Shamshar Alam was kneeling on the concrete tar road. He had spread on it the only rag that he had. His Abbu had bought him this rag. It was not a fancy one, the Luckhnavi embroidery had started to tear and the royal blue color had faded to give way to a lighter shade. Nevertheless it was Shamshar’s most prized possession and his only other possession apart from his mortal body. He then joined his palms and looked towards the sky. His lips moving to say ‘Bismillah’. For a brief moment he opened his eyes and what he saw was a bazaar. It was Hazratgunj, he deciphered from the board of the old tea stall. From the far end he saw a father and child came walking towards him, the father stopping at the carpet and rug stall

“Shammo Jaan, what color rug do you want?”

“Abbu, I want the blue one” said Shamshar rather joyfully.

Shamshar Alam closed his eyes again. One of the pupils now replaced with a glass eye and the bazaar was then bereft of decorated stalls and not a single soul breathed, except for Shamshar who kept saying Allah’s name. He then gets down on his knees which are now weaker and have bruises from the tar road. The patch in the rug had loosened exposing his knee to the tar road. He then looks to the left and opens his eyes. He has come with his father to Khuda Baksh Masjid. He peeps through the Jali and sees in part the face of Shabnam. Shabnam- dew. That is what she would be. She looked to the other side and was now completely out of Shamshar’s sight. Shabnam for her name was said but never remained. Shabnam said Shamshar as he looked in the front and faced the Banyan tree that was danced when he said it. A leaf fell into the mud pond in front of the tree and the sun shone on it, Shabnam he said again. He prostrated and touched his forehead to the ground. It was not something that he did purposely, his old back could only handle this much. His head was bare and his only left hair were grey. His Tabeez dangling along the ground. Maybe it was the Tabeez which was prolonging his life. He retracted his thoughts, this would count as blasphemy, calling the Tabeez unlucky would be insulting the Quran, something he couldn’t even dream of. He opens his eyes and is now holding the leg of his father who is standing with a stern face after beating Shamshar mercilessly.

“But father I love her” Shamshar said

“Astafigullah, she is a Shia boy, Shias are akin to swine. What next, are you going to start eating pork” the father shouted. “It is haram I say, haram”

His father shrugged him and helpless he fell to the ground, his forehead hitting the concrete floor. As he sat back his forehead still had that tingling sensation when he first fell. He raised his hands towards the heavens, his lips betraying the name of god. A shiver running down his spine and his spine frolics to and fro. His father, his mother, his Arabic teacher and Shabnam all standing in front of him with their backs to the banyan tree. His hands still in prayer, he looks towards the heaven

“Ya Allah, in the name of the Rasool why are you doing this to me, I beg of you” He had a crackle in his voice “Stop mocking me with your Djinns, I know these people to be dead. And I know at the day of judgement I will not be saved for I have sinned. Stop!”

As he looked towards the sky a drop of water trickled dropped on his forehead and the drop made a path through the curves of his face. It started to rain. The rain turned fierce, it was as if Allah cried.


Aloo Parantha

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