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Ahtesham Kashif



Ahtesham Kashif




15 mins 22.2K 15 mins 22.2K


Time and again, there is always some kind of rumor against me, which begins to circulate in all directions. Neither do I have a clue as to who spreads these fabrications, nor can I make an educated guess. I get the knowledge of these rumors concerning me from others, whose inquisitive nature brings them to me. I am bombarded with unanswerable questions such as “what is the issue all about?”,  ”what is the reason for this bad atmosphere?”, ”why did you do such a thing?”, ”what is the solution for this complication?”, ”how do you intend to get out of this quandary?”Etc. My initial reaction to these hoax is one of frightfulness; the whole city has some kind of perception about me which even I have no idea off. On top of that a barrage of questions, how can I even possibly have an answer to these questions, when I am not associated with these rumors at any level of my existence?

Not more than a week ago, an abrupt mystifying silence began to dance in the city. People began to evade each other on streets. There was a strange climate of distrust and skepticism. This atmosphere had built up very gradually, and there seemed to be no apparent rationale for such an aura. I was pondering over this subject when out of the blue a known figure appeared in front of me and said that I was the reason for the deterioration of city’s atmosphere.” I am the reason”- I was flabbergasted. How could I be the reason for this estrange and alienated climate of the city. I am a simple person who goes to office every day, run into exhaustion over the files till the evening and come back home. Yes sometimes I do go to the marketplace to buy some vegetables, fruits and sweets. I come back to home, wash my hands and feet, have a cup of tea and sit in the chair stationed at the verandah with the morning newspaper. That day when I was sitting in the verandah, the same man who gave me the news that I was the reason for city’s strange atmosphere, came to me again.

                                               “brother, what are you saying?”, “yes”- he came close to me and spoke in a whispering tone, “everyone is talking about you”,” talking about me”, I asked as I stood astonished. Then I asked “brother” how am I involved in this issue? “the talk of the town is that you are adamant on vacating the house and you have said it categorically in front of everyone”-the man replied in a very affirmative tone.”I have never said such a thing, and even if I did, what has it got to do with the strange silence of the city?”, “you mean to say that this decision of yours has got nothing to do with the atmosphere of the city”-the man spoke in a rather hushed up tone. “I have never talked to anyone regarding leaving my house, I don’t know who is spreading these rumors”- I expressed my dissent “and for god’s sake how on earth the city is affected by a decision made by an ordinary individual like me?” no sooner did I complete my punctuation of anguish, the man apparently pounced at me with his words “what kind of a strange man are you, as a direct consequence of your decision , other people have got encouragement and are also planning to vacate their houses just as you who are living in the neighborhood of those people”, “ I don’t understand the rationale, why is my image being sabotaged “ “no” said the man “ your image is not being tarnished, they think that you know the inside story, you are very well aware of what is to unfold”.

                                              Well I was not sure I knew anything even remotely about the theory of inside story, but one thing was for certain the ‘inside agony’ of being victimized. Meanwhile this agony was soon turning into anger for the person sitting in front of me as I was quite sure that I had never mentioned such a thing in front of anyone. Swallowing the anger I felt, that it is not the fault of this man, he is just a second hand source of information of the escalating rumors. The conversation lasted another half an hour as I bid him adieu with an obnoxious last slurp of the tea. The news he had given me was enough to terrorize any soul. He told me that not more than two days after my alleged decision to vacate, a meeting was held at the square near the market place which was attended by some politicians apart from sadhu-sants(priests and saints). Following this event people from other areas of the city started packing off. He was surprised by the fact that in spite of declaring that I would be vacating the house, I still had not, even though the situation had worsened. Thinking over the hysteria created, I was compelled to believe that perhaps I might have said this to someone, but I was unable to recall anything. How could have I remembered, when there seemed to be no apparent reason to leave. I am hundred percent sure that I had never said such a thing to anyone, not even to my family.

                                           I sat down comfortably on a chair, lit a cigarette and started smoking. The altering curves of the smoke coming out from my mouth triggered a memory of a dream where I saw dense clouds of smoke. These clouds seemed to rise from the surface of the earth and amidst these dense smoke the house and the faces looked extremely bleared. That was the time when I decided to leave the house and move to a more secure place. Now the question is how someone else can fathom out the intentions made in a dream. I am quite sure that the concealed intentions of the dream have never surfaced.

