C H A P T E R E I G
his whole being was concentrated in his legs. Normally, while he walked
he thought about so many things, and while he was thinking he found himself
ending up in one place or another. Now he was solely and exclusively walking.
He walked with swift steps; what with the noise of his footsteps, he couldn't
hear any other voices, or perhaps there were no other voices. He was walking
alone in the empty city, and the whole air was echoing with the sound of
his two feet. The noise of his footsteps overpowered even the noise of
a scooter-cab: when the scooter-cab came right up near him on the street
and began to move slowly alongside, he realized that the scooter-cab was
empty and the driver was looking at him. "No," he said, and the driver
speeded up and went off. Whenever I really have to go somewhere, then the
scooter-cabs fly by like winged horses, none of them stop. And today, when
I don't have to go anywhere, there's an empty scooter-cab with me at every
step, inviting me, as though I were the only passenger in the city. He
lifted his eyes and glanced around, then looked off ahead into the distance.
There seemed to be no one around, either nearby or in the distance. Where
has everyone gone? Once more he examined the scene, near and far. He saw
a few small groups standing still or slowly walking along, talking among
themselves, with drained, collapsed faces. Why are all their faces drained
and collapsed? With fear?
he walked along, his gaze fell on a wall with a big poster on it. On horseback,
sword in hand, bloodthirsty face, 'these fighters for the faith, these
your mysterious servants.'/1/
It produced no reaction in him: for now this picture was dead, and the
words too. At the next corner the same poster, the same picture, the same
words. A dead picture, dead words. The image of a rally-ground rose up
in his mind. Banners hung everywhere, and big posters waving in the air
like banners. At the time how alive their words and pictures seemed! The
rally is thrown into disorder. The rally-ground lies empty but the posters
still wave in the air. The words written on them, the pictures printed
on them -- how dead they look. Days afterward, no one has taken down the
posters. A car passed by him. On its bumper was written 'Crush India.'
Perhaps the car owner had forgotten about the slogan? If not, then -- if
not, then what? He didn't understand anything. The truth was that his mind
was empty, empty. His mind, and his heart too. Since morning he'd had the
most intense need to think, to feel. He hadn't yet comprehended how one
goes about feeling a great disaster. In the morning he stayed shut up in
his room for a long time, and kept trying to feel something. The more he
tried to feel, the more he was overpowered by numbness. Then Khvajah Sahib
came, and when he was sent for he was obliged to go and sit in the drawing
room. Khvajah Sahib always imagined that Zakir knew more than other people.
Today as well, he had sent for him because of this suspicion. But what
did he know? He only knew what everyone else knew too. Even Khvajah Sahib
didn't ask him too many questions today. Today he had only one question.
Sahib, what's this that has happened?"
Jan answered Khvajah Sahib's mournful question in a dry tone: "Khvajah
Sahib, this world is a place of reckoning. Men reap whatever they sow."
Then, in silence, he began smoking his huqqah.
Sahib sat in silence. Then he said, "Maulana Sahib, when I was listening
to the radio, I wanted to weep floods of tears. But I'm an old man; it's
not proper for me to weep before young children. I sat there, restraining
myself. Finally I rose and left the room, and placed a chair in the courtyard
under a tree, and sat outside. There was no one near me. They were all
sitting inside, listening to the radio. All my self-control broke down,
and I wept." Khvajah Sahib's eyes filled again, but he restrained himself.
He sat in silence. Then with a sigh he rose, paused, and then said, "Maulana
Sahib! Pray for my older boy. His mother has been weeping constantly since
Sahib! Tell her to have patience. God the Most High gives to the patient,
the reward of patience. 'Surely God is with the patient.'"/2/
Then he closed his eyes, and began to recite something under his breath.
He had put his huqqah aside. His eyes were closed, and his lips were moving.
