, 2005 Hello Baba, Somewhere between home and nowhere, I write to you yet another letter in my head that I will never send

But then my heart must talk to yours for me to go on

I arrived in Chaman couple of weeks ago

This is my beat

These days I work at a hotel at Chaman bypass near Bughra road as a waiter

Yes, as a waiter

It is essentially a driver hotel but all kind of travelers stop by to stretch on charpoys, rest a while and eat food

The place is spread over more than two canals, of which about ¾ is an open area where Charpais are placed

It is mostly surrounded by haphazardly parked trucks

The constructed part is not more than ¼ and comprises of brick structure with thatched roofs

This is my abode now

For how long? I myself don’t know

Yes, I lied to you and mother about my job as a salesman that took me from city to city… that does not spare me time to write to you

But then, I have lied to you about so many things in recent years just the way I lie to people who, during a casual conversation, ask me about my family and I tell them I am an orphan… that my parents died when I was a kid

I trust it will not keep you numb for long

I know you would understand my reasons

How are you doing?  How is your work? Have you sold your wheat? I am sure you wouldn’t have bothered sending anyone to PASCO office to fetch sacks to sell wheat

Were they screwed up this year too – as usual? But you can’t keep selling your hard work cheap to brokers

I wish I were there with you to do harvesting and sort out things

I wish I were there for so many other things that you would not do without me… but, nonetheless, I was not there with you – again

It’s funny but you must be glad that I have grown a beard and moustache

I didn’t have a choice

I couldn’t afford being distinct

I have to look like everyone

But then, I look like you instead of everyone

Tell mother, I no longer spend hours, as she would say, in front of a mirror

There is no mirror in the bathroom cum toilet which in itself is a four-by-four dark room – without a ventilator

The ceiling is barely five-feet high which must not have been elevated to save bricks

I am learning, finally, how to take bath with one bucket of water in three minutes

I wear these funny clothes… no, there is nothing wrong about clothes; it is just that I look funny to myself in this Kameez Shalwar

It is not like the Kameez Shalwar that I wore at home; it is loose and could clothe another but then, all the same, it is clothing so many me which I keep becoming every other time

No, I don’t mean to be philosophical

It is just that sometimes I forget who I was once, until I talk to you again – in my head

This is an historic place and an important one

Chaman border is just about four kilometers from here and Spin Buldak in Afghanistan, another six kilometers

There is a large cemetery nearby

Sometimes I visit it

To your dismay, I still fail in offering prayer five times a day

I am sorry

I shall try better

There are many mosques in the surrounding areas though

Most of them are named after influential men such as Haji Hasan, Haji Azam, Hafiz Abdul Zahir etc

I offer my Jumma prayers in Mar Malang mosque, it is closer to Frontier Crops Garrison

Something about the prayer leader there, I don’t know exactly what, reminds me of you

Probably, it is his demeanor; he doesn’t speak much to anyone

These days, NATO forces use this route for supplies into Afghanistan

There are long lines of fuel tankers and other supply trucks transporting wheat flour, rice, sugar, cooking oil, vegetable ghee, onion, fresh vegetables, pulses, chilies and cloth

NATO officials or their contractors, beside the drivers, come to our hotel too

They tell all kinds of stories… stories which are very useful for my Agency

Many of these officials and drivers are friends with me now

I serve them well

They trust me

Sometimes they trust me with packages they want someone to pick from me

Sometimes they bring gifts from Afghanistan

I have dry fruit, blankets and jackets packed for you in the room given to me

Earlier I shared this room with another waiter but he is on leave now

His mother got sick

How is mother? Is she well? How is the pain in her back? Did you take her to a neurosurgeon? Winter is coming

I must take her to the doctor one of my colleagues recommended

His mother had a similar problem but she got well in six months

I must make time for her

This time, I shall certainly come before winter to show her to the doctor

You remember Shahzad? The tall boy from Rawalpindi you met last year whom I had introduced as area manager in my company? Who was married to Brig

Aslam’s daughter? And you wondered how a brigadier married his daughter to a sales manager? Well, he always knew how to outgrow his means

He could always reach out to what otherwise seemed impossible

I have not yet met an idealist with his clarity of thought and purpose

He lived in parallel worlds, just like me – in realities which just seem unreal

I met him just before leaving for Chaman and we thought, in another world, we could have been as good sons to our parents as we should have been… though he also needed to be an equally more considerate husband

Yeah, I remember what you said once, “When you get married, never leave your family behind for anything, take them with you wherever your job may be

” But I don’t think Shahzad could take his wife where his job was

I just told you, he always managed to outgrow everything for his work

He was picked from FATA some days ago

Yesterday, his body was returned… chopped into dozens of small pieces

They were probably so afraid of him that they would not leave him in one piece lest he should haunt them to their hell

They must have cut him piece by piece while he was still alive

Do you think he would have fought till they cut his last limb? I know he would have, the stubborn man

You know, he always knew how to depart with grace and a smile

When he came to see me off for Chaman, he hugged me and said, “You are the brother I could have wished for; I am glad we have each other

” But my brother is gone, Baba

We no more have each other

Unlike you, I don’t have his address anymore

I don’t know where I should post him a hug or a smile or a letter

They stuffed him in a sack soaked in blood and they left a note, “Zaan de washarmawo!” (You just humiliated yourself! Shame on you!) Only if they knew, he had more honour than all of them put together

He would not have done this to the worst of them

But what does it matter now… Shahzad was no sales manager, Baba

He was an intelligence officer, who, like many anonymous and the forgotten, dreamed of a home and he martyred fighting for it

indifferent to the songs that were sung to celebrate his courage and the insults that are hurled every now and then by whoever thinks they have a mind

Yet, he lived and died for the dream so dearly dreamt… asking for no glory or medals

But he got them all, silently, inside closed doors after they chopped him to pieces

Mother would say what is the point of dying for ungrateful people

But I wonder if he cared about that

There was some madness about him that drove him and he said we all shall die someday; I can’t hide in my home, get a well-paid job and wait for death to find me

And he played with life and death every day

He must be crazy

Look what they did to him, Baba! They robbed me of my brother

I shall not tell you all this

He would not want me to

He smiles at me from everywhere and tells me, “I am waiting for you, brother

” I shall see him some day, Baba, but I tell him he must learn, finally, to be patient and wait

I shall come home soon

I am sorry for all the things we could have done together if I had not had chosen to come this far

I am sorry for not being there when I should have been

But, some day, I shall find my way to home, to you and mother

Till then I shall write to you every night, the unfinished letters, in my head

Yours, MBV

Date:15-Aug-2016 Reference:View Original Link