                                   The strange situation of the city had tensed me out as I was allegedly responsible for the circumstances. I began to think of the ways to get the city out of this menace. Should I announce that I had no intentions of vacating the house, but what is the use since my name has submerged under the ocean of thousands of rumor.  People had gathered momentum; people from different areas of the city seemed to be on a evacuation spree. Then what to do? After a lot of mental labor, I reached a conclusion. Why shouldn’t I go to the local police station and tell them that the news that was making waves earlier regarding me was nothing more than a mere rumor and I still live in that area of the town with my wife and children. It appeared to be a reasonable idea. I quickly went to the local police station.

“What is the matter?” the inspector asked me while staring at me with suspicion. “I want to confess something about myself” I had no idea where to begin from.

“Do you want to lodge a complaint?” “No sir I just want to express a fact concerning me”

“So you want to tell the truth” the inspector examined my body language very carefully, picked up the wooden stick kept on the table, rotating the stick in his hands in a rather obnoxious manner, stretched out to comfort his legs on the chair in front of him and spoke “so tell me” he asked rotating the stick with one hand. “Some people are circulating rumors about me and trying to perturb the peace of the city” “what rumors?” the inspector kept the stick on the desk with a look of inquest on his face.

“That I am evacuating” “what!” the inspector was astounded. Then he asked “what is your name” when I told him my name, he leant back on the chair and made an infinite sound of hmmmm…  looking at me with penetrative eyes he asked “which area of the city?” when I told him the name of the area, he got engaged in some deep thoughts and all of a sudden in a very harsh tone he said “why haven’t you vacated the house yet?” “What are you saying sir, why should I vacate my house?” I asked with surprise. The inspector gazed at me for some time, then took a deep long breath and said “look Mr., I am saying this for your well being. People have started to depart from other parts of the city also. Situation is getting worse with each passing day. Do away with your house and leave as soon as possible” any hope from the police was a waste of time.

                                               While I was walking out of the police station, the inspector had told me in almost a threatening tone to leave the house; otherwise he wouldn’t be able to do anything. I was well aware of that and walked out with a shut mouth.

                                               It was quite dark outside. Perhaps there was load shedding. The sky was getting red on the eastern part of the city. There was always an abrupt redness of the sky in the city. The reason for this was perhaps the steel plant, whose molten slag was dumped in the night. No sooner the sky flared, the temperature used to rise, leaving people thirsty. I was thirsty too but couldn’t find any source to quench my thirst, so thought home would be the best place to annihilate my thirst. Up above in the flaring red sky innumerable birds seemed to be constricted flapping their wings like shadows entrapped in a circle. These birds are too defiled by the wrath of light. Situation of an endless mirage, they must be astonished as to how a sudden fit of sharp light mutilates the dark night, then the dawn is reborn and again  the same dark night. I was in a hurry to reach home, walking with swift legs I began to move towards the house. Suddenly I realized that there was a strange stillness around in every direction, like a lull before the storm. There was rarely any traffic; people were few and far between. However there were few stray dogs on the street, running here and there, generally these dogs aren’t so rampant and that too so early in the morning, but due to the contradictory shrillness in the absolute silence, these  dogs had picked up pace. I was scared of being attacked by these stray dogs, but nothing as such happened till the time I got home.

                                                          There was an assemblage in front of the door. A sense of fear ran down my spine. Ignoring the people, I entered the house. My wife was sitting on the couch watching news flashing on television. She saw me coming inside.  I could see a sense of fear in her eyes. Susceptibility to fear was a normal thing for her, the reason being interest in horror movies and novels.

                                               Last month only she compelled me to bring bram stoker’s novel Dracula. While she used to read novel, if the windows fluttered due to breeze, she would feel that the bats are banging their head against the panes. Sometimes she would tell me to shut the windows properly or draw the curtains. A lot of times she would convey this fear of her that Dracula could enter the house in the form of smoke through windows and doors. On one instance, she yelled like a lunatic upon encountering a running rat. When I asked her if she was afraid of rats also, she said that the Dracula has assumed the form of a rat. That day she begged me to bring her flowers of garlic and the holy bread from church. I was amused, but looking at her mental status I thought these things could be useful to untie the knot of hallucinations in her mind. One of my Christian friends arranged for the holy bread, but I couldn’t find the flowers of garlic in the grocery stores. After coming home, I lied to her. I told her that the Christian father has told me that even if you don’t have the flowers of garlic with the holy bread, crushing the garlic and spreading in the room would suffice. Actually Dracula is petrified by the smell of garlic, regardless of whether it comes from flowers or garlic. She was convinced with my explanation. She crushed the garlic and dispersed it in the room. The smell of it was unbearable for me. I felt that Dracula was no one but me and I was supposed to leave immediately. However the arrangement was quite a relief for my wife. Yet another day she instructed me to bring a cross as she felt that it was of utmost importance. I was flabbergasted. A cross in our home, what are people going to say, how would our community react, but she was adamant. Her rationale was that our only objective was to keep away the devil and nothing else. Nevertheless I bought her a cross also, which she nailed on the wall.

