and ridiculous! If you were framed I would hang you in my bedroom? These mists of gloom and sadness in your eyes, Jamshed, they make you look ridiculous!" Pearl sang mirthfully. "Where do they come from?"

"From the vacuums of neglecting your beauty..." was Jamshed's delirious comment, as he joined her in her mirth.

Their laughter was heard by Amjad who was coming around the bungalow with a bundle of mail for the lieutenant. Approaching closer, he could espy no other but Jamshed, (Pearl being invisible as true to her promise to Jamshed that she would not be seen by anyone but him), confusion and bewilderment alighting in his eyes. If ridiculous was the catch phrase, Jamshed did indeed looked ridiculous now, laughing all by himself.

"What was that I heard...but I am always hearing sounds, imagining ghosts and goblins...must be getting old, that is it..." Amjad was thinking, discomfited by his own thoughts.

"Your, mail, Sir. Your front door was locked, so I came around searching for you," Amjad held out the stack of envelopes to Jamshed.

"Do you have the habit of stealing into the garden unannounced?" Jamshed snapped. Mirth fading from his lips and eyes. Realizing, a little too late, that no trumpets were ever sounded to herald the orderlys.

"No one is here to announce me, Sir," Amjad breathed impudence. "I guess, Major Haroon has already paid you a visit, Sir? He has been talking about..." he was getting flustered against the intensity in Jamshed's gaze.

"No one came to see me," Jamshed murmured curtly. Waving a quick dismissal.

Another night of bliss supreme and agony sublime had drugged Jamshed to sweet surrender. The pearly dawn with Pearl beside him was greeting him with mirth and giddiness. Both were kissing and talking, and laughing with a wild abandon. Oblivious to the march of time in that standard hour when Amjad was wont to bring his polished boots to the bedroom.

Amjad, prompt and dutiful, had brought the lieutenant's boots, but had left them at the door. He could not mistake the laughter of a woman, and had thought that his lieutenant had sold his virtue for the night to some harlot or a wealthy heiress. He was quite sad and shaken, commiserating in his thoughts with the virtuous bride in Lahore, who had not joined his master, as yet?

Yet, and yet again, Amjad was to hear voices and laughter, yet too puzzled to voice his thoughts, even to himself. But one sultry afternoon, while driving Jamshed to the bungalow, Amjad was swept asunder by his own need to unburden his bewilderment.

"I am getting old, Sir. Old and irritable! And a bit impatient too?" Amjad appeared to be talking to himself. While Jamshed sat tracing lengthening shadows on the road, flitting and sun-spangled. "Your gardener, Sir, he tries my patience? He accused me of watering the flowers the other day, as if I was out there to rob him of his pleasure? I told him I wouldn't waste my time on such...well? Then he said, Lieutenant must have? Whining and complaining he was! 'Lieutenant has no right to spoil my fun...' he was complaining to the very grass before I stomped away...did you water the flowers, Sir?" he asked abruptly, stealing a quick look at the Lieutenant.

"I..." Jamshed was half listening, half ruminating.

Before the fabric of his rumination was the last letter he had posted to Farhat. Count the stars, my love, and you will gather the ocean of longings countless inside my very heart, Jamshed had written under some spell of mad, mad inspiration. A million kisses from the stars, till I embrace you...Jamshed's ruminations were crashing against the absurdity of such a question by his orderly. He was about to voice his denial when an avalanche of lies came slithering to his lips.

"I was lonely. Bored to death! Wanted to do something? Was admiring the flowers...then before I knew I was not only watering the flowerbeds but the whole yard too," Jamshed's words were sounding alien, even to his own astonishing awareness. "Tell the gardener, I would not dream of robbing him of his pleasure next time. Will go hunting or hiking or something," he laughed, wondering at the string of his own innocent lies.

"Don't worry, Sir. I know how to handle that old croon," Amjad was murmuring with a sigh of relief.

The jeep too was sounding relief, as it careened to a slow halt under the open shed of the bungalow. Amjad plodded back to his servant quarters, while Jamshed lingered to admire the rush of color in roses before stepping on to the verandah. He was rather pale, his lips taut and his eyes feverish.

"You look ill?" Pearl exclaimed as soon as Jamshed stepped into the parlor.

"Just exhausted, love," Jamshed murmured under a shower of kisses, as if to drown his own anguish and bewilderment.

"No, Jamshed! something is troubling you? What is it? Your soul, I can possess, but I can't read your mind," Pearl sang mournfully.

Nothing is troubling me, my Spring Flower," Jamshed resorted to teasing, his thoughts whirling back to the absurdity of his own lies and to Amjad's inquiry. "One strange thing, this is absurd? Amjad was saying...well, the gardener..." his incoherent expression was dissolved in another quick exclamation of Pearl.

"Oh, Jamshed! I am so sorry. I should have told you," Pearl's very eyes were offering libations of love and apologies. "I was lonely...couldn't fight the temptation to invite my children. They love to play in the garden...such sad, happy memories--for them! I will..." her own apologies were silenced by the fire of lust and agony in Jamshed's eyes.

One more night of love and unsurfeit, and Jamshed's very soul was weeping to kiss the hem of Reality. This particular morning, seated at his oak desk in the dismal office, he was feeling forlorn and distraught. Farhat, Farhat, his thoughts were a litany of longings, imploring him to burn the chains of his lust and libido. He was trying to write a letter to his beloved wife, the deluge of torment inside him, scalding and churning. Before even he could scribble, 'my dearest', Amjad came lumbering to scatter his thoughts with a final seal of disobedience.

