C H A P T E R   E L E V E N

        "Son, that bunch of keys is still lying around."
        He saw the bunch of keys lying on the table, and felt ashamed. Abba Jan had, in his last moments, confided them to him so carefully! "Ammi, today I'll put them away for sure."
        "Yes, son, they're a trust from your forefathers. You should keep them carefully." As she spoke, Ammi Jan left the room. After all, she had other household tasks to attend to.
        A trust from my forefathers, he murmured. "Son, these are the keys of a house to which you no longer have any right." The keys of that house, and of that land. The keys of Rupnagar. The keys are here with me, and there a whole time is locked up, a time that has passed. But time doesn't pass! It keeps passing, but it doesn't pass. It keeps hovering around. And houses never stay empty. When those who lived in them go away, the time lives on in the houses. So many empty old houses in Rupnagar came and occupied his imagination. That house with the jujube-tree, the one in the lane near the mosque, the one that had a big lock on its main gate. There's no telling who used to live in that house, and when they shut it up and went away. By then it had been locked up for ages, and the padlock had gotten rusty, and inside the ceilings of a number of rooms had fallen in, leaving only the walls still standing. And one afternoon, chasing a kite, he came to its threshhold and saw that inside it was like a forest. The grass was so tall, and a papaya had sprouted and grown until it looked like a small tree. How surely houses that lie empty turn into forest. And how surely time -- time too -- that lies locked up inside, turns into forest. My memory -- my enemy, my friend -- leads me into the forest and abandons me there.

"The night is enjoyable, will you go or will you stay?
The bed is springy, lover, will you go or will you stay?"
        The rain kept on coming down. From somewhere, from some house or other, in that rain-filled night, the sound of a drum kept coming --
        "Zakir, make me a grave too."
        "Why should I?  Make it yourself."
        Sabirah scrapes the moist dirt together and piles it around her white foot, and when she pulls her foot out, the mound, with its hollow, stays in place.
        "Zakir! My grave is better than yours."
        "Oh really?"
        "Put your foot in and see."
        My foot -- in the grave molded by Sabirah's soft white foot. How soft, how cool -- 

        "Zakir, son!  Have you heard?  The son of the woman who runs the bakery has been shot."
        "Shot -- how?" Startled, he looked at Ammi, who had come, badly upset, into his room.
        "Why, Doomsday has come to the neighborhood! The poor woman had only the one son."
        "Who shot him?"
        "Who? As though it were some one person we could name! The neighbors say that on Mall Road there's a hail of bullets. Are, people are crazy for blood -- they're going mad! Just tell me, what did the bakery-woman's son ever do to them?"
        A hail of bullets, he muttered. Outside there was a hail of bullets, and inside he was wandering in the forests. One forest, then another forest, and then another forest. He went on advancing, and the forests kept on getting denser. What forest is this that I'm in? How dense, how deep. And this town --
        "Oh Zakir, have you heard, they've been setting fires!"Ammi said in a terrified voice, the moment she entered the room.
        "Fires?" Coming back from the forests, he looked at her. "Where have they set fires?"
        "You know the house with the horses, where those wretches have their office? What party is it? It's been driven right out of my head. I can't remember the names of those parties and such at all!"
        "It's all right. There's no need at all to remember their names."
        "The neighborhood women have been driving me crazy. They say, Let's go out and see what's happening."
        "Ammi, nothing is happening outside, please just sit down and stay calm."
        "Son, that's just what I've come to say to you. Let anything happen outside, what's it to us? I won't let you go out today," Ammi said, and at once left the room.
        That's just fine, let anything happen outside, he muttered. Nothing is happening outside. Everything is happening inside me. Everything that has already happened.

