THANDA GOSHT and KHOL DO by Saadat Hasan Manto
Posted May 11, 2012on:
Saadat Hasan Manto
Translated from Urdu
Soon as Eesher Singh entered the room, Kalwant Kaur got up from the bed, stared at him with her sharp eyes and locked the door. It was past midnight and a strange and mysterious quietness seemed to have gripped the entire city.
Kalwant Kaur sat on the bed yoga-style and Eesher Singh, who was probably unraveling his thoughts, stood there with a dagger in his hand. A few moments passed in complete silence. Annoyed with the silence, Kalwant Kaur moved to the edge of the bed and started dangling her legs. Eesher Singh still didn’t say anything.
Kalwant Kaur was a well-built woman with wide hips, large and juggling upright breasts, sharp eyes and voluptuous grayish lips. The structure of her chin signified a strong woman.
His tight headgear loosened, Eesher Singh stood quietly in the corner. His hand that held the dagger was trembling. From his built one could tell that he was a perfect man for a woman like Kalwant Kaur.
Kalwant Kaur finally broke the silence, but the only words she could utter were “Eesher darling.” Eesher Singh looked at Kalwant Kaur but unable to bear the heat of her piercing eyes, looked the other way.
“Eesher darling,” Kalwant Kaur shrieked but immediately controlled her tone, “where were you all these days?”
“I don’t know.” Eesher Singh moved his tongue over his dry lips.
“What kind of answer is that?” asked Kalwant Kaur angrily.
Eesher Singh dropped his dagger on the floor and lied in bed. It seemed as if he had been ill for many days. Kalwant Kaur looked at the bed that was now filled with Eesher Singh and felt sorry for him.
“What’s the matter with you, darling?” Covering Eesher Singh’s forehead with her palm Kalwant Kaur asked lovingly.
Eesher Singh, who was staring at the ceiling, looked at Kalwant Kaur and gently stroked her familiar face. “Kalwant.”
His voice had deep pain. Kalwant Kaur hugged him hard and, biting on his lips, said, “Yes darling?”
Eesher Singh took his headgear off, looked at Kalwant Kaur as if he were looking for support, spanked her wide hip, shook his head and mumbled to himself, “this girl is crazy.”
His long hair fell open when he shook his head. Kalwant Kaur ran her fingers through his hair and asked affectionately, “Eesher darling, where were you all these days?”
“Grandma’s house,” said Eesher Singh squeezing her breasts. “I swear to Waheguru, you are a real woman.”
Charmingly hitting his hand to move it away, Kalwant Kaur said, “You swear on me and tell me where you were. Went to town?”
“No,” said Eesher Singh folding his hair and making a knot.
“You went to town, looted a lot of money and now are not telling me.” Kalwant Kaur was very annoyed with him.
“I’m not son of my father if I tell you a lie.”
Kalwant Kaur was quiet for a minute, then she suddenly started yelling, “But I don’t understand what happened to you that night. You were fine lying with me and had me wear all that jewelry you had looted the other day. You were kissing me all over then I don’t know what came over you that you suddenly got up, got dressed, and left.”
Eesher Singh turned pale. Kalwant Kaur immediately noticed it. “See! Eesher darling, I swear to Waheguru, I smell a rat.”
“I swear there’s nothing wrong.” There was no life in Eesher Singh’s voice.
Kalwant Kaur was now even more suspicious. Holding her lips tight and emphasizing each word, she said, “What’s the matter with you, Eesher darling? You are not the same person you were eight days ago.”
Eesher Singh got up quickly as if someone had assaulted him. He held Kalwant Kaur in his strong arms and ran his hands all over her body. “Darling, it’s the same old me. I’m gonna hug you so hard that heat will be coming out of your bones.”
Kalwant Kaur did not resist but kept complaining. “What happened to you that night?”
“You aren’t gonna tell me?”
“There’s nothing to tell.”
“Burn me with your hands if you lie.”
Eesher Singh put his arms around her neck and pressed his lips hard against hers. His mustache hair got into her nostrils, she sneezed, and both started laughing.
Eesher Singh took his jacket off, looked at Kalwant Kaur amorously, and said, “Lets play cards.”
Kalwant Kaur’s lips moistened, she rolled her eyes charmingly and said, “Get lost!”
Eesher Singh pinched her buttock. Kalwant Kaur moved away painfully, “Don’t do that Eesher darling, it hurts.”
Eesher Singh sucked on her lips and bit on it. Kalwant Kaur melted like hot wax. He threw his shirt off. “So lets deal the cards.”
Kalwant Kaur’s lips quivered. Eesher Singh peeled her clothes off as skin off a goat. He stared her at naked body, pinched her arm, and said, “I swear to Waheguru, you’re some woman!”
Kalwant Kaur glanced at the red mark on her arm left by his pinch. “You’re so cruel, Eesher darling.”
Eesher Singh smiled underneath his thick black mustache, “Let the cruelty begin.”
