C H A P T E R   T W O

        The rain poured down all night inside him. The dense clouds of memory seemed to come from every direction. Now the sky was washed and soft. Here and there a cloud swam contentedly in it, like a bright face, a soft smile. How deeply self-absorbed he was! For him, the outer world had already lost its meaning.  Seated at the breakfast table, he ran an indifferent eye over the headlines and slid the newspaper toward Abba Jan.
        Abba Jan had already eaten breakfast, and was absorbed in the Urdu newspaper. When Zakir sat down at the table, Abba Jan looked at him with surprise. "Zakir, don't you have to go to the College today?"
        "Yes I do. But I woke up late."
        "Then eat your breakfast quickly and go." With these words, Abba Jan again turned to his newspaper.
        He had certainly woken up late today, but he still wasn't in any hurry. He had washed and dressed at a leisurely pace, now he was eating breakfast at a leisurely pace.
        Ammi came and felt the teapot: "Hasn't it gotten cold?"
        "No, it's not so cold yet, it'll do," he said, testing the pot with his palm and cupped fingers to make sure.
        "Son, from now on please have your breakfast early! After all, I'm by myself. I have to do all the housework alone." Then at once she addressed Abba Jan: "Well, what have they written about Dacca?"
        "There's no special news."
        Turning away from Abba Jan, she slid over to Zakir the English newspaper lying nearby: "Son, look in the English newspaper! There must be something in it?"
        He again glanced over the newspaper and said indifferently, "No news worth mentioning."
        "Oh dear, then how will we get word of your Khalah Jan? There's not even any news coming from there!"
        "Trust in Him." Abba Jan gestured with a finger toward the sky.
        "Yes indeed, I trusted Him!" Ammi said with bitter anger. "Trusting Him was what brought me to this pass!"
        Abba Jan looked gravely at Ammi, and then reprimanded her: "Zakir's mother, a single heedlessly-spoken sentence is enough to wipe out a lifetime of piety."
        Repentantly, Ammi lowered her head. She fell silent. Then she began another topic: "Well, do you remember what I said to Batul then?"
        "What did you say when?"
        "When we left."
        "Zakir's mother, when was the time you're remembering? I don't remember what you said to whom at the time!"
        "Well, you may not remember -- I remember every single word spoken at the time! The moment we arrived here I wrote her, 'You come here, God is the Provider.' She was ready to come here, but Tahirah's husband was so crazy that he went to the East instead. The poor thing had to go there too, for her daughter's sake."
        "Zakir's mother! Hazrat Ali, peace be upon him, always used to say, 'When wishes are thwarted, I recognize my Lord.' Our wishes are dependent on His pleasure; what He desires, that's what happens."
        Ammi once more fell silent and lowered her head, as though she bowed before the Divine will.
        Abba Jan turned to him: "Perhaps you don't have to go to the College today?"
        "I'm just going." Hastily he finished his last sip of tea, and rose.
        Leaving the house, he stopped at the corner of the lane, at Nazira's shop. Coming and going, he always stopped at that shop and bought cigarettes.
        "Zakir, sir! There's a lot of trouble today," Nazira said abruptly, giving him the packet of cigarettes.
        "And wasn't there trouble yesterday?"
        "But today there's a lot of trouble."
        Today there was, in fact, a lot of trouble. When he reached the College he saw that here and there the big clay flowerpots had been smashed to pieces, the classrooms were empty, and the glass panes of the doors had been shattered, with broken glass lying both inside the classrooms and outside on the verandahs. The boys had disappeared. Where had they gone, all the boys? It seemed that all of them, shouting slogans, wreaking havoc, had left the college and run off somewhere else. He went to his office, sat down, and remembered which lecture he was supposed to give today. But how could he give a lecture today? Pointlessly, aimlessly, he opened the drawer and shuffled some papers; he opened the books on the table and glanced through them, then closed them and put them aside. He couldn't decide what to do. He had left the house richly drenched in memories, self-absorbed, detached from the outside world. But in the time it took him to arrive here, the outside world had gradually taken on meaning. Now it was no longer possible for him to take advantage of the leisure and solitude to sit at his ease, smoking a cigarette, and lose himself in the world of his memories. Seeing the college all topsy-turvy, he felt a kind of oppression. Now what's to be done? All right, I'll go to the Shiraz. Perhaps the group might be there. No matter what, Irfan ought to be there at this hour. He stood up.
