"Assalam o Alaikum." I heard the principal greet them before he turned to me, "Miss Hira. These three gentlemen wanted to meet you. So, let's have a seat before starting the introduction." Nodding nervously, I took the seat where I was sitting before, while all men settled themselves on the sofa set of the office.
"Miss, why don't you join us here?" The man with tanned skin said, pointing towards an empty single sofa near them with a smile, a smile of which has become very familiar to me now - The smile of Zulqarnain Shah.
Again, I nodded my head and slowly sat on the sofa.
"You don't have to be nervous. We aren't here to blame you or anything. We are here for our boys." The principal said to me.
I gave him a questioning look and received several chuckles.
"You haven't noticed I guess. My full name is Wajahat Rehman, father of Zaid Rehaman." The principal announced and my eyes went wide. I looked at Zulqarnains's father and he nodded in agreement with an amused smile.
"Hira, for now, forget completely that you know both of us. We are here to meet our boys' teacher. But before that, we want to apologise to you as it's because of their stupidity you have suffered."
"No Uncle, it's-"
I tried to protest but the person in the beige coloured shirt stopped me by saying. "He is right Miss Hira... Sorry for cutting you in the middle, I am the father of Tahir, Azam." Unlike Tahir, his father seems like a very different man and now I think Tahir got his looks from his mother, as his father doesn't have many similarities. Not even the slightest like how Zaid has his father's hair and well, Ahmar is a copy of his father, same tanned skin, tall figure and hard facial features, unlike Zulqrnain's soft features and a fair complexion.
I raise my gaze to the fourth man in the room. He is wearing a white coloured Kurta Shalwar. Tall and slim, just like Faiq. When our eyes met, he speaks up. "I am Abdul Rehman, Faiq's father." I smiled, nodding my head in acknowledgement.
"Hira, we want to know what happened that day. The whole truth. Because they aren't going to get away with this. Covering them up for the pranks they make is understandable but it's time for them to learn that pranks should remain within limits. The status of a teacher in our society is greater than what today's generation take for. " Uncle said in a serious tone.
"Don't try to be a hero..." Ahmar's words echoed in my mind and I went silent for a minute.
"The status of a teacher is not some holy law that will remain the same forever." I felt my voice coming from a distance, so low and timid. "It is the same as other things and a teacher should work hard for it... Teachers lost their status in our society because we let it. It was a work of Prophets, they were sent to creations of Allah as teachers and we were supposed to be their followers. There were reasons why teachers are called spiritual parents in our society, but we lost them all. We made this profession a business, which it shouldn't be. We sell our knowledge and as a result, we have lost our wisdom. A teacher without wisdom isn't a teacher at all... That's what I believe. I don't think it's entirely the student's fault, Sir. We are responsible too. Educators are supposed to be the people who shape society, not the ones who put blame on kids and their parents and sat idly... What happened that day was a result of the misconceptions they have made in their minds and we didn't try to change it. I thought I could make a difference if I use a different approach, but... I think I am not experienced enough. So, let them go this time" I raised my hopeful gaze to them and after a long moment of silence, Sir Wajahat speaks.
"Hira, I respect your thoughts, but I cannot do that. As a principal, I have to take some action to make my staff feel secure and to make sure that no student would ever dare to do the same as them."
"No more arguments, Hira."
"But Sir, it's not only their fault." Guilt and fear start bubbling up in me.
"Then would you take responsibility?"
"Wajahat." I heard a whisper yell from Tahir's father.
"Yes." I said after a short pause.
"Good. From today till the end of this year, you are tutoring all four of them."
"Ji?! (What?)." My eyes widened.
"You said you will take responsibility."
"Sir, they hate me." I blinked twice, unable to believe what I am hearing.
"Then they will learn to tolerate people. Best of luck, Miss Hira. They will be joining you by tonight and I hope it is fine with all three of you too?" Sir Wajahat turned his face to the rest of the men but his voice was stern. Implying 'Don't dare to go against me' and they all nodded in affirmative.
"Why are you so nervous, Hira?" I heard Uncle's voice from the seat next to me and I raised my head to him.
"Who? Me? No uncle, not at all." I forced a fake smile.
"Then what's with the pale face?"
