C H A P T E R N I N
Sahib had just that moment arrived and sat down. "Have you heard anything?"
I did find out something." Today there was a glimmer of hope in Khvajah
What did you find out?"
has come from over there. He says that he saw Karamat in Bangkok."
Sahib, what's surprising about that? From such a Doomsday, everyone slipped
out however he could. So many of them are hiding in India, so many have
gone through India to Nepal. Many of them crossed the eastern border and
came out in Burma. Some went to Rangoon, others reached Bangkok. So this
man told me that he had come by way of Bangkok. There he met Karamat."
is this man?"
you know Muhammad Din from my Amritsar, don't you? It's someone he knows.
I got this man's address from him. He's in Sialkot. So today I'm going
God will help you."
Sahib! What's your opinion? I'm convinced that Karamat is alive and will
Jan reflected, then said, "It's not beyond the power of His mercy. It's
even happened that a man has been ordered hanged, and then has been saved.
Firm faith is necessary."
Sahib, by God's grace, my faith is very firm. It's true that I don't place
much trust in holy men and faqirs. But there was one faqir who impressed
me. It was Muhammad Din who took me to visit him. He looked at my face.
He said, 'You're worried.' I said, 'I'm indeed worried.' He said, 'Don't
be worried -- pray. He's alive, but in trouble.' Then, sir, he told me
a prayer to say forty times every day after the sunset prayers. Maulana
Sahib! Believe me, after I had been saying it for only a week, I heard
about this Sialkot man."
Word is very powerful."
sir, I'm going today to Sialkot."
stared at Khvajah Sahib. He remembered what had happened last month. Last
month too, Khvajah Sahib had come like this one morning, full of hope.
That time he had heard of a man who had come back to Karachi, who had,
in escaping from the conflagration, seen Karamat at the Burmese border.
And Khvajah Sahib had wandered all over Karachi searching for him.
Sahib!" Khvajah Sahib spoke thoughtfully. "I must be under a curse. Just
look, sir, I had two sons. One turned bad. One was lost -- the obedient
one. Only the Lord can bring him back. While the worthless one is grinding
my heart into powder. That wretch Salamat, do you know what he says? He
says, 'The Bengalis have won freedom.' I said, 'Bastard son! Get out of
my house.' He said, 'I'm going to America.' I said, 'Go to hell.'"
he had mentioned Salamat, Khvajah Sahib usually went on and on, but soon
he remembered that he had to go to Sialkot, and rose to take his leave.
The moment he went out, Ammi entered. "Well, what was Khvajah Sahib saying?
Has he had some news of Karamat?"
Jan answered with a certain hesitation, "He says that a man has come from
over there, and has seen Karamat in Bangkok."
else does the man say?"
won't find out any more until he sees him in person. The man is in Sialkot.
Today Khvajah Sahib is going to Sialkot. We'll see."
surely, the man is a stranger. Why would he tell a lie? He must have seen
Karamat, since he says so."
But how can we tell?" Abba Jan fell silent. Then he said, "In any case,
we ought to hope for His favor, no matter what."
I pray that the poor boy comes back, no matter how. Otherwise, poor Khvajah
Sahib will be more dead than alive." As she spoke, Ammi sighed. "And then,
my own heart is in the same state. My heart is so full of suffering! Khvajah
Sahib is worried about one of his loved ones. I have a whole family,
and no news of them." She stopped, then said, "Oh, what a dream I had last
night, about Batul! She was in a wretched state, with her hair dirty and
matted. I was combing her hair, and saying, 'Why your hair is full of lice.'"
Her voice trailed off, then she covered her face with the end of her dupattah.
Her eyes filled.
Jan bowed his head. Then he sighed, and said, "Now it's time for me to
Jan?" He looked at him with a start.
son! Now it's time for me to die. I've seen a lot. And what I should
never have seen -- I've seen that too. I don't have the strength to see
are improving. In the future they'll improve even more."
for how long?" Abba Jan paused, then said, "Son, if conditions improve,
it means nothing. People's deeds have to improve." Ammi seemed not to have
heard. Her mind was busy elsewhere. "Son, what were you saying that day,
that Sabirah has gotten a job in the radio?"
I don't know, Surendar wrote me about it." At the sudden mention of Sabirah
he was somewhat rattled.
son, write her a letter."
letter! To Sabirah?" He couldn't understand what Ammi was saying.
