The Invisible Killers
It was a coal black night. Our farm manager’s son, Gora Modi, was sleeping at the cattle shed of our farm when the thieves, hiding their faces in the darkness, came for our livestock. Dadaji, my grandfather, had asked Gora Modi to guard over the cattle at night as in those days cattle lifting incidents in Dev Singhwala and the neighbouring villages had become almost a daily occurrence. When the thieves came to do their business, feeling their presence around him, he woke up, and resisted the cattle lifting bid as much as he could. It was test of his young, adult muscles, and using all of his energy, wrestling with them for a quite long time, he rattled the intruders. As the fight gained momentum, our rare-breed dog, Kali, alerted by the unusual noise loped to the cattle shed like a friendly wind, and howling and barking in Gora Modi’s support attacked fiercely on the thieves. As though he was some sort of back up force (of Nature), that had come there to help combat the baleful enemies. Kali generated a whirlpool in the cattle shed air, giving them now a look of ‘Two Fighting Forces’. One of thieves-turned-decoits picked something hard and long from cattleshed, and the thing that came in his hands was a crooked metal rod and with that he hit Kali and Gora Modi randomly, but they survived the rods hits, and the battle continued. The frightened farm animals at the shed with their almost forty brown, black wide eyes watched the scene. Our dog clutched a leg of one of the thieves jerking it like a toy in its strong jaws, awakening alarm in thieves about possible failure of their plan. At that moment perhaps to save their plan, they first shot the dog, (the child of nature) and then Gora Modi and when the burning bullets worked insides them. The bullets of 30-bore pistol finished the battle, making screwed bulletholes in the fleshy trunks of both the man and the not-man: liquid of life welled up and trickled on the ground, oozing out from their different but friendly skins. Brown. And black. Furless. And Furred.
Moving on liquid legs like two Liquid Things, the pair of identical redness joined a little away for a parting kiss on the earth into a foot-sized shallow where it was meeting for the last time. The two species’ liquid of life soaked slowly in the cattle shed’s crust. Died. They took their last breath almost together fallen alongside like two close friends in a lost battle field while the thieves waited to see life’s movement stop in their two pairs of eyes. When the end came passing friends saw darkness melting, and human faces rising and falling in it, snakewaving in front of them. They saw a Merger: the faces of decoits were merging into darkness and the darkness was merged into them. Everything was merging into everything on the dying stage. The thieves waited for silence of death to appear on their faces. On the man, and the not-man. Then, with a weird calm, they took three cattle, the baffloo, bull and cow, the best of the livestock, from the shed and in the coal black darkness walked away from Dev Singhwala through the long stretch of ripening wheat, pulling the ropes tied around the long cattle necks, discussing the sadmess that they had left behind at the cattleshed, thinking about the high order product or most precious waste that they had produced. By the time the new sun’s rays appeared on the dark sky, the thieves took the robbed cattle miles away into their private world.
In the morning, before anyone of us, an army of black and brown ancient ants traced the sadmess at the cattleshed, and mounted on it with their small legs to study it closely. Alerted by some alarm system, they had gathered there in great numbers coming from all sides, running on their haired-legs at their best pace on their communal call, and were investigating it at a communal level, climbing up and down the produce of unlawfulness, sniffing, smelling, cutting and taking bites of everything. The forensic experts of the ants’ community were leading them. The surprised army seemed to be preparing ‘an investigative report’ on what had happened there to a man and a not-man in the night, when the world, including the ants, was asleep. Later, the black and brown ants broke the news about sadmess to a farm worker, Mungal, and he broke it to everyone in Dev Singhwala. Police arrived later when the whole village had gathered at Hasnat agricultural Farm to have a look at the produce of the coal black night.
Time was running on its getting hotter runway, it was first week of April. The moths, butterflies, the creepycrawly and flying species had began their life’s annual cycle, and making new couples they were working day and night to complete it at the earliest. It was the nest making, egg laying, sexy time. The longlarva catching days. The harvest season was on the way, the half formed white-juiced grains in wheat ears were racing to attain their hard, adult shapes, waiting for the heatwave to come, to ripen them, and dry them. Barkat, our farm manager, Gora Modi’s father, had already predicted very good wheat yields for the season … a bumper farm. The farm estimates that Barkat used to give about potato farm yield seldom proved wrong, however his grip on the uncountablewheatgrains had always been loose. Wheat, he often said, was in itself an unpredictable phenomenon as even an uneven air could reduce weight of the growing wheat grains, hollowing them imperceptibly. Its seeds could shrink with a single blow of air and the air, that changes its way daily, never came under any Management. Barkat, being very wise, was one of the main mind-shaped limbs of Hasnat Agricultural Farm, and in management affairs, he was second only to Dadaji. Making and remaking farm estimates kept him overbusy, and he, despite being very wise, couldn’t see the SADMESS coming his way by the invisible Highway of Time, and when it ultimately came, and he saw it, he forgot all of his estimating skills. The AIR changes its WAY daily! To KEEP itself YOUNG and FRESH! And it comes under No Management… When Gora Modi’s mother, and the farm manager Barkat’s wife, Suggi heard about it she spurted to the cattle shed, falling and rising she went on chirping songs of sorrow all the way to see her son, hoping to talk to him for the one last time. But there she met only with SILENCE and seeing the UnSEEABLE her own limbs began crumbling and later crying and beating her chest she really crumbled on the cattleshed floor. But her blubbers didn’t. Her hands were heading her. She was talking hysterically to the Air or to God in the sky, raising her hands. Her howls frightened birds in lush trees around the cattleshed, and they went away, for a day. Suggi’s crying throat silenced when she realized that her legs which were stretched in front of her were not moving. That shocked by highvoltage sorrow, her limbs were not hers, any more. Bashiran, our maid, and other village women using their collective female wisdom brought her home, lifting her from the scene of silence, carrying her almost in their soft arms, condoling and consoling her, although she was listening nothing. Her mind was leaning on Numbness. The village people including the farm workers and their children had gathered around the cattleshed to see what had happened. Many of them were there, still more of them were pouring in from the village. They would sneak one by one into the small walled cattle enclosure to see the SEEABLE and return soon with sad faces and with unblinking, overopened eyes. They did not believe that Two Things that they saw there sleeping together. They were shocked to see HOW they were sleeping in the lap of Silence like two innocent friends. The victims of invisible hands! In Gora Modi’s eyes, I saw a strange disbelieve and a surprise. Seeing his eyes I thought HOW he, watching till his end the nameless shadows soaring in the darkness, might have forgotten to close his eyelids. The white part of his eyes seemed to be still watching the world and it was watching the people who had come to see him. On Kali’s face was an unremovable blanket of anger, pain and grief, which was gave an verdict on ugliness of the world. Kali’s last thought (his anger pain, and greif) reflected through his sharp teeth on which his bark had frozen for the world to see. And on his teeth was forzen blood of one of the theives. By his dogylooks, it appeared as if he was giving his statement to us about his encounter with human ugliness, as if he was asking us to record… his bleeding statement for its use in the court of law. But there was no court of law for dogs in the local universe! Police here did not bother to note what dogs said in their last statements about their bleeding pains and their possible killers. Barkat’s house was the first among almost a dozen houses and sheds where farm families camouflaged by high canopied trees lived at one side of our House, and the Dera, giving the place a look of a flourishing farm settlement. It was a small society, a little away (located at distance of fifteen minutes walk time) from the village. A road linked both the farm settlement and the village. When there was a watchable thing in any part, both parts (the farm settlement and the village) would become one big place, where people would rush from one part to the other, to see what had happened, and to see why the air was sad, in the Other Part, like tiny bugs with their baby bugs on an elephant’s body running from tail to mouth or toward the back again to see what happened to their distant bug relatives living on the elephant’s wide body. They loved to watch watchable things.
