The animal had been lying there dead for over a day, but Nasir and his family refused to touch it.
“It is paleet (dirty),” explained Nasir. “Call the Hindu bhangees (sewerage workers). They’ll pick him up.”
“They cost too much these days,” said Nasir’s neighbour, Qurban. “This was my dog, by the way.”
“Well, then you pick him up,” said Nasir.
“I can’t. I am Muslim like you, remember?”
“Then why did you keep a dog in the first place?”
“I didn’t know it was forbidden to keep dogs. I only got to know a week ago. I’ve been repenting ever since.”
“So you killed the dog?”
“No, I just let it go. I just threw a few stones at it.”
Another neighbour, Kamran, joined the conversation: “Isn’t that your dog, Qurban sahib?”
“Yes. It was. Until last week.”
“How did he die?”
“Who cares how he died,” said Nasir, agitated. “It’s a paleet animal and it deserves to die!”
“But it is one of God’s many creatures,” Kamran replied.
“Keeping dogs is forbidden,” Nasir announced.
“Why?” asked Kamran.
“Are you questioning God?” asked Nasir.
“Are you God?” replied Kamran.
“No! Of course not.”
“Well, then kindly answer the question.”
“I read it in a book.”
“The Holy book?”
“No, a book by a religious scholar.”
“And you believed him?”
“I just know. Now please help me get this paleet animal off my property. Someone call a bhangee!”
Meanwhile, Qurban, who was listening to the scintillating theological dialogue between Nasir and Kamran, decided to pitch in: “You know, brothers, I think Blackwater killed him.”
He was serious.
“What?” Kamran reacted.
“Well, you see, I was trying to convert him, and …”
“Convert a dog?” Kamran was shocked.
“Yes. I was trying to convert him into becoming a rooster,” Qurban explained.
“Wonderful!” Nasir exclaimed. “What a superb thought. This neighbourhood certainly needs a rooster who can wake us all up for worship every morning.”
Kamran snickered: “Why not just get a rooster, instead of getting a poor dog to turn into a rooster? Why can’t a dog be a dog and a rooster a rooster? Why does a dog have to be converted into a rooster just because you don’t like dogs? Have you ever asked a rooster to turn into a dog?”
“God forbid!” Nasir replied. “That rooster would then become an apostate. We would have to kill it.”
“But we already kill roosters. We love their meat, no?” said Kamran.
“Yes, but a rooster eaten by a true believer actually goes to heaven.”
“Really? Who told you that? The religious scholar?”
“No, actually my grandmother did, God bless her soul.”
All the while, Qurban was deep in thought, scratching his head: “Nasir bhai, had I been able to convert my dog into a rooster, would we have been able to eat it too?”
“Of course, Qurban. We can eat roosters. It is allowed.”
“But, Nasir bhai, he would still be looking like a dog, if you know what I mean?”
“Not if he was properly dressed,” said Nasir.
“Properly dressed?” asked Kamran, shocked again.
“Of course,” replied Nasir. “Can’t let a converted dog run around naked. That’ll be nudity.”
“But roosters run around naked too!” said Kamran.
“Yes, but whereas you can see everything on a naked dog, you can’t on a rooster. They’re born covered.” Nasir explained.
“But you were born naked as well! Did your mother throw stones at you?” Kamran was now getting a tad agitated.
“What do you know, Kamran sahib?” Nasir taunted. “You wear western clothes, don’t have a beard and your wife and daughters don’t adorn the hijab!”
“Well that’s because I don’t want to turn into a rooster and ask my wife and daughters to become hens! I’d rather we remain human.”
“You see, brother Kamran, that’s your problem. Wanting to become human before Muslim,” said Nasir.
“Oh, but I thought it meant the same thing. Doesn’t being a good Muslim amount to being a good human too?” asked Kamran.
“Oye, hoye! What have all those books that you read done to you, brother Kamran? Here, read this instead. Get to know your roots.”
“My grandmother’s recipe for a mouth-watering chicken burger.”
“What has a burger got to do with my roots? And anyway, isn’t it a western dish?”
“Ah, that is what Orientalist propaganda has made you believe. Burgers were originally created by the Muslims twelve hundred years ago.”
“And who told you that? Orya Mabool Jan?”
“Well, I should know. I have Arab blood in my veins, y’nown.”
“Nonsense!” said Kamran. “You are clearly of South Asian stock, like every Pakistani.”
Nasir smugly shook his head: “My ancestors were Arabs, my friend. They used to raise roosters in South Yemen.”
“But, of course,” Kamran sighed.
Enter Qurban: “But, brothers, what about the poor dog?”
Nasir glared at him.
Qurban checked himself: “I mean, the dirty, filthy, paleet, forbidden creature from hell!”
“Well, if you say you were trying to convert him then I guess Blackwater did kill him after all,” said Nasir.
Qurban started to quietly sob: “My poor rooster. Dead.”
“Rooster?” asked Kamran, baffled.
“Don’t cry,” said Nasir. “He died for a good cause.”
“But you used to throw stones at him, Qurban,” Kamran pointed out.
“Yes, but only when I caught him fornicating in public.”
“But where else would a dog fornicate? In your bedroom?”
“Well, as long as he doesn’t do it in public.”
“But roosters fornicate in public too!” Said Kamran.
“Yes, but they are properly dressed. And are male,” Qurban replied.
“What farce! What about the hens that they fornicate with? In public.”
“They do?” inquired Qurban, puzzlingly.
“Kamran is trying to confuse you, brother Qurban. I tell you roosters are pure. It’s the celestial law!” Nasir announced.
“What law? And whose? You grandmother’s?”
“Hold your tongue, Kamran,” said Nasir, now all worked-up. “Mind your language, or you too will end up like that dog. We can’t have more dogs roaming around naked and fornicating in this neighbourhood.”
Qurban looked at Nasir: “Nasir bhai, so does this mean that you … you killed my rooster?”
Stumped, Nasir started to sweat: “Err … no, no, as you said, it must’ve been the Indians.”
“But there are no Indians in this neighbourhood,” said Kamran.
“Then it must be the Jews.”
“What Jews?” asked Qurban.
“I tell you it was Blackwater!” said Nasir. “You said so yourself, Qurban.”
Kamran patted him on the back: “Qurban, Blackwater killed a naked, fornicating, paleet dog. Shouldn’t you be thanking them instead?” he said, sarcastically.
“But, you see, Kamran bhai, he had become a rooster.
“It wasn’t me, Qurban!” Nasir bellowed. “I didn’t kill your rooster …”
“What rooster? He was a dog!” Kamran threw his arms in the air.
“My poor rooster,” Qurban sadly whispered, staring at the dead dog’s body.
I know who killed him,’ Nasir suddenly announced. Then pointing a finger at Kamran he shouted: It was him! He killed your dog, I mean, rooster!”
“What?” Kamran was shocked. Again.
“But why would Kamran kill him, Nasir bhai?” asked Qurab. “He is a rooster, I mean, Muslim as well, just like us.”
“No, he isn’t!” Nasir angrily replied. “He is … he is … he is human!”