written by Khaled Qayum
When returned Haatim Tai after his lengthy sojourn, he faced his wife, who screamed at him first, then hugged him while laughing out loud later. Befuddled totally at a behavior, which he failed to understand, he quizzed her, “why my dear, light of my lantern, have you screamed at me first and laughed later. I have journeyed over the hills, by the rivers, down the valleys. I sat by the singing brook, listened to the whistling wind, talked to the passing hermits. Why would a woman scream at her husband first and laugh later? I feel I will have to go on another journey to seek answer to this perplexing question.
His wife wiped off her tears, using a sleeve of Haatim’s shirt and gave an enigmatic answer. She said, “I find my heart bubble with the joy, when I feast my eyes off you, my beloved, apple of my eyes, for that I laugh my dear for you have come back after a journey which took you over the hills, down the mountains, by the rivers, across the valleys for the riddles of the universe that you need to solve. I scream first at you, that I know, I will be sending you again on a journey long in distance, over the hills, across the mountains, down the valleys, death defying, frightening, to a land which few can understand, populated with people so pure that even the land is named after them, to find the true meaning of a riddle, which I dreamt other night, when I woke up crying out loud.
“What? have mercy my dear”, Haatim, groaned in despair, “I have not yet taken the load off my feet! I am yet to feast my eyes on your lovely countenance”.
No, Haatim what has to be done has to be done! I dreamt that thou traveled over the snow capped Mountains, called Margallas, into the land of the Pure, to solve the riddle. A quiz so deep that oceans may readily spit their deepest hidden pearls before the true meaning of this quiz may be revealed, a riddle to end all the riddles.
What my beloved, what? I need to know what troubles thy mind. What causes thou to wake up in the middle of night, for I detest the very thought, and feel jealous that I compete with only a thought or a question which captures thy mind, that causes thou to lose thy sleep, only to wake up and cry. It was not me that you cry for, but some odd question, I feel utterly jealous and yet helpless.
Dearest the love that I hold for you in the crucible of my heart is purer than the running waters of Amu Daryia, shines clearer than the ruby of Badakhshan, is more lofty than the highest peak in all of the Farghana or even all of the Caucuses. But you know this needs to be done. My heart is set on it. You have to do it for my love. If you love me, you will do it.
Haatim, took off his shoes, he took off his cap. He took off the small rolled carpet from his donkey which he used for his bed in his long journeys and spread it on the floor. He unwrapped the woolen blanket and made himself a seat. He knew, he was beaten, there was no way out. A passing hermit of Indian origin, some pundit, had once given him a word of advice that it was no use arguing with women. Even God had given up on creation after creating women. He, the mighty Creator of the heavens and the earth had even broken the mould after creating women, thinking any further creation was hopeless.
What do I have to search for, my love, so asked Haatim.
Although it is, It is not, Although it is not, it is. This is the riddle that needs to be solved. This is what woke me up, my love. And for you to find the answer you will have to venture as far as the land of the Pure, this is what I have been foretold in my dream. This is the true mystery of life. It is the mystery of Universe. For this you will have to go to the land of the Pure.
“What a bunch of pure…” Haatim heard his inner self cry out, as he did best to put a lid on his thoughts. What a strange thought!, “Although it is, it is not, Although it is not, it is. Oh well what is to be, is to be…”
What is written so shall be. Haatim Tai tears in his eyes, loaded his donkey with essentials, looked at his wife, who had tricked him into going to the land of Pure, where even the arch angels dreaded setting a foot. With a smile, yet with tearful eyes, in direction of the land of the Pure, he took off. A journey which was to be long and uncertain, dangerous and arduous. He walked under the blazing sun, he walked under the rising moon, he walked by the singing spring, he walked in the sleeping desert. He dragged his donkey along with him. HatimTai thought long and hard of riddles he had spent his life in solving, he talked with his donkey, for he had none other than his donkey to keep him company. He thought of his adventures. He had been to the End of the World, he had seen the Wall of the Laughter, he had seen the Seemurgh. Now he was to solve the secret of riddle which kept his wife wake at night.
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. He kept searching for the land of the Pure. He traveled over the hills, down the valleys and then one day he found himself on a road which headed towards the rising sun and was guarded by tall pine trees on two sides.
What place is this, he asked a passerby.