"I have been meaning to, Sir? I mean, I want to talk to you," Amjad stood murmuring, apologetic and flustered.

"Pull up a chair, Amjad," Jamshed indicated the rough-hewn monstrosity in the corner. "Have you grown old overnight? I have too, perhaps, but I can't see my own self right now."

"I have been old since years, Sir," Amjed dragged the heavy chair and sank into its uncomfortable cracks. "I was old the day my first daughter was born. Now I have two. All grown up and ready to be married? My wife worries about them, the dowries and the expense of the weddings. I will..." he paused, befuddled by the bright, burning intensity in Jamshed's gaze.

"Yes, you told me," Jamshed snatched that pause and began exigently. "Didn't I promise I would help as soon as you find husbands for them?" he assured. His heart thundering to befriend this man as a confidant, but his mind was revolting.

"You are kind, Sir, very kind," Amjad repeated helplessly. "But I came here, not to talk about my family, but my own troubles. Nerves, maybe," his voice was hoarse and foundering.

"You can trust me, Amjad. Can't you?" Jamshed thought aloud. One sliver of a premonition was cutting open his psyche.

"Absolutely, Sir, though my thoughts are muddled," Amjad's own heart was a torrent of fear and presage. "I keep hearing sounds, voices, laughter. Saw the bushes being pruned and roses plucked, though could see no one...nothing, but clear, blue skies. My wife too, Sir, says, she has seen ghosts dancing in your garden. I don't believe in ghosts, Sir, mind you! But I am afraid, afraid of losing my mind? That crazy boy in the bazaar, Sir, that lunatic...everyone teasing, laughing, throwing stones at him. I don't want to be a crazy, old man...want to die in peace, in my own bed? Am I going crazy, Sir?" one heartrending plea escaped his lips.

"No!" a cry of agony and denial was fluttering on Jamshed's own lips. Before he knew he was divulging his secret like the one fleeing the gates of perdition.

If the days were fogged with the mists of Reality and Illusion, the nights were lit with the sparks of bliss and agony for Jamshed. After being divested of his Terrible Secret, he was to know the siege of days senile and nights rapturous. He was breathing the scent of evil, and sleeping on the pyre of agonies suffered and torments insufferable. Something inside him was dying. Mourning and lamenting. Some precious loss? Something ineffable and irretrievable? He was searching for some holy altar where he could kneel and pray. But he could find none? Farhat? She must join him. She was his altar and holiness. He must tell Pearl, the Eve of his Bliss and Doom?

The Day of Judgment had come. The Eve and Eden were waiting. He had entered his bungalow, facing Bliss and Doom. Darkness was in his heart, and blight in his eyes. Before Pearl's ethereal charms could envelope him in the bridal sheets of silken longings, his very soul was spewing lava out of his lips.

"Pearl! I must tell you, I have a wife. I want her to come home," Jamshed's very eyes were shooting the daggers of inevitability.

"Yes, I know," Pearl was laughing. Derisively and hysterically. "I have always known that! You want your wife to come home? In my home? How dare you? And yet I know, you will. But you must suffer for what you will make me suffer. Maybe, not that much? My sufferings are boundless. Your wife! she must--not live," her eyes were blazing. The green, licking flames were leaping up to her head, and shooting down to her feet in cascading light.

Pearl was no more! Void and Nothingness. Jamshed was assailed by the scent of roses and lilacs, choking and staggering. He had fainted.

Fever and delirium had lasted for weeks, as Jamshed had lain in his bed, knowing that Farhat was with him and that Pearl was gone forever. Fear, not fever, had drained him of his strength. Even after his recovery, Fear lurked in the air, and he could smell the reek of a looming tragedy. He would hold Farhat to his heart with fear and aching tenderness. His soul kneeling before Pearl and imploring, not to wreak vengeance on his innocent wife.

The sky was gloomy and lowering shafts of lightning, as Jamshed returned home from work. He had left work early, feeling the hands of Misfortune tossing him into the abyss of his own terror and torment. The rain fell in torrents as he jumped down from his jeep, seeking refuge in the great verandah. Inside the parlor, he stood soaked and shivering.

"Jamshed! why couldn't you wait in the shed for rain to stop? What madness?" was Farhat's one feeble protest.

"A madness to be near you, love," Jamshed held out his arms. Noticing her pallor, he cried. "Are you ill?"

"No..." Farhat went limp in his arms locked around her like a clinging, piercing vine.

Jamshed was oblivious to the dark, dismal corridor in the army hospital. He was sunk deep in a cushioned chair outside the Intensive Care Unit. In her comatose state, on the verge of death, Farhat was never to know the agony and despair of her husband. He was sitting out there like a forlorn, abandoned child. Inert and listless. Praying and praying.

"Pearl, Pearl! Punish me, if you will! Kill me, if you have to? Let Farhat live. You loved me once, Pearl? In memory of that love, grant..." Jamshed's prayers were truncated by the weight of doom shining in Dr. Fazal's eyes.

Death! the most hated of words was swimming all over the face of this earth. Farhat, the sweet bride! A bride, most dearly loved by her unhappy husband, was buried in the small cemetery in Lahore. Jamshed, the grief-stricken husband, in his act of leaving his newly buried treasure, was earthed once more to the mockery of Reality and Illusion.

Pearl was leaning over the fresh grave, Pure and Beautiful. Snatching a wreath of white tube roses from the carpet of flowers on Farhat's grave, her eyes were turning to Jamshed. One last mournful kiss, as if nursing the candle of life already blown out, she was followed by white mists. Higher and higher, into the very fogs and chasms.

Pakistan OV

Last modified 1 June 2001