Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
It all started one dreadful afternoon when The Shepherd decided to take the unfortunate journey to the provincial capital, or, to be more precise, the day when he refused to go to school anymore against his father’s will.
At the age of ten, he revealed to his shepherd father that he wanted to become a shepherd like his old man, and not a schoolteacher like Karim Baksh whose profession his father wanted him to adopt.
Teachers don’t earn much but are respected in the village, and master Karim Baksh was much venerated by the village folks who even grew a likening for his baggy trousers and great appetite for beef.
There were only two butchers and both of them came from the other villages. One was solely in the business of butchering goats and selling mutton. The other, Bahram, was in the beef business. He would only butcher bulls, cows and much-demanded calves. He would bring the animal and slaughter it in the middle of the village marketplace, because if no one sees the animal no one will eat the meat. So he made it a ritual to slaughter his animals in view of the whole village.
Every Thursday, when he brought a healthy and well-groomed animal to the marketplace, people came from far and wide to be part of the spectacle. Beef was cheaper and village folks could get it only once a weak. Also, they liked the way Bahram overwhelmed his fearful but mightly animals all by himself. The way he threw them on the ground and the way he removed the head with a single strike was content for local myths.
The cheering would turn into chaos when it came to the sale of the meat. Everyone wanted the juiciest part of the meat for themselves. Most would go home empty-handed or with some bone on the meat. But not Karim Baksh. He could elbow out everyone of the way to get to the front and buy the most cherished parts of the dead animal.
The Shepherd’s father was in awe for Karim Baksh’s intellect as a teacher and his muscle power as a beef buyer. To The Shepherd’s father he was the highest ranking government officer he had ever seen. So he wanted his son to be a teacher, but his son saw a different future for himself. “All great men have been shepherd at some point of their lives,” he tried to convince his father. “Master Karim Baksh himself told us that our beloved Prophet was a shepherd before his prophethood. And many prophets before him as well. He even said being a shepherd was a preferred career for most prophets. After all, they are the shepherd of our souls. As sheep can get lost in the mountains and end up as the wolf’s prey, our souls too can lose the true path and end up in the burning hell without a shepherd to guide them.”
His father was not convinced. So The Shepherd continued: “You know that I will never be as good a master as Master Karim Baksh. I am not a school person. I spend two years in every grade and all my juniors are now my seniors.”
This argument, however, won his father and he let his son choose their family profession. There are two kinds of fathers in the world: the ones who let their children choose for themselves and the ones who choose for their children. But both the kinds will never get satisfied with whatever their children do. Fathers call it disobedience and children call it generation gap. The Shepherd’s father died as an unsatisfied father.
The Shepherd’s refusal to take a career other than his father’s many years ago created the necessity for him to board a bus headed to the provincial capital without a national identity card. During his journey on dirt roads surrounded by an apocalyptic landscape he was to discover that his lack of the identification card and inability to speak the lingua franca made him a traitor.
In a country which was almost always at war since its existence with miscreants, infidels, blasphemers, terrorists, separatist guerrillas, Twitter liberals, ungrateful civilians and communist scums, The Shepherd should have known better than to travel on that road with this blatant show of unpatriotism.
His bus reached one of the numerous security checkposts which every traveller in the province had to pass through if he was going from somewhere to somewhere or nowhere to nowhere. Each passenger had to prove to the guardians of the checkpost and thus of the watan e aziz that he or she was not a separatist, a blasphemer, a terrorist, a traitor or a shepherd. The country we are talking about is going through very perilous times, surrounded by enemies from within and outside.
He was taken off the bus by soldiers who had every reason to consider him as a threat to national security and national integration for his inability to prove his nationality and nor being able to properly communicate in the national language. Also, the notion that shepherds were somehow involved in anti-state activities was taking hold of the imagination of the security apparatus of watan e aziz, as people from this profession have mainly been responsible for maligning the reputation of the armed forces by discovering bodies dumped in desolate mountains where they go on the pretext of grazing their sheep.