This is the land of the pure. He was finally informed
He accosted the people he saw with the riddle his wife had beset him with and he was met with blank stares. It went on for days. Then one day, he met someone who could guide him, to a wise guy, one who had all the answers. The wise guy lived in the Margalla Mountains. Haatim had to leave his donkey on the path guarded by tall pines, which he came to know was locally known as Margalla Road, in order to seek the presence of the wise guy.
As Haatim started to climb up the hills, the donkey Haatim so lovingly called “Burro” decided to saunter off. Burro had been tired sick of Haatim’s journeys and had thanked high heavens for freedom, however fleeting it could have been. The stroll took him straight on the road to some rather large buildings and roads. He inquired upon the road and came to know that in the local land it was known as Constitution Avenue and right across it was a big building which was used for gatherings. Burro decided to enquire upon the building’s inside. He walked over to the side of the road and was met by a stern looking guard.
Where goes thou? The guard asked.
Burro nodded in the direction of the building. Oh, the assembly is in the session and you are late, you may go in. said the guard and ushered Burro in.
On other hand Haatim took small paths and climbed up to the place where the great Oracle of Margalla made an abode. As he reached up, he was met with a man, with eyes deep as oceans and hair white as snow.
“O oracle of the Margallas, I have travelled far and wide, I have sought thy presence, for I want to know the meaning of a riddle which keeps my wife awake at night and she in turn drives me out of my house. She has sent me to this land, the Land of the Pure, in order to search the meaning of this riddle”.
“Women!” Exclaimed the wise guy, “Why do you think I live here”, muttered the great oracle. “Go on, Speak my son”, said the great Oracle.
The riddle is. “Although it is, it is not, Although it is not, it is!” My wife dreamt this one night, only to scream in her dream. She was told in her dream that the answer could only be found in the land of the Pure.
Yes, my son. Yes of course, indeed where else. You have come to the right place, only in the land of the pure. Only in the land of the pure, will you find the true meaning of this riddle, for this is an oxymoron. For this land, the land of the pure too is an oxymoron. In order to find the meaning of the riddle you will have to go to through the great gate.
What is the great gate, O great oracle? Haatim Tai asked.
The great gate is also known as the Memogate. Once you pass through the great gate the meanings of the riddle will begin to dawn on you, son. But, hurry the great gate is about to be closed. Thou must not waste time. Hark, listen to the passing wind as it blows, the time speeds away. You must hurry before the Memogate is closed. Once you pass through the Memogate, you shall understand the nature of the riddle and its answer.
Where would I find the Memogate, O great Oracle? Haatim Tai asked again.
Located in the valley of Power, it leads to the house of the Elite, my son, in the land of the Pure. Hurry, hurry my son… speed away. And the great oracle would say no more.
Haatim Tai bowed down to kiss the hem of the robe of great oracle and begged leave from him. He climbed down the mountain ridges, he stepped down the stones, he crossed the ravines, but when he reached down the great road guarded by the tall pines Burro was nowhere in sight.
Burro, Burro he cried out, but it was in vain.
Burro he cried out loud, Burro he cried out in his heart, yet it was all in vain. There was no sight of Burro.
“Burro” he thought to himself, as he tried to compose a quartrain in the style of great Omar
O my Burro, I think of you day and night
But my Burro, you are nowhere in sight,
Although my Burro lives in my Heart and mind,
Yet my Burro is nowhere to find.
Then like Majnoon of yesteryears calling for Laila, he called out for Burro and started walking on the road of Margallas. As he walked chanting the name Burro, he met many a stares. A man in uniform stopped him.
“What are you looking for?” asked the man in uniform.
I am looking for my ass, replied Haatim
You look for your ass on Margalla Road, it is Illegal to look for ass openly in the land of Pure, and you better come with me.
On the following day Haatim Tai was presented before a wise man, who was to adjudicate his case.
Your honor he was looking for ass on the Margalla Road, complained the man in the uniform.
Explain yourself, asked the judge, why were you looking for ass on the Margalla Road.
Sir, I left it on the Margalla road, so I was looking for it on the Margalla Road.
“What? You left your ass and then you were looking for it”, the wise old judge, wizened with great many years, nodded as he tried hard to understand.
“In this great land of the Pure one has to watch one’s Ass very carefully, and, you left it without your watchful eyes, unbelievable! Listen my friend, you look like a foreigner!”, he continued, “In this country, life revolves around ass. Either one is watching it, saving it, covering it, chasing it, shaving it, licking it, kicking it, whatever one does, has to do with ass and you say you left yours on the Margalla Road”.
“Sir, I have had my ass for a very long time and I thought it would be faithful to me.”
