Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 6, 1987 p. 94.


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Shakila Rafiq

A ROOF OVERHEAD

Now who could have imagined that Shuja, of all people, whom she thought of merely as a friend, and only that, would have said such a thing. But he did This evening. Just as he was leaving. And it continued to unsettle her Although his question tugged at her mind now and then the rest of the evening, household chores and the children's needs didn't allow her much time to think about it Now in the stillness of the night, there was no escaping Shuja or his question She could picture him even with her eyes closed, while her mind echoed with the loud, sharp resonance of his question. Picking up his cup of coffee he'd asked, "Naiyar, can I ask you something9"

His tone was completely unexpected. Startled, she looked at him uncertainly and then said, "Yes, sure."

"Have you ever thought of living for yourself7 I mean just for yourse/f9"

"No," her reply was short, definitive, quick.

Shuja gave her a probing look. "You're lying," he said, but his voice lacked a certain conviction

"No I am not Not to you anyway Why would I9"

"Normally you don't lie, I know But right now " he hesitated, "right now you are I'm sure of it"

"Oh1 And what makes you so sure7"

"How can you possibly deny thinking about such an important fact—no, such an important neeof9" He still sounded a bit unsure

"Need—what need9"

"All kinds of needs You eat, don't you9 Well, that's one kind of need. You read a book when your mind needs nourishment And that's another kind of need. Then the needs of your own self " He deliberately left it incomplete A woman of Naiyar's intelligence would have no difficulty catching on to the implication of his words.

"What's the matter with you today9 You were talking sense, then all of a sudden, you're raving." She smiled, politely.

"Raving9 Not by a long shot On the contrary, I'm telling you the truth, God's own truth and I'd really like you to accept it." He sounded very confident

"What law says I have to agree with you9" she said, casually

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