Shaheen spends hours on internet searching for a good believable excuse to step out. She was browsing while doing everything. She was browsing while putting laundry in the washing machine and forgot to close its door. Machine fired the water in Shaheen’s face and there was water everywhere on the floor. Shaheen switched off the machine and ran to grab a cleaning cloth, while doing so she slipped and almost fell on the floor. She was browsing while she was dusting the house. They had the broom which is used to dust the floor.They used to use the same broom to dust walls and ceiling. Shaheen dusted the walls, corners and ceiling of the living room, now it was fan’s turn to get cleaned but guess what? Shaheen forgot to switch off the fan! Shaheen stood on the chair, raised the broom, as soon as the broom touched the fan, the broom flew across the room. Poor Asif saved himself just in time from the attack of the broom. He ran back to the bedroom.
Shaheen saw that and widened her eyes but decided to ignore. Shaheen was still browsing while preparing lunch. Shaheen put garlic, ginger, onions and tomatoes in the grinder and turned and pressed the button without putting on the vessel’s lid. Ingredients of the curry were everywhere in the kitchen including Shaheen’s face. Garlic had hit her forehead as if slapping her for her absent mindedness.
After hours of browsing Shaheen ended up finding nothing! She was now frustrated and disappointed. She knew now she has to come up with something by her own. Shaheen sat on her bed and grabbed her bag and opened it. She started seeing into it like she was searching an excuse in there. She didn’t find anything. She looked around. She flipped through her books and files, picked up and down things on her table, scanned her room with her eyes. Her eyes fell on her ID card. An idea stroke her, she could tell her mom that she is going to the hospital because they are running out of the staff. It was the most believable thing she could have thought of because it was everyday on the news how number of medical staff is falling short day by day. Not only that but also it was a good reason to argue with her mom. She could tell her mom even if she had left her job she has to rejoin for a genuine reason. This idea can’t fail she thought.
At night Shaheen decided to tell her mother that she’ll go to the hospital tomorrow. Shaheen went to her mother and said,
“I am going to go to the hospital tomorrow “
“I am going to go to the hospital tomorrow “
” I heard that stupid. I mean why? “
“Because I need to leave this house”, Shaheen whispered.
“Say that out loud”, said her mother.
“Because I need to leave this house, take the scooty and to go to the hospital and park it in the parking lot… “
“and take off the key, walk with your legs, enter the hospital. Stupid girl. You know what you are saying, right?”, interrupted her mother.
“Medical staff is running out of hospital. Me need them there. Go I got go to”, Shaheen uttered breathlessly.
Mother stared at Shaheen with a question mark on her face.
Shaheen( having no clue what she just said) didn’t get why her mother was starting at her.
“What? You want me to reply to whatever you just said? “, asked her mother.
Shaheen nodded. She sighed and said,
” I need to go to the hospital tomorrow. The hospital is running out of medical staff. I am going to the hospital tomorrow “.
“Oh. You remember why you left that job, right?”
” I didn’t leave that job. You made me leave that job. In this pandemic, they need me back. I am going.”
“It’s darn pandemic. Your darn job is of lesser value than our lives. If you go don’t come back ever again”
“Nothing”, Shaheen said.
Shaheen went to her bedroom, locked the door and sighed. She was relieved. First step of the mission was accomplished. Now, all she had to do is wait for the dawn.
Shaheen couldn’t sleep that night. She was thinking where will she go ? and how will she manage things? She was confused if she should tell Malini ma’am about this or not. How will she react? Will she be angry of Shaheen’s decision? Shaheen couldn’t decide. She spent whole night tossing and turning in her bed.
Next day , Shaheen woke up for her Fajr Salah before her alarm could go off. Shaheen didn’t waste a second in bed. She went straight to washroom, made ablution and offered her prayer.
Shaheen was all set to go. She was happy a little and also a little nervous. She ate her breakfast. She took her bag and she was about to step out when Asif saw her.
“Where are you going?”, Asif asked.
“Hospital “, Shaheen replied.
“I’ll tell mom”, Asif smirked.
“I already told her”
Asif was stunned when Shaheen said that. Asif never saw Shaheen that fearless before. That’s probably because Asif never saw Shaheen when she used to be fearless all the time.
When Shaheen was 13 years old, one night she had ran away from her house. That night Shaheen sneaked out of her house with some money and her school bag pack. She went to the Railway Station and got herself a ticket to her grandfather’s place. i
Shaheen waited for the last train to her grandfather’s place. It was 2:30 am. The train arrives at 2:45 and will leave the platform at 3 am. (
Shaheen boards on the train and begins to search for her birth. She walks taking a look at every birth’s number. She finds hers. It’s an upper birth. She climbs up using the side ladder. She place her bag-pack on the side of the window and rests her head on it. There is no fear in her head but only instructions her dad would give everytime they travel.
Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t take anything from strangers, especially food items. Don’t leave your bag. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be lost in yourself. If you get lost, go to police and call me or your mom. Don’t be scared.
Don’t be scared
D o n’t b e s c a r e d
Her thoughts makes her sleepy. She almost closed her eyes, when she sees a man, who looks like in his late thirties, takes the empty birth in opposite of hers. That guy is staring at her. Shaheen notices it and finds it fishy. Shaheen thought she needs to do something. She opens her bag and takes out her ear phones. She keeps the wire of the ear phones inside the bag and begins to pretend that she is talking to her dad.
“Hello dad. I can’t find my water bottle. Do you have it?”, says Shaheen.
“Okay. I am coming to take it”, says Shaheen and climbs down the ladder.
The guy takes his eyes off her. Shaheen goes to the next coach. There she takes out her water bottle and comes back to her coach. She wants to show the stranger that she is not alone and her father is in the train as well. But she didn’t think it might trigger a thought (why her father isn’t in the same coach with her) in the stranger’s mind. She is holding the water bottle in her hand just for the stranger to see.
