SATISAR THE VALLEY OF DEMONS (XXV)

Guruswamy knew that Birbal would not keep his promise, yet he allowed him to enter Qaf and collect the treasure. Looking from the balcony of his hotel through binoculars, he saw Birbal coming out of the protected zone. But instead of heading towards Guruswamy’s hotel he took the road to the city. This was enough for Guruswamy. Birbal’s betrayal was confirmed. He picked up the cordless phone and dialed a number. “Hello, listen Raw Kaw. It is Swamy.” Guruswamy gave the details to Raw Kaw, switched off the phone and sat down on the plump cushion. A mischievous smile danced on his thick dark lips. Stretching his bejeweled fingers he again picked up the phone, dialed a number and waited. Someone came on the line and Guruswamy began “Birbal is on his way to the States, I want him at any cost but alive. He carries a treasure on him. Save that for me. Is that clear?” After listening for a few moments Guruswamy said, “okay” and switched off.

There was a knock at the door. Guruswamy called out, “Come in”. It was Ranjitov Sin, the hotelier. In his usual joyous mood Ranjitov came in and sitting in front of the Guru began, “Guruji I am beginning to get worried about Birbal ji. He has not turned up. Is he well?” Guruswamy cut him short with a wave of his hand. “Don’t worry about him. He is already on his way to the States to sell the treasure.”

“What? Has he contacted you Guru ji?” asked the startled sardar.

“No, he has betrayed me. I knew it too.”

“Oh, my god! He betrayed you? He is such a scoundrel. Tusi mainu daso ji. Main una noo sabak sikhawan?” Ranjitov switched over to Punjabi. Guruswamy put him at ease. “Don’t worry Ranjitov. We will take care of him.”

As the two men were talking, Birbal was checking into a hotel in the capital city. He was hungry and tired too. As he reported at the reception and asked for a room he was thinking of the ordeal ahead of him. He knew Guruswamy very well to let bygones be bygones. The receptionist handed over the key to him and an usher led him upstairs. Once behind the bolted doors Birbal emptied the contents of his pockets on the bed. Coins glittered in the dazzling lights of his hotel room. Birbal fondled these coins. “Beautiful,” he thought. Then his attention shifted to the pack of cards. He sifted through the pack, shuffled it and studied it for a while. “Lovely,” he said aloud. Leaving his treasure exposed on the bed, he removed his clothes and went to the bathroom. He wanted a bath. He completed his bath in record time. Dressed again, he placed the coins and the cards in his pockets and came out of the room. He headed for the lobby downstairs. He wanted to eat. Sitting alone at a table, he ordered his favourite dishes and waited. Looking around he spotted a gorgeous girl looking straight at him from her table. Birbal returned the glance. The girl gave him a dazzling smile. As the waiter laid the dishes in front of him, the girl rose from her seat and walked towards Birbal. The waiter left and the girl sat down at Birbal’s table and asked coyly, “Do you need company, handsome man.” Birbal was swept off his feet. He managed to exclaim, “Why not. Please join me.”

The girl sat in front of him. Birbal invited her to dine with him, which she accepted. Birbal continued to ogle at her from time to time. As they went through the dinner, he was sufficiently on fire. He invited the girl to his room and she gave him a hug. Hand in hand, they walked through the lobby, up the stairs and into Birbal’s room.

Lally tigress had gone mad. Her mind seemed to have shut down. She did not respond to anything. She seemed to see nothing, hear nothing and feel nothing. She sang incoherently whenever awake. Occasionally she went into total oblivion, but then came back suddenly singing at the top of her voice. The attendants who understood Kashmiri said her ‘songs’ were meaningless, incoherent and totally out of place. Her body however responded to the treatment. Her wounds healed fast and she could move about in the hospital ward unaided. The doctors seemed to be at a loss to know how to handle her. They called in a psychiatrist. He had a long session with Lally but failed to get a response from her. He concluded that the lady was in a deep shock and chances of her recovery were remote. Col Sharma continued to visit her. He felt sad for her. She did not recognize him either. She in fact recognized nothing around her. She did not care about anything. She seemed to have gone beyond everything. The top brass took stock of the situation. They studied the medical reports and discussed the matter with the psychiatrist. There was no hope. She was anyway useless. She could not give any information. So it was decided that she should be released and transferred to the hospital for psychiatric diseases.

