The Witness


Shahid…Shahid… wake up, it’s sehri time”, he heard his mother calling him twice but decided to pay no attention, and then after few more knocks he answered in a sleepy tone, “I am tired mother, I can’t fast tomorrow”.

God be with you”, murmured his mother and left.

After not more than 10 minutes Shahid’s door was again knocked but this time no soft voice accompanied it, the knock in itself was more loud and…terrifying.

For God’s sake leave me alone, I am tired I said” he shouted in an annoyed tone. “Shahid… open the damn door” it was a familiar voice, but not a feminine voice of his mother. “Who is it” replied Shahid alarmed.

It’s me Ajaz, open up now” the other voice was heard saying. “What on the earth are you doing here ? It’s nearly quarter past three! ”, Shahid said while getting off the bed. “Allah! Would you care to open the door first, I’ll tell you”, said the person outside Shahid’s closed door in a choked voice.

Shahid lit up a candle and opened the door. The cold air of winter rushed in as Shahid’s friend Ajaz entered his room. He was scared, terrified breathing heavily as if he had come running a long distance. He closed the door behind him and locked it. He unlit the candle and seated himself on the wrinkled bed.

What is wrong?”, asked Shahid who now looked worried. Ajaz sat down and went speechless; he looked at Shahid with a strange look as if he was begging him for something. “Stop looking at me that way, and open your mouth now”.

Shahid… its them, they are looking for us, again” Ajaz said in hushed voice. “Who them? Ajaz what’s wrong?!”

Ajaz  had a scared look in his eyes,  he looked pale, could not hold on to his breath, almost choked and after few moments of enquiring from Shahid, he said in a cracking voice, “the searching party, the army… they are in hundreds… looking for us !”.

Ajaz broke down, while Shahid was still not sure of what had happened. He handed his friend a glass of water and seated himself besides him. Patted his back and asked, “Did they see you, Ajaz?

Not yet, but they will find us, they were asking for us, shouting our name”, Ajaz said regaining his voice, “what is worse, they have already got Farooq, God! I am scared they will beat him to death now”.

Shahid now looked worried. “Have faith in God”, he said, but in his heart of hearts he knew that they will get caught. And for what ? Raising guns? No! Killing someone? No! Then stealing something precious? Not at all! They were educated, earned well, lived well but… but one thing bothered them. It bothered them so much, that they took to streets. They were agitated, angry and frustrated. So they thought…they thought that protesting against the death of their friend would not do any harm. They were among the mourners, among those who sobbed, among the protesters and finally among the pelters.  They pelted stones, in answer to the murderous tear gas shell that hit Ajaz on his right foot, to the smoke that roused out of the shell and blinded their entire village, to the shots from the guns that deafened the listeners. And they rose slogans, against and in favor of the pros and the antis. They could not have been silent and watched. So they spoke and did. But, what they did was too much in the eyes of law. And that law… what law?

They had to pay, to run for their lives. They had to do something before they were caught. So they did.

Have faith in God”, he got up. Went to the locker, opened it. Little amount of money and papers, of business may be, and placed it all on the bed. “You have money, Ajaz?” he asked. “Yes, I thought it will help us while we flee”. “Give it to me”, he took the money and put it with his money and rest of the papers on bed.

We don’t know what happens to us next… your mother and my mother will need it, they’ll find it”, he stopped, “here I am putting a note with it”.

Shahid put on his pheran and handed another one to Ajaz, “Here wear this, it’s cold outside”. Ajaz was not sure where he was going, but he knew that with Shahid he would be safe. “Now, don’t make any sounds, mother is awake for Sheri, she must not know.”

They jumped through the widow. It was not so dark outside. Dawn was approaching. They had to run fast or else they could be seen. They opted for narrow lanes. A labyrinth of lanes. They held each other’s hand tightly. And that trust you can never find. From childhood they had built this friendship. They grew up like brothers together. This race was for their life. They were in it together as a team. And to win was to live.

Dawn was knocking at the night’s door. They could hear the Azaan, from every corner, from every mosque. There was one in every direction. “Shahid, namaz?” asked Ajaz breathing heavily. “If we live for that, Ajaz” said Shahid.

After half an hour of exile they stopped, “I need water Shahid”, Ajaz was tired. “It’s Ramadan, you fool, Sheri time is over”, Shahid was visibly agitated. “But…” Ajaz wanted to say something but Shahid curtailed him and they were again on the run. Their last run togather. They got on the main street. A fence and they were out. A fence, sharp wired fence. “Come on climb up” shahid said to Ajaz. “You go first, I am scared”. Shahid climbed the fence; he was on the other side of the fence. “come on now, be quick” shahid  was holding the wire low, his feet were embedded in the moist soil, behind him was a dark abyss where no one could find them. They could spend sometime hiding here. Atleast this is what Shahid had thought. “Hold it tight” Ajaz said and set his right foot on the wire, the sharp wire prick him on the scar made by the shell earlier. He cried and left the fence. “It hurts” Ajaz was ailing with pain. “Try Ajaz try please, just once” whispered Shahid on the other side of the fence. Ajaz put his step again, half way up, the wire caught hold of his pheran sleeve. “Tear it”, whispered Shahid. “I am thirsty shahid, water?” Ajaz sounded blank.

“Shoot ! shoot ! shoot n…. There he is… the bastard !”

Chaos,something happened… a loud noise made Shahid lose hold of the fence. He fell backwards, his hands were wet. He fell into a dark chasm, unconscious. He could hear a voice in pain of death. Familiar voice, but he had lost his sense of judgment.  He heard ,“Kill him, kill this bastard ! ”… “They won’t find anyone to speak against us”…. Shahid felt as if he was dreaming. “Mother… water…” the familiar voice cried.

The sun hit him hard on face, he woke up. His head was heavy. He found himself alone and worried. He looked at his hands, something red laced them. “Blood?” he thought. He crawled towards the fence. The other side of the fence left him shattered. Ajaz’ body was bathed in blood. The sleeve of his pheran was torn. His face was laced with dirt. His lips were rough…. thirsty… deprived of water. Shahid knew what had happened. He was the only one there. He wanted to call Ajaz’. He felt strange, could not speak, and could not utter a word. He felt like a lunatic.“I didn’t give you water” he said finally, and sat staring his friend for long till there was a crowd around the corpse. “Who is he?” he was asked. “I did not give him water he was thirsty”. Shahid kept saying it until everyone started to look at him as a mad man. As he was indeed declared a lunatic, he became one.

He was shahid, he was the witness to his friend’s death, but now he was a person who just knew one thing, “I did not give him water”.

By Aiman Banday.


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