        What's happening is that the lock on the Great Gate has opened. The Small Bazaar is silent and desolate. The sound of footsteps only comes when a funeral procession sets out from one of the houses. After that, more silence, which grows even deeper. Will Rupnagar become entirely devoid of people?
        "Nasir Ali, my son! You sent back the bullock-cart that had come from Danpur, and you did well. But do you know how many houses have been emptied since this morning, and how many funeral processions have set out?"
        And when the house with the tamarind tree burned down, and all the water-carriers of Rupnagar came with their leather water-skins. But the water acted like kerosene, for after the water streamed onto the fire, the leaping flames grew even fiercer.
        Hakim Bande Ali looked angrily at the whisperers. "But I ask you, what reason would some outsider have to come and start the fire?"
        "Then who started it?"
        "People! Don't force me to speak. Quarrels over property have shattered this family."
        "Zakir, I'm afraid, let's get out of here."
        "Sabbo, don't be a coward, we'll go in a minute."
        "I'm afraid, let's get out of here."
        An explosion! The roof-beams were burning the way a forest burns.

        "The fire engine has come."
        "The fire engine?" he asked, somewhat startled, as he returned from the forests.
        "Why, if it had come a little later, the flames would have spread to the neighboring houses as well. And our house isn't exactly detached, either!" As she spoke, she turned on her heel and went back, as though she had only come to tell him this news. But then she thought of something and stopped. "Zakir, shall I make you some tea?"
        "Tea!" He looked at her, startled  "No, Ammi." And at the same time he stood up.
        Ammi looked at him suspiciously. "Ai hai, the moment I come you get up!"
        "I'm going now."
        "What did you say?" Ammi almost screamed. "You've lost your mind! Is today any day to go out?"
        "Ammi! Khvajah Sahib insisted very strongly. Abba Jan's grave has subsided. I'm going to the cemetery to see to it."
        Ammi, hearing this, wavered, but then she said, "Son, you could do it tomorrow instead."
        "Tomorrow! Ammi, you have a lot of faith in tomorrow." He looked hard at his mother. "Tomorrow might be even worse than today."
        Ammi was completely crushed. She couldn't even think of an answer. And he quickly put his shoes on, combed his hair, and went out.
        At the door he encountered Khvajah Sahib. "I was just coming to see you. Where are you going?"
        "I'm doing as you told me yesterday. I'm going to the cemetery."
        "But," Khvajah Sahib said uncertainly, "How will you go? There's a lot of disturbance over that way."
        "No, I'll get there."
        Khvajah Sahib paused, then said, "If you'll take my advice, don't go today. Go tomorrow."
        "Very good! I thought Ammi was the only devout optimist. Khvajah Sahib, you too believe that tomorrow will be better!"
        Khvajah Sahib was at a loss for words. Then, after a pause, he said apologetically, "Son, I don't know how you feel about this. Since the Maulana Sahib's death, I've perhaps begun to assume some rights over you. Or perhaps now in Karamat's place I -- " Khvajah Sahib's voice became a bit choked up. Before finishing his sentence, he fell silent.
        He tried to reassure Khvajah Sahib. "You've never been one to lose hope! What kind of talk is this? Now that you've waited so long, you should wait a bit longer. Who knows when -- and why not? People have been known to come back, even after years. I know one man myself who's knocked around here and there for years, and has just now come back."
        "Son," Khvajah Sahib said hopelessly, "The time for coming home has passed. And now what's the point of anyone's coming here? Don't you see what's happening? Maulana Sahib was lucky to depart in peace." He paused, thought, then said, "Go, son, I won't stop you. Maulana Sahib was disturbed. But when you come back, tell me, so I can feel at ease."

