By Mir Umar
The evening had caused darkness in the town. Streets were deserted and silence had spread over the town. People were off the roads. Only some gabber dogs were barking mysteriously. Little smog in the air was like a carpet stretched over an infinite distance. The fog was dense; so was the evening. Street lights were on but their less intense light was getting absorbed by the fog.
A little dim streetlight illuminated the face of an old aged man which dwindled as the light traveled between his scars. A Cigarette dangled between his tense lips. He smoked. In regular intervals, he put his favorite four squares cream filter between his lips and exhaled the smoke.
Sitting in his old shop, Ali Kaak waited for his evening customers. He waited and then smoked. The rings of smoke moved in air like a snake crawling. Ali Kaak’s shop, besides having little things in it had a fine wooden shelf on which some biscuits and expired lays have been put. Half of the jars are empty perhaps various types of cigarette packets are above his head on the shelf.
Ali Kaak’s shop is outside his home with the wooden doors held between the two pillars.
Radio news is continuously resonating in Ali Kaak’s shop as he listens to it carefully. He listened and waited. But , he could see no customers on that day. Finishing the last part of his cigarette, he decided to sweep his metal lays jar inside and close down his shop. He then sensed something strange which has put him on toes. So, he swept his materials and locked the tin door of the shop. Cold affected him while walking towards his main door. Ali Kaak put his arms inside his pheran and kept walking.
Ali Kaak knocke on the main door of his home but it seems no one replied to it. He once again knocked and hence a voice responded,
“Kus Chu?” (Who’s this?).
“Bae Chus” (This is me) shouted Ali Kaak.
Anger in the voice helped Zoona to recognize that it was her husband. Zoona opened the door and Ali Kaak stepped in. He ordered his wife Zoona to serve dinner.
While Ali Kaak was yet to reach the washroom, a huge explosive sound was heard. It shook the whole house. Its poor windows and roof also felt tremors of the big explosion. Ali Kaak was left in a state of shock. He took position on the floor like a soldier in a war. In fear, he also shouted on Zoona to sit down. While Ali Kaak’s voice was yet to reach his wife, another explosive sound shook the house. Ali Kaak thought it was an encounter going on outside.
Ali Kaak was reciting the verses of Quran with wet trembling lips. After the two big explosions, now he heard continuous cracking sound resonating outside. Again, Ali Kaak thought it were gun shots of the encounter. Zoona was also frightened after listening to those shots. She couldn’t move or crawl because fear was running all through her body.
“Ooo, Khodaya encounter ha che chalan” (Oh, God Encounter is going on) whispered Zoona while speaking to herself. The firing like sounds made a brief pause. An eerie of silence prevailed. Ali Kaak tried to uphold his head from the ground but he couldn’t.
In the meantime, Ali Kaak thought there was someone walking outside. He could easily hear the sound of the footsteps. Ali Kaak now began to fear more. He thought army had come to his home. His mind crisped with many gabbling ideas. At once, he thought army would order him to clear his home because of the encounter going on outside. While his mind was in state of mad thoughts, he heard that someone was knocking on the main door. This knock was unusual and frightening.
“Ali Kaaka, darwaz kholsa” (Ali Kaak open the door) said a voice from outside. There was no reply from Ali Kaak’s side. After few minutes, he managed to recognize this voice. Ali Kaak crawled towards main door and opened it slightly. It was Rahman, his neighbor.
“Encounter ha che chalan” (Encounter is going on), “Yed due Zameenas” (Lay your belly to ground) said Ali Kaak in a low tune to Rahman. Listening to it, Rahmaan laughed loudly which made Ali Kaak angry. Rahmaan laughed and laughed…
“Ali Kaaka, ye chu yemis hamsaayan khaandar” (Ali Kaak, it’s marriage of this neighbor) “Yemov traey taas” (They bursted firecrackers) . “said Rahmaan.
Listening to this argument, Ali Kaak became angry and began to say notorious words about neighbors as he was held in fear because of their bursting firecrackers sound. It was the firecrackers sound that trembled Ali Kaak. Rahmaan had come to fetch some cigarettes from Ali Kaak’s shop. Ali Kaak went outside with Rahmaan to give him some cigarettes from his shop which was closed down earlier while Zoona was still unaware and was lying on the ground like a soldier.
PS: In Kashmir even the bursting firecrackers sound look like explosions. Such have our senses became adapted to those sounds.
—The author is a student of Literature and can be reached at: [email protected]