        In a little while, he was in the Shiraz, sharing confidences with Irfan. Irfan was astonished!
        "But after all, who was she?"
        "She just was, and that's enough."
        "And until now you've never even mentioned her?"
        "I'd forgotten her. How could I have mentioned her?"
        "You'd forgotten her?" Irfan looked at him in surprise.
        "Yes, yar, I'd forgotten her. And a lot of time has passed."
        "So why have you remembered her now?"
        "This is the season when all my memories are returning. All kinds of forgotten things, from I don't know when, are coming back to me."
        "Now, when there's so much turmoil everywhere?"
        "Yes, now when there's so much turmoil everywhere." He paused, then spoke again. "Do you know what my mother does nowadays? Every morning when the paper comes, she asks what news there is from Dhaka. You know, don't you, that some of our relatives had settled in Dhaka? My Khalah Jan. So my mother is worried all the time, and every morning when the paper comes, she asks what news there is from Dhaka. And when she doesn't get a reassuring answer, she remembers that when we arrived here she wrote Khalah Jan a letter and advised her to come here: 'Don't go to the back of beyond, come here.' And then all kinds of forgotten bits of stories from the time of Emigration come to her mind."
        "Then she's in Dhaka?" Irfan hazarded a guess.
        "No, she never came to Pakistan at all."
        "She didn't come to Pakistan? I see." He fell into thought. "And since then you haven't been to India?"
        "Then indeed a lot of time has passed."
        "That's just what I'm thinking." His voice sank to a whisper. "A lot of time has passed."
        "The procession is coming!" A group of frightened people entered with the news.
        "Procession?" Various people sitting at the tables pricked up their ears.
        "Yes, it's a very big procession. It's coming along breaking up things in its path."
        Everybody sitting in the Shiraz was alarmed. A number of them rose and quickly left. Abdul shot out of the kitchen like an arrow, closed the door in an instant, and drew the curtains over the panes.
        "Today there seems to be more trouble than usual," Irfan muttered.
        "Well, yesterday's rumor turned out to be false."
        "But yesterday people took it as absolute truth."
        "Yes, yesterday it seemed to be absolutely true."
        "News and rumors both have a one-day lifespan. The next day, what difference does it make if you find out that it wasn't news but rumor, or that it wasn't rumor but news?"
        Salamat and Ajmal entered by way of the kitchen. Salamat cast a ferocious glance all around, swept his pointing finger around the room, and said loudly, "I ask why the door is shut, and why the curtains are drawn, and why it's dark!"
        Irfan glared at Salamat and said coldly, "Because there's a lot of noise outside."
        Salamat looked ferociously at both him and Irfan: "Yes, and because you don't want to hear the voice of the people! But, you imperialist devil, this voice can no longer be suppressed. It will come ripping its way through curtains, and it'll burst your eardrums too!" Then he called out, "Abdul!"
        Abdul swiftly emerged from the kitchen. "Yes sir?"
        "Abdul! Open the door, and draw back the curtain."
        "And let some light and air come in from outside. Light, air, and the voice of the people!" Ajmal added encouragingly.
        "Don't open the door. The procession is very rowdy," a voice came from a distant table.
        Salamat said furiously, "The masses are enraged against the capitalists and the imperialist flunkies!"
        Then Salamat and Ajmal both sat down at his and Irfan's table.
        A white-haired man, who had been sitting alone for some time drinking tea, got up from his place, approached, and said, "You're educated young men. Please tell me, what's all this that's happening?"
        Salamat looked contemptuously at him and said, "What's happening is what ought to happen."
        The white-haired man stared at Salamat's face. Then he sighed, "God have mercy upon us," and went back and sat down in his place.
        "Yar," said Salamat, "I feel that this white-haired man is even more ignorant than my white-haired father."
        "My father," said Ajmal, "is more ignorant than your white-haired father and this white-haired man put together."
        "But my father is not my father." Salamat ground his teeth. "I'm a bastard."
        Ajmal announced, "I refuse to consider my father as my father."
        "Yar, our disgusting fathers have ruined us." Salamat's voice was suddenly tearful.
        Ajmal looked at Irfan, then at him: "Say something, you two."