        Passing through that narrow street, he hesitated. Ammi was right. He had not imagined then that the fire could spread. And the area where it was burning was not too far from their house. So many houses in the neighborhood had come within the range of the flames and been blackened. The fire brigade had arrived and were standing by. Their long hose passed from the road into a burned-out house which had lost its roof and was filled with black, smoking ruins. Groups of people stood around, staring at the burned-out house and at the firemen with their brass helmets.
        Passing by Nazira's shop, which was closed, he reached the road, which was empty for a long distance. Empty and silent. In the middle of the road a flock of birds had alighted; hearing the sound of footsteps, they were startled and looked at him with surprise, then flew away with a whir of wings. A little way ahead of him a kite, with its wings spread, was strolling down the road. At the tap of footsteps it hesitated, looked at him with round astonished eyes, seized a scrap of carrion in its beak and flew off. Then for a long way the road was absolutely empty. In the silence how loud the tap of his footsteps sounded, and what a burden it became to his ears. Ahead, in the closed bazaar, bricks lay scattered everywhere. Smashed car windows, a half-burned tire. His loud, sharp footsteps. He slowed to a pause. Some hesitation. Something had happened here, and while he was wondering what might have happened he suddenly felt that someone was watching him. He glanced to the right and the left. The shops were all closed. But near them policemen with truncheons were standing, rank upon rank, absolutely silent. Only their eyes moved, following the passersby. But who was passing by? At that time he alone was walking.
        Ahead, the road grew more and more frightening. Emerging from the zone of silence, he entered the zone of noise. Somewhere very near, slogans were being shouted and smoke was rising. Is something burning? No, I think somebody just set fire to a tire. But anyway, what do I care? I should think about something else. Now how far is the cemetery from here? Surendar's letter. I cruel? He's talking nonsense. But beyond this he couldn't think of anything more. From a cross-street a flood was pouring in. The next moment he found himself in the midst of the crowd. Tense faces, bloodshot eyes, necks with swollen veins, slogans and abuse on their lips. Who are these people? All the faces were strange to him. After a while, out of the flood of strange faces a familiar form appeared, saw him, and paused.
        "Are you part of the procession too?"
        "Then why are you going with them?"
        "I'm not going with them. I'm going to the cemetery. To my father's grave."
        "They're going toward the cemetery too."
        "Toward the cemetery!  --Why?"
        "Near the cemetery, in that red building, there's a police post. They're going to raid it."
        "That's a real problem, what should I do?"
        "Do you have to go by this road? Go by some other road. If you turn here on the road to the church, from there you can go through the back lanes and get to the cemetery."
        "Yes, that's what I can do."
        But he couldn't do it. There was such a sea of people all around him that he was entirely trapped. He was moving the way a straw is borne along in a flood. He looked helplessly at the faces around him. They seemed to have been stretched out and elongated. Then they began to be flat. Stretched-out necks, flat faces, red mouths, and hairy bodies that seemed to bristle with excitement. He was frightened. What if their necks should stretch and stretch, and their faces flatten and flatten, until their shapes changed entirely, or even lost all shape? Am I one of them? Will I be raised up along with them?/1/  --No! Then should I make an announcement -- an announcement in this crowd? Who'll hear? You can't even hear if somebody yells in your ear! At least, I mustn't go with them. Let them go to the cemetery by their road, and I by mine. I must get out of this crowd quickly, for fear that I too -- that my neck too might stretch, and my face flatten, and the veins in my neck swell, and my face -- Suddenly there was a commotion. Firing had begun: panic, slogans, abuse, a rain of bricks, a hail of bullets. A truck passed swiftly by him, on which stood long-necked flat-faced troops with pistols in their hands, moving toward the red building visible ahead. It seemed strange to him that the troops who stood on the high roof of the building and peered out the windows of the lower storeys suddenly also had stretched-out necks and faces growing more and more flattened. They too were armed with pistols. A hail of bullets began. Panic, shrieks and cries, a storm of non-human yells. He, a straw floating in the storm waves.