She gets back to her birth and throws her back on it. She is scared but decides not to show it. The man now looks busy with his phone. He calls someone and looks in his phone talks and again looks in his phone. At one moment Shaheen thought he clicked her pictures. But then she swayed away this thought thinking she was just over-scrutinizing. Soon she falls asleep.
Next morning when Shaheen is still asleep the man decides to wake her up. He gets down.
“Shaheen”, He calls out looking at Shaheen.” Shaheen, get up”.
Shaheen doesn’t respond. She is deep asleep.
“Shaheen, get up. You’ll miss the junction “, he says shaking Shaheen’s hand.
Shaheen gets up startled and punches him right in the nose. Her mind had made her go through every possible way in which the man could harm her and how she should tackle it. She had practiced that punch in her mind several times before going to sleep. Her subconscious mind only followed the instructions and set her body in action when the man touched her. The punch was hard enough to make him numb for several moments. Without wasting a moment she grabbed her bag pack and hurried to get down. There were only a few people in the coach.
“Stop her”, the man shouted. “Shaheen stop”
Did he just call out her name? Shaheen thought. Shaheen froze for a second and began running the other. Even if he knew her she doesn’t know him and that’s enough of a reason to run right now.
A hand got hold of her bag pack. Everyone in the coach was puzzled. The man who held Shaheen’s bag pack was now holding her arm. He thought Shaheen was a robber. The man whom Shaheen had punched, came to her and thanked the man.
“Shaheen. Dear. I just want to help you. I informed your father last time”, he said.
It was difficult to convince Shaheen that he wasn’t lying, but before that they needed to get down or else with them everyone else too would miss the junction. While three of them were trying to flirt down Shaheen struggled to get her hand out of the man’s grip. They got down on the railway platform. Shaheen hadn’t given up on freeing her arm, she raised her other hand to punch the man in his ribs. The other man caught her hand.
“Help me. Somebody help. They are kidnapping me”, Shaheen shouted.
Both the men looked at her with surprise.
“Help me, please”, Shaheen shouted again.
Two policemen came running towards them. The person hold her arm let go of her and stepped back.
“This girl is a trouble man”, he said to the other man.
“What’s going on here? “, a police man asked.
“Sir, this man is after me”, Shaheen said pointing to the man she had punched.
“What’s with you man? “, the policeman asked the man.
“Sir, she is lying. I am her father’s friend. She has run away from her home. His dad asked me to take care of her”, the man explained.
“This story is new”, said the policeman puzzled. “Tell us dear, you ran away from your home? “
“No, he is lying”, Shaheen said and began to run.
The other policeman got hold of her quickly.
“We need to get to the office. Come on”, said the policeman.
In the office
“So, what’s your name girl?”, asked the policeman.
“Shaheen”, Shaheen replied quietly.
“And you are her father’s friend? Call him”, commanded the policeman.
“Okay”, the man replied.
“Wait. What’s your name?”, the policeman asked before he could make a call.
“Ahmed. Ahmed Khan. I am her father’s childhood friend. We never met and therefore she doesn’t recognize me. I live here. My friend lives in (Name the city). I visited my friend yesterday. There I saw her pics in the album… “
“Okay, okay”, the policeman interrupted. ” Give me your phone “
“just give me”
“Here “, he said offering his phone to the policeman.
“So, Shaheen tell me your dad’s number”
“Don’t call him”, said Shaheen in a shaky voice.
“You don’t wanna get in more trouble, do you? Just tell me the number”
Shaheen took a deep breath and uttered,”99205…”
“Shaheed? Your dad’s name is Shaheed? “, the policeman asked looking at the name in the contacts.
“I see. It seems he isn’t lying. Let me confirm “, he said and pressed the dial button. Yeah remember those phones we had in 2000’s. Cell phone with buttons! I mean button keypads, of course. And if you don’t, let me tell you, cellphone with buttons existed once and they still do for some.
Okay now back to the story.
The phone rang.
“Hi. Ammu. Where’s Shaheen? “,Shaheen’s dad, Shaheed Shaikh answered the call.
“Hello Mr. Shaheed. I am Head Constable, Rajiv Kumar from (name of their home town) junction Railway Station. Your daughter Shaheen is with us. She is safe, don’t worry”, the policeman replied politely. “Is Mr. Ahmed khan your friend? “
“Yes. He is my childhood friend. We are from same town, (name of their home town). Is everything okay? “
“Well, I guess it’s not”
“I am sorry sir. I know she ran away. My friend had informed me and I am grateful of that coincidence that my friend boarded the same train and in fact the same coach as my daughter’s. I requested him to take care of her. I didn’t bother much because he was there”
“Well, sir you need to come and get your daughter from here. She is not someone who listens to anyone”
“Yeah.You can send her with my friend. I trust him”
” But I doubt if your daughter thinks the same. You need to come here”
“I…I can’t. There is a problem. But I can send my brother. He lives there, in the town. It shouldn’t be a problem”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’ll talk to him and send you his number”
“And thanks a lot sir”
“it’s okay “
All this time, Shaheen was standing still with her head hanging.She was caught. She was embarrassed.
She was bitting her upper lip and taking slowly long breathes.
After an hour Shaheen’s uncle and grandpa arrived at the office.
“Grandpa”, suddenly Shaheen’s eyes brightened up.
She hugged her grandpa. He hugged her lightly with his strong arms. He made sure he didn’t squeeze her.
“What’s the matter? “, Shaheen’s uncle spoke to the policeman.
“Shaheen can explain us that, once we get home”, grandpa said.
Shaheen’s grandpa was an ex military man. He was very well known in that small town. The policeman didn’t argue back and let him take Shaheen.