Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Last local to Lahore

In the beautiful valleys of Kashmir a war was raging. Children were dying, women were being raped and men were being slaughtered. The state of P.O.K was in tatters. The perfect abattoir as the journalists had termed it. The clock struck nine. The last local to Lahore was at heels. His taxi had delayed him. The train started moving denying him his last outburst of freedom. He caught up to it just before it was too late. He was huffing and puffing like the wolf in the pig story. Life was taking its toll on him. He was forty three and growing older every day. He wasn’t really fat but yes he sported a few extra pounds in a display of health and wealth though he had neither. What he did have though, was the unmistakable air of a journalist. A satisfied journalist, one with a coup and rightly so, his hard work had finally paid off. His name was going to be on the first page the day he reached Lahore. The schedule promised him his destiny the next afternoon but in Pakistan you never know. You could be snatched from your doorstep and discarded to the same deadly spot beheaded. You could lie down to sleep and never wake up. You could be a millionaire today and broke tomorrow. This is Pakistan, the refuge to all militants, even those too old to know their own tricks. But he wasn’t afraid. He was old, chubby and Muslim. He was safe all right. His name was Khaled, Khaled Mahmud and within a couple of days the whole world would know his name. It was going to be a long night. The coach was almost empty bar a teenage girl and her husband or maybe boyfriend, most probably the latter; he hadn’t seen a ring on the girl’s finger. The man on the other hand, had rings on every finger except the one that really mattered. Then there were a couple of uniformed adults playing cards. He could think of them as soldiers as well but half the country was in uniforms. He could do with company so he joined them. They talked for a while one of them a self esteemed war hero as he declared, who couldn’t keep his mouth shut and the other a comparatively silent type who put in a couple of words here and there. The war hero drunk as he droned on about the prostitutes they had met.
He got bored pretty soon so called in a night and went under the blankets. In a couple of hours the soldiers were dead to the world snoring like sick horses. Being a proper full-fledged journalist he never slept. Even when his eyes were closed his ears were open and that was what finally ruined him. Poor thing he was going to pay dearly…
At about two his ears cocked up again someone was weeping, not really loudly but in the silent glow of the night the sound was unmistakable the agony undeniable, you just couldn’t miss it.
For a while he ignored it, crying infants and women, even men were not new to him. But then you can’t really restrain a roving eye and a journalist always wants answers.
He left the supple and warm shelter of his bedding heading towards the source of the pain. The teenage girl was the culprit, obviously she had been dumped. The man was no where around. This was his chance to use to girl. But then what if the man was still there? He didn’t want to pick a random fight with that giant of a man. He kept walking and checked the bathrooms and slowly the whole train all the time stealthy without such as a sound. It was a mere three coaches and there were no other occupants bar a filthy old rag tramp. When he finally returned to the girl with growing fantasies she wasn’t there. He checked his own coach. He couldn’t really see anything, it was pitch dark but he could make out their bodies. The snoring was gone though. Where could the girl go?
His lustful interior was giving way and fear enveloped him, anxiety finally revealed its presence and now the true journalist was alive again. If something was going on here, it could be his second coup; he would demand a raise, a Mercedes and of course promotion. He started walking opposite to the side he came from. His journalist mind told him to lie low but the thought of a double coup he lavished, just a little more spoofing, a little more work, just a little. The temptation was too great.
He was on the last coach and had lost hope. She was nowhere to be found. He had almost given up when the sniveling started again. It was very close to him, definitely in the same compartment. He found her hiding beneath a berth. He tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t listen. Whatever he said, she just cried and ignored him as if he just wasn’t there. When she had finally stopped crying, he was stunned at her reaction. Instead of being relieved as he had hoped for, her eyes had nearly popped out of her head. She had been shocked, had stared at him with her eyes wide open and then without a word broken down again. He tried again to console her, tried real hard to get her to give but nothing worked.
He left her to her being and walked away annoyed and irritated. She could cry as much as she wanted, why should he care? He opened one of the doors and tried smoking a cigarette; it was his last so he intended to enjoy it. The dark sceneries trailed across, a hint of solitude and abandonment filling them with different shades of greys rather than the customary yellows that normally haunt a night. He could finally retire, if he wished, he would come back again, but not before he had tasted the colours and contours of the life he thought he deserved. His last cigarette finally ran out as the train was curving over a bridge. Time to get a wink of sleep, he had to be fresh the next morning, he had to write the prologue of his new found happy life. As he turned around, thinking of the beaches he had never been to, the scantily clad women, the beers and the money, he was amazed to find the slut behind her again.
She was smiling.
“Done with your crying?”
“Not yet.”
“Then leave I need to sleep.”
“Kiss me.”
In a matter of seconds she was onto him, her craving erasing his every thought, her warmth sealing his fears, he had wanted this for so long; it had been a long time…as he felt her wet lips on his own he gave way to the rising need in him…
The next day the morning newspaper had a small corner for him on the second page. His newspaper read
“Bloodshed on Lahore Local ….”
Early last morning four bodies were found on the Lahore local in what appeared to be a killing spree. One of the victims was identified as Khaled Mahmud, a famous reporter who was due to be retired this spring. Two other dead were identified as junior army infantry. The reporter had died due to multiple stab wounds in the chest and stomach. Another body with the same pattern of stabs was found hidden in the same compartment. The victim is yet to be identified. The other two had slashed necks and had apparently been killed in their sleep. The police have no clue what so ever regarding the killer. For now militants are being held responsible for the cruel act…