        He didn't know how much later it was, and how it came about, but when his mind began to clear somewhat he found himself lying by the cemetery gate. I should go inside, so I can hide among the graves and escape this Doomsday-chaos. Staggering and stumbling, he went inside and wandered among the graves. He paused: This is Abba Jan's grave. He sat down beside the grave, thinking that when he came to himself he would say the Fatihah. He was still unable to catch his breath, and his body was trembling. The sound of firing could be heard. The sound of slogans too, but they were hardly slogans any more. Now they were a torrent of ferocious, inhuman yelling. And why was there this smoke? Startled, he raised his eyes above the buildings before him, where black and brown clouds of smoke were welling up, then coming together in a thick black column and rising into the heights. "Fire," he muttered, in a shaky, frightened voice. Now the smoke was coming toward the cemetery, and then it seemed that the whole cemetery was full of smoke. Sitting among the graves, he was amidst clouds of smoke. Even more than his breath, his senses were gripped by the smoke. In his imagination the whole city was burning. Their tails were like torches, and swept through the city like a broom, the crackling, blazing city. So much had already burned, so much was burning. So many buildings had already been destroyed, so many were about to collapse. He crawled and crawled, trying to come out from under the rubble. He felt that he was not all in one piece. Am I myself, or the rubble of myself? 'What a building sorrow has destroyed!'/2/ Am I in pieces? Everything around me is in pieces. Time too. In the womb of that one time there were so many times. I'm wandering, broken up -- through what times?

        . . . "The city has already burned, but our tails are still burning. Where shall we put our burning tails?" "Son, put them in your mouths." We did. "Our tails have been cooled off under our teeth, between tongue and palate, but why have our faces turned black?" "The end of every fire is soot."/3/

       . . . Then I asked that black-faced wretch, "Ai black-faced, black-fortuned one! May your mother sit in mourning for you! Were you one of the letter-writers?"/4/ Bowing his head, he replied, "It was I myself who wrote the first letter: 'The harvest is ready. Flowers are blooming in the gardens, the grapevines are heavy with bunches of grapes.' Then I was the first of them all to swear allegiance to his envoy." "Then after that, what happened to you?" "Not to me, to the city," and he whispered, "Ai brother, speak softly, or rather, don't speak at all, for the harvest of heads is ripe, and there's a curfew in Kufa." A curfew in Kufa! I was astonished, and wandered from lane to lane. The lanes were deserted, the streets empty, the windows closed, the doors locked, the mosque echoing with silence. When he stood to lead the prayer, those praying with him formed in rows that filled the courtyard of the mosque all the way to the back. When at the end of the prayers he turned to look, the rows of men had vanished, the mosque was empty. When he entered the mosque he was surrounded by men going to say their prayers, and when he left the mosque he was alone./5/ He wandered through empty streets and deserted lanes. Flowers were blooming in the gardens, the grapevines were heavy with bunches of grapes, and the harvest of heads was ripe. Don't speak, for fear you might be recognized -- 

        . . . Then the Buddha opened his lips: "In a dense forest lived a tiger. Springtime, the night of the full moon. The tiger and his cub were enjoying themselves in the forest. One time he roared so loudly that the whole forest echoed. Hearing his roar, the jackals too shook themselves. They began howling and wailing at the top of their voices. For a long time they kept howling and wailing. They aroused the whole forest, but the tiger remained silent. His cub said, 'Oh my father! You, so brave, the king of the forest -- it's surprising that the jackals are making so much noise, and you are silent.' The tiger replied, 'Oh my son! Keep one word of your father's close to your heart: when jackals speak, then tigers fall silent.'"
        Hearing this parable, one monk said, "Oh Lord Buddha, when did this take place?" He smiled and said, "In the time when I had taken birth as a tiger and was living far from Banaras in the foothills of the Himalayas. Rahul was with me."

