This is the sixth in an eight-part series on Urdu fiction by contemporary Indian writers. Rakhshanda Jalil is the curator and translator for this series.

Part I: In 'The Crocodile', Gulzar tells a story of smoke and fire

Part II: In 'Those Without Graves', Joginder Paul blurs the lines between the living and dead

Part III: In 'The Rape of an Abandoned House', Deepak Budki lays bare the hunger of scavengers

Part IV: 'I Have Done My Bhartiya-karan', Kanhaiyalal Kapoor asks what it takes to become Indian

Part V: In 'Run From These Slave Traders', Ramanand Sagar writes of women without a country

***

KRISHAN CHANDAR (1914-1977): Despite a Master’s degree in English and a degree in Law, Krishan Chandar went on to become one of Urdu literature’s most prolific writers, with over 80 published volumes. It was the short story that earned him laurels. Accused of being an incorrigible idealist, even a maudlin sentimentalist on occasion, Chander was in some ways a ‘flawed’ progressive. Stories like Kalu Bhangi, Mahalakshmi ka Pul, Shikast, Jab Khet Jagey display his socialist concerns and his heartfelt empathy for the poor and downtrodden; however, unlike the other progressives, he was seldom able to free himself from despair and defeat. His most prolific period is said to be during 1955-60, when he published the autobiographical Ek Gadhe ki Sarguzasht (‘The Autobiography of a Donkey’) in 1957. He remained an active member of the Progressive Writers' Association and was held up as a role model for budding progressives.

***

Daani, The Generous One | Krishan Chandar

Daani* was tall and ugly. He had a pelt of thick and coarse hair on his arms and legs. In the mornings when he would take a bath at the hydrant on Charak Road, he would look exactly like the offspring of a buffalo. His body had the strength of a bull. A huge head with a broad forehead and an outsize skull! All day long, he would work at an Irani restaurant on Charak Road with utmost diligence, and at night he would get drunk on a local brew and, with his head tucked low like a ram, throw out a challenge: ‘Come on! Butt me on the head!’

But his friends would laugh and dodge away because they knew that Daani did not just have a strong body; his head was very strong too. A couple of times when the wrestlers and strong young men from Thuga Lane and Dora Gali had accepted his challenge and confronted him at the street-corner, they had got their skulls cracked open. And after that, no one had the courage to knock heads with Daani.

Perhaps there was nothing but bone in Daani’s head.

Had he the slightest bit of mush for brain, he could easily have become the don of Bombay. Youths less strong than him and far less well-endowed had become the big bosses of their neighbourhoods and were ruling over armies of thugs and hoodlums. They were all busy smuggling alcohol, running gambling dens, selling cinema tickets in the black market, managing brothels and, during election time, selling votes from their respective neighbourhoods.

Perhaps Daani had no brain in his skull. Because the very thought of doing such business irked him. When someone suggested he run any such business, an expression of utter ennui took over his face. He would turn to look at the speaker by narrowing his already very small eyes, pulling in his lips, hunching his shoulders and adopting the dangerous pose of a toad about to strike and say: ‘I’ll butt you in the head if you say that again.’ And those making the suggestion would laugh a sheepish laugh and move away.

Daani hated to read. He would look at educated folk with extreme disdain. He detested fame too. If the procession of a big or famous person happened to go past Charak Park, with the esteemed personality buried under a heap of floral garlands, sitting in an open car and waving to the crowds lined on both sides of the road, he would say: ‘Wow! What a well decorated ram! Ask him: Will he agree to butt me heads with me?’

And, truly, if one were to consider it, one would note that it was only during the freedom struggle that one came across slimly built or lean leaders.

These days, as the condition of the public is becoming frailer, the leaders are becoming fatter.

You can find such tall, well-built sturdy creatures that you wouldn’t be wrong if you mistook them for a ram or a draught bull.

