Two Fridays  

by Eline

 

 

ii.

 

Kamal had been unable to go home; the police were in the house with Ramesh’s wife and sons. More police were on the scene outside the masjid, and even more police were questioning the men who had found the body – Kamal included. Their stories were all the same: they had come out of the masjid, and found him there. Nobody had heard a thing from outside, so occupied had they been with their maghrib prayers. Kamal’s story, of course, was different – he had been outside. Ghulam and the others defended him, saying he had arrived several minutes later, and that he lived under Ramesh’s roof, and he considered his Hindu landlord a friend. With nothing to go on, they began to piece together a far-fetched story: Ramesh, one of Pakistan’s few remaining Hindus, was a sleeper member of an Indian terrorist unit, and he was on a secret mission to infiltrate the masjid and maybe murder a few of his Muslim neighbours. Fortunately, the police said, a good citizen came walking past, foiled Ramesh’s evil insurrectionist plot, and, in the scuffle that followed, tragically beheaded him. The police were satisfied with this story; unfortunately, nobody else was – but then, some new evidence came to light.

Karim had only needed cleaning up and a few bandages, so he checked himself out of hospital and hurried back to the scene of the crime: it was nearly time for the asr prayers. This attack would be quite a story to share with the brothers in the mosque, he had been thinking on the way. When he arrived, however, he remembered his saviours: a slave to sex, a slave to money, a worshipper of a false god, and two people of the book: a Jew and a Christian. How could he possibly admit to relying on the help of these unfortunate souls? But how could he deny that they had indeed helped? He couldn’t lie, and he couldn’t possibly forget their assistance, or pretend it never happened – Allah would look dimly on lies, either to others or to himself, when the day of judgement comes. He stopped at the end of Brixhall Lane and looked down the road towards the mosque. A few brothers and sisters were also approaching it; it seemed to Karim that they were all happy and carefree, none of them with the same doubts and confusion as Karim. The police officer who had spoken to him said that it was highly unlikely that his colleagues would be able to find, and therefore arrest, the four men who had attacked him, and that he was sorry. Sorry! What good was being sorry? Karim needed revenge: he had to deal with this problem himself, then he could lift his head in pride and say he had defeated his attackers – then he could relegate the roles of his five saviours to mere witnesses. He tugged the kafiyeh from his head, shoved it into his pocket, and rounded his shoulders against the cold wintry air. Where does one find drunk English racists? In the pub. Muttering a quick plea for forgiveness, he set off to settle his score.

Pooja, the wife of Ramesh, told the police that her husband had always been a friend of the Muslims – that was, after all, why the family remained in Pakistan, long after their co-religionists had departed for India, and long after their friends and neighbours had left Karachi for their ancestral homes in Jaipur, Delhi, Kanpur. The few remaining Hindus in the neighbourhood were elderly and unfriendly; unfriendly both to Ramesh and family, and to the Muslims that surrounded them on all sides. Ramesh, though, had been different: he took in Muslim lodgers, he worked occasionally in the halal abattoir, and he had even taken part, on occasion, in Ramadan fasting. In fact, Pooja added in a sob-drenched whisper, her husband had been talking seriously of joining his neighbours: of embracing the Islamic lifestyle and forsaking his ancient Hindu roots. On the evening of the day before his murder, he had gathered Pooja and their two sons and told them of his plans, and his expectations for the three of them to join him. After all, he reasoned, there were no suitable Hindu girls for miles around, so no potential daughters-in-law – no wives for his sons Manoj and Jatin. But if they were prepared to live as Muslims – he reasoned further that it would not be necessary to be absolutely devout: just look at Kamal! – then they could have the pick of the Muslim girls. Pooja had just cried a little at the proposal; Jatin remained silent, but Manoj was furious. He had struck his father, then, and had stormed out of the house – he had not returned since. So, the police asked, he had no idea that his father had been brutally murdered? For a minute, Pooja said nothing. Then she took them upstairs, to Kamal’s room.

The George & Dragon – celebrating titularly the victory of a soldier over a great marauding beast: adopted by the English to represent their supposed national superiority in battle, and their eternal struggle against the forces of evil; the defeat of the undefeatable beast, the great English hero, subjugating forces greater than himself. The real George, though, was a mere servant: a soldier of Rome, braver than the rest – he lived and died for his religion, he was one of the early Christian martyrs. He had dared to speak out against the mighty empire that owned him. And now, Karim was going to challenge the mighty beast too: the great rolling force of Englishness, of racism, of Islamophobia; it dared to call him Paki, it dared to call him a terrorist; it tried to take his identity, it tried to swallow him: now he would bite back. Pushing his way into the George & Dragon pub, Karim scanned the dark stinking room and saw them: his dragons, his quarry. He marched over to their table, and before they had even had a chance to notice him, he had punched one of them – not his initial attacker – in his left ear, as hard as he could, which was more than hard enough. There was a moment’s silence, and then, amidst the screams of their friend, the other three jumped to their feet, and jumped on Karim, shouting wordless threats and hollow insults. From nowhere, a knife blade failed to catch any light, then slipped between two ribs into a heart.

 

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