Unshaken Shake (Part I)

Whenever an incident happens in Pakistan, most people say that they were so near to that area of incident when in real they had been miles away or practically in a different city altogether. It feels like they follow a trend of some sort of attention seeking or making themselves appear more important to others. These disturbing incidents have risen in their frequency and intensity in the past years and includes all that violence that have occurred because of terrorism. Pakistani cities of Karachi, Quetta and Lahore have seen these shocking blasts take many precious human lives in the past years. One such explosion occurred in Lahore in the summer of 2008. The location was the headquarters of Federal Investigating Agency or the FIA.
That morning was like any other morning. I woke up early and after being done with all the chores I left for a few tasks given by mom. I had to make a trip to my bank too and get a bank draft be made. Another piece of work laid my path for that day cut through the famous Ararkali bazaar. Mani was along me. He took the cheque from me and went to the bank on the Temple Road. Even to this day I shudder at realizing the scary coincidence that the Bank and that Federal Investigation Agency’s building were on the same road. Adding to the horror is that the gate of the bank and the gate to the F.I.A.’s complex were exactly across each other. As the events of that day rolled, I went to my work and then Anarkali while Mani went to the bank and we agreed to meet afterwords at a designated place. The bus dropped me off at the Regal which was somewhere middle between Anarkali and the Bank. We both were connected on our phones. I was coming out of a college building in Anarkali (where it even stands today) when I heard a ground shaking boom. The earth and the earthlings trembled. Everyone knew that an explosion occurred. The intensity with which the ground rattled is still so fresh in my mind. I saw a mushroom shaped cloud rising from the south. In a fraction of a second I realized that even Regal Chowk was to that side. Every human that I saw was running in panic. Fear gripped the people when they should have gripped some stronger emotion. As many screams and voices as many people muffled the truth somewhere in between. Someone shouted that a bomb has exploded in Anarkali while someone said that some organized attack occurred in the Lahore High Court. I was in a shock no words could elaborate. The only rational source to the truth was the cloud that was still climbing. It made me sink in fear and worry a lot more that whatever happened didn’t happen in Anarkali. The High Court could be a place where, as per logic, evil people could have hit because of all the lawyers movement in those days. I saw some people running towards the Mayo Hospital which too was just a few hundred meters away. I took refuge in a famous medical college’s administration building. I pulled out my phone but the network had went down with that bang. Less than two minutes went by when someone I ran along with to be safe pulled out his pocket radio and then I came to know of the location of that blast. It was F.I.A’s building.

My blood froze.

I felt as if someone took my soul out. Even in broad daylight, I saw darkness over my eyes, coming into existence from my peripheral vision inwards. My phone was still in my hands. I called Mani even though the network showed no signals. The call didn’t go through. At that moment mom called me. I lied to her keeping my voice under composure that we both were together and heard nothing.

Sad Shocking Slit Sight

Life has many realities, a lot bitter and ugly and many alluring and joyous. But no reality is accepted as willingly as death. People doubt about Gods, science, cultures but they all agree to this one reality. I went to a cemetery to visit the graves of a few elders in the last month of November. Just the silence of environment was enough to contemplate about life and whether there is any beyond the point of death. Passing through many marked and unmarked graves, I discovered a strange broken grave out of which insects were oozing out. The bolt of curiosity hit me and I searched for someone who could tell me more about the owner to that resting abode. 

The Wah Cantonment Cemetery. Front Gate. 
The Wah Cantonment Cemetery. Front Gate. 
The image of the grave in Wah Cantonment Cemetery. The grave broken into two parts is clearly visible. 
The image of the grave in Wah Cantonment Cemetery. The grave broken into two parts is clearly visible. 

I finally found the caretaker. Upon asking he explained that it belonged to someone he doesn’t know because the grave existed before he came there. Moreover it broke into two parts some years back. When that happened, insects poured out of it. May Allah forgive everyone. 

