A Sheet

Salam Bin Razzaq, translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon

Read time: a minute

A Sheet’ again is set in the time of Hindu Muslim riots in Mumbai. The protagonist is a businessman from Pune who needs to go to Mumbai on a business trip. His wife, Salma, is worried listening to the news of riots. She doesn’t want him to go. However, Anwar has immense confidence in his friend ‘Vidya’ who he knows since childhood. He is certain that no harm will come his way when he reaches Mumbai. In this confidence he leaves his city.

It is only after he arrives in Mumbai that he now feels the tense environment around. The transports so he walks to his friend’s place. They look after him well but he has a feeling that they maybe trying to hide him. It takes time for him to relax in the Hindu Home even when he realises that the family genuinely cares for him. He remembers the good times spent together. He eases into the night when a scream blows into the air.

He watches a man burnt alive in the street ahead through his window. There are people watching from balcony but no one steps out to help him. The man, most likely a Muslim, dies screaming for help. The narrator himself is helpless.

The story comes to a whirlwind of emotions when the cops come and enquire about the murdered. Everyone is mute.

Then comes an thunderous yell - ‘At least throw down a cloth to cover the body. Have you lost all sense of humanity?’

One by one his neighbors start throwing a sheet each from windows of their houses.

Anwar closed his window and sat down on the bed. Suddenly he felt the whirlwind of dread starting to subside in his mind, replaced by a terrible emptiness. Astonishingly, all at once, he had risen above every fear, every apprehension.

It is a dark story well written. It is again from the collection called ‘The Greatest Urdu Stories Ever Told’ selected and translated by Muhammad Umar Memon.

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com