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If you happen to have any friend in Pakistan, for god sake, don’t write any letter to him. He may run into trouble. Your letter may fall into hands that may throttle his throat.
Looks, we have fallen back to the days immediately after partition. At that time, having been thrown out of Peshawar, my home-town, I commited the blunder of joining lots of other writers in trying to build bridges between india and the new country that had been caved out of india’s body.
I wrote no letters to anyone. I scribbled middles. And in one of these middles, I talked of the nobility of a pathan dhobi living in the village of tehkal, close to my alma mater, islamia college. His name was Ayub.
I was not in Peshawar in September, 1947, when our locality, mohalla kakaran, was attacked by thousands of our neighbors joined by those from the trible areas and the armed constables of the local police. My faather who had retired as an army officers just a month erliar, had fought against the horders, along with the rest of the mohalla people. He was wounded.
The whole lot the people of the mohalla such of them as had survived the holocaust, were taken to the balasar fort after the attack. There, none of those whom they might have done some good some other day came to offer a bit of sympathy to them. That was the one thing they would have valued. They could not have gone back to their mohalla. It had been reduced to ashes.
It was the worst of times. Independence had come. And yet it was the darkest moment in india’s history. If india had to be parititioned, why could it not be partitioned peacefully? Stupid question. Too late so raise it.
In the midst of darkness, in the midst of darkness everywhere, someone always comes to give you a ray of hope. That is the lord’s way. The lord does not want darkness to engulf us completely. He has to run the world. He has given to man two sides one that takes him upwards towards him, and the other that pulls him down into some fathomless pit.
Ayub, the dhobi, belonged to the category that takes man upwards. He came all the way from his village tehkal, to the balasar fort to offer to those whose clothes he had washed all his life some words of remorse, some words of sympathy. How did he manage to come here? Did he have someone known among the constables guarding the firt? No one knows.
The nobility of that gesture I had tried to capture in my middle in the sixties, following another skirmish with Pakistan. Kind of the indiaan express that it carried that middle.
What happened then? Binod rao, the express editor in Bombay, showed me a letter adderessed to frank moraes, the chief editor, by the Pakistan high commisnor in new delhi. Thee letter accused me of being an irresponsible writers.
The deputy commissinor of Peshawar so said the letter, had located ayub. And even though ayub acknowledge that he used to wash the clothes of some hindus and Sikhs in Peshawar, he denied having ever visited the balasar fort.
God knows what they must have done to ayub. They must have punished him for the sin of his nobility. And so I say, not with standing its latest perfidy in kargil, go on building bridges with Pakistan. But for God’s sake, write no more letters to friends over there. Look at what has happened to Najam sethi.



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