For book/ebook authors, publishers, & self-publishers
Rasheed Rambler has not received any gifts yet
It was all cheers for two climbers, snow covered tall mountains. Bill has kept it in his mind while Eli was ambitious to soar higher and when they reached the top of a small mountain overlooking a valley by noon, they saw their main assault visible. It was the majestic peak of Tirich Mir. That mountaintop was full of snow and was looking stunning in the sun. Both realized the peak was a peaceful place where the spirit of God was supreme and serene and silence was sovereign. An elated Bill said," I'm very happy at this summit."
Eli said "Yes. We have to go a long way."
"Do not know, how I will feel at Tirich summit if I am at that top. It will be a fantastic feeling and indescribable. By Gad, this small one is majestic too. Look the beautiful scenery from here. Do you think any Islamist terrorist will attack us?"
"They can't fight in the rarefied atmosphere. There is terrorism in many countries of the world, not only in the Muslim world. I am sorry to say."
"Why have you become irritated? What is the real reason? I am not against all Muslims, hate only terrorists who kill innocents."
Eli kept his diffident, a thick fog engulfed them, it lifted soon, and they descended from the top to find an adulating highland with tall grass hindering their way ahead. A stream with high and steep banks crisscrossed the plateau and there was no visible way to cross it. Bill said, “We can’t cut across the rivulet without a bridge.”
“I haven't told you to do it. You were in such a hurry to go ahead when the rest of the expedition was at the fantastic fairyland oasis and were dismantling the camp to move it up. The bridge making gear is with them. We are helpless.” Becoming bitter and taking a deep gasp, Eli said.
Bill replied, “ I'm sorry. You are a first time- climber while I have climbed many peaks in the Andes and Himalayas. Mountaineering, isn't easy?”
"Of course, I will be, sir. You know it. I took the training at the Alpine Club of Pakistan. Go on, if you have a better idea to slog on high mountains."
"Cool down. Let me study the trek map."
Bill located a narrow wooden bridge across the stream, constructed earlier by another expedition from the map. After moving his eyes to seize its view as the only way, forward, he broke the inimical silence to shout to his junior. “Will this do? ---Let me see. Will you show your skills, too or will you sit dumb?”
The Pakistani became swaggered and said, “You are more a boss than a friend to me. I'm sure."
“Most people who know me know I’m a pretty friendly guy. Don't be ridiculous.”
Embarrassed, Eli did not reply, though their trekking was in a non-violent section near war torn Afghanistan border, fear of terrorists remained with the most expedition members. The behavior of his teammate piqued Bill and he said, “You have become a nuisance and was annoying me with your needless questions from the downhill of our trek. It's not true, is it? Why are you destroying our camaraderie? Be positive."
It appeared peace was vital and who goes first was secondary in their effort to climb up. Their cultural and religious superiority was not a deterrent. Who would climb first to the top of the Tirich Mir was and their success by then slipped from its orbit as bees from the jaded flower?
Bill went towards the bridge and said, “Mind your steps. Those planks look slippery, eh, man. You will fall down into the cold waters of the stream down below after a slip (-.” His mate spoke in the middle of the signal of the caution), “Why are you blowing a small task out of proportion to make it huge for me? It is odd.” It was Eli’s obsession with his personal vulnerability. When he would panic over those systems, nobody knew. It happened so soon. He dithered, in which he caught himself between thinking fast and slow after hearing Bill’s remarks. The bridge swayed like a seesaw. When Bill’s mate reached midway, he slipped, his body thrown downwards to swing in the air, he got seconds to keep his hands on the wooden planks, and in a moment the American pulled him over to carry him over the other side of the bridge. That's what Bill said, "Oh, Holy Christ."
“It was an awful moment. Thanks for help.”
There was a heavy silence for a while between them, each gasping for breath as they saw the significance of what exactly had happened. Bill lifted his eyes and looked at his teammate, but he remained a blithe person.
They began their climb towards the base camp marked at a height of five thousand five hundred meters on the map by their leader. It would take a few days to reach there from their position at that time, estimated Bill. Earlier, they had seen the mighty Tirich Mir peak first time from Chitral town where Bill befriended Eli.
A couple of days of solid slog from the yawning fissure, they arrived at the bottom of the Tirich Mir Mountain, where their base camp marked on the map by their leader. Bill measured it though satellite tracking and they erected their red tent in it which was a jumping ground for their assaults for the top. Soon other members of the expedition joined them. Porters pitched the tents there, a small weather shielded, and tipping patch as their base camp. A riot of colors of their formidable high altitude abode looked eye catching in the white snowy foreground.
