Corners

Dear Grandfather,

The air has changed. In the mornings and evenings the bereaved members of the departed season’s family burn the summer’s body and the new season of winter is welcomed by the delighted uncles and aunts while the sun grieving over its dead friend is furious in the afternoons on the innocent hopeful citizens but I am sure in your city the winter has already deployed little toddling winters in the gloomy streets. Once in the winter of fifteen years ago I was standing at our house door looking at the setting sun through two huge trees. The dying light of the sun fell on my face in shapes of webs. A little tilt of my head on the left and the light awoke wood-coloured tint of my eye. The birds were going back home from business. The squirrel family on one of the huge trees quarrelled over serious allegations of infidelity. The ant-hole inches away from my foot near the grass was hosting a parliamentary session, few of the angry members walked out in protest and crawled on my feet. A fat lizard on the wall had just enjoyed a healthy young moth. The leaves of the eucalyptus tree danced the mystic dance and waited arrival of the dark night. I counted my teeth with my tongue and licked the empty gum in the seventh place from right and mourned the loss of my tender tooth and the emptiness it had left in my mouth; mortality alas! It was not my mouth that had lost a loyal soldier but my soul that had lost a shred of its fabric. I missed my tooth and could not stop licking the place where once in its joyous youth it lived and spread happiness all around it. It was an epitome of calcium-ethics and bone-morality. A teeth of principles. Gave due respect to its neighbours, grateful to its provider and diligent in its duties. With its departure, the world is short of one great store of calcium-dignity. While I was saying eulogies for my tooth, I did not notice two women talking to each other beside the eucalyptus tree. One of them was holding a plastic bag from the butcher’s shop and I saw freshly cut meat inside it. The one with the meat was saying something and the other laughed reluctantly bringing her scarf to her mouth while laughing. Above them, at the top of the eucalyptus,  an eagle hovered with its splendid wings. It soared up high and came down again. The women had separated and left each other when the eagle came down with a plunge and attacked the woman with the meat. It repeated its manoeuvres until the poor woman threw the meat away and ran. The predator picked the bag and flew away glorious in its victory. I felt pity for the woman but respect for the bird.  Courage commands respect, even courage of a conquering army of marauders and rapists, of lions and eagles. An assessment of courage on moral benchmarks is illogical.  Courage is like gravity, you cannot call it good or bad.

