Tuesday, July 17, 2012



A Short Story by Ehtisham Rizvi

As soon as Abdul entered the market they surrounded him. Men and women of different colors, speaking different languages, wearing different attires, some offering success, fame and glory in this world, some in the afterlife and some offering both.

He was confused, he was lost, and he didn’t know who to trust. He reached for the skin under his collar and scratched a little, this collar was too tight and his neck was itchy and sweaty because of it.

‘Believe in God, those who believe will go to heaven and those who do not will go to hell’ the man of god reached for Abdul’s collar and attached his leash to. He started pulling him to the right, ‘let me show you the path to heaven’.

‘He misleads you’ another voice halted him in his tracks. ‘Belief alone does not guarantee heaven. You have to do good unto the society’. Encouraged by the reluctance in Abdul’s eyes, this new man of god (wearing a slightly different garb and sporting a slightly different beard) stepped forward and attached his own leash to Abdul’s collar. ‘Let’s talk about good deeds and how they please God’ he started pulling him in the opposite direction.

Seeing that the two priests had their leashes attached to Abdul’s collar, most of the religious merchants left in search of new customers. The crowd around him thinned a little, but the spectacle was far from over. ‘These religious zealots will lead you nowhere’, this new voice came from a beardless man. His clothes, his demeanor and his accent indicated that the man was highly educated. ‘Organized religion has caused nothing but pain and suffering in this world. Do not follow them, they promise heaven and make you do things that even Satan couldn't dream of’, the beardless man stepped forward and attached his own leash to Abdul’s collar. ‘Serve humanity and God will be pleased’ the beardless man started pulling Abdul in an entirely new direction.

‘What a bunch of troglodytes!’ this new voice made fun of all. The first person to attach his leash to Abdul’s collar was pulling him to the right, the second to the left and the third was pulling him forward. None of them were letting go, and Abdul was moving left, right, forward then left again like a drunkard trying hard to gain his footing. The new voice, which called everyone a troglodyte, came from behind. Abdul struggled hard to twist his neck just enough to see who it was, it was yet another man, sporting a small mustache. ‘Why should your life be aimed at pleasing God? Do you really wish to mold your actions, your hopes and your dreams to please an entity whose existence cannot be proved?’ This new guy also didn’t take long to attach his own leash to Abdul’s collar. ‘I say you only get to live once, you should do what pleases you, not what others tell you to do’ with that he started pulling Abdul in his direction ‘let me tell you what to do’. With that all hell broke loose, although many traders and merchants had cleared out, the remaining all swarmed Abdul like bees to honey. In a matter of few seconds, he had more leashes attached to his collar than he could count.

‘God. Liberty. Righteousness. Progress’. They were all speaking many different languages about many different concepts, but more importantly, they were all pulling him to their respective directions. ‘No more’ he wanted to shout, but there was no way his voice could have left his throat. Come to think of it, there was no way any air could have entered his lungs either. He clawed at his collar, desperate for one breath of air. His eyes were about to burst out of their sockets and he was sure he could taste his own blood in his mouth. The voices around him started to mellow, as if someone was turning the volume down. The picture became blurry and dark. In his final desperate attempt for survival, he grabbed his collar by both hands and pulled at it as hard as he could. The sound of the collar being broken was the sweetest sound he had ever heard. The crowd that had gathered around to watch the spectacle left in disappointment. The traders and merchants pulling at him gathered their leashes and left in search of new prospects. He lied on the ground, breathing heavily, trying to gather his wits. The broken collar shimmered in the scorching sun, and he could clearly see a hint of blood on it. ‘I will have to get that fixed’ his weak murmur drowned in the loud noise which suddenly erupted near the market entrance, another Abdul had just entered.
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