Fair winds blew across the windshield sending snowflakes flowing like whirling dancers. The front wipers on Ali’s SUV kept his vision clear, but his mind was distracted. Both hands were clenched on his steering wheel. The words of his boss were still lingering on his mind as he drove.
Though, just like his SUV continued to carry him through extreme heat and cold, he carried himself through anything that life threw his way. Rust could form on the doors and he’d be there to sand and repaint the metal before any corrosion. But just as his old SUV needed regular repair, he, too, needed to give himself time to unwind.
On his way home from work, Ali parked along the roadside beside a sedan. Flags in vibrant shades of burning red and cool, calming blue outlined a trail that led to a shrine. Ali looked at the green walls. But he remained seated in his vehicle. In his mind, there was still skepticism.
He was aware of what some believed. The shrines— graves of those who lived pious lives —were places where one could talk to the spirits who would relay those messages to God. Those, though, were only the beliefs of others. He was uncertain if it were something he could trust.
While it wasn’t a place he often prayed, Ali knew it was a place where others in need would gather. Those seeking charity would sit outside the holy place in hopes of the rich sharing some of their food or wealth. Ali’s income was modest, but he believed he had enough to still give.
There was no one seated outside the shrine, but as Ali watched the door slide open he caught a glimpse of a tall figure walking into the snow. A man with long tasseled hair and a thick beard— Hassan. The two men made eye contact and Hassan approached the SUV.
His purple eyes shined bright as he extended his hand, “It’s good to see you, friend.”
Ali shook his friend’s hand. Ice chilled their faces but it was nothing that could deter the reunion of two friends. Ali had noticed the sedan and he knew Hassan’s beliefs. With his early day home from work, Ali thought it would be a good opportunity to reconnect with a friend.
Smoke billowed from the chimney of the tea shop. The sun had just begun to set, leaving the streets dark save for the warm yellow light that came from the shop. It was a cozy place downtown, but one that many would frequent to sit and enjoy the company of friends and family.
A shrill whistle came from a kettle. The aroma within the shop was rich with a hint of sweetness. Spicy chai, fresh honey, and dried berries filled Ali’s nostrils as he poured steaming water in his cup. He breathed in the comforting scent and stared out at the darkness outside the window.
Inside, he and Hassan were comforted by light— wooden fixtures cast a yellow glow. But outside, between the setting sun and the heavy snowflakes falling down from the sky, sight was difficult. All who sat inside were escaping the winter world for something warm and calming.
As Hassan pulled his cup to his lips, Ali spoke to him, “How is your father? Is he well?”
“I have given charity to the shrine. I give food; I spread flowers on the grave. Even new cloth-”
Ali interjected, “Listen. I don’t believe in these things.”
When Ali visited the shrines, he did so to help those in need. But at the same time, he was unable to share the same beliefs that they had. It wasn’t that he was unwilling, but he was unable to comprehend something he could not see. He did not deny the spirits within the graves, but when one had God in their heart, he did not see a need to speak one’s prayers to any other.
“God is much nearer to us than our own heart. Another soul doesn’t need to listen to what we can tell God ourselves. You’ve been trying to convince me about your spiritualism and Sufism for some time now. But I believe what I have been given. And what I am given, it will be by God.”
Hassan smiled. He understood how Ali felt, but that didn’t prevent him from having his own beliefs. It was true that God was all-knowing. Though, there was a power in the shrines that he knew was sacred. The lives of those buried within the shrines were pious and pure.
Ali continued, “You go alone to the top of the mountain. And I’ve seen so many shrines that you’ve visited. I just don’t see any benefit. While you are gone, your father is sick and alone in his home. He needs you. Helping and caring for your father should be your duty.”
“I have no one else but you as my friend,” Hassan said as he set down his cup, “You take care of my father more than I do. Do you remember eight years ago when I had an accident and I was lying there moving towards death at the bank of a river? There were thousands of people looking at me and it was only you who offered help.”
Lowering his eyes, Ali thought back to that day. He was in disbelief back then and even as time went by, he still didn’t fully understand what happened that day. All he knew was that a man was injured and no one else was moving a finger to help him.
“Only you picked me up and took me to the hospital. You bore the expenses of my treatment. And you stayed there for two days until I came back to consciousness”
Ali nodded, “Of course. You had no ID and you were badly wounded.”
“Yes. I remember everything. I still remember your voice in my ear while you were requesting the doctor. ‘This is a human,’ you said. ‘Save him first. You will get the ID later.’ It’s been eight years and we are still friends.”
A smile spread across Ali’s face, “Eight years and you’re still the same. You still climb the mountains alone and you cross the rivers. I get worried that a similar accident will happen again. You should stop chasing those Green Darwaish. It will cause you to lose your life.”
It wasn’t the Darwaish themselves that worried Ali. But Hassan’s fixation on them was to the point of obsession. Often, he would pray at their shrines and to the spirits— those who had led pious lives seeking only knowledge and to assist the creatures of God.
Hassan held his teacup tightly in his hands, “Look, Ali. You were in the army.”
Those words alone made Ali uncomfortable— sweat built at the back of his neck. But Hassan continued, “I know you don’t like to talk about it, but I know what happened back in 1965. In the war between Pakistan and India, the Green Darwaish helped us. Haven’t you heard those who admit that a green army came to help Pakistan? Everyone asks, ‘Where did the green army come from?’”
Ali sighed, “I’ve heard the story, but I’ve never seen it. I can not be sure about it. It’s never happened again. No one has mentioned another green army. Whatever that chapter was, it’s finished. It’s been over fifty years since then. You should focus on your future. Your age is passing. You can’t even get married.”
Seeing his friend’s laugh was a relief, but Ali meant the words he said. Whatever had happened back then— whatever people said happened back then was all but a legend. And Ali had reality to contend with. His family and those he cared about were more important to him than chasing something which he could not confirm himself.
Qalandar, Earth Needed A Superhero. © Copyright 2019 by Fraz Ahmed. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Disclaimer : –
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.