                                                         However these days my wife was quite normal and she hadn’t watched a horror movie or read a novel for a quite a while. But the shadow of fear in her eyes reflected that the horror of Dracula had incarnated in her mind again.

“What is the issue” I asked sitting beside her.

“Haven’t you heard?” the fear in her eyes intensified.

“What is it, tell me clearly” I was irritated to the core. As it is I was upset with the behavior of the policeman and on top of that she was creating this aura of suspense.

“Those people have come and waiting for you only, didn’t they ask you anything”

Now I was losing patience over my wife as the suspense was being prolonged and gradually my irritation was turning into anguish. I did see some people standing outside, but to my surprise they were waiting for me. And if they had come to meet me, why didn’t they say anything. Perhaps I was in a jiffy to get inside hence they were devoid of the opportunity to talk to me or perhaps they wanted me to go inside and talk to my wife first, whatever it was I don’t know.

“Will you tell me what the matter is?” I asked suppressing my anger.

“The beheaded body was seen running towards the southern part of the locality and fountain of blood was gushing out from his neck” my wife told me in a very horrified tone, swallowing the little saliva she had.

“He hit the ground after running a little while, the people standing outside have brought a flag in which they will wrap him up and take him away. Some are even searching for the head” her breath seemed to become abnormal and out of rhythm as she was narrating the incident.

“What……?” my scream was thwarted in my neck. Panicked and shell-shocked I came out. Those people were still there. One of them came up to me and whispered “you are still here, you should have been the first one to leave, and you knew everything beforehand”

“What did know beforehand” I asked in furious anger.

“Are you aware of the incident that took place on the southern side?”

“Yes my wife told me”


“I am unable to comprehend anything” I said rubbing my forehead.

“Look brother, we have wrapped him up in the flag, we were told to tell you categorically to leave the house, otherwise….. We cannot afford the risk of coming with flag again and again”

They had a conference among themselves for a little while, and then one of them gave me an eye-alert as they went off.

I had fallen victim to great anxiety. Situation was very quickly getting out of control. Incident of the beheaded runner was terrifying to say the least. Agony and grief surrounded my wife, she looked at me with expectant eyes, and at the same time she was apprehensive and suggested that I was being irresolute, incapable of taking a decision. I tried to calm myself and recollect my thoughts. Things were certainly getting worse with each passing second, which was quite evident from the incidents preceding this moment.

                          My wife was of the opinion that we should evacuate as soon as possible and should go with them wherever they wanted us to go. Looking at the current scenario, vacating the house appeared to be appropriate, but my intuitive mind was apprehensive of the place they were taking us. My wife suggested it couldn’t be worse than the current situation. Meanwhile I finally decided to vacate. There was a colossal area of land in front of the Pooja sthal(praying place), in which hundreds of tents were constructed. We were given one of the tents. People from different areas of the city had gathered. Prayers at ibadatgah(place of worship) was going on in accordance with the time and bodies wrapped up in flags were carried to a bandstand and kept there and then slogans raised, people pledging and committing and the bodies buried with flags wrapped up.

                                              One morning when I woke up, there was a congress of people around my bed. I was very surprised. On the edge of the tent I saw my wife crying and panting, some women around here were trying to console her. The people encircling my bed were discussing about my death. Now the whole conspiracy unraveled in front of me. Some people had publicized the rumor of my death in the garb of night. That is why I was apprehensive about this place and didn’t want to come. My suspicion had proven right. Amidst the murmuring, I could hear some people saying that had I evacuated the house earlier, I would have been alive but no one can fight ones fate.

I was shivering with anger. I wanted to scream out that the news of my death is a rumor, I am alive. But my voice wasn’t surfacing, perhaps because of my extreme anguish and the people were also not paying heed to my silent scream.

                                After a while, some people started to give me a bathe. After the bathe, I was wrapped up in the same flag from head to toe, then after keeping me on the bandstand of the ibadatgah(place of worship), people became engaged in praying. After the prayer they picked me up. Someone shouted let’s take him to the square, someone else asked why? Voices were raised. We have to show them that we are not afraid of these things. They carried me to the square and kept my body on a raised platform.


Wrapped up in the flag, I find no reason to refute the rumor of my death.


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