One day when I woke up in the morning, I had a strong desire to play cricket. I had the breakfast without interest, had a quick bath and rushed with my bat and taped ball and wickets to Ahmed’s house. He had gone to a dentist for check-up, his brotheress told me. I went to see if Jawad was interested; he was ill with malaria, his mother said and she asked me to go sit with him for a while but he was asleep. I ran towards Mashood, the rusty wickets dragging on the road making clunky noises. Mashood was wearing his cricket kit and leaving with his elder brother hoping to play as a substitute or a runner for unfit batsmen on his brother’s team. I asked him to play with me but he refused with an excited apology. Disappointed I walked back home and I asked my brotheress to play with me but her bowling was so easy and rules of the game so liberal in our courtyard that I scored a century in ten minutes and she was so bad at the game that I had to intentionally drop her frequent catches. Then suddenly she hit the ball very hard sending it beyond the boundary walls of our house. I went out running to fetch the ball and as I was coming back I noticed that the big lock on the Khargosh brothers’ door was missing.  They were back from Sargodha after the festival of the sacrifice. We called them Khargosh brothers as all four of them had two big front teeth like rabbits and they always looked funny. Although they made fun of my monkey-like ears sticking out of my head but on the basis of serious calculations I concluded that they were more funnier. Despite our mutual hate of each others’ physical features we played cricket like a team. I knocked their door and presented my proposal which they readily accepted. I ran back, snatched the bat from my brotheress’ hands took the cricket paraphernalia out on the mud road which we used as a pitch.  We played the test match. Each player was allowed to bat as long as he was not out with no limits of balls. We stopped playing when it was my turn to bat and I was bowled out after facing only three balls, making me furious. I said the ball was a no-ball but they did not agree to it. I threw away the bat and was at the verge of crying. They started to pack up and I reluctantly helped them. We lied down in the grass patch near-by and looked at each others’ funny faces. Umer Khargosh reminisced about the fat cow which they sacrificed in Sargodha on the festival. He ran into his house and brought back a picture of the cow for me to look at. The animal was beautiful with exquisite horns and hump. Farhan Khargosh recounted the story when it ran away from them and  almost killed their cousin. He recalled how their father bravely tamed the angry cow. Junaid Khargosh told me how much food it ate. He said he was sure had they fed meat to it, the cow would have relished it too and he showed me a mark on his neck where the cow hit him while he was serving dinner to it. ‘She was a bad girl’, he said while rubbing his belly clockwise and they all showed approval by rubbing their bellies and murmuring things. But our pleasant discourse took a dark side when the eldest Khargosh spoke. Mudassir ‘Mudi’ Khargosh said addressing me: ‘Say Sufi, you are the only son, right?’. I said that it was true. ‘I wonder’, he continued, ‘what would have happened if Prophet Ibrahim had actually slayed his only son Prophet Ismael instead of the lamb’. He looked at me with an evil grin. I said this could never have happened for God loves his prophets. ‘I speak hypothetically Sufi.’ Umer Khargosh said. ‘then all the fothers and mathers (for Umer spoke like that)  would sacrifice their fons (meaning sons) on the festival.’ ‘They would have to’, Mudi said, ‘and it might be easier for fathers and mothers with many sons but for fathers and mothers  with an only son….’ He pointed his finger (when he said ‘only’) at me and then raised his hand (when he said ‘son’)  to symbolise digit one. I said this would never happen. ‘God is not a tyrant’, I said. ‘I speak hypothetically Sufi’. For a second I stared at the eucalyptus tree and then stood up and walked towards my home dragging the wicket and bat with the dirty ball in my pocket. As I walked, I heard the Khargoshs laughing. I resisted my temptation to run but quickened my steps.

Their laughter drowned in the maghrib azan. I ran towards my room and jumped to bed under the sheets and looked at my hands, the bruised knuckle, and wondered how different it was from a goat’s hoof. I shut my eyes tightly. Half an hour later I was called for dinner. Mother was peeling cucumbers with difficulty, ‘Where is the new knife?’, she asked the stove and searched for it in the cutlery. Knives cut. A pulse of explosive dread crossed my mind when she found the new sharp knife. ‘Come what are you staring at, come here, set this on the table and call your father’, the woman with the knife shouted at me. ‘Yes mother. Mother, what have you cooked?’ , I asked her. ‘My sweeties’ favourites. Meatballs.’ Why are meatballs your favourites, I asked Sufi but he didn’t say anything, only trembled. We were eating on the table. I had not touched a meatball  when mother put another in my plate. I avoided it too. ‘Father was Prophet Ismael hurt before the lamb was slayed?’ I asked my father. ‘That is a strange question. No he was not hurt, just as the knife moved, the lamb was put in place.’ I cunningly put the meatballs back in the bowl when no one was looking, and enjoyed potatoes and curry. I was  in my bed, when somebody knocked at the door. It was Umer Khargosh. He asked me if I wanted to play cricket. I said I will be out in a minute. They were waiting for me. Mudi was taping the ball Junaid was setting up the wickets and Farhan was drawing creases. When everything was set, they gave me the bat and said that I should get the first turn. I was delighted.  Mudi took the ball, others set the field. He took his long start for a fast ball, turned his arm around and threw the ball towards me. Why is the ball brown? and what is that liquid dripping from the ball? Oh no its not a ball, its a meatball. The meat ball hit me in the eye and I threw the bat and they laughed at me. The spices hurt my eye. I could not see clearly. I fell on the ground and smelled the fragrance of eucalyptus leaves. When I recovered my vision, I found that I was tied to the eucalyptus tree near our house with my neck. Mudi Khargosh was patting my back. Junaid Khargosh brought a huge bundle of grass near my mouth and asked me to eat. Umer Khargosh pushed grass in my mouth and said ‘Eat or I will tell your mather and fother’. I hit him with my head and tried to run away. They laughed at me. I felt a jerk at my neck and fell down to sleep. When I opened my eyes, there was silence and darkness all around me. The ceiling fan was static. The door was ajar; the curtains in the veranda flew inside. I stood up and went to my table, took a pen and a notebook and wrote down in the middle of a page ‘God is not a tyrant’ and cried and shivered with fear.