While in faraway Islamabad that day the pollen count was high, making allergy- prone Eli’s stepmother sneezed continually, while his stepsister was watching TV in the lounge. Jasmine was Eli's stepmother and Yasmin, stepsister. Eli’s father had no other son to mind his large estate in a society in which women looked down in many aspects of the life.
His stepmother and stepsister were sitting in the lounge in the evening. The mother asked her daughter, “Have you heard where Eli has gone without saying anything to me?”
“No, Mom, I do not know. I am watching my favorite Indian soap. Do not interrupt me at this time of my pleasure.”
Jasmine silently went to say her evening prayer, which, due to her knee problem, she offered by sitting, making faint finger gestures for bowing the head and it was rather a habit than supplication to please God. After a short prayer, she stood, then came to the TV lounge and said, “If your father was alive Eli would not have done such an irresponsible act of going away without informing anybody. Isn't it a foolish act? Will you hear me?”
Yasmin said only, “Hm mm.”
Jasmine miffed, by her daughter’s indifferent attitude about Eli, ordered the maidservant to bring tea and biscuits as the sun was going to set behind Margalla Hills, walling Islamabad from terrorist infected northwest frontier province. Mother and daughter sipped their tea without speaking a word. It seemed that inwardly, they had some conflict in mind, though outwardly, they presented before the society a picture of complete harmony between them. That bitterness was more apparent while they were at their house at the time of dinner or tea, since other times Yasmin shut herself in her room. What she did inside nobody knew, and she seldom went to Brother Eli’s room downstairs to meet him to enquire his welfare. Jasmine in the mood of agitation, asked her daughter and was hoping to find a satisfactory reply at that time, “Have you collected my clothes from the tailor?”
“Mom, you know the traffic jam during my return from the college. It is terrible. How difficult it is to drive in it and since Eli has gone, the car is giving me problems. Try to listen, I fear the day when it stops all of a sudden on a crowded road and nobody will push it for me.”
Jasmine again sneezed cleaned her nose with her hanky, and muttered to herself, ‘I have to take an anti-allergy pill for sure to ward off the pollen allergy, but if I take it now then I will go to sleep early and would wake in the middle of the night’.
Scratching her nose with her fingers in a vegetative state, fretted in her mind about the stubbornness of her only daughter, she turned her eyes toward the television and glanced at the scenes shown on the channel that Yasmin was eagerly watching. She soon realized.It was an earlier TV serial and she enquired from her daughter, “Is it the same older shows that you are again watching?”
“It is enough now for you. Mom, you do not want me to remain with a happy smile. I have not seen these episodes as my exams were going on when it was shown.”
“Oh, go on, then.”
Yasmin said to her Mom during an ad break on TV, “Why you are not hiring a driver for our old vehicle left by our father which has now become a jalopy? Eli says it is a vintage car and he will not sell it at any cost. My brother is eccentric. I dare say. I remind you because I cannot drive the car anymore and now that my brother has vanished somewhere, I suggest you to ask our farm manager to give us money to buy a new car.”
“Please do not argue at this time when the day meets night. It is a bad omen. Will you?”
Yasmin did not want to reply to her mother. Jasmine was in her mid-forties still good looking, charming, because of it, many people took them as sisters, not mother and daughter, and she, in a mood of mockery about her standing as family head, told her daughter,
“You know how shrewd your father was, before dying, he had bequeathed our estate by the name of his only son except this house in which we can live according to the ‘will’, but can’t sell it. The farm manager knows all about it in the village. It is not the blessing of our farmers for Muhammad Khan, the handler of the estate to rule it. It was your father’s leniency. Eli is going in his father’s footstep rather he is too soft with him. It is the reason he did not listen to us. If I have my sway on him, and then I will teach him such a bitter lesson to a low menial, he would not stomach it. The manager, after my roughing, would smell as if he was a dead mouse, and he surely is and he will become a castrated bull. Why that bastard is giving us trouble? I will not tolerate it being a wife of a proud army officer.”
Yasmin was busy watching TV while her mother had a craving to curse someone at that moment and with a malevolent malice towards her daughter, Jasmine said, "Would you like to listen to me?"
Yasmin waited and said at a commercial break,“What was the income from our farm for the summer harvest?”
“I do not know it. Ask the farm manager. You want to digress me.”
Yasmin snarled by her mother’s word said. “It is not a guessing game. You must be aware of it, Mom. He has given you money. I know.”
