At Wingman Campus Fund, we educate students and support entrepreneurs to disrupt the startup culture on campuses, produce the next generation of tech leaders, and create more value for society. After…
Twenty years old Ammara was sitting near the stove for an hour now. Her whole body was drenched in sweat. It was the mid of July and the scathing heat was at its peak in a small village in Swabi. Even though the village was surrounded by hills it was very hot during summer. People were literally dying because of load shedding while Ammara sat near the stove cooking food for her family. She was married to a young farmer, ten years older than her. She used to live with him and his family in the middle of wide lush fields, surrounded by a stream and other cemented houses. They were a happily married couple, thankful to God for the little luxuries of life they can afford. Once a week, they cooked chicken, and everyone used to anticipate that day with excitement. On the other days, Ammara and her family used to devour vegetables with fresh butter and curd. Then one day everything changed.
As Ammara was cooking some eggplants, sitting near the stove for almost an hour in the blistering heat, her husband entered the house furiously and yelled at Ammara to bring him a glass of water. Ammara got up quickly and filled water in a glass from the nearby tap. She saw her husband thumping his fist on the wall.
“What happened, Arham?”
Arham explained to her how he got into a fight with some primitive and uncultured beasts. While he was working in the fields, three men came up to him and demanded that he give them all the fresh vegetables from his fields. Arham would have given them but their tone was very domineering and Arham didn’t like it, so he refused. One of the men punched him in the nose as the other grasped his arms so he wouldn’t fight back. They threatened him with his life and then went their way, laughing at him.
Ammara had tears in her eyes as she tended to Arham’s wounds. How can someone be so cruel? How are they going to survive if the men took all their vegetables? Arham’s mother and father also came out of their room and were asking him about the recent event that took place in the fields. His mother started to wail loudly, and a wide range of profanity started pouring from her mouth for the beasts. Bad things happen to good people.
The news spread around the village like a fire that someone threatened and beat Arham, and women started to come to their house to provide their condolences. Ammara was sleep-deprived as she was unable to bear Arham wincing throughout the night.
“I’ve heard these goons are from a very rich family in the village and they are very dangerous too.” One of the women said with fear in her voice. Arham’s mother started to abuse the goons in a loud voice, slowly beating her chest. Ammara wasn’t saying anything. She wanted to teach those men a lesson, but she knew it was out of her hands, she couldn’t even step out of the house. It was eight in the evening when people finally stopped coming to their place and they were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Everyone was tired of tending to the guests all day. Arham was worried about his fields. He treated his land like a child, taking care of it and watering all the plants on time. It was a time of utter distress for him to not be able to go and check his plants.
That night, Ammara said to him while stroking his hair gently, “I’ve heard the goons are not going to let anyone live in peace here.”
Arham frowned, “We should gather people to fight them off our lands, we can call the police.”
Ammara told him that one of the women said to her today that those men are very powerful, and they have a lot of money, even police are on their side. Nobody can stop them. It’s too dangerous to mess around with such people.
“Then what do you suggest?” Arham felt tired.
“I was thinking maybe we can go somewhere else and start over.”
Arham laughed, “And do you think we have enough money to go settle somewhere else?”
“Maybe if we sell our lands,” Ammara was interrupted by Arham’s growl. He got up and pushed her hand aside. “How dare you talk like that? How dare you even suggest that I can sell my lands?” Arham’s eyes were bloodshot and Ammara felt scared. He grabbed her by the hair and taught her a lesson of not to speak without thinking first.
The next morning, Ammara woke up early to make breakfast for everyone. Her arm was bruised but she didn’t care. She was used to all this. Instead, she was worried about the goons. When Arham woke up an hour later, he pretended as nothing happened between him and Ammara last night. Instead, he demanded three eggs instead of two. Ammara hurried back to the kitchen to fry another egg for him. She overheard him talking to his mother.
“I have to go to the fields after breakfast to water my plants.”
Arham’s mother tried to insist that he must not go but Arham shot her a warning look and she swallowed her words. Ammara didn’t stop him either because it was of no use. He wasn’t going to listen to her anyway.
