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Hijaab heard a sweet feminine voice, as she picked up her shoulder bag, gathered her books and got up to leave.
“Deeba?” Her eyes broadened with an expression of familiarity as she hugged her genius student affectionately.
“Umm, well I suppose you were leaving?” Deeba questioned.
“Yes I was, but if you have anything to discuss we can talk.” Hijaab’s attitude was as gentle and co-operative as ever.
“Hmm, just few things.” Deeba said softly. “Only if you don’t mind.”
“Alright, sit down then.” Hijaab motioned her to sit on the chair opposite to her as she herself sat again on her chair.
“Madam, I must say your today’s lecture about love and married life was excellent.” Deeba said with true appreciation in her eyes.
“Well, thank you.”
“I was wondering…” Deeba said hesitatingly, took a brief pause and then resumed her sentence. “If you had some personal experiences…”
“Look Deeba,” Hijaab interrupted gently. “Many girls have asked me the same question many times. But I don’t intend to discuss my personal life with anyone ever.”
“I understand,” Deeba showed her concern. “But it’s just that you’re always so mysterious and silent. No one knows who and what you’re outside that classroom of yours.”
“I think there’s no need for that.” Hijaab replied evenly. “The relation between us is of a student and teacher.”
“OK. I won’t insist.” Deeba tried to smile. “But at least you could tell me from where you developed all these interests for religion, speech and teaching.”
“I’ve this interest since my childhood.” Hijaab reasoned.
“Sounds like you had a great childhood.”
Hijaab gazed off and focused her eyes on the distant forms of student girls chatting and talking. She then dabbed away the first of her tears and shook her head vigorously.
“Yes, I had.” She answered, lifting her tear-filled eyes. “A great childhood.”
Deeba heard the deep pain in her voice. She reached and laid her hand over hers.
“Have you been hurt a lot?”
A silence fell between them.
Deeba cleared her throat, and said. “You’ve never said and I’ve never asked, but as a friend and as your student who cares deeply for you, I’d like to know what happened to you.”
Hijaab shook her head and said, “I don’t think it’s any of your business.” And then, not pausing for a reply, she said in a hard, straightforward tone. “I’ve already told you, I don’t want to discuss anything of my private life with anyone.”
“I’m sorry Madam,” Deeba murmured sympathetically. “It’s just that we like you so much and it’s natural when we want to know more about you.”
“I understand.” Hijaab responded in a small voice. “But it’s my final word on the subject.”
Hijaab braced herself against the table and fought off a shiver.
Deeba sucked in deep breath before plunging on. “Forget I asked.”
“Yes, I forgot it. But you forget it too.” Hijaab gave her a sad smile.
“Ah, don’t worry, I just did.” Deeba laughed huskily and then said,
“Madam, there’s someone I want you to meet.”
“You can say he is a man I really respect and care for.” Deeba said and then added,
“Madam, his life has never been perfect.” She told her half-heartedly. “There have been so many ups and downs, twists and turns, sorrows, and pains.”
Hijaab leaned back in her chair; one leg crossed over the other, looking quite tired, her eyes were half lidded, hiding the black underneath, shading them.
“Then tell him that, if you could wish for your life to be perfect, it would be tempting, but you’d have to decline, for life would no longer teach you anything.” She said evenly and smoothly.
“Not all men are like him, you know.” Deeba gave her opinion.
Hijaab took a long breath and forced a smile, determined to lighten the mood.
“Miss, trust me, he is so nice. He’s such a wonderful man. He’s just like you.”
“I see,” Hijaab nodded slowly, observing the younger girl’s face closely. She had no interest in this topic but the last thing she wanted do was to disappoint this nice and cute girl.
“I just want you to meet him, only once. Just one time, Madam, please?”
“Look Deeba, I understand what you mean, but first of all, you don’t know who I’m. I don’t really know who he is. We both are strangers.”
“Objection granted.” Deeba giggled. “I’ll be there, you two won’t be alone.”
“I’m sorry Deeba, I just can’t do it.” She shook her head straightforwardly.