        Then Salamat grew angry again: "They think that by staying silent they can save their disgusting fathers, and the bastard sons of their disgusting fathers, from the firing squad of time." He pounded on the table. "But it can't be done!"
        "Salamat Sahib, you're sitting here," an acquaintance said, coming in through the kitchen, "and there in Gol Market the liquor shop is being looted."
        Ajmal gave a start. "Really?"
        "Yes indeed, I've just come from there. Liquor is running in the gutters, and dogs are lying around dead drunk."
        "Then we've missed our chance again," Ajmal murmured regretfully. He poked Salamat. "Come on, yar. Let's at least go see."
        "Go where? To see what?" Salamat said irritably. "We don't have to go to looted liquor shops to see dogs lying dead drunk! Where's the lane in which you can't see dogs lying dead drunk?" Then he gave the surrounding tables a look so fiery that it shot out sparks, and yelled, "Dogs! You'll have to wake up now! The day of reckoning is here:  you'll have to account for yourselves. You, me, everyone."
        "Except me," Afzal said comfortably. Entering, he had heard Salamat roaring; he had come and stood by the table in silence. Now he slid a chair over and sat down opposite Salamat, and said, looking him in the eye, "Mouse! Why are you standing up on your tail? I'll have to settle accounts with you! I'm only waiting for a bamboo flute."
        "For a flute, and for the city to burn down!" Salamat said angrily.
        "The city's burning right now." Afzal closed his eyes, then opened them and spoke as though from another world. "Mice! You'll rue the day when I come here with a flute in my hand! I'll come and command you to listen to what the flute is saying. I'll command you mice to follow me. You'll come out of your holes and follow me, until I reach the ocean, and I'll command the ocean, 'Ocean! Take these mice!' and in a single swallow the ocean will suck all you mice down into its maw."
        "Nonsense," Salamat sneered.
        "Yar, what's the point of wasting time here? Come on, let's go to Gol Market." Ajmal seized Salamat's arm, and they went out.
        "Salamat is a disgusting person," Afzal muttered, "and Ajmal too, and that flunky Zavvar too, who's become even more disgusting now that he's an officer. That whole tribe is made up of disgusting people." Afzal paused to look at Zakir and Irfan, who sat in silence. "Yar, you two are good people, beautiful people. How rare beauty has become in the world! Myself for one, and then the two of you. Only three beautiful people."
        "From those three, strike out my name," Irfan said with distaste.
        "You'll regret it!" Afzal gave Irfan an angry look.
        "I know the list is yet to be greatly expanded," Irfan said venomously.
        Afzal gave him a steady stare. Abdul came by, making an inspection tour of various tables. He saw Afzal, and said respectfully, "Afzal Sahib, you've come? Shall I bring tea?"
        When Abdul started to leave, Afzal addressed him: "Abdul, you're a good person." He pulled a diary out of his pocket, opened it and wrote something, then said, "On this date, I struck Irfan's name from the list of good people, and wrote your name instead." Then he addressed Irfan: "From today, you're an ugly person. And remember that the world is never without beautiful people."
        Abdul silently slipped away. In a little while, he came back with a glass of cold water: "Here, Afzal Sahib, sir! Have some water."
        Afzal looked gratefully at Abdul. "Abdul! You're a beautiful person." He drank the water, then asked, "Where did those two disgusting men go?"
        "In Gol Market the liquor shop has just been looted. They went there, and you have to go there too," Irfan said in that same venomous voice.
        Afzal gave Irfan a silent angry glare, then rose and went out.
        "Yar, Afzal is a free spirit. Why do you tangle with him?" Zakir said.
        "A free spirit?" Irfan muttered. "Who here is a free spirit?"
        "I mean, he's a free-wheeling type. He's not a political hack by any means."
        "Yar, it's like this: I can't stand fake revolutionaries, and I can't stand fake prophets either."
        "Then who's genuine?"
        "They're all fake, including me." Irfan paused, then asked, "Do you know how much Comrade Salamat's bank balance is?"
        "Salamat's bank balance? Yar, he's the penniless type. What work does he do, to earn enough to have a bank balance?"
        "Zakir, you don't realize. He does a great deal," Irfan said meaningfully, and then fell silent.
        "Yar, I don't understand any of this."
