SATISAR THE VALLEY OF DEMONS (XX)

Lassa Khan, the Superintendent of Police, surveyed the deployment of his force around the house. He was satisfied. A posse of policemen stood with him. One of his assistants handed him the megaphone and positioning it near his mouth, Lassa Khan blared out, “Maqbool, you are encircled on all sides. Escape is impossible. I command you to surrender, I will give you only up to ten seconds and if you do not respond, your hideout will be destroyed…ten…nine…eight. Lassa Khan continued the count down…even…six…five…four…. A window opened on the first  floor and Maqbool appeared. Lassa Khan stopped counting. His hand went to his revolver and he took position behind his jeep. Maqbool did not carry any weapon. He looked calm and at peace. He strode up the last three stairs and straightway walked to the gallows. He stood there like a rock. His head appeared to rise above the plank of wood that held the noose. He surveyed the scene in front of him: his own people, indifferent, lost in the mirth, merrily enjoying an outing in the Mughal gardens, partaking of a sumptuous wazwan. He called out to them but his voice could not rise above the popular film number blaring out and pervading the environment. He stood there in silence, watching beyond the horizon. The executioner approached him, tied his hands behind his back and lowered the sack on to his face. Charles Chopra was distributing sweets among the jail mates. After all, the country had been saved. The jailor congratulated Charles. Charles put a large burfi piece into his mouth.

That night, flanked by Budshah and Yousuf, Charles walked out of the prison gates to a waiting car.

Kashyap opened his eyes to a dazzling light. Not able to bear the glare he closed his eyes again. Turning over the latest memories in his mind he felt he was dead and facing the unknown in the other world. Mustering all the courage he could find he again opened his eyes. Very slowly he adjusted to the high intensity light. He could make out that he was lying on his back on a comfortable bed in a royal suite. The ceiling above was painted in an exquisite fashion. Looking around he noticed the elegant decor of the room. Lovely curtains of a rich and fine fabric hung on the walls. A velvety material covered the floor. The maroon coloured flooring seemed to emit light in multi coloured patterns. Kashyap sat up in his bed and called out,“Friend or foe, where am I?”

He heard a rustling sound as if a huge bird was taking flight. He waited with bated breath. Droplets of sweat shone on his forehead. A little shiver ran through his frame. He felt scared. Where was he? This was the question that remained unanswered. He thought of standing up and investigating the place. His legs refused to move. He was really scared. He was sweating more profusely now. His heart pounded ferociously in his chest and he felt his rib cage would give way. When he seemed to lose all hope, the rustling sounded again. He turned his head in the direction of the sound. He saw a white winged fairy approaching him. Her face was ethereal and her whole form cosmic. She had large wings, with numerous feathers glittering in the unusual light. Her long hair trailed behind her. She came close to Kashyap and he could only manage to utter an incoherent query.

“Who…are you?” Then she spoke with a dazzling smile. As she spoke, thousands of bells jingled, melodies were born and music came into being

“At ease… my lord… you are the guest of honour of His Majesty The Great Monarch of Pataal, the eternal Lord, Nilnag.”

“Where am I and who are you?” Kashyap still confused, managed to ask. “I am placed at your service my Lord. You are in Pataal Desh. The eternal abode of eternal Monarch Nilnag.

“Who brought me here? How did I come here?”Kashyap, feeling somewhat at ease, enquired.

“My Lord…by the order of Lord Nilnag you are the guest of honour….Tonight shall the Great Monarch give you an audience and there all doubts you may have shall vanish. For the present my Lord I am at your beck and call. Order whatever you may, from Pataal or Bhutaal it shall be produced.” Kashyap wanted to analyze the situation in which he found himself. He asked the fairy to leave him alone. She bowed in reverence and left. For quite sometime the sound of rustling feathers hung in the room as Kashyap closed his eyes to ponder over what had just transpired there.