An unpatriotic shepherd traveling to the provisional capital on the pretext of finding lost goats raised many suspicions for soldiers. Many years earlier, a similar shepherd had found a mass grave in the province for which the information department of the armed forces had to work day and night for many weeks to prove that it was a nefarious design by some foreign enemy to malign the good name of watan e aziz and its guardians. This curious shepherd could very well be on such a mission.
After the disappearance of The Shepherd, villagers assumed he too had been consumed by the plague which made people disappear from the face of the earth. The national media did not talk about such people because once a wise national TV analysist said this plague of missing persons spread with the word of the mouth. “If we talk less about it, the plague will go away,” he argued.
It was considered unpatriotic to talk about something like that and the families of the missing persons were told by the government they should assume their loved ones must be in a better place than they were before. Some imaginative defence analysts argued that the missing persons were part of a huge conspiracy orchestrated by a foreign enemy to defame and malign the name of the watan e aziz and its armed forces. They speculated with divine confidence that these missing persons had gone to the neighbouring country and were living there a dream life in order to give watan e aziz a bad name.
Those who disagreed and insisted on talking about the national plague of missing persons went missing too. So people thought it was an act of God and a punishment decreed by super natural forces for the innumerable sins committed by the people of the province. God used to send floods and earthquakes to punish the sinners, but this plague of missing was a genius stroke even in God’s standards.
So it was presumed that those who disagreed with the wisdom of wise men were destined to disappear. After all, it’s easier to kill a fly then to convince it not to be a gadfly.
He could not see a thing from the blindfolds they had wrapped around his head. He only felt dread, suffocation, heat and the smell of burning diesel coming from the military truck. He thought he was about to die of suffocation and all of a sudden he realized, for the first time, an strong urge to live. Life becomes most resilient in the grip of the plague of missing.
On his arrival at a destination without an address, some people began to welcome him with kicks and punches. He knew then that his stay at the new destination was going to be torturous.
He was bleeding all over, his face had swollen like a Helmandi melon. He wanted to let a moan out but he remembered his mother telling him men did not cry in pain.
After the initial beating, he was thrown into a cubical without widows or sunlight, only a 1000 volt searchlight burnt day and night like an omnipotent presence, eroding the line between day and night, nullifying time with its radiant beams. This bulb’s invention seemed to be based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity where time ceases to exist for those who leave their universe and trespasses into another universe of nothingness.
As the line between night and day erodes, it is up to the detainee’s imagination what he wanted the time to be — night or day.
Relentless moans, sound of heavy footsteps and profanities hurled by guards were the only things he could hear. As his blindfolds were removed one day, he saw his tiny, dark room. It was painted with black and white in zebra strips, as if to confuse the prisoner further about time.
The prisoners whispered at times from theirs cells when the guards changed shift. They exchanged information, warned each other of spy prisoners planted by the jailer to keep watch on other prisoners. They were not paranoid. There were spy prisoners to spy on hardcore detainees, national threats, foreign agents with local names and familiar faces who could very well remind you of your classmate, best friend, neighbour or even a close relative. But that was the catch. In the guise of your own people, the cunning enemy planted their agents to penetrate the otherwise impenetrable national security system. But the true patriots, the glorious ones, the guardians of the nation, leave nothing to chance. Nogt even an unpatriotic shepherd traveling on a bus full of people whose patriotism has been in question from a time immemorable.
The door of the cell opened and two guards entered. They kicked The Shepherd awake from his nightmares.
“Jaldi jaldi. Get up you sheep-fukcer. It’s pay time,” one guard quipped. They handcuffed and blindfolded him, and dragged him out of his cell to somewhere where The Shepherd found his heart beating like a tin drum. He was taken to a room which was less humid. The Shepherd smelled cigarette and cologne. He was made to sit on a chair. Although he could not see a damn thing, he sensed the presence of almost a dozen very unfriendly people. One was breathing heavily. The Shepherd felt his breath on his face. He was the jailer.
