Novelettas

Arshid Malik

arshid malikI am hit: It was Tuesday and the year I guess was 1993. Around 2 in the afternoon we finished our classes and left college to roam the streets of Srinagar, a bunch of five young men. We were quite innocuous since we came from backgrounds which were peculiarly middle-class and thus utterly conservative without a cause or clue. While other young men roaming the streets of the city would be found in pursuit of young love, we comprised a rather speechless crowd; a bunch of nincompoops who would only dare to dream of the impeccable reflections of our own maladjusted personas that were perpetually shriveled by a contained sense of “virtuousness” that we wore on our sleeves. Our machismo was always pruning to burst open like a wildflower but our manners kept us. At the end of the day, we would anticipate the beginning of the next day, hoping to let some of that machismo out, you know, talk to pretty lady about how you felt about her and how desperately you wanted to invite her over to a cup of coffee but sadly our imagined rapturous ordeals would earn us just another day of desperation punctuated by a certain, “heart-clutching” fear of the “unknown”, grenade blasts and incidents of cross firing between the “security forces” and the militants, which were all too common in and around Lal Chowk. And while we were at it, that afternoon, we heard a blast. A grenade had exploded some hundred odd feet away from where we were standing. There were shrieks and blood all around and we took to our heels. The “security forces” opened fire and we accelerated at “break-neck” speeds, weaving our ways into lanes and by-lanes. We had covered a distance of around one and a half kilometers when our knees buckled and our lungs were about to burst. We stopped. One of my friends was crying. “I am hit, I am hit,” he yelled. We stood temporarily mummified in the moment till reason crept over and we started inspecting his body for wounds. After a thorough examination, we concluded that he was not hit. He had merely bruised his leg while running but this guy wouldn’t stop crying while stopping every one and a half minute to yell, “I am hit, I am hit.”

A shimmering bullet: Times were tough. We were preparing for our CET. With immense pressure at home there was little scope for us to have some stupid fun. The only time we actually did have fun was when we were at the tuitions. Settled in a room in neat rows with the tutor called “the professor” sitting behind a midget of a desk, we would rarely listen to what the teacher was teaching. We were on and about our own, drawing fractious cartoons of people we knew. There was this Sikh boy who would buy a certain Hindi newspaper everyday and read the entertainment columns comprehensively, front to back, while the tuition lasted which was a good hour and a half. There were a handful of other heads that were always busy contriving plans romantic in nature. And then there was this lanky guy with shoulder-length hair, who stood tall even while sitting. He would move his head on his long neck like a seagull, surveying the entire landscape of terribly cluttered heads, as if he were planning to build a rail-road over that human terrain. He was very removed except for his secretive hankerings for the presumptive rail-road project. One day the tutor addressed and asked him as to why he had not paid the monthly tuition-fees for three consecutive months. In a sunken voice he got back to the tutor after some five odd minutes that were drowned in distressful silence and said, “I will pay it tomorrow, sir.” The girls giggled. The next day as the tuition ended, this lanky guy approached the tutor with an envelope in his hand, left it on the desk and exited the room immediately. We were wrapping up our coursework when the tutor whispered a shriek. It sounded as if an albatross had wrapped itself around his neck, muffling him profoundly. Our eyes jumped to his face and then immediately to the bullet which he held in his right hand. It was a round of ammo of the much-famed AK-47, shimmering in the puckering sunlight that stole its way into the room from some unknown crevice. The note was blank.

A riveting ‘rocket’: I and a couple of my friends had gathered resources to study “hard” for our upcoming examinations. We were deliberating a start as the clock struck midnight followed by obtrusive manly shrieking. Abdul Rashid was out on the street, yelling out for help again. We huddled down the stairs and out the by-lane onto the street. Rashid Sahib was quite infuriated by his own helplessness rather than the relentless obfuscations of the crowd that had gathered around him. “They did it again. They set my house on fire. What have I done? Why won’t they let me and my family to live in peace? Why me, every time?” he yelled at the top of his voice. “Why not your house, Abdul Qadir, or yours, Movlana Sahib?” he cried. “What happened now, Rashid,” an elderly Yousuf Sahib enquired of him. “They fired the ‘rocket’ on my house again. We, me and my wife, were about to get into bed when we heard the explosion down storey. My children’s room is only next to the room where the ‘rocket’ exploded. Thank God they are at their maternal aunt’s place,” an exasperated Rashid Sahib moaned. “Well, dear we are sure they did not mean to hit your house. As usual they missed their regular target and the shell fell on your house. They sure have got their Trigonometry messed up,” Yousuf Sahib told him and the crowd nodded in agreement which was of no consolation to poor Rashid Sahib who was down in tears. “Why me, why me,” he screeched. “Fire, fire,” some odd voice from amongst the crowd shouted. We all looked up to see flames hurtling out the windows of Rashid Sahib’s house. The fire had gained quite some momentum away from the speculations of the crowd and the couple of pails of water which Rashid Sahib and his gentle wife had spent on burying the initial flames. They had missed a spot, obviously. Some freckles of fire had escaped into obscurity and landed on some bedding which was lying in a corner of the room slowly transpiring into frenzy.  The rest of the night was spent dousing the fire, which we found quite containable at a bare-handed human scale. Well, practically after the flames had been doused people were wetting everything they could find in and around the house in preemption of a later debacle. There was water everywhere, expect Rashid Sahib’s eyes which had wandered dry in search of meanings beyond the ‘rocket’ hitting his place. His place now looked like a man-made waterfall. At sunrise, we moved back into our homes, distraught over all that had happened. No one was in the mood to study. We were doomed, thereof.

1 COMMENT

  1. Arshid Ji you have an excellent command over your English and the thoughts are woven in such a way that it compels us to read the complete text… This is the third article of your’s I am reading and I am mesmerised and have become an ardent fan of your writing skills… Keep the good work on .. God Bless!!!!

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