Historian! Don’t write my history

Historian! Don’t write my history

A short story in Urdu by Fareha Arshed, rendered into English by Rashid J Ahmed

Historian! Don’t write my history:

You look like a stranger here. I’ve never seen you here before. Maybe you’re an old friend of someone’s young son? No! No… They were younger than you. You look a decade older than them.

Why are you staring at me like this? I wasn’t that old either. These bowed shoulders and curved back were straight like arrows. I had so much tail in my arms that I could sail faster than a motor boat. Look at the protruding nerves in my legs that tell how strong and young man I was.

Ah … those good old days.

This river was not so old when I was young. If you had seen my mighty youth being consumed by its mighty waters, you would have related it to a fight of two wrestlers in the arena.

You are so eager to save your boots from the water with such contempt. What a person you are. . Why this contempt for water?

Your boots would never have gone wet with the roaring water in this boat if this boat was the same as my father made it. My father used to make boats and plows out of strong wood. He used to say that these two things are run by young people and they have to endure the force of youth so they should be very strong.

Ah … the time is never the same.

Young people grow old and then other young people take their place. I am not wrong but the history of this place is different.

Hey… be careful.

There is no strength left in the soil of Patan. Strong waters have weakened its soil.

Pick up your bag and walk along me.

Your dress and appearance indicate that you are from a cold region. It is very hot here these days. Drop your hat over your eyes. At this time, as the sun goes down, a hell of fire erupts from its oblique rays. The village is not too far, only two and a half furlongs.

The road leading to this village is very deserted except for some wild bushes and no trees on its banks. Your boots remind me of my sons.

. My six young sons used to leave the house wearing such boots and one day on their return their clothes and boots were handed over to their mother in a splendid manner and to me my son in a long wooden box. Ah …this happened not once but six times. Yes for six times and my house became empty of young sons.

It is not just the story of my sons or my house; it is the story of every house in this village.

You may call it genocide even though they said it is not genocide. They said it is a way of serving the soil by the jawans.  It was as if the heart of the earth had split open and it had swallowed up all the soldiers guarding it in one leap.

What were you saying?

Have you come to write the history of this village? You will write the history of this village. ….poor fellow.

This Karam Din, the old man, Instead of holding a rosary in his hands and bowing his head before God is going to do the work , his son was supposed to do. . So you will not find any place of worship in this village as all the old fathers have gone to earn for dinner.

You are sweating a lot and your breathing is not balanced. Let us go towards that old tree near the cemetery and sit there for awhile.

These fields were not so desolate and barren, but you know, the old farmer spews gold from the ground with the help of the strong arms of his young sons. Now the old man is there, but the young arms…

What a strange person you are, you are looking around with such cleverness and you are not listening to me? I was telling you that no young man is left in this village. Isn’t that a surprise to you? Nothing might surprise you now. As you write the chapters of history, your surprise may be dead.

Come on, stay under this tree for a while. The wind has stopped blowing and not a single leaf is moving. You are exhausted from the heat so your brain is not working or perhaps your emotions are cold.

Hold on… Where are you going? Walking over the graves? Be careful you should not leave your boot mark on the bright forehead of a jawaan.

This place is hotter than other places. May be there is coolness of heaven inside the graves. It is oozing hell. It is believed that martyrs feel peace and coolness in the graves but this place is burning like hell and I believe that the jawans are burning too as they have left their old fathers to face sorrows and pain.

What a man you are…you are not listening to me at all. And search for the history in the things .I am the history; my tongue is my life and my circumstances from which I have gone through. Who else would tell, what has happened?

How many names on the graves will you read? These young sons of this village, all of them grew before me, playing Gulidanda and their fathers and uncles including me kept burying their young bodies under the chest of the earth with trembling hands. You know how difficult it is for an old father to shoulder the corpse of his young sons to grave. This is why our shoulders are so bent. Nothing else can bend the shoulders of a father of a young son.

Let’s get out of here.  Don’t count the graves. Counting sons is a bad omen. If their mothers saw you trampling on them like this, they would trample on you all in one moment and this wide chest of yours would turn into a curved skin. You have not seen their anger which they have hidden behind their tears with great difficulty. Don’t let their anger get in your way by mistake.

Come out

Ah … here, at this place, were not the mere colorless graves. There was life. There was youth and you know that the youth has its own stories. When the raindrops fell on the ground in Sawan, the girls used to swing and a pearl necklace would bounce in the air. Sneaky silk raindrops from sky merge with the voices of happy, laughing, grunting girls, intoxicating the surroundings.

Tip Tip, Tup, Tapa Tup….

The colorful bangles fluttering to the rhythm of Sawan’s songs on the drums and their shy laughter.

How many virgins’ breaths would have stopped when the young boys full of ambitions would have waved the watch arm in the air to the beat of the drum?


What use of the beauty that is not appreciated…

Now, an ugly sigh, like a curse, has replaced the beauty.

The village starts from here. Look at these streets? … These were never so desolate nor the eyes of the mothers waiting at the doors. The earth has swallowed up their hope.