Suddenly, he was fired with a bunch of questions.
How do you communicate?
How funding operations are conducted?
How do you shepherds find out the bodies?
Do you use any detection device to find bodies?
“I was trying to find my lost goats,” The Shepherd answered to every question.
Who is funding you?
Why are you travelling without an ID card?
Which sarmachar group you visit in the mountains?
“I swear on my dead father I won’t do it again,” The Shepherd cried. “I only took my herd to graze in the mountains.”
There was a moment of silence. The Shepherd felt proud as he overheard someone saying “he is well-trained and hard-headed”. The Shepherd grinned behind his blindfolds convinced that he had persuaded his captors of his innocence. Suddenly, he felt a hard punch on his neck and he fell down from the chair. His breathing was interrupted for a while as if his respiratory tract had collapsed. Once he body touched the ground, more than a pair of feet belonging to some invisible men began kicking him relentlessly.
He was beaten to a pulp and then carried by the same two guards who had earlier brought him into the interrogation room back to his cell under the 1000 volt made-in-China omnipotent bulb.
Lying with his face to the floor, he dreamt of a beach. When he was young, he got seriously ill and the town elder advised his father to take him to the coast and soak him in seawater for three consecutive days, from sunrise to sunset. He was in fact cured by the seawater. It was the only memory of the ocean he had.
In his dream, he found himself on the same beach but all alone. The whole shoreline was covered by towers taller than anything he had ever seen. At each of these towers was hanging a hangman’s rope and under each platform lied a man on the ground facing the tower, presumably waiting for his turn to be hanged.
All but one platform was vacant, and as The Shepherd attained a hawk’s view of the tower of this vacant platform, he saw a worn-out rope a rope that was still capable of sending one to the other side – the unknown, the nothingness. The Shepherd wondered how much power a small piece of rope could yield.
He was waken up from his delirious dream by a whispering voice with a foreign accent. “Come on, wake up. Wake up, comrade. We have work to do.”
Each muscle of his sore body cracked as he sat down to find the source of the strange whisper. Neither he could find the source of the voice in the dark cell nor figure out which particular part of his body was sending pain signals to the brain as every muscle seemed to be paining more than the other.
“Who is this?” The Shepherd asked in utter confusion. An eerie silence followed. “Come out or I’ll call the guards.”
“I don’t think calling the guards is a good idea,” said the voice. The shepherd agreed in silence. “By the way, I am The Greek,” said the sourceless voice.
“What Greek?” The Shepherd asked.
“I was a soldier in Alexander’s army. When we were returning from India, I escaped and have been living in the mountains where you grazed your animals. I know you, my friend. I’ve come to help you,” The Greek said.
“So you’re the foreigner. These good people have confused me with you. If you want to help me tell them it’s you who they want, not me. Surrender yourself,” The Shepherd thought his miseries were finally over.
“It’s not that simple, comrade. I am just a voice, you see. Only you can hear me. Only you. I’ve come to help you because I’ve been there where you’re now. I’ve gone through all of this you’re going through right now. I can tell you what to do to get rid of this misery,” The Greek said in a rhetorical tone.
The Shepherd tried to rub his eyes with his left pain which now hurt more than any other part of the body. There was no one to see.
“What I’ve to do?” he asked.
“Escape. What else. When you’re imprisoned, it’s your moral obligation to try to escape. You shouldn’t blame your tormentors if you sit here and wait for them to take you for the next beating,” roared The Greek.
The Shepherd became suspicious. The voice could be coming from the cell across his. He had heard other prisoners talking about spies planted as prisoners.
“Escape? Are you insane? I’m an innocent man. There has been some sort of mistake. They’ll let me go once they realize their mistake. Why should I escape?” he said.
The Greek let out a sigh and then laughed. “Let me tell you one thing, comrade. The state never makes mistakes. If they do, they won’t admit it. So escape is your only option.”
“I object,” echoed another voice. “A Man must never run away if he thinks he is on the right path. If you don’t stand by your own values, who will?”