The day was sunny yet there was a chill in the air. After finishing her daily chores, Ammara sat on the mat to watch TV. It was a small TV, roughly 15 inches. Her mother-in-law was fast asleep. She usually sleeps after eating her lunch. It was another normal day in the village but Ammara had this constant worry at the back of her head. She was distraught for her husband. She wanted to leave the village and go to the city with her husband where they can start a new life and pursue their dreams in a better way. Arham’s love for his lands was unbearable for her and she hated the roots which were holding her back from moving forward.
She was staring at the TV, but her mind was somewhere else. She was clearly daydreaming about modern life in the city. She had seen the girls from cities, wearing short dresses and having nothing to cover their hair. Their confidence used to bemuse her, and she longed to become one of them. After finishing her intermediate education, her father got her married to Arham, who didn’t go to school at all because they had lands as their source of income and didn’t need to waste their time on education. Ammara left all her novels and digests at home because Arham didn’t use to let Ammara read as he was of the view that such books can turn a woman vulgar and make her dream about things that were unachievable and not appropriate. She wasn’t bothered about anything because she was in love with Arham and used to tolerate everything he said. She was happy yet at times when no one was looking, she used to daydream about other things, about urban life and urban girls.
There was a knock on the door and Ammara heard her father-in-law come out of the room to open the door. She heard him talking in muffled voice with someone on the other side. He came back after a while looking distressed. Ammara turned off the TV and gave him an inquiring look, waiting for him to tell her himself that who was at the door, but instead with perturbed expressions, he went to his own room and closed the door behind him. Ammara started to panic. She wanted to ask her father-in-law, but she wasn’t allowed to disturb him, so she sat back on the mat and started to wait for Arham to get back home. Little did she know that she was never going to see him again.
Ammara still gets goosebumps when she thinks of that night, the night when her life turned upside down. Arham didn’t come back and everyone was talking in hushed tones as if hiding something from her only. She was beyond anxious to know and was crying with the fear that something bad had happened to Arham. She was sitting in her room, praying to God for Arham’s life when her mother-in-law entered the room. It was obvious that she was crying too. She sat next to Ammara and confided in her the secret conversation going on at the house for the past three days. Ammara’s face turned blank. She felt dizzy. Her mother-in-law was talking but she heard nothing more, her head felt so heavy, and then she fainted.
“Ammara I’m hungry. Where is the food?” Hamza’s shrilly voice made Ammara jump. She smiled as she put the roasted chicken on the plate and took it to the dining room where Hamza was anxiously waiting for the food. Ammara heard his stomach grumbled loudly at the sight of chicken and she laughed. Hamza giggled and started to devour the delicious food.
It’s been two years that she and Hamza had been together. Hamza belonged to a rich family and his father was a very influential man in the village. At the fight over the lands two years ago, Hamza’s eldest brother made a deal with Arham, either to give them the lands or give them his wife. Arham decided to keep his precious lands. That night, Ammara’s father in law handed her over to the goons in order to save his son’s life, who was again beaten terribly by the goons. When Hamza’s brother brought her to their house, his father scolded him a lot. His father insisted that he should get married to her now because she will be disgraced forever, but his son had no plans of getting married to someone else’s wife. He said he wants her for one night only, then she can go wherever she wants to go. His parents cursed and lamented that night and Ammara’s screams were muffled by the gag in her mouth as the devil satiated his hunger.
The next morning, his parents entered the room and they were very ashamed of what their son had done. They promised they would love and protect Ammara like their own daughter from now onwards and promised to get her married to their youngest son Hamza, who was also twenty years old. Ammara wasn’t thinking, her mind was blank. She let them do whatever they wanted to do and signed the marriage papers to legally become Hamza’s wife. Apart from that tragic night when Arham left her and a stranger disgraced her, her first night with Hamza was another dreadful night of her life.
Life at Hamza’s house had its ups and downs, but she was quite content. She loved Hamza and his weird attitude, his funny nature, and how he used to do everything to make her happy. He used to take care of her and at times she used to take care of him. Hamza’s family was rich, and their house was one of the few marble-clad houses in the villages, with a huge veranda and a garden. There were total five rooms but only two rooms were in use, the rest were locked. Hamza’s father had sent the eldest brother to Dubai because he was causing serious problems for them. Ammara had left behind all the bitter memories of her life and was living a happy life with Hamza.