Zakir went on staring at him; he wanted to get up and quietly slip away,
but it seemed that his legs had no strength.
it was as if all his strength had gone into his legs. Swiftly moving feet
-- at this moment they were all he was. From one road to another, from
the second road to a third. Reading the posters on the walls. It seemed
that he would cover the whole city, and would read everything that was
written on the city's walls, whether in the form of life-size posters,
slogans written in chalk and charcoal, or abuse and insults. But without
feeling anything. Without any sense of boredom he read so many posters
with the same message, and so many two-word slogans written in English
on car bumpers, on car windows. He felt that he was not reading slogans,
but walking on dead flies. He began to feel nauseated. Lifting his eyes
from the walls, he began to watch the people passing nearby. All their
faces, drained and collapsed, looked the same. Devoid of feeling. Only
the slightest trace of fear quivered in them. They seemed like shadows
themselves, as though they were weightless. Do I have weight? he suddenly
thought, and fell into doubt. Walking along quickly, he suddenly slowed
down and began to measure each step. He was trying to feel weight in himself.
Do I have weight, or not? When does it happen that a man becomes weightless,
and when does it happen that a man's body becomes a burden to him, and
his head a heavy load on his shoulders? Another scooter-cab, which had
come alongside him and was moving at a turtle's pace. Seeing that the scooter-cab
was empty, he absent-mindedly began to climb into it, when a thought struck
him: Where do I want to go? Nowhere at all. When I have to go somewhere,
every scooter-cab is full and every empty scooter-cab races by on the far
side of the street. And now, when I don't have to go anywhere, they sit
on my head. "I'm not going." The scooter-cab speeded up and moved off down
had given no instructions to his feet. He was just walking, taking long
strides. But 'the Mulla goes only as far as the mosque.' After wandering
all over, he had to come there. Irfan was already there, with a cup of
tea before him and a cigarette dangling between his lips.
walked a lot today."
I'll have to have tea."
ordered more tea. Abdul brought the tea very quickly, put it down, and
went off without a word.
and Irfan sat opposite each other, drinking tea, as though there were no
connection at all between them. As he drank the tea, his glance happened
to fall on a wrinkled, crumpled newspaper -- and then was fixed there.
It was all the same news, and the same headlines, that he had read at home.
At that time the headlines had attacked him like enemies. But now all these
heavy, thick, sensationalist headlines looked like a pile of dead words.
But he had to do something to keep himself busy, after all. Listlessly
he ran his eye over some of the headlines. Somehow he began reading a news
item. He went on reading, without taking in what he was reading. His eyes
were occupied, his mind disengaged. Finally he lost interest entirely.
Pushing the newspaper aside, he glanced at Irfan, who had finished his
tea and lit a cigarette. He too removed a cigarette from the packet on
the table, held it between his lips, and lit it.
it so necessary to talk?"
not necessary, but still . . . " As he spoke, he cast a glance around.
A few of the tables were occupied. At one table a man was sitting alone,
drinking tea and reading a newspaper with great concentration. At another
table very near by, a man had finished his tea and was staring into space.
Near the kitchen, a group sat around a table. They were talking, but in
very low voices, and haltingly. Despite the tea-drinkers, how silent the
Shiraz was today! The white-haired man entered just as he always did. He
started toward their table, then changed his mind and went to sit at his
own table near the counter. Abdul approached: "Tea?"
brought the tea very quickly and set it down. Abdul was serving very quickly
today. He wasn't pausing to chat with the tea-drinkers.
white-haired man's tea was getting cold, but he was still staring at the
wall before him. Suddenly he bowed his head, buried his face in a handkerchief,
and began to weep with great sobs.
those sitting at the various tables stayed where they were, watching the
white-haired man in silence.
ought to leave now," Irfan said.
can endure defeat. I can't endure sentimentality."
meanwhile the white-haired man suddenly stopped in the midst of his sobbing.
He wiped his eyes with the handkerchief, and began to drink his tea in
this brief display of emotion, the Shiraz again fell silent. The man who
had been drinking tea and reading a newspaper, again became absorbed in
drinking tea and reading the newspaper. The man who had been staring into
space ordered more tea, went over and picked up a newspaper lying on a
nearby table, then sat down again and began to leaf through it. The group
around the table by the kitchen, who had been talking, had fallen absolutely
silent for a long moment; then they again began to talk in low voices.
and Ajmal entered, and the moment they entered the silent atmosphere of
the Shiraz was somehow disturbed. Staring at Zakir and Irfan, they scraped
their chairs noisily over the floor as they sat down, and Salamat said
sharply, "Order tea."
looked intently first at him, then at Irfan: "You people are responsible
for this defeat."
made any response.
