Whenever she is alone, and the whole house is empty, when everyone is away… everyone…? Like who? Her husband and children… The window sneaks up to her bedside and asks to be opened.
The window was not to be opened from the inside of the house. Rather, from the outside. She had to enter through a gate and walk down a long path. When she drew close to the window she would stop. That is how it happened the first time. The window seemed to call out to be opened. She started to walk towards the entrance door of the house, but could not go on.
It was as if the window had leapt after her, saying Open me! She retraced her steps to stand by the window. She knew that when she opened it she would find her children either sleeping comfortably in their cot or having breakfast sitting on the durrie in the courtyard. There would be toys scattered across the room and her husband would be standing somewhere in the courtyard or sitting beside the children’s cot. She smiled; and gently pushed one shutter. The window opened. She gathered the drape between her two fingers to make a peep-hole. All she saw through the gap was darkness. She stepped back and looked from a distance through the peep-hole. By the door which – when opened – let the light from the courtyard into the room, a man was standing. All she could see in the darkness was the man, hair dishevelled and eyes bulging, bending to raise something up from the floor. By the light of the window she saw what had appeared in the darkness to be a bundle of clothing, wriggling. She thought she heard the tinkle of glass bangles somewhere. She turned around, but there was no one there. She let go of the curtain and walked up and down the passage. Where had the sound of the bangles come from?
She darted back inside, making her way to the room with the window. The door was ajar. The window bolted from inside. The curtain hung just as she had dusted and drawn it three days earlier. In the courtyard her husband sat on the breakfast durrie with the children. The ayah was making rotis in the kitchen. Before she tossed the roti on the griddle, she pressed a lump of dough between her palms to flatten it out, her bangles tinkling, making the very sound she had heard in the passage. She gave a laugh, yes, this must be the sound. But then, the person standing inside the closed door…
She was still thinking about this when her husband, looking at her lovingly, picked up a morsel from the children’s plate and raised it to her lips. She laughed as she put it in her mouth and looked into the eyes of her husband that were smiling.
It has been a long time since she moved out of that house. She has even forgotten what she had seen there. But whenever she is alone, she passes along that path and stops at the window, which calls out to be opened. However, she never had the courage to open that window again.
Translated from Urdu by Durdana Soomro, Tehmina Ahmed, Imtiaz Piracha, Anas Mehmood and Faiza Rahman, with the author Azra Abbas, during the translation workshop in Karachi organized by the British Centre for Literary Translation in partnership with Oxford University Press and British Council Pakistan.