After those harsh words of her daughter, she felt ashamed, did not speak more, as the mass of ideas and feelings were accumulating within Jasmine was about to erupt, which was, how she married Eli's father who was then a major in the army. She had met him at the club after the death of his first wife when Eli was a boy. How she charmed the military man to marry her. She smiled after recalling how she succeeded in hiding her secrets from her husband during his lifetime and her stepson who had a vague suspicion of it. Later, her husband became the full colonel. Fighting at Kashmir front, he laid his life and the martyrdom had broken her heart when his dead body arrived draped in a flag at their residence for burial in which she did not go.
Coming out of her recollections, she became angry with herself, shouted to the house cleaner, while sitting on the sofa, to clean the table. Her daughter vanished somewhere. The night fell in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. It was an autumn coming with the rustling of leaves from the wind blowing from the northern Himalayas and making the weather a bit cold.
After past musing, she began to think anxiously about her stepson, Eli, ‘I wanted to love Eli from the onset of my marriage. He was just seven years old, a handsome kid with sparkling, light brown eyes, fair skin, ruddy cheeks and so healthy that he looked older than his age. He was obdurate from his early childhood. Despite my love for him, he never kissed my cheeks, and possibly, he was always searching something somewhere, perhaps a real mother whom he failed to find in me. When my daughter was born after two years of my marriage, he came home from his hostel, was surprised to see an infant in the house. He tried to play with my daughter in the cot, but he became annoyed with me when I told him not to touch my baby with his soiled hands. From there on there was no departing from Eli to tease and pull the hair of his younger sister until he became rather grown up. The hatred deepened in his consciousness, after the death of his father, though outwardly he was nice and caring to me, and to Yasmin, but inwardly he detested us.’
Jasmine was by than imagining the wildest scenery of her family life and it continued in her mind when the behavior of her own daughter were not congenial to her, but she wanted a verification of her own pleasing conduct in herself than to find fault in Eli for her life's problems.
The maidservant, meanwhile finished her cooking and cleaning of the kitchen and came to Jasmine to ask her permission to retire to her quarters inside the compound of Eli’s house. Jasmine, in a mood of agitation, told her, “You have not cleaned the pots, yet you want to leave early?”
“No, madam, I have cleaned the whole kitchen in good order. I have put the dishes on the racks after cooking the dinner, placed food in the hot box for you and Yasmin, madam. You merely have to dish out meals from the pots for eating at the dining table. You know my youngest son was ill. My husband is out, and I have to bring medicine for my boy. It is already late in the night, and the medical store is far.”
“It is not late, you idiot…”
Then the house bell rang as loud as to make someone alarmed, and Jasmine had to cut short of the berating of her servant and asked her to attend the caller.The maidservant soon came back with news that a person from the Alpine club wanted to see her for an emergency. Jasmine never heard of such an organization, became harsh, and said to the servant, “I do not know anyone from it. Where is that mountain? Is it in Switzerland? Tell the man to go away and come back the next day in the morning. Who knows? These days thieves and robbers knock the door on one pretext or other for housebreaking. Tell him to get lost.”
The servant returned to hold the entrance door to the lounge slightly ajar, and told the awaiting man the order of her mistress, “Come back here in the morning.”
“It is very urgent, concerning Mr. Eli. Do you know him?”
“Yes, I do. He is my Sahib.”
“Do you know where he has gone?”
“I am not aware of his whereabouts.”
“Is any relative of his has presence in the house?”
“Yes, his mother is here.”
“I have roamed hours to find the house of Mr. Eli. I was unable to trace his whereabouts from our records, and then I went to an army officer and told him his father’s name that was the late Colonel Sam. He kindly directed me to this house. It is very urgent, and I must see his mother.”
The maidservant went inside and told Jasmine about it. After that, the man from the Alpine club ushered into the house by the maidservant, and the mother of Eli came to meet him in the lounge. The messenger appeared wearing down. His face had an exhausted look, muddy eyes, and he had a pencil mustache that drooped and sweating in the mild weather showed his situation was uneasy.
Agitated Jasmine enquired for him, “What is so important and urgent?”
The man replied,“I am the secretary of the Alpine club of Pakistan. Your son was an affiliate member of our club.”
“He never told me that he had joined your club. Your occupation is to make people travel together. Isn't it?”
“We promote mountaineering in Pakistan.”
Jasmine did not reply to him, but Charlie stared at Yasmin to seek her sympathy and said, “I was just asking for money and a barrage of insinuations came from your side. Is it fair, my sister?”
Yasmin with a feeling of care for of her uncle’s empty-handed status, and knowing that he was a spendthrift, said; “I will give you money from my own pocket as much as you want.”
“Thanks, my dearest child.”