I'm telling you, you're responsible for this defeat. And you, Zakir."
Zakir asked innocently.
said wrathfully, "You imperialist stooge, do you play innocent and ask
how? Haven't you thought about what you're teaching to boys? The histories
of kings. Opium pills! Yes, and your father is responsible, who every day
feeds my father an opium pill of religion! Even today he fed him a pill.
Today my father went and learned the lesson of patience from your holy-minded
father! He says, 'God is with the patient.' I said, 'Old man, these magic
spells can't save you any more. The day of reckoning has come.'"
looked peacefully at the enraged Salamat and said, "So it seems that today
you've accepted your father as your father?"
glared at Irfan. "Are you mocking me?"
I'm expressing satisfaction."
man from the table near the kitchen stood up and came over. He went over
to stand near Salamat and asked venomously, "Salamat Sahib! I heard your
speech at your party's rally, when you supported Bangladesh. Why are you
Salamat said angrily. "Why should I be sorry? I'm warning the imperialist
pimps that they've lost the game."
other words, Pakistan has lost the game? Is that what you want to say?"
The young man's eyes were bloodshot with fury.
manager guessed from a distance the deteriorating situation, and hurried
over. He began trying to pacify the young man: "Please sit down at your
table and drink your tea."
just let me ask what my friend here really wants!"
manager seized the young man's arm and managed to take him back to his
own table. Then he came and said, "Salamat Sahib, please don't say such
things today. People's hearts are very heavy today."
people's hearts?" Salamat asked, grinding his teeth.
I'm not going to argue with you." The manager, as he walked away, called
to Abdul. "Abdul! Bring tea for Salamat Sahib."
answer came from Abdul. He had already arrived at the table with a tray
said, getting up. "This tea will go on my tab." And before Salamat could
say anything, Zakir and Irfan had both left the Shiraz.
the Shiraz, there was a crowd standing on the footpath. They were having
a very hot argument, and more people were collecting. What were they arguing
about? He couldn't hear. He only heard one word repeated again and again
-- 'traitors.' And then suddenly two young men fell on each other.
and Irfan went on, without stopping, without paying any attention, and
walked in silence for some time. Then he said, "Salamat was right."
was he right?" Irfan looked at him angrily.
was right that I'm responsible for this defeat."
glared at him, then said, "Zakir! You aren't by any chance trying to become
Gamal Abdel Nasser?"
how could I do that? How could a teacher, cowardly and fearful, become
Gamal Abdel Nasser?"
like this, Irfan: defeat too is a trust. But today in this country
they're all putting the blame on each other, and they'll do it even more
as time goes on. Everyone's trying, and will keep on trying, to prove that
he's not responsible. I thought that someone ought to take up this trust."
to this point your thinking is correct, but there's one more thing to think
that to take up the burden of this trust, a man ought at least to be Gamal
fell into thought, then said, "You're right. The trust is great. The one
who takes it up is small."
this a long silence. They walked for a long time, together but absolutely
separate. Then Irfan suddenly stopped. "All right, yar, I'm going."
You're on night duty."
see you tomorrow." And immediately he turned down another street.
alone, he breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps not only Irfan, but also he
himself, needed to be alone now. Perhaps each of them inwardly felt the
other a burden, and wanted to be alone. In such a long friendship, for
the first time they had become a burden to each other.
went on walking, without thinking where he was going. He stopped at a cigarette-seller's
shop. Without meeting the shopkeeper's eyes, he bought a packet of cigarettes
and went on. Normally he ought to have stopped at Nazira's shop on leaving
his house, and bought his cigarettes there, for that had been his custom;
but today he had passed by on the road, avoiding Nazira's eyes as though
he owed him money.
a cigarette in his lips he went on, until he passed by Jinnah Garden and
paused. Why am I wearing out my legs for no reason? With this thought,
he turned off the road into the garden. Following one path after another,
he reached the wide lawn with flower beds and stone benches. But instead
of sitting on a bench, he chose to sit on the lawn, with his legs stretched
out. Then he cast a glance around. For a long way, there was no one. Today
the garden is quite empty. And as this thought came to him he realized
that he hadn't been roaming around without a purpose. He had been searching
for some solitary corner. But why? For the same reason Khvajah Sahib had
wanted one? This thought startled him. As if I'd been wandering everywhere
all day, so I could find a solitary corner and -- No, Irfan is right.
