Dr. Irfan Zafar
Am I really dead? No, still trying to breathe but the lights seem to be fading away as I hear voices, not the familiar one’s, strangers walking in and leaving behind nothing but painful reminders of what my past used to be. Broken tea cups, sticky tables, cracking chairs, flies and dust all around is all what is left; staring at me crying for help but as I lay dying, my mind continue to go back bringing in visions of the past ferociously.
I remember the Sikh brothers looking at me for the last time with vacant eyes as they walked away in tears leaving behind the “India Tea House”; my original name which was changed to Pak Tea House by the new owner Siraj-Ud-Din Ahmad to avoid any retribution from the blood thirsty souls roaming around in the streets as a result of the 1947 bloodbath which took place as a result of the great divide which left many lives shattered and many more totally eliminated from the face of this earth.
I can feel something crawling on my body, the insects, sucking my blood slowly. Can anyone help, I cry with pain but my sound echoes back. But it’s not my voice which echoes but I can hear soft voices, beautiful words, unity of art mingled with literary beauty making the surroundings dance to the overflowing tides of creativity. Are you there Faiz? I can hear Manto’s voice or is it Mira Ji? Can’t distinguish, can’t see clearly trying to open my eyes with vivid images of Ibn-e-Insha, Faraz, Muneer Niazi and Intezar Hussain flashing past me along with so many others. They are talking about Progressive Writers Movement, the fundamental postulate being the unity of art, life beauty and reiteration of values and social systems which are lost over the years to modernism and commercialism of the thought process.
Why am I crying for I have suffered the same fate as the trees on the mall and so many other profound memories of the places now remembered as history & whatever remains are the ashes and the relics of the past. Is it only my demise which hurts me so much? No it is the demise of a literary age and an era when life used to be so simple but elegant. Happiness was found by interacting with people and not with the electronic devices. We somehow seem to have lost it all, if not most of it.
Is it the smell of Tea or the fresh pastries mixed with the cracking sound of the crisp biscuits. I can’t breathe, it’s suffocating. Heat, filth, smell of auto shops, oil dripping from the bodies of motor mechanics finding literary enlightenment using poetic abuses. Voices of stall vendors, traffic noise, the snoring sound and the noisy ceiling fan are making my nerves shatter.
Let’s move on, some say. Why waste time and money on books, reading, writing or literature? SMS, yes it’s a true literary trend of the modern age and it has led to the death of the literary age which we cherished so much but could not translate into sustainable art. I hear someone say “Let’s open a more profitable business venture, a Tyre Shop” instead of this useless relic. “Why not musical/disco evenings”; another voice. Go ahead, just do it for what really matters in the end is money. Yes money which one can take to his grave.
As I Lay Dying, just wondering where did we go wrong. All of us. When will my breathing stop? I have only one wish before my end; just one last wish. Surrounded again by all those who are no more with us, listening to the lost voices again and going back to the time, just for once, when the tea was made to perfection, biscuits were crisp and the patties fresh.
(The writer is a Social Activist and can be contacted via email: email@example.com)