“Who you are?” asked The Greek in agitation.
“Well, once the Oracle of Delphi said he was the wisest man alive but what I know is I know nothing,” the older voice responded.
“So it’s you, the barefoot philosopher of Athens. The gadfly of Athenians. Look, where your decision not to escape landed you,” said The Greek.
“Never mind him,” The Philosopher ignored The Greek and addressed The Shepherd. “He will get you killed before you realize.”
“A coward loses more than his life,” interrupted a third voice.
“And who are you?” asked The Greek.
“I had a library and the Gestapo destroyed it. I and my comrades went to the gallows as gallantly as one can. I gave away nothing to the torturer,” said the third voice.
“So it’s you, Julius,” said The Greek. “That’s what I am trying to tell this friend of ours, not to give away anything to the torturer and keep feeding them with wrong information while you tunnel your way out. You know when I was once a victim to torture, I knew one thing very clearly: if I let them play their game on their own terms, they will soon break me down. So I came up with this strategy to irritate my torturers and spoil their script. They lost their temper and tortured me savagely till I fainted. Yet, they got nothing.” said the Greek proudly.
“And what was the secret strategy? Asked The Shepherd.
“Easy. You just hurl the worst possible vulgarities onto your torturers. My favorite goes like this: I am going to screw the jailer’s wife and yours too,” The Greek cried out loud, and kept repeating it.
The Shepherd heard the metal door cling open. Two guards entered with their faces blood-shot red from anger.
“Your sister-fucker, sheep-dung eater, what did you just say?” asked one guard. The Shepherd just looked on in terror. “Nobody fucks the jailer’s wife but he himself,” declared the guard.
“Yes, sir,” agreed The Shepherd. “ But it wasn’t me. It’s The Greek. The foreigner……..” he said while being dragged to the interrogation room.
“You take us as fools? Fair enough. We’ll show you the Turks,” the other guard shouted as they threw The Shepherd into the interrogation room.
The jailer was a man of honor, a man of character, a man of the nation, in short, he was A Man. Before his present posting, he had supervised and participated in many missions against the enemies of the state and the enemy state. He joined the army when the country had recently lost a war against the traitors with the help of foreign forces.
Although he was not among with Prisoners of War, he was awarded a promotion and a medal in the same year he joined the army. It needs a bit of explanation. When our guardians lost the war due to traitors, the generals thought the returning PoWs should be awarded with medals of honor and bravery to boost their morale. Blaming the PoWs for the nation’s defeat was declared an act of treason. To further raise the morale of the jawans, the generals were quick to find the real reason behind the nation’s defeat. An army operation was initiated in the frontier province – to whose capital The Shepherd was travelling – and the traitors were totally crushed in just four years. So, when the medals were being awarded to the PoWs, a general put forward his name for promotion and award after accidentally stumbling upon his photo in a file that very much resembled that of PoWs. After his promotion, our jailer personally supervised many battles against the traitors in the province. He was the first army officer in the history of the world to win his medal after he had already received it.
He devised a secret trick with the help of his mentor to reign in the treasonous people of the frontier province which became so famous and successful that the generals adopted it as the national policy and the strategic pillar of their internal and external policies of the watan e aziz. The trick remained a secret for many years until recently when the shepherds of the province tried to blow the whistle.
That was many years ago. His boss ended up hanging an elected prime minister, getting himself elected as president and one day getting blown up in thin air. Some people thought the master of the art of disappearance had executed his finishing stroke by disappearing himself into thin air. Many believe he lives up to this day, invisible to the naked eye.
Even though our jailor spent a short time with his mentor but he learnt the art of disappearance from the grand master himself. He was considered by the military elites as the true disciple of the grand master and thus was put in charge of this jail in the frontier province.
Although, for reasons unknown, he liked to be called as The Murshid, he was better known by his nickname Colonel Ping-Pong. Don’t let your imagination run amok and assume that he got this nickname due to some secret mission. There is little known about his secret missions because of their highly confidential nature. Whenever asked by his colleagues about his cross border adventures, he tended to avoid the subject. Only rarely he said something to brush aside the question. “The line is only drawn in your head. Once you cross that line, there is nothing stopping you.”