Defeat can be endured, sentimentality cannot. But then another wave came
and swept him away with it. Any public show of tearfulness is vulgar. To
release one's emotions in solitude is the proper human thing to do. What's
the harm of it? Afterwards, a man feels lighter. And he tried once more
to feel the disaster fully and intensely. For a long time he sat there
and tried to let emotion overpower him. Then he lay down and closed his
eyes. But despite all his efforts, the only emotion he could summon up
was a kind of listlessness.
What are you doing here? Are you asleep?"
He jumped up. Afzal stood before him.
what are you doing?"Afzal asked, sitting down on the grass.
I didn't know what to do; when I couldn't tell what to do I came here.
Here at least there's solitude. Why are you here?"
always come here from time to time, to visit the flowers. The flowers,
and the trees. They're good people, they're all my friends."
visit the flowers? Today?"
today." Afzal was silent, then said, "Yar, this morning my eyes opened
before daybreak. I thought I ought to see how the morning of a defeat dawns.
I opened the window of my room and looked out. I kept looking for a long
time. Outside there was nothing at all. I closed the window and pulled
the sheet over my head and went to sleep. I slept till the afternoon, and
finally my grandmother shook me and made me wake up. Yar! Have I ever told
you about my grandmother?"
we left it was the rainy season, there was a flood. On the one hand riots,
on the other hand a flood. But my grandmother wouldn't leave the land.
My mother explained to her that we were leaving because of the flood, and
when it went down we'd go back. My simple grandmother was taken in. But
those words stuck in her mind. Every few days she demands, 'Daughter! The
flood must have gone down, take me back.'"
He burst out laughing.
Even now she thinks that when the flood goes down we'll go back. So today
she shook me and woke me up. I got up, rubbing my eyes. She fed me, most
lovingly. Then she said, 'My child! The flood must surely have gone down.
So take me back!' I stared at her face. It came to me to say 'My dear little
granny! If the flood has gone down back there, it has risen over here.
How can we go back?' My heart told me not to say it -- she would go on
to ask more questions. I decided to go out. Then I left, and as I went
out I thought that today, rather than meeting disgusting people, it would
be better to go and visit the trees and flowers." He fell silent, cast
a glance around, then said, "The sun is good right now, but it's going
down." Sadness came into his voice. "The December sun is good, but it sets
is right, he thought. When a man's heart and mind are empty, and his power
to think and feel is taken away, then he ought to go and sit politely in
the company of trees, and chat with the flowers. Unquestionably the trees
are wise, and the flowers make good conversation. He looked at Afzal, who
was paying no attention to him and was staring at the trees in the distance.
His glance too began to travel along with Afzal's, and settled on the trees
in the distance. Both their bodies were here, their eyes on the distant
trees. Their hearts and minds too were drawn that way.
Listen." Afzal addressed him in a confidential tone.
came back with difficulty from the world of the trees, and didn't look
happy to be back. "Yes, what is it?"
Shouldn't I take the management of Pakistan into my own hands?"
He gave Afzal a strange look.
this is what I've thought of. If I find two virtuous people and they become
my arms, then I can take on this responsibility. One is you, and Irfan
can be added as the other. Sometimes he says disgusting things, but still
he's a good person. If you two give me a hand, I can make Pakistan beautiful
again. Yar, these ugly ones have spoiled the face of Pakistan, they're
very disgusting people."
laughed somewhat bitterly, and said nothing.
you have no faith in me." Afzal's mood changed.
have faith in you, I have no faith in myself."
don't trust yourself? Yar, among those disgusting people we are the only
beautiful ones." He paused, then said, "You know that some acres are going
to be allotted to me."
been hearing that for a long time."
didn't take it seriously either. But now it's happening. The allotment
is about to come through, I've prepared my map. One acre will be used for
beds of roses."
whole acre? --What's the point?"
in Pakistan the flowers have been growing fewer, that's why people have
been growing uglier and hatred has kept on spreading. I thought I ought
to save those bastards' faces from growing distorted. So the scheme is
that one acre will be beds of roses, two acres will be a mango orchard.