        . . . After these words, the Buddha fell silent. When he had remained silent for a long time, the monks fell into perplexity: had the time to keep silent come once again? When the wise will fall silent, and shoelaces will speak.  This is the time when shoelaces speak. So don't speak, for fear you might be recognized. They spoke, and were recognized, and the harvest of heads began to be cut down. When I reached the edge of the water-channel, the branches of the leafy tree were loaded with heads. The cut-off heads, seeing me, burst out laughing, and began to fall into the water-channel with a plop! plop! like ripe fruits./6/ I was afraid my head might have ripened too. Before the fruit could fall from the branch, I leaped into the water-channel. Struggling to stay afloat, I somehow reached the far bank. I came out of the water-channel and decided to head for the city. But there were no vehicles at all. The bus stand was deserted. Not a scooter-cab, not a taxi. Not even a private car to be seen. I asked a passerby, "What's this? There's not a vehicle to be seen." He replied, "There's a strike in the city today. All the vehicles are off the road and all the bazaars are closed." I set out on foot. I had gone only a little way, when a procession overtook me. It was a very big procession. A countless multitude. A turbulent ocean of heads. But where are the heads? I looked closely -- no one had a head. Where had their heads gone? And was my head still there? Since coming out of the water-channel it hadn't occurred to me to see whether I had brought my head out intact, or lost it. I touched my head with both hands, and found it safe on my neck. I offered thanks to the Lord. It was as hot as Doomsday. 'Oh Lord, save us from the fire of Hell.'/7/ The sun had come down to only one and a quarter spears' length from the earth,/8/ and skulls were bubbling like cooking-pots. Today heads are burdens on the shoulders. Those who have been released from this burden are fortunate. If I'd left my head back there, I would have been safe. Those who have heads, and have brains in their heads, are in trouble today. Those who have brains in their heads, and tongues in their mouths. 'I swear by Time, man is surely in loss.'/9/ 'It's evening. The river has stopped flowing,'/10/  the tents have already burned. Burnt-out fires here, broken tent-ropes there.'/11/ A few tent-walls are still burning. In their light I saw that the corpses had no heads. Where are their heads? Oh brother, they have been lifted on the points of spears. Now you'll see them at the court of Damascus./12/ Shoelaces are speaking. The speaker's head is on a platter. "Ai my dear friend! Now what news of the city?" "Oh brother, now the heads of the head-cutters have been cut off and brought into the court." And a centipede crawled in through the nose and out through the mouth and in through the nose again. The head on the platter is that of the wretch who cut off the blessed head and lifted it on the point of a spear and put it on a platter and presented it at the court. At that court how many heads were presented on platters! And how many more will be presented. Then the son of David said to his son, "My son, that which is crooked cannot be made straight. Those who have died are fortunate, those who are alive are unfortunate./13/ Least fortunate of all are those who are yet to be born."  "Ai, traveler, if you've passed through the blessed city, tell us the news." The camel-rider wept. "Ai brother, don't ask how things are there." The corpse of that valiant man hung for three days on a gallows in the center of the blessed city. Then his mother emerged from her house. She came to that spot, looked at her son's hanging body, and said, "My chevalier, your time for dismounting has not yet come."/14/ There is peace in the city. The wise men are silent. The harvests have been reaped. The harvest of heads, the harvest of virgins. How many children died, writhing with hunger and wailing with thirst. How many laps were emptied. How many women, the women of the blessed city -- the wells of Jahanabad are choked with the corpses of women. Those whom even the sun never saw unveiled, are exposed to public view. Ai city, how did you become sacred, how did you become dishonored? Alas for your ruined lanes -- and for those who have ruined you, despite your benefits to them! How do cities become sacred, how do they become dishonored at the hands of those who benefit from them and know them as sacred! Then where did the sacredness of that sacred city go? Its protector, breaking his flute, smashing his pitcher, went off -- into what forests? And a white snake emerged from that wise man's mouth and slithered off into the waves of the ocean. Water at first, water at the last. Om, shanti, shanti, shanti -- 'I swear by Time, man is surely in loss.' Those people are like spiders, they have built their houses; and of all frail houses, the spider's house is frailest. So alas for those towns that were overpowered by a cry, or swept away by a torrent of water, or wind, or fire. How many mansions lie with their roofs fallen in. How many wells of cold sweet water have been filled with dust; how many have been choked with the corpses of virtuous women. From the Jama Masjid to the Rajghat Gate is a desolate wasteland.'/15/ Special Bazaar, Urdu Bazaar, Khanam's Bazaar, where have all the bazaars gone? No water-carriers, no clinking of water vessels. Lanes that were like leaves from a painter's album have been laid waste. 'Now Jahanabad lies in ruins--'/16/

        . . . After a long silence, the Buddha opened his lips: "Monks, just imagine a house which is burning on all four sides. Inside it some children are stumbling around, trembling with fear. Oh monks, men and women are children, stumbling around in a fiercely blazing house." 'I swear by Time, man is surely in loss.'

