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Crippled Soul

Muhammad Nasrullah Khan

I cannot believe what I have been witnessing. Isn't it ironic that those persons that we try to put in the dark corner of our memory box, appear suddenly at that moment of life when we can't afford any burden of conscience? This unwanted appearance makes us more pathetic when we have convinced ourselves that whatever we did in our lives was not worthless; that the life we have spent was not so futile and absurd, as is the case with the majority.

           However, there is another court, in our internal self, that gives its own verdict. Now we start suppressing that internal voice. We lull our conscience, but, in spite of all of our firm efforts, it becomes more violent. Even, sometimes, it breaks its boundary, destroys our well-maintained external world, and leaves ridiculous imprints on our faces.

           Why has he appeared, at this moment of life, when I was about to forget him? How pitiful it is that in this one moment, only one moment amongst millions of moments, is going to erase all my efforts of thirty years! This pitiless one moment does not care about the hard work of uncountable sleepless nights. Isn't it miserable that one should spend thirty years of one's life to forget only one person? Isn't it funny that I am being sentimental while sitting with my granddaughter? How would she feel if I told her that old man sitting under the dark shadow of night is causing a stirring in my heart? He is sitting with the same style of Socrates, lost somewhere, quite indifferent to his surroundings. I can recognize him among thousands, the same style of lighting his cigarette and inhaling it. The same style of folding one arm on his chest and the other moving slowly toward his mouth, his eyes fixed on the distant horizon.

           The only difference is that shivering of his hands that now can be felt. Two strong images of his personality are still alive in my mind. First, a lively young man with intelligent and sparkling eyes and sensual mouth with glorious exalted words. Second, an image of meditation; a man with graying hair, lost in the secret world of self, like the old, tired and despairing Sidhartha*. How ambitious and full of life he was when, thirty years back, he started teaching. He had the natural talent for teaching. Moreover, his communicative style of teaching and exalted thoughts made him very successful while above all, he adopted this profession as a service, not as a job.

           He had studied extensively and had wonderful vision but all this was very embarrassing for other tamed and empty teachers. For them, the highest things were their grades and gray hairs. They had very clever and cunning brains, because they had been working hard, on these lines, for years. They would show themselves as wise and their little sayings and truths made them funnier. Their superficial and shallow wisdom was endangered by the presence of this young man, for there was something, which made him different from the others. This made others love or hate him extremely; there was no halfway. The most irritating thing to others was that he never showed any reaction to the crazy attitude of people. It seemed as if he had overpowered those violent desires.

           The head of the department was a cruel, shrewd devil, who, with his favor and disfavor, could build or destroy the careers of newcomers. Though he had a doctorate in literature, he was good for nothing, merely a holy ghost. He compelled people to respect him, surviving by his mean authority. In short, there was everything except education and decency. Therefore, that intelligent young man became intolerable for them. His only flaw was that he had a good brain amongst brains that were mediocre.

           Why did I become jealous of him? I was ambitious for a secure and successful future and did not want to miss any chance of getting the favor of existing authorities. That was a very comfortable and easy way to reach the height, the only requirement was to please the monsters. Therefore, I did. All possible mean ways were adopted to force him to leave our wonderful heaven. Ultimately he left, silently, without even saying a word. His commitment to the profession and his intelligence could destroy us all. Therefore, before our destruction, we destroyed him.

           His departure made life smooth again and soon everybody forgot him. Lecturers became professors and professors were awarded with medals. I also earned a scholarship for higher studies, which would otherwise have gone to him. The peacock of a PH.D. was put on my head. My books on education and literature became part of every syllabus.

           I have come here to deliver my scholarly lecture. I shall tell people how I worked hard to educate the generations of my dear fatherland. My words will make them spellbound and then there will be much applause. In the pleasing sound of that clapping, I will forget this tormenting image. My ego will become stiff and proud.

           But, he has again appeared here, in a very concrete form. Before today, he was washed from my memory, but today he has appeared after thirty years. He is sitting in the dark and aloof place of this very old, city railway station; it was his favorite place then, too. I can see him lost in deep thoughts. What is he thinking?

           Yet, his thinking has not reached to the logical end. Except for me, nobody knows that this silent man's voice can move the statues; his thoughts can melt the frozen brains and his words can purify hearts. Alas! Nobody knows but one who has locked his tongue. A desire to talk to him, at least once, overwhelms me. Something inside me is pushing me towards him; something is quenched in me that wants to burst out but something equally strong is stopping my movement. I am like a person whose feet are chained but stormy air is pushing him forward. What can I do except fall? Yes, I am a fallen woman. Does he still remember me?

           I do remember once he said: "In this tiresome journey of life, sometimes somebody stops us to make us relaxed. He makes us laugh. We laugh so much that our eyes become wet, then suddenly that person says goodbye because he has to go on his own journey, towards his own destined direction. In the beginning we remain lost, missing those heavenly moments, remembering everything about which Death cleans, while making its own memory. We fall down, but, life goes on to write more mortal tales with the same excitement. We see the disloyal life moving swiftly in the arms of somebody else, without even looking back to us. Before falling down, we try to make her remember her commitments, but our feeble voice can't even touch our own ears. We die to be forgotten forever. This is the total achievement of life. Our tiring long effort plus death equals absurdity. An awful nothingness! This is the result of life, for whose sake we go to the maximum extent of meanness; for whose sake we deceive our dear ones; for whose sake we suck the blood of our own species, and then suddenly we are deceived by this. At that moment we try to spit on it, spit which then returns to our own mouths."

           I want to meet that untamed solitary soul. I want to get rid of this tormenting burden of conscience but at the same time, something invulnerable and unburiable stops me. I know it is my false ego, which will never allow me do so. I know we so-called scholars are slaves of this ego for centuries. We will keep on killing such genius by the fatal poison of our suffocating mediocrity. Yes, I should move now. People are waiting for me. My lofty words are awaited there. Good luck to you, the burden of my soul.

* Sidhartha: (Sidhartha Gautama, the Buddha)

About the Author (click here) © 2002 Muhammad Nasrullah Khan, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission

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