March 6, 2008
Written by Mahmood Shahid (in Urdu)
Translated by Faheem Jawaid, (Riyadh)
We have a nectar-like relationship for years now. Nevertheless, we feel that the nectar we share is not pure and chaste. There is something mixed with it making the entire juice bitter and acidic.
He visits me with a fear that my rooftop might fall upon him. We visit with each other regularly. I have a great respect for his wife. She is a virtuous, kind-hearted and generous woman. He has a great affection for my kids. Particularly, he is crazy about my second son. My wife says that my second son is like him, and due to which he is infatuated with our second son.
When he visits me, he makes sure to bring toys and chocolates for my kids. He calls and offers the gifts to each one of them. Somehow, I like to restrict him from doing so. I fear his chocolates would take lives of my kids and would kill them like rats. All the time, my kids take the chocolates and toys from him merrily and go out to play.
My second son who is like him, goes and sits on his knees and asks in his cuddly voice, “Uncle, uncle, can I have more chocolates?”.
If my son would die after eating his chocolates, I would never be able to listen to his innocent and sweet voice again? No! No! I won’t let him eat his chocolates. He puts more chocolates in my son’s hands, which my son thrusts in his mouth.
My restlessness and anxiety are not hidden from him. He knows that I am not amused with this behavior of his, though I cannot stop him from doing so.
He likes the tea, made by my wife, very much. Mostly, after having tea, he praises my wife in such a manner that she forgets about everything, as if, his admiration is her life.
Apparently, he sips tea, enjoying every drop, to its fullest of taste. On the contrary, I feel, he endures a ghastly experience of sipping sulphuric acid, which is slashing his elementary canal down to his stomach. In an attempt to conceal this state of condition, he smokes cigarettes one after another and offers me, too.
While lighting his cigarette with a match stick, I shiver at a thought that his cigarette might have a powerful bomb within, which would explode and would scatter me in pieces. Each time I puff my cigarette a new wave of fright grips me from inside. With the purpose of showing him that I am giving him a company, I take two-three puffs and put out the cigarette in ash tray. My inner panic is not concealed from him. With a smile, he keeps on offering me cigarettes.
On the occasion of his marriage, I was in the forefront. Hanging a camera around my neck, I was taking snaps of guests. Whenever, I was clicking my camera, the sharp light of the flash was catching the attention of the guests. Some of them were requesting me to take their photographs. I noticed that, every time, I tried to focus the lens of my camera on him, he would get startled and his face would become tense. I asked him to smile in the camera, but he could not. He couldn’t help becoming stone-faced. I knew, in his heart of hearts, he was thinking that a razor-sharp ray from the eye of my camera would come out and would burn him to death. He tried his best evading straight eye of the camera.
When the prints were received, everyone was of the opinion that his photographs were not clear. At times, he kept his hands on his eyes, while on other, he turned around.
Sometimes, he hid himself behind a guest or his bride. He looked at the photographs and was all praise of my photographic skills. I knew that he wanted to bury his hesitation-of-facing-my-camera, in his acclaim.
One day, he came to my home with a beautiful packet in his hand, telling my wife, “Bhabi, please make a cup of tea for me, and look, what I have brought for you”. He handed over the packet to my wife.
My wife made tea for him promptly and opened the packet. It was an expensive beautician box, with all requisites needed for make-up.
Next day, early in the morning, after her bath, my wife sat in front of her dressing table with his beautician box. I was scared to death with presumptions, that, her luscious and juicy lips would be spoiled if she would use the lip-stick, or the talc powder would bring about horrible ugly marks on her beautiful face, or the eyeliner would snatch her eyesight altogether. I wanted to prevent her from putting on her make-up, but I could not. Having done her make-up, she came and stood in front of me. I looked at her with a pleasant surprise. She never looked so beautiful before, and she threw a smile of amusement.
He is very fond of gardening. His garden is full with varieties of beautiful plants and flowers. One fine morning, I joined him when he was planting a new small flowering plant in his garden. I helped him put manure in the soil, placed the plant in the ground, and watered it. I was watering the new plant and was able to notice his uneasiness. Probably, he was thinking that this plant would never ever grow.
His wife prepared break-fast and was waiting for us. He knew that I knew what he was thinking. So as to divert me from his thinking, he asked, “Why don’t you grow flowers, fruits and vegetables in the backyard of your home?” He added, “Aren’t we getting detached from the Nature? We can relate ourselves to the Nature with plantation.” He further added, “We know that the trees help fight pollution.”
He continued talking on and on. But I continued thinking about the plant that I watered.
As usual, he visited me in the evening and brought chocolates for my kids. He was surrounded by my kids, when he entered the home. I took the chocolates from him and shouted at my kids to go away. My kids insisted to have chocolates. He was looking at me silently. Deliberately, I began talking with him. We were interested to enter into a joint venture, by buying an agricultural land, so that we could produce sugarcane on it, as government was planning to establish a sugarcane factory in our region. We discussed for sometime on the topic and then he left. I noticed that he did not take his tea, which my wife made especially for him.
I contemplate, the nectar which we share is imported from the Neem and hence the bitter and caustic flavor of the Neem is patently obvious.
About Mahmood Shahid:
Mohamood Shahid is a unique poet, outstanding story-writer and an exceptional critic of Urdu language. He received acclaims and applauds in the world of Urdu literature for his various distinguished contributions. His recent short stories collection “Dhancha”, means, “Skeleton”, is one of them. The above story is taken from this book.
About Faheem Jawaid:
Faheem Jawaid is working as Senior Manager in Saudi American Bank (H.O.) in Riyadh. He is a writer and poet of Urdu and English. His articles and poetry of Urdu and English are featured in various famous literary magazines and journals of India and Pakistan. Currently, he finds time in transforming of Urdu's remarkable stories into English.
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