It was a sultry day. The heat of the summer was morphing into the cooler evenings. It was now pleasant to sit under the trees outside the cafeteria and drink tea while munching on hot samosas and pakoras. The breeze was lazy and gently lifted the hair of the almost somnolent couple sitting at the tiny table. Sarah and Tanya were enjoying the evening. It had been a very hectic day for both of them and they were just enjoying the silence punctuated by the sounds of nature around them. An occasional giggle from other students or the sounds of the cafeteria sometimes intruded on their tranquility. But they were happy. Content to be in each other’s company for the evening.
Suddenly Tanya spoke up. “Do you know what day it is tomorrow?”
“Have no clue.” Said Sarah with a lazy smile not wanting to disturb the relaxed mood she was in.
“It’s the 14th Safar (2nd month of the Hijra calendar)”
“And? Am I supposed to know what that is? Do I jump for joy”
Tanya looked at Sarah pointedly. She wanted to be annoyed with her friend. But she thought that she was so cute when she tried to be funny. Emphasis on “tried”,
“It’s the Urs (death anniversary) of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. Thousands of people from Sindh come to pay respect to the Sufi saint on the occasion of his urs. Each year, the three-day ceremony begins with poetry marathons, literature conferences and other activities to celebrate the Sufi saint’s poetry. And it lasts for three days.
The main features of the festival are prayers, music, exhibitions, literary conferences, and horse races. Many renowned singers and musicians attend. It’s like an ethnic rock fest!!!”
That sounds interesting. But I doubt that I would get permission to go there. Especially if there will be a massive crowd.” Sarah looked forlorn. Tanya looked at her bowed head with an affectionate smile.
“Would you be allowed to go if you had someone take you there and ensure your safety?”
Sarah looked up with a speculative glint in her eyes. “Tanya! You are a genius! My father comes to these Urs’s every year to recruit men for the army. I am sure he would be there. He could take us if we asked him to!”
Tanya started to laugh. Not a polite gentle laugh but a deep belly laugh that ended with her wiping the tears of mirth from her eyes.
“Sarah, I am a grown up. I don’t need daddy dearest to chaperone me.” She continued to laugh. Sarah looked at her as if she had gone completely mad.
“I mentioned the Urs because I have been asked to monitor it. More and more women attend every year, so having a policewoman instead of a bevy of policemen to look after the women attendees as well as those of the female persuasion who commit petty crimes is supposedly a good idea.” Tanya continued to grin. “I just wanted to ask you if you would like to go with me this year.”
Sarah suddenly understood why Tanya found the situation hilarious. Here she was trying to invite her to the Urs festival, and on the other hand she was thinking of her father. Just like a child. She really had to grow up she thought as she shook her head. She started to laugh along with Tanya.
“But I would still have to let my father know Tanya. If he sees us at the festival he might get upset. I am after all supposed to be chained to my books in the college. Aren’t I?” Sarah gave Tanya a saucy wink.
“Anyway, I would love to go with you. I will apply for three days leave this evening and will also let my father know that we will meet him there.”
Tanya was not very happy that Sarah’s father would also be at the Urs, but she understood her logic. It was better to go with proper permission that to sneak around. Even if they were not doing anything wrong. She looked forward to the three days of color and festivity with Sarah. The lineup of superstars promised to be entertaining. Yes, she did look forward to the festival in more ways than one.