My dear grandfather, now whenever I slay a goat with my own hands on the festival I remember this dream and tell it to my wife who laughs with delight. Fear makes us see terrible things.

How can I ever thank you for accompanying me to the corners of abandoned house of my childhood. How can I ever thank you for giving me wisdom and teaching me to master my fear. How can I ever thank you for bringing me into this world. Take care of yourself in this harsh season and be steadfast on your decision to quit cigarettes. May God bestow His mercy on you. Write to me about the weather in your city. I am still waiting for you to send to me that letter about human bondage which your father sent you in your youth, which you always refer to but never show me. Do you not think I am old enough to understand now? Do not judge me by these childish stories I send you. I shall always be

your disciple, protégée and grandson,

Sufi

 

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Mansur Junejo

‘This life is unbearably long and may be unnecessarily too’, said Junejo staring at the fire, which reflected in his dark intelligent eyes. ‘Only some moments are worth living, remaining are for the preparation. I’ve not distinguished the liveable moments though, they are lost in thousands of useless moments, invisible and if I were a sceptic, I should have said, non-existent!’, saying this he looked at me and smiled a sceptical smile, which betrayed his statement. ‘I can see you are about to say something which will move my core and cause me to believe in you for a day or two may be until I go and search and bring some doubt to your temporarily certain explanations as always, han?’, smiling sceptically Junejo threw his phone at me. ‘See that?’ I looked at his phone. There was a message from an unknown number, it read:

‘MJ I shall not leave you. I am made for you. You may have attached yourself to someone as you say but I love you more than you love her. I have no problem. I am ready to be your second wife. I know you have no problem with polygamy, I listened to your talk in the canteen, when you were telling your friends why you think polygamy is good. Regardless of my opposition to it, I will be happy with you because I love you, MJ, please accept me! I will die without you, have mercy on me.I’ll kill myself’

‘What do I tell her now? Am I obliged to save a life? If she dies, would God catch me too?’

‘But you can be polygamous, what is wrong, you can save a life, all you have to do is distribute your love!’

‘Safdar, is this you speaking?’, angered slightly he stopped smiling.

‘How old are you MJ?’

‘Why, twenty-three or so!’

‘If you think life is unnecessarily long and that it should have been otherwise, you would have perished before reaching this age and knowing that you had your ‘enlightenment’ only last year, you may have seen hell by now and your life would have been totally useless like that star beside the moon’

‘If I had known I would have sought the enlightenment earlier in my life’

‘Presumptions are too dangerous to harbour them for a long time in our heads, how can you know that your life is long, because you saw  that dream?’

‘Dreams are insignificant, but its generally established that average human life is more than three scores’

‘Generally established statements are spoiled forms of presumptions. You say you would have sought for the enlightenment earlier. Did you seek it in real life?’

‘No, it just came to me. Didn’t I tell you about that accident by which I discovered enlightenment’

‘Please don’t use that word, I prefer collusion rather than accident’

‘Doesn’t matter what you call it’

‘Matters. Say I fail in some of my plans and then I say ‘it was my fate’. You’d jump up and tell me that fate is a bad word. You’ll suggest me to say, ‘it has happened as God willed it for me’’

‘I had another dream’

‘Where you were celebrating your 155th birthday?’

‘No, I haven’t seen any dream twice. I saw that my betrothed has given birth to twins years after our marriage. But…. she has herself has died’, he said this in a whisper, again looking at the flames, which could not burn the gloom in his eyes. ‘then I saw that I am in bed with her!’

‘Dreams are insignificant’

‘I am afraid she might actually do something silly. I have ignored her every time she has tried to talk to me. I don’t even look at her. But since last month she is stalking me and makes contact almost daily.’

‘Do you love her?’

‘No’, it sounded like an answer to the question ‘do you want to live?’

‘Your mother tells me that you have been behaving strangely and you are not comfortable with company any more. She accused you of introversion and says that you talk about purpose of things all the time. Last week she insisted you to go to the jeweller for ordering a set for your betrothed and you didn’t go and behaved so badly that she cried afterwards?’