        . . . "Ai my son! How did you find the towns?"
        "My father, I found the towns uneasy. East, west, north, south, I went in all directions searching for joy and peace. In every direction I found the children of Adam unhappy and troubled."
        "My son, you were searching for something not to be found under the blue sky."
        "Then, ai my father, what do you say to me?"
        "I will say to you what the son of David said to his son: my son, scattered clouds never come together again. Clouds that have rained themselves out never rain again. So before the birds fall silent and the sound of the grindstone ceases, and before those who gaze out of the windows are darkened and the gates of the street are shut, and before the silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl is broken and the pitcher is smashed at the well and -- "/17/

        "Fellow, what are you doing here?"
        He looked up with a start at Afzal, who was somehow there, standing by his head.
        "Yar, I came to my father's grave. Then I was trapped here. Today the whole mess took place right around the cemetery. But how do you happen to be here?"
        "I have the same matter of graves to deal with that you do. My grandmother is buried here too." Gesturing: "That one over there, that's her grave." He paused; then, brokenly-- "Zakir, my grandmother's death has taken away my strength." He fell silent. For a long time he sat in silence, lost in his thoughts. Then he said slowly, "Zakir, doesn't it seem strange to you?"
        "That we've met, in the turmoil of the day, among graves."
        He'd forgotten about that. He sat up with a start, and looked around him. Graves and more graves. And now evening was falling. "Yar, evening is coming, let's go."
        "Where shall we go from here?" Afzal asked innocently.
        "Anywhere. Let's leave." He got to his feet.
        The road was empty for a long distance, and also full. From one side to the other, how many bricks lay scattered. Broken bricks, shattered bits of car windows, half-burned tires. How many traffic signals stood blindly, deprived of their lights, and how many had been bent out of shape. The silence betrayed the earlier tumult. It's strange that in such cases the deep silence that falls afterwards is in exact proportion to the tumult that raged before. It was becoming hard to walk. So many scattered bricks and fragments of car windows and rubble from ruined mansions.

        . . . Saadat Khan's estate, the General's wife's mansion, Sahib Ram's garden and mansion, all destroyed, filled with dust. From the Jama Masjid to Rajghat is a wilderness. If the heaps of bricks lying around could be removed, there would be total emptiness. At Hare-bhare Shah's tomb, the same mad faqir was sitting there again. I was frightened, I was afraid he might roar at me again. But today there was no roar. Then I myself approached him. I asked respectfully, "Shah Sahib, what do you foresee?"
        "What has already happened will happen again."
        "That is already occurring."
        He looked at me with furious eyes. He roared, "Go away! I have no orders to reveal anything further."
        I came away.

