The Girl Sipping Coke by journalism student Abdul Muiz Nauman

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A young girl at the wedding

On a sun-kissed autumn morning in the naval complex of Islamabad, a young boy is watching his father clean his 1979 Yashica FX-3 camera. The family had travelled here from Lahore for a family wedding and were staying in the house of one of the bride’s neighbours, a common practice at the time in Pakistan, as staying in hotels was considered impolite. Construction was underway on the floor above them, and the muffled sounds of the machinery, and the footsteps of the workers busy at work were oozing through the ceiling. All the components of the camera were sitting on a dirty old cloth laid out on a chipped brown study table on the floor below, each part intricately labelled to remember its place and patiently waiting to be taken home. 

The boy’s father was preparing for the nights event. It was his niece’s wedding. The first wedding of the generation after his, and he was excited to photograph the event. 

Memories he called them. 

A single frame that can hold countless memories. Forever. 

“What does this one do, Abu?” asked an 18-year-old Nauman, pointing over his father’s shoulder, at a long black cylinder. 

He knew what it was. He knew he was staring at the 35mm lens that came with the camera.  He just wished to make conversation with his father. 

Nauman had a small build, with skinny arms and legs; he looked young for his age, younger than 18. He wore a red flannel shirt, tucked into his light brown jeans, held in place by his aging brown leather belt. His thick black hair heavily gelled and parted to his right side. He was trying to look older, but the freckling of his facial hair was fighting against him. Nauman was immensely interested in photography, and all he wanted was to show his father that they had a shared interest. That to him, the world is not just girls, cars, and music. But his father seemed disinterested.

“Beta, this is the lens. You see this part here? The lens attaches onto this part of the cameras body, and this is what I use to see what pictures I am taking,” his father rigidly explained to him. 

He was not a resolute man, but he carried a sense of sternness in the tone of his voice. Nauman took this as a sign that his father did not wish to talk and walked away. He wanted to tell his father that he would also be taking a camera to the wedding. But he did not wish to begin an argument, so instead, he stayed quiet. 

As the day carried on, the wedding was only hours away and Nauman and his sisters were frantically fighting over the one good bathroom. Each of them holding the clothes they would be wearing at night; they all wanted a go with the good shower, but Nauman knew that his sisters would take hours in the bathroom, so he tried his hardest to get his way. 

“No! I need to go first! Both of you will take hours, and I just need a quick shower!” Nauman exclaimed. 

His patience was wearing thin, but he was not going to give up so easy 

“You can’t always get your way Nomi! It’s our room so one of us should get to go first!” Saadia only called him Nomi when she was angry with him. 

“I’m the oldest! Of course, I should get my way,” he retaliated fiercely.

Six-year-old Hania was still used to getting bathed by her mother so when she explained that both of them can just shower together, Saadia and Nauman both thought it appropriate to leave her out of the discussion. 

“Just go away!” Saadia was getting irritated now. It was true. It was the girls’ room. But it was still the only good bathroom that either of them could use. 

Finally, Nauman gave up and let his sisters have their way. He decided to run to his parents’ room. It was risky, but he could get in a quick shower before they decided to hop in. 

Hours had finally passed, and it was time for the wedding. 

In the centre of the naval complex, stood an empty spot of land. The bride’s family had chosen this place to hold the event. On that plot of land stood a tent made of pure white cloth that seemed to be held by an unknown force, pinching it from its tip. Inside, the tent was split right down the middle, leaving an empty pathway for the bride and groom to walk on once they made their entrance. Every single surface on the inside seemed to be adorned with bright white lights, to ensure that nothing of the spectacle will be missed due to the darkness outside. Music was being played at unimaginable volumes as young boys wearing suits and ties chased young girls in their traditional wedding attires, the Lengha

Since both the bride and groom came from military families, the tent was filled with army members and staff. Every other man seemed to be wearing an army uniform, decorated with medals and ribbons. The groom’s brothers were appointed with the task of entertaining the men at the event, whereas the wives were directed towards the women. 

The groom’s brother Sammi was busy with some guests, and his wife with others, which left their three young daughters in the hands of the bride’s sister Sidra. Sidra was only 16, but being the most suitable girl for the job, she was asked to look after the three girls. 

“Come on girls! This way!” she shouted playfully as three feeble young girls awkwardly paced behind her. 

She wanted to keep the girls entertained, and on their feet so they would tire easily, so that she could put them to sleep. The three girls soon proved to be tougher than she had thought, so they all sat down near the food. 

Sidra was thirsty, but she knew she could not afford to ruin her dark grey dress; it was, after all, hand made by her mother. 

With a face full of makeup, 4-inch long high-heel shoes and a pure gold necklace, Sidra decided that staying thirsty was not worth it, if she had to stay with the girls all night. So, she went to grab a coke. As she sat back down, 5-year-old Shiru looked at her with sad longing eyes and asked for a quick sip. 

Sidra could not say no to her. Shiru was spending her time with a complete stranger, while her parents were off entertaining guests, so she handed her the bottle. Seconds later, the girls all noticed a bright flash of light go off next to them, and they all quickly turned to see where it came from. They soon realized that the source of the flash had been Nauman in his black skinny-fitted suit. 

“Oh… I’m sorry… I just wanted a picture. I didn’t know the flash would go off” he sounded nervous, as his palms became sweaty. 

“Oh… Next time just ask. We won’t say no” Sidra replied sharply. 

Both Sidra and Nauman spent the rest of the evening talking to each other. Exchanging family stories and rumours. Talking about their future plans and ambitions. Sidra wanted to be a teacher. Nauman wanted to work in a bank. They both had a pleasant night, both completely unaware that they were talking to the person they would one day marry.