For A Houri’s Hand

Abu Siddik

- Abu Siddik

 “Walking almost fifty minutes on this dusty, bumpy, jarring street and you’re telling ‘only ten minutes leisure walk’ from the station! Where is your fragrant flower? Not a civil soul, only half-naked peasants squatting on both sides with funny faces hunting us; dull plain fields, non-descript rows of crooked huts,  ditches, bogs, brick-kilns, saw-mills, cow-sheds….” The potbellied, middle aged, fashionably clothed widower, wet in perspiration, stopped, gasped, wiped his forehead, looked grumpily at his mate, a bald, short, lean man of fifty.
“Sir, for such a scented hand, such a fair face, such an angelic item I can walk ten thousand miles!” the matchmaker giggled.
 “Item?” the widower scanned crossly.
“Sorry Sir, lady! For such a lovely lady, for such a soft bosom, for such a soothing voice!” he cut his tongue.
“How do I look?”
“Stunning, Sir! And the fat gold necklace is too enticing! A true symbol of manliness! Woo!”
The widower was pleased, paid the matchmaker his dues, lighted a cigar, and quietly smoked looking at the evening sky.
“Meditating anything particular, Sir?” tensely asked the matchmaker.
“Nothing….Ah…country life has its own charm, my friends say. But where is it?” he rued.
“A few steps ahead! We’re almost close to the celestial solace!” the matchmaker quipped.
“Can I win her?”
“You’ve already won her, owned her in dreams and thoughts!” he briskly took the bouquet from his master and they began trudging again.
They met a fine peasant in their way. The matchmaker offered him a smoke and he led them to a beer shop.
The sun had died. The children were still playing in a stubble-field. The air was musty and the sky grey, dull.
“Let’s pace up, Sir. We’re late!” pointed the matchmaker.
“Who is the groom?”
“You, Sir.”
“So? I can wait, and you….What kind of civility is this? Have you no manners? Am I a flying machine? A drink works its own! An Idiot can understand, and you…?”
The matchmaker said nothing and put on a doleful face.
A silence followed.
“Are you angry?” the widower broke the silence.
“I have no right. You pay Rs.500, and I have a family of four stomachs at home. It’s my job to serve the rich like you!” he moaned, and his eyes were teary.
“I don’t want to hurt you, brother. I only….”
“Don’t call me brother; I’m just a hired hand. If I don’t act, you’ll not pay,” sobbed the matchmaker.
“Ah! Stop, sip, and take a deep breath. Okay, Feeling fine? Let’s move.”
Ten minutes later they reached at the end of the shadowy street.
“Stop here, Sir. Let me check first.”
He knocked at the door. It opened with a jerk. A dark, stout, thick lipped, tall, bearded man with long hair barely dawned and asked with a slant in his eye, “Eh! What makes you shake a lady of honour at this hour of the night?”
“Eh, It’s o…o…only 7 o’clock in the evening,” he grumbled.
“Here it is midnight! Part, else I’ll unscrew your joints!”

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