Bedtime Stories for Young People OR The Star which Outshone the Moon Itself

‘I feel so humiliated Safdar, I cannot tell you how much I am!’

‘What has happened? I’ve never seen you like this before!’

Imran had called me about three hours ago and expressed his wish to see me as soon as possible. I agreed and we decided to meet at his flat near Abdul Qadeer road in Johar Town. He lived alone in his big apartment. I rang the bell outside his door, it didn’t ring and I thought its not working but he came out in an instant with an expression of guilt on his face. As we sat down, he started playing with his long beard as was his habit since long. I told him that he didn’t look too good and asked if he was keeping supererogatory fasts.

‘No!’

‘Then?’

As I uttered this word with childish curiosity, lights went out.

‘Lets go to the roof and I’ll tell you’

On the roof of that eight-storied building I could see few lights in the entire Johar Town immersed in darkness. The building was away from the road but I could hear the horns and usual traffic noise. In the sky shone a solitary star which outshone the moon itself. Few clouds floated but their existence could not be felt. The star shone fiercely as if feeling alone it cried for company of lost friends. We went towards the boundary wall and facing the open view before us I sighed. At a small distance away from the parapet on the same roof, a fire burned in a yellow used ghee can and around it sat an old man in his chair and a young bearded man who sat silently and listened to the old man while he spoke slowly in a muffled voice.

‘I feel so humiliated Safdar, I cannot tell you how much I am!’

‘What has happened? I’ve never seen you like this before!’

‘You know I’ve been living this flat for a long time and I have good relations with all my neighbours. There lives a family in block C right opposite Merhran’s flat. They have a son who is mentally retarded and often his parents let him loose and he does things which irritate people. Once he peed on Mehran’s car. We have talked to his parents, they are really good people but they haven’t been able to keep him from irritating people. I think he is twenty-six or something and he was born like this. His parent love him too much and the idea of leaving him in a sanatorium bursts their heart, as they tell us. One day, as I left Mehran’s flat and walked towards the elevator he came running behind me and pushed me hard enough that I fell. I stood up in rage and slapped him so hard that it even hurt me. He looked at me with such furious eyes but didn’t say a word. Tears ran over his face. I left him standing there and went down through the stairs to avoid his look which may have left me horror-struck if I gazed too long. Similar events happened with many people but most of the time people just controlled their anger and only complained to his sorry parents. Even I often forgave him for his foolish actions but that time I could not handle myself too well. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I regretted that slap.

A few hours ago I locked my flat and went down for Isha prayers, did ablutions and waited for the congregation prayers to begin. After a few minutes all of the people in the masjid arranged themselves in the ranks, the muezzin said the takbir and the Imam began the prayers. As he recited the Fatiha and began an additional surah which was at that time ‘Iqra’ , somebody behind the jamaat shouted in a very loud, fearful voice ‘Allaaaaaaaahuakbarr’ and we heard gunshots and a really powerful explosion, the whole jamaat , myself included, scattered and ran for the door but there was no one, the masjid stood at its place and there were no bullet marks on any wall and no sign of any explosion, everything was properly arranged, the books in the cupboard, the calligraphy and duas on the walls, the pillars. There had been no explosion. Only the Imam and few people in the second and first rank had not moved. The Imam continued his recitation but stopped when the buzz of people’s talk became too loud and broke away from his prayer position!’

‘What?’

‘There had been no explosion. All of us gathered and went outside. At the main gate stood the 26-year old mad man with a loud speaker in his right hand and a matchbox in the other, laughing as mad men laugh. He lifted the speaker to his mouth and with a hysterical laugh said:

khuda tum ne namaz dekhi in logon kee? ek awaz se darr gaye aur chor diya tujhe! hahahahahahahahahah!’

(God did you see their namaz? fearful of only a sound they left you hahahahahahahahaha!)

He dropped both the things and ran away but people caught him and……………………………………………..’

I was silent and kept looking at Imran whose eyes were wet and in them glittered the few lights in the dark Johar Town.

‘Ek awaz sey dar gaya mein yaar aur chor diya khuda ko’ , said Imran , his words choking. Then he cried with all his might. The men around the fire looked in our direction. I waved at them and the old man continued his tale. I could hear his indistinct words now. Imran kept crying for a few minutes and then suddenly lifted his head and said:

‘ Ek paagal ne mera eeman mujhe dikha diya, ye rozay, ye namaz, yeh tilaawat, inhon ne kuch asar nahin kiya naa eeman pe, zindagi tou utni aziz hai jitni her jaandaar ko hai, eemaan tou waisa hee kacha dhaga jo ek awaz se honey wali vibration sey hee toot jaye’

(A mad man exposed my faith, these fasts, this prayer, this recitation haven’t affected my faith at all, life is as precious as it is to every living being, faith is as weak as a string which breaks even on a vibration of a sound)

‘Come on Imran, one must think about his  life’

‘My life, my death, my prayers my sacrifices are all for Him’

‘Yes I know but that was a reaction, any other person must have done that too’

He sobered up and stood silently facing the open view.The lights glittered in his eye, the wind blew his hair. He turned towards me and said:

‘How strange is this life? How strange? Look at this, look at these hands, look at all of this, will this hand be like this in hundred years? Where do we come from and where do we go? I have lost it Safdar, I have lost it!’

I took his hand and pressed it and patted his shoulder. He had sobered up now, completely. He said, ‘The administration has asked the family of that mad man to leave the flat within a week and until that to keep their son inside the house at all times otherwise he’ll be handed over to the sanatorium.’

We were silent for a minute, I heard the old man saying something in his slow way. As I looked at the men around the fire Imran said:

‘Thats Mr Ayaz and his grandson’

I looked at the boy. Apparently he was listening to his grandfather with extreme reverence. We walked towards them and stood close enough to hear  Mr.Ayaz’s words clearly. He was saying:

‘Then there were people who thought the sun is their God. There were people who thought the lion is there God, some thought the fire is their Creator, some consider things made of stone their Sustainer, some think that all this is a joke and that there is no God, some say what they perceive exists. You see Abdul Sami, there are many kinds of people, there are some kinds of people who think that little star in the sky which outshines the moon itself is their God.Then there came a man who told people that his words were words of the God, he came and lived for 63 years on this planet, he once told people that his God says:

“and it is He alone who sustains the brightest star”

The man has long gone my dear Abdul Sami but I’ve believed in his every single word. I believe that ‘it is He alone who sustains the brightest star’, do you understand what I’m saying beta?’

Suddenly the the whole Johar Town came to life as the power came back. We went down to Imran’s flat. As he opened the door, he said in a grim tone:

‘Do you know Safdar that this boy is deaf and they have named him Abdul Sami?’

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Notes by the translator:

1) ‘ and it is He alone who sustains the brightest star’ – this is a verse from Quran, the Holy book of Muslims. The verse 49 of chapter 53

2) the star which outshone the moon itself may be Sirius, a star of the first magnitude, belonging to the constellation  Canis Major.

3) Sami is the name of Allah. Sami mean All-Hearing, The Ever-Listening. Abdul Sami means ‘servant of Sami’

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3 thoughts on “Bedtime Stories for Young People OR The Star which Outshone the Moon Itself

  1. This is quite possibly the most powerful piece I’ve read in a long while… Oh the ironies of life… And oh the grimness of reality. Do you think it all depends upon our perception?

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