        "Zakir, my friend!" Afzal paused, then said, "It seems there's been a lot of tumult." In fact he had seen spots of blood on the road, and was frightened.
        "Yes, it does seem so."
        "People have grown cruel," Afzal muttered.
        Cruel -- hearing that word on Afzal's lips he was somewhat startled, but remained silent.
        They had both fallen silent. They were only walking, together but not connected to each other.
        "The Shiraz too!" they both exclaimed at the same time. They had unconsciously headed in that direction, and when they arrived they were taken aback.
        The Shiraz was closed, but not merely in the ordinary way: all the glass panes in its doors had been smashed. Its door and walls were covered with soot. The signboard that had hung in front of it had been burned, and lay on the ground right before the door. There were so many bricks scattered around that they could be seen inside as well as outside. So here too there had been a furious attack, and here too a fire had been set. They both stared fixedly at the Shiraz. Then, avoiding the scattered bricks and broken glass, they sat down right there on the sidewalk.
        They sat in silence, and the shadows of evening spread. The road before them lay in deep silence. No sound of feet, no noise of vehicles. Then in the dusk a shadow appeared, coming toward them. They looked closely to see who it was. "Irfan," he said to himself, and in his mind's eye he saw the Imperial's tawny cat -- the way he had seen her as he passed, during that silent evening when he had wandered in the debris of the Imperial.
        Irfan, without surprise, saw him and Afzal sitting there. Then, without saying a word, he sat down beside them. All three sat like statues. In the deepening dusk of the evening, three motionless shadows.
        Suddenly Afzal stood up, as though he was sick of sitting silent and motionless. He stood before them both, hands submissively folded. "Yar, you two are good men. Forgive me. I wasn't able to protect the city."
        They both looked at him, went on looking at him, in silence. Today this manner of Afzal's didn't cause Irfan any irritation.
        Afzal stood for a while. Then he sat down, then he said slowly, "Yar, we weren't virtuous either." He fell silent, and looked at them both. "We're cruel. We too."
        Zakir looked quietly at Afzal. "I'm cruel?" He wanted to correct Afzal's words, or perhaps he was only murmuring to himself.
        Afzal pulled a notebook out of his pocket, glanced over the list of names, inked all the names out with a pen. "There are no virtuous men."
        Neither he nor Irfan showed any reaction. For a long time the three sat silently. Then he grew somewhat restless.
        "Yar," he said to Irfan, "I want to write her a letter."
        "Now?" Irfan stared into his face.
        "Yes, now."
        "Now when -- " There was no telling what Irfan had wanted to say; in the midst of his sentence he fell silent.
        "Yes, now when -- " He paused in the midst of his sentence, then took a different tack. "Before -- " Confused, he fell silent.
        Before -- he tried to get it clear in his mind -- before -- before the parting of her hair fills with silver, and the birds fall silent, and before the keys rust, and the doors of the streets are shut -- and before the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl is shattered, and the pitcher is broken at the well, and the sandalwood tree, and the snake in the ocean, and --
        "Why are you silent?" Irfan was gazing steadily at him.
        "Silence." Afzal, placing a finger on his lips, signalled Irfan to be silent. "I think we will see a sign."
        "A sign? What sign can there be now?"Irfan said with bitterness and despair.
        "Fellow, signs always come at just these times, when all around -- " he paused in the middle of his speech. Then he said in a whisper, "This is the time for a sign -- "


/1/ In South Asian Muslim folk tradition, the faces of sinners grow deformed, and they are raised from the dead in animal shapes.

/2/ A line from a ghazal by Mir.

/3/ Based on a folk version of an episode from the Ramayan, in which the mighty monkey Hanuman and his companions spread flames through Lanka with their burning tails. When they reach Sita, *Ramchandar-ji's captive wife, she counsels them on how to quench the fire.

/4/ Some residents of the city of Kufa, in Iraq, wrote letters inviting *Husain to come to Kufa and assume power; this led to his betrayal and death. Husain first sent his cousin Muslim bin Aqil to Kufa as an envoy.

/5/ It had been decreed that whoever prayed behind Husain's envoy Muslim, and thus showed respect for him, would die.

/6/ In Persian and Urdu story tradition, the hero Hatim Tai encounters a similar tree.

/7/ Quran 2:201; 3:191.

/8/ A Muslim folk tradition about the torments of Doomsday.

/9/ Quran 103:1-2.

/10/ A line from a ghazal by the minor poet Agha Hajju Sharaf (fl.1850's).

/11/  A line from a poem by Iqbal.

/12/ The heads of Husain and his companions met this fate.

/13/ Based on Ecclesiastes 1:1, 1:15, 4:2.

/14/ A story traditionally told about one of Husain's cousin Muslim's prominent supporters in Kufa.

/15/ From one of Ghalib's letters describing the disasters of 1857.

/16/ A line from a ghazal by Mir. The second line, which completes the thought, is "Otherwise, at every step a house was here."

/17/ Based on Ecclesiastes 12:1-8.



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