What makes you so upset? The girls now marry their dolls only with dolls. Who is more sensitive than girls? They take the immediate effect of the surroundings … They know that the young men of the town have been buried beneath the ground and the wombs of young women have refused to produce sons.

Don’t tell them stories. They are story-tellers themselves. The wisdom of making path in a closed wall has been tied by their mothers in the folds of their anchels. They will un tie the knot whenever they want. Don’t think to ask them when they will un tie the knots.

Come on to my left under the shadow.

This is khoo wala chowk and you see the women, sitting in a circle, around the village oven. This is Mai Bhagi’s oven. Don’t count the loaves of bread of the women sitting around the oven. They have some other hunger too.

If you reveal the secret of their hunger, they will abuse you, all the abuses which are kept in the knots of their aazaarbands, where the shock of the cold oven spews blood.

How come, your history is silent on such traumas?

Hey, don’t look in amazement at the medal in the neck of that woman’s dog. This dog is in habit of barking on the strangers. This faithful dog belongs to the young son of a woman who never got off his master’s six-foot wooden box. The woman picked him up and held him to her chest and never lets him go. If you snub her, she will hit you with bricks and will kill you.

You think she is crazy. No she is not… Don’t look at her in such horror. What exists is invisible and what is visible is incomplete, here.

Why did you stop?

Come through this door. Do not push it. It does not open completely. Since some time, the young women open this door as much as they could see off the departing souls. The mud beneath, has jammed this door. Now it is half open. Perhaps, all the people waiting for their beloved ones have half open doors. But you can never know the mystery of this half open door. Come along leaning through this door. There was much activity when my six sons used to sit here together. Now it is deserted and I am the only person left to see you. But their dreams are still young like my sons.

Ah … they went in coffins and left the dreams behind. They say martyrs do not die. They remain alive.

May be it is true. If it is true, then they might be coming to their wives in the night. . If they don’t, how come they are alive? Or they are not martyrs at all.

Don’t look at me like I’m an idiot or am talking nonsense. The walls of this house were not so frightened. What kind of fear can be there in the courtyard where the feet of those who sleep are protruding from the six feet of the cots? But these walls have also witnessed their still bodies on the cots. Does your history jots down the sufferings of these walls? You do not know about this as you do not read what you have written.

Wash your hands. Have some food.  You must be feeling hungry.

I have only this much strength in my arms that you can see salt and pepper dissolved in water and a piece of potato floating in the saucer. Don’t look at it with contempt. In exchange for this one loaf of bread and curry given to you, someone will have to go to bed hungry tonight. Appreciate his appetite. But, nay, you are one of them who think that the people at this place are hungry but they do not feel appetite.

Ha ،ha ،ha, look, the feeling of hunger prevails as long a human is alive, may it be the appetite of desire or to maintain human body.

Come. lie here.

O tur gaey kehrey desaaN

Jinnah dey bajhon pal na langhey

) Where are the people without whom not a moment would have passed?)

Why are you sitting up at this time of the night, these voices are not letting you sleep? Put some cloth in your ears, just a little night left. As soon as the dawn brocks, the  screams of dreams  coming from behind the doors will turn into such silence that you will only hear the sound of your own breath.

The first ray of the sun, today, is piercing my body or perhaps I am not able to bear it now.

What should I tell you about this village? The villages, that earn many medals, do not have stories to tell. There was nothing here except shining boots and medaled uniforms.

What did you get from this trip? It would have been better to look for traces of past generations in the streets of a historical city that has been erased from a page. Here, even the footprints of passers-by are not left on the ground.

They used to say that some terrorists wanted to uproot the land. They dug pits and started throwing young bodies into them so that the earth could not move from its place and become so heavy. This is the whole story. The earth is now so heavy that the existence of its inhabitants has become hollow and they fly like cotton balls hanging in between. The land remained there and those who said, where are they now? Have they gone to another land to eradicate another generation of sons? They buried the living bodies of our sons in the ground. The bodies that our faith is not even ready to accept as martyrs because we do not get the answers to our questions. They have shaken our faith.

Don’t look at me in such amazement.

Are you leaving…? Leave but do not write the history of this village because we are not interested in the history of tombs, deserted streets and barren lands. First you devastate us then write our history. History books, what do they contain?


But listen Leave the matter of history. Just answer my one question.

All the old fathers of this village gather under this old tree every evening to find the answer to this question. The fire of Hukkas turns to ashes and there is no answer. You might know the answer, so what’s wrong if you tell us? It is a very simple question. All we need to know is whose war did our sons fight and with whom?

Looks like that you have turned deaf and dumb. Why are you so bewildered? It was a simple question.

Never tell the old fathers of young sons about the cause of your presence here.

There is a lot of rot here. The bad smell of the living and the dead. You have vomited many times since yesterday. You have to leave this village for your treatment; otherwise this rot will settle in your mind and make you write something which no historian has written till date.

It is good you decided to go back.

Hey listen, be careful, the village roads are covered with dust. Walk on the grass along the shore, otherwise the dust will get stuck on your shoes and this dust will never be clean. The land here has become tough and hot. You will have to walk bare foot if your boots broke and you would be hanging them around your neck.  Then don’t say I didn’t forewarn you.


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