Ajab Malik was strolling on the bund along with two of his close friends. They were his college mates. All three shared a common interest in Urdu poetry. Ajab Malik was particularly fond of walking over the dry crisp chinar leaves strewn all over the place. He remarked to his friends, “Do you hear the music these dry leave produce?” Majid reacted to this and said, “Melody is neither in leaves nor in your shoes; it is in your mind.” Ajab Malik felt flattered for a while and this was an invitation to a long monologue on melody and the mind.

Som broke the chain of Ajab Malik’s articulation and suggested that they all go to the Qalandar’s Takia. This they had decided during the day. They came away from the Bund and straightaway headed towards the Takia situated a few furlongs away on an island inside the lake. Reaching the boulevard road they engaged a shikara and set out towards the tiny island. The evening was setting in and as they alighted from the shikara onto the shore, a thundering voice called the believers to evening prayers. Asking the nearest person about the location, they proceeded towards the Takia. It was a small place, just a room attached to a little mosque. As they removed their shoes at the door, a man appeared from inside and enquired,“What do you want?” Ajab Malik replied in a polite tone,“Sir, we seek the Qalander.”

“Please, come on in,” they were told. They went in. Ajab Malik saw a score of men mostly past their prime squatting in a circle on the Persian rug covering the floor. The room was filled with smoke and the heavy sweet and pungent smell of hashish hung in the air. A man of considerable age detached from the rest sat near a window. A beautifully decorated hookah stood in front of him and he drew puffs of smoke from it. Ajab Malik and his friends walked the few paces and joined the men sitting in the circle. As they sat the man drawing at the hookah noticed them. Removing his hand from the hookah he murmured as if to himself, “Knowledge, knowledge…where is knowledge? This is not a college…or is it? Well it may be! Then I am the professor. Yes I am the professor.Come on children I will give you a lesson. He doubts me (pointing his finger at Ajab Malik) but they do not (pointing at Ajab Malik’s friends). Now who is right? He or them? Both are right. Doubt is doubt. The doubter and the one who does not doubt, both are in fact right. Then both can be wrong. Wrong is wrong. Right is right. No wrong is right and right is wrong. The world goes on. But where is the world? I am the world. You are the world. I am dead. You are dead. The world is dead. But the world is the world and the world is alive. You are alive. Come near me my son.” He called out to Ajab Malik, who got up and sat with the Qalander. His two companions watched the proceedings in awe. The Qalander broke the silence. “What do you seek my son?”

“The one behind the veil,” Ajab Malik replied. The Qalander broke out into peals of laughter. His laughter echoed in the little room. Ajab Malik was taken aback. Sensing this, the Qalander abruptly stopped laughing and said, “Nothing came out of nothing. Veil is only a facade. What you seek does not exist. She has hidden herself behind the veil. No my son, go and ask Mansoor. He knew. What happened to him? Moses knew it too, but could not sustain it. It is this secret. Do not unravel, for the mystery is then lost. Behold the mystery. Sustain it and live it.”

That night, sipping beer along with his friends at Lab Koul’s bar, Ajab Malik declared that the Qalander was a fraud. He simply juggled with words. He had no substance, no content. It is one thing to deeply consider the metaphysical and relate it to the physical and another to create a facade of words to hide one’s inadequacies. Ajab Malik’s audience, his friends, heard him with great attention. He seemed to know everything. He seemed to have an opinion of his own. Ajab Malik had begun a serious study of western philosophers; from Karl Marx he graduated to other German philosophers. He seemed to like the overall situation as presented by the occidental mind. This in course of time led him towards the rational. Shunning the empirical, be began to attempt solutions on a rational plane. Life was in fact only a mass of protoplasm.

Evolution set in a gradual change, transforming simpler forms of life into more complex entities. Darwin seemed to him to be so convincing with his theory of natural selection. Struggle for existence was at the root of all upheavals in the life of nations and individuals. Only the fittest would qualify for survival. Hitler was the ultimate expression of struggle for existence. He was not the fittest in his situation and therefore had to perish.

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