The Never Ending Story

by NAYYAR SHABBIR AHMAD

The old familiar compound consisted of eight flats. And,

as I entered it - who do you think I encountered - an old

familiar face. "Hullo, Abbas," I hailed merrily as I stepped

out of my limo. "Long time no see," returned he with a cer-

tain solemnity. He was in the process of getting into his car,

but he strode over and exchanged warm greetings with me.

"I hear, your daughter's getting married, soon?" he enquired

"That's right!" I replied. "That's why I've been preoccupied."

"My! My! how times flies. When I first saw her she was two

years old." "Well - Now she's twenty-two" I uttered, happily

I handed him one of the two invitation cards in my hands.

"Personally delivered-so you, my friend, had better come."

"With pleasure," accepted he. We exchanged more banter.

Then parted. And, I made my way to my intended target

Which was : Noori! The love of my life. I had to keep her

existence a secret because not only did I have a wife and

children, but, I had a certain position to maintain as a well

respected member of society. I rang the bell and waited.

"Ansar!" she exclaimed in surprise as she opened the door.

" What ..?" "I know, I owe you an apology," I said hastily.

"I- I was too tied up to come, earlier." She led me inside

saying, "What good would my crying or complaining do?"

She was resigned. We exchanged bleak smiles before

we rushed into each others arms and nestled therein.

Yes, there was no use, her complaining. I had to stick to

my commitments and our lives together came second

It had always been that way. She accepted it in silence.

No complaints. No questions. Only a quiet resignation.

"I was afraid, you'd send me packing," I uttered in relief

"In the 26 years we've known each other, how I've

wanted to-send you packing-many times," she bared.

"But, did I?" "No," I appreciated. "I don't deserve an

Angel like you." I was saying it for the umpteenth time.

I meant it. "You don't," she accepted. " But, you have

me, for life!" "How fortunate, I am," mused I. Enough!

I had come on business. I thrust the card at her. She

looked at it in amazement. "What's this?"she asked.

"An invitation-what else?" "You're inviting me - ME!"

"Yes, you!" "To your daughter's wedding?" "Why not?"

I demanded. "She's been practically brought up by

you." "I know-but-but-but......" She was speechless

"But, what?" I asked unreasonably. " She expects you

to accept.....In fact, her Mother and I would be pleased,

too...?" "Speaking for the wife?" quizzed Noori. I shook

my head."No!" I swore. "Both of us." "Sure, your wife

would be pleased?" she asked, suspiciously. "Very,"

I insisted. She was silent and pensive for a moment

Then, she sat herself down by me and read part of

the card out loud. "Mr. and Mrs. Ansar request the

pleasure of your company..." "Will you come?" I in-

terrupted. She eyed me. "So that your wife has a

chance to gloat?" asked she looking intently at me.

I was taken aback. I thought, I had heard wrong

"Gloat?" She nodded. " What on earth are you... ?"

Her eyes flashed. "As if you didn't know!" "Well......

yes, okay...I. But, why use that particular word.......?"

I questioned. "I'll spell it out for you," she promised.

"Do..?" "Your wife has now got you exactly where she

wants you!" "Where?" "By her side." "Not so!" I argued.

"It is so," she threw forcefully. "And, well you know it...! "

I groped. "Your children have grown up to do their

parents proud...If that isn't a gloating matter-what is?"

"Rakhee," (my wife), "has such a sweet disposition...."

I began. "Nevertheless..." "No...! She's incapable of

- what you call - err-err..." "Gloating," she helped. I

glared and continued. "She's incapable of gloating.

Full stop!" insisted I. "Oh yes?" she queried forcefully.

Before I could reply she called a truce, as was her

usual way of walking away from arguments. I began

to think about how we had first met. It was I, a junior

executive who had seduced his secretary in his

Office all those years back. And, what had I-a

happily married man given her in return? Very little

-apart from a wasted and solitary life. My own,

hitherto serene existence became full of deceit

and guilt. Ofcourse the upshot of all this was:

My wife's earnstwhile tranquility was destroyed

completely and Noori's plans for a fulfilling future

were stifled forever by egoistic and selfish me.

I began to ply between the two loves in my life.

Not very satisfactory-I know-but....Never once

did Noori chide me about my two-faced ways.

Rakhee did. But, not often enough. She was

very conscious that in Indian society, it was

better to have a husband-however absent

he was ......than have no husband at all.

Besides, the children needed their Father

So, it became neccessary for me to be about. And,

as a consequence, unfortunately, sometimes Noori

and I met only occasionally....With the passage of

time those around Noori grew older, fatter and greyer

but she always managed to maintain her charisma

and allure. I have absolutely no idea how she did it.

What I mean is, this, after I had trampled all over

her and she had been left today devoid of husband

and family-and all alone... ..And yet, she seemed

the most carefree out of all of us. I brought her out

of her reverie. "Noori..?" "Huh..?" "What were you

thinking about, just now?" "Er-errr...Nothing-really."

"Something...?" I insisted. "Well ..." she hesitated.

I waited. "Just that, I'd have loved to have had a

daughter with you." I was more than startled. "I

so wanted your child, too. But-but..you refused."

"Only because," she defended, "in our days, it

was very different. People didn't flaunt their

affairs as openly as they do today." "You're

right," I regretted. "It would never have done

to have had a child out of wedlock, with you."

"Now, anything is acceptable," uttered she.

"Still," I sighed. "How I regret -" "Shhh...!"

she hushed. "I have my regrets, too........

But, what would be the use in regretting,

anything...Hmmm...? All we have is the

present and the future. Let's make the

most of it?" "You're right," I sighed. "Lets."

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

When I got home Rakhee quizzed: "What

did she say when she got the card?" "Just,

"Thank you." "Will she come?" questioned

she with some irritation. "So that you can

gloat..?" "Gloat-gloat about what?" retorted

she."All these years, I never had much of a

husband in you. ...and, now," she sobbed,

" I'm about to loose a daughter, too.........!"

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