Mushtanda of Damalkote

M.J. Aslam

Mushtanda was born to a fishwife in her ending trimester when she, as usual, was at her work [of] selling fish in a fish-market that was housed in a concrete long rectangular shed with metal roofing over it. She couldn’t be removed outside to any gynecologist nor could any gynecologist outside be brought inside the fish-market, so labour grew and ended in her, when a tremendous rainstorm was rocking the fish-market from outside. Her co-fisherwomen, who were selling fish with her, that were caught and brought by their fishermen to the fish-market daily for sale by them, secured safe delivery of baby Mushtanda. They did it by forming a human ring around the pregnant woman, and encircled her with an old cloth-sheet draped by them over their backs behind, to prevent crowd-birthing by hiding delivery from the eyes of the fishermen & buying-men who were present there in the fish-market at the ‘ominous’ moment. Although they were neither trained nor experienced for the job, the co-fishwives delivered Mushtanda’s mother of him, so effortlessly and comfortably as if they were perfect midwives and obstetric nurses. The baby Mushtanda was, immediately after his birth, placed by the co-fishwives on a heap of fish in a big pussy willow basket & then bathed in a nearby clean water plastic container. But, as the water was contaminated with pervasive fishy smell of the surroundings, his ‘person’ & body absorbed a lifelong good sum of piscine doubts of which he couldn’t get rid even after his death.

As his parents died very early when he was still a toddler, casting gloom over his future initially, he was, later on, adopted by an issueless, but just-well-off, fish-contractor of his village, Damalkote, who brought him up as his own son.

However, from the earliest days of his growth, he hatched out to be a rogue mutant, a mendacious rascal, not only within Damalkote, that was a den of iniquity, but far beyond that. He was a bacterium by origin that infected & killed every antibiotic, while in his batch-culture microbes germinated & flourished. He was a scourge of humanity. When he was at alma mater, he harassed & harmed all good students by throwing teasing taunts on them, spoiling their backpacks with razors during breaktimes & dropping acid secretly over their trousers in labs. He, like a worst spoilsport, or a killjoy, fouled with his alumni in games he played with them and, often, caused them gaping wounds by his foul play and violent actions.

Immediately, after he graduated from a local town college, his adoptive father died & so, he had to shoulder the deceased’s business for some time. And, by then, he had grown into a tall, red necked, pink cheeked, curly haired & broad shouldered stout young man of mid-twenties, who exhibited all ill-effects of his ‘birth-culture’ in the manifestation of involuntary tics around his nostrils, philtrum & upper lip as if a fishy smell surrounding him always.

He cheated poor fishermen of their money that his dead adoptive dad owed to them for the supplies of fish they had made to him. The swindler prevaricated and lied to them ‘loses in business’, without shame, besides fabricating the ledgers that the dead contractor had been maintaining of his purchases from those pauper fish catchers & suppliers. But, he lost, whatever little bit fortunes his adoptive father had made in his life, by gambling them on cards.

Like a notorious scold or scoundrel, who always thinks himself a flawless entity, he nitpicked every true gentleman by searching for some bends, here and there, in his upright personality. His bloodshot eyes, that looked like lensless-microscopes, ‘detected’ only defects in communications, conversations, eating, drinking & sitting habits, and get ups, of the others. Tied to a chain of hateful habits, he would always twitch his long nose & short lips on every good thing that caressed them. The highfalutin rowdy behaviour, which he had, distanced all decent men of good intellect from him and his self-assertion & vociferation.

For his these peculiar ‘qualities’, he was hired by a local demagogue to emotionalize the listening credulous crowd in his favour ‘for votes’ by making false promises, fiery speeches & tricky gimmicks, on his behalf, to them from the political podiums. He acted as anchor-cum-sloganeer for him in his constituency. Though he didn’t become a ‘formal politician’ himself, he had all the attributes of a successful politician who is always interested in strengthening his own position, rather than sticking to any principles, in life.

Then, on the basis of his own backwardness-documents & recommendation-chits of the demagogue–who wielded clout in State apparatus–for whom he had acted as presenter on the stage, initially after graduation, he was appointed as a miner in a gold mining public undertaking, where by political pushes & bureaucratic influences, he ultimately became Sales Supervisor. But, till his retirement, throughout his job career, he had amassed huge gold worth millions for himself and his family. Save a handful of his toadies in the mining undertaking, he had wreaked havoc on the workforce & their interests in general, who were like fleeing frightened sheep inside a pen before a butcher. That is why, for myriad of other good reasons, he was abhorred by all people, whomsoever he had inflicted, from his start to end, unhealable wounds–psychological, mental & monetary–the freshness of which engendered unbearable pain in them all.