Daani detested politics as well. High politics was way beyond his ken, but even the petty and low variety — the kind you see in lanes and by-lanes, market-places and neighbourhoods — too was beyond his understanding. He just liked to do his work. When Daani was ready to work for 16 hours at a stretch, what could the poor owner of the restaurant do? His hands were tied by the law, just as Daani was constrained by his own temperament. Daani was the first to show up at the restaurant early in the morning, and the last one to leave. He would stand on his feet all day long and do his work with the utmost diligence. Late in the evening when his body would still not be tired, he would get drunk on local liquor out of sheer boredom. Then, standing on the footpath, he would urge his friends to test the strength of his skull by butting heads with him. And when no one would agree, with utter hopelessness he would let his body become slack and slump to the ground. And he would sleep. This, then, was his life!

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Illustration © Sharath Ravishankar for Firstpost

His friends led similar lives, that is, those who worked with him in the restaurant and slept on the same footpath beside him. The footpath was across the road on the Charak Crossing, opposite the Charak Church. The Charak Church is a beautiful grotto built of blue stones; it stands at one edge of a small open patch of ground and houses a statue of the Holy Mother. Two gulmohar trees stand at one edge of the ground, casting their shadow over the footpath and keeping it cool through the day. You can see poor Christians selling wax candles, wax figurines of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary and garlands made of marigold flowers under the shade of these trees. Two beggars who beg here during the day disappear by the time night falls. There is a bus stop on the footpath too, where people queue up for buses, but young men from the neighbourhood too gather under its tin roof. This bus-stop is not merely a waiting-room for travellers; it is also a meeting place for lovers.

‘Meet me at the stop at five o’clock,’ Rosie says softly as she steps out of the church and steals a glance at Victor, her lover and then hurriedly moves on with her ferocious mother. And then Victor, or James, or Charles looking at his watch with a thudding heart and restless eyes, or tightening his belt with fidgeting hands, begins to wait for Rosie from 4.30 pm onwards. He sees Joseph go off with Daisy and Tom run away with his Isabel, and Sheela going away with Fauja Singh. This wretched Sheela doesn’t fancy any Christian. Bloody shit! Now Lara too, has gone off with that Jewish boy, what’s-his-name parks his motorcycle here without fail at five o’clock every day.

It is 5.30 now. And 5.45 now. If she doesn’t come now, how can they watch Guns of Navarone? Son-of-a-gun, it is 6.00 pm now and Rosie has still not come! She won’t come now; she must have gone with Francis, with whom her mother is trying to get her married. Bloody swine! He will shoot Francis. And Rosie and her awful mother too, who followed Rosie all the time like a shadow, and then shoot himself finally! In fact, he would shoot every single member of the Bergain family and then himself.

Suddenly, Victor saw Rosie from a distance, dressed in a pale lemon yellow taffeta frock, swaying like a flower-laden bough; and the thought of shooting anyone left him. His face gleamed with happiness and, as he ran compulsively towards Rosie, nearly got mowed down by a passing lorry. A scream of terror escaped from Rosie’s lips. But in the very next second, Victor’s hand was at her waist and he ran with her through a crowd of lorries, cars and taxis towards the bus-stop. A bus was leaving the shelter, but they ran to catch it. For a few moments, the hem of Rosie’s lemon-yellow frock flashed past the lingering gaze of the onlookers. Slightly out breath, Victor and Rosie went up to the top deck of the bus from where they could see the sky and feel the fresh air and see the men, women and children scattered on the road like notes of music.

Who says you need to go to Pahalgam, Nainital or Darjeeling to be in love? If you are in love, you can risk life and limb to stand at a bus-stop with your beloved.

***

But Daani was not interested in women either. And so, the night he saved Sariya from the clutches of the hoodlums, he had never thought of loving Sariya or, for that matter, any woman. When he looked back on his life, he could see no woman in his past. Long ago, in his childhood, he could recall the yellow, disappointed face of a woman who had pulled him out of a shanty and handed him over to his uncle. He had no other memory save this of his mother. Thereafter, he had the memory of a frightening aunt who had beaten him constantly for four years. He had run away from that house when he got a little older and he had been free ever since then.

But he was always tormented by his hunger. He was always ferociously hungry.

That had been the reason why his mother had handed him over to his uncle: because she could not fill her son’s belly with starvation. Today, Daani could say that his aunt was not a heartless, cruel woman; she had five children of her own and Daani’s hunger was so vast and immense, sturdy and strong, indefatigable and devilish that the aunt had perforce taken to beating him because he would constantly ask for more food. And she was not beating Daani; she was beating his hunger.

Even today, there are countless husbands and wives, mothers and sons, daughters-in-law and sisters-in-law, uncles and aunts, friends and fellows, lovers and beloveds who beat each other because of hunger, who cheat and betray each other, take each others’ lives and are ready to swing from the gallows for its sake. But no one ever hangs this cruel, ill-begotten hunger from the scaffold, this wretched hunger that does not allow any human bond or any civilisation to flourish.

Daani was not capable of thinking of all this. Whenever he tried to think, all he could comprehend was the idea of a frightening immense hunger that had forced his mother to hand him over to his uncle, that had caused his aunt to beat him night and day constantly for four years, and that had caused him, in later years, to be beaten up by different people at different times in his life and was forced out of different homes. And so he had no conception of a woman’s love, a father’s affection, or a friend’s fondness. All he had was a feeling of an unquenchable yearning and insatiable hunger that had been with him from childhood to adulthood. Because his body was taller and bigger than most people’s, he needed to eat twice as much.

Daani’s life-long dream was to be fed to his heart’s content, even if he was made to work hard for 24 hours at a stretch. And this dream of Daani’s was eventually fulfilled when he came to the Irani restaurant on Charak Road. The owner of the Irani restaurant would make him do the work of four men, but he also gave him 20 rupees as salary and let him eat to his heart’s content. He would drink the local brew with that money and then sprawl on the footpath and go to sleep.

He did not have the slightest interest in money or fame or politics or women. He was the most fortunate of all living people in this world.

The night he saved Sariya from the hoodlums, his friend Ali Akbar had tried his best to stop him. Three or four thugs were trying to abduct Sariya and take her away in a taxi that was parked beside the Church railing abutting the footpath. The night watchman who was supposed to be on duty at the crossing was patrolling another stretch of the road – as usually happens in such cases. Sariya was screaming with terror and calling out for help. Ali Akbar tried his best to dissuade Daani: ‘This Bombay. No one comes to the help of another at such times. Everyone pretends to be fast asleep at such times. Don’t be a fool!’

But Daani could not ignore Sariya’s screams. He got up from his place on the footpath and ran towards the taxi. He did not say a word to the hoodlums; he simply ducked his head and butted one of the men on the head. Then the second and then, turning around, the third. Within a matter of moments the three hoodlums were lying on the ground, their heads split open. Daani turned around and looked at the fourth hoodlum who quickly dropped Sariya, ducked back into the taxi and sped away. Daani ran behind the taxi with his head tucked in, looking exactly like a ram. But the car was faster. Disappointed, he turned around and came back.

He asked Sariya: ‘Who were these people?’

‘One of them was my brother,’ Sariya hiccupped through her tears.

‘Your brother?’ Daani asked.

‘Yes,’ Sariya nodded. ‘He was trying to sell me to those hoodlums.’

‘For how much?’

‘Three hundred rupees,’ Sariya replied.

‘Then?’

‘I didn’t agree.’

‘Why didn’t you agree?’

‘I wanted six hundred.’

‘You wanted six hundred?’ Daani asked in surprise. ‘But why?’

‘My brother would have run off with the three hundred; what would I have been left with? If I was being sold, surely I should have got something too?’ Sariya tried to explain the matter to Daani.

Daani huffed, ‘The thing that is being sold doesn’t get anything! I have neither heard nor seen such a thing. The customer who buys a salted biscuit from our shop worth four annas, gets a biscuit in lieu of the four annas. The four annas go to the shopkeeper. What does the salted biscuit get? Huh?’

‘I am not a salted biscuit,’ Sariya answered angrily.

Daani looked at Sariya from head to toe: She was sharp and tart, pointed and wheatish. He said, ‘But you look exactly like a salted biscuit.’

Sariya smiled and became a little embarrassed too. Had she been wearing a sari, she would surely have drawn its end across her bosom as that is a ‘patent’ style of women on such occasions. But that poor thing was wearing a black blouse at the time, and so she had to content herself with merely lowering her head.

Daani turned and went back to his place on the footpath. He said, ‘Go! Go away now.’

Sariya tagging along behind him said, ‘I am very hungry.’

The Irani restaurant had closed by now. So Daani went to Dora Lane and bought tea and an omelette from a tea shop. The manner in which Sariya ate it seemed to reflect Daani’s hunger. In two bites she had wolfed down four slices of bread and an entire omelette in one mouthful! And she gulped the entire cup of tea in one draught. This pleased Daani to no end. It seemed to him as though he had met a true friend. He said, ‘Do you feel very hungry?’

‘Yes, very!’

‘What is your name?’ For the first time, Daani asked her name.

‘Sariya,’ she said hesitantly.

‘I am Daani,’ he pointed a finger at his chest and said. ‘Daani Daniel.’

The two began to look at each other with great amazement. Suddenly, the sky above them seemed clear and the sound of the sea in the distance sounded like the call of a song, and the sweet, soft night, adorned with gulmohar flowers slid past their yearning bodies.

***

Every night, Daani and Sariya would have a fight on the footpath. Daani had Sariya employed in the kitchen of the Irani restaurant. At first, he tried to get rid of Sariya from the footpath. Whenever he ducked his head in and turned to face Sariya, she would run away, but would return after he went to sleep. Gently, she would massage his feet. In the morning when he awoke, his body would feel light and well rested. Then he would turn around and find that someone had washed his vest, shirt and trousers. For the first time, it seemed as though he was living in his own home.

He looked at Sariya’s fingers and kept running his hand over hers. Soon, he began to find his pillow and bedding laid out for him on the footpath and the place around it seemed clean and swept and dusted. Gradually, he became accustomed to Sariya’s presence. But come dinner time, a fight would break out between the two because Sariya ate a great deal, and so did Daani. They would bring their food from the restaurant and sit together to eat. Both of them would try to eat more than the other. More often than not, Daani would succeed. But sometimes when Sariya managed to eat more, she would end up getting beaten by Daani.

One day, Sariya said to Daani, ‘You mustn’t beat me now.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I am going to have a baby soon,’ Sariya said.

Daani pulled his hand back mid-way while eating. He looked at Sariya with great amazement and asked, ‘Baby?’

‘Yes,’ Sariya answered happily.

‘He will eat too?” There was a slight disappointment in Daani’s voice, along with happiness.

‘Yes he will eat too, Sariya answered. ‘So far there was just me; now I am two. There’s me and my baby, your baby... in my belly. Now there are two of us. The two of us should get more food.’

Daani looked at the food kept on the piece of paper in front of him. Then he looked at Sariya. He closed his mouth firmly and moved his jaws as though he was swallowing an outsize morsel of utter disappointment. Then he pushed the paper towards Sariya and said, ‘Here, eat!’

‘No, no, you eat too; you haven’t eaten anything,’ Sariya said.

‘No, you eat first. I will eat whatever is left,’ Daani said with a strange reproach.

The first day, Sariya ate up everything in sight; she was so hungry! The next day she left a little for Daani. Gradually she began to leave more and more for him. Still, whatever was left was so that he was always left yearning. But he learnt to go to sleep on a half-filled or even an empty stomach. It is much easier to recall old habits than to learn new ones. Gradually, he stopped drinking too, because the new baby needed food and clothes. Sariya had already begun to stitch clothes for the baby. They were soft, satiny and colourful clothes for the little baby. Daani would run his hands over them and a wave of pleasure would course through his body and spirit.

‘I can’t remember any day from my childhood and youth when I didn’t go to sleep hungry, ‘ Daani said.

‘I can’t remember any night when I wasn’t beaten because I was accused of having stolen food,’ Sariya said.

‘But our child will not sleep hungry,’ Daani said in a decisive voice.

‘He will have everything,’ Sariya said in a hopeful voice.

‘Enough food to fill his belly and clothes to cover his body,’ Daani added in a dreamy voice.

‘And a house to live in,’ said Sariya.

‘A house?’ Daani sounded alarmed.

‘Won’t you give a house to your child? Sariya asked plaintively. ‘Will he live on this footpath?’

‘But how will we find a house?’

‘I have made inquiries,’ Sariya said. ‘Nura Mansion is coming up behind the church. It will have five-room, four-room, three-room and two-room flats and there will be ten one-room flats which will have a rental of Rs 17 with a down payment of Rs 700.’

‘But how can we give Rs 700?’ Daani asked.

‘You are paid Rs 30 and I get Rs 25. If we were to give Rs 50 each month to the owner of Nura Mansion, then we can get a one-room flat in 14 months.’

Daani remained lost in thought for a long time. Sariya’s hand was in Daani’s. Daani suddenly felt as though a baby’s tiny hand was in his hand. His heart began to melt in the oddest way. Tears welled in his eyes. He held the back of Sariya’s hand to his tear-filled eyes and spoke in a choked voice, ‘Yes, my child will have a house. I am considering working in the tea-shop in Dora Lane from 11 pm till 2 am. Our restaurant closes by 11 pm and there can be nothing wrong in working at the tea shop till 2 pm. The owner of the tea shop had said he will pay me Rs 10, but I think he will give me Rs 12 or 15.’

‘Then we will be able to get a house quickly,’ Sariya answered happily.

‘And if the owner of the Irani restaurant were to agree to give us a loan, our child can be born in his own house,’ Daani’s face gleamed in the light of a hopeful happiness. Suddenly, he clutched Sariya’s hand and said, ‘Come let us pray.’

They got up and went to clutch the iron grill of the church. Through the ornate grill, they could see Jesus Christ on the Cross in the spacious courtyard. On one side sat Mary holding the blessed baby in her lap in a grotto made of blue stones. Candles were lit in the grotto and the delicate leaves of the gulmohar tree blew about in the breeze. The baby in Mary’s lap was exactly like the baby in every mother’s imagination. The night was as gentle as the cloak on Mary and as innocent as the dreams in the sleepy eyes of Jesus.

Daani finished his prayer and said to Sariya, ‘Why was the Padre constantly referring to freedom, bread and culture in his sermon? I can understand freedom and bread but, what is culture?’

‘I think it must be some kind of sweet cake,’ Sariya thought for a while and answered.

‘And he was also talking about peace in the world,’ Daani said. ‘But there is such a war going on in my stomach that I fail to understand how it will ever end. O dear Lord, what a frightful war wages on in my belly!’

‘I know. My mother knew it. So did my sisters and my brothers. As did our father,’ Sariya spoke in a grieving tone. ‘And my father’s father... the poor old man. The only close bond we had with him was of hunger.’

‘May God not let our son be hungry!’

‘Let there be peace in the world and in the stomach – like the Padre said. Amen.’

***

Sariya went away as unexpectedly as she had come. When Daani heard the news, he came running to the tea shop on Dora Lane and found a crowd of people and several policemen standing on the footpath. A truck was on the footpath; it had crashed into the iron grill of the church compound and rammed into the gulmohar tree. The corpses of Sariya and Ali Akbar lay under its rear wheels. They were only two people who had been asleep on the footpath and had ended up under the wheels of the truck. Had Daani been sleeping there, his corpse too would have been lying here. Sometimes, while racing against each other or simply driving rashly through the night, trucks are known to climb on to footpaths. It happens often in big cities.

Like a fool, Daani remained slumped over Sariya’s dead body for a long time. Then he looked at the crowd with vacant eyes and spoke in a trembling voice, ‘But she was alive a short while ago. Two hours ago, she and I had sat together and ate at our usual place. She was alive and well. She was only 17 years old. She was carrying my baby... a six-month old baby. My baby! Who killed them?’ Suddenly, Daani clenched both fists and screamed.

One of the onlookers gestured towards the truck. Immediately two policemen lunged forward to hold Daani back, but he beat them away with his fists and freed himself. The policemen somehow dragged him away from the truck, but Daani dashed towards the truck again. His eyes were red. His body bent and took the shape of a ram. A low, animal-like growl escaped his lips. With his head bent low, he threw himself at the truck with all his strength.

For six months he was in the hospital because his skull had split wide open. He was alive but his brain was severely damaged. Now his head moved of its own accord like a pendulum and his body that had once been strong as an ox’s was now thin as a dried-up bamboo. He remembered much, but there was a great deal he had forgotten. He was not fit for work because if a customer asked him for tea, he would place water before him, and if someone ordered an omelette, he would offer a box of matches. Eventually, the Irani owner had to ask him to leave. But he still slept at the same place on the footpath where Sariya used to sleep. He hid his baby’s clothes in a corner of the iron grill. In the silence of the night, he would sometimes take them out and look at them in the light of the streetlamp. Ramu the barber who gave people a shave on the footpath would often ask him, ‘Whose clothes are these?’

‘My baby’s.’

‘Where’s your baby?’ Qasim, who worked in the tea shop, asked him.

‘He is with my Sariya.’

‘Where is your Sariya?’

‘She has gone to her parents’ home.’

‘When will she come back?’ asked Gopi, the pickpocket.

‘When my house is ready,’ Daani would answer with utter innocence.

The jesters would be silenced by this and they would stare vacantly into space, as though they were watching a truck coming towards them from a distance and were unable to move.

Those who live on footpaths are perfectly aware of their helplessness.

They know that they can wrap their bedding from the footpath, but they cannot bid adieu to it. And so Daani’s idea of a home seemed like a terrible joke to them.

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Illustration © Sharath Ravishankar for Firstpost

One day, Daani appeared to be intent on making his home with what was available. He had brought two or three bricks from somewhere and was intent on balancing them on top of each other when Qasim asked him, ‘Daani, how big will your house be?’

Daani’s eyes gleamed with happiness. ‘It will be a very big house,’ he said. ‘And I have decided that I will construct it in the middle of Charak Road. It will have ten floors with 32 flats on every floor and three rooms in every flat.’

‘Three rooms for whom?' Asked Gopi the pickpocket.

‘One for the husband, one for the wife and one for the baby.’

‘Will you give me some place in this house?’ asked Ramu the barber. My wife and two children are in the village because I have no place for them here and my mother is very old.’

Gopi said, ‘I have no work except picking pockets and I have been to the jail three times. You keep me as the guard in your house and give me just one room.’

‘It will be a very big house,’ Daani answered with such affection that his eyes nearly popped out. ‘There will be place for all of you in it – for Qasim and Ramu and Gopi and Vasant and Payal and Rangachari and for those who sleep on the footpaths of Dora Lane. I think I will make it up to 20 floors. There will be 30 flats on each floor and four rooms in every flat with an attached bathroom with a flush and shower.’

‘And a mosaic floor,’ Qasim added.

‘And windows that open towards the sea,’ Gopi added.

In an instant, all of them believed in it. For one moment, they believed that a large house would be constructed on Charak Road – tall enough to touch the skies. In the next moment a large truck went whooshing past them, scaring them into silence.

For months, Daani kept making the house. He had only those three bricks, but the map of the house would change every day. By now, it had become a veritable mansion with 50 floors, which allowed entry only to those who lived on the footpath. This mansion had every luxury that could be imagined: an electric lift and a telephone, a small cinema and a nursery school, and a terrace garden filled with beautiful flowers on the roof top. Lights fixed on the walls and carpets in muted colours and soft-footed women and children who flitted about like butterflies, and gently smiling elegant men who smoked cigarettes clinked glasses with each other wearing expensive and perfumed clothes with pockets filled with coins, and everything else that the poor saw in movies and the rich kept in their homes. All of it was available in this mansion; in fact, it was bigger, better, more beautiful, more elegant, more grand than anything anyone had ever seen.

That mansion was only as beautiful as the imagination of a homeless person.

When that mansion was finally ready after months of labour, Daani went around beating a tin can from 11 pm till 1 am, inviting people from the footpaths on Charak Road and Dora Lane and as far away as Cross Bazaar and Charak Park to come to this new house. He had only those three bricks, but by now, he had placed those three bricks on the traffic island on Charak Road. He was inviting all the people who lived on the footpaths around this area to come and live in his building along with their wives and children.

Payal, who lived on Dora Lane, stopped him and asked, ‘But I have seven children and all of us sleep very well on this open footpath. Why should we come to your three-room flat?’

‘I will give you a flat with seven rooms,’ Daani said, as he beat his tin can.

‘When should we come?’ asked Payal, as she hid her smile in the end of her sari. She could barely contain her laughter.

‘Tomorrow in the morning when Sariya returns with the baby from her parents’ home. I will open the doors of my house for everyone. The main door will be decorated with buntings and garlands and I will call the Padre for the house warming. He will read from the Bible. The church bells will chime and that’s when all of you will enter my house.’

There was great affection in Daani’s trembling voice. His thin face looked yellow and feverish. His eyes were red and restless. The constant talking made his lips caked. His dry hair was similarly caked with dirt.

The next day, Daani was found dead at the feet of the Holy Mary in the grotto. His eyes were open and fixed on some unfinished dream in the blue sky. His clothes were torn and dirty. And those three bricks lay on his chest. He had busted his head by banging it repeatedly on the ground beneath the feet of the Blessed Mother.

Open the Church.

Ring the bells.

Look, Jesus Christ has come.

Carrying the cross of bricks on his chest.

The doors of heaven are now open for the poor.

Because a camel can not go through the eye of a needle. Though a rich man can penetrate every loophole in the law. Now the poor shall inherit the earth.

And the rich will be the masters of the poor.

See, Jesus Christ is going.

Come, let us stone him.

***

Dr Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, critic and literary historian. Her recent works include: Liking Progress, Loving Change: A Literary History of the Progressive Writers Movement in Urdu (OUP, 2014); a biography of Urdu feminist writer Dr Rashid Jahan, A Rebel and her Cause (Women Unlimited, 2014); a translation of The Sea Lies Ahead, Intizar Husain's seminal novel on Karachi (Harper Collins, 2015) and Krishan Chandar's partition novel Ghaddar (Westland, 2017); an edited volume of critical writings on Ismat called An Uncivil Woman (Oxford University Press, 2017); and in the past year a literary biography of the Urdu poet Shahryar for Harper Collins; The Great War: Indian Writings on the First World War (Bloomsbury); Preeto & Other Stories: The Male Gaze in Urdu (Niyogi), and most recently, Kaifiyat, a translation of Kaifi Azmi’s poems for Penguin Random House. She runs an organisation called Hindustani Awaaz, devoted to the popularisation of Hindi-Urdu literature and culture.

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