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Monday, 6 May 2013

“The Fight” – A short-story by M. K. Santoshi

English translation by SUALEH KEEN of the Hindi short-story “Laddaee” written by MAHARAJ KRISHAN SANTOSHI, which featured in his short-story collection Hamare Ishwar Ko Tairna Nahin Aata.


This I should have written a long time ago. I myself don’t know why I was unable to write it in all these years. Perhaps there might have been some pressure? Or laziness then; or else aversion.
                This is an event of those days when I used to lead the progressive thought in the village and our organisation named ‘Progressive Youth’ used to exist. All the youth influenced by the communist ideology used to be members of this organisation of ours. This organisation was influential in the entire village, but the opposition used to be no less.
                Those days in our village there used to be only one tea-shop, where we used to sit and debate for hours together. Where the shopkeeper used to get annoyed with our debates, there he was also happy with his sale. This is an event of around 1975. I had already passed BA and was preparing for Private MA. Used to run a small shop also; my father’s. From this shop only, a Sikh from a neighbouring village had taken cigarettes. When I had looked at him in astonishment, he had said, “Guests have come at home; it is for them only.” Then he used to take away cigarettes two-three times a week. I was scared also how to tell about this to my Sikh friends. Then I took courage once and told them. They knew of this cigarette-smoking Sikh already. As it is in Kashmir, the Sikhs have been teased by telling them that Guru Nanak had told them to give up tamaah (in Kashmiri, ‘desire’ is called tamaah) and they gave up tamokh (‘tobacco’ in Kashmiri). On this pun, I have myself seen Sikhs laughing. They had as if grown used to hearing it.
                I remember that our organisation wanted to conduct a seminar of the progressive people of Kashmir in the village. Actually, our intention behind this seminar was that we join the mainstream. One day, when we were thinking about this future plan of ours in that only tea-shop in the village, we heard a bit of a noise from outside that was slowly-slowly only increasing. We all came out of the shop and saw that a little distance from us a crowd of people was standing in a circle. We thought that it must be some baazigar [1] and he must be displaying his feats. But it was nothing of that sort. The people standing in the circle would sometimes move back, sometimes clap, sometimes whistle and sometimes jump on their toes.
                “What is all this?” we asked the shopkeeper.
                “A fight of two bulls,” he gave an annoyed answer and continued with his work.
                We had read that bullfight has been a famous sport in Spain. Perhaps it is also their national sport. But that we get to see such scenes of bullfight in Kashmir, it was surprising. Yes, time to time, to display their horns, bulls have certainly been fighting here. We could not resist. We too joined the crowd.
                I recalled an English expression and I told my companion Bashir:
                “Have a red handkerchief?”
                “For what?” he asked.
                “A bull gets irritated by red colour and becomes aggressive,” I said.
                “Our party’s flag show shall we?” he said in a naughty tone.
                I laughed first and then said, “Leave it, that flag is not for these ordinary bulls!”
                The crowd was growing. Here these bulls had acquired different supporters, who in the passion of their support would scream, jump, and shout. “The bull with the long tail will win!” “No, the bull with the short tail will win!” Around half an hour must have passed. Now the bulls seemed a bit exhausted. But until some result emerges, a truce was not acceptable. The crowd was steadfast in its mood and enthusiasm. The fight had once again become fierce and this time the long-tailed bull made such a manoeuvre that the short-tailed bull seemed to have lost its consciousness. It started becoming weary and slow and wanted to run away from the battle. But here the long-tailed bull had some other plans. It made such an attack that blood started flowing from the nostrils of its enemy. “Bravo!” Its supporters were jumping. In the middle of this, such an incident took place that spoilt the entire fun of the game. From the crowd some hate-filled voice rang, “No, that cannot happen! The bull of the kaafirs [2] cannot defeat our bull!” This voice was lent strength by several other voices. Within moments, whoever found whatever, that he threw on the long-tailed bull. Smelling circumstances against it, that bull immediately started running away. But it found refuge nowhere in the entire village. The frenzied people were running after it.
                Eventually, the bull entered the village cremation ground as if it knew that the manic mob will not follow it here. In the village it was a belief of the Musalmaans that whoever passes over the walls of the cremation ground, on him the wrath of Allah would strike. Thus, they started returning, leaving the bull in the cremation ground itself. The pleasure of beating the bull of the kaafirs was clearly glowing on their faces.
                Now that after so many years when I remembered this incident today, it is but natural to also miss that friend of mine: he who was my firm friend as well as a firm Musalmaan. Occasionally, he used to overawe me with the strength of Islam also. I remember that regarding this incident I had told him in a jovial tone:
                “To save religion, strengthen your bull!”
                On these words of mine, he had laughed loudly.

© Translation, Sualeh Keen.

Translation notes:

[1] baazigar = an acrobat, juggler, magician, or street-performer.

[2] kaafir = In Islamic parlance, a word used to describe a person who rejects Islamic faith. In Islamic doctrinal sense, usually translated as unbeliever or disbeliever. In other words, a non-Muslim.

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