It was certainly an exceptional day for Asman, a day etched out in the black history of his life. It was just like any other winter evening. The cold wind wave had mustered all its strength to cast its spell on the streets of Lucknow. At 9:00 p.m., the roads were already deserted. Thick fog had descended almost blocking vision. In such a difficult situation, honking every now and then, softly whistling a low tune, Asman meandered his car through the opaque sheet of air.
Well I forgot to say Asman was returning home after a short tour on an official purpose. A very serious project was given to him to shoulder. It meant a ransom to the company he worked for – Mitigator. Master of all soft skills, Asman dealt with the clients not only with his expertise but also by his soft dealing.
Asman’s family had already started celebrating his success and waited eagerly for his return. His success would mean a jump in his salary. The humble standards of the family will perhaps now noticeably stretch. His five-years old child Kaif was running up and down laughing incessantly not understanding much why his mother Afreen was so happy after the brief phone call with his father. Asman worked in a private company never claiming a hike in his salary. This time before venturing forth with this project in hand he was assured a handsome rise at his success.
While on his way, Asman started dreaming of ways and means to meet ends of his family needs in a more comfortable manner. His father’s prolonged illness caused him to suffer financial drain. He could even pay off the EMI of the loan of his house. Today Asman mutely muttered thanks to the Almighty for giving him the monetary strength to revive his family from financial stress. Now he would again start paying off the loans to his creditor. Asman was happy since the management was very glad receiving a heavy tender to their name and credit. He adjusted his collar with pride.
All of a sudden, Asman shook at the site of an apparition. Oh! What a deadly vision it was! An unusually tall man clad all in white almost stopped his car. Asman got a jolt of life. His car came to a screechy halt. Beads of perspiration started dotting the parallel lines on his forehead. His limbs almost froze in fear when suddenly the apparition blended with the thick mist. “Was it an omen?”, Asman wondered.
For a little while, Asman couldn’t understand what was happening around him. Somehow he collected courage. He couldn’t afford to give in at such a time. Just a few more kilometers and he would be in the warm embrace of his family. Chanting the name of Allah, Asman sped up. He had already switched on the fog lights. Finally fighting against the oppressive weather, he reached home. Asman settled his heavy jacket over his ears before getting out of his old model car. Imagining how his meeting with his wife, son and his ailing father would be after five days of absence from home, his lips experienced a broad curve. He pulled out the large cadbury bar from his handbag which would be a welcome surprise.
Reaching his door, Asman could smell a change. The beautiful objects of art displayed on the wall outside the house had gone. Asman mused,”Afreen must be wanting a complete make over!” Softly he knocked the door twice his own way. For quite a long time, there was no response. Had they slept? Asman felt sorry for his wife. As such running for the family chores and maintaining everything single-handed was exhausting. This time he knocked louder and harder. He felt some heavy manly steps on the other side of the door. Asman’s heart started palpitating. He smelt danger with his family. Beyond expectation, a tall burly man opened the door raising his eyebrows many tires. Asman pinched himself. Did he come to his own house? He retraced his steps, studied the apartment from the outside all over again. There could be no mistake. This time Asman sensing the alarm strode up to the door and demanded “Who are you by the way? How could you occupy this house? Where is my family?” Asman remembered the apparition. He became more than sure that it was an indication of some evil that was in store for him.
The man inside the house was dressed in his night suit. With a heavy yawn he showed his disinterest to answer to Asman’s queries. He merely muttered a vague, unintelligible explicit. By this time Asman could feel the earth slipping underneath his feet. He was on the verge of collapse. Without delaying, he rang up his wife. Afreen was sobbing on the other end of the line. She explained how with her child and abba by her side, hooded by shame, she made her way to her parents after being turned out of their own dwelling,
Asman stumped the floor with disgust. The cadbury bar was flung against the wall. He understood that his failure in paying the loan for the last many months and his absence from home together resulted in his house to be taken away on lien. All his dreams started shredding before him like a house of cards. His eyes welled up. With a manly stride, Asman turned about for his Manager’s house. He took a firm decision that he would not let himself down before Afreen. Their dreams cannot be nipped at the bud.
The Manager, Mr. Bhaskaran shaken from his sleep listened to the story with absorbed attention. He always had a soft corner for Asman. On last Eid, Asman had invited Mr. Bhaskaran at dinner. The cute face of Kaif danced in front of his eyes. Such an injustice cannot be suffered by such a gentleman. He asked Asman the total due amount that had to be paid to his creditor to own the house. Asman hesitatingly said, “Two lakhs fifty thousand.” The amount was certainly huge for anyone to fish out from one’s locker. Yet Mr. Bhaskaran went inside, inspected his balance in the bank, thought twice how things would turn if Asman ran with the money. With a subdued smile on his face, Mr. Bhaskaran drew a cheque with the due amount and offered it to Asman. Asman did not understand what it meant. Bhaskaran rested his hand on his shoulder and assured that he could pay him back the money with absolute ease since his donor will never chase him up for the sum.
Asman lacked words to thank his Manager. He waited for the night under a rude shelter. The stars seemingly were comforting Asman and promising him a brighter day the next morning. The apparition had also dissipated from his mind. At the break of the day, Asman ran to his creditor. Just as Mr. Sarvesh opened the door, the man of soft skills Asman threw the cheque on his face and shouted at him, “How could you take such a bold step in throwing away my wife, son and my ailing father from their own house? How could you …?” Mr. Sarvesh was astonished to see transformed Asman. Fear started arising in his heart. His voice started melting to honey drops.
Sarvesh knew there was no escape from Asman who had become a ball of fire. He realised it is then when the family is assaulted that a man loses his cool. That is what had happened with Asman. Within the next four hours the formality for obtaining the property papers took place. The house on lien finally became Asman’s property. The sun had risen by this time pouring its strength on the parched Earth. Nothing stopped Asman from reaching his in-laws house where his family must have been sheltered with respect. As the sun set behind the horizon, Asman gracefully brought his family back to their own house. The chocolate bar still lay against the wall. Kaif ran up to the Cadbury bar and giggled gleefully. The family restored its calm and peace. That night was a night of heavy downpour. The painful days had gone. Asman would rise to a new seat and the house was theirs.