        "What is there not to understand? Nothing is hidden any longer. It's written on people's foreheads who they are and what they're doing." Then in a different tone he said, "Well, yar, let's drop the subject."
        "Yes, yar, what's it to us?"
        "Yes, what's it to you? You're somewhere else nowadays." Irfan, whose face was still quite tense, relaxed a bit and smiled. "Zakir, have you been getting any letters from over there?"
        "Letters? No."
        "What I mean is, since coming here you must surely have written. And you must have gotten an answer?"
        "No," he said shamefacedly. "I haven't written. And no letter has come from her."
        "You mean from that time till now there's been no correspondence, no exchange of messages at all?"
        "And now you're remembering her? Yar, you're a wonder!"
        Really, how strange it is, he thought. Since coming here I haven't written to her, nor has she written to me. The thick cloud of memories again began to envelop him. A dimly lit road, then complete darkness, then an illumined zone, a glowing memory.

        How tall Sabirah had grown, and how her bosom had swelled out, so that now she always kept it covered with her dupattah, but those two round swellings still made themselves apparent. Their conversations were sometimes loud, sometimes soft -- sometimes so soft that his voice became a whisper and Sabirah's cheeks reddened with embarrassment. After returning to the College, on Surendar's advice he wrote her a long letter.
        "Zakir! Did you mail the letter?"
        "Yar, I mailed it, but -- " He stopped in mid-sentence.
        "But what?"
        "Yar, what if she understands?"
        "Why else did you write the letter? You wrote it so she'd understand."
        "Yar, if she understands, then -- ?" He broke off in the middle.
        "Then what will happen?"
        "She'll think that -- "

        The sound of someone banging on the door: "Open up!" Suddenly returning from the illumined zone of memory, he looked around in the dimly lit atmosphere. Someone was banging on the door, and the people sitting at the tables were watching the door anxiously.
        "Don't open it, the procession is nearby."
        "There's no telling who it is!"
        "It's people from the procession, don't open the door."
        "Go on, open up, or else they won't care, they'll take revenge, they'll burn the place down!" Abdul came out of the kitchen and went to the door. Pulling back the curtain slightly, he looked out through the pane -- and was reassured. Opening one leaf of the door a little, he hurriedly brought in the new arrivals and at once shut the door again.
        "Friends, you banged so loudly on the door that you frightened us!" an acquaintance said to the regulars who had come in.
        "But how can frightened people frighten anyone?"
        "How are things outside?"
        "Bad. There's a lot of destruction."
        With his heart and mind full of memories, he halfway heard and halfway didn't hear. He had come back from the zone of memories the way a sleeper might suddenly wake, with sleep still filling his eyes. The sleep-spirit might then come like the touch of a breeze, and he would again be oblivious and dead to the world. Memory-images were floating around him.

        Then Sabirah was moving in his imagination, when she had come to Vyaspur for a few days. In those days we two had come close to each other. When the engine whistled, she too was drawn up to the open roof, where I still came when I was home from Meerut during the vacations, to sit from evening into night, watching the fields that went on into the distance, beyond the fields the railroad tracks, beyond the railroad tracks the rows of trees. We both stood leaning on the parapet, our heads touching. We watched the whistling, smoke-spitting engine, and the moving, lighted cars that followed it. In the day, these cars looked separate, but in the dark of night they were like a row of lamps strung together and moving. The row of lamps was drawn along, it came running along. When it passed, Sabirah would say with delight and wonder, "What a long train it was, car after car. Which train was it?"
        "The Delhi train."
        She was amazed. "This train goes to Delhi!"
        "Yes, of course."
        She was silent for a little. "Zakir, you must have seen Delhi? What's it like, Delhi?"
        "I've only gone once, but after my exams, I'll go there to live."
        "Really! How?" She was astonished.
        "I'll go there and work."
        Night was falling. The moon had not yet come out. But there were a few stars, twinkling like distant lamps in the expanse of the sky. I looked steadily at Sabirah's wondering face.
        "Sabirah, if I should get a job in Delhi then -- then -- " My tongue began to stumble. "Then -- we two can live together there."
        "What?" She looked at me with surprise, as though she didn't understand at all. I went on looking silently at her; and then as though she had suddenly understood something, she all at once slipped away.
