SATISAR, The Valley of Demons (XIV)

After Jaladbhava’s departure, Kashyap was left alone in the room. He began analyzing the events of the day. So Jaladbhava, it turned out, was not a demon after all and his men were also made of flesh and bones. Then why had they been presented as demons? Why had they been denied a good reputation? After all, they were highly developed and civilized people. He thought they did not kill me or harm me. They could have done anything if they wished. The king was so kind as to visit me. No, there is something that does not meet the eye. All ancient texts cannot be so wrong. The Guru’s word cannot be wrong but what I saw with my own eyes could also not be wrong. If Jaladbhava was a demon king, then why did he not eat me and do away with me once and for all? Why did they allow me to descend into the valley, all the time monitoring my every move? Yes, Jaladbhava and his men appeared to be jealously guarding their territory. They held on to this Swarg Desh and this could be the reason for all outsiders to dub him and his people as demons, thereby justifying a holy war against them, seeking the help of Shiva and all other Gods. What should he do? Should he stay for a few weeks as permitted by Jaladbhava or should he devise a plan of wresting this land from Jaladbhava and his men and declare himself and his tribe as the eternal masters of this land. Kashyap continued to ponder over these questions. How could he conquer this land? A single unarmed Brahmin, alone and surrounded by thousands of Jaladbhava’s men. It could be only through brains— budhi—and not through might—Shakti. He had to devise a plan. As he continued to delve deep into his thoughts, he was beginning to believe that he could take this country. Going back was out of the question. How could he give up this Sunder Desh, this Swarg on land? How? How? How?

The ladies had started a big fire and were boiling water in earthen pots when boys carrying rice arrived. The hungry crowd mobbed the boys. Immediately rice was added to the boiling pots and the entire crowd waited for the meal. Maqbool Dar also arrived and, all the time looking at the hungry eager crowd, took his hookah and sat under a Deodar tree. From there he continued to watch these men, women and children as they waited for their share of boiled rice. Rice—rice was the only purpose, the only pursuit in their lives. What did they pray for, whenever they prayed, for yes, they did pray?

“Oh God, give us rice and then a long life.”

Life was nothing without this magical yellow seed, which when husked yielded the snow white grain—the grain that sustained human life. Maqbool Dar continued to closely observe his own village folk getting excited and restive as the wait prolonged. The children began to argue as to who would eat more, men with pangs of hunger increasing rapidly in their stomachs shouted at their women, “Come on now, it must be ready, why is it taking so much time?” and women attending to the hearth waited with bated breath for the outcome of their toil.

Maqbool Dar called his friends Lassa Khan and Ajab Malik to his side. They talked in hushed tones. He told them that by the morning the State would come after them. Therefore, it would be wise to disappear during the night.

“Have your meal and go away.”

“And what about you?”they asked.

“Do not bother. I shall also go, at the last moment.”

As the men sat talking, the ladies brought down the mammoth pots from the hearths and the whole crowd gathered around them. No one was in a mood to allow the hot boiling rice to cool down; they just wanted it, whatever the price. The pangs of hunger rose to their heads, hot words were exchanged, fights broke out and slanging matches took place. Maqbool Dar knew that it would be impossible to control them. The commotion grew as the entire hungry crowd fell on the hot pots of rice and snatching, pushing and pulling each other, they began to eat. After the initial turbulence, things began to settle down and they ate without pausing for even a breath. They ate and ate.

Maqbool Dar watched in silence.

Rice rice come our way!

We will have you night and day

Cow too likes your golden hay

She then gives us milk &whey

Rice rice come our way.

A bright moon was shining on top of the forest and the crowd of men, women and children had, after years, eaten to their fill and now the entire crowd lay there asleep. Only Maqbool Dar was awake. He had not eaten a morsel. He continued to puff at his hookah. His friends Khan and Malik had departed and he was now considering the situation. Morning was round the corner. Another small stretch for the bright moon and then the sun would rise over the eastern mountains and the entire world would come to life. A new day would be born, but it would definitely be different from yesterday. Maqbool Dar was sure of that.

He stood up and went close to the sleeping crowd. Looking intently at each face he picked up the ten boys he wanted to talk to They were the boys who had transported the rice from the godown. He took them away from the sleeping crowd and under the Deodar tree he talked to them, “My dear boys, you are the only hope of this miserable nation. I do not want to lose you at this stage. By morning the troops will arrive and they will, as bloodhounds, tear at you all. So listen to me. Make good your escape through the woods. Scatter in the country and wait for my word. The day will come when I call you to rise in revolt and free your nation from the yoke. Till then my friends, God be with you. To you today do I pass on all my dreams, all my hopes.”

With this farewell speech Maqbool Dar said good-bye to the group of youth who had taken part in the first act of defiance planned by him.

The convoy stopped outside Papa-2 interrogation center. Gani was brought down from the vehicle and in through a door, then pushed down a flight of stairs into a dingy room with no furniture in it. Two men in civilian clothes were already awaiting his arrival. He was made to squat on the bare concrete floor. Two chairs were brought in from an adjoining room and two men sat in them. One, an elderly man in his late fifties with a receding hairline, a potbelly and yellow teeth addressed him. “So you are here. We want to know certain things. If you cooperate with us, everything will be all right. No fear, but if you don’t, then I can assure you of hell.”

Gani just sat there on his haunches, his arms thrown around his knees, a vacant expression on his face.

“What is your name?”

The younger of the two interrogators began. Gani seemed to have completely missed that. The young man again repeated, “What is your name?”

Now Gani seemed to listen. He lifted his head and muttered, “Mulla Tahir Gani Kashmiri.”

“What the hell? You are telling a lie. I told you this little room will turn into a hell for you if you tell lies.” The man with the yellow teeth yelled. “Tell us your true name. We do not want any code names,” the young man demanded.

“My only name is Mulla Tahir Gani Kashmiri—people simply call me Gani.”

“He seems to be a hard nut, come we will have to be tough with him.”Saying this, the pot bellied man got up and started for the door.He was followed by his companion, and Gani was left alone in that room.

After a brief interval, four men entered the room. The young man who had asked questions accompanied them. They carried thick ropes. Two men held Gani’s hands and pulled them straight; two men held his feet and pulled his legs. He was suddenly lying prostrate on the floor. His hands were tied and so were his legs. Putting chairs one above another, a man managed to pass the end of a rope through an iron hook hanging from the ceiling. They fastened the rope to Gani’s feet and with a sudden jerk pulled the free end of the rope that was dangling from the hook in the ceiling. In a flash Gani was hanging from the ceiling upside down. There he remained as the men secured the rope and left the room.

The only other person in the room was Gani’s interrogator. He came close to Gani’s head and pulling his hair thundered, “Thus hanging, you shall remain till the time you change your ways.”

Saying this he tore Gani’s shirt, throwing the shreds on the floor. Then he went up the chair and tore his pants and removed the shreds. There hung Gani, naked, without a soul near him, hidden from the world.

 An excerpt from Ayaz Rasool Nazki’s  book SATISAR, THE VALLEY OF DEMONS published by Vitasta Publishing and the book is available on www.vitastapublishing.com