What was Dadji doing? He was both sad and angry over what had happened at his cattle shed. It was a naked attack on his property, livestock, and his prestige. At Dera, that day I saw the sadnessandanger’s look in his sleepless eyes, in his dyed black moustaches, in the inexplicable creases of his white cottondress and his legs’ not-yet-old, active movement. Even in the hard moment, Dadaji was first to think of police, he asked village chowkidar to go and inform police. For him, it was time for the legal work, and he did it like a law abiding citizen who believes in the power of law even when there is no law enforcement agency in sight. My long-eyed Aunty, Salma, said at about 2am she had heard fire shoots (it meant she was awake at that time!) however she said, she took it for aerial firing elsewhere in the village. She said she couldn’t guess the direction of the fire-shoots, the sounds. It meant she wasn’t wholly awake to it! I heard her talk to Bashiran who was almost shaking with the fear, with the horror of it. The Dev Singhwala air was sad with Suggi’s sorrow soaring in it. All the farm workers at the Hasnat Agricultural Farm were sad. My grandmother Fatima’s lips were sad, she was in her room, waiting for updates about police and the body (ies). Aunty was scared. Terror was visible in her THINKING EYES. Her face was stoned. On her cheeks was a feelable film of wipedtears. A dried film. Had she been weeping in her room? She could! It was loss of us all. Najma, frightened by Silence, was huddled with Aunty’s legs, holding the hem of her long shirt tightly as if she was trying to borrow anti-fear lotion from Aunty. Standing there with Aunty, Najma in a blue frock, with white-strips and white hair-band, looked like a sad baby flower, an out of place, out of season…thing! She was seven then. She had been shifted to wrong place, a jungle of weeds and wild trees, where every night darkness waited for more darkness to come. ‘What’re they talking…?’ Aunty asked me later, when no one was around. Aunty wanted to know the mood of the air. She knew I was out watching it. She couldn’t ask anybody to ‘go and check for her what they said how it happened and why.’ She improved her query. ‘What is the rumour, whether they came to kill Modi or to lift the cattle?’ Aunty said. ‘They think …Aunty…’ I said, measuring widening limbs of the air. ‘They think Aunty what?’ she roared, quite irritating on the mounting ambiguity or the nude lucidity of it. She hated delays, and gaps, and pauses, and dashes, and fullstops coming against her consent, as she already had a plenty of them in her paused, and holed life; she got them from some free of cost shopping mall, one after the other, somebody Unknown had been putting Things free of cost in her shopping bag, replacing her trolley’s things, unnoticeably; she loved to take only the things that she herself picked from the mall, and as a buyer, it was her right too; it is or should be everybody’s first right… ‘No, Aunty, they think… They are saying that they were decoits, not thieves, and that Gora Modi committed blinder by resisted them. They had come with a determined mind, so no body could have stopped them. He shouldn’t have challenged them,’ I summarized what I had heard people saying about it at the cattleshed. ‘And about Kali?’ She wanted to know more. ‘Aunty, they killed him, because he had attacked them. Like a man, he blocked their way. Aunty, one or two of them would have been wounded by our Kali surely before they shot him. He has got their blood on his teeth! It is still frozen on his teeth, black blood. It is of the thieves. Of Decoits. He is still barking his stilled bark! Everyone is praising him for his fight, bravery, and his loyalty with Gora Modi, and with us,’ I said. I don’t know it was for Kali’s loyalty or the unbearable feel of the loss, in Aunty’s eyes tears welled up and she had to conceal her face with her brown dopata. So much so, the thin head cover on her head however could not help her. A burning redness appeared in her eyes, with new tears, and she had to close her eyelids tightly so as to not allow her bubblingsorrow bubble up further. But still a few drops of it (the sadsaltwater, I suppose!) spilled out onto her cheeks, refreshing the previously dried tearlines. When she opened her eyes I noticed she had no further questions left in her. A white smoke had filled her insides and her eyes got blurred and a weeping silence circled the house, taking three of us, Aunty. Najma and I, in its squeezing, shrilling fold. Dadaji was out of Aunty’s weeping circle, out of the house. He was at the Dera with Barkat, Gora Modi’s father. They were in their own squeezing, shrilling fold of sorrow… Najma, standing with us unnoticed, was watching and listening to everything with her open lips as if she was trying to guess the time in the Dev Singhwala clock. Almost like a non-existent entity, grabbing loosely hanging hem of Aunty's shirt, Najma, looked up for love, waiting for a protective hug from Aunty. But the hug was not left in her. It was not in sight either. It had died again. ‘Najma, Come! I will show you’, I said to Najma, inviting her to see Gora Modi and Kali. Though frightened, Najma wanted to go with me. To watch what was on display for local public at the cattleshed. Aunty allowed her when she looked up at Aunty’s face for permission. We went out like children would go for watching a moive. It was no less a thing in the moiveless world. While leaving, I saw that standing in the Verandah, Aunty looked up at the indifferent Dev Sighwala sky and then her figure turned to go into her weeping room. I knew in her room, she would weep more and I did not know what to do …the air in the house too was weeping under the thumb of sudden terror. On the way, I told Najma how Gora Modi’s eyes had changed from black to white with the pain and how he was still looking in the air, watching the people who were coming to see him. His overturned, white eyeballs were watching the people with a new gaze.As if they were no more like him, he was no more like them. He had seen what they had not seen yet. He was watching everything with his white eyes. Though it was breakfast time in the Dev Singhwala house but it was not made that day. Nobody had asked for it, some unknown thing had filled all the space of dailyhunger in us. The tummies were the onhold. Our eyes, not tummies, were hungry that day. The farm manager, Barkat, stricken by grief of the compound loss, could not decide who, was the most aggrieved person in the situation therefore; he refused with a tearful face when Dadaji asked him to give his name to police as complainant in the double murder case. Later, Depalpur police registered an FIR on the Dadaji’s complaint against some unknown dacoits, who had run riot at his cattle shed, and took away his livestock, killing a young, loyalservant and a dog of rarebreed in the dark night, (Reliable signs of resistance both by the man and the dog were found by police at the crime scene and it was noted in the initial police investigation report). Barkat thought Chaudhry Hasnat was better positioned to pursue the multifaced case, move the police (and justice machine) faster for all of them, (for his son, for the dog, and for the lifted livestock). Gora Modi’s body was taken by police for postmortem, but our dog Kali’s corpse was left there at the crime scene for us to watch it with his teeth stained with one of the thieves’ blood, showing a movie of the gonenight which policemen wanted us, the children, to watch. And we, children, watched it, because somebody must watch over a dead body until it is put to rest under an eternal blanket. When police took Gora Modi and the village crowd at the cattleshed thinned, a