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Whispering Statues

The early morning sun was shining brightly. The trees were swaying in the rough wind like the delicate feather of a bird new to the world fluttering in the sky trying incessantly to fly. The tiniest of bugs were still sleeping merrily, their young ones awake inside their eggs waiting for the call of Mother Nature. Somewhere in the midst of all this, sitting under the mango tree was a young boy, eyes closed, in silent prayer for his loved ones, praying for their well being, their peace of mind, dwelling in a state of constant calmness that can come only through holiness and purity of spirit and soul. He never moved and remained as constant and unchanging as the North Star, only more lifeless and yet in a weird distant way full of life.
A little girl was observing him from a distance, hoping he would move for her, only open an eye if nothing else. He never moved, just sat there forever staring at her. His eyes were closed, yet she knew he looked at her, she just did. She had shouted at him, hoping that he would move, but he never had. Now she had to know. She was the princess. Why couldn’t he move for her?
She ran to her mother, crying.
Mama he wouldn’t budge, he just won’t.
Who wouldn’t budge my darling?
That boy in the garden, I want him to dance and he won’t move.
Well he can’t do that.
Why not?
Come let me show you why.
She took her outside and stood right in front of him.
Come princess let’s make him move.
He will?
I don’t know, let’s try.
She slowly came close and hid behind her mother.
Mum tell him to run away, I am scared.
Now, now darling, don’t be scared, he only wants to be friends.
I can’t.
Why not?
He will bite me.
No he won’t, he knows you only want to be friends.
How does he know, his eyes are closed, how does he know I am me and not one of those Daakus you told me about.
Oh he does, don’t worry about that. Go on.
So he won’t bite me?
Nope…apparently he has better things to do.
Go on now be friends with him, shake his hand.
But his hands are behind his head.
Oh come on touch him anywhere.
He won’t mind?
She slowly took a step closer still fear borne, moved a finger close to his leg and brought it back in the wink of an eye.
He is cold.
He is made of something hard.
Yes my love…
How did he come here? Where did he come from?
Don’t you like him?
No…I mean yes I do but…
Then why ask? Anyways now that you have asked, I made him.
No…I am joking.
Mommie…What’s his name?
I think its Costa.
What type of a name is that?
Well different people have different names.
You knew him?
Yes, he lived next door a long time ago.
Where did he go?
Oh he left…
Mom do these statues whisper at night?
No, why do you ask?
Last night when I came here from grandpa’s house and you were a little late, I could hear them talking.
Yes and they were talking about some witch…
Yes must be the witch who takes little girls away then…she becomes their friend and then kills them right?
No…there is no such thing.
How do you know that?
Mommie you are scaring me…
It’s ok to be scared…Come I will show you around. Want to meet Rico?
Who is that?
He is in the other garden, the one you haven’t seen yet.
After an hour or so, both mother and child sat down to have breakfast.
Mom did you make all those statues?
Mom why did you make all those statues?
Well mostly because I love children and second because they wanted me too.
So you knew all of them?
Yes they were my friends.
So where are they now?
Well they are scattered all over the big garden that we live in.
So you will make one for me too?
Of course…but what do you want me to make?
One of your dolls?
No…they are childish.
Oh they are childish…
Then, you soldier?
No make me…
Don’t ask me to do that.
Why not I am your princess…please….
I can’t.
Why not?
Because then you will have to miss school tomorrow and after that and after that.
I hate it anyway. The teacher shouts and everyone cry all day.
Is it that bad? I had no idea! Ok dear I will make one, but tomorrow and not of you. Now you go to school. Your bus will be here soon…let’s get you ready.
Thank you mommy…
That night…
Mom how do you make your statues?
Oh it’s easy dear; I just add water to plaster of Paris and set it on the cast.
What’s plaster of Paris?
It’s like cement.
What’s cement?
Cement is something used to make houses.
What is cast?
Well it’s the main body. Like suppose I have to make the statue of the doll, I will take your doll, put P.O.P around it and take it out later.
Oh so you are gonna put it on me?
Mom, can I ask you something?
Yes beta you have been all day, one more won’t hurt.
How did you start making statues?
Well a long time ago, when mom was your age, maybe a little more, she used to go out with a boy called Jack.
He was your boyfriend?
Sure was.
You kissed him?
Hmm I did.
Is it ok if I kiss?

Well maybe but not now, I will tell you when you can start kissing.
Ok…what after that?
Well we grew up, and he proposed and we married.
So you lived happily ever after?
No afraid not. One day he told me he was going and then I couldn’t take it.
Where was he going?
I don’t know, he was just leaving me, he said he was tired of me and he would leave the next morning. I was going to tell him I was pregnant and then this, so I put him off to sleep. We lived near a cement factory then so I made his statue with cement itself in the night when he was sleeping.
So he didn’t leave after that?
No, he loved the statue so much he stayed.
So you are going to make a statue of me too?
For you yes, you no.
Mom but you said in the morning…
I said I will make you one…but not you.
Please make me mom.
No baby, I can make one for you that’s all. I can make one of anything you want absolutely anything but not you.
Mom…I don’t want you to make anything else, just make me.
Why you?
Mom….you promised you would never say no to me.
I will think about it little girl.
Mommy please
I don’t want to, I would love to but yet I don’t want to. You are my own daughter, not you at least.
Why not?
You are special my love.
But you love me don’t you?
I do and that is why I can’t.
I can’t love I can’t.
Mommy…you can’t make a statue for your little princess?
Love I can but…
Mommy please I beg you please…please …please…
Her eyes were wet…ok my love…I promised I won’t ever say no to you.
Mommy I love you so much.
The next morning, an old man came to her garden.
Hello there lady, I heard you sell statues?
You heard right old man.
Who is that little girl over there?
Nobody, the P.O.P is still wet on her and she is not on sale…
Is there anything I can buy?
Sure…anything but that.
Do you make them on special order?
I would like to make you to make one for me… I can pay you all you want.
You can’t pay me once I finish it.