• 15 Aug - 21 Aug, 2020
  • Nadeem Alam
  • Fiction

Faheem Khan was my class fellow. He was the only son of the notorious gangster Seth Qasim. We were studying together in a low grade private university of the Saddar area. His father had tried to send him to a top notch educational institute but Faheem Khan was least interested in the academics. He had already been expelled from two other colleges due to his unhealthy extra-curricular activities. He always carried a Glock hidden somewhere in his clothing which he did not hesitate to show around. His addiction to narcotics was a known fact, and his knack to gather girls and boys around him was extra ordinary. I only knew his name and had his cellphone number because he happened to be in the whatsapp group of our class.

I am Kamal Din, son of Ahmed Din. We lived in a small house in Orangi Town where my father worked on daily wages in a local cardboard factory. I had three younger siblings and my father’s income was not enough even to pay the rent and bills of the house. My mother worked in two different houses in the neighbouring posh area and was seldom seen in her own house. She would leave before we get up and always returned late at night. My two sisters ran our house very efficiently. My younger brother was already planning to go to Middle East to earn some money. All three of them did not continue their studies after high school. My entire family had high hopes from me. They all had in some way contributed to my studies and had waited long enough for me to start earning a decent income.

My father was old and sick. I could see him exhausted most of the time. He never revealed his problems to us. He never complained about anything. I saw my mother only on Sundays which she spent sleeping most of the time. Nobody was allowed to disturb her. She was our life line. We all needed her to be fresh for the next tedious week. I would sometime go to her room, stand by her bed and watch her sleep peacefully. I would sometimes silently kiss at dried up tears on her cheeks. I would also see my sisters working relentlessly in the kitchen preparing food, washing clothes in our small veranda or cleaning the house round the clock. I would see their bare wrists and would often look the other way. There was seldom any sound in our house. Nobody laughed or cracked jokes. We did not even talk much.

I was in the last semester of MBA and was desperately looking for some good job. I was already working part time in a youth hostel. My job was to ensure every room is cleaned up and made up before the arrival of new guests. I often had to do the work myself due to the absence of their housekeeping staff at night. My salary was barely enough for me to pay for the university fee and books.

At our farewell party, we all promised to keep in touch and make sure to help out each other in our future ventures. Then, there was a second party thrown by Faheem Khan at a local restaurant in which our selected class-fellows including all the girls were invited. I was off course left out from that party. It did not bother me much as I was never a part of Faheem Khan’s group. I was however, kept informed about all the happenings by Bushra who lived in my neighbourhood and was my class fellow as well. She had high dreams like any other young girl of her stature. She wanted to marry some rich guy, grab all his wealth and fly away. She would sometimes share her plans with me whenever she hitched a ride on my bike in the morning. She would also advise me to trap some rich girl, to make her fall in love with me and then grab all her wealth and fly away. Her every plan eventually ended up flying away with the stolen wealth. I would get amused by her silly dreams but never encouraged her in pursuing the same.

One more year passed in a jiffy. Bushra got married to her cousin who also lived in our neighbourhood. I saw her crying furiously at the time of rukhsati. Only I knew the reason. The heart of a woman is like a thin glass which cracks and shatters very easily. All her plans and her dreams were blown away. Being a good neighbour and her classmate, I was on the forefront in making all the wedding arrangements. I was standing in the doorway when she looked up at me. In a split second, I saw my whole future in her red, watery eyes. All my dreams started shattering into a million little pieces.

I had started working full time in the same hostel. There was only a slight increase in my salary. It changed nothing. The hostel owner had now deputed me with few additional responsibilities of supervising the kitchen and dining room as well. I was not being paid any additional amount for the extra tasks. I was working from 8 in the morning till midnight. I applied at so many other places but those who even called me for interview offered me the salary which was even less than what I was already getting. My father was now on bed. His lungs were badly damaged due to working in unhygienic environment for over 30 years. I went to see the factory owner to ask for compensation but I was not allowed to even enter in the factory premises. The gate guard after getting instructions from inside told me to buzz off and never come here again or I will also be lying on bed alongside my father. My entire salary was now spent in paying the rent and bills of the house. My mother was still working hard to meet the ends. She had developed some complicated disease as well. She had refused to be hospitalised. My sisters were still waiting to get married. My younger brother was smuggled to Greece in a container on a merchant ship by human traffickers. We had not heard from him since he left the house about three months ago. The agent who had taken five lac rupees from us and made all the arrangements was nowhere to be found. We were now under heavy debt as well.