Yar, the truth is that listening to the voices of those disgusting people
has ruined my hearing. If there's a mango orchard, then at least we can
hear the call of the koel. How about it?"
a good idea."
right, then get ready, we have to make Pakistan beautiful."
that very moment there was a rumbling in the sky, loud enough to burst
the eardrums. He and Afzal both raised their eyes to the sky. "Air-raid!"
burst from his lips.
Afzal said with surprise. "The siren didn't sound."
sirens have been silent all day."
stared at the sky. Gradually the atmosphere grew still. Afzal drew a breath
of satisfaction. "Yar, I was afraid a bomb would fall, and all these flowers
-- " He fell silent.
you say that we have to make Pakistan beautiful."
can't we stop the wars?"
asked the question with so much innocence that he burst out laughing.
you're laughing. I'm asking the question seriously. Can't we stop the wars?"
you just don't know me. But I need two virtuous people -- Zakir!"
you be my arm?"
a low rumbling began in the sky. The sound grew louder and louder until
it became an ear-splitting roar. Today, ever since the late afternoon,
the attacking planes had been flying very low. They came swiftly and passed
on, without dropping bombs. He glanced at the ticking clock before him.
It was almost 7:30. So apparently this was the last air raid. And he remembered
that in '65, the night of the cease-fire had been just like this -- I abruptly
awoke from sleep. The walls of the room were trembling, the windows and
doors rattling. I looked at the clock. Twelve o'clock was striking. I was
stupefied and frightened. At that time the cannons ought to have fallen
silent. Had the cease-fire agreement failed, and war broken out afresh?
The guns were thundering so loudly that the roaring and thundering of the
past sixteen nights paled by comparison. But suddenly the roar and thunder
stopped. Perfect silence, unfathomable stillness. Just a moment ago there
was such a roar and thunder that the earth trembled and the walls quivered,
and now in a moment such silence, such stillness. I was shaking. Perhaps
a cease-fire is more terrifying than a war. I had emerged from one terror
and had taken refuge in another terror -- in a deeper terror. Then all
the rest of the night I couldn't sleep.
minute-hand of the clock, after a long terrifying journey of twenty-nine
minutes, has arrived at the thirtieth minute and is stuck there. The sky
is silent. So the Indian planes have shown their power for the last time
and gone back. So the cease-fire has taken effect. I get up and open the
window, peer out and look at the sky, run my gaze around for a long distance
in every direction. I don't see anything. The atmosphere is dark, the whole
city is immersed in darkness. Afzal was right. There's nothing at all outside.
the window and grope through the dark room to my bed and lie down. There's
nothing at all outside. Afzal was right. Everything is the same outside.
Then where has all this taken place?
.'Then where does this smoke come from?'/3/
From where? From inside me? But where am I myself? Here, or there? There
in the ruined city? And the ruined city? But I myself am the ruined city.
'It's as if my heart is the city of Delhi.'/4/
When it falls and when a man is destroyed, when sturdy young men become
hunchbacks and the keepers of the house tremble. "And when we had obtained
your promise that there would be no bloodshed between us, and our own would
not be exiled from their own land. Then you swore all this, and you are
a witness to it. Then you are the one who murders your own, and exiles
a group of your own from the land."/5/
"You murdered, then you were murdered. You exiled, then you were exiled."/6/
And then when terrors camped on the roads, and the gates of the streets
were closed, and the sound of the grindstone no longer came from the houses,
and the cooking stoves grew cold. "And when I was in the Fort of Susa,
it happened that Hanani, who was one of my brothers, came, and I asked
him about the remnant of the survivors, and also about Jerusalem. He said,
'The remnant who survived are suffering trouble and shame. The wall of
Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.'"/7/
"Jahanabad is a wasteland. Don't consider it an exaggeration -- all, rich
and poor, have left. Those who stayed were forced to leave. The feudal
landlords, those with special Company pensions, the rich, the artisans
-- not one is left. I fear to write the story in detail. The servants of
the Red Fort suffer violence, and are caught up in investigations and detentions.
