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      /  Literature   /  Not as Chaste as Mahnaz

    Not as Chaste as Mahnaz

    Written by Younus Hussain

    Translation by Fazal Baloch

    Indifferent to everything I sat brooding on the shore.

    I don’t know what time of the night it was. I was quite dismayed about what had happened three days before. I could not eat properly, and I did not think my boss would be looking for me anymore. The only thing that occupied my mind was why the fish that I had shipped to Karachi got spoiled. Was I solely responsible for the spoiled fish? Suddenly a soft sound caught my attention. I turned around and looked. A female dog was standing behind me. She was pregnant and started wagging her tail.

    “What are you doing here in the middle of the night?” I asked. 

    “Don’t ask me. I’m very tired,” she replied.

    “Come on, tell me.”

    “Are you married?”

    “Yes I am. I have four children, too. Why do you ask?”

     “Then I think I can talk to you.”

     She relaxed and sat down beside me. Then she began talking. “It’s a long story, but first tell me, how many times a day does a person wash?”

     “Sometimes once, sometimes twice,” I replied smiling. “But why do you ask?”

    “Are there some who wash themselves all day?’

     “Yes there are, but they soon fall ill.”

    “I didn’t know how to wash myself before. When I was small, my mother was at captain Charok’s house. Then a child took me to his house. The people there played with me and fed me really well. When I was full grown, I went out for a stroll one day. Lalu’s dog tricked me, saying: ‘Let’s go to the beach and wash ourselves.’ When I returned  home my fur was still wet, so the people in the house had doubts about me. They chased me away from their house.”

     She broke into tears and said, “I made a terrible mistake, washing myself that day.”

     I caressed her head, comforted her and said, “Only those with weak hearts cry about the past. Think of the future instead.”

     She continued, “Now I’m afraid of water. At first I enjoyed washing. But now every drop of water feels as heavy as a sack of flour. I don’t have the strength to lift even a single drop. Just now eight dogs chased me and said: “Let’s go and wash ourselves,” but I ran away. I was running, but two of them still managed to pour water on me. I’m so tired. My back is aching. Look, it hurts the most right here.’

     She took my hand and pulled it towards her back. I pressed my thumb into her back and asked: “Here?”

     “No, a bit lower. Ye… ye… yes, the pain is right there.”

     I took pity on her and asked: “If someone would take you to his house  right now…?”

    “Do you want to take me along?” she interrupted.

     I already have a dog in my house. But my grandmother is lonely. I’ll take you to her house, and you know what you’re supposed to do there.”

    “I know. I have to stay awake and bark at night.”

     I took her along to my grandmother’s. She grumbled and said: “What the hell have you brought along? What use is she to you?”

     I tried to convince her, saying: “She’ll stay with you and go to the trouble of guarding the house for you at night. If she fails to take care of you, you’re free to thrash her.”

     After that I came to see grandmother and the dog every evening. Grandmother was very happy with her. One of her main concerns had been that her chickens kept disappearing. But now they were growing in number.

     Then seven puppies started roaming around the house. I became even more interested in her because my grandmother praised her the whole time. I took better care of her and always brought her good food, so that she could feed her puppies more milk.

    Now her puppies were growing up and were weaned. One evening when I went to my grandmother’s house I didn’t find her there. I asked my grandmother: “She’s not around today. Where has she gone?”

     I’d barely uttered these words when she sneaked in. I kept quiet, thinking she might be afraid I had doubts about her.

    The next night she approached me, sat down and then opened her heart to me again: “I feel sorry for Bassham. The poor fellow has a big house. He has a dog in his house, but he has a lot of domestic animals as well. We’re in the middle of summer now, with warm nights. Thieves are prowling the streets. People sleep outdoors and there’s nobody to look after their houses. If you don’t mind, can I go there at night? The  children are here, after all. They’ve grown up now and know how to bark.”

    I was about to ask, but before I had a chance she said, “I know what  you’re going to ask me. Yes Bassham’s dog is a male.”

     I looked deep into her eyes. Two teardrops were about to roll down her face. 

    Published: Mahtak Baluchi, March 2000.

    Courtesy: Unheard Voices