Ghar – A tale (Part I)

Dr. Amaan was appointed as head of neuro-department in a renowned mental hospital of Hyderabad. He was delighted to see me when i went to meet him. We used to talk for hours remembering our old days when we were studying together. Amaan took me on a tour of the hospital. He showed me different wards,different patients.I was really amazed to see them. It was more like of a rare breed human zoo! The patients really behaved odd. Their acts were unpredictable.
When i returned to the staff quarters, Dr. Amaan told me that whoever has reached this hospital, some tragic event has happened in his life. But there is one patient whose life had faced such an incident that no person is ready to believe,but all what happened is death-true.
I was already looking forward to hear any adventure from my old friend Amaan so I agreed. Dr. Amaan told me that according to old staff and doctors this patient was brought to the hospital three years ago in chains. At that time,his mother was also with him. According to the statements given by his mother,he has become violent towards women.He even attacked her and injured her seriously.When his mother was asked what really happened,even she couldn’t elaborate.
His mother told that his name is Salaar. Since his childhood,he never remained in good company. He used to roam out late and never came back home early. One night he returned home. When i saw him, i was shocked. His hair were messed up,and eyes were red. He was all drenched in sweat.Even he himself was in a state of shock.As soon as he entered the house,he pointed towards the door and said,

“Mother! Save me from her! Just save me!”

And fell on the floor…

His mother told us that she got very worried and scared,and thought that some person is trying to kill him and followed him to the home and to make sure,she went to the door and looked out in the street. But there was no one outside.

His mother added that she with the help of neighbors took him to hospital as he was having a high temperature. After two days,he came to his senses. But he was still behaving very odd. He always pointed to the door and told me that someone is coming to kill him. After many days,he recovered. Finally she took him back good. After many days,one night again he turned violent. Whenever he saw any woman,he tried to attack her. All the day he remained sitting in one corner of his room,scared. Telling us such detail,she broke into tears and begged the doctor to save her only son. That day i went to the guest room in hospital’s quarters but couldn’t stop thinking about Salaar. My curiosity made me helpless. I asked Amaan that i want to know what really happened to Salaar. The next morning I woke up early. I went to the hospital where Amaan was already waiting for me. After a formal talk,he asked his peon to send “HIM”in. I knew whom Dr. Amaan was calling in. After about two minutes, the door opened.
A man in his mid 40’s entered the room. Decent face,moderate height, wheat skin, and very absorbing eyes. We greeted him. Dr. Amaan told me that whatever happened to Salaar is such that if he had told me,i wouldn’t believe myself so he called for Salaar himself. By his looks it was impossible to say that such a good looking man remained “MENTALLY ILL” or a shocking event disturbed his life. After a long pause, Salaar told us the terrifying truth. He spoke, 

“My name is Salaar Ahmed. I’m the only son of my parents. We were settled in Lahore. Being the only child, i was quite privileged in the family. Though poor, we never lived a starved life. At an age of six i joined school but i couldn’t meet up the expectations that my parents had with me and studies got out of my life’s elements. I was in my eighth standards when the first dark chapter of my life was written by fate. One day it was the marriage ceremony of our land lords, and my father was called to the ceremony to serve the elite class. The food that was circulated among the servants wasn’t good and when my father returned home,he complained a severe stomach ache. I was about to leave to get any doctor that I could get at that time of night when my father was no more. That night wasn’t only tragic for me. Eight servants in all died that night in Lahore who were serving at the ceremony of that landlord. Some said the food was poisoned. Some said that perhaps a lizard fell in the cooking soup. Whatever the cause was, no support came for us by that landlord although my father served him his entire life. I was still small at that stage. My mother used to go to some houses as a maid who wasn’t ever paid on time. Later she learnt sewing. And life passed on in misery. In those days i left school.
Although my mother was very strict and even she beat me whenever she could for my better future,but i couldn’t stop the distortion that was entering in my life due to roaming late night out and having a bad company. Though my mother knew all this,she remained silent. Behind the curtains of her apparent anger,was an infinite ocean of love. That was the age when i did my first robbery. I robbed an old man of his money.That was my profession’s first step.
Time never stops. Not even for those who can’t learn,who can’t get education. And such boys become men quicker than those who remain in custody of their parents. By the age of twenty, I was a thief. To be saying correct, I turned out to be a thief who not only robbed valuables, but even hearts! Though having such rare talents, my life had women but remained void of love. I had seen the tears of my mother and of those women who live a down trodden life in poverty. I made two friends at that time who were like me. But once after getting caught by the police, I turned solo but I never stopped theft. God gifted me brains of genius that I used for only the negative. That genius was the only thing that kept saving me from getting caught. 

