Tethering the Motley in the yard he muttered under tone: when sheaths ripen the coming asarh, I will buy another of your pedigree. He tested the knot on the moving his hand gently on the ox’s back. This act sent a feeling of exhilaration through his whole being. He was not entirely overwhelmed with that passion when his back felt a volley of disrupted breathing. He turned upon his heels swiftly but by that moment the sensational breath had changed into a shrill shriek, which pierced the space all around.
They say it was Paro’s last scream.
She was Wilayat Khan’s wife, possessed with evil spirits. They also tell that with this final cry of terror Paro recovered from her hysterical fits forever. This incident however rendered her dumb and nobody beard her speaking ever again. This condition pained those who recalled the good days, when, after suffering the usual fit, she recovered from the evil influence and regained herself completely. So much so that Wilayat Khan wondered at her recuperation and the house resounded with the bursts of her laughter.
Nevertheless, it did not seem as if her final scream had swept off her all uttering, smiling and shrieking, nor did she subject to the fits anymore. Her lips were nonetheless sewn forever, sealed as if it were with the crust of muteness. The hajjan Mom agitated over Paro’s barren lap, her perpetuated silence and addressed Wilayat thus: “I know you passionately cherish Paro’s welfare, possessed as she is, makes unbearable hue and cry, yet you solace her. Dumb as she has turned now numbs the very heart and then is this dreariness. All praise for you, despite these untoward happenings you contemplate the beast to have a second wife. Anyone will be tempted to bring in one. Listen to me, waste no more time, and remarry. God-willing gloom will give way to bloom in this desolate abode.
When Wilayat heard such talk, he turned pale. He uttered no word and looked despondently at Paro’s lips, which he found sealed as ever. Far back when they began living together, Paro’s laughter echoed, and Wilayat also doted on his pair of oxen, which emerged with flying colours on all occasions of village racing tournament. He kept these animals at the other end close to mangers. He was very proud of this pair. His mirth however evaporated when he peeped into Paro’s eyes, bedimmed and devoid of lustre. She was indeed in a miserable state. It was not long that they had married, there was no apparent reason for discontent yet something quite imperceptibly perplexed her. This predicament marred the gay atmosphere of the house and rendered it unbearably morose. Her smiles and giggles were gagged by this involution. The house was overflowed by this stolid awkwardness. Wilayat Khan, before whom lay prostrate all his opponents of Kabaddi, by virtue of his calm demeanour somehow managed to keep Paro in good humour.
Soon, however, this compulsive humour began poisoning her inwardly. This situation arose after a year or so when Wilayat purchased the Motley. Wilayat was among the few of village darlings. His high regard accrued from his enviable physique, uppish stature and victories in the Kabaddi events. Then he was owner of the handsome pair of oxen, which outmatched the entire Punjab breed in running. He was well versed with the art of maintaining himself. He got up early before darkness dispelled, marched briskly for miles, on way back he hewed with the axe one large pack of firewood. His diet comprised parathas fried in pure ghee, glassfuls of lassi and milk. In the evening he massaged his total body, exercised at dand baithaks and tried prowess with sturdy friends for hours. He took pains to the point of fatigue with the pair of oxen: bathed and scrubbed clean their bodies, oiled horns and hoots, reaped fodder and brought it to his dwelling, chopped it. He soaked oil cakes, mixed them with hay, put this forage in mangers, unfastened the oxen and conducted them to feed on it. He derived immense delight out of this.
Then exhaustion overtook him and he became restless inwardly. In order to wriggle out of it, he hit upon a ruse. He went to purchase the Motley. In the coming asarh he planned to add to his cattlehead as the granaries would then be full to brim. His scheme did not materialise because the swelled barns depleted all of a sudden. He did not purchase another animal. This was also due to the fact that Wilayat Khan had himself changed his mind. It was strange as the Khan was a person of resolute nature, whatever passed through his mind, firmly settled on it and nothing could efface it except the complete accomplishment of the idea. Otherwise he remained grossly disturbed. On the contrary now Wilayat Khan did not only abandon the project, but also the very thrill of executing it extinguished in his heart.
The story goes that he made up his mind to get the Motley castrated and was about to leave with it for the veterinary when Fazloo reached with his cow which was on heat. He behaved that there was no other pedigreed ox throughout the area far and near and was cautious lest his cow conceived a mongrel. Wilayat was as hesitant as he had been while marrying Paro. His was the conviction wrestling forbids flirting with a woman even in imagination. He had to yield when his palaestra-pails hurled a challenge. The true claim of masculinity lay in wresting Paro otherwise it was all an empty boast, they said. Paro was lambardar’s daughter, a ravishing beauty.
Her youth had bloomed all of a sudden in the near going- by days!
