Thou Art, Thou Alone Art

Written by Akhtar Mohi-ud-Din | Translated from Kashmiri by M Siddiq Beig

It is now that my vision is getting clear. Not that I discern anything, or that I get a feel of anything palpable, but assuredly, not that darkness which terrified, that led you astray; something like a perception that there is somebody on the other side of the wall, or something breathing “yahoo, yahoo” in and out.

Well, who or what can be there on the other side of the wall? How can I say! I still admit to my blindness.

My eyes even today perceive the darkness still in its undiminished state, but not altogether unrelieved by a feel of witness. This very feeling overwhelms me or else would suffer soreheadedness still further.

I reminded of the heavy wine of the intoxication when my hair was pitch black, when I felt the eagle within me poised with two flexed wings encompassing the whole universe. Then this darkness seemed to me the envy of all colours. I then struck my head on any lamppost that vaunted it forth to others in the intoxicated lot or the blind, “I did away with him.”

Nimrod, as he got piqued, took and threw the sling to the skies. They say that blood poured down the skies. An outcry rose, “It is dead, it is dead”.

That nimrod verily was I who threw the sling. That drugged one, too, was I who struck his head against the lamppost. It was the selfsame I who raised the outcry: “He is dead, he is dead.” I raised the outcry in the good faith because I was witness to this death. But that terrifying darkness no longer remains which besides led you astray. I now perceive on the other side of the wall….but what after all?

I feel like giving a call, “Who is there on the other side of the wall?” But I am afraid, all aquiver that this very voice might ring back from the other side. I myself will feel helpless to say who I am. What on earth shall I say? How do I know who am I; I never had so keen a sight as to find and what if my query echoes from the other side, what will be there for me to say?

A blindish smile very likely might be playing on my lips because I relish keeping turning in my mind of my bygone days, and my brows might be tremulous with fear because I have come to regard those acts sinful which I committed when I was Nimrod.

Gracing the throne of Egypt I stood loftier than all others. My reason has taught me that there is nothing like sky. I stood towering above all because the hills and mounds were far away. Then, as I gave a cry from the heights, “There is nothing save I,” I felt that it was my voice after traversing the whole universe reaching me back. I would then say to my courtiers, “Do you understand how my voice, after traversing all there is, reaches me back had there been anything to impede it or standing in its way……”

My courtiers prostrating before the columns of my throne would say, “Verily, this is the truth. Thou art, thou alone art.” There acquiescence would make me believe and this belief strengthened still more when the parrot in the golden cage hummingly intoned, “thou art thou alone art,” The parrot’s eyes were real pearls.

To tell the truth there was no need for me to throw a sling to the skies, because I was aware that the sky is a mirage in space. This not withstanding. I threw the sling to the skies to bring home to not a few Abrahams that I could do even this. And then, for the first time, my brows where a tremble when blood poured down from above….. “If there was nothing there, what died then?”

I would fain wish those rivulets of blood issuing from the skies should stop pouring down. Waters of the Nile, made incarnadine turned the ridges and banks scarlet. It being gory all around, the trembling of my brows argumented still more. My brains pricked as if with thorns, “If there was nothing at all there, what died then?”

Believe me it is only since then that doubt assailed me that there is something on the others side of the wall. This something, who knows what, is bleeding but alive, or who knows whether it is really bleeding. It is just likely that my eyes are jaundiced and things seem to them of a colour they are not.

Kings cannot afford to reveal their real thoughts. Nimrod could ill afford to take Abraham at his word. That is why I raised the cry that even if there were something, there remains nothing new. It was because of this that my pearl-eyed parrot repeatedly cried away: “Thou art, thou alone art”

Propaganda forces a tongue-tie on many Abrahams reminded of this, a smile might be playing on my lips that I had won that war. Abraham was at bay. Nobody had believed him, however much he had tried. I alone seemed to believe him, thinking to myself, “if there was nothing at all there, what died then?”

When I got a crypt made for myself. Sculptors from various countries came and began to fashion many designs of their workmanship. I yearned to secure for myself every possible comfort, so that no worm or insect could make its appearance there. I moreover wanted to make it sound-proof and I put such stone blocks in constructing it as resisted the heat of the blazing sun.

The artisans were all praise for my sagacity as the pearl-eyed parrot kept on crying: “Thou art, thou alone art!”

But within,, some fear was gnawing me. The worms and insects might attack if the grave gave away. Besides, if the grave was not sound proof, my wails might reach the ears of the wayfarers outside: the fear that hell-fire might take stones hot, prompted me to make a fortress of the crypt. The fear had made its appearance from the very day when I had thrown the sling to the skies and the blood had poured down. “If there was nothing there at all, what had died then?”

A tremendously big show is being played on this as well as on the other side of the wall. Age after age, I grow new skin like a serpent and doing again what I had tried myself in the ages bygone. In each new life, I believed in good faith that I had something entirely new so new that I had never done before. In every age, I threw a sling to the skies and struck my head against the lamp-post; recognizing in every age the only colour which according to my lights is the crown of all the colours…. the darkness.

  • This is one of the stories from a book, Kashmiri Short Stories published by PEN productions, Srinagar.

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