Once I targeted the bungalow of a rich man. By the appearance of the house, I estimated what prize could I possibly earn. That house was in a far end of Lahore. I watched that house for many days. After so much of wait, one day brought me the good news. That rich man with his family went to attend some ceremony out of Lahore. They put a big lock on the door. The more I saw that lock,the more my heart got excited. It was winter. I waited impatiently for the night. At the desired time, I got into dark clothes and took a black coat. It was all I had for such tasks and to prevent cold. I took my torch, a rope and my pistol. In fact that pistol was also stolen. When i was about to leave home, my mother told me to be back soon. I satisfied her that I would be back in time. Roaming in the streets, and killing hours of time that lay ahead, I reached that neighborhood where that house was located in. By that time people had already gone to bed. It was quite dark in streets. Using the pipes and the rope I had, I entered the bungalow. And same happened what I was expecting. There was jewelry, prize bonds and cash worth sixty thousand rupees. My joy was boundless. I put all in my bag. There were some other valuables like a gramophone, a television and very precious silk clothes but I couldn’t carry everything back. So I left the house with the gems and the money and jumped into the street.

The street was very dark. I had hardly taken five steps when I saw a shadow. Being a young man, I felt surge of fear mixed with excitement. It has already happened that during one robbery the people of the house woke up and I was nearly caught. So it wasn’t the first time I faced fear and excitement. When the shadow came near I realized it was the watchman. I could see an axe in his hand. He also saw me and shouted

“Stop! Who are you?”

At that time I did what any thief would do – I ran. He started shouting behind me and ran after me. As I were running in the dark streets, I could here his footsteps  not far away from me. In that moment there was only one aim in life. for me and that was to run and run and run until there was no one behind. I could hear doors opening and lights turning on in the streets behind me. Hiding in shadows, following narrow streets, opting a zigzag path, I reached the end of the neighborhood. I knew i was trapped. But I was a bit aware of that mohalla. I knew that there was an abandoned house in that part of neighborhood which was not deserted for years. I had no time to search for that house. People were behind me as was obvious from the noise which was not far away. I was breathless. I saw an open window to my right. Without a second thought, I jumped inside. I sat down. I could hear the noise and sounds of the people outside then. I stayed as still as I could and waited. Slowly those voices faded and I realized that for then the danger was over. I had gained my breath and stamina. The sweat on my body started to make me feel the slight cold of the winter air. I didn’t want to be caught by the people or police, which I thought that the people must have alerted by then. Moreover I didn’t want to wake the inhabitants of this new house up or else the “fruit” I had reaped so far would be gone and a new chase would begin. No one is lucky again and again. So I stayed still for almost an hour and a half. I felt my pockets. My loot was safe with me. The feeling of safe and full restored a lot of my energies. I realized one thing however. Even after one hour and with the noises outside, there wasn’t any sound of any sort in that house. It was in my favor though but the feeling of why someone hasn’t woken up so far was a little unsettling. Maybe the people of that house are gone out too. More loot. I felt that it was my day. Like a child, excitement was crawling under my skin. It was too dark inside to see anything beyond a few feet. I pulled out my torch and pressed it on. A beam of light fell upon the opposite walls. Upon seeing the walls clearly for the first time since I jumped in, I realized that I was in that very same abandoned for years house people talk used to say was possessed by some unknown presence. Thinking paranormal didn’t upset me but at that moment it was not a good feeling at all. I rushed to the window to look outside and leave that forsaken place but the window didn’t budge, even slightly. The feeling of I was trapped was taking over me. I stepped forwards and shone the light on the far end of the room. There was a door. I wondered what or who was on the other side of that door. Then I heard a mild thud. I couldn’t make out from where that came. The dead silence made me listen to my heart beat. I waded through the dusty deserted room and reached the door. I tried listening to anything from the other side. But the shadow and the silence seemed to stretch to every corner of that house. Then I turned the knob.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED. . .

(The story is inspired from an urdu book Zulmatkada