dogsized grave was dug near the cattleshed by a middleaged farmhand, Fazal, for Kali. His body was dragged slowly from his grimy puddle and then dropped into his gravehole, into open mouth of the earth. As Kali touched the bottom of his final home, Fazal picked his shovel, and moving his hands even faster, covered it. The last thing that he covered was his uplooking face, his angry bloodstained teeth, which were still drawn into a stilled bark. As the soil throwing shovel worked, his angry bloodstained teeth hid into the Dev Singhawala soil, for eternity. And there on the edge of the dog-sized gravehole, Najma and I were standing silent like two little angels watching the world, its Beginning, and End, saying a muted goodbye to the dog. After Kali’s mound was made, (when it got a face of a grave), Fazal left with this shovel on his shoulders, and while leaving he asked us, too, to go home. But Najma and I remained standing there, unable to move. We were stuck in the wonder of how Kali went under the mound, disappearing forever right before our eyes. How the soil took him in its mouth, vanishing him forever, leaving behind only a mound for us to watch. I thought the mound was an overfed soilbelly which would later level down after digesting his flesh, crushing his bones in its pressure stomach. Under the horror of the thought, I asked Najma to leave. As she heard me, her feet moved and she began strolling along me with her sad legs, like an obedient creature tied to a rope, and in that moment I was her rope. On the way to the House, Najma without saying a word held my hand, and I stopped for her, looking at her face. In her whitestrip blue frock and white hairband, she stood there, with a sad face, for an endless moment like a baby pillar, looking in the directions of the cattleshed. ‘Are you all right?’ I asked her, trying to read her mind. On her checks where smiles should have been, sat an unsmiling question on subjects of death(s). As the bright sun was shining on her sidesways looking face, she put her thought into a question, searching right words for the query. ‘Can’t we pray for Kali? We didn’t pray for him! And we’re going…without offering him a word,’ she said, as if her civil engineer intelligence had spotted a big fault in the design of the world. As the hesitant question came out of her lips, it disheveled the farm air. And the pathway to the house became a baby university for us and there we learnt from each other, and from the air of the local universe. ‘Prayer for Kali? I was shocked. She nodded. ‘For what purpose?’ I said. ‘Like we do for the dead!’ she made it clear. Najma had seen many deaths in Dev Singhwala, my mother, father and some farm peoples’. She knew how important prayers are for the dead. For putting their souls at peace. ‘No! Nobody prays for animals,’ I said, thinking more on her question, rather perturbed. ‘Why?’ Najma insisted. ‘It’s a stupid question…Have you ever seen any body pray for a dog? At least, I’ve not seen!’ I said irked by her query. ‘What is stupid in that? Wasn’t he Allah’s creature? And he died fighting for us! Najma said, with a supporting argument. ‘That is right! Animals are God’s creatures! Kali too was His creature. But they are animals! When Cow, buffalos and bulls and other farm animals die, do we ever pray for them? Nobody does, not at least in Dev Singhwala!’ I said. ‘No, that is different thing, it isn’t a cow, baffloos and bulls death thing. Kali was murdered like Gora Modi. He died in the fight of men, fighting for us. We would pray only for Gora Modi, not for Kali, only because he was a dog?’ Najma stressed. I had no answer. However, at the right time what Moulvi Noor said, about God, Man, animals and other creatures, came to my mind rescuing me, when she was almost bulldozing me with the questions that were rising up in her Lahori mind. ‘Well, you tell me. What prayer one could do for a dog! Can we say, God have mercy on Kali, rest his soul in eternal peace. Can we say that God please give our dog a place in your Heaven, and forgive his sins? Dogs don’t commit sins. Dogs do not go to Heaven, or Hell. The two places in the sky are for human beings only,’ I said, picking essence of what Moulvi Noor, the prayer leader of our Dev Singhwala Mosque, said about God, Man, animals and other creatures, during his diverse ranged speeches through his four mouthed loudspeakers, educating all men and women who heard him sitting in their homes almost every morning and evening. ‘If they go neither to heaven nor to hell, where then dogs go after their death?’ Najma said. ‘I don’t know where they go. But I’m sure that they don’t go to heaven and hell, so dead animals don’t need our prayers, although if you still insist on doing it, we can go back and offer a prayer for Kali but it would be on your demand, for your sake,’ I said, when nothing better came to my mind. ‘Why for my sake! ‘Didn’t Kali have soul in him? Wouldn’t he need to be rested at peace after death? He died in acute pain. With bullets, much like a man dies. And he was loyal to us. He died fighting for us. Do you think Kali’s murder is no murder? Was it just a matter of a little pain and then nothing? Just died, and chapter closed?’ She said, mocking everything that I had said. ‘You’re not getting the point! ’ I said. ‘Moulvi Noor says, it is a heavy sin for a man or woman to kill a dog or any other animal, and it can take such man or woman even to hell, but there is no hell, heaven or accountability for animals. They simply die and their chapter closes. No rewards, no punishments. So our prayer for Kali would be meaningless. Kali does not need our prayers. It would be of no good to him. Gora Modi was a human, Kali was not. Gora Modi might need our prayers for getting a place in the heaven. Kali will not go to heaven or hell, because animals never go there, however, the goddamn thieves who killed him would face God’s wrath for it, both on earth and in the skies, when they will go up to meet God. And on the Day of Judgment. Moulvi Noor says a man who kills a dog, meets a worst end. Najma was puzzled by the complicated theory of Maulvi Noor. I remembered how Maulvi Noor differentiated man from other creatures. He said, ’Man is for God, while all other things on earth (including buffaloes, bulls and cows) are for Man.’ As though Man is Lord of all other things and everything is supposed to serve one or other purpose of man…. Then, another argument stirred up in Najma’s mind and she said, ‘If dogs are nothing in the eyes of God, why it is a sin to kill them? If they simply die, and their chapter closes! No rewards, no punishments, no heaven, no hell,’ she said repeating my words mockingly, questioning everything again. ‘Oh! How did I forget! I am talking to a civilengineer thing!’ I muttered, thinking about her biological father. By then, I didn’t know where in Lahore the civil engineer was holed up with his uncivil face, however I often saw his traces in Najma’s genetic intelligence. ‘Why did you say that?’ she said. ‘What! I didn’t say anything,’ I lied, because she had heard ‘the civil engineer thing’ words. ‘I will tell Ammi that you again called me a ‘civil engineer thing’. I’m not a thing!’ she protested. ‘I didn’t say that you are a thing!’ I recoiled. ‘No, you said it, and I heard it…,’ she was sure about what she had heard. She was angry. ‘You will make a complaint to Aunty? Okay go, do make complaint against me. ‘Aunty will not listen to you, in the first place’. She turned to go home, as if she was sure that she would be heard. Seeing her on the move, I leaped and held her by her hand. ‘Okay, stop! Aren’t you my sweet sister? She didn’t say she is! I’m sorry! Really…., By the way, what is big issue in it? In a way, I’m also a thing. All of us are things. You can ask Aunty about it, and she will say yes, we are—things, because everything in the universe around us is a thing! But don’t ask her about it today, Aunty is already upset; you should not make stupid questions to her, today. Understand? Can’t you see how upset she is?’ I said, and with it Najma’s mood improved little by little. Inch by Inch. When her civil engineer mind calmed, we left for home together, but not hand in hand like sweet cousins. She was a civil thing, I was a law thing, and both things walked together, not like sweet cousins, but like two things. Two species. We were condemned to think about ourselves. What were we? Two things? I thought, and yes we were! And like two things time had put us in the one basket! It was basket of Dev Singhwala. When the report about the horrible thing reached the city, the Depalpur courts’ lawyers in blackcoats, led by my father’s associate lawyers, came to Dev Singhwala to express deep their grief and condolence on the death of our deputy farm manager Gora Modi, our dog Kali and other losses including kidnap of a Baffloo, Bull, and Cow. I saw that their blackcoat faces were sad. They stayed with Dadaji at Dera well for almost an hour until they were satisfied that the father of their lostfriend was confident enough to tackle the situation himself. While leaving, they again assured Dadaji of all moral and legal support on the matter. For them, it was an assault on the farm-house of their dear departed friend, Arfan Chaudhry, my father, and I saw that while talking to them, Dadaji was lost into his son’s memory and couldn’t control his tears… but, on noticing my presence near there, he wore a bold face again, for me perhaps. They were impressed by him when they saw that despite being an old, weak and broken, he still had a bold face on his face, and he was still fighting his fight bravely against the unfriendly time. For sake of his grandson. Me. After the black coated lawyers left on their motorbikes and cars, Uncle Usman, Aunty’s brother, (he was my mother’s brother too!), came from Okara to stand in the moment of grief with us, with Dadaji. To console us. He was member of the provincial assembly (MPA) Punjab from Okara constituency. Nani, (Aunty’s mother and my mother’s mother), was also with him. The black car in which they came was also sad and angry. It was more angry than sad on what had happened on the soil under its new tyres. As though the car’s steeled mind also knew Dadaji and Aunty would get strength and support by its steeled anger against the invisible thieves, (the robbers and the killers). In the frightened Hasnat Agricultural Farm air that had seized our House, Uncle Usman and Nani gave look of certain crisis-managers,( rescuers and saviors) wearing brown skin masks on their faces. Their rescue job started as soon as the car that had brought them pulled up in front of our House and they came out of its mouth-shaped angry cardoors. With fresh shimmer of tears in her eyes, Aunty immediately reached at the gate to welcome them and to see how they would now mend the irreparable timemachine to better her time. Its terribly twisted waves. Its broken body. Aunty felt secure when her family was with her… Very secure. Unkillable. We all, Najma, Aunty and I, did feel secure… In the secure moment Aunty wept with her head on Nani Amma’s old shoulders, As though she wanted to ask why they sold her soul to Dev Singhwala. To its deep empty air. The doublesadness locked in a long sad hug. Nani Amma’s hands comforted her slowly and the earthquake in Aunty stopped jolting the Dev Singhwala earth. Calmed. But no calm came in Aunty’s body, so she again placed her head on Nani Amma’s shoulders, although this time her sobbing was weak. Aunty’s other two brothers, Uncle Shafqat and Uncle Umardraz had not come. To clarify their absence in the weeping moment, Nani said to Aunty that they too wanted to come; but she herself stopped them. She perhaps meant to say that when ‘Mother of Everything’ with her In-power-eldermostson was going to tackle the situation, all of her (for Aunty, Shafqat and Umardraz too were elders, five and three years respectively, but Usman was the eldest of them all) sons didn’t need to rush shrieking like monkeys until the multi-handed backupforce was required; but in the blind robbery-cum-murder-cum-police matter they were deemed of no help; because the powerful figure of Usman was sufficient to threaten the Dev Singhwala air and the (lazy) local police for initiating full chase of the chasubles without delay… ‘Don’t worry, they will be caught soon. We will chase them,’ Uncle Usman said to Aunty, as if he was sure that once the thieves are arrested, all dust in Aunty’s life would settle down again. What else could be her desire or demand now? The margin of ‘bubbling desires’ in Aunty’s life had already reduced to size of a finger (a finger-sized margin is practically no margin; it is of no good!); rather bottle of her desires seemed to be capped with an invisible sad cork. With this thought or out of sympathy for Aunty, Uncle Usman standing there like a viewer near the hugging motheranddaughter said once more, ‘Salma, stopit now. I said…whoever…the culprits would be …’ And when he said this, I saw guilt or sorrow or mixture of both bubbling from his face, from his eyes, and his nose, almost together. He had a tissue paper with him to wipe his guilt or sorrow or mixture of both… Like everybody, he loved his business, and in order to focus on his political business he wanted to normalize the air at the earliest, so he requested his sister to wear a bold face. ‘We’re with you; everything will become normal again, trust me, Salma,’ he said, putting his legislative hand on her head. ‘I want to see no tears in your eyes, next. Aren’t you a bold girl?’ he said, and then he himself answered his question, ‘You have to… because you always were…a bold girl.’ I couldn’t understand what was it that he hoped would become normal again… Maybe, by normal he meant calm: because in a way it is also called a normal time when nothing happens next, when trouble-bringing physical desire go to bed for eternal sleep like they (desires) go away from limbs of old people: No jogging, just walk…; no running, just sitting, and watching Others in the jogging parks of the world, or watching them play life’s plays in TV dramas… with no personal feelings, no firsthand touch or feel of life any more calmed. When I thought of this thought, I thought that how cruel we are about others people…! We sometimes, bury people alive… Meanwhile, Dadaji also came there. Seeing him around, Uncle Usman moved towards him, to talk to him. To stand with him. To suck out his part of grief. Like Dadaji, Uncle Usman was also in white cottondress. What a co-incidence! After a preface on what had happened, the two whitecottoned minds walking on their four legs went to the adjoining Dera, where they swam into their private rivers in silence. Upstream and Downstream. With down cast heads, they were trying to find the possible faultline; they tried to find out the liable fishandfrogs that made their private rivers’ waters smelly. Unswimable. Their waters were rendered the dirty by hundreds of foul fish or their underwater visiting friends, the frogs. They could not even count the culprits as they were many. They needed bottom-showing mirrors, although no one was holding them out there for them. They were thinking about the culprits, making lists of gapes, holes, leaks and cracks through which the thieves entered into the unpassable, thick Dev Singhwala air. The two minds were making separate lists. And for clarity of vision, they were identifying everything, separating thing afresh starting from