She came of age bewitchingly, which overwhelmed the entire village. Adolescence had been stealthily overtaking damsels of the locality quite for some time. Neither the girls themselves were conscious of this metamorphosis nor the people around got any wind of it. Puberty in the case of Paro approached bursting and thrusting. Her whole body proclaimed youthfulness ostentatiously. Wilayat noticed this rapturous reality also but he seemed least proned and his body remained immune from the germs of covetousness. His fellow-fighters of gymnasium, with tucked waistbelts, persistently asserted that only one who had Paro for himself could justificably claim genuine manliness. Wilayat determined to pass through this test of hardihood. He swore not to rest until he secured Paro. He was a bit handicapped, as he did not belong to the prosperous class of farmers. At the same time he owned sufficient patch of land, which ranked him with the well to do. Then, to boot, he was the scion of a noble family, possessed well-built physique and was famous as the champion of Kabaddi matches. These factors procured him Paro.
At the time Paro was tied in wedlock unto him, his tranquillity interrupted inwardly. Similar sensation overtook him now as he listened to Fazloo saying: “Look Wilayat sonny! my cow hails from an impeccable species. I brought it from across the rivulet, and paid a huge sum emptying almost all the wallets. When I milk it utensils overflow to brim. To tell you the truth I avoid glancing its udders lest evil befalls. Got wills it that the ox you own sounds very sturdy, its cohibition will procreate progeny pure. ” Fazloo continued bragging and boasting at a strain. Meanwhile Wilyat stood up on his feet quietly motioning him bring the cow closer for mating with the Motley.
The day Fazloo brought the milch that yielded abundant milk, along with its fondling calf, Wilayat at their sight felt strange sensation pervading through his veins. Fazloo obligingly sent milk to his house the whole month through. Wilayat Khan forbade but he desisted not. One day when Paro churned this very milk, she suffered a spasmodic fit. The attack was so severe that she tore her clothes and clutched at the hair. Her jaws twitched, bands and feet cramped, she writhed in agony. Hajjan Mom declared her as one “possessed”. They recoursed to charms and amulets, fumigation and incantation, forty-day meditative exercise, circumvention at home to ward off demons and circumambulations at shrines to invoke bliss. Exorcism did not come up and Paro’s agonising condition tormented Wilayat beyond endurance. He failed to comprehend the harm done to demons by Paro who had clinched and clung her so maliciously.
Paro’s fits and the Motley’s hits turned together the talk of the town everywhere. The much-milk and comely-calf boasts were broadcast by Fazloo vehemently. Wilayat was extremely delighted with all that. Resultantly many more cows from the village and neighbourhood reached with frequency to benefit from the Motley’s mating. Delivery of healthy calfs and offering of milk to Wilayat became a routine matter. Overflow of milk and ghee at home leavened the limbs of Wilayat still further. On the other hand Paro’s condition worsened. The demons initially possessed her at the time she churned lassi, now writhing fits became more frequent. Under these spasms she behaved queerly, as if amorously fondling a tiny babe. Such actions of Paro prompted hajjan Mom to assert that if she were delivered of a child, her severe fit-hits would cease to occur. However days on sudden seizure of such convulsions enhanced and expectation about Paro’s bearing became far and few between.
Oh this biological make of a female! It is absolutely a labyrinthine mess, a confused entangled mass. Outwardly sheen and shining, so fresh and fine, it suffers inwardly from numberless ailments. With a husband of Wilayat’s solid and vigorous built, if Paro was devoid of motherhood, deficiency lay somewhere within her. Thus declared hajjan Mon, and everyone believed it to be true.
Once again she was conducted to saints and sane souls, recipes of sanyasis were poured down her throat, solemn vows of offerings were made at various shrines, but in vain. Paro hesitated to tie an amulet or take a philter for purpose of personal relief, but haj’an Mom compelled her to try all such novices. Many a device was employed, but nothing seemed to have borne fruit, nothing was to be born, and she bore none. Wilayat was apathetic to all this- apathy or fatality whatever the reason! He seemed contented only with the tidings of a newly born calf or a pail full of milk sent by way of offering to him.
As a matter of daily routine, standing in the yard, he patted affectionately his Motley and at the same time, lending an ear to a villager’s account of a lately delivered calf. Suddenly from verandah rebounded the thud and throe. Paro had fallen on floor churning lassi. She cried shrilly, her voice piercing through the still. Wilayat hurried to the scene of tragedy. He found her lying flat on the ground in a wretched state.
Wilayat delayed no more, he resolved. He turned on his heels swiftly, unfastened the Motley from peg, and repaired to the vet-dispensary. When he returned home, he noticed at his back the warmth of Paro’s disorderly breath, which changed into clamour. They affirm that was he latest when Paro shrieked and thereafter she was never seized with spasms. At the same time they were aggrieved because the demons had packed off with all her pronouncing words.
(English rendering by Prof. Shoukat Wasti)
to read in Urdu