She was shifted. She did not seem to register this change. The doctors at the hospital, all Kashmiris, were exceptionally nice to her. She had a reputation with the local people. They tried everything to restore her senses, but to no avail. She continued to remain far away—unattainable, unachievable, singing hymns to her soul. The hymns were incomprehensible to the ordinary mortals. She had, by and by, lost all sense of modesty. She would not mind being naked. In fact she would suddenly remove her garments and run wild in the hospital lawns singing and gesturing with her limbs. But in all such outbursts she was never violent. An attendant would calmly walk up to her and dress her up. She wouldn’t object, continuing her singing.

On one such occasion, when she was basking in the sun, she had cast away her shirt and lay there on the green turf topless, with unkempt hair. She suddenly jumped up. Looking far away down the corridor she saw a few people leading a tall, turbaned man in her direction. She ran away in the opposite direction and into the doctor’s room. The doctor was examining a patient at that time. Lally barged in highly agitated as if in pain. The doctor got up and came towards her. “Come on Lally. It’s all right. Come on. What do you want? Come’. For the first time the doctor sensed that the lady was listening and would probably respond. Lally looked at him. Then covering her breasts with her hands she hung her head in shame.

Yousuf Shah was a clever man. Charles Chopra had given him fifty thousand rupees to take care of the expenses. Yousuf did not want to share the money with Budshah. Otherwise also he did not have any special liking for his companion. As their plane landed at Karachi Airport, the two men came out of the aircraft and walked towards the airport teminal. Once inside, Yousuf Shah whispered something into Budshah’s ear and taking long strides moved on. Budshah waited till Yousuf disappeared in the winding corridor. Then he resumed his walk. As he came out of the airport, he looked for his friend. He was nowhere to be seen. Budshah waited. Time ticked by. Passengers continued to arrive but Yousuf did not appear. Suddenly Budshah realized that he was all alone in an alien land and penniless. Where would he go? What would he do? As he sat there pondering over his miserable plight, a big explosion rocked the area. People began running helter skelter. Budshah also jumped to his feet and began to run. He did not know why he was running and where he was going.

He continued to run with the multitude of men and women on the street of Karachi. Barricades halted their march. Armored vehicles with soldiers in battle gear confronted them. Then all hell was let loose. Bullets flew in all directions and Budshah ran for cover. He ran into a nearby street. As he passed a wide open door, a fat lady caught hold of his arm and before he could respond dragged him into the courtyard. She shut the door and with a gurgling laugh said, “Do not worry. You are safe. You will enjoy. Come let us go in.” Budshah did not understand a word. Why had the fat lady plucked him in? Why was she taking him into the house! Why were the people running? Why was he running? Who were the men in battle dress? Budshah was utterly confused. He looked towards the lady who beckoned him in. They went inside the house and into a spacious drawing room. He sat on a sofa. The lady realizing that the man must be tired went into an adjoining room and came back holding a bottle and a glass in her hands. She poured a drink and offered it to Budshah. Responding mechanically, Budshah held the drink in his hand. The lady said, “Come on take it man. It will calm your nerves. Then you can have a lot of fun.” Badshah raised the glass to his lips and gulped it down, the liquid burning his throat.

Ajab Malik roamed the streets of Berlin. Having completed his language course at Gottingam he joined the prestigious technical institute where he was supposed to learn the most up-to-date television technology. Walking through the streets of old Berlin was an experience in itself and Ajab Malik liked every bit of it. He did not know the place, so he began keeping a mental note of the turns he took and signposts he saw. After all, he had to return to his own apartment.

Germans, young and old, men and women crossed him as he walked leisurely down the narrow winding alleys, looking at the grandeur of old mansions, neat and clean surroundings. As he moved into a particular street it dawned on him that he was all alone. The streets were totally deserted. The windows of buildings lining the streets were tightly shut. He suddenly seemed to have entered a ghost town, a blind alley. He wanted to turn back but his inquisitiveness moved him on. At last he came face to face with it. The towering brick wall stood in front of him. Oh! So this is the wall, the Berlin Wall, dividing East and West. How odd and how silly, he thought. Man dividing the ground on which he stands, but what about the skies, the air, the fragrance of a flower, the flight of a bird. Ajab Malik did see birds flying across the wall, unmindful of the division.

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