Beside his professional duties as a soldier, he considered himself as a student of history. He thought history as a great teacher, a compass to sail through the unknown future. He also believed strongly that not only we can control the outcome of the future we want but also we can change the past, alter history and erase or correct past mistakes. His latest endeavor was to eradicate a game from the national imagination which had its hand on the pulse of nation, particularly the civvies. Every time there is a match of this despicable game, the nations stops their business and become lazy like a shepherd. They enter a state of mind where they become least interested in matters of national interest. During tournaments of this game, you will see good patriots turn into lethargic non-compliant zombies. If the national team wins, they keep throwing parties for weeks and indulge themselves in ways which are neither approved by our traditions nor by our religion.
Colonel Ping-Pong discovered during a visit to a friendly country that only Ping Pong could heal the nation of the ailment of this game which was left purposefully by our foreign rulers before being forced out of this land of pure by the greatest hero of all times, The MBQ. During his military training in the friendly country, our jailer carefully studied the success story of the red nation. He observed that the red nation is cleansed from all the ailments of foreign influence. On the other hand, his own nation was suffering from many of them, such as unpatriotic behavior, lack of loyalty, behaving like civilians, asking too many questions even at times when the nation is at war within and outside. He concluded that this very cursed game –in which only two players played and 20 others watched stupidly — was mainly responsible for all the foreign influences. During his stay in the land of the red, he observed that the old and young played a game which involved two players tossing a small ball at each other with great agility. It was a time and energy-efficient game. You do not need 22 players to play it or wait for days to know which side has won.
That was it. Our jailer then decided he will replace the cursed game that his nation played with great zeal with this time-saving, pragmatic, patriotic and fantastic game of the red nation. He made it his life’s mission to make Ping Pong popular in watan e aziz. In his spare time, when he was not practicing the art of disappearance, he presided over ping-pong tournaments. Before each event, he gave an impeccable speech in favour of his new-found love. In one of his speeches, when he was quoting from a history book about the silk route and its impact on cultural exchange, he emphasised that the game of Ping Pong was invented in Baghdad by a religious scholar of great stature and later brought to watan e aziz by The MBQ and then it traveled through the silk route to the red lands. “It was our heritage. We gave it up due to our moral decadence and unholy ways. But the Red Nation knew the potential of this game and they kept it alive. The game thrived there and they thrived because of it.” He concluded by citing real life examples of how red generals, statesmen and strategist overcame their problems by regularly playing Ping Pong.
The interrogation room had this vile mixed stench of urine, blood, cologne and cigar fume. It was obviously Cuban cigar. Even though Colonel Ping Pong considered all products from the unbelievers as corrupt as the cursed game, he had a soft spot for the Cubans because he thought they bravely fought the real enemy. After all, the enemy of the enemy is a friend.
The Shepherd tested blood in his mouth because of the beating he had just received from the soldiers who called themselves Turks. They had brought him to the colonel who was personally present in the room because it had turned out to be a matter of his personal dignity. A shepherd from the far-flung frontier province infested with spies and traitors had dared to express the wish to fuck the honorable wife of the colonel in his own prison.
Colonel nodded to his sobedar to start the interrogation.
On receiving the signal, he delivered a kick into The Shepherd’s manhood. The Shepherd fainted for a brief moment. When he regained consciousness, the colonel again looked towards the sobedar but this time without nodding. The sobedar understood as he shared a special bond with his beloved boss.
Sobedar Allah Datha son of Ghulam Rasool was one of the few men Colonel Ping Pong trusted. Sobedar Allah Datha was considered as his true disciple and some believed the colonel might some day entrust him with his secret art of disappearance. Apart from professional matters, he trusted Sobedar Allah Dhata with the matters of his wife and children. The colonel was a busy man, and was often unavailable when his wife wanted him to accompany her to, say, hospital, or, a wedding ceremony. On such occasions, he would ask Sobedar Allah Dhatta to drive his wife.
