Series 2: “The Djinn” Part 4 Halloween
I hadn’t seen Hercules in a while, and I wondered how djinns celebrated Halloween, perhaps by pretending to be human. I, myself, had celebrated Halloween by putting on a Rehman Malik wig and a pair of Asif Zardari grinning dentures.
I found him on a stool, and he was made up to look human. Atop his pint-sized body, on his normally clean shaven face now without a veil, were the most outsized moustaches I had ever seen; bushy, black and shiny, upturned and pointy at the ends.
Before I could say anything, Hercules struck a ‘Ta-da’ pose on the carpet in front of me.
“But… but…” I stammered, groping for words, and was surprised when Hercules beamed at me.
“That’s right. Although I understand that his real name is Shahid Nazeer or Aziz, not Gullu Butt at all. Isn’t he scary?”
It’s usually Hercules who finds me funny (amongst other things) but this time, it was I who collapsed onto a chair, laughing, while Hercules looked on, surprised.
“What’s so funny?” he said, genuinely taken aback.
“I can’t believe you find him scary, that’s what!”
“How can you not find him scary? Not the man, he is nothing, it’s what he stands for that’s terrifying.”
“And what is that?” I asked, now trying to understand the reasoning behind what Hercules had said.
“I didn’t think even you would be so obtuse. Here’s a man with nothing beyond a foot of facial hair to recommend him, who is now a national celebrity with claims on the airwaves that those who deserved them were never allowed. Abdus Salam was probably never on air for as much as hundredth the time this man gets only because this man broke a few windscreens with a stick… drat, I forgot, I should have one.”
He snapped his fingers and a stick appeared by his side.
“Doesn’t that tell you something about yourself and your countrymen?”
“It tells me that we, like nine tenths of the world, are suckers for sensational news.”
“And what does the celebrity status of a person like Mumtaz Qadri tell you? If this man, this punk who must spend half his morning shaping his moustaches, and cozening up to the powers to be, if he gets 11 years in prison, shouldn’t Qadri who killed a man in broad daylight in front of witnesses and actually boasted of the fact, shouldn’t he be executed right away? Instead, a death sentence has been handed out to him, but it still has to be acted upon. It’s doubtful it ever will. There he lives in that cell of his, another of your celebrities, directing operations and meting out his brand of justice, having more people killed by proxy for acts that he calls crimes. There’s even a mosque dedicated to him!”
In his agitation, Hercules stalked up and down, gesturing as he spoke and throwing his hands about. The days were getting warmer, and as he became more heated, the tips of his moustaches wilted; then the moustaches disappeared altogether, and his veil reappeared, but he kept on pacing.
“Butt is an ordinary man, one of many in a family, who had illusions of grandeur. He was harvested and led into doing their dirty work for them by others, and for this crime, which was little more than stupidity on his part, okay a bit of vandalism too, he, not his instigators, must spend a decade in prison while they ‘tut tut’ and look sanctimonious, taking credit for ‘justice’ achieved. Ha! People died as a result of their schemes. People shot each other, murder, and it’s this moustached vandal who gets 11 years. And this happens all the time, yet you don’t find it scary?”
“Of course, it’s wrong, Hercules, very wrong, but isn’t ‘scary’ rather a large word for this?”
“It is an inadequate word! You let these incidents happen, you let each go by in the midst of talk shows and hype and then you wonder why there is little democracy and no justice in your homeland!”
“Honestly, I didn’t realise you felt so strongly about this.”
“How can I not,” he said in an even voice. “The injustice here grows like fire and burns in the same way. There is that poor Aasia woman, sentenced to death. This moustached idiot is likely to be out of prison before long but who knows what her fate will be and that of others like her. Recently, a couple were killed for alleged blasphemy, beaten and burnt to death in a kiln, as if it were not enough that they were slaves, bonded labour! Is your religion so fragile that it cannot stand up to a few careless words? And you people are scared of djinns! What can be scarier than this brand of ‘human’!”
He dropped onto the sofa and covered his face with his hands. I sat down beside him, but shot up again, realising I sat on the edge of his veil, tugging his face down to his knees.
“Why do you wear that thing?” I asked irritably. “Look, now its dipping into the ashtray.”
I pulled the other edge of the veil out of the ashtray and dusted it.
“What I wear is my business.”
He looked up and there was almost a fierce expression on his face.
“It becomes your business only if I use it to impress you, to fool you, to make you and others think of me as better than yourselves.”
“And they are doing that out there, aren’t they,” I said sadly.
He looked at me and sighed.
“You’ll learn just how much,” he said, and this time he pulled my sleeve out of the ashtray where it had come to rest.
The final part of the “Djinn” series will be published on Wednesday, November 26, 2014. Stay tuned to see how the story unfolds.
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