I sit in my own house, and cannot go out the door. Someone might come to
see me, but who is left in the city? House after house is lightless --
'A river of blood is flowing; if only that were all!'"/8/
Restlessly he stood up, then sat down. In the darkness he strained his
eyes to see around him. Where am I? Words said where? By whom? Stories
told when? My brain is seething like a cooking-pot over the fire. Then
he thought it would be better if he sat down to write in his diary. After
all, I never swore to write in my diary only during wartime! And I certainly
ought to record in my diary the events of today. He turned the flame of
the lantern up higher, and began to write.
. The Red Fort rang with silence. I went to the tomb of Hare-bhare Shah.
The mad faqir wasn't there. I searched for him, but he was nowhere to be
is now a ruined city. 'Lanes that were like leaves from a painter's album'/9/
have been laid waste. So many leaves have blown away with the wind, so
many others have been utterly erased. So many houses are lightless, reduced
. I left this desolation and set out on the road to Lucknow. When I arrived
near that city, I heard that the city had been turned upside down, and
Navab Hazrat Mahal had left the city along with her devoted companions
and set out for the forests of Nepal. The English army was pursuing her.
Hunters stalked her like dogs, sniffing for her scent from city to city,
forest to forest. I was astonished. What had the queen been thinking of,
not to surrender? I grieved over the queen's imprudence and went on.
by Jhansi, I asked a traveler, "Brother! Is there any news of Jhansi?"
He replied sorrowfully, "The Maharani gave her life on the battlefield.
Jhansi's game is over."
on. I passed by so many cities. I found every city in disorder. I saw that
every post lay unguarded. There was very little water in the Narbada, I
crossed the river easily. When I crossed it and went on, I found dense
A MEETING WITH TANTIYA TOPI:
. Passing through the forest, I ran into Tantiya Topi. In this dense frightening
forest he seemed like a lion in a thicket. I respectfully told him how
things were in the cities.
has already fallen."
what?" he answered carelessly.
too has been overthrown."
Rani of Jhansi has been killed. Jhansi is done for."
has lost the war."
there's no point in fighting. The sensible thing would be to surrender.
Furthermore, the rainy season is over. The Narbada has very little water.
There's no longer any obstacle in the path of the English army."
Topi looked at me intently. He replied, "My friend! Formerly I was fighting
to save the throne of India, now I'm fighting to save the soul of India.
I've lost that fight, I won't lose this one." He fell silent. He stared
at me, and said, "Are you a Muslim?"
be to God, I'm a servant of Islam."
do you mean?"
what I mean is obvious. You Muslims are fighting only for the throne. And
where are you even fighting? I know what used to happen in the Red Fort
used to happen in the Fort of Delhi? Now, and formerly. At the hands of
brothers, brothers -- the Mughals' rusty swords. But Prince Firoz Shah
-- and Bakht Khan. In what forest is he? Is he too wandering in the forests
of Nepal? So many people have left Dhaka and staggered and stumbled half-dead
into Nepal. The forests of Nepal have a wide-open embrace. Those who obstinately
refuse to bow their heads, and come here. Those who save their lives by
fleeing, and come here. The dogs began to bark. My mind began to be confused.
My sentences keep growing more and more disconnected. The dogs are barking
exactly as they were barking last night. For them, there's no difference.
stopped writing and stood up. Opening the window, he looked out. In the
two-story house opposite them there was light. Electric lights were burning
in every room. This light seemed strange to him. He wanted to see how deep
and black the night was.
came back, and as he lay down on his bed he glanced at the clock. He was
surprised. It's still only ten o'clock? Oh. And it seems that half the
night has passed. Oh God! This night is longer than even the wartime nights.
The first line of a famous poem by Iqbal, "Tariq's Prayer."
A line from a ghazal by *Mir.
Based on a line from a ghazal by Mir. The line establishes a punning relationship
between "heart" (dil) and "Delhi" (dilli).
Based on a passage from the Nahj ul-balaghah, attributed to
Based on Nehemiah 1:1-3.
A passage from one of *Ghalib's letters, describing the disasters he lived
through in 1857. The passage ends with the first line of a verse from one
of his ghazals. The second line, which completes the thought, is: 'Just
wait and see what happens to me next.'
Based on a line from a ghazal by Mir.