Allah Datha son of Ghulam Rasool had been especially asked by the colonel to investigate The Shepherd’s case due to its complex nature and the possibility of a foreign agent on the lose in the colonel’s prison. Allah Datha son of Ghulam Rasool began reading the information he had collected during his investigation.
“Sir, I went to this sheep-fucker’s village and asked the villagers about him. They claim they don’t know any shepherd by such name. I found no relatives, no clue whatsoever about where he comes from. I visited the address he gave us and I found the house deserted. It seemed like no one ever lived there. I found nothing of importance in the house except a medical college degree of a gold medalist doctor,” he read this part louder, proud of his finding. “I went to the only medical college in the provincial capital and checked the college’s archive. The degree is genuine. But, interestingly, no staff member remembered any student by the name mentioned on the degree,” he concluded boastfully.
The Shepherd knew the reason why no villager came forward to acknowledge his existence: because they knew The Shepherd had gone missing along with his sheep. If they did not want to go missing too, they should not be talking about those already missing. The same could be true of The Doctor. But The Shepherd thought better than to express such thoughts to the jailer. It could only cause another round of beating.
The colonel silently contemplated over the findings of Sobedar Allah Datha.
“As I had suspected, he is a deep mole with multiple identities,” he finally spoke. “Where are those people who criticize us for our work? Don’t they see how our enemies are cunningly planting traitors like this shepherd?” he rhetorically asked Sobedar Allah Datha. “They sleep a good night’s sleep because of our work. Because of your work, Mr. Allah Datha,” he, taking short steps around the blindfolded shepherd, praised Sobedar Allah Datha’s work.
“What do you say about the medical degree, Mr. shepherd? The colonel bent over and said to The Shepherd in a whisper. The Shepherd’s heart almost jumped out of his chest cage. He wasn’t aware the colonel was standing behind so close to him.
“I can’t read and write, sir. But I can tell you about this doctor. He was not a real doctor. He was a doctor of animals. He treated my goats. I must tell you one thing, sir,” The Shepherd said in a confidential tone, as if revealing something of national interest. “This doctor was a little dumb. He could live and work in the provincial capital. Instead he came to our village. He lived there without electricity, without gas. Which doctor does that?” The Shepherd was getting over-confident. He shouldn’t be asking questions to jailer. Luckily, the jailer and the sobedar were beginning to take an interest in The Shepherd’s story.
“Go on,” said the jailer.
“So he chose….” The Shepherd continued but he was interrupted by the jailer.
“Do you understand his language,” he asked Sobedar Allah Datha with a rare smile.
“A little bit, Sir,” Sobedar Allah Datha replied smiling from ear to ear. He was happy that his mentor was smiling.
“Go on, shepherd,” he told The Shepherd with a stern face which seemed incapable of wearing a smile.
“So he lived like a hermit in the village,” The Shepherd continued with confidence. It was the first time he was being interrogated without a beating. “He treated my goats and also the village folks. There was no other doctor, as you know. In his spare time, he used to teach the villagers to read and write. He provoked the villagers against the government. He told people the government didn’t give them this and it didn’t give them that. For some reason, he didn’t have a good opinion of the village mullah. He used to say things which I dare not repeat as they might be blasphemous, as the mullah said…” he was again interrupted.
“Such as?” the colonel asked.
The Shepherd tried to look over his shoulders, forgetting he was blindfolded, and then continued. “For example, something about the earth being round. He said the sun is just a ball of fire and the moon is a barren rock. Even though he was educated I always suspected his state of mind. Some villagers still tolerated him and believed him. But I didn’t. I never believed his blasphemous talks. He told people strange tales from strange lands. He had a lot of books. Some village folks called him The Good Doctor. Not I. I never called him The Good Doctor. He told people about an old man who lived a long time ago in a distant land. This old man drank poison to prove he was true to his convictions.”
