A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME1
A month later when Yashab came out of his house, few people could recognize him. He wore eyeglasses and a portion of hair on the right side of his head had become white. His right hand in the pocket of his pajama, a black leather bag in his left hand, Yashab walked through the streets in the early hours of evening. Before dark he came out of the northern gate and went to the bus depot. He bought a ticket and sat in the bus.
At midnight the bus came to a halt. Yashab stepped out. It was a busy place; a lot of buses were moving in and out of the bus station. The smell of petrol penetrated his nostrils. Corridors ran along the three sides of the depot and he could hear film and devotional songs blasting from the many tape recorders in the restaurants and shops. He saw many passengers waiting for their buses. He wandered aimlessly for a long time. Just before dawn, he bought a ticket for a bus going north and sat in the bus.
As the bus left the city, the sky became lighter and the air clearer. He saw the first line of mountains appear in a haze. The road became narrower and started to climb. By mid-day the road was flanked by steep hills and valleys. Once in a while he would see the tall body of a northerner, with his gun hanging from his shoulder, watching his herd of goats. By the afternoon the bus reached to the top of a mountain, the driver lit another cigarette, shifted the gears and started the long descent into the valley below where a few houses were visible.
The driver stopped the bus in the valley and went out. There were stone houses all around the spot where the bus had stopped and one could hear the rush of the nearby river. The passengers started to descend in ones and twos. Beside the road was a "cafe" where a few people were sitting around a clay oven eating their meal.
Yashab came out, stretched his body and walked toward the river. He bent down to soak his face in the swiftly flowing cold water. Then he raised his face, made a cup with his hands and drank the refreshing water. After a few minutes he got up and walked along the river. The mountain air refreshed him. He turned toward the wayside cafe.
Most of the passengers in the bus were inhabitants of the north. He could see their luggage — food and clothing - on the roof of the bus. They were sitting in groups, eating and talking. There was also a foreign couple among the passengers. The man looked tired and had a strange smile on his face, as if apologizing for his presence. He was looking at the mountain peak and eating an apple. The woman, who was being stared at by all the passengers, looked more cheerful and constantly
translation of chapters three and four of Inxila'y Book I of a trilogy (HijrataiN), published by Ad-Daira, Lahore, 1987.
Annual of Urdu Studies, #7 53