Today I am delighted to be able to share with you an extract from No Honour by Awais Khan, as part of the Random Things Blog Tour. The extract itself has got me hooked and I can’t wait to read the rest of the book.
In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves.
When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore – only to disappear.
Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape.
‘Enough, Kalim. Let go of me now.’ Abida pushed against his chest, but only half-heartedly. In truth, she wanted him to hold her and never let go.
Kalim tightened his grip. ‘Really? A few moments ago you couldn’t get enough of me, and now you’re pushing me away.’ Abida giggled into his chest, breathing in his earthy scent, like sunshine and cinnamon. ‘Are you calling me devious, Kalim Sahab?’
He tapped his chin, breaking into a smile. ‘I suppose I am,’ he said, rolling on top of her.
Abida wished she could have held on to that moment for ever. It reminded her of the first time they had seen each other, in these same mustard fields. It was last June, a month when the sun scorched the earth. There had been no rains and the roads had baked in the constant heat, making it impossible to walk barefoot. With their homes heating up like furnaces, most of the village women had taken to spending time at the tube well, where cool, running water soothed their frayed nerves and short tempers. It was a place to relax, a place so far from the prying eyes of the village that the women could afford to remove the dupattas from their
heads and fling them in the water. There could be as many as twenty women playing in the small pool, taking turns to hold their heads beneath the running water. It was sheer bliss.
Abida had been soaked, her cotton kameez clinging to her, revealing every contour of her body. She knew she couldn’t face her father like that, so she walked through a nearby mustard field and lay in the shade of an old oak, waiting for her clothes to dry.
‘Just so you know, this oak tree is where the jirga meets sometimes.’
She almost leapt out of her skin. ‘Who’s there?’
A man emerged from the fields and stood before her with his hands on his hips. He was young, only a few years older than her, but what took her completely off guard was the way he pretended they were having a routine conversation. His eyes did not travel down her body like any other man’s would. Instead, he lowered his gaze. ‘My father is in the jirga and they’re all coming down here today for the meeting. It’s cooler here, away from the village, and this oak is a favourite.’ He held out his hand. ‘I’m Kalim, by the way. I just returned from Lahore.’
Abida had stared at him. He had good manners, but how on earth could he expect her to shake his hand. ‘I don’t know you.’ Kalim withdrew his hand as if remembering. ‘Ah yes, I sometimes forget. I’m Hafizullah’s son. I was studying in Faisalabad. You probably don’t even remember me, but I’ve seen you around. At least I think it was you. You’ve grown.’
Abida was now extremely conscious of the fact that she wasn’t wearing her dupatta.
As if on cue, he’d nodded at her dupatta drying on the ground. ‘You better get that and follow me. You don’t want to end up bumping into the men from the jirga in this condition. Not when they are probably going to be deciding the fate of women who’ve been’ – he clicked his fingers – ‘erm … naughty. To put it mildly.’
She was in such a daze, her heart pounding in her chest, the heat making her lightheaded, that she took his hand and let him lead her into the fields and away from the savage old men. The way Kalim had behaved that day was how her father would describe a gentleman.
There had been no turning back from there.
Now, Kalim lay on his side on the coarse blanket they had spread deep inside one of the mustard fields. Despite the arrival of spring, the bare earth was still cold to the touch. He watched her as she shook the insects off her clothes and started to put them on.
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