As a regular visitor, among many others, when he was alive, Mushtanda had been paying homage to a darvesh by frequently visiting him in his poor hut, where the mystic lived a spartan life, & immediately after death, he continued his visits, regularly, in his dreams. One late night, after long prayers, when darvesh received drowsy attacks and fell to sleep on a rag pillow beside his prayer mat, he saw Mushtanda in his recurring dream, but in a most piteous plight crying for help in a wrap of engulfing blazes. He implored darvesh to plead before God for his freedom from torment, he was undergoing after death, for his black-deeds before dying. He begged darvesh for grant of second tenure of life for him from God to enable him to undergo public penance to atone for horrible deficiencies of his first tenure. For a week or more, he disturbed darvesh’s sleep by a recurrent dream with the same supplication, repeated every time, of regrets & repentance for his lifetime wrongdoings and criminalities.

Finally, one midnight, responding to darvesh’s earnest prayers, God was pleased to have communion with him. Mustering the courage, darvesh interceded with God for Mushtanda: “oh Lord! Mushtanda has been recurring in my dreams, with a visible penitence on his tongue for his dark past, pleading for grant of one more tenure of life for expiation. Will You, Kind Lord, be pleased to grant it to him? Will You resurrect him from his grave for beseeching atonement for….? “.

“No….! For that, everyone has to wait till the Doomsday….. Like every human being, he was given a life with two paths—wrong and right–of which he had option to choose either but he chose the wrong one for leading his one-chance-life and there isn’t second- chance in life after death. ….” answered God.

“But, Lord, he vows to set right the wrongs he has done in his life. One more chance, if given to him, may enable him to seek atonement’, darvesh repeated the request.

“My devout theist, atonement is before death & not after. And, I know, even if he were to have lives more than one, his every new life would be a shadow of his inky past: more terrorizing, more intimidating….. Tomorrow, he will come again in your dream in a new-life-apparel, with more power, & you will see him, despite resources, not setting right but, repeating his abominable past in the new-life, too. I say this for I know what no one knows…..”, replied God.

Next day night, Mushtanda, as per prior Divine Information, visited darvesh’s dream, again, but this time as CEO of the gold mining corporation that had superannuated him as Sales Supervisor at 60. His rebirth-trial with connected consequences was shown to enthusiastic darvesh in his dream. He saw him as a fatty king, with pendulous belly kissing his crotch, sitting on the throne of the gold mines that the corporation owned. When darvesh entered his office-durbar, he responded to his greetings, but in a lukewarm & haughty manner. To the disappointed darvesh’s eyes, he was more leery of, and more vindictive and destructive for, the people, like a sceptical despot, in his second-life, which was visceral rather than thoughtful. With more authority in his hands, put on test basis by God, he had totally lost his mind & forgotten his commitment to darvesh that he wanted to purge his past of all dirt by redressing grievances, relieving pains and healing wounds by his actions in second tenure of life. But darvesh found him just Revenge–a dead man’s revenge–against those whom the vicious tide of his first life had not reached, or reached incomplete to their damage. He was shown to darvesh a characterless ruffian whose outrageous first-life-reputation, as such, wasn’t diminished in his second life, though he had been provided with all means to amend it, but for the heart, not tongue, to do it. He was more avaricious in second-dream-life than the original, directing all gemstones of the first water, discovered in the gold mines, go into his home-caskets, and fudging the balance sheet at every closing by bribing the auditors.

But all that was shown to darvesh in dream was just a trailer of a much worse Mushtanda’s second life that wasn’t going to be, however, brought about by God, as mentioned already.

By now, Darvesh had woken up from the unpleasant experience, and to overcome it, he drank a bowl of water from a clay pot that lay beside his bed. His pounding heart & spinning head– the aftermath of the nightmare–slowed down to calm &, then, came the voice from God into his ears: “o, my devoted worshipper! You were shown just tip of an iceberg, and after seeing that, do you still want Mushtanda to be reborn to explode his submarine volcanoes?”

“No, no, my Lord! You are the Knower of all things. Truly, no one knows what You know…..Let Mushtanda of Damalkote be there where he is..!” replied darvesh who, then, went out for ablution to offer morning prayers as predawn light had spread at that time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *