By: Hakeem Baloch
Thirty five years ago I wrote my first literary reportage for the monthly ULUS Balochi, with the title “Mahikan-Thai Kabr-Zimistan” (Moonlight- Your Grave- Winter). It was in fact an obituary for a fallen hero of Balochistan’s western part that became a Province of Iran when the colonial Gold Schmidt line was drawn in pursuit of the policy of ‘divide and rule.’ And that Baloch ruler could not find ‘two square yards of land’ like Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shad Zafar in the ‘valley of the beloved’. He could only find that much land for eternal rest in Panjgur on the southern bank of Rakhshan river in village Shapatan.
Now as I recapitulate the title of that reportage I am flabbergasted to feel as if I had in advance conceived this title three and half decade ago also for the obituary of my dearest friend Ata Shad who suddenly chooses to stalk on the paths of eternity on 13th February 1997. The community or the sameness of the title does not at all mean that the departed souls did have anything otherwise common except the common title of obituary in conceptuality. Ironically, it was the same year that I persuaded Ata to accompany me to Panjgur as his mother was insistingly asking to me to bring him along during the winter vacations as her ‘Ishaq’ had not visited her for two years.
On that fatal evening of 13th February when my loving daughter Shahnaz with tears in her eyes informed me: ‘Daddy! Uncle Ata Shad is gone’, the blood in my veins froze. I rushed to his residence hoping against hope that might be the news is not a bad one. Not death is the only truth. It is even certain like death. Perhaps this is the reason that death in its eternity conveys to man a feeling of immortality perpetuating a desire in him to live through the dead. All these rituals, rites recitations, prayers and offerings are imminent expressions, in various forms, of the one only desire to attain immortality through the dead.
It was a day of biting cold of a usual Zimistan (winter) with high and dry Gureech (northern) wind blowing like the west wind or Shelley, the great romantic poet of English Literature who died reciting and hoping that each winter would be heralding a spring of hopes in the society as he believed ‘when winter comes spring is not far behind’ and he was rather convinced that the fast blowing cold winds of winter spreading the pollen seeds are the main vehicle for bringing the beautiful spring with its blossoming flowers. Our Balochi romantic poet leaves us in a similar situation of blowing cold winds perhaps hoping in certitude while lyricing true to his poetic nature:
KAPANT BEER O SEAPANT DUMBAL O SABZEET SURMAGEN BOLAN
(The thunder light and torrential rains falling on the gray Bolan would grant it the greenery with blossoming flowers).
The rain did come but without lightening, it may or may not give “the Bolan” its blossoming flowery greenery but it did settle the hanging dust of atmosphere and blowing dust of the thirsty ground. Nature was not concealing her foul deformities as Milton would have been saying ‘ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST NATIVITY’.
Only with speeches fair
She woos the gentle air
To hide guilty front
With innocent snow.
Nature was gentle; it gave a touch of springiness. The sun was shining that Friday (a holy day for us the Muslims.) Surely men of piety and humanity bring good weather even in their death as a manifestation of their abundant affection which they had been giving to their fellow beings in their life time. Ata, this time, practically brought his poetic HATAM (SPRING) in the late winter of SHAL in the wake of his farewell journey. All the mourners were whispering the same sentiments.
Did Ata Shad leave us or did we leave him? No one is to blame. Logically the result is the same. Friends present on that sad occasion to mourn his death were feeling like this, as they were laying him to eternal rest in the womb of Mother Earth next to his mother in the Kasi graveyard.
Death is a rupture of relations, the Jean Paul Sartre feels about it. A man may be dead, but he continues to live in the memory of all those who have loved him or might have even hated him.
Ata was a person who gave affection to others and kept notoriety for himself, naturally no one particularly those near and dear to him could give him nothing but only love. So when we went the entire town was in tears.
(Jo gea to ek shehr deeda-e-tar that).
This is a line of his obituary that he wrote on the death of ZAB and we saw it with our own eyes having been translated into reality in the Kasi Kabristan on his burial. Tears were in our eyes at the final farewell and not his. He was the eloquent, he could have written and recited many an obituary, we could only use only our colorless tears to write his obituary and this is what exactly I am doing at the moment.
Our companionship, friendship and comradeship of 42 years, all seem to have ended so suddenly as if;
I am working by candlelight,
If flickers, it’s gone.
They say that when a person is dying many events of life flash before his mind’s eye and as I was dear to him and one of the closest friends, I must have occupied many precious seconds of his dying thoughts; or might be he was preparing himself to encounter darkness as a bride and hug it in his arms; as he seemed smiling in his eternal sleep while all around him were weeping; or might be these lines of Shakespeare were being inscribed on his mind by angel of death;
Now boast thee death, in thy possession lies
A ‘lad” unparallel.
Never mind if Shakespeare has used even ‘Lass’ but the angel and particularly that of death can be conceded this much, particularly in ease of a poet who might at the moment be arguing with Shakespeare about his dramas that we both and Aman Gichki used to steal and adopt in Balochi for Radio Pakistan. What I did with Lear and Aman with Hamlet must have made Shakespeare furious and the poor producer must be facing the music all alone for our common sins of innocent literary theft to the intellectual property of that great English poet dramatist. Alas! We can not help him as he, as usual, was in a hurry and chose to go on his own, all alone. I used to tell him, ‘Ata you were the last to join and the first to leave,’ True to his impatient poetic nature as he was; again he was the first to leave, but this time never to return.
(Courtesy: Monthly Chagerd Quetta, March 1997)