“My father could not trace me. My sisters could not locate me. They were only crying aloud with pitiable voices, ‘Javaid, where are you? Please come back to bid farewell to your dead mother. Where are you? O’ beloved, where are you?’ ”
By Muhammad Ulfat Anjan
It is 2100. Dark clouds have shielded the sun. Wind is blowing in unsteady puffs. It might rain in this mid-April day when peasants are busy sowing seeds in their farms.
Somewhere in countryside, a farmer is tilling his field, alone. Sweat is dripping from his nose tip, drop by drop. He has been working in the field since early morning. And now, it is noon. No other person is visible around. There is complete silence, save the sound of the spade used by him to dig the land. Feeling tired, he sits down to take some rest. He looks at the sky, whispers, “I must finish it before the rain comes.”
He refreshes himself with a glass of cold water and gets up again to carry on his work. Suddenly the spade stuck into something. He pulls it hard but is not able to free it. After trying a bit harder, he is able to get the spade out. But to his utter astonishment, there comes out something, sending shivers down his body – a human skeleton, mired in mud!
He drops his spade and just gazes at the weird thing having hollow eyes. Soon it starts raining and he runs to take shelter under a nearby Chinar tree.
The rain turns violent. Terrible lightening is followed by violent thundering. The Chinar tree gets soaked and is unable to protect the farmer from rain droplets. To protect himself, he takes refuge inside Chinar trunk.
He is still looking at the skeleton from a distance with strange thoughts disturbing his restless mind. Suddenly, to his astonishment, he notices a creepy movement, making his heart beat faster, and faster.
To his shock, he sees the skeleton making some movement! No, not only movement, it also comes to life!
It gets up and starts walking towards the petrified farmer. The human skeleton, washed by the rain, comes close, enters the Chinar trunk and sits down, beside him. The farmer, utterly shocked tries to run away but the eerie being holds his hand.
“Fear not farmer,” speaks the skeleton, “I will not harm you. I can’t harm anyone .I am not as cruel as you think, I am.”
The farmer sits down, still shivering.
“Wh…wh….who are you? And, why are you stopping me?” asks the frightened farmer.
The skeleton lets out a stream of tears from its hollow eyes before narrating the horrible tale from an empty mouth.
“Javaid?” the farmer interjects.
“Yes, my name is Javaid. I was the only son of my old parents and the only brother of my five unmarried sisters. My mother was very ill and my father too had developed ailments because of poverty and hard life. I was the only earning hand in my family running a small cloth shop. I had to manage and support all the family members. I had to face lots of hardships. Two of my sisters were of marriageable age and the other three studied in a government school…”
And then, the skeleton speaks again.
“…We could hardly make both ends meet. One evening, I left my home to get some medicine for my mother. I had to reach the medical store located about a kilometer away from my home. The way passed through dense trees. I had crossed about half of the kilometer when I heard some gunshots. I was in a dense area and could not get the location of the shots. I continued walking before heavily armed men suddenly cut me short…”
“And then,” the farmer, quite impatiently, asks.
“They all shouted in unison, ‘Hands up!’ I raised my hands and they came closer. Without letting me speak anything, they tied both of my hands and blindfolded me. They also sealed my mouth with a piece of cloth. I protested, but all in vain…”
As another bout of silence ensues, the farmer could feel a wave of chill descending down his spine. In a trembling voice, he couldn’t resist himself asking, “What happened next?”
“I was then taken to some unknown spot. When my eyes were unveiled, I found myself amid armed men .They told me nothing but were making strange gestures with their hands and eyes. They talked something about ‘promotion’. I remember, yes, I remember, how I shouted helplessly, pleaded for my innocence, ‘Please set me free… Let me go home… Oh, my ill mother! She will die without me. Have mercy on me, please! My father, my sisters… They will be waiting… Please, let me go home!’ But they didn’t listen anything…”
As another silence follows, the farmer turns his head away from the skeleton. He sets his gaze outside. For the moment, his teary eyes were competing with the shower outside. And thus speaks the skeleton, again.
“Two of them again held my tied hands and I again protested by raising a storm with my helpless cries. They suddenly turned violent and beat me ruthlessly with their guns till my eyes refused to see and my tongue refused to utter words. There was only darkness… After opening my eyes, I found myself at a secluded spot among dense trees. I could neither move nor speak. They left me beside a big rock. After walking a few steps, they stopped again, looking at each other, exchanging an evil grin before pumping barrage of bullets in my chest…”
“Myaney Khudaya, Raham…” cries the farmer, sobbing like a child.
“I could only see darkness. With a little life left in me, they dragged me here and buried me beneath the earth. There was complete darkness! There was complete silence…”
The farmer listens intently to the horrible tale of the skeleton. Tears in his eyes were still competing with an intense rain outside. And then lightening and thundering turn fierce. And soon the rain paves way to hail storm.
In a jiffy, the fields fill with hail balls. The wind turns fierce making Chinar branches to move wildly. Amid this, the tears in the empty eyes of Javaid got replaced by blood drops. As gush of blood streams out, he speaks, again.
“Soon I opened my eyes and came out of the grave. I ran towards my home with a bullet’s speed. I found my yard crowded with people. Everyone was crying. I went closer and found my dear sisters around a bed and my old father beside it, raising heart-piercing screams…”
The poor farmer can only feel a growing uneasiness gripping his whole body. He wants to hear no more, as he can’t withstand the agony. But he gets a second thought, “No, I must listen. Then only I can spread the word. Yes, I must.” With that he turns his head back to Javaid, who breaks another lull.
“And then I beheld the pale face of my dear mother who was deep asleep on the bed – a sleep from which no one awakens again! I went much closer and began crying as aloud as I could. But what I found was utterly shocking. No one heard me. No one saw me. My father could not trace me. My sisters could not locate me. They were only crying aloud with pitiable voices, ‘Javaid, where are you? Please come back to bid farewell to your dead mother. Where are you? O’ beloved, where are you?’ ”
The farmer sighs.
“Then I sat down under the walnut tree, invisible and unheard, shedding vain and futile tears – sometimes raising helpless and dumb screams. Soon my mother was taken away and I wept more and more. My father fumbled to pronounce my name, ‘Javi …Jav….Ja….’ My sisters too raised uproar with their screams, calling out my name. I answered, but all in vain. I felt a fire raging inside me and ran away as fast as I could. I reached here and again slept inside the grave with my helpless body that had already deceived me. Now after a hundred years, you have awakened me again. And I am thankful to Almighty that I was able to make you hear my heart. It was the will of God. You know my story now. Now, I am relieved. Now, I have peace…”
And with that, Javaid gets up, steps out of the Chinar trunk, walks back to his grave…
The storm is now receding. A weather gloom is fading. The wind has stopped, so has the rain. The clouds split and the sun begins to peep through the cloud cracks.
The farmer, wipes his tears, comes out of the trunk, and gives the unfortunate being a tearful burial. He raises his hands and prays for the restless soul of Javaid…
And then he leaves the spot with a heavy heart, turning his eyes again and again, towards the mysterious grave.
(The author can be reached at [email protected])