She glided into the bar like a swan, amidst a gang of male friends, obviously. They were laughing, her laugh as clear as a morning school bell. It came straight from the pit of her stomach rising above the rest of the boring rumbled laughter of her fawning followers. These young fellas surrounding her were the kind that proudly said claimed to be in the entertainment industry, with a lick of the lips, and an unconscious drawing in of air through the nose. Hair slicked back, face whitish, probably powdered. Mostly, western clothes donned, shirts and jeans or a pair of trousers topped by a busy, colourful or silky shirt. One or two had fancy kaftans thrown on. A golden chain or a shiny ‘expensive watch’ almost always completed the Western look. The conspiring wind wafted in their perfumes , in an apparent ambush, attacking the innocent patrons already inside the bar. People expected this from these young men who had descended upon the society several years.
She, however, had decided not to be obvious, thought Aziz. She wasn’t wearing one of those skimpy revealing clothes that she had become to be known for on TV and on the internet. No generous showing of breasts, no excessive length of leg, or provocative makeup. But still eyes were drawn to her like a magnet. She commanded their attention in a way that filled him with loathing but he too was too powerless to resist. Her dress was knee length, black, long sleeved, and tight with a high round neck. On her feet were black pumps with a heel certainly not as crazy as those she wore on her videos.
‘Aziz! Hey Aziz!’ Shouted his friend in Urdu. He turned to his right where his friend, Nasir, was seated animatedly.
‘What!’ he said a little rudely. He had interrupted his train of thought, his imagination and had forced him to drag is eyes from the magnetic vision that was Qandeel Baloch.
‘What! Are you seriously saying what? Man, are you blind? Can’t you see that’s Qandeel Baloch. In person!’ Nasir had whipped his phone out from the inside pocket of his thobe. The phone was directed towards Qandeel and her flock, who were now standing in the middle of the bar looking around as if contemplating where to sit. The bar had restaurant style tables and chairs lining up both sides of the room. At the center was the stage, already set and pregnant with anticipation of the band. The rest of the center was an open space which had been created in case someone felt the unlikely and unwelcome urge to dance.
Aziz thought Nasir was acting a little too excitable especially for someone of his age. They were both in their mid forties, and were professors at the respectable local university. So according to Aziz there was no need to act like how they would when they were in their twenties. And anyway everyone with eyes had seen the Qandeel woman. Or rather they had felt her presence. She was unlike the thin women on TV. Beautiful, yes, but they looked like the occasional strong wind from the Arabian Sea could blow them away in an instant. Qandeel had a strong jaw, high cheekbones, a straight nose and full lips, thick eyebrows that had been plucked just but a little. Hers was not a damsel-in-distress-come-save-me-oh-prince- kind- of -beauty. It was beauty only eyes could feast on, but no words could describe.
‘Oh, my Allah, they are coming here!’ Nasir said in a harsh whisper like a teenage boy who had just seen his teenage crush walking towards him.
Indeed they were coming towards the bar where they were seated. His heart made one huge dull thud and he quickly looked away and stared stonily ahead at the arrangement of soft drinks across the bar. He wished for a moment that Allah could make him turn into air.
‘Excuse me, there’s no one here right?’ her voice asked the back of his head. He shifted uncomfortably and reluctantly turned to look at her. He was startled when her eyes looked directly at him. Women didn’t do that. Not Arabic women. Yes, when he was studying in the US, American women looked into his eyes all the time. As if he was nothing. As if they were challenging him. As if he wasn’t a man. He had hated that. And so he came back home where women knew their place, and gave men their respect. Except women like Qandeel Baloch apparently. He didn’t trust his voice to come out, so he nodded and looked away. He hoped his nod looked sufficiently disinterested, and hoped some more that her big, dark, unsettling eyes were now off him.
As if out of the blue, some guitar strings were plucked. Some drums were beat. Someone said something into the microphone. The band was about to start playing. The Sheraton Hotel in Karachi hosted the Al Bustan band every night. It was a band that played traditional music and attracted mostly the middle aged to elderly group of professional men. A sprinkling of women could almost always be found there these days. They always came and sat in their little corner in their fancy Shalwar Kameezes, drinking warm chai or eggnog over some kind of intellectual discussion. Nasir always insisted that these women were now lonely with all their education and that they came here to look for men. ‘You see they always dress nice. They put expensive perfumes, jewelry and make up. Why else would they do that if not to look for men? They are just an expensive version of the prostitutes along A-Street there.’ He had laughed his loud garrulous laugh. ‘But it is better that they come,’ he had continued. ‘I’m tired of looking at fat grey aired stony faced men who come here every night. A glance at these liberal women always stops my eyes from sleeping. A whiff of their perfume wakes up my senses and I remember that I am a man after all.’ Aziz had smiled at this. Nasir was after all a professor of literature and in his youthful days, he had been known to concoct a love poem or two.
The crowd was still trickling in. Al Bustan never managed to attract a full house but it was still well loved and most seats were now taken. The band was now at the peak of their opening song and Aziz had been forced to look in her direction since that’s where the stage was. The clanging of drums by the energetic sweaty, long haired drummer couldn’t make him relax. The lead guitarist was said to be one of the best in the whole city and he was now showing off his skills in a dramatic showdown of fast moving fingers. Still, all he could hear were her oohs and ahs in appreciation of the music, and the clapping of her delicate hands every now and again.
Her finger nails were painted a bright red with henna decorating them all the way up to above her wrists. Her black dress had ridden a little above her knees now and her left leg was crossing over her right one such that he could see the part where the leg and the lower thigh joined together. That joint which was supposed to be seen only by a woman’s husband. Yet all night, all he saw was that joint. That joint. Her low heels were tapping against the metal of the bar stool in tune to the music, such that her dress was moving a little where it was caressing that joint. Every tap of the heel dug holes in his heart.
At the end of each song she clapped and cheered, her large silver earrings jiggling on the sides of her neck. He wished he could strangle that neck. The thought startled him for a little while but now that it was there he couldn’t shake it off. He wanted to strangle her so hard, that his blood rushed down excitedly towards below his waist. That neck, he would smell the perfume behind her ears and let it mess with his senses before strangling her. He would put his hands around her neck for not having glanced at him throughout the night，for acting as if he was not important. He would strangle her for not covering herself up like she should. He would strangle her for giving him a miserable night.
This story is a fiction version of Pakistan internet sensation, Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered by her brother in an honour killing.
Story written by Godess Bvukutwa. Godess enjoys creating powerful female characters in her work of fiction. And is forever in fear of boring readers of her non fiction pieces. She gardens, reads and plays with her daughter aside from writing.
Main Image created by Tendaishe Changamire