“Who would have known,” is all that a journalist has to say – while sitting in a restaurant in Islamabad – about the rumours surrounding the resignation of Hafeez Sheikh. “People are calling him the next Shaukat Aziz,” adds a friend sitting across the table, enjoying a sizzling hot steak, just served by the waiter.
“I wouldn’t call him Shaukat Aziz’s Mini-Me (clone),” disagrees the journalist.
“Why,” asks the friend in a disinterested manner, as his entire focus by now has shifted to the task in hand: slicing into the tender-juicy steak.
“To become Shaukat Aziz’s Mini-Me one has to not only become the prime minister first but also to…”
“Runaway after becoming the prime minister,” interjects the friend as he cuts into the steak.
“Cannot even be compared to Moin Qureshi,” continues the journalist undeterred by his friend’s interruption, “because in order to become Moin Qureshi’s Mini-Me, one has to…”
“Simply go away…after becoming the prime minister,” interjects the friend again, after taking his first bite.
The journalist pauses for a second as if losing his train of thought.
The friend before attempting a second bite, surveys his plate and then adds: “In the end, it all boils down to this,” pointing towards boiled green peas heaped on the side of the steak.
The journalist looks confoundedly at the green peas.
“They are in season, just like Hafeez Sheikh…”
“Actually Mini-Mes are in season,” cuts in the journalist, regaining his flow of thought.
It’s the friend’s turn to look questioningly at the journalist.
“In fact there is another Mini-Me in the pipeline and like Mr Sheikh, he also hails from Sindh.”
“Whose Mini-Me,” asks the friend.
“Bilawal’s” says the journalist and then adds, “anti-PPP forces in Sindh are planning to launch Bilawal’s Mini-Me right before the elections.”
“Who is he?”
The journalist is reluctant to divulge more information but offers a hint: “He has the same last name.”
“Bhutto or Zardari,” asks the friend as if inspired by logic.
But the journalist refuses to divulge more information.
The friend realising his predicament, pits one final question: “Any other distinctive features, besides the last name?”“Interestingly,” says the journalist, a sinister smile protrudes from the lips: “Better Urdu.”
“Oh! The Urdu factor,” says the friend in an emphatic manner, as if finally deciding to bequeath the whole discussion some serious after thought.
“Urdu reminds me,” says the journalist, as if just remembering something else. “Have you read Intizar Hussain Sahib’s novel Basti,” referring to the novel in the list of finalists for the International Booker Prize Award.
The friend nods his head but then with a guilty expression confesses: “Actually I read it last week…”
“After it got selected for the Booker Prize,” the journalist asks accusingly.
“I guess as readers also we lack originality….we are all Min-Mes from the inside…don’t even pick up an Urdu book till the Goras don’t praise it.”
“What did you make of it (Basti),” asks the journalist.
The friend says it as if in hindsight: “Actually you know what,” pauses for a second, parsing his thoughts, and then adds, “there is a conversational Mini-Meing going on…with a historical dimension…And it is beautifully captured in the book.”
“What do you mean,” asks the journalist.
“I mean conversational cloning: there is a 1970s scene in the novel – right before dismemberment of Pakistan – in which people in Lahore are talking about America coming to save us, then scene is cut to 1857, Delhi under siege, and people are talking about Iranians coming to save us…”
“And then today there is Zero Dark Thirty (May 2 Abbottabad raid) and we talk about China coming to save us,” the journalist knots-in his own stream of thought into the conversation.
“Exactly,” seconds the friend with a hand gesture, giving the steak knife in his hand a slight raise.
The journalist, as if, putting two-and-two together, adds: “So it’s quite possible that our conversation today…”
“Could just have been cloned from another conversation,” interjects the friend, taking a one last bite off his steak.