        The next day she and I avoided each other's eyes, but when night fell, the whistle of the engine and the clanking of the wheels again brought her to the roof. Keeping her distance from me, she stood with her chin on the parapet. But the train paused in its journey, somewhere in the shelter of the trees, and the engine went on whistling. We drew nearer to each other, very near indeed. So near that I could feel the warmth of her body, and its softness as well.
        After that, we leaned on each other with more confidence as we watched the Delhi trains come and go. With our chins propped side by side on the cool parapet full of spots of dark mould, we watched the trains moving sometimes slowly, sometimes fast. Now we no longer had any questions about this train, as though our plan of traveling in it to Delhi had been agreed upon.
        Then letter after letter came from Khalah Jan, saying to send Sabirah home. Ammi said, "Ai hai, Batul is driving me mad! These are bad times, how can I send her?"
        "Ammi! Shall I take her?"
        Abba Jan looked hard at me, and said, "The times are very bad."

        "I've heard, sir, that there's been shooting."
        "What?" He looked at the speaker with a start. The speaker was Abdul, who was collecting the empty teacups. His face looked anxious. "I don't know, sir, but a man just came from the Regal, he was saying so."
        He had come back from his forest, and was staring at Abdul's face.
        "These are bad times, sir." As Abdul spoke, he picked up the tray full of empty teacups and took it away.
        "I think we should go out."
        "Out?" He looked at Irfan with surprise.
        "Yes. After all, how long can we sit here, shut up inside? And besides, it's almost time for me to be at work."
        "Then what's the point of my staying on alone? I'll go home."
        "Anyway, let's go out, and we'll see."
        Outside things had changed a great deal. He looked with wonder at the road. In the morning, going to the College, he had passed along this road. Then it was clean and neat, as usual. Cars, scooters, bicycles, scooter-cabs were rushing to their various destinations. Buses packed with people were in rapid motion. The fast-moving scooter-cabs were jockeying for position, urgently trying to dart in front of each other. But now the whole street was full of scattered bricks. Here and there among the scattered bricks lay gleaming fragments of broken glass from bus windows and car windows. A half-burned double-decker bus lay helplessly in the middle of the street, but it wasn't blocking traffic. How much traffic was there to block? One or two cars, trying to avoid the bricks, crept timidly past the double-decker, and suddenly accelerated once they had cleared it. Then after a long time, the sound of a bus noisily coming by, jolting over the bricks, and passing indifferently on.
        As he passed near the petrol pump, he saw that a crowd had gathered. The crowd were staring with wonder at a long car that lay overturned, its four wheels pointing toward the sky and its roof against the ground.
        Passing by the wondering crowd, he went on. In front of the National Auditorium a furious crowd had gathered. A respectable gentleman, entering the Auditorium, hesitated: "Excuse me, sir, is the speech over?"
        "You'd do better to ask whether it's begun!"
        "So the speech hasn't taken place?"
        "No," a young man said angrily. "The imperialist pimps, the sons of bitches! Their time to make speeches is finished!"
        A motorbike, dashing along, pulled over and stopped: "What's happening up there now?"
        "They're throwing chairs."
        The motorbike-rider pulled out a pistol, fired it into the air, restarted the motorbike, and vanished.
        "Yar! His car must be parked over there?"
        "Good idea. The pimp looted the poor to buy it, let's burn it!"
        Ammi welcomed him with a pounding heart and terrified eyes, made the gesture of taking his misfortunes onto herself,/1/  lifted her hand and said tearfully, "Oh God, thanks be to You."
        "What's happened?" He looked at Ammi with surprise.
        "Ai, my son! I was terrified. People in the neighborhood were saying that there was firing. My heart stopped beating. I was in a state of panic, I went again and again to the door. I kept praying, Ai, God, my son has gone out, let him come back safely.'"
        "Has Zakir come?" Abba Jan's voice came from the outer room.
        "Go, my son, show your face to your father and then come back. He was worried too."
        When he entered the room, he saw that Khvajah Sahib was sitting with Abba Jan.
        "Son! Where's my Salamat?" Khvajah Sahib asked the question abruptly.
        "I saw Salamat in the afternoon, then he went off somewhere with Ajmal."
        "The wretch must have gone off with the procession."
        "With the procession? -- I don't know."
        "The wretch has caused me a lot of worry," Khvajah Sahib muttered angrily. "I've heard there was firing?"