Jasmine told her brother to restrain her daughter, who has an impudent conduct; she never obeyed her mother, leave to unknown places without her mother’s permission, and it was a calculated disgrace of Yasmin to lower her esteem in the eyes of his brother, she said, “Ask Yasmin to wear burka when going out.”
Charlie spoke tongue in cheek, “Oh, you mean walking coffin worn by Muslim woman here. To change the subject, I must say, Eli in pursuit of happiness has become a batty boy and I am fed up, sex and sex, nothing else, the burka is also about sex in a subtle way.”
Charlie had a wry smile after using that word batty boy which he had learned from an American.
“What is a batty boy? Keep silence, you chatterbox. ” Jasmine said and then she warned him, “Keep your nose clean. By branding the burka as a coffin, the extremist will cut off your nose if they hear you speaking like that against Islam. ”
Charlie laughed at her advice and meanwhile, the maidservant came in with a tray of coffee and placed it on the table. Yasmin asked her uncle, “Do you drink it black?”
“Of course, I am. Add a little sugar of course. While my sister likes milk coffee, I hate latte, it is awful and repulsive to me.”
Yasmin fronted him to defend her mother and said, “Oh Uncle, you are so discourteous to your sister.”
Charlie said, “She is older than me and she has no sense of beauty.”
Jasmine humiliated, said, “What do you mean by a sense of beauty? Lack of it has led you to remain unmarried when scores of beauties hover around you to suck your nectar."
Charlie sidetracked her, "You mean gourmet. Yes, she is not.”
Yasmin chuckled and said, “My mom’s mind can’t swallow her pride.”
Charlie chided again, “If she wanted, she would cut a proverbial pound of flesh from her farm manager and leave the bones for the dogs to eat.”
Jasmine, offended, by the remark said, “Am I a miser like Shylock?”
“Oh, the poor Shylock is a character in the bard’s stories. Allow me to become an academic to say Shakspere's characters revealed to him like a holy book, since no mortal can create such fictional personas as Shakespeare wrote for us to read and compare his portrayal of persons in his dramas with real ones around us.”
“Have you read Shakespeare’s plays? You only read the flap of books to become master, but you remain a jack of all.”
Charlie a bit offended by the degrading comment of his sister, replied, “Of course I have read his abridged stories. Not the full dramas, because it is easier to understand the nuances of his verses in prose, which I am sure you did not grasp in full to fathom the depth of his hard to understand the verses. I have discussed my point of view about the bard with professors of English and they agree with me.”
His sister said, “I know you from your childhood.”
“Sister, we have the same blood, you know, and I am sorry that you are trying to rub me in a wrong way in front of young Yasmin.”
“I am sorry, brother. I was just kidding. After Eli’s death, you are the only male member in my family. Why should I offend my dearest Charlie, who only comes here to make me happy? Otherwise, I am here to face the music after my husband’s death, and now Eli has gone, it became more difficult for me to find a way out of my house's problems. He opposed us, but was at least a man, though in a namesake, a man in the house to fend off the wicked from harassing us.”
Charlie looked like a turkey and said, “I need a dog. It will be handier than a woman as wife, and give me a constant company, say, a German shepherd who will be my sweetheart. Sister, you keep a bulldog. That animal will protect you better than Eli.”
Jasmine laughed and said, “It is not available here, you have not enough money to buy a pup, and a trained dog will need huge money.”
There was reason for Charlie to be reticence and he said, “It is okay. I am leaving now to meet a very important person this afternoon.”
Yasmin said to her uncle with a courtesy reserved for him only, “You must come to attend the morning assembly for my brother’s departed soul tomorrow morning and the party to celebrate New Year’s after your night’s work.”
“I will come at night, but I do not have the time in the morning of that day to take part in prayers. Bye.”
Jasmine went for a siesta while Yasmin proceeded to phone Brig Happy and his daughter, Goya, to attend the congregation prayers. She knew, they would not come to the New Year celebration in the evening due to their orthodox views. She rang and Goya was in her house to answer since it was a vacation period of her university classes.
“Hi, how are you, Goya?”
“Fine, how are you? What led you to phone me? I am honest with you to say that you have forgotten me since Eli was lost in the high mountains.”
Yasmin embarrassed, replied, “No way, how can I forget my best friend?”
She feared Goya due to her fear of her father’s high position in the Pakistan army. It was a failed try to flatter her. The fact was she loathed her friendship with Eli when they were in the same college where Goya was a junior to him.
Goya replied in a casual way to Yasmin, “Get to the point.”
“We have arranged an assembly of Koran recital in memory of my brother on 31st December in the morning and we invite you and your father to attend it.”
“I will ask my father and then confirm it. I did not imagine attending Eli’s bereavement as he is still alive in my heart.”
Goya hung up the phone with a grief as a flow of tears in her eyes and crying choked her throat at the mere mention of her lost friend Eli. While a sly laugh tripped over Yasmin’s lips after hearing her woeful words, knowing well that Goya adored her brother, but envy for those types of girls having real emotions of love always created conflicts in the minds of those whores.
Jasmine ordered from catering service cauldrons of fried rice and chicken curry for distribution to the poor and for serving, to the orphaned seminary students who would recite the Koran. A small marquee erected on that day on her house’s lawn and a sitting arrangement was on white, cotton sheets spread on coarse weaved rugs for Imam to say prayers for the departed soul. No one came to attend the conceited prayers except the Imam and the poor students, who were more interested in eating than reciting the scripture.
In the evening, the New Year’s celebrations held in a secluded, uppers- storey room of the house to avoid the Mullah’s gate crash the party and to break it by violence. Jasmine arranged private guards to prevent any adverse reaction from the neighbors and they played music at a low volume so that the voice did not go outside of the house. The dancing was great in which Charlie danced well with girls of an exclusive party of a few known persons of ill repute. The maidservant, and her family sent on vacation early to avoid the word of the celebration spreading to other extremists- minded neighbors living nearby, however, costly gifts exchanged and one rich boy gave a set of diamond earrings to Yasmin. Accepting the present, she kissed him and said,“I want to wed you.” Yasmin, though, intoxicated, did not mean to marry him, but said it to please her client for giving her such a costly gift.
The young man took another glass of cognac and said, “Miss, I am enjoying your company very much and have never seen a beauty like you. Meet me tomorrow at the luxury hotel in the evening.”
All the guests said goodbye after midnight, but drunken Charlie slept overnight on the sofa of the lounge.
Jasmine and Yasmin were taking a late breakfast the next day and Eli’s stepmother drank coffee with a rare satisfaction and glanced at her daughter to know if she desired her opinion on last night’s bash at their house. After observing her disheveled hair and a distressed expression on her face, she inquired, “Are you feeling well? It seems to me that a little hangover of alcohol is still troubling you.”
“Mama, what is about your boozing brother who is still snoring on the sofa? Will he not take his breakfast?”
“Don’t talk about poor Charlie. He will not wake before noon since he drank so much alcohol last night.”
“Oh!My poor uncle, you are what or what not? He had a peculiar personality of his own as he kept his eyes on the pretty girls last night without inviting any one of them to dance with him. It has just his voyeurism, nothing more.”
“What do you want? That he should become indecent in front of you. We keep some modicum of modesty despite of our involvement in the sex trade. Why many say, it is bad, but I say, it is like any trade.”
“Yes, you are correct. Mama, I pulled the leg of my Uncle. Nothing more, though some of my girlfriends scoff at him for his habit of ogling at them as if he craved for sex.”
Disliking her daughter’s comment on her brother, Jasmine said in a pungent mood, as if she had eaten a piece of bitter gourd at her breakfast,“You are proud of your beauty and think others as mere maniacs. Have you ever cared for, your indecent manner of speaking to others?”
“Why are trying to pick a row with me?”
Both of them remained silent and Yasmin picked up the morning newspaper, not to read the political news, but to discover the new trends in the fashion, and into the movie worlds. Thinking of her woes of loneliness Jasmine thought, it was useless to debate with her or to cowherd her daughter.
Jasmine later went to the lounge to lay full on a sofa to brood over her daughter’s lack of trust in her, whereas her brother was soundly sleeping on a settee with two crumbled cushions under his head. She hoped. One day her whimsical daughter would become normal, like her, as often girls follow their mother after their marriage. She called her however to come into the lounge. When Yasmin sat down near her, she politely said, “Show me the earrings your boyfriend gave to you last night. I doubt they would be fake jewelry, but my dear one must take care of valuables. Guard it from thieves like clients who want to win the hearts of young, beautiful, and innocent girls like you by cheating them with imitation gems.”
“It is not a paste, Mama, but the diamonds in it is small.”
“Where you have kept it?”
“I have stored it in a safe place in the drawer of my dressing table, and I will wear the diamonds in the evening at the party arranged for me by my new boyfriend.”
Her mother told her in a hushed voice so that the maidservant would not hear, “My dear, you have grown up now. Are you certain? An open drawer is a safe place to keep precious ornaments. You do not know who is a thief in this house. Trust nobody and be careful with your new boyfriend too."
"Suspicions in everything would be maddening."