I've heard that those who had family in India have secretly gone to join
are you talking about, Zakir's mother!" Abba Jan said with a touch of anger.
hai, what do I know? I've heard it."
who told you are as good at telling as you are at listening!"
hai, after all, when their houses are destroyed they must surely go
somewhere! When people feel oppressed in a land, they rise up and leave
it. They don't stop to ask where they're going."
that land had already grown oppressive before."
once that land was oppressive, now this land has grown oppressive!"
Jan, hearing this, fell into thought. Then he said, "God the Most High
made the land wide and open, but in the hands of man it grows narrow and
what I was saying" -- Ammi came back again to her subject -- "was that
Sabirah must have some news. While we're sitting here with no news at all!
People in India have more news than we do. So please just write a letter
I write a letter to Sabirah? Now, after so long? He fell into perplexity.
But very soon he realized that he couldn't write a letter. "Ammi, the mail
service to India is shut down. How can I write a letter?"
"Ai, yes, I didn't even think of that."
She paused. Then she said, "But son, those who want to write letters are
still writing them. They say that the letters are reaching India through
London. Ai, son! Don't you have some friend in London? Send a letter
to him. He'll send it on from there to India."
again fell into perplexity.
I want to write a letter."
Sabirah?" Irfan looked at him attentively.
after so much time has passed?"
Ammi has got it into her head that Sabirah in India ought to have news
about my Khalah Jan. So now she's demanding that I write a letter to Sabirah."
this demand is just according to your desire." Irfan smiled.
to my desire? He fell into thought. What's my desire now? Now when so much
time has passed and we've grown so far apart. Between her and me time and
space have both interposed themselves. They've allied themselves against
us. How much time has passed since we walked on the same land, since a
single sky spread over both our heads.
days went on passing. Days, months, years. It seemed that the door back
had been closed forever. Those who had been lost would remain lost forever.
Once in a while somebody would suddenly appear, and people would look at
him in astonishment: Really, so somebody can actually escape and come out
of there? They they'd ask how he got out, and how he came to the city.
And he'd tell how he hid for three days in a burned-out house, crouching
in the ruins, hungry and thirsty, holding his breath. Then how he furtively
crossed the border and reached Calcutta. "Then, sir, from there I boarded
the Howrah Express. I thought that when I reached Aligarh, I'd surely find
somebody I knew on the platform. I'd recognize someone, or someone would
recognize me. Yar! When the train stopped at Aligarh, my compartment was
right in front of the tea stall, and our same old Khan was sitting there."
got down there?"
yar! How could I have gotten down? I was afraid someone would recognize
me! I sat there holding my breath, hiding my face. When the train began
to move and pulled out of the station, and Aligarh vanished from before
my eyes, I felt restored to life! Well, sir, then I didn't stop for anything
until I got to Delhi. I got down from the train and went straight to the
Jama Masjid. When I reached there I was absolutely penniless. I said to
myself, Well my dear fellow, now you'll be forced to tell someone or other
of your plight. In the mosque I approached a number of people, but then
drew back. At last I saw a fine-looking old gentleman. His face looked
so sympathetic and kindly. I went and sat down near him. Quietly I told
him where I was coming from, and then I burst into tears. He passed his
hand over my head affectionately, and took me home. I thought I'd stay
at his house for one night, then borrow the money for the fare and set
out again the next morning. But, yar, my resolve faltered."
Did you fall for someone?"
yar! The truth is that just then 'Pakizah' was showing there. I said to
myself, My dear fellow, now that you've come to Delhi, you ought to see
Meena Kumari before you go! So I stopped over for one day to see 'Pakizah.'"
it a good film?"
you see only the one film?"
many days as I stayed in Delhi, I did nothing else but see films. Finally
the old gentleman said, 'Young sir! If the police get wind of this,
they'll be here on the run. You'll be arrested, and we'll be dragged into
it as well. It's time for you to make yourself scarce.' So the very next
day I boarded the Frontier Mail and came straight to Amritsar. By hook
or by crook I managed to cross the border, and here I am in Pakistan."
the occasional person, after making his way in secrecy through town after
town, arrived by way of India. Others who emerged from the land of disaster
set out for Nepal, and contrived to come from there to here. Others left
through Burma, and endured hardship and pain on their way back. Many returned
after suffering imprisonment in India. So they straggled back, one by one.
The prisoners and the missing kept returning. It seemed that every single
one had come back, or perhaps as though no one had gone, or was lost, or
was lacking. How quickly wounds heal, and empty places are filled! Moving
around in the city, who could imagine that some people had gone away and
not come back, and some households were still waiting for them to return?