        "Firing? -- No."
        "If there hasn't been firing yet, there will be."
        "Has a curfew been imposed?" Abba Jan asked somberly.
        "Not yet."
        "How long can it be before it happens? May God the Most High have mercy on this country." Abba Jan sighed.
        "Maulana! In Amritsar -- now there was a curfew! Anyone who once stuck his head out the window never got a chance to pull it back in again. The moment a head appeared, they fired."
        "Brother, when was all this?"
        "Maulana, this happened at the time of Jallianwala Bagh. What a great fire was started then! For three nights no one lit a lamp in his house, there was so much light from the fire."
        "Oh?" Zakir looked with surprise at Khvajah Sahib.
        "Yes, son! Would I tell a lie, now in my old age? It was the biggest petrol pump in Amritsar, the one where the Sahibs' cars were filled with petrol. It burned for three days and three nights. The flames reached to the sky. Then what happened was that the bank was looted, then the looting spread to the cloth market. Then a curfew was imposed. It was a curfew like the wrath of God! When anybody stuck his head even a tiny bit out the window, there was the crack! of a rifle, and he dropped like a stone."
        "The Europeans did so many cruel things," Abba Jan muttered.
        "Maulana, everyone has oppressed us, the foreigners too and our own people too. Aren't there cruel things going on right now?" He paused, then said, "But, really, the English were held in so much awe. What authority they had! Proclamation was made that whoever had looted any property should put it outside his house by evening. After that, the houses would be searched. I tell you, Maulana-ji, you won't believe it, but people who hadn't looted a scrap of cloth put their own property out in the street. People even piled their daughters' dowries outside their houses. By evening, the streets of Amritsar were heaped with satins and brocades."
        Abba Jan listened in silence, smoking his huqqah. Then he cleared his throat and said, "God bless him, my venerable father always told how in '57 there was such a strict curfew that they had to keep even the bodies of the dead in the house for three days sometimes. They couldn't even get a piece of plain cloth for a shroud, and they couldn't even get a grave for the burial. They would wrap the body in coarse sacking, and in the dark of night, making sure that no soldier was watching, they would bury the body right there in the lane." He fell silent, then said sadly, "What hard times Muslims have faced!"
        "But, Maulana, now what times are coming upon the Muslims?"
        Abba Jan raised his forefinger toward the sky: "Only He knows."
        "Maulana! Let me tell you one thing: we're destined to endure bad times at the hands of our sons. I tried to make Salamat see reason: 'Son, your wits are wandering. Why do you ruin your throat yelling slogans?' And what answer does he give me, but 'We're going to change the system!'"
        Abba Jan said gravely, "Khvajah Sahib! In this world there have lived one hundred twenty-four thousand Prophets, and has the world changed?"
        "No sir, it hasn't changed."
        "Then when the Prophets haven't been able to change the world, how will your boy and mine change it?"
        "Maulana, you're quite right. The world cannot change."
        "Khvajah Sahib, I've reached such an age -- what times have come and then gone again! Each time I've seen the same result. Some hot-blooded types have had their blood cooled forever. As for the rest, they've looked out for their own interests, and made their own deals."
        "Sir, you're absolutely right. Please, Maulana, tell this to that bastard Salamat."
        "His blood is still hot, he won't be able to understand it yet. It can only be understood after living a long time. And Khvajah Sahib! I now no longer intervene, under any circumstances."
        "You're very right. In Pakistan, there's no point in speaking out."
        "Khvajah Sahib, there's no point in speaking out anywhere."
        "Yes sir, exactly, exactly. Whoever speaks out is arrested.  At least, we've seen this happen in Pakistan."
        Abba Jan silently slid the huqqah over toward himself, took the mouthpiece in his mouth, and was lost in thought.
        Khvajah Sahib sat in silence. Then suddenly he addressed Zakir: "In the afternoon he was with you?"
        "Yes sir."
        "Then he didn't go off with the procession?"
        "I don't know."
        "The bastard," Khvajah Sahib muttered angrily. Then he said, "The truth is that his mother is very worried. I told her, 'Count your blessings -- you have sons. Be patient about your son,' but she couldn't be patient." He paused, then said, "How could she be patient? One son went to Dhaka and got trapped there, one son is ruining himself here."
        "Have you had any letters from Karamat?"