I was frustrated beyond limits. I could not go like this all the way long. Desperate times need desperate measures. I was sitting one night in the hostel and scrolling my contact list when my fingers automatically stopped at the name of Faheem Khan. He was my class fellow. I knew his father did not enjoy a good reputation. Faheem Khan himself was a drug addict. I was not sure that he will even remember me now. But somehow, I pressed the dial tab. After a few seconds, I heard his phone ring for couple of times and then it got disconnected. I did not feel appropriate to dial again. I went through my entire contact list two more times but did not find any other name who could have helped me in this dire situation. I needed a good progressive job with handsome salary. Faheem Khan was my only hope but he did not want to take my call.

It was past midnight. I used to sleep at the hostel whenever I got late. I had just put my phone to silent mode after hooking it with a charger, that name of Faheem Khan started flashing on my phone screen. My heart missed a beat. I took a deep breath and prepared myself to beg someone for the first time ever in my life. I clicked the green icon on my phone and uttered well-rehearsed lines, ‘Salam Faheem Bhai. I am Kamal. I was your class fellow in the university. Hope you still remember me.’ There was a long pause. I could hear few female voices in the background. I opted to remain silent. Then I heard a heavy voice, ‘How are you Kamal. And yes I remember you. How is life treating you?’ I knew exactly what to say, ‘Faheem Bhai, I am desperately in need of a good job. You are the only one who can help me out.’ Faheem Khan then cleared his throat and asked in a rather naughty tone, ‘Okay, so what all can you do?’ Despite all my preparations, I lost confidence in myself. I heard a stranger’s voice with shaky tone, ‘I will do anything Faheem Bhai. I just need a good salary package.’ There was again a silent pause. There were few murmurs in the background and then I heard his serious voice, ‘Okay, someone will contact you on my behalf.’ I wanted to ask as to who will contact me and when will he contact me but he hung up the call. I kept standing there for a while near the wall socket holding charger in one hand and phone in the other. I could not believe as to what all just happened. I started feeling goose bumps. My heart was racing fast. My sixth sense was warning me about the dangerous and treacherous path ahead. There was nothing I could do except waiting for Faheem Khan’s contact person.

The wait lasted for ten days. I later learnt that this time was spent by Faheem Khan to collect all the possible information about me. He gathered details about my family, friends and acquaintances. He even obtained my call data records of last six months and tracked every number which came in contact with me. After he was satisfied that I am not some police mole or an agent of this hostile world, he sent Mohsin Sufi to fetch me. I was in the hostel discussing some issue with the reception clerk when a middle aged man with a short beard walked inside. I had already seen him from the glass door getting out of a luxury car. Guard at the hostel door asked him respectfully to take the car to the parking area but the guy simply ignored him. His eyes were fixated on me. I stopped my conversation with the clerk and looked at the incoming guy inquisitively. I knew for sure that he does not belong to this locality nor would he be needing a room here. Still I asked, ‘Can I help you sir?’ He looked around just for a second and then replied very cautiously, ‘I have come to fetch you.’ My heart suddenly came to a galloping speed. I uttered out loud the first thing which came to my mind, ‘Did Faheem Bhai sent you?’ Suddenly the stranger’s white face turned red. He was now taking deep breaths. He took couple of steps forward, grabbed my right arm and started pulling me to one side. I got confused. ‘Why should he get annoyed on me asking a simple question,’ I thought for a while. All my curiosity went down the drain when he snorted into my ear, ‘We don’t take his name.’ I was now flabbergasted. Fear had replaced all my other emotions. It was almost start of the trouble which my gut had warmed me about. I was standing motionless when he left my arm and started walking towards the door. Before getting out, he turned his face backwards and groaned, ‘I don’t like to wait.’ I looked at the reception clerk who was in a ready state to run to the back door in case of any bad thing happening here. When I looked in front, the stranger had already walked out of the main door. Instantly, I ran behind him. It was probably the quickest decision I ever made in my life and I am not very proud of it.