The sun was melting behind the pillars of the huge mansion. A deep burnt orange in color, it looked extremely captivating .Rabia stood mesmerized by the divine beauty .She glanced in the huge courtyard and saw Rubina, her step sister, skipping rope.
“Rubina, get in, soon the guests will arrive.”It was her older sibling yelling, from behind one of the many curtained windows.
Rabia looked at the intricate henna pattern on her hands.
She was 18 and remarkably good looking woman, about to get married.
Rubina was still skipping rope, oblivious to all the fanfare around her .Looking at the little girl, took Rabia a few years back in her memory.
That evening was special, Rabia was overjoyed .It was going to be her first train journey, in fact any journey .She was going to her cousin’s wedding .It was going to be a grand affair with relatives coming in from as far as Lahore .Filled with excitement, she skipped rope, in the veranda of her small home in a little town near Ahmadabad, when her mother called,
“Rabia darling, don’t dirty your sharara, it’s the only good one you have “.
“ji ammi jan” Rabia smiled and ran to her mother ,who was doing the final leg of packing .It was not just an ordinary day for Amina ,after her nikah ,this was the first time ,she too was going out somewhere so far .She wanted to meet all those relatives she had just heard of.
Rehmat, her husband was a tailor, by profession and earned a decent income .He had his own reason for joy .Family weddings meant, lot of women dressed I new designs, new fashion trends and this time the ladies will be coming in from the big cities .Rehmat was sure of learning new fashion trends.
The family was a happy one .Amina was expecting her second child and glowed in the beauty of her pregnancy.
The sun was about to set and the sky was a vibrant purple, pink and red.
“Rabia”, a husky male voice resounded in the veranda .Rabia ran with arms stretched and climbed into the open arms of his tall handsome father, who laughed as the little girl giggled with joy. He threw her up and caught her in his strong arms.
She was adorable and an apple of their eyes .quickly Amina served tea and parathas .The family had their last dinner together in that house and left for the station.
Rabia tightly held her mother’s finger ,as she tried to take in every sight and sound .her little feet adorned with silver payals ,made lovely music ,as she half ran ,half walked to keep pace with her mother .
Once they got settled in their seats Rabia looked around with excitement, a whole new world had opened in front of her. As the train gained speed, the breeze from the window, made most of the people doze.
Rehmat picked up the little girl and put her on the upper berth.
Suddenly there was a big explosion and all one could see were mangled bodies, blood, flying pieces of iron and burnt human flesh .In a matter of a second every thing was over.
Slowly Rabia opened her eyes and looked around. Her head ached and the body felt like a stone. She could see faces anxiously peering at her, people she did not know .rows and rows of beds where people were lying in midst of all the chaos around them .frighted by all that she closed her eyes again .She was six years of age and completely traumatized by all that was happening around her .A familiar voice made her slowly open her eyes .It was her mamu jan .Rabia’s eyes filled with tears of pain and joy at the same time..
“Meri bachchi”,the man said as he kissed her forhead .”Allah ka shukr hai tu bach gayi”
Rabia looked around for her parents.
“Ammi, Abba”, she whispered.
The man began to weep, “They are no more my child, you are an orphan now, and the buggers killed almost everyone on the train .only a few survived. These people have no faith, no religion; all they know is to take innocent human lives.”He broke down.
Rabia did not know how to react to the words she had just heard .Her little world had just collapsed.
Sometimes sleep is the best remedy for aching heart .Rabia closed her beautiful eyes.
“Come here child”, her mamu jan called her and held her close .Rabia saw a man in strange attire sitting next to her mamu .She lowered her eyes “Adab”, she whispered .
The man smiled and she immediently spotted a gold tooth.
“You will now go with Khan Sahib to the big city; darling .He will take good care of you. There is nothing to be scared of bachchi”. Mamu Jan said.
She remembered her cousins’ whispers about someone being sold to a wealthy sheikh from Middle East, but never thought it was her that they were talking about.
There was little she could do .With tears streaming continuously from her large brown eyes, Rabia was taken away in a big motor car to the unknown city.
No one spoke during the two hour drive, she was offered water and food, which once she declined but fearing something bad, accepted the second time.
Like a ghost she walked behind her owner. The man smiled often and till now, had not said any harsh words to her; slowly her fear began to disappear.
As soon as they boarded the flight, he told her to remove the Burkha she was wearing .With lot of apprehension she did what was told .She felt as if a huge burden has been lifted from her head.
For the first time since that fateful day on the train, Rabia smiled.
She had no idea what was going to happen to her, what was this man going to do with her, was she his wife or just one of the many girls these rich men had ?Was she going to be sold again? She shivered from unknown fear.
Realizing that the girl was opening up, the man initiated a conversation .There was something about the girl which was disturbing him, but he kept his thoughts to himself.
Once in his palace, he told the maids to take care of the child.
Rabia felt as if she was a part of some dream sequence .Never had she seen such splendor and wealth.
Everyone she passed smiled at her in a curious way. “You will get used to it soon”, the ayah said.
“I will get you ready for him in a jiffy”, she winked a smile at her .Rabia was washed scrubbed and dressed in a fine red sharara. She looked breathtakingly beautiful. The women, all dressed in expensive clothes and jewels, spoke in whispers and admired the choice of their master .She was the youngest of them.
She spent the evening sitting among the women folk, in silence, as they laughed and teased each other .Her heart was racing.
At last the sheikh walked in .He looked regal in his new clothes and very attractive .Rabia slightly raised her eyes to look into his soft brown eyes.
He smiled and called for one of his wives .A lovely lady, not much in age, appeared from behind the curtains.
“Sofia, she is your child from today, take good care of her .She is your birthday gift, our daughter “.He said in a loving voice.
There was a complete silence .No one had expected this turn of events.
With tears streaming from her eyes Sofia hugged Rabia .No one spoke.
This was the beginning of a new life for Rabia and she lived every moment of it.
Tears silently fell on her beautiful palms as the events of her past flashed through her mind.
She stood up and walked to the mirror. Today was her nikah. She would leave the home, where she had spent the most memorable days of her life, to go to a completely different world.
Her father had educated her in London and she was marrying a man of her own choice .A privilege, not many girls of her age and status had.
She remembered her own father and thought, how happy he must be feeling watching his little girl, all ready to start a new life of her own.
A knock at the door, brought her father in .She ran and hugged him .No one spoke.
But in their silence, they exchanged a lot of unsaid feelings for each other.