There was hustle and bustle in the art gallery but she did not come yet, for whom I exhibited my paintings, dreams, life as well as myself. The people were trying to judge my secrets from these portraits. From a long time, these were hidden in my core. She elevated my work by her support. I was hearing admiring and criticizing sentences but my hearings were anxious to hear just one sentence from her lips whether that might be criticizing or appreciative. In her wait, my glimmering eyes became dull. With smiling face, I kept on standing on the gateway to greet her but my smile dispersed and I had to come back with trembling pace having no glimpse of hers. The famous businessman Mr. Hameedi was watching a painting and his voice captured my steps.
“Hello! Mr. Raza, your paintings are outstanding, you should exhibit these in London or U.S.A.” He said pleasantly and I smiled unwillingly.
“It’s… because of yours…. support and God’s almighty that I hit this fame.” I patched the broken lines.
Few steps ahead, film star Miss Tara was fascinated by one of the portrait.
“Hello! Mr. Raza.”
“Hello! Miss Tara.” With reluctance, I posed the smile.
“Mr. Raza, it’s a fantastic exhibition, you know…I am very fond of these pictures.” She talked in her unique style as usual. All were my guests and I could not leave them alone. Though I desired to burn all these portraits and flee towards a forest, where there should be a deep calmness. I was upset, my eyes sans sight and the body shivered. I rang up her many times but no response. The sun went down in an unknown valley and the evening set in. I turned back excusing for sickness. Many guests were expected tonight but my joys vanished like the foam on the water. The commending and criticizing sentences were echoing in my mind. I dialed her number, the bell went on ringing but no one attended. The night crept away as a turtle.
The other day, I wanted her presence here at every cost. Early, in the morning, I rang her again. Any stranger picked up the phone.
“Is there Miss Sidra?” I enquired.
“No, she didn’t come here at night. She is out of the city.” I was replied and I put down the phone. My heart was displeased from the beginning of the day. All the criticism and comments, each and every conversation I heard but my hearing remained deaf to hear her. At night, with bated breaths and shivering legs I arrived home. I laid down dismal and then my eyes opened at dawn.
I was busy to get ready for the office that the doorbell rang. She was the bell-ringer while I was the attendant. A frown appeared on my forehead. I turned back and she accompanied me,
“Do you behave so rudely with the guests?” Her soothing voice dominated over my senses.
“No, I behave rudely with the cheaters.”
“Cheater…” She was shocked.
“Yes, cheater, I exhibited my work, spirit and dreams; just for you as my special guest and you didn’t come.” I said emotionally.
“But I have not deceived you.” She replied.
“But you had promised to come.” I told.
“Raza...! Please try to understand. I didn’t come because of some problems.” She replied humbly and her face was red with regret.
“What’s the problem?” I asked scornfully.
“It’s very personal.” She spoke coldly.
“Ok, sorry for interference.” I replied angrily.
For a long time, there remained silence and her eyes were fixed on the portraits in my home. She sat on the sofa while I kept on standing in the hall. Then her voice echoed,
“Raza...! Sometimes a person is trapped in such ailments that he can’t get his place in the society and I am one of those.” She became silent for a while. “You are my friend and a friend always forgives, I hate large gatherings of people because my heart’s wounds become green and it’s intolerable for me therefore I couldn’t attend the exhibition.”
During all the conversation, the expressions of misery were apparent on her face. She had left away but I remained upset for a long time. With deserted heart, I reached the office and first of all, I dialed her. She attended the call and chatted laughingly forgetting all the glooms. She left a lot of questions for me and I kept on thinking about her depravations for a long.
Three years before, we happened to meet. She was my classmate in Fine Arts. She was a fashionable girl, going for long drives and a proud smile on her lips. One year passed silently out of two years course. She became attractive towards my portraits. One day we had an outdoor tour. I was unaware of the surroundings and was busy in painting the landscape that her voice echoed in my hearings.
“Your hands have magic.”
“Thank you.” I thanked.
“Please accept me in your apprenticeship.” She said pleasantly.
“I am student myself what will I teach you?”
“Just to write the name….” She replied jokingly and we both laughed.
Afterwards I began to support her in painting and we became fast friends. The days became playful and the life began to borrow the colours from different moments. The days passed together, walks in the evenings and after a dinner; she used to drop me on my flat. Then onwards, the night used to pass in phone chatting. The life was full of frolics that there happened a severe accident that not only distressed her but I too was bitterly disturbed. She was admitted in the hospital for many months and I left no effort to serve her. Her attitude and figure was changed. She was dispirited and her jolly face turned into gloomy one. I tried to heal up her miseries with encouraging words and got her out of this troublesome. When the life set up on the normal routine then I continued my paintings again.
She offered me for an exhibition, booked the gallery, made the paintings decorated by her servants but she did not attend the exhibition. In our long lasting friendship, she left me alone for the first time. I was in meditations that clerk’s voice interrupted;
“Sir, office time is over.” I startled half an hour had passed over and the file was opened before me as the same.
“Complex…No…such a jolly girl can’t have a complex?” Once few class fellows met me but I did not believe on their opinion.
“No, such a girl can’t be a psychiatric …?” I rejected all.
I thought a unique idea and decided to paint her portraits. After her permission, I began my work. When the portraits completed, I exhibited those at my home. These were 15 in number in different poses. She unveiled each picture with her hands. The joy was glittering on her face and she was thanking me again and again. In the last portrait, I had painted her full figure. Sensationally, she turned her hand on the painting and all her joy vanished. Her face turned pale and the eyes became wild. She carried the brush from the canvass and cut the right leg. She drew a long line harshly and it seemed like the sticks in her right arms. She saw towards me and cried wildly,
“Stupid artist..! The imperfect portrait is perfect now...!!!”