by Akmal Aleemi
In all the years that I have lived in America – 35 to be exact – and in the four years since Ahmed Bashir died at the age of 81 from liver cancer, I never once dreamt about him, except some days ago. I dreamed that I was walking out of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. with my wife, Mumtaz. I ask her to wait for me in an area where there are several food outlets and to meet me in half an hour at the main entrance. I go out looking for my car which I had parked at some distance. I notice a group of people sitting out on a kind of porch. Among them, I see Ahmed Bashir, the intellectual, journalist and novelist, whom I used to call Lala. I was a friend of his talented younger brother, Akhtar Aksi, who died in his youth in Lahore in the 1950s.
In the dream, Ahmed Bashir sees me, smiles, but says nothing. I sit down in front of him and ask, “Lala, I have read Dil Bhatkay Ga . You call it a novel but it is a mix of journalism and fiction. Why?”
He seems to want to answer my question but fails to do so. I suddenly realise that he cannot talk. Then with some difficulty and much effort, all he says is, “Master Madan.” Master Madan was a boy prodigy who died in his teens but whose voice continues to haunt us through the few recordings he left behind. I remember that Mumtaz is by now waiting for me and I leave. Continue reading