He began his cruelty by kissing her lips and biting on her ear lobes. He squeezed her breasts, spanked her buttocks red, kissed her cheeks, and sucked her nipples wet. Kalwant Kaur started to boil like a hot pot on a blazing stove. But in spite of all that foreplay Eesher Singh could not get it up. Like a skilled wrestler, he used all the tricks in the book but none worked. Kalwant Kaur, who was brimming with sexual intensity, was getting irritated with his unnecessary moves.
“Eesher darling, that’s enough. Just throw the trump card.” She moaned.
As if Eesher Singh’s entire deck of cards fell hearing that. He loosened his grip and fell next to Kalwant Kaur panting. His forehead was sweating bullets. Kalwant Kaur tried very hard to get it up for him but to no avail. Disappointed and infuriated, Kalwant Kaur got off the bed, picked the chador hanging on the nail on the wall and wrapped herself.
Her nostrils expanded, she said furiously, “Eesher darling, who’s that bitch you’ve spent all these days with who has sucked you dry.”
Eesher Singh kept lying in bed panting without saying a word.
Kalwant Kaur was steaming. “I asked who’s that whore?”
“No one, Kalwant, no one.” Eesher Singh sounded very tired.
Kalwant Kaur put her hands on her wide hips and said with utter determination, “Eesher darling, I must know the truth, I swear to Waheguru. Is there another woman?”
Eesher Singh tried to say something but Kalwant Kaur cut him off. “Before you swear, you should know that I’m the daughter of Nihal Singh. I’ll cut you to pieces if you lied. Now, swear to Waheguru. Is there another woman?”
Eesher Singh shook his head sadly but affirmatively.
Kalwant Kaur went berserk. She picked up the dagger from the floor, removed its cover like a banana-peel, and stabbed Eesher Singh in the neck.
Blood gushed forth from Eesher Singh’s neck. In a frenzy, Kalwant Kaur kept stabbing him and cursing the other woman.
“Let go, Kalwant, let go,” Eesher Singh said with his voice weakening. He had deep sadness in his voice. Kalwant Kaur pulled back.
Blood was jetting to Eesher Singh’s mustache. He looked at Kalwant Kaur with the mixed feeling of gratitude and protest. “My darling, you acted too quickly. But it’s for the better.”
Kalwant Kaur’s intense jealousy raised its head again, “Who’s she? Your mother?”
Blood was now reaching Eesher Singh’s mouth. He tasted it and his whole body shivered.
“And I…and I…killed six people with this same dagger.”
“I asked who’s that bitch?” There was no other thought on Kalwant Kaur’s mind.
Eesher Singh’s listless eyes sparkled for a brief moment, “Please don’t curse her.”
“Who’s that bitch?” yelled Kalwant Kaur.
“I’ll tell you.” Eesher Singh’s voice was breaking down. He touched his neck, felt the blood and smiled. “Man is so weird.”
“Get to the point.” Furious Kalwant Kaur was waiting for an answer.
Eesher Singh smiled again underneath his blood-filled mustache. “I’m getting to the point. You’ve slit my throat. I’ve to tell it very slowly.”
Cold sweat ran down his forehead as he began to recount. “Kalwant, my life, I cannot begin to tell you what happened to me. When the riot broke out in the city, like everyone else I also participated. I gave you the loot but did not tell you one thing.”
Eesher Singh groaned with pain. Kalwant Kaur had no feelings for him and paid no attention to his suffering. “What was it?”
Blowing on the blood-cot forming on his mustache, Eesher Singh said, “The house I attacked had seven people in it. I killed six of them, with the same dagger you stabbed me with. There was a beautiful girl in the house. I took her with me.”
Kalwant Kaur was listening intently. Eesher Singh once more tried to blow the blood off his mustache. “Kalwant darling, I cannot tell you what a beautiful girl she was. I would’ve killed her too. But I said to myself, no, Eesher Singh, you enjoy Kalwant Kaur every day. Taste a different fruit.”
“Oh” was the only word out of Kalwant Kaur’s mouth.
“I put her on my shoulder and got out. On the way…what was I saying…oh, yes…on the way, near the river, I lay her down by the bushes. First I thought deal the cards. But then I decided not to…” Eesher Singh throat was completely dry.
“Then what happened?” gulped Kalwant Kaur.
“I threw the trump card…but…but…,” Eesher Singh’s voice was now a mere whisper.
“Then what happened?” Kalwant Kaur shook him.
Eesher Singh opened his tired and sleepy eyes and looked at Kalwant Kaur whose whole body was trembling.
“She was dead, Kalwant, it was a dead body…a cold flesh…please hold my hand.”
Kalwant Kaur put her hand over his. His hand was colder than ice.
The special train left Amritsar at two in the afternoon and reached Mughalpura eight hours later. Many of the passengers were killed on the way, many were injured and a few were missing.
When Sirajuddin opened his eyes the next morning, he found himself lying on the cold ground of a refugee camp. There was a seething crowd of men, women and children all around him. Bewildered by it all, he lay staring at the dusty sky for a long time. There was a lot of noise in the camp, but old Sirajuddin was deaf to it. He didn’t hear anything. Anyone who saw him, would have assumed that he was in deep and agonised thought about something. His mind, however, was blank.
Sirajuddin lay gazing absent-mindedly at the dusty sky, till he suddenly caught sight of the sun. The warmth of the sun’s rays penetrated every nerve of his body. He woke up with a start. A nightmarish vision rose before his eyes – flames, loot… people running… a station… firing… darkness and Sakina.
Overcome by fear and anxiety, he began searching for Sakina in the crowd like a demented person.
For three long hours he called out “Sakina… Sakina.” He looked for her in every corner of the camp, but found no trace of his young and only daughter. There was an uproar all around – some of the refugees were searching for their children, others for their mothers; some for their wives and others for their daughters.
Dejected and tired, Sirajuddin sat down, and tried to recall exactly where and how he had lost Sakina. Suddenly, the nightmarish vision of his wife’s body flashed before his eyes – he saw her lying on the ground with her entrails hanging out. After that his mind went blank.
Sakina’s mother was dead. She had been killed before his very eyes – but where was Sakina? Before closing her eyes for ever, Sakina’s mother had urged him, “Don’t worry about me – run, take Sakina away at once…”
Sakina was with him – both of them had run barefoot. Sakina’s dupatta had slipped to the ground. She had screamed at him when he had tried to pick it up, “Let it be, Abba!” But he had picked it up. As soon as he remembered that, he put his hand in his coat pocket and pulled it out. He still had Sakina’s dupatta… but where was Sakina?
Sirajuddin tried to think, but he couldn’t. Had Sakina managed to reach the station with him? Had she boarded the train with him? Had he fainted when the rioters had attacked the train? Had they abducted her?
He could find no answers to any of his questions.
Sirajuddin needed help and sympathy, but then everyone around him needed help and sympathy. He wanted to cry, but he could shed no tears. He had lost the capacity to moan.
A few days later, Sirajuddin pulled himself together and talked to some people who were willing to help him. They were eight young men who owned a truck and were armed with guns.
He showered them with his blessings, and described what Sakina looked like. “She is fair and very beautiful – takes after her mother, not me – She has large eyes, black hair and a big mole on her right cheek. She is my only daughter. If you bring her back, God will bless you.”
Those self-appointed social workers reassured Sirajuddin, with a great deal of confidence and sincerity, that if his daughter was alive they would find her and bring her back in a few days.
The young men tried their best to find her. At the risk of their lives, they went to Amritsar. They managed to rescue many men, women and children and helped them locate their families. But even after ten days of searching, they couldn’t find Sakina.
One day, as they were returning to Amritsar to help a few more refugees, they saw a girl standing by the roadside. The moment she heard the truck, she began to run.
The social workers stopped the truck and ran after her.
They caught her in a field – she was beautiful and had a large mole on her right cheek.
One of the young men said to her, “Don’t be frightened. Is your name Sakina?”
Her face became even paler. She didn’t reply. The other young men reassured her, only then did she admit that she was indeed Sirajuddin’s daughter
The eight young men were very kind to Sakina. They fed her, offered her milk, helped her into the truck – she didn’t have a dupatta and felt rather awkward. She tried to cover her breasts again and again with her hands.
Many days passed – Sirajuddin received no news about Sakina.
Each morning, he visited different camps and offices looking for Sakina. He failed to get any information about her. Each night, he prayed for the success of those young social workers, who had promised him that if his daughter was alive, they would bring her back to him in a few days.
One day, he saw the social workers in the camp. They were sitting in their truck. The truck was about to leave. He ran up to them and asked one of them, “Son… Have you found my Sakina?”
“We’ll find her, we’ll find her,” they said simultaneously, and drove off.
Sirajuddin again prayed for the success of the young men, and felt a little relieved.
That evening there was some commotion in the camp very near the place where Sirajuddin was sitting. Four people, walked past him, carrying someone.
When he inquired, he learnt that they had found a girl lying unconscious near the railway tracks and had brought her to the camp.
He followed them.
They handed the girl over to the hospital. Sirajuddin stood leaning against a pole outside the hospital for sometime. Then he slowly walked into the hospital.
There was no one in the room. Only the body of a girl lay on the stretcher.
He walked up closer to the girl.
Someone suddenly switched on the lights.
He saw a big mole on the girl’s face and screamed, “Sakina!”
The doctor, who had switched on the lights, asked, “What’s the matter?”
He could barely whisper, “I am… I am her father.”
The doctor turned towards the girl and took her pulse. Then he said, “Open the window.”
The girl on the stretcher stirred a little.
She moved her hand painfully towards the cord holding up her salwar.
Slowly, she pulled her salwar down.
Her old father shouted with joy, “She is alive. My daughter is alive.”
The doctor broke into a cold sweat.
(Translated by Alok Bhalla)