        "That's the worry, that we haven't had any letters from him."
        "Place your trust in Him." Abba Jan gestured with his finger toward the sky.
        "Well, we do place our trust in Him. Maulana Sahib! That Karamat of mine is so lovable, so obedient and respectful. Look how the Lord arranged it: the one who's a vagabond and a ruffian is here grinding our hearts into powder, while the well-behaved one has gone and got trapped there, poor boy." As he spoke, he stood up.
        Abba Jan, smoking his huqqah, watched Khvajah Sahib. "Are you going?"
        "Yes, I'll go check at home. That worthless wretch might perhaps have come back."
        "Yes, go then."
        "Maulana Sahib, do pray for the wretch. His mother worries about him all the time."
        Abba Jan again raised his finger toward the sky: "He is the Protector."
        Khvajah Sahib took his leave, and Abba Jan picked up his huqqah and went inside. Zakir was very tired. The moment he lay down, he began to feel sleepy. He closed his eyes, but sleep was only hovering around him, it didn't descend. He couldn't tell how long he lay there with his eyes shut, half asleep and half awake. Suddenly someone banged on the door.
        "'Open this heavy door, let me come in!'"/2/ Afzal's voice came from outside.
        He rose and opened the door. Afzal entered, and behind him Salamat and Ajmal.
        "Zakir!" Afzal first looked at him, then gestured toward Salamat and Ajmal: "I've forgiven these fellows, you forgive them too."
        He couldn't decide how to answer Afzal. Afzal said imperiously, "I'm telling you, forgive them! I've taken them under my protection." Then he said kindly, "Zakir, these two are good people." As he spoke, he sat down in a chair and addressed Ajmal: "Fellow! Bring out what you've got with you."
        Ajmal, sitting down in a chair, put his bag on the table. Opening it, he pulled out a bottle and placed it on the table. Zakir looked with fear and amazement at the bottle. "Yar, not here!"
        "What?" Afzal looked attentively at him.
        He said nervously, "Yar, you know my father is very strict in these matters."
        Salamat laughed contemptuously. "Your father!"
        "Yar, that white-bearded fellow, that's your father, isn't he?" Afzal asked. "Never mind about him, he's like my own child. I'll explain to him, you go and bring some glasses."
        "Nothing can be explained to fathers." Salamat laid down the law.
        "Do you judge other people's fathers by your own?" Afzal said.
        "He's not my father!" Salamat yelled.
        "Then whose father is he?" Afzal asked innocently.
        "I don't know, but I know he's not my father. I'm a bastard," he said, grinding his teeth furiously.
        "Is there any proof?"
        "The proof is that I say it!"
        "That's no proof. Fellow! Before making this announcement, you should have asked your mother."
        "I did ask her."
        "The ignorant woman refused to give evidence," he said in a grief-stricken voice. Then he said sadly, "Our fathers are cruel and our mothers are ignorant." Even as he spoke, he began to weep.
        When Ajmal saw Salamat weeping, tears began to fall from his own eyes as well.
        "Fellow, why are you weeping?"
        "Yar! My mother is even more ignorant than Salamat's mother. When I asked her, first she slapped me, then she began to tear her hair and scream."
        Afzal stared at Ajmal, then at the weeping Salamat, and his eyes grew red with anger. "You're both disgusting people!"
        Ajmal looked toward Salamat. Salamat announced, "Afzal speaks the truth, we're disgusting people."
        "I refuse to take you under my protection. Disgusting people! Get out of here. This is a virtuous person's house."
        Salamat stood up. Ajmal put the bottle in the bag, and followed Salamat out of the house.
        "Zakir! You're a good person, forgive me."
        "Yar, what kind of talk is this?"
        "No, forgive me."
        "For what?" He looked at Afzal with concern.
        "I tried to give two evil spirits power over a virtuous person. I committed a sin.  Ai good person! Forgive me, I'm a sinner." As he spoke, his voice choked, and tears began to well up in his eyes. "We're sinners, and we're in torment."


/1/ A traditional symbolic gesture that usually involves running the palms of the hands down the beloved person's cheeks, then bringing the hands to one's own cheeks, making fists, and cracking the knuckles.

/2/ A line from a famous poem, "Voice in the Wilderness," by *Munir Niyazi.



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