This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination.
Noor’s kohl-rimmed eyes followed Haider everywhere. He would get up early at dawn for his work. Her furtive gaze was interspersed with blushes as he made his way around her palatial house to the artisan’s camp. Haider knew Noor was a woman any man would dream to be with. Her sublime beauty can only be rivalled by the purity of her heart. He knew in his heart that he loved her. However, it was a desire beyond his reach. He was a bonded slave who pledged his life to work for the Emperor. Love and marriage are seen as deterrents to his work and are forbidden. Ever since he turned down her advances, their love was reduced to silent gazes and an unfulfilled dream.
Haider was exceptionally gifted with a prodigious talent for architecture and the design of forts and monuments. He earned a high reputation among his peers and worked directly under the master architect of the Royal Emperor. He was present in the Court hall on the day when the Emperor unveiled his grand plan and vision for a new monument in the capital city. It was unprecedented and required the best artisans and craftsmen of its time. Haider saw it as an opportunity and worked on it sleeplessly for months. The designs were personally selected by the Emperor who was impressed with Haider. He granted him a direct audience one day and appreciated his work. However, the Emperor said that his designs were inspired and he wanted something original and breath-taking. So Haider was given a month to complete this task.
Disappointed at every design he studied, Haider spent several days at his study working on the new design. After a few days, he knew he was struggling. He would hide in his house without food or water for days. He tore apart his designs which were either inspired or clichéd and was desperately looking for new ideas. Time was running out.
Noor couldn’t see Haider for many days and was worried. One day when she saw him in the bazaar, she went quickly and confronted him. His face was pale and lifeless. She asked what was bothering him but he wouldn’t answer. She kept following and pestered him with questions. He then pulled her into a desolate street and warned her not to look for him again. She exclaimed that she loved him and will continue to love him. He saw her fierce and deep gaze and was astounded by the intensity of her love. He then steadied himself to tell her the truth. “I am a Hindu by birth. I was an artisan in the neighbouring kingdom which was annexed by the Emperor. I was enslaved and was forced to convert to Islam”, he said controlling his anger and tears. “I cannot afford to love and live a life of my own. Now tell me if you still love me?” She was stunned into silence with tears running down her face. Haider left her and walked in dejection to his house.
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