The Bride

full stops and commas of sunset hues

adorn her moonlit cheeks

marred by pearly tears of blues

she sits red and bleak







It is customary to step out of your vehicle when you hear a sound unlike the usual sounds of traffic rather more like a finely suppressed sound of  a low intensity grenade exploding, finely suppressed that is by a couple of fat men and an elephant or a rhino, and after assessing the sound carefully you conclude that your vehicle has been hit. I was going home from work. Mrs. Trafic and I are on very bad terms for quite a few days now. She has been behaving like an emotional and clingy past girlfriend to whom you have clearly explained your intentions of moving on yet she keeps singing songs of betrayal. If you live in this city and you have to go to a certain place to work and earn money and that place happens to be out of reach for your mortal feet alone, you will have to start a relationship with Mrs. Trafic. Your necessity to travel is just like that first time lovers look into each others’ eyes. She has no charm, in fact she has many lovers, yet you cannot help yourself. So these days when I am stuck on the road, crumpled paper balls are thrown into my face having messages like ‘I’ll follow you like your shadow XX’, ‘You were etched into the palms of my vast hands (a big drawing of a hand besides these words)’, ‘ Baby, I am like the sky, xoloxolo!’ and ‘Take this (with some indecipherable symbols)’ written on them. That is why I keep the windows of my car rolled up. I had just got out from one such encounter on the Muslim Society Road and rushed past the signal on that road just zero seconds before it turned red again after opening for negative ten seconds. I stepped on the gas on the long stretch of the Leaders Road when again to my dismay, that ugly witch was waiting there for me. I almost heard her laughing. But my long relationship has strengthened  me to stay calm. Without muttering any obscenities I sought refuge in Vammstein’s obscene songs and jerked my head in sync with the music. Minutes passed. More. I couldn’t jerk my head anymore. I turned the music off and looked at myself in the rear view mirror. My eyes fell on Montaigne’s complete works lying on the back seat which I had bought last Sunday from Fuhrere Hall after haggling for some time to bring the price down by fifty percent of what that monkey-headed bookseller was quoting. I tried to play sharp with him first warning him that nobody would buy Montaigne from you so better give it to me for the money I am willing to pay to which he replied by stating the facts about customer foot fall that every one out of six thousand customers are willing to buy sixteenth century books written by French authors on the price he was quoting. I agreed on seventy five percent of the original price to stop him from presenting his insane theories. I joked with him by giving him a debit card instead of cash and enjoyed the expressions on his face before giving him the money, he must have muttered ‘nutjob’ under his breath or something worse to that effect. Before handing me the book he said he had read Montaigne in his younger years and showed me one of his favorite lines from the book at which we had a high five and a hearty laugh which showed his beautiful teeth under gray mustache and his face lit up like your nail lights up when you press your finger against the torch of your camera phone. I stretched back to pick up the book and opened it to the page where he had shown me that line: Kings and philosophers shit, so do the ladies. I put the book back to move the car inches further and stopped again. I tried to fit the line in tune with the songs I had been listening to. But it was too prosaic for a song. Then I thought of translating it into urdu and sindhi and using it for a bumper sticker. It was when I was doing this work of literary ingenuity that I felt a thud and realized that my car has been hit from behind.