“Miss.” Deeba said dejectedly. “Miss, your act can save a person’s life. You can give him a new hope to survive. He is so dejected, so disappointed from the life and this world. All he’s seen is pain and disillusionment. I’m sure even our faith would reward us for doing such a good thing.”
Hijaab looked as if she wanted to say more, but didn’t.
“Respected madam you are not forgetting that famous verse of holy Quran which says, ‘and who saved the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all Mankind’.” Deeba tried her last effort and it didn’t go wasted.
“Alright.” Hijaab took a long steadying breath. “I’d think about it.”
“There’s one more request Miss, only if you don’t mind.” Deeba requested, almost pleading.
“And what’s that?”
“I want to see your face.” Deeba announced emotionally. “And please, don’t say no.”
“I beg you Madam. Just only one time…I won’t ever ask again. Just show me your face, please?”
Shaking her head, Hijaab was going to say something but Deeba didn’t give her chance.
“Miss, I remember once you yourself said that each and every act of ours should be in accordance of our faith and beliefs. Our measures for personal profit and loss should be based on what Islam orders us to do.” Deeba argued, gazing deeply at her teacher’s face.
“Yes, I said that.” Hijaab replied after a short pause, lost in her deep thoughts.
“Then I can prove that what I’m asking you to do is perfectly normal and allowed within the circle fixed by our great religion.” Deeba gave her genuine point of view. “We are all girls here. Our religion doesn’t ask you to cover your hair in front of the same s*x. We are all alike, no harm. Then why do you object?”
“But Deeba, I never showed my face to anyone here.” She gave Deeba an angry look.
“Well, there’s always a first time for everything.” Deeba was not going to give an inch. She was expert in her stubbornness, having determination and strength to shake even the strongest pillars like Aariz Ali. And last but not least, Deeba had solid grounds for what she wanted. It all did make sense. There was no religious reason for denying a simple wish of an innocent girl.
“Alright, follow me.” With a sigh, Hijaab came to stand on her feet and motioned Deeba to follow her toward her personal office.
Deeba followed her with heavily trembling feet and intensely throbbing heart. She couldn’t believe it was going to happen.
“You wanted to see, now look.” Hijaab said and then, slowly, almost like in a slow motion, her left hand reached up, and gently, very gently, she unhooked the piece of covering that hid her face.
Deeba was completely lost in her beauty as she stared at her teacher’s face.
Her teacher sure had that ‘Merry-like-holiness’, a face that could remind you about offering the prayers. Her complexion was whitish; her skin was freckle-less, decorated naturally and perfectly by clean line of her high cheekbones and her pert, straight nose. The only jewellery she wore was a medium sized thin ring of silver attached delicately with her left nostril.
“Oh yes, she must wear Hijaab. Dirty eyes shall not pollute such an innocent personality.” Deeba murmured silently to herself.
“Happy now?” Hijaab raised her brows.
“Yes, and satisfied too.” Deeba nodded happily. “Not a single aspect of yours has disappointed me ever, even your ‘looks’.”
“Shall we go now?” Hijaab asked at last, covering her face again.
“Sure, and thanks so much.” Deeba gave her a light peck on the cheek.
“And don’t forget about your other promise?”
“Which one?” Hijaab asked, stopping at her place to look at her.
“About meeting that poor man who needs help and support.” Deeba looked into her eyes with hope and expectation.
“Wel I didn’t promise. But I’ll let you know when I’m free and then we’ll both visit him and I’ll see if I could do something about him, alright?”
Deeba smiled satisfactorily and nodded as she followed her teacher toward school’s lawn.
“Oh yes!” She thought silently. “You can definitely do something about him.
“Is he really poor?” Hijaab asked, as they both got into Deeba’s car and drove to an unknown place.
It was an exquisite day. The air was still cool but with a promising hint of warmth for the afternoon. The sunlight was brilliant.
“Yes he is.” Deeba gave her sideway glance as she drove. “But you can make him wealthy.”
“But,” Hijaab shook her head. “I don’t have that much money.”
“I’d help you in that.” Deeba smiled softly. “Don’t worry about that.”
