Sunday, December 11, 2016

Short Story: The Hen Chase

In a faraway village on a day long forgotten some events stirred the life from normal to chaotic. The village was under a spell of boredom that had never been broken - till this day. 

In the fields, Farkhanda was busy tying and retying her hair when her first cousin approached her with a letter for her second cousin. Innocent as she was , she accepted the letter and went on with her hairdo. The author of the letter was Hamid who had been haunted by the elementary school teacher ever since she came to return their lost lamb. 

On the other side of the field her father’s pal, Munshi had seen them and the first thing was to not protect the honor of his friend! He told him he had seen his daughter and the reply was its not unusual to see his daughter. But as the whole story was communicated to him in five sentences the color of his face changed with every sentence. But then he thought why waste time on killing her, when sleep was what the body was demanding from him at that time. But munshi reminded him his honor was at stake, and he was finally persuaded into killing his little girl of fourteen.

The munshi had his own reasons to instigate his friend. A few months back he had proposed to Farkhanda and when she didn’t agree he tried a new tactic, threatening to kill her only cow. She not only spat on him but also pushed him into a heap of cow dung. 

His mother Mai who lived alone now, had been living in this village for over fifty years and was popular for being a magician. Although she didn’t know how her magic worked she was always determined to prove it true. And this time she trying a new chant when all of a sudden she saw a shadow. She looked up to find a boy with blood on his face! Mai realized the chant was evil and ran out with the boy following her!

Munshi’s own household was in shambles. His wife, Sabiha bore him eleven children and had no food to cook. She was worried, not because of the food but because one of her children was missing since yesterday. Although she blamed the child , calling him a brat in public, in her heart she knew that her children were too many now to keep a count.

The village was one of the many villages blessed with a motorway and even a police station. The police station due to its tin roof was scorching and frying underneath it was inspector Rana. Two criminal had been freed. Not just because taking care of them was too much of a hassle but also because someone in the phone had promised to pay him nine hundred rupees to free them. Why keep them when freeing them will pay more, he thought.The only risk was the criminals could be caught on the motorway. 

Farkhanda’s father emerged and grabbed her by her wrist dramatically and started off for their home. Although she was still not satisfied with her hairdo she was inquisitive about what was on her father’s mind.

When her father reached home he said “ I will have to kill you for cutting off my nose.” It was beyond her comprehension because his three inch long nose was still visible where it was yesterday. He asked her to sit under the tree and wait so that he can bring his knife. A few weeks ago on Bakra Eid a goat had been sacrificed and she knew she has replaced the Bakra this time rather then the hens. She had a better plan then running away.

When her father returned he shouted, "My daughter ran away!" and started running towards the motorway. When Sabiha heard this shout from far away she was convinced that someone had found her son. She started running towards Wahab. The school children saw them and assumed collectively they were chasing a hen and that it was far more interesting then school. They too joined the chase and the school teacher ran too , to stop them. When Hamid saw his love running and shouting he couldn’t believe the power of his words and ran after her to calm her down. 

The Choudry was observing the crowd. He had a formula, right or wrong ,to win an election do what the majority approves, and this time it was not the majority but the entire village running therefore had no reason to not to run with them. When Inspector Rana heard this noise he was convinced that the thieves had been discovered . He went out with his gunmen , fired a shot in air and everyone stopped! On being inquired what they were running after , the inspector got varied answers, from “hens”, to “daughter” and “son” and the Mai was still shouting her chants in his face. So putting all the men in jail was not too bad an idea to the inspector. 

The police station was still ablaze. The women and children were out to find Wahab’s daughter. They had been unable to find her since afternoon. The rumors was that she had committed suicide. Wahab had long forgotten the tale of his nose and was crying now. The Chaudry and Munshi were sitting in front of the inspector enjoying tea. The bloody-faced boy was returned to Sabiha, who had left for home. The inspector was relieved on not finding the real criminals. The old woman was chanting loudly for Farkhanda’s safety, anticipating her death as it would ass spice for gossiping.

To her surprise Farkhanda appeared, along with Munshi’s wife! She had been hiding on the same tree top combing her hair under which she was assigned to sit. Her father asked her to explain to the policeman he was innocent. Remembering he had threatened to kill her she turned around and explained to the policeman what the dagger in her father’s hand had been for. Sabiha confronted and slapped her husband for proposing marriage to little girls. This time he fell not on the cow dung but the Choudary himself and this distressed him even more!

This story was first published on on 1st October, 2005.

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