My dearest Risa, I can hardly breathe

Published May 15, 2014
A darkness so deep one cannot recognise one’s own reflection.
A darkness so deep one cannot recognise one’s own reflection.

My dearest Risa,

I am well. Though, I have some trouble breathing – as I do usually whenever the weather turns and you have to bring me my inhaler. But it isn’t the weather that’s changed. It is as though the wrath of Zeus and Hades – the Greek gods from your Percy Jackson books – has stirred up a furious, raging storm.

Dust and ashes everywhere… a scene of utter desolation… darkness so deep one cannot recognise one’s own reflection. Shadows all around, armed with mysterious weapons from Greek myths.

I can hardly breathe. What can I say?

My comrades are out there, somewhere, amongst those shadows, fighting one another.

Do you remember when we were in Ukraine? We made our way through the protesting streets of Kiev to the museum to see a Shark show.

Then, another time, you, Anna and I watched a documentary on National Geographic, with popcorn and coke. It featured hungry sharks with menacing eyes and murderous teeth. They were fed bits of meat, unleashing a frenzy of bloodlust in which shark attacked shark and they savaged first their own kind, then themselves.

You closed your eyes. I can still hear your quiet sobs. Your tears were falling freely. You huddled closer to me and Anna. Imagine, then, such has been my state.

I can hardly breathe, but no matter how much I want to I cannot close my eyes. I feel suffocated.

Perhaps, you remember the time when all our writer friends came over to our flat during the Literature Festival – including your uncles Mohammad Hanif and HM Naqvi, amongst the regulars. But there was also an uncle wearing glasses, gesticulating in the air as he talked excitedly. Raza Rumi. He has left the country now.

The dark shadows that stalked King Arthur in that Merlin series we saw – they attacked Raza – villains like the Knights of Medhir, their faces covered. Their problem with Raza was simply this: why does he speak? How dare he speak!

Oh – and do you recall when, recently, I rushed off to the Aga Khan Hospital Emergency? You sent me a text message: “Baba, when will you come back?” and I replied: “Very soon – just as soon as my friend’s operation is over.”

I told you what had happened. He had six bullets put in him by those same deadly shadows of Greek myth. Hamid Mir, like Sherlock Holmes, unraveled mysteries. Perhaps, he had aimed a critical barb at the Dark Lord – say, Voldemort from your Harry Potter books.

Hamid Mir is better now. Still, many of my colleagues continue to thrust daggers into his body. Instead of steel, they use words. Perhaps they have gotten mixed up with those dark shadows. Dust and ashes all around. A scene of utter desolation. Dense, black shadows hover, armed with deadly weapons.

I was buying books for you in Lahore, when I discovered that my friend Rashid Rehman had been killed. Killed by the cruel, deadly shadows.

Rashid was a lawyer, representing those hapless prisoners who have no recourse. His killers must have been lethal like a venomous serpent. But I have bought you a book called “The Serpent’s Shadow” in which a brother and sister, Carter and Sadie, save the world by battling primordial evil in the guise of a serpent.

Take care of yourself. I will return home soon. Don’t forget to get my inhaler.


Translation by Aliya Iqbal.




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