point of their beginning. However, I thought, in list of culprits, the snakefaced darkness stood on the top. I’m sure! It played a dark integrating role in it. The second in the guilty list was time.., and the third was …I don’t know. Anyway, it wasn’t my duty to trace and count culprits. It was job of police investigators! That night when it got dark, when Gora Modi was waiting for his postmortem in the silence of Depalpur morgue and Kali was buried at cattleshed, in the heart of Dev Singhwala, Najma, with her sharp genetic sense to smell certain faults in the designs of manmade things, pointed out the bullets that killed Kali had also gone down with him in his grave… ‘Why wasn’t Kali sent for autopsy,” she had said. ‘I don’t know. Don’t think about it or Kali will come in your dream with his blood filled, drawn in bark teeth,’ I said. Fazal buried him in haste. Her city exposure often gave her edge. I was learning from her. She from me. We were two ‘little thinkers’ helping each other understand the dark world that united us. I could not sleep that night and everything, in my mind, wore an ugly toadfaced look. The bullets are still there, I can’t even pull them out; because they are in another world frozen under the soil, in the body of our departed time, in the body of our rare bread dog. In his flesh…
Depalpur police, trained to study flickering lights, were acting actively, their minds focused on all focusable things, their keenness strikingly impressive. In the thieving world, they touched almost everything like nice breed sniffers. Bearing Uncle Usman’s political muscles and influence of the lawyers’ community in their mind, they had already studied the crime scene with excavating eyes, looking for the signs, if any, left by the culpable, hidden hands. To catch their hangable necks. But they got nothing, nor had they any idea how to trace them. The killing thieves. No idea, all, where they had hidden their faces. In fact, to reach them, police needed state of the art forensic eyes to see the marks left by them on earth in their wake (there’re always some marks, always, the indivisible fingerprints, which could be taken from the things they had touched, and they had touched many things that night) but no such eyes were in use by then in the local universe and their bare human eyes were not helping them; they were waiting to get some lead, but it was wasn’t there. Their minds groping in the darkness for some clues, police even peeped into the farm people’s minds but there too, they found nothing, because the minds they had looked into were empty, except for the grey matter, and the gesticulating images of bushes, weeds, green farms, animal limbs, milk, potato, wheat, maize, bread, butter and butterflies, grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, bugs, blackbrownwhite coloured ants and sad air. The thing that looked surprisingly was that like the minds of the farmpeople, the green village air and melancholy also appeared one-faced, one-thing with different names. Unknown Ancientfaced. The hollow-bodied, sad and scaring Dev Singhwala air that scared children at night. Us. Police didn’t even spare our two goats that roamed all the time around the cattleshed, in and out, tasting every eatable thing. Leaves of farms. Weeds. Plants. Yes, for sake of justice and to find out the truth, police approached our goats also, very surprisingly. Of course, they could tell them nothing. How could they? Sprinting on their goatly-bootly legs through the small pathway between their home and our home, they would often walk up to Dera and our House for their goatly peeps, hoping to get some wheat grains. They were quite friendly with Kali, but still he would bark at them whenever they ventured into Dera or the House and with his almost false, chasing barks he’d send them back to the cattleshed where, next to the big compound for buffaloes and cows and their children a small, a portion separated by small wall, had been made for them. For the goat family. The cattleshed had a chest-high planked gate and when fastened with its bolt, the place gave the look of a house, but on the contrary, the goat section’s gate with its bolt fallen was closed only at night, with wooden logs buttressing it, and at day time it remain opened. The boltless door suited to their free-moving goat nature and they were often found celebrating it. However, the mothergoats, despite their outgate opened and inviting, would spend most their time inside their shed — under some self discipline, or being busy with their playful, suckling new borns, as their adult sons, like some utopian liberal beings, cruised on each others’ backs, in the green air, fighting hornless goat fights, intermittently. To retain their necessary goat wildness. To test their goat power. In the barkless air, appearing sad on what had happened to Gora Modi and Kali, the two goats were wandering on the way between their home and our home when Inspector Araf Wattoo came with his team to the cattleshed to study the crime scene and take the farm people’s statements. Forced by some unknown impulse, a meat-loving policeman, while returning from cattleshed to the Dera, parted himself shrewdly from his investigating team and went to one of the two adult but still growing up goats and almost catching his neck, said, ‘Goat Sab, getting very fatty! What is the secret? What special you eat, wheat or maize or rice? The goat, with his highbonednose, longdropping ears, and brown goat eyes, looked blankly at the policeman for a while and then turned his face away. After that very secretly, from lips of the uniformed figure another question came. ‘Mr Goat, did you see them, or anything? Would you please like to tell something?’ But the Goat slipped away, ignoring his request, as if he was saying, ‘No, I can’t tell you anything, better go and ask the farm people, they know everything. Don’t disturb us. We are playing our ‘Goatteen Play.’ As the goats were being reared for Bakra Eid, all of us (the farm people included) loved them. Their talling and fattening parts. The Walking Eid Mutton. Their Legs had Leg Roasts, waiting in them. Later, Rab Nawaz, deputy superintendent of police, paid a visit to Dev Singhwala to peep into people’s minds. With his policeful eyes. Instead of visiting the crime scene, he held a long groping session with Dadaji, farm manager Barkat and other farm people. To smell the unsmellable things. In his full of law grey shirt and unassailable American police cap, he looked like a corrector of the incorrect world, and impressed by his arresting, judgment-giving looks everybody respected him. The three sliver crowns pinned on shoulders of his fine fabric, starched shirt reflected his graded power. He had all the bumps and lumps of law with him. I could see his power of law on faces of the farmpeople who were watching him in admiration and awe. His face was face of law, his eyes were eyes of law, his nose was nose of law and he used them to smell the stinking smell of ‘unlawfulness’. And his nose and eyes were now focused at our Dera, smelling, watching everything. His face that was serious had no trace of smiles, not even in the underlayer of his skin. By hunting criminals, long training, and deep police thinking, his skin too had become policeskin and it had grown policefeelers on it. His feelers scared me. I felt as if he could see things even when his eyes were closed, when he was looking elsewhere. He needed only a clue to pounce on anything, and he was trying to find the same. At the Dera, in its leaf-shadowed, airy verandah, he sat in one of our best soft sofa-shaped drawing room chairs, and the farm people — not knowing how to appear - appeared before him for giving their statements. To replay what had happened. It was a day of judgment. The air was full of law. Full of fear. In the open police court, the greenfaced, ancient air was weeping for justice. But nobody heard her. Because the human ears did not understand the green air’s sad, rustling cry. His questions were simple, but very deep-peeping-natured. ‘What did you see? Any particular thing… What were you doing when it Happened?’ Most of them said they were Sleeping. Rab Nawaz was sTUDYING fACES, and lIPS and eYES of the farm people. The armed policemen who had come with him were on guard with blackmouthed police rifles; they were his assistants and body guards in the uniform. Their uniforms were lowrated, faded, and obedient, while uniform of Rab Nawaz was rich and bossy. Because he was Law, his assistants were not. They were mere assistants of laws. His servants. The government had given them to him. To sow and reap farms of law. The armed policemen who wouldn’t sit were hungry. Dadaji knew they were, though they didn’t admit it. My grandfather trusted his smelling powers, his experience and wide nostrils had given him the sense. Later when they were served thick Buffalo milk tea and branded biscuits they ate even the grain-sized, tiny biscuit crumbs from the enamel plates. Dadaji was right. It was lunch time, anyway. But Rab Nawaz, who was a holding himself back, took just the tea and half glass water before it. His sleek, brown police baton lay at the table before him warning the Dera air. It was our table, but with the baton on it, the table looked as if it was no more ours. It had become a police table, and the Dera became a police station where all the farm people including Barkat were crying before Rab Nawaz, for justice. When one by one the farmpeople were giving their statements before Rab Nawaz, Dadaji was staring at the baton and at the mock-shining table surface, as though he was wondering how his table had changed under the law’s woodennnnn thumbbbbb. How anything can change anything, anytime! Character. Matter. Looks… In this strange, compound-made, face-changing, half hidden world nothing is unchangeable, not even stones. Dadaji had asked the farmpeople to appear before the deputy superintendent of police, therefore all of them had gathered there to speak against the looting and killing spree. To cry blindly for justice. We want justice. Which one? No body knew. Khalil, Assistant Sub Inspector, whose name was pinned on his uniformed-chest, equipped with a police pen and paper, was recording statements seriously on behalf of deputy superintendent of police; he was the writing limb of his team. But Dadaji was not satisfied the way they were doing it; he got angry when he saw that the farm workers were answering police questions stupidly, beating about the bush. They were asking police to arrest the bushes. The culprits. Arrest the ancient bushes that fed darkness at night, making it robust every night. Are you out of your mind? ‘What did you see, tell them clearly,’ Dadaji directed the middle aged farmhand, Mungal, who was the first to reach the crime scene in the preday, dawn light. In Mungal’s eyes sat an antly fear that I did not understand. Its look was a bit ancient thing. He was a buffalo hand. You could call him a cow hand also. He fed them. Milked them. He knew each corner of the place, and each of the animals there. He would bring milk to our house daily in the morning. For us, he was very important man, as he was our hand too. He made our tea milky, our milkshake, milkshake. Our milk, our milk. With his milking. His milking labour. The buffalo hand was an innocent little man. Though he was a man, they called him Mungal, which meant a day in a week. Nothing. Tuesday. Perhaps, he was born on some Tuesday. He had two young adult daughters, his wife had died, and every night he guarded his daughters’ sleep, wishing they keep sleeping whole night. Guarding young adult daughters and keeping an eye on their slumber, has always been heaviest of all duties in the local universe for any man, and he did that every night, and at the end of night, in thinning darkness, he’d come out, almost mechanically, to milk the buffaloes and cows. For us. Mungal said, ‘they were dead long before I reached there. In the light of God, (he meant dawn) I saw an army of ants mounting and demounting their bodies — it was hard to stand the sight — and many more in rows were still appearing, coming from all sides (to mourn). The cattle were missing, and those spared were very scared - and I… ’ The assistant sub inspector of police smiled a young man’s smile as Mungal stressed what the army of ants was doing. The writing limb did not write down this part of his statement; it was not a writeable piece. Ants mounting and demounting dead bodies was no evidence, it could be in no way helpful to police. They needed clear cLUES. To peep through them. They needed wHO and wHO and wHO and wHO and wHO did it. Clear, helpful and clue-opening statements… Fazal, the grave digger, in his statement among other things told, how out of sympathy for the poor animal, he made Kali’s grave taking initiative himself, and hid his blood stained, frozen-in-a-bark, angry teeth, pulling him from the red mud liquid of his life that had mixed with a man’s. With the liquid of Gora Modi. In his statement, he shed light on the friendship of the man and the not man, surprising the policemen with Kali’s loyalty to Gora Modi, and his to him, in their common battle against the willful, bent-to-kill thieves… ‘How was he with you? Rub Nawaz asked the farm people, tossing his question in the air. For all. Silence froze on all faces. ‘Any bad blood or any rancor against him. From any side ….Any hidden foe? Any Hullabaloo, old or new?’ Rub Nawaz said, clarifying his question, studying them from corners of his experienced policeeyes. Dadaji broke that unbreakable silence. Yes some workers had complaints but they were not so big. Nothing against him was so big to take him to this end. Akram and he had quarreled once. Where is Akram? Dadaji asked. His face appeared from behind the crowd to mark his presence. ‘Would you say anything?’ Rub Nawaz said. Once Gora Modi had thrashed him, making him as football near Cattleshed. That was one of the biggest hullabaloos. In protest, Akram’s father threatened to leave Hasnat Agricultural Farm. The torture broke Akram’s arm and he still had its sings on his impaired elbow. In his left arm’s. The grudge might be hidden, the outside air had cleared. It happened three years also. It was an old hullabaloos. Akram said, ‘No, nothing, in that matter mistake was mine. I had started it. No he. Later, he remained apologetic to me what he did to me’. That was enough. Then I too forgot everything. Did he? I’m not sure, human nature is always so complex-layered, isn’t it? But to his extent, every body believed Akram had no such designs. He couldn’t afford this much big jump, nor had he the jump technology to jump. A cat can’t jump at a lion without help of technology. He was son of buffalo hand’s son. He himself was a buffalo hand. He too fed the cattle. Akram along with few other workers started civil disobedience against Gora Modi, calling in question ‘his place in the world’. His trainee farm manager status, mockingly. ‘Son of bitch, Who are you? Nothing. Come sit on my dick! Akram had said in a furious mad moment in the fields. On this, Gora Modi showed his muscles to him, and did not stop punching his face until he forgot his name. His teeth and nose bleeding, right arm dangling from twisting and twisting and twisting around, Gora Modi threw him around like a plastic toy, making him a boneless thing. A chicken winged. Even now, his arm did not open up, fully. At his elbow, the memory of scuffle was frozen. But that was then, three years ago. Akram said, ‘Now, Gora Modi was nice to me, he always treated me like his younger brother.’ Feeling no foe smell in Akram against any body, Rub Nawaz dropped line of hullabaloos. Nobody was against Gora Modi. Nothing was on record against him. No complainant. No petitioner. No foe. In general, he was nice man. In most of the situations, with most of the people, he would be soft speaking, very obedient to Dadaji. Very obedient. Complying orders in blink of an eye. He had got a sharp mind. His fate, however was sharp. It appeared blunted by changing times. What else it could be? Abdul Ghani, the grey-bearded, bare-boned footprint reader — one of the senior most farmpeople — who with some other people had traced the cattle footprints, counting the number of human feet moving with them, said, ‘there were five, and they walked on foot toward East. One of them was behind. He sometimes walked parallel, sometimes ran to the cattle backs. To hit, or push them forward. The footprints show this clearly, they are still there. Even now, you can see... A little away from the shed, the animals had begun resisting the takeaway, and their reversing feet made spade deep footholes in the soil. At other places, there are zigzagging, running footprints, showing the cattle were pulling themselves sideways. Having scared, the cattle were unwilling to go with them, but the robbers who appeared highly determined managed to carry them…’ ‘Where did the footprints lead, which way?’ said Rab Nawaz, with a growing interest in animal footprints. Abdul Ghani said, ‘towards the East’. Mianji, East is so big, where in the East they went?’ Rab Nawaz asked, almost losing his temper. ‘Sab, footprints reached the paka road, and after that they became unreadable. Maybe, they loaded them in some truck for onward journey…’ ‘So it is a maybe case then,’ the DSP said, taunting at Abdul Ghani, rejecting his ancient, footprint reading expertise in total. Then, he turned his mind and eyes to other people, to continue his favorite peeping hobby. It was the second investigation. Earlier Inspector Araf Wattoo had taken statements from all the farm workers but that led no where. When some of the farmpeople said they had already given statements to Inspector Araf Wattoo, the Deputy Superintendent of Police got angry and said, ‘forget that, give new statements!’ He believed in first hand probe, and he was doing it thoroughly, observing everything himself. It was his investigation! Once snubbed all the farmpeople did not mention Araf Wattoo’s name, and gave their statement quietly, one by one, answering all the questions asked by Rab Nawaz, or by his young writing limb. The cattle skin colours and their ages and sizes were also noted down. The sexy descriptions of the bull, buffalo and cow did not stop until the deputy superintendent of police was satisfied. Of course, all of them were rich in their animal qualities. Well-fed, plum and loaded… In fact, the huge eyed brown plum bull, milk filled black Ravi buffalo and heavy-backed reddish brown sexy cow were pride and delight of the cattleshed. The charming Sahiwal breed. The thick-necked, model-faced bull with his softbone dangling thing played Loverhusbandroleeeeeeeeee on all of the desire-driven, wet cows coming for it from surrounding parts of the local universe, and it was free of cost ‘service’ available for them all at our farm. People brought their desire-driven, wet cows often to our cattleshed and like other children I too would watch his performancessssssssss, wondering how cows ‘cooled’ under him. The looting and killing spree could be ‘angry work’ of someone whose oooooversexy cow went unsatisfied or unfulfilled from our farm due to some ‘distraction’ caused probably by Gora Modi. It was quite possible. In this hitandmiss, bull-chance world anything is possible…anything. Aroused by the desire-driven, wet cow descriptions, the mind of the deputy superintendent of police began soaring in search of other possible motives behind the mutilayered crime, and he asked that from when Gora Modi was sleeping at the cattleshed with the cattle. To this question which was tossed in the Dera air for everybody, only Dadaji responded. Others were still counting the exact number of sleeping-months on their fingers. He said, ‘Mainly, Modi assisted his father in the farm labour management, and farm supervision, and in that he was going very well, but about six months ago we gave him extra responsibility of supervising the livestock at night after Shoukat Masih, who earlier used to live there for the cattle security, fell ill and died. In fact, there had been several cattle theft incidents in the neighbouring villages lately, so worrying about our livestock we put our trustworthy man on our cattle, but we did not know that it too wouldn’t help…’ Dadaji stopped abruptly on a sad note. The passing reference to the rising cattle lifting wave in the local universe posed a question mark on police performance and deputy superintendent of police - disturbed by the rising wave - changed sides in his chair (in our chair, it was ours!), looking very defensive. As though Dadaji was giving a statement against police. Dadaji said, ‘who knew that such a thing can also happen… Barkat himself had proposed that for sometimes until a better arrangement is made, why not Modi be asked to sleep there. And later we forgot to make the better arrangement, because nothing could be better than him. The farm people — though they are many - after their daylong labour in the fields get tired by the evening and can never keep better vigilance at night. And most important thing, he was a daring boy, and I trusted him’. Since he was there, I had no worry about safety of my livestock…’ Barkat who sat on a chair next to Dadaji as if to support everything that Dadaji said, nodded sadly, recalling all the real or imaginary incidents when and where and how his son had shown his daring part. His elder son, Lateef who had come from Karachi — where he ran vegetables and fruit shop –to participate in the last rituals of his younger brother, Gorah Modi, said nothing. He was not daring like Gora Modi, everybody knew him. He was vegetable selling meek, vegetable man, and his cutable cookable ginger tomato meekness seemed to be growing with time. I don’t know why… It was the Karachi effect, perhaps. The Karachi men- humbled by the sea, or by the humid air there — often look meek. He was 33. Almost eight year older than Gora Modi and he was still childless. His wife hadn’t come with him. He had left her in Karachi under the care of her brother (Her brother also sold vegetables and fruits, they were partners in business as well as in life, and helped each other in almost everything, isn’t it good? I mean being partner in everything!), because after two miscarriages she was expecting again and neither he nor she could take risk of a long train travel. A long trip sometimes entwines pregnant wombs badly and by that softlimbed babies get killed in them. Not always, sometimes. And with the babies, sometimes, mothers also die. Besides, unknown, callously PASSING ELBOWS may also hit their wombs during long journeys. So it is always better to be careful. Lateef knew that. Not just he, I also knew that. Because my mother had died like this, by some Unknown, Callous Elbow first the baby in her died and then with her womb she too fell… Until it happened, we could not know anything about it — not even my mother knew — that it was happening or had happened. She had fever, but that too stated later when the Unknown, Callous Elbow had finished almost everything. Lateef had perhaps learnt from how my mother died. He knew how death opens its eyes in wombs when people