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Unexpectedly finding love in rainy Mumbai

It's love at first sight for Asrar, in this excerpt from Rahman Abbas' Sahitya Akademi Award winning Urdu novel ‘Rohzin’, now translated into English

It had stopped raining. Both came out of the dargah and proceeded on the path covered by the sea.
It had stopped raining. Both came out of the dargah and proceeded on the path covered by the sea. (Mustafa Haider on Unsplash)

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‘The day when the sun will dip in total darkness, day and night will be equally divided, that is when the moon will turn crimson and shine in the sky. That will be the first day of the world’s end. Albeit, it cannot be said what will be the length of Qayama’h [day of reckoning].’

When Maulabax read these lines in one corner of his room, his spirit shivered with fear.

A feeling of fear also ran down Asrar’s spine when he came near the girl. He spread the umbrella above her head. When the girl looked at him, he was sure he would get scolded. He stood silently. The girl looked into his eyes. The wind was strong in the rain. There was soft music in the flow of these winds. Asrar and the girl were now unaware of the wind, the rain and the music. They just stared at each other.

Asrar noticed that the kohl in her eyes had smudged, the lipstick had come off because of the rain but her lips were still red. Beautifully red. Her eyes weren’t big but had a magical flame within them. He thought that he would apologize and inquire why she was getting drenched in the rain but suddenly a strong gust came and his umbrella flipped inside out. He bent down on the floor to mend it. Seeing him struggle, the girl started laughing. He looked at her, then fixed the umbrella and stood up.

‘I’m really sorry, I went into a shock looking at you.’

She said nothing in response.

‘You were getting drenched in the rain for such a long time. I was looking at you from inside the dargah.’

She still said nothing.

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Asrar was confused by her silence. ‘I thought I should tell you that the rain is going to increase in intensity.’

‘Okay,’ the girl said.

‘If your family members are inside, shall I call them?’

‘I’m alone.’ She corrected herself, ‘I mean there’s no one with me.’

‘The television says that the rain will not stop today.’

‘Why believe the television?’ the girl asked.

‘That is also right. I too do not have absolute trust in the television,’ Asrar said.

The few sentences that the girl had spoken had given Asrar the courage to converse further. He asked her if she would stay or go back home, since the sun had set and the rain did not seem like it would stop.

The girl said that she was about to leave when he had come to her. She said, ‘I got so scared. I thought a djinn had come with an umbrella.’

‘How can a djinn enter a dargah?’

Rohzin by Rahman Abbas, translated by Sabika Abbas Naqvi; Penguin Random House India, 256 pages,  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>599
Rohzin by Rahman Abbas, translated by Sabika Abbas Naqvi; Penguin Random House India, 256 pages, 599

‘The pure and pious djinns do come,’ she said with a lot of confidence.

He agreed. He had heard since childhood that the pious djinn are present at all holy places and offer prayers.

It had stopped raining.

Both came out of the dargah and proceeded on the path covered by the sea. Asrar folded his umbrella. The girl said that her family was in the perfume and scent business. Asrar introduced himself as someone who worked in a jewel shop at the shopping mall. The girl told him that she had vowed to come to the dargah each Saturday.

‘But today is Wednesday.’

She smiled and said, ‘You were destined to meet me today.’

Asrar thought she was joking. She told him that she had come today for a specific purpose. In a while they reached the main road. It started raining heavily.

Asrar opened his umbrella and held it over the girl’s head.

‘Get drenched today. Who knows when we’ll meet in the rain,’ she said and looked at Asrar.

Asrar replied while he folded the umbrella, ‘You seem quite different.’

‘You too,’ she said.

‘Arey, I’m absolutely normal.’

‘You mean to say I’m not normal?’

‘No no, that is not what I meant . . .’

The girl smiled at his confusion. He stopped talking. The girl told him that her name was Hina. He told her his name and a little about his village. Hina was looking at him. Hina’s expression made him feel that he was unnecessarily talking about his village. He had nothing to talk about. Hina kept looking at him. He tried staring back but looked away. There was something in her eyes that did not give him the courage to look at them. Another reason was that he feared if he brought himself face to face with Hina’s eyes, the attraction would overpower his soul. The power of her eyes was so immense that he just couldn’t bring himself to look at her. Two minutes passed by while he was caught in this indecision. Meanwhile, a taxi stopped near the bus stop. She sat inside it and said to Asrar, who was standing at the door, ‘I liked the time we spent together.’

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He said, ‘I’ll come to the dargah on Saturday.’

‘I know.’

‘What do you know?’

‘That we will meet again,’ she said without any hesitation.

She smiled and he reciprocated.

The taxi crawled forward. He stood there experiencing her fragrance around him and in the drops of the rain. Hina’s smell was equal to the raindrops. He was going to experience the same smell after nine months, three weeks and a few days.

He would then make Hina a part of this feeling and say to her, ‘The smell of your body is like that of the raindrops.’

That day would be the last day of Hina’s and Asrar’s lives.

Excerpted from Rohzin, with permission from the author and publisher. The book releases on 18 April

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