In a situation like this, for men who are sensitive about their cars and care for them like they care for their wives, there are two courses of action. They will either step out of the car, very calmly with just a frown on their noble foreheads, walk to the point where they feel the car has been hit, bend over and observe the impact like a philosopher and without looking at the assailant move back to the car and let the insurance companies take care of it. Or they will, like me, shout the national swear words (which one can say might be part of the constitution of our country) in english or urdu depending on which school they went to and what sort of company they frequent, pull the door handle in their rage to get out and then slam it shut and look for the culprit like a hunter and if the culprit turns out to be a gentleman and does not utilize these few seconds to run away and decides to face the music instead, then they will, like me, give them the concert of their life. I want to assert that people’s behavior in relation to their cars is somehow indicative of their behavior in relation to their wives, but something inside me, stops me. For one thing, no company offers a wife insurance policy. My car-hitter turned out to be a gentleman. He was sitting on his motorcycle with a helmet on and I could only see his eyes. I kept shouting at him questioning his sense of sight and cognition in swear words. I sensed from the look in his eyes that he was nervous and I would pretty well myself be so if I were in his position. I would be intimidated by  my heavy bulk and dense black mustache and eyes full of rage. I did not care to have a look at my car and see the intensity of damage done. We were still in Mrs. Trafic’s lap when this happened and by the look of it, it seemed that she was trying to make an offer to nurse us. The man was looking at me and trying to unbuckle his helmet. I turned to look at my car and behold, the very bumper which was to publish the results of literary efforts was kissing the road as a slave his master’s feet. I was furious. Just for a moment before turning to look at my car I had probably wished for a damage enough to justify my anger. Meanwhile everyone around us was waiting for a show. I felt the patterns on smartphones being drawn to unlock them. I turned around to face the man on the motorcycle. He had taken his helmet off and was supporting his bike on its stand. He walked towards me removing the gloves from his hands. He was over six feet tall and slim. The veins protruded from his naked left hand and a golden watch on his wrist reeked of old age. He seemed to be in his late thirties. He was wearing black corduroy trousers and blue denim jacket with sleeves rolled up. He pushed his long hair over his head and stuck them behind the ears and moved his hand over his beard to smooth it down. He had a ring on each of his hands. He stopped before me and with a slight bow said I am very sorry brother, its my mistake, I own it and I will pay for the damage I have done. I was taken aback by the biker’s servile tone. My previous experience had taught me that this breed of roadsters is careless, quick, over-confident of their abilities, part-stuntmen, part-actors, have fugitive tendencies and would suffer nail-extraction and electric shocks before confessing to their negligence. I myself am only bad-mouthed and usually very cool. What blows my fuse most often are the old menopausal ladies’ innuendos and improper approaches.I was trying to calm down but still repeated my questioning of the man’s senses in various synonyms. To tell you the truth brother, there was a little space all along the road between the line of cars and this median as you can see. He turned and pointed towards the road and space he was referring to. I was riding through that space very carefully when it became wider and I sped up but it got narrow again and I almost hit the side mirror of the last car and I looked back to check but unfortunately could not control my bike in time to avoid hitting your car which was blocking whatever little space there was for a bike. My car was blocking the way? Are you insane man, cant you see that we are all stuck here? What do you think I was smoking weed sitting there in my car and enjoying the breathtaking view of all these beautiful Arab horses? While I uttered the words ‘we are all stuck here’, the skeptical man living in my mind thought of the greater meaning of these words, of the futility of human life in a cold vast universe. No, no brother, I do not mean to say what you understood, perhaps my choice of words is not good. I did not understand? You hit my car, you accept it and you challenge my understanding? I’ll break your neck! Calm down brother, do no break my neck, it supports my head and my head is the only thing I value. I was surprised again. This man has a humorous vein even after damaging my car. Where is your driving licence? Show it to me! I do not have a driving licence brother. Do you know it is a crime to ride a bike without a licence. At this point, the cars started to move. Okay give me your identity card! I do not have my identity card brother. What the hell is your problem? What are you, an indian spy?  No, no brother, I am a son of this soil. I don’t give a damn if you are son of a volcano, come on now, hurry up the cars are moving, give me the money. I do not have the money right now brother, you ll have to come with me to my home. What the?? Are you crazy? Go to hell! I picked up the hanging bumper and thought of ways to fix it back temporarily. The cars around us were moving at a good pace now.No, no brother, I don’t want to go to hell, please just follow me, I know a place here nearby, they’ll fix you in a jiffy. Go to hell man, I will not follow you. Just let me fix it brother and we can go then. I said I will not go with you, fix it for me and get the hell out of here before I bust your head open. He quickly went to his bike and groped inside a bag for a minute and came back with a short piece of jute wire and we managed to lift the bumper from the ground and tied it back to its place. I stood up and went towards the front door. Brother are you coming with me? Go to hell!!!

There is another difference between automobiles and women you have entered into an amorous relationship with. If you are callous towards your women and their decency was a major contribution in your fall in love with them, chances are that these women will not leave you in the middle of the road. Au contraire, if you are callous towards your mechanical horses, they will not think before betraying you in the middle of the road and wont budge on your sincerest apologies and promises of gentlemanly behavior in future. Therefore you must have an accurate idea of their moods, and put your efforts in constructing a mental barometer to know which way the winds of  their whims are blowing. When I had purchased my car from a second owner, its remote locking mechanism was functional. Some time later, the system went mad and worked only when the cluster of Seven Sisters, Venus and Orion were visible in the sky. After condemning the biker to hell-fire I quickly pulled the front door handle but it did not open. I tried again and failed. I became certain then that car had locked itself with the keys inside. I checked the other doors and back door of the hatchback and by the Horns of Big Red Buffalo, all of them were locked. In my fury I had forgotten to take the keys out before slamming the door shut. I was boiling with wrath and kicked the tire with all my force. What happened brother? The biker came over and asked me like a child asks its mother if she is not feeling well. You happened, you dumb clown! Why are you not drying in sunshine stuck on some mud wall in your village, you dung heap!! I have no village, my ancestors migrated from the neighboring country brother. For fox sake shut up. The road had cleared now. Probably the obstruction ahead was removed and traffic flowed smoothly. Although I was furious but I knew that the keys were locked due to my error. I asked the biker if he knew how to open the door without the keys. No brother I haven’t been trained in the occupation of car-lifting. Since you hit my car and you were the prime cause (again the ears of the skeptical savage who shares my consciousness stood up, and he formed an arbitrary chain of causes and effects, tracking it back to the prime mover), you will have to help me get it open now, do you know if there is locksmith around here? Brother I don’t know about any smiths, but I can take you to the mechanic nearby I was telling you about. Somebody pulled my little finger and I looked around to see a street urchin carrying jasmine flower bands in his hands. Uncle please buy these, its two for fifty but I give you three for fifty. Go! I don’t want them! I shooed him away. Where is this mechanic of yours? I asked the biker. Its on a street near Gaza Road brother, we can go on my bike. Uncle please buy these. Bugger off! I said. Let’s go.The car was already standing in the side of the road and was not in the way of other vehicles. We walked towards the bike which he started on the third kick and we started with a jerk. I had to shoo the urchin away twice again.

Part I