By Mushtaque B Barq
This was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. Happiness, that is but an orderly at the office of Time. Temporary and insignificant. Ajaz was waiting at Ghat 4 near Nehru Park, a temporary island at the end of Liquid Heart of the city to receive his friend. He had already packed his Tiffin, knowing that his friend was fond of dried brinjal cooked along with dried tomato and gourds, making it a tasty trio. They used to call it TruKeit, means three dried vegetables cooked together. It was now almost after two decades, the reunion was proposed. Poor men have their own way to celebrate, no restaurant and hotel stay, but wherever the day ends, their temporary home seems ready to occupy them. Ajaz was conscious of the fact that his friend would never come empty handed and the duo would eat and celebrate amidst learning about their progress. He was expecting that his friend would indeed carry his Tiffin box full of goat trotters, which he had not tasted from the day his friend had moved to a far off place where his father who was an employee of home guard was transferred. Eating his favorite dish without his friend would simply mean disloyalty. Poor men live with their own conviction and constrictions.
“Let that bastard come, I will peel his skin off for being too casual”, Ajaz muttered.
Well! Who can afford to be decent when friends are around?
The moon at the side of the river had put on the choicest of its gown to lure one and all. The two friends before their separation had left much of the things in the dust to seize their ideal territories. The boat that touched the bay had slowed down the pace of time machine and the currents were friendly, as much as necessary to let the ferryman relax.
Out of the boat, a man in his late forties stepped down, almost tumbled, but a co-passenger’s shoulder came in between to prevent the fall. His face had already been overlapped by the streaks of the moon and one could hardly guess was it the romance whirling on his jaw line or a kind of fatigue that had put the sign on the sheen of his skin.
The man at the Ghat recognized his friend. He came forward and received him. Raised his Tiffin and laughed.
“Guess what is in it”, Ajaz asked.
The man lowered his neck, perhaps he sensed what Ajaz had expected him to carry.
“ Must be Trukeit”, the man replied.
“ But where is your Tiffin box?” asked Ajaz.
“Oh ! Come on bastard, can you think other than belly basket”
Ajaz was taken a back because his friends could have never let him down, but then he realised that he must not be in a position to carry the favourite food for his friend. He placed his hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry, now that we have met, we can have buffalo trotters not to talk of goat or lamb.
The duo under the silver canopy of the full moon appeared like two angels roaming in human labyrinthine. One was trying to pull the other out of the mess, and the other moving too deeper into an undefined abyss.
“Time has been merciful to you”, said the man.
“I think Time spares none, but then one has to learn how to put a shield”, Ajaz responded.
The moon up under the starry roof of the heaven was chasing the friends like the fate.
“You talk of shield”, he asked.
“Come on”, Ajaz tried to evade the issue.
He knew it already that no shield has ever cosseted Time.
His friend was not a kid in the classroom who would take down anything and everything dictated to him, but he knew how to dig deeper.
He repeated, “What shield you were taking about.”
Ajaz knew he had to invent or recall a powerful reference to prevaricate the subject.
With head high, he corrected his posture, cleared his throat and just passed his left hand over his head to enjoy the luxury of silk he was capped with. His attitude struck the cloud edges that were already bathed in the ocean of moonlight.
“Well, Art can triumph Time”, Ajaz finally turned the pages of his memory to reveal what the great Bard had described in his sonnets.
The expression buckled the man’s mouth and the words just appeared ice blocks hard to reach to the desired location. He drooped his head and was trying to get something out of his own junk yard to beat Ajiaz. His exhaustion was apparent; Ajaz sensed it and he stopped. On the bank of Dal Lake the duo stayed for a moment and then the whiff of barbeque brought a smile on their faces.
Ajaz got up to invite his friend for their old love, but the man pulled him close and with tearful eyes , sighed and signaled, a wink and then a frown followed by another sigh. Ajaz was unable to decipher the underlying message of his gestures.
Ajaz smiled and announced, “ You don’t need to pay, I will do the payment.”
The man cupped his face.
“Listen Ajaz, don’t waste your money, you may require it for something, wait”, the man shouted.
Ajaz turned back, leaned at his friend.
The man pulled him down and placed his head on his thigh and stared at the sky. He sighed, but Ajiaz was still unaware of his plight.
The man had fixed his eyes at the moon. “Ah! What a relief I have got after so many years of suffering”, he announced.
“Suffering, what kind of suffering?” Ajaz asked.
Ajaz turned his face and found the Dal Lake was already draining through his friend’s eyes.
“No, no let me weep, don’t stop me, your lap has warmth in it, let me enjoy it for some time”, the man requested.
“Come on let you open your Tiffin, I want to taste Truikeit”, the man asked.
Ajaz sensed something which he was not able to decipher.
“Are you alright, my friend, please tell me why are you weeping”, Ajaz asked.
“I will tell you, but take an oath you won’t weep”, the man begged.
Then the man placed his head on Ajaz’s shoulder and amidst forlorn water of Dal Lake, Ajaz was already drenched.
“Can you marry Jamela”, the man asked.
“Who is she”, Aijaz asked.
“The same girl she was raped last year”, the man responded.
“ Why are you advocating for her?”, Aijaz asked.
“ I am but a brother of that girl”, he cupped his face.
Ajaz passed a smile much against his will.
The man sighed and the burdened leaves on his limbs shattered all over and his light being touched the stars.
Just then a boatman shouted at the shore and the man was carried to his destination.
Mushtaq B.Barq is a Columnist, Poet and Fiction Writer. He is the author of “Feeble prisoner, “ Wings of Love” and many translation works are credited to the author like “ Verses Of Wahab Khar” and “ Songs Of Sochkral”