‘I am at loss. I don’t understand, what is the purpose of this marriage. I don’t want to marry at all. Granted I love my betrothed, I plead guilty to it but I have started to look at things differently or rather they have actually been different all along’

‘You are uselessly pushing yourself to confusion and nihilistic attitudes. We are Muslims MJ, we are surrenderers, our lives have been bought, we have sold ourselves for something we cannot imagine, but something great, something which is a source of unimaginable bliss, we have been promised, we are told that we do not have to worry, we are told to be steadfast and wait!’

‘Why such long wait?’

‘God knows! Look brother cutting yourself off from other people will not help you gain satisfaction. We are animals but social. Seclusion is good but its excess, extremely bad.’

‘That’s your opinion. I don’t have courage to meet people with false smiles’

‘At least be good to your parents’

‘Hmm. What should I do with her?’

‘Marry her’

‘I don’t love her’

‘She does, and that is important’

‘What about other complications? How will I tell mother and what will my betrothed say? This can’t be done, it is impossible’, he stood up and we walked towards the house.

‘You said all I’ve to do is distribute my love, is love distributable?’

I didn’t answer.

 

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A Pledge

I am quite sure the reader is aware that I have selected finance and accounting as my career and that I am currently working in a firm of chartered accountants as a part of my qualification which will guarantee (if God wills) a good salary and all other things necessary to keep body and soul together. I will just bore my reader for a while and give a brief idea of how the qualification gets completed. See, there are 6 modules from A to F , altogether consisting of 20 papers of which I have passed 12 so far. After passing 12 papers, the student has to work in a firm for three and a half years. After spending 18 months in the firm, student is eligible for appearing in module E examinations which consist of 4 papers. I will be appearing in these exams in December this year. I am also giving Chartered Institute of Management Accountants –CIMA examinations. CIMA has three levels: operational,management and strategic each having 3 papers. I have completed operational level and one paper from management and I intend to give two papers from management level this May. Hopefully I will complete the management level of CIMA and module E of CA this year, InshAllah.

Problem is I am deviated from my studies. There was a fundamental error in my thought a few days back about the profession I have chosen. It had nothing to do with the level of difficulty or the time it takes or the benefits it gives afterwards, I would have had these thoughts about any profession I had chosen , had it not been this one. I realized that all this pursuit after money and material riches doesn’t matter and the triviality of these matter made me look at them with a contemptuous eye. I lost interest in all worldly matters including my studies and profession. Whenever I was trying to deal with an issue at work or during classes I thought this is not I am supposed to do with my brain, its funny because now I laugh at myself thinking of those moments of proud carelessness. I talked to my teacher who is also a chartered accountant but instead of practising he is teaching other students. I told him I have no doubts about my ability to complete the qualification and told him what was pressing me. He told me the thought about the triviality of world is right and you have reached the right station, you still have to find your right abode but it would just create more problems if I abandon my profession and go after vague pursuits based on random philosophical thoughts. He has read a lot of philosophy though. He said the practicality of all you will is very important. If you find the things useless and trivial does that mean you should stop living? Either way you have to live your life and continue breathing that’s just how it is. Even if you want to do something that will last forever you have to do it your own and for that you need strong financial support and sound source of income. You must have a resource if you have to live in this world. You should focus on your profession until its completion, even after that, to excel in it. Then you may delve in other pursuits as well, there are no limits at all, do whatever you want, it is only sane to do this.

Of course he was right. I was strayed.

So I made up my mind that this and the coming year, I shall force, that’s not the right word, I shall develop my professional skills to a great extent so that later on I just have to do little work to keep myself updated. I am sure I have no doubts about my abilities to learn.

So I decided to put it into writing so that I could remind myself again and again that this year and the next are very vital for the future.

So I must get a letter in my hand later on from people I have benefited.

Dear Safdar, Thank you for realizing and doing what was right!

Yours Truly

Older Safdars

This year and the next, I shall endeavour to work hard for future myself and I will likely abandon getting involved in any other matter for a while to a great extent. That means reading too. Specially, reading. Remember. Two months are already lost. But its never too late.