Sobedar Allah Datha began to laugh at this point, but thought otherwise on seeing his mentor’s face as stern as a rock.
“He had another other favourite story to tell the villagers. In a far-flung country, a good military man like you used to rule his people. A young man tried to kill this good ruler, but failed, thank God. He was put in jail. This young man was so lecherous he used to hurl vulgarities at the jailer’s wife…..”
“Enough of this nonsense,” the jailer roared. Seeing his mentor angry, Sobedar Allah Datha raised his left foot for a powerful kick, but the jailer made him to stop with the signal of his hand. “What about the degree? How it ended in your house?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. I was coming to this. One summer afternoon, The Doctor came to my house and left some papers and asked me to keep them till he returned from the provincial capital. He told me he was going to join a long march for missing people. You know, sir, he was an educated man, and I couldn’t say no to him out of respect for his education. He never returned. People said he himself went missing. As I told you before, sir, I can’t read and write. One of those papers could be his degree,” The Shepherd concluded.
The colonel did not seem impressed with The Shepherd’s answer.
“What about The Greek who you claim is in your cell? The one only you can see and hear. The one who you claim is hurling vulgarities against my good, honorable wife,” said the colonel tauntingly. The Shepherd could feel anger suppressed in his voice.
“Sir, he takes us as fools. Allow me to beat the truth out of him,” Sobedar Allah Datha offered angrily. The colonel reckoned him to calm down.
“I don’t trust him either. He is no friend of mine. But he is there, trust me, sir. I swear on my dead father. If you look closely, I am sure you will find him. He told me a bizarre and outrageously strange tale about his origin. A tale that no sane man can believe. Even a dumb and illiterate person like myself cannot be fooled into believing such a story.”
“Can you please bother to share his tale?” the colonel asked with an air of sarcasm which made Sobedar Allah Datha to let out a triumphant laugh.
“He told me he was a fugitive soldier in Alexander’s army. When Alexander was returning from India, he escaped and since then he had been living a solitary life in the mountains of our province. I know he is lying because Alexander was a Muslim, not a Greek,” The Shepherd explained.
The colonel had enough of this. As he observed The Shepherd’s rant, he came to the conclusion that he was a well-trained foreign spy faking insanity to dodge interrogation. The colonel himself had read all this bullshit in his military training manual.
He kicked the shepherd in sudden rage and asked Sobedar Allah Datha to continue. Sobedar Allah had been waiting for this moment since the beginning of the interrogation. In fact, he had been wondering all the time why his boss was making a fool out of himself by keep on listening to the bullshit The Shepherd was trying to feed him. He raised his right foot with all his force and kicked at The Shepherd’s blindfolded head. It was against the rules to kick at the head, but Sobedar Allah Datha did not give a fuck about rules at this very moment. This sheep-fucker had said profanities against his mentor’s honorable wife and then tried to make a fool out of the colonel and the sobedar himself.
As The Shepherd’s head touched the ground, he felt like one of Butcher Bahram’s falling bulls about to be slaughtered. He remembered the big mournful, pleading, abnormally turned upward eyes of the to-be-slaughtered bulls. But there was no one to see his fear-stricken eyes behind the blindfolds.
In the chaos of the interrogation room, someone shouted: “Aeroplane banao, bakari chod ko (make the sheep-fucker an aeroplane)”. For those wondering, it’s an interrogation technique many interrogators consider more efficient than waterboarding. Although both schools of interrogators are divided about the fact which technique works better. waterboarding and aeroplane enthusiasts are in the agreement on thing: both works to get the toughest scoundrels sing like a canary.
In the background, a hoarse voice blasted in regular intervals: “I need this country this prison clean from shepherds, doctors, Greeks and all sorts of traitors.” The colonel measured the interrogation room’s length with his steps in sheer anger.
The Shepherd passed out only a while after he was made into an aeroplane.