Khvajah Sahib was still wandering in the mists of hope and despair. Even
now he still came every day to see Abba Jan. They still asked each other
the same question, "Is there any news?" As though this question had been
asked for an eternity, and would be asked for an eternity to come.
Sahib! Is there any news of your relatives?"
of the new arrivals has brought any word?"
letter from anywhere?"
astonishing! So many people have come, none of them has brought any word!"
there any news of your son?"
Maulana Sahib. Thanks to your good wishes, there's some news."
Sahib, I had Maulana Sana'ullah read the omens./1/
He reads omens extremely well. The omens were that Karamat is well and
will return. And sir, the astrologers say the same thing. That astrologer
Nur Din, you know? I went to him. He drew a full-scale horoscope and showed
it to me: 'Khvajah, sir, look with your own eyes. At this moment your son's
star is in the house of Saturn. It's about to emerge. Just wait and see.
Suddenly one day he'll arrive.'"
is the Causer of Causes. It could happen that way."
confident that it'll be just that way. And furthermore, today I'm going
one of my brother-in-law's brothers lives there. His son-in-law has arrived
from over there. My brother-in-law told me that the boy has seen Karamat.
In fact he even says that Karamat has given him some letter. So today I'm
going to Lyallpur. Let's see what's written in the letter." He rose to
Sahib went out, and Ammi entered: "Why, these omens which Khvajah Sahib
is having read -- it occurs to me, why don't we too have the omens read?"
mother! God the Most High commands, and then things happen. Place your
trust in Him."
no telling when He'll give the command!" Ammi said angrily.
keeps His own counsel. We sit waiting for His command. When the command
comes, we set out." He paused, sighed, "Now it's time for me to die."
hai, do you always have to keep talking about death? Is this some new
madness that's come over you?"
mother! Remember Hazrat Ali's saying, that you and your desires are guests
in this world. Zakir's mother, you ought to keep this saying in mind. Guests
don't stay forever."
listened indifferently to Abba Jan's words, and turned her attention toward
Zakir. "Zakir! No answer to your letter has come from Delhi?"
it'll come. The mail reaches there very slowly, and comes from there even
son! After all, how many days does a letter take to go and come? It's been
quite a while since you wrote."
between India and Pakistan the mails are very much disrupted. Some letters
arrive, some don't arrive."
son, then write another letter to your friend."
written, Ammi. I expect the answer to my letter will be coming soon."
I've already written two letters. Surendar hasn't answered. I don't know
what's the matter."
write to her directly."
her?" He fell into thought.
door of the Shiraz opened and Afzal entered. "Yar! I've heard that that
mouse has come back."
just heard? He's been here for ages. He's been posted here, and promoted."
There was a little sarcasm in Irfan's tone.
forgive him. Among us all, he's the man most to be pitied."
to be pitied?" Irfan eyed Afzal with exasperation.
yar! I feel very sorry for him. He deserves pity."
he's joined the Civil Service, and is rising through the ranks."
truth, he's very much to be pitied," Irfan said bitterly.
can't you give me some liquor? I'm very thirsty."
can only give you tea."
Tea is useless. Only liquor washes out the filth inside." With these words,
he pulled some notes from his pocket and counted them. "Yar, I'm only short
ten rupees. Irfan! Get out a five." Looking toward Zakir, he said, "My
fellow here will give five."
and Irfan took five-rupee notes from their pockets and handed them over
to Afzal. Afzal at once stood up. But then he remembered something. Sitting
down again, he said, "Yar! Those two mice who always stood up on their
tails -- I want to say a prayer for them."
they'll stay in America and not come back!"
yar. Don't ask me to call down curses. Salamat and Ajmal weren't that bad.
After they'd been drinking, they said good things. Yar, why did they go
off to America? I was making arrangements for them here. I'm about to have
some acres allotted to me. One acre will be given over to beds of roses.
One acre will be only for rain-bugs."
Irfan looked at him sarcastically.
Be quiet! You won't be able to understand this. In the rainy season I roam
around very anxiously. There don't seem to be any rain-bugs here. There
ought to be rain-bugs. We have to make Pakistan beautiful." Then, changing
his tone, he addressed them both: "Listen! You two will stay with me. This
is my command. I, and you two."
the rain-bugs," Irfan interrupted.
and the rain-bugs. In beautiful Pakistan there will be only beautiful people."
One common method is to open the works of the great Persian poet Hafiz
(1320-1390), read a line at random, and draw conclusions from it.