Hijaab threw one last look at her and then shrugged her shoulders. She had no idea what Deeba wanted from her now.
Aariz stood before the large bay window that overlooked the sea, his mind troubled. He had no idea why Maulana uncle had called him at his place so early in the morning. At first he was worried, thinking if there was something wrong with him. But when he had at arrived at his place, Maulana uncle told him that everything was all right and they just had to meet someone.
The bright sunlight glinted off metal for an instance as a car travelled down the tree-lined drive on the far side of the beach.
Nodding to himself, Aariz felt some of the pressure lift from his thoughts as he recognized Deeba’s car as it turned into the flow of traffic on the main road.
From the corner of his eye, he saw Deeba was not alone, there was some other woman too who sat beside her in the car.
After few seconds, he saw Deeba’s lips moving, she was telling something to other woman which he couldn’t hear because of the obvious distance.
“He needs love Madam, and only you can give him that.”
“WHAT?” Hijaab broke in sharply. “You’ve no idea what’re you talking about.”
“I do know very well what I’m talking about.” Deeba bit her lips, her eyes pleading. “Believe me Miss. Hijaab, no one will ever love you as much as he will.”
“Are you in your senses?” Hijaab turned her face away from her. “I should have told you this earlier that there is someone else in my life. I can’t let any other man enter my dreams now.” She spoke in a voice that told Deeba that she wanted no further discussion on the subject.
“Now please let’s go from here. Will you?” Hijaab asked thickly, giving her a final warning through her eyes.
“You love another man, don’t you?” Deeba stared at her breathlessly.
“Yes, I do.” Hijaab shouted, unable to control herself any longer. “And I can’t love any other man just to make him happy. My love is not for sale or charity. You got it NOW?”
“Alright,” Deeba turned her face away, staring at the house in front through the windscreen. “But he is the best man I’ve ever seen.”
“May be,” Hijaab shrugged her shoulders. “But after all, he’s not ‘him’.”
“I understand what you mean,” Deeba said, her fingers turning the key into her car’s ignition, ready to start the engine. “But what if he’s him?”
Hijaab looked back at her with disbelief, thinking Deeba has lost her mind. “I’m leaving this place, at this very instant.” Hijaab said aloud, and then with a push, she opened her door and climbed out of the car, walking away.
Without going behind the other woman, Deeba climbed out and slowly walked toward the main door of Maulana uncle’s house.
“Sir, I want you to meet someone.” She told Aariz right away, as soon as she saw him standing at the doorway.
“What does that mean?”
“There’s the girl of your dreams,” Without turning she pointed at her back.
Aariz thought he’d not heard her correctly.
“I have searched an ideal girl for you.” Deeba told him, her tone heavy with emotion. “She’s perfect for you. Seems like you two are made for each other.”
His glance shifted away, his eyes seemed to be staring at nothing in particular.
“It will be of no use now.” He sighed. “You’d be disappointed. I’ve already spent my life.”
“Life is so short, we don’t have enough time for ‘love’ and yet we spend most of our time in ‘hatred’.” Deeba said quickly, now stepping closer to him.
“Go to her. Please. She’s the one you want.”
Speechlessly Aariz stared at her, thinking if she had finally lost her mind.
“Hurry up, before she leaves.” Deeba begged, her hands closing into tight fists.
He longed to walk, to find out what this was all about, but hesitated.
“Which kind of game are you trying to play?” He was confused.
“You want to go to her, don’t you?” Deeba’s voice spoke to him. “She’s your ideal. Just see her only once, for me, please!”
“But…” He tried to say something.
“Are you going to let her walk away?” It was Deeba who prodded him to awareness. “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”
Aariz wanted to open his lips but Deeba was already pushing him toward the slowly disappearing figure of a woman.
“You love her, go after her.” She ordered him for the first time, gazing at the veiled lady who was far from them now.
“But…who’s she?” He asked, frustrated. “I can’t meet any stranger like this.”
Deeba stared at him for a few good seconds, as if trying to guess his forthcoming reaction. Decidedly, she said,