One day Ammara asked Hamza if he can take her to the city for a week or two. Hamza instantly agreed. She was so excited. She quickly got ready and packed the bags. Hamza’s parents were dubious and disapproved of the idea. They treated Hamza like a child, and they didn’t want to see him undergo any kind of trouble.
“Please take good care of Hamza, he’s never been without us before,” Ammara assured them that everything will be all right, and they set off for the city the next day.
The city was very different from the village. Ammara was awestruck by its beauty. There were no fields, just long and magnificent buildings. Hamza was clapping his hands with excitement at the sight of the buildings. They went to a hotel where they booked a room for one week. It was a nice room, there was a huge bed in the middle of the room and a sofa on the side. Ammara looked out of the window and saw a road full of vehicles. It was like a dream coming true. Behind her, Hamza was jumping on the bed. She looked back at him and smiled widely. He gestured for her to come to join him in the bed. Ammara rolled her eyes and went to sit on the bed with Hamza. She had never seen such a bed before. The mattress had sprung to it which tempted Ammara to jump on it.
“You know Hamza, it was my dream to visit the city one day.” She hugged him. Hamza awkwardly patted her head.
“Let’s go eat something,” he said enthusiastically but Ammara had other plans.
She shook her head and started to kiss Hamza on the face. Hamza was taken aback at the sudden fierceness in Ammara’s attitude.
“What are you doing Ammara?” Hamza tried to push her aside.
“Please let me love you. You are my husband.” Ammara pleaded.
Hamza looked a bit embarrassed.
“You know I can’t do that. I don’t like girls.” Ammara felt tears rolling down her eyes.
On their wedding night, Hamza was very sweet and told her that she was like his sister. Then he explained how his eldest brother used to torture him every day because he admitted that he liked a guy from the village. To stop this news from spreading, his parents were constantly searching for a girl to get him married to, and then Ammara came into their life. She remembered how she had wept all night on her bad luck. She realized that her dream of having children was never going to come true either.
“Hamza, please!” Ammara felt like screaming but Hamza was adamant. He got up and went towards the bathroom. Ammara sat frozen on the bed for a while and then decided not to ruin her mood because of Hamza. She wiped her tears and took a deep breath. It was her dream to visit the city and she was going to enjoy herself. She was going to meet new people and try out different types of new food. She was going to live her life in that one week.
Hamza stayed up all night, thinking about what Ammara had said to him. He felt sorry for Ammara, but he had no control over all this. He didn’t want to ruin her life with some false impression that he was interested in her. His heart was broken once, and it had caused him an unbearable amount of pain. If only he could forget that night five years ago when his brother caught him kissing Ahmed. If only he could forget how his brother and his friends tortured Ahmed to the point where he lost his sanity. If only he could forget how his brother locked him in a room and beat him all night. If only he could forget how his bruises made him scream in pain. He hated his brother, but he wasn’t strong enough to take revenge. Ahmed and his parents left the village a few days after the incident and ever since Hamza felt like he had lost a part of himself. He also felt sorry for Ammara. He was in the other room when his brother was tormenting her. He wanted to kill his brother, but he was afraid. For Hamza, Ammara had always been like a best friend, like a sister. They used to tell each other all their secrets and there rarely was anything that they disagreed on.
That night Hamza felt guilty. It used to cause him pain, watching Ammara begging him for love, but it was out of his hands. When Ammara said she wanted to go to the city, Hamza saw a flicker of hope, a hope that maybe he can reunite with Ahmed. He had heard from the villagers that Ahmed’s parents had moved to the city to get proper treatment for their son. Hamza’s hope was making him feel bad about himself and his relationship with Ammara, which was basically forced down upon him.
In the morning, Hamza told Ammara that he must meet a friend nearby so he would come back late. He gave her money to go to a salon to get a makeover and to go buy new clothes for herself.
“But Hamza, how am I going to go alone? I don’t know about anything.”
Hamza had thought about everything beforehand. “I have a second cousin who lives here with her husband and kids. I will take you to her place and then she will take you out. I’ve already talked to her about it.”
Hamza saw the uncertainty on Ammara’s face but was satisfied when she just nodded her head in agreement.