“I have had my ass for a very long time too, but I would never let it out of my sight”, replied the judge.
“Your honor, I loved my ass, and never thought it would leave me”, said Haatim.
“I love mine too, but how can you ever trust”, said the judge.
“Sir, it was a very good looking ass, especially in early years”, said Haatim, “and never betrayed me before”.
“My ass never betrayed me when I was younger too, confided the judge, but now when I am older it is a different story, and I am not so sure.”
“Sir, I carry all my stuff on it and my ass travels with me, over the hills, down the valley, by the rivers”
“You must have a tough ass or you treat it roughly”
“Sir, but it really is a donkey. I feed it grass, it even sings for me in the long lonely nights”, added Haatim.
“I don’t care what you call it or, think of it, or, what you make it do.”
“Sir, I travelled over the mountains, down the valley, across the rivers, in search of a quest and my ass left me”.
“You have my sympathy, said the judge, but what was the quest?”. Now judge was getting sympathetic, as well as curious, for he had shared feelings about ass with Haatim. This prompted Haatim to narrate everything that had passed with him, the dream of his wife, long arduous journey with Burro, crossing the Margalla Mountains, meeting with the wise guy.
“Oh”, there was a painful expression on the face of the judge. “Oh” he groaned out loud. It is an oxymoron. The land of the Pure is an oxymoron. Look, he started to tell Haatim, in this land of the Pure, there is nothing Pure, yet it is called the land of Pure. Even the air is not pure, water is not pure, yet we call it the land of the pure, food is not pure, medicine is not pure, but still it is the land of pure. This land has everything, yet nothing is available, there is food, but it is so expensive, you cannot even touch it. There is electricity but cannot use it when you want it. There is gas, but only people residing beyond the venerated Memogate, in the Citadel of Power can ever use it. Similarly, it goes with everything…” the judge was lost in some fleeting thought.
“But the Memogate…” broke in Haatim.
“That too, it is there, yet it is not there. Since the government says it is not there, it must be there. Your wife must be a genius, a saint. Wonder what she sends you after now”.
And, the judge let him go.
Burro in meantime found out that he was sitting in the great hall of fame, the assembly of great folks where the laws are made. What is happening? Asked Burro
We make Laws, don’t you know”, nudged the guy sitting next to him.
What are these laws about? asked Burro again.
Nobody knows, we are here to tap the benches when the guy ahead of us asks us to do, don’t you know. We get paid for it.
Why do we beat the benches?, asked Burro again.
This way we make noise, and if we make noise, we get to go on the television and make noise in the evening shows; we become popular and make more money and more noise, said the guy and started beating on the bench.
Outside Haatim had two immediate problems on his hand, the search of Memogate and Burro. In search of the two, he found himself on the Constitution Avenue.
I want to go through the Memogate, He asked to a uniformed person.
The uniformed person pointed in the direction of big white building. Haatim walked over there. Soon he was standing in front of another guard. Haatim repeated the question and the person replied, too late. The person with the key to the Memogate has refused to come to the land of the Pure and the Gate has been closed.
Now, Haatim called out again for Burro in front of the great Hall of gatherings. A guard with stern face came after him, what do you want, what are you looking for?, the guard asked.
I am looking for my donkey, said Haatim trying to be careful this time.
The stern faced pathan guard pointed towards the building and said, “ Oh, inside there are more than 350 donkeys, how will you ever find your donkey, buzz off”.
Inside the great Hall of gatherings, they had made laws of which nobody had a use of. They had beat up on the benches, then they had beat up on the walls, now they were beating upon each other. They wanted laws which would affect everyone but the people who were inside the great Hall of gatherings. In the land of the Pure, laws are made entirely for the people who lived and worked outside the valley of power and citadel of elite. Everyone inside the great Hall of gatherings wanted to live inside the Citadel of Elite the way of which went through the Valley of Power where laws of nature and otherwise were held null and void. They were hollering, they were howling, they were berating, they were braying. Burro had had enough. He could take it no more. He had to leave. As he came out he found Haatim waiting for him at the door. Both met each other with open arms. They narrated what had happened to each other, and, vowed never to part. Now they knew the answer to, Although It is, it is not, Although It is not yet it is, or it was the other way around. Now they wanted to escape from the land of the Pure to land of not so pure, back to where ordinary mortals resided, and Haatim could stretch his back. Haatim hoped his wife would not trick him into going to another journey to the land of the Pure ever again.