one summer afternoon

(Author’s note: this is based on a true story. Some details were also altered a little and  names were changed. All for privacy’s sake.)

Summer afternoons are treacherous. better not rely on them.

When Nooran came to clean the house, no one was there to tell her chores of the day. First she thought she would go back and tomorrow if the Khanum enquired she would say she did clean the house and went back home. But then her good conscience scolded her for making up a lie and the resultant hell fire. She touched her ear lobes said a prayer and picked up the rag and the big broom to start her cleaning work. She was not aware someone in the house was watching her.

This was Asad. the young lad of the house who had recently joined the ranks of the “I dream of  Jeannie” brigade.  He had seen Nooran almost every day but a couple of weeks ago he saw her in a different setting, and could not get her out of his system. That historic day, she was hanging the laundry after washing it in the courtyard. Her clothes all wet, her hands stretched heaven word spreading a towel on the line, she looking interesting. She was not a “hoorie or a parie”  woman but there was something about her that day that Asad got smitten by and the venom was rushing through his veins madly. He started watching her… biding for an opportunity to be close to her. Today was his day. When she came to his room with the big broom in her hand and a folk song on her lips, he was ready.

She put down the broom and rolled her sleeves up once again and bent down to pick up the broom. Asad who was hiding behind the door, shot out of his hiding place and put his arms around Nooran and tried to turn her around towards him. Nooran, frightened at this sudden intrusion, let out a blood-curling scream and pried open the hands squeezing her and faced the culprit.

“Asad? is that you Asad?” she almost spat the words out.

“You- this and that- how dare you? You…”  She picked up the broom and started hitting Asad.

“I will give you what you were looking for… you- my husband will be happy to to give you- this, oh just you wait.  You can have all you want- all you want- your mother will be home soon- you- this and that …”

Asad forgetting his failed amorous attempt, tried to dodge the thrashing and ran out of room chased by her.

“You think you will get away with your-? Oh no, I will give you … ”

Now they were running in circles around the water pump, trash bin and a couple of weather beaten rattan chairs in the courtyard when suddenly the door opened and in came Asad’s  taya- Nasir. He stopped in his tracks when he saw his nephew being chased around the courtyard by Nooran with her big broom which had gotten loose by now- its long bristles scattered all over the courtyard.

“Hoy. Whats is this? what is going on. Why are you both running around? Stop it Nooran! What is going on? Shame on you, you are beating a Syed with a broom? no respect for a Syed? Have you lost your senses?”

“Ask your- nephew,  this syed son of a Ranjha here, ask him because I am mad, too mad. If I tell Dulla – and I certainly will – he will kill this- this…” she threw down the broken broom and started crying. “We are poor people but we are honorable people. This thug, this… tried to violate this poor woman’s honor. Look at him… he is just a lad, a chhokra. But if you look at him but inside?  He is the granddad of shaitan”  She sat down on the ground and covering her face with her dupatta, started wailing.

“What did you do Asad?” taya Nasir turned to Asad, who just stood there, looking at his bare feet.

“Hoy, I asked you something” Taya Nasir thundered.

“Nothing”  Asad confessed meekly.

“Nothing? Then why this woman is crying?”

“Don’t know taya.” Another meek answer. “Swear to God, I didn’t do anything to her.”

It was becoming difficult for Taya Nasir to contain his laughter.

“Chal ja apne kamre mein! Go to your room and wait there. I will come and talk to you later.”

From the corner of his eye, Asad looked at Nooran and went to his room. Once he was gone, Taya turned to Nooran. but before he addressed her, he put his hand in the side pocket of his kurta and seprated a few notes from the wad of currency he always carried in his pocket.

You never know when you would be in dire need of some cash… Money is the ultimate solution to every problems, was his philosophical approach that he applied to any situation he faced. It certainly helped further his political aspirations.

“I am sorry Nooran. I will take care of that stupid boy. I assure you that I will make sure he never ever dares bother you again. Just forgive him this one time. Chal uthh puttar, go home and take a day off. Don’t upset Dulla. Whats the use anyway. Asad’s parents will be upset too and you both will lose your jobs. Of course you don’t want that to happen, so what I would do is not tell them either.”

Nooran slowly got up then sat down again to collect the bristles to tie back the broom.

Go home Nooran, I will take care of that. Here, take this and buy yourself a new broom. He handed her the money. Her eyes widened when she saw the numbers, then she was out of the door in a flash.

Taya Nasir, pleased with himself, gave a little chuckle and went to Asad’s room.

“OK khotiya, now tell me why she was chasing you?” Then he gave a long and hearty laugh… “As if I don’t know what happened, but, I want to hear it from you. chal shabaash, ho ja shuroo…”

He gave another booming laugh and laid himself down on Asad’s bed plumping the pillow and taking a comfortable position.  He was ready to listen to an amusing ‘anecdote’.

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