"Pale?" I touched my face unconsciously and received a chuckle from Uncle.
"Relax, beta (child)." He said and I nodded.
"Do you know how odd you are looking right now, after the great speech you just gave in the office?" He asked as he is speeding up the car. He turned out to be a completely different person from what I had imagined. Especially after watching how his sons behaved around him. He waited for me after the meeting to drive me home, but he ended up dropping Mishal too on our way home.
"They don't like me, Uncle." I sighed.
"Then make them. If you are able to change an idiot like Zulqarnain, then you can change them too."
"Zulqarnain is not an idiot." I said before I realised it.
"Siding your friend?" He asked in an amused voice and I felt like someone splashed cold water on me.
Why the hell am I taking that idiot's side???
"Don't worry, you will be fine. And besides, we will be there for you if they go out of control again." He consoled.
"Thank you." I smiled, unsure whether on his kindness or my stupidity of opening up myself.
"Auntie, so you have dinner in the house?" I asked awkwardly when I saw her telling Zulqarnain on the phone to bring something from the market for dinner. A thought crossed my mind of what her guest would think when they find out about me.
"Yes, your Ahmar's dad told me that you will be tutoring the boys from now on and they will be coming here to study. So I thought why not we eat together today. It's been a while since I met them." Auntie told me excitedly.
"Oh!" I said and start walking towards the kitchen to make tea. I slept like a dead log after uncle dropped me home. I skipped my lunch and right now I really need something to fill my stomach.
"Ary beta! Where are you going? Tea is here. I asked the maid to prepare it with some snacks. Thought you might be hungry after waking up." On hearing her voice, I bit my lip and made my way to Auntie who was sitting in the living room.
"Auntie, don't spoil me like this. It would be painful later when there will be no one to do this after I left." I said, sitting on the couch near her.
"What do you mean by 'left'?" She frowned, "The only time you'll be leaving is when we marry you off like how we'd do to our daughter."
My body and mind froze on hearing the word 'marry'. Baba was so worried about my marriage. He used to say that he will die in peace after he sees me happy with my husband.
Does that mean he didn't die in peace?
Without control, my vision got blurred and a tear dropped from my eye, which I managed to hide from Auntie.
"Who is getting married?" We both jumped on hearing Zulqarnain's voice from the entrance.
"Insaano ki trhan ki aasakte? (Can't you come in like normal people?)" Auntie scolded him.
"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you... Assalam o Alaikum." He said as he is striding toward us and took a seat opposite mine after he puts the things he bought from the market.
Answering his Salam, I raised my gaze and found him looking at me with a bright smile.
Someone is happy...
"So Ami. What were you talking about?" He asked Auntie while taking out his phone from his pocket.
"Your friend's marriage." Auntie smiled and I change my position awkwardly.
"Which friend?" Zulqarnain asked in confusion.
"The only friend of yours who is close to me... I am talking about Hira."
"Auntie please..." I gave her a pleading look to change the topic.
"You are getting married?!" I heard Zulqarnain's surprised voice and turn to him. He was staring at me like my marriage is the most impossible thing in the world.
"Ary n-" I tried to explain but couldn't go any further.
"You cannot marry!" He said in disbelief with his eyes still wide open.
I stare back at him in surprise.
"Tumahra dimagh kharab hoagaya hai? (Have you lost your mind?). What are you saying?" Auntie glared at him.
"Huh? What?" He looked back and forth between me and Auntie like someone woke him from sleep. "Sorry! I didn't mean what I said... I mean... I mean what I said is because... she cannot marry someone....no wait... what I meant is that.... she cannot marry someone until I approved the guy." He said in a quite strange manner.
"Why? Who are you to approve?" Asked Auntie.
"Her friend. She is just a girl, Ami. Who knows what she might get herself into. She should be more careful."
Just a girl???
My surprised expression turned to an annoyed one and I silently glare at him. On the other hand, he was restlessly changing his position on the sofa.
"She is a big girl and she has the right to marry whomever she likes. You can't do anything about it. You kids start eating, I will be back after praying." Auntie said and gets up.
"Just a girl, huh?" I narrowed my eyes on him, as soon as Auntie was out of our sight.
Let's see how you deal with this 'just a girl', Mr Muhammad Zulqarnain Shah...