Tariq was approached by Waqar to undertake the present job during a family outing. His firm was recently awarded a contract for supply of electrical panels to a London based electrical maintenance firm, a subcontractor for British Rail. He looked forward to his visit to London for installations and commissioning. He felt uneasy when Waqar discreetly enquired about his possible assignment in London. Waqar dreamt of a fantastic revenge on England for its despised support to Israel and participation in invasion of Iraq, action in Afghanistan , the list was long with tedious explanations and he vehemently spoke of crafty western agenda.
“The big Satan has been humbled and now it’s the turn of small Satan to pay a just price for being its pet poodle.”
The depth of vehemence conveyed in tone and sense of commitment by Waqar alarmed Tariq. It was not the first time he heard such display of deep hatred from him. May be he was just letting his steam off and would go back to mind his business of the profitable grocery shop and a nubile French mistress.
“What do you think brother?” Waqar was tipsy and eager to discuss his pet subject further.
“I don’t know what you are talking about?”
“I am talking the punishment to the cruel poodle?”
“I don’t like politics and its quite good life here.”
“I have a good plan and hope they approve it... even if they don’t. Who can stop me to do that on my own?”
“Are you serious?” Tariq had wished it were his usual ranting and nothing more serious than that.
“Well every one wants to do more in life.”
“It’s ok. But why you think of such things all times.”
“And once again let some one else become a hero, why not me?”
“Well I don’t waste time dreaming such things.”
“You are a greedy man, only concerned with wads of money. But ever you thought it has some ones blood on it?” Waqar looked at him with piercing glare.
“Forget it. We are supposed to be here on a picnic. Aren’t we?”
“Forget it? Forget what?” Waqar demanded.
“Nothing brother... Now please don’t get worked up and spoil the mood. See the ladies and kids are looking at us. Please stop this crazy thing and be normal. Will you?”
Tariq didn’t like the way Waqar was treating him. He has always been pompous and authoritative but things were getting too serious for him to put up with his unpredictable attacks and personal insults.
“Shut up! You are only interested in money and have no conscience. Why you hide your face when I tell you about the sacrifices, pain, blood and death? Are you are a sissy? Be a brave man and accept the things as they are. You are an unbeliever, too fond of western life.”
Waqar loved to rebuke, influence other and display his authority and senior status. He was three years elder than Tariq and that suppose to bestow on him power and authority of an elder brother.
“I think you have taken to more western ways than me and your crazy imagination doesn’t make you more faithful.”
“You have forgotten our culture and manners. I don’t like it.” He snarled.
“Did I say any thing wrong?’
“Yes you did. I am talking of some thing of great importance- revenge, martyrdom; and you are telling me all this bullshit.”
“Please don’t tell me you are you serious!”
"It’s your pay back time brother."
"What does that mean?"
"So you forgot like others too?"
"You were helped to settle down here, earn good money. Didn’t you promise to payback?" The Cold words conveyed menacing possibilities for any betrayal.
Tariq remained silent.
“I can offer supreme sacrifice and ready to be a martyr through any means. What about you?” Suddenly Waqar sounded too calm and serious.
Tariq looked at him to judge the depth of his belief and was curious to know more about his plans. He tried to rationalize his aversion to join Waqar in his holy war.
“I love my little family.”
“A true solder never thinks of these things when a war is being fought.” Waqar persisted in his attempt to influence him.
Tariq was silent, judging him further. Waqar kept looking up and nodding. Slowly he began to speak.
“But you too are helping the cause in your own way. May be it’s better than not doing any thing at all. Every one can not be expected to offer the supreme sacrifice.” Waqar’s voice was clear and calm. Just few moments before he was speaking like a drunk with no self-control. Tariq relieved but wondered whether he was witnessing a subtle acting.
“It’s true I do it for money and have no interest at all in the messy politics.”
They were sitting crossed legged on a flower printed sheet spread on a country roadside, drinking beer and munching delicious tandoori chicken. He could see their wives taking a stroll, watching children play hide and seek behind bushes. Tariq frequently changed posture to ease pressure on his back muscles, to avoid relapse of dreaded painful backache.
“But brother, you can get more money if you are ready to do some thing more than the usual.” Waqar said in low voice, intensely watching his reaction.
“I am happy with whatever I get doing coordination and don’t want to land in some real action, which I don’t like. Its better we continue to do whatever is possible and stay hidden, out of trouble.”
“It is also coordination work only and some important information will be needed.” Waqar opened a new beer and handed him.
“What’s that?” Tariq enquired.
Waqar was silently looking at ladies and children having a good time, laughing, and running after each other.
“I too have family to take care of and a sick mother back home. But I am not greedy and selfish like you. I may be caught some day, betrayed by some rascal. Then what will happen to them?”
“You are right. I told you many times, happy doing little things and leave rest to the experts. We are not experts you know.”
Waqar didn’t reply and again looked at blue sky, brooding, slowly nodding, as if listening and agreeing to some divine voice from sky. He seemed to have gone to his trance once again. Tariq drank and waited patiently, closed his eyes and thought about Praveen and Ali his son. He decided to cool off his relations with Waqar. It would do him no harm or perhaps be a better option, given to his friend’s dangerous obsession and preoccupation with a lunatic revenge plan. He wished it was one of those crazy ranting and Waqar would go back to his life as before.
“I some times wonder what I am today.”
Tariq could feel he was being exposed to some hereto-secrets hidden in recess of his friend’s fertile brain. He tried to listen carelessly as he had always done-betraying no keen interest and eagerness, which he was indeed developing.
“I am an unknown shopkeeper with some money? But who knows me back home? No body.”
“Is it that important to be well known?”
“Yes it is. I want my name remembered by every body.”
“Remembered? What do you mean?”
“I loved football and wanted to be a professional footballer. But my father wanted me to be a doctor. He never listened to me and made sure I missed my practice of the day, being locked up in my room with my tutors of various sizes and shapes to mug up physics, chemistry and biology lessons. Some of them looked like heartless monsters. They would test my memory and hit a ruler on my extended soft palm. I felt humiliated and I wanted to kill the devil and thought of various methods. That would result in an accidental death of those hated monsters. But could not venture beyond the planning stage and never gathered courage to execute the plans and prove myself, at least to my self. Later when I got to know their own miserable conditions and compulsions to make my father happy; trying to prepare me for a career in medical profession; I gave up those grand assassination plans, those poor tutors were just trying to make a living and earn to keep their kitchen fires on.”
Waqar took out another beer. He was a gracious host and would make sure his guests would have had enough of delicious food and drinks.
Tariq knew all this background, having heard his friend many times over, but Waqar seemed so lost and trying hard to explain his position, he had no option but to listen and nod in agreement as he was suppose to do faithfully. One has to be and seen attentive and react in proper way when elders are saying some thing or any thing they felt like saying at any moment. Waqar resumed his monologue.
“Now I am sure that stage is near and looks quite possible it’s with in my own reach. No matter if they approve my plan or not. I have other options and some like-minded resourceful friends with me. And they are as passionate and willing as I am… I mean…”
Waqar looked away, fell silent turned his face looking at the noisy children and ladies, his eyes becoming moist. His daughter Henna raced toward them threw herself at him and started to sob.
..............To be continued
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