It was the beautiful morning of an early spring. The sun was perched just above its horizon, shining through a mild layer of smoky fog. The air was fragrant with freshly blossomed flower-buds; with the added aroma of pure butter parathas and freshly made ginger tea, spread on the large dining table in front of her with two high-calorie sweets topped with almond and pistachio.
She was impatiently looking at the grandfather clock hanging on the front wall of the capacious hallway, which was visible to her through a big bowed arch. The clock was slowly ticking at its measured speed, as if reluctant to go further. If she could be able to speed it up, she would have done it hours ago. Her patience was running thin. She had woken up at 6 am and was now freshly clad in a sky blue cotton hand-embroidered salwar kameez with a red dupatta carelessly draped around her slender neck. Her hair, still damp from an early morning bath, was curtaining her back as if with a thick layer of dark brown silk. Her plate was loaded with crusty buttered golden parathas and freshly whipped cream. A large glass of creamed sweetened butter milk was still filled to its edges with bubbly white foam on top.
The maids were engrossed in their daily routine work, busy with cleaning and dusting the intricate showpieces made of fine bone china and heavy copper.
She was continuously shaking her feet under the table while playing with the food in her plate.
“What’s the matter, janiye (endearment), why are you looking so zealous?” her father asked her, popping his head up from the newspaper through his reading glasses.
“Baba, you know how I love to go to the fields, and this clock isn’t helping,” she told her beloved father in annoyance.
The man, who was watching his only daughter lovingly, smiled at her afflicted state. He knew that his daughter loves her land dearly. It was running in her blood. No matter how much liberal they may have become, or how many factories they may have established; love for their croplands was still paramount for them. Their fields were still a matter of pride for them. They belonged to them.
“Ohh my love, who is stopping you then,” he asked his beautiful daughter, puzzled.
“Baba, I am taking Asma with me, so I have given her time that I will be at her home by 9,” she told her father, gulping small sips from her glass of butter milk.
“That’s really nice, I’m sure you will enjoy there. But child, be careful, the mud there is slippery nowadays, so do not run on the wet grounds. And once you reach there, ask one of the workers to help you in plucking the fruits. No climbing on trees and no playing in cold water of tube wells,” her father ordered her strictly. He knew his daughter’s adventurous etiquette.
“Okay baba, I will be careful. But I can’t promise you that I will not climb on the trees,” she said mischievously, with a full-blown smile lighting up her beautiful face. Her father shook his head at her overly excited state.
“Baba, I have to ask you something,” she said, focusing her eyes on her father’s domineering demeanor. “Would you mind if Asma’s brother accompanies us to the fields?” she stuttered.
“Well, why would he want to come with you?” the older man questioned her back.
“Umm, no baba, he doesn’t want to come with us. But Asma’s mother never allows her to go to the fields unescorted. For her it’s not safe for girls to go to such secluded places with no family around you. That’s why I had to invite him as well.” She reasoned her peculiar deed to her father while reading his facial outcome.
“Okay, that’s well. Nazi is a good boy. Perhaps he is a better company for both of you, as compared to Shareef. But come back before 4 in the evening, alright,” he told authoritatively.
She jumped off from her chair in utter delight and reached her father, hugging him tightly. “Thank you so much baba, you are the best.” Her voice was laced with adoration and love for her father.
As soon as the clock struck 8:30, she ran out of the haveli to find Shareef bhai, who was already standing near the big 90’s model Mercedes Benz.
“Shareef bhai, we will ride in baba’s Willys to the fields. In fact, I will drive the beauty from Asma’s home,” she tweedled cheerfully.
Shareef’s mouth fell on the ground after hearing her revolting notion. “Bibiji, we can’t take that vehicle. Sahab will never allow it,” he said in a hurry. Panic sizzled through his voice.
“Why not? It is my dream to ride that vicious vehicle,” she told him while glancing at the nearby parked raw beauty.
“But that’s not possible bibiji. The Willys is reserved for Saheb’s personal use and he is about to leave for Dilli with Zafar (another driver). You can ask him if you want,” he told her suggestively.
“Ummm, okay then, we should leave now,” she told her chauffeur after casting one last glance over the Willys. She couldn’t ask her father for driving that jeep. She knew her father would never allow her to take it. The vehicle was used for his personal visits to the factory, or sometimes in the rallies that he attended.