Adil wondered if the visitors knew they were not merely gazing at a sheet of canvas with colours and brushstrokes. That they were peering right into his soul.
His reverie was broken by art dealer Imraan. “Take a look at this,” he called, handing Adil a magazine.
“Adil is a rare talent. His art is a poetry of colours,” read Omar Rasheed’s review of his paintings.
“He is the influential art critic I’d told you about and he’d like to meet you,” Imraan told him.
Perhaps, this was it. The launch pad. “Inshallah,” Adil said. “This is incredible! I’ll meet him tomorrow.”
Over the next few days, Adil had become some sort of a celebrity. Photographed lunching with Rasheed, he was dubbed a ‘dark horse’ by the media. The world, which had always been a harsh testing ground, suddenly became his ally. Contemporaries, who had always undermined him, were fawning all over him. Used to being invisible, Adil found the sudden spotlight disorienting.
It was only Noor’s company he truly wanted. He finally had the chance to do something for her. That evening, Adil decided to go to a pawn shop. On his way, he found himself reminiscing.
“Noor, do not sell this. I know how important it is to you,” he’d begged.
“What you do is more beautiful than what I’m selling, Adil. I believe in you,” had been her resolute response.
As a struggling artist, he had had no choice all these years. He had been living hand to mouth. But Noor did not have to join him in those hardships. She had chosen to.
“Nine long years…” he muttered to himself.
Pocketing a velvet box, he walked out of the pawn shop. He drove straight home.
“You’re back early, how did the exhibition go?” Noor asked.
“Oh, the exhibition is a hit,” he said nonchalantly. “I missed you there.”
“I read Rasheed’s review in the magazine. I am so proud of you,” she said happily.
“Omar Rasheed bought one of my paintings today,” he replied smiling. “Come here, you. I want to give you something.” He pulled out a little blue velvet box from his pocket and opened it.
“Is that my grandma’s ring? After all these years? How–?” Noor’s voice choked.
“The very one you’d pledged nine years ago to fund my art,” Adil responded.
Noor embraced him. In that very instant, he knew he had done the right thing.
Adil had not wanted to sell that painting; it was something he had painted for her. But when the acclaimed art critic Omar Rasheed had asked him to put a price on it, he could not refuse. He owed that much to Noor.