The Colonel’s Wife
The jailer’s wife lately noticed The Murshid had plunged into a deep state of silence. He had even skipped the board meeting of the National Ping Pong Association. He sat for hours in his study’s solitude puffing Cuban cigars. He even allowed himself to indulge in rounds of whiskey drinking. This radicle change worried the jailer’s wife, a woman of character and honor.
She went on to share her concerns with her best friend, Buland Aara, the wife of a five-star general. They were best friends and had been together in many ups and downs of life. When their husbands pulled out a coup d’état or rigged an election in the national interest or grabbed the best piece of real estate, these woman had always been there to share each other’s burden. They even provided moral support to their husbands for any supposed future war, though the sane husbands knew quite well how to avoid one.
The jailer’s wife hesitantly told Buland Aara about the sudden changes in the behaviour of her husband and that she was especially alarmed by the fact that The Murshid started to talk in his dreams about a Greek.
“I heard him talking in his sleep the other night,” she paused. “He thinks, God forbid, I’ve an unholy relationship with some Greek,” she blushed at the possibility of having an extra-marital affair with a foreigner.
The general’s wife laughed carelessly. She told her that her husband was being insecure. “It happens with man all the time. When they grow old and their penises grow smaller and smaller, they become insecure. Don’t you worry about that,” Buland Aara shared her expert opinion.
The jailer’s wife grew uncomfortable at the psycho analysis of her husband by another woman. Yet, the general’s wife had a point.
“But why a Greek of all the people?” asked the colonel’s wife.
“Who knows. Maybe, he has been to some yoonani dawakhana. Besides, one can see anything in a dream,” she knew almost anything in the world. “Just make him feel strong. Tell him how you can’t take his manhood any deeper. Make him feel big.”
The colonel’s wife blushed again, but she went home convinced there was nothing to worry about.
The jailer sat behind his desk in his office which was in the same building of the undisclosed detention center where the disappeared ones were kept. Sobedar Allah Datta son of Ghulam Rasool sat in front of him on the opposite end of the desk. A man with exceptionally a clean hair-cut and a sleek suit, stood in front of him. He held a file and a pen.
A shaky old video speech of his mentor, who wore a shiny uniform and thick glasses, was playing on TV. He was saying in the speech that he was planning on holding free and fair elections. He said his government had reformed the economy and freed it from the abomination of interest system, and how he had transformed the society of liberals and heretics into a society of pious and believers.
The colonel was watching his mentor’s recorded speech with the same devotion as he always did. He let out a sigh at the end of the speech and faced the man with the sleek suit.
“This is sheer waste of time and precious resources of the state,” said the jailer. “What purpose does it serve to keep their record? If they have been wiped out of our country, why let them exist in our records?”
The man with a sleek suit replied calmly that the Bureau of National Archives and the Intelligence and Surveillance Directorate must keep every single detail of those missing or wiped out. “The National Archives need the record of every traitor who ever tried to conspire against this country,” he replied in a polite but confident manner.
“OK, go on. What do you want to know?”
“This Greek… I mean The Shepherd. Which foreign enemy did he work for?”
“He didn’t say. We tried every technique. He seemed to be a well-trained spy. As impenetrable as I myself can be,” the colonel said, almost in praise for The Shepherd.
“Did you try the aeroplane technique?” the man in the suit asked.
“Yes. We did. Nothing worked on him.”
“Very well. I’ll note that down. Where did you dump the body?”
“A few kilometers from his village,” the jailer paused to think. “We made sure someone will find it out.”
“Very good. Every Muslim deserves to be buried with proper Islamic rites. Even if he is a traitor. Did you leave a note on him?”
“No. I don’t think it was of any use in this case. He doesn’t seem to have any relatives. Even if we left a note, no body was going to identify him anyway.”
“Procedures are procedures. Please make sure you leave a note on every body in the future. Even if you think it’s of no use,” the man in the suit said in a commanding tone.
“Very well,” the jailer nodded.
Sameer Mehrab is a writer and co-founder of Balochistan Times. He often depicts Balochistan's socio-political dilemmas in his fiction and poetry. He is based in Canada.