guarding the wobbling, tumbling wombs go off duty. Therefore, he was worried about his wife, and he wanted to go back to her as soon as possible, but the young sorrow of his brother was holding him back. He could not go until his father and mother calmed down and moved on in their food eating life, accepting it as ‘a work of gods’. Until we know otherwise everything is a work of gods. Lateef had accepted it. His down turned face showed it. In the burr of a lamenting, Barkat spoke, ‘he committed a very big mistake! He should’ve had gun there, but he didn’t. He slept at the shed unarmed. Though I asked him several times that at night he should keep a gun, but he did not bother… He had no fear. He had no idea that…’ Barket left his sentence incomplete like the life of his son that had been cut half way. (Later recalling it in my college and university years, I would think that a little fear and a little care is must for all of us, because this world is not just ours. It is a disputed place; many say it’s their world. They can kill or die for it. I would imagine an imaginary judge dividing it in judicious parts and shares. Saying, this is for you. That and that is theirs. This is Pakistan. That is India. Pakistanis will live in Pakistan. Indian will live in India. No dispute. Like sane, civil neighbours) ‘Yes, if he had had a gun with him, the scene would have been different,’ Dadaji said, stealing a look in the ‘EMPTY HOUSE OF IFIFBUTBUT’ floating in the air in front of him, showing alternate reality with an alternate face. And then I saw a lot of iFIFBUTBUT tHOUGHTS appearing on his face, and saying, ‘if… if my son had not died… if… Rab Nawaz looked at dropped-and lost-in-thought face. For studying Dadaji’s sadness. On the genuine face it looked genuine. After the inquiry when he was about to leave, addressing Dadaji Rab Nawaz said, ‘we wouldn’t let the killers run for long, and they would be arrested soon. To hide themselves, they would find no place.’ When he said ‘soon’, I saw a sOON showing on his face. I was standing almost in front of him in the public circle. Watching the sOON appearing and disappearing. Then while turning to go, he saw me, he thought for a while (I don’t what), and took a few slow steps towards me with the sOON still on face. Without turning his face he asked Dadaji, ‘This boy is Arfan Sab’s son…? ‘Oh, he knows my father!’ a whisper lifted its whispering head in me, and I felt proud of myself and my father. With a tear bringing sadness, Dadaji gave a nodding of yES to Rab Nawaz. ‘Beta, come here!’ he said. I took a step or two. Reluctantly. Thinking whether to move or not to. By then, he reached for my checks, and with his hard, police fingers expressed his love for children. His fingers’ brushing touch sent tickling waves in my baby body, the tickles that could return smiles on sad faces! Stooped a on me, making his voice soft he said, ‘what is your name, betay? ‘…Ahsan,’ I said blinklessly, though I was a little frightening by his closely-focused, piercing and policing eyes and cap or maybe by his long police nose. ‘Brave boy, have nO fEAR of anything. What may come! Understand?’ he said, with a questioning, advising gesture. His fingers went mounting from checks to my head. I felt that he wanted me to smile for him, so I gave him a reserved smile. He (it was very clear!) had had good interactions with my father, and that good memory had now softened him for me. Police and lawyers sometimes become good friends while dealing with the same thing. The lAW. It left me with a good feel that my father had had good relations with people, and that he had friends in police as well. Turning back to Dadaji, Rab Nawaz reiterated his resolve,’ the law’s long hands wouldn’t let the killers run for long, don’t worry, we will do our best. Dadaji, thanked him for his generosity. Later, I wondered why he had called me a ‘brave boy’, or what was brave in me? I’d shown to him no heroism. Or by calling me a brave boy, he was asking me to be brave. I think, he had read some deep seated fear in my eyes. Rab Nawaz was a nice man, no doubt… However, later time proved that the deputy superintendent of police was not a nice investigator. He was not the Corrector of the World. He made only hollow and tall claims and did nothing to correct the incorrect world. In a way, it wasn’t his fault either. The world where he was working was not a correctable place. It was a web of good and bad where both things moved with one face like friends in a masked party. The thieves (for me, they’d always remain only thieves!) were not findable things. As though they were some untraceable, unfixable computer-virus, in a soft ware company located at a far off island of the world. Untraceable like snakes hiding in long grass or in deep holped ancient mud walls. Green coloured in grass. Mud coloured in mud holes. Cheating Everybody. Every eye. They camouflaged themselves easily and hid their faces somewhere forever. I think they hid their faces in the local universe, in the dense green Depalpur Okara air. And the air gave them cover. In this blind case, every passing day disappointed police, and then they got busy in other clear, clueful cases..., and the perpetrators of multi-layered crime became a mystery for everybody. Forever. Later, only the robbed animals, the bull, baffloo and cow, were found by police, grazing in wheat fields at the outer edge of Depalpur, in its eastern side, towards Kasur district, another complete world, a little away from Dev Singhwala, a little away from Depalpur. Like a neighbor! The frightened bull, baffloo and cow were brought to the cattleshed like animal-shaped certificates of police vigilance. ‘Recovered! See, we’ve found them…’ The two police men who came with the cattle smiled like champions and the labourmen who held the cattle ropes looked like monkey-men, calling people to come and buy tickets for an about to begin monkey show. The secret images of the coalblack terror night could still be seen in the frightened animal eyes, and since it was a free movie show for the village children, they gathered in great number to watch it. The early evening show in cattle eyes. I was also there, watching the rEAL mOVIE thing in the movieless world. The secret (cctv) images of coalblack night. In the baby crowd a little away from me stood Najma flanked by Bashiran’s daughters, Nazzo and Baali, attempting to decode everything. For her, it was a civil probe into the most uncivil things, and Bashiran’s daughters were assisting her in serious study, giving her all the right tips she needed to understand the dark images and maps preserved by the cattle in their eyes. The cattle behaviour had completely changed by what they had experienced. The terror of what they had seen or endured during the terrible episode had made them awfully alert species. They had wounds and bruises on them. Their bodies, (hips, backs and hind legs,) showed they had been beaten on the way to keep them on the move, and to push them into the belly of darkness.
By the time the bull, buffalo and cow came back to the cattleshed, no trace of Gora Modi and Kali was left in the air. They had gone to the airless places, to their ultimate homes. Gora Modi was shifted to Dev Singhwala graveyard; large number of people participated in his funeral and the later bead counting rituals which continued over three days, while Kali was buried unceremoniously at the cattleshed. At his home. At the Hasnat Agricultural Farm where children of tIME had stilled him. As there were no designated graveyards for dogs then (nor are now and never will be!), the place where he died became his last abode. His graveyard. It would always remain his place. Hasnat Agricultural Farm still belongs to Kali…