After leaving Ammara at Sobia’s place, he went out on his quest to search for Ahmed. It wasn’t easy. He searched all day. He had a photo of Ahmed on his cell phone and he was asking around about him from everyone. By evening he was full of despair. He wanted to cry from frustration. He went to four different hospitals to ask about Ahmed, but they didn’t provide him with any information. There were some people who were looking at him with contempt in their eyes, and others were just oblivious of his existence altogether. Nobody was willing to help him out. In the marketplace, he saw a bunch of people mimicking the way he talked giving weird gestures with their hands. Hamza felt terrible. He had never been out of his village before and he felt scared of the way people were acting around him.
It was getting dark and Hamza had forgotten all about Ammara. He was walking towards a taxi when he saw a man waving at him. He squinted at the man as he drew closer.
“Hello, you seem lost. Is there anything I can help you with?” The man had a deep soothing voice. He looked like he was almost thirty years old. He had short hair and an athletic body and was wearing blue jeans and a black shirt. Suddenly, Hamza felt nervous. He was unsure how to talk to the man.
“Umm, I’m searching for someone.” Hamza unlocked his phone quickly to show the man Ahmed’s photo. The man took the phone from him and looked at the photo for a while. Hamza was edgy and he started tapping his foot.
“I think I’ve seen this young man. In fact, I know where he lives.”
The change in Hamza’s expressions was so evident that the man gave a light chuckle.
“Do you want me to take you to his place? I have a car parked there. You can thank me later.”
Hamza was skeptical whether to trust the man or not, but his desire of meeting Ahmed after five years was so overwhelming that he agreed to take help from that bulky man. At the back of his head, there was this nagging feeling that Ammara must be waiting for him, but he ignored those feelings and sat in the passenger seat with the man. The man asked Hamza different questions about where he is from and why is he searching for Ahmed. Hamza was so caught up in his own thoughts that he didn’t even ask the man his name.
Finally, they reached the shabby apartments where Ahmed lived. Hamza got out of the car and thanked the man, blushing slightly. To his surprise, the man got out of the car too.
“Let me take you inside.” The man insisted.
Hamza felt uneasy, he sensed that something was fishy about this man and the way he looked at him. Hamza wanted to tell the man that he can go on his own, but no words came out of his mouth. He stood frozen on the spot. The man grabbed him by the arm and took him inside.
“Relax, don’t be scared.”
The man tried to smile warmly but his smile seemed menacing to Hamza.
Yet Hamza couldn’t protest. He was scared. On the third floor, there was an apartment. The man knocked on the door and after a while, someone opened the door. Hamza was hoping it would be Ahmed, but it was someone else. Hamza pushed away from the man who was holding his arm and started to run downstairs, but the two men were faster than him and they caught hold of him, easily lifted him up, and took him to the apartment. Hamza tried to scream but one of the men punched him hard on the nose and he fell backward. He heard loud laughter and realized that there were more than two people in the apartment. He wrapped his arms around his head in defense and shut his eyes tightly, but he heard their footsteps clearly, advancing towards him.
Ammara was in her final year at the university. She was very thankful to God for giving her the opportunity to start over her life and to live the life she had dreamt of. Even though it’s been four years since Hamza had left her but deep down, she was hopeful that he would return. She was so depressed in the beginning that she used to wake up screaming from nightmares. If it wasn’t for Sobia and her husband, who gave her their unlimited support, she would have gone mad by now. When they were unable to find Hamza anywhere, they decided to send Ammara back to the village but Ammara begged them to stay with them and work at their house as a maid.
They saw potential in her and got her admission to a university, where she explored her identity and gained the confidence she always wanted to have. She had made many friends and was not intimidated by anyone anymore. The last time she got news from the village, she heard that Hamza’s mother passed away from grief and they were cursing Ammara for taking Hamza to the city. She heard threats about how Hamza’s brother was going to bring her back to the village. She also heard that Arham was interested in getting her back and was searching for her. Ammara didn’t pay any attention to the threats. She had a bright future ahead of her and she wasn’t going to let her past bring her down. God had given her a golden opportunity and she was not going to let it go to waste by getting afraid of people and by sacrificing her dreams.
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