“Stand up and introduce yourself to the class” the teacher said to Arzam. He stood erect facing the class. The class looked at him in surprise. Arzam had a gaunt and bony stature. His complexion was a little odd but not ugly. He started to introduce himself:
“Sir, I am Md Arzam. My father’s name is ………” but the class started laughing at him. They had not expected that Arzam’s voice would be as soft as a young girl’s. He became pale and stood rooted immobile at his spot. Then he settled himself on a chair in frontal row of the class. The class finished their introductions. Later on, standing in a wide and spacious gallery of Nano Science Building Arzam was deeply thinking about his maiden-like voice.
“Why is my voice not pertaining to my gender? Why was I born with this strange melody?”These nettlesome questions were torturing his mind. Meanwhile some one patted his back and asked “How are you?” No sooner did he turn, than he saw a crumpet elegant girl standing before him. Her face was gleaming like a rising sun. She was wearing a yellow kurta and a trouser of the same color. Arzam told her that he was fine and said “I am sorry, have we met before?”
“I am Bushra Naseem, a student of B.A.[H] Urdu and happened to be your class mate,” she replied in a squeaky voice.“Oh, so nice to meet you” Arzam reacted in his male peculiar voice. “Why are you so upset and alone? Have you no friend in college?” she inquired with kindness. “I have been alone since my childhood as no one ever accepted me as their friend. My strange voice is a humiliation you see!” Arzam said this with deep sorrow and a drop of tear rolled down his shallow cheek. Bushra fell silent not being able to figure out what to say when someone begins weeping at a query. But within a moment she gathered courage and asked Arzam whether he would have coffee with her at the tea shop of the Central Canteen. It was the first time in Arzam’s life that someone had offered him a coffee. He was so delighted that he could not even make a sentence.
Next we see Arzam sitting comfortably on one of the fixed lawn chairs, adjacent to the hedge of the yard of Central Canteen. There was a lot of hustle and bustle of the students. Bushra was walking up to him carrying two cups of tea in both her hands. As she approached Arzam, she suddenly screeched:
“Arzam, Hold the cups please. It’s burning my fingers. The coffee is boiling.” Arzam came to rescue her faster than a blink but before he could take the cup from her hands they fell on him. The coffee burnt his fist and all his knuckle joints. He screamed in pain.
“Sorry! I did not pour it deliberately” Bushra said in a regretful voice. Arzam pacified her “Don’t be sorry. It is fine. People don’t commit these things deliberately.”She was clueless for a few seconds but later she tore a corner of her dupatta and meekly tied it round his burnt fingers. In an instance Arzam’s all pain turned into everlasting comfort. The reason was clear because Bushra, the prettiest girl of his class was showering care and concern over him. He looked into her eyes with a lot of surprise but said nothing. With a faint smile Bushra asked whether he was okay. How can he not be? He was being treated with so much love that he has never expected from any one, leave alone the prettiest face he has laid his eyes upon.
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A few days later in an Urdu poetry class professor Ehsan Khaki wrote a famous line by the great Urdu poet, Meer on the blackboard:
Hasti apni hubab ki si hai
Ye numaish sarab ki si hai
Then he underlined the word “sarab” and turned to the class saying:
“Being students of Urdu, you all must know the exact pronunciation of words. Meaning changes with a light difference of utterance. Look at these two words, Sharab and Sarab. The first one you all know. The other one is something we should be careful about. Both words have almost same sound but the first letter of each word is different. And only for this slight difference of pronunciation, the meaning of each differs from another.”
Then the professor pointed to Rahila Khanum, the richest girl of the class and asked her the meaning of the word, sarab. The question came to her like a thunder bolt because she was looking at her phone.
“Sorry sir, I never went through the word you asked” she excused. The professor smirked at her ignorance and asked her to stand up. Bushra was sitting beside her. Now it was her turn to be questioned. It was clear from her face that she too did not know the answer. And thereafter Raheela stood and the professor started saying “See the status of Urdu in our universities. Let’s give her a big hand”. And the professor himself began to clap his hands but the class did not follow him. The class seemed to be hushed as if it had been deserted. Raheela after being laughed at, sat down, and Bushra was asked the same question. She stood up shuddering. Her heart was pounding with the fear of insult. Suddenly her glance fell on an open notebook stuck on the back of a student sitting in first row of the class. She was in third row of the class which was the last as well. The student who came to rescue her with open notebook was sitting in second row, two or three steps away from her. He was Arzam who had engrossed the answer in a larger font so that she could read stealthily. She read the page and answered in a well expression. The class resounded by the appreciative clapping.
Now the class was over and she was impatiently looking for Arzam so that she could thank him. But he did not want to meet her in front of anybody, so he missed the remaining classes of the day and went to the New Reading Hall. There he chose a seat for himself close to the window, so that he could spend his time watching passersby.
At 4 o’ clock pm he finally saw Bushra passing across the reading hall. He thought “It is a good chance to meet her personally”. He came out in a rush but he could not find her. When he stepped out of the college gate he saw her walking away. He stood there and watched her till she was out of his sight.
At night, He kept tossing and turning on his bed. He started to miss her and wanted to tell her how he felt. But anxiety about her good-for-nothing voice, his emaciated form and an unattractive personality, the personality that hardly any girl will ever accept, kept him from doing so. “Will anyone love me despite my strange voice? It’s my fantasy that my heart has begun to love her. There is nothing good in me, nothing for her” Arzam thought all night.
Next morning Bushra made it a point to reach the Political Science Class ten minutes before it usually starts. There was no one in the class room. She had a seat there when suddenly Arzam emerged there out of nowhere and approached her. Her face lit up with a warm smile as she stood to greet him:“Yesterday you have rescued me from the biggest insult of my life. How can I ever thank you? What would have happened if I did not have you? I need your friendship. I really want to hug you but I can’t; you know why?” She further said to him “My heart says to hug you but my mind denies.” Arzam looked into her eyes and collected himself to say; “But both my heart and mind are insisting me to do that. You are the best girl I have ever met. I really see everything in your eyes. I have fallen in love with you.” Before Arzam could finish his words Bushra’s eyes filled with rage. Her immediate response was a sudden slap on Arzam’s face. He stood there petrified before her. His eyes filled with tears. She left him alone and went out from the class room without even looking at him. That day Arzam felt very inferior of his strange throat. Then he decided to love the books. Now he has more than a hundred girlfriends. Some of them are “The four Million,” a daughter of O Henry, “Dubliners”, a daughter of James Joyce and “One Hundred Years of Solitude”,a loving daughter of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
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