- An Unwritten Epic
In Qadirpur, too, the battle was so fierce that those who heard about it covered their ears in dismay. There was panic everywhere. Life was so cheap that human beings were sold for a rupee or two. One man was killed as he retreated a step or two; another lost his life as he stepped forward. One was stabbed in the back; another received a blow to the chest. Qadirpur itself was an insignificant village. How could it have stopped the storm that had shaken even mountains? But thanks to Pichwa’s courage, Qadirpur earned a name for itself. His friends picked up their shrouds, sought their mothers’ blessings, committed their wives and children to the mercy of God, and marched into battle with such dignity and courage as to evoke the heroes of ancient wars. The fighting was very fierce; the earth was soaked with blood and littered with corpses.
The Jats were just as valiant. They had heard of Qadirpur only because of Pichwa: his skills were renowned. That was why the Jats had gathered from all over; mounted on richly adorned elephants, they had set out at night in a torch-lit procession to conquer Qadirpur. Their army was well equipped and disciplined. Their elephants were loaded with guns and ammunition, swords and spears, and they marched in military formation.
Majid had been hiding in the branches of the banyan tree near the idgah when he caught sight of torchlights on the distant horizon. He rubbed his eyes a few times, watched the procession carefully, listened to the slogans, and was soon convinced that the moment they had all been waiting for had finally arrived. He began to beat his drum frantically. When the people of Qadirpur heard the drum, there was panic in every house. Naim Mian’s sons, Owais and Azhar, were sleeping on the terrace, and when they heard the drums and the slogans, they lost their nerve. Owais was speechless with fear, and Azhar was so disoriented that he jumped from one terrace to the next till he reached the Julahonwalli Masjid, beyond which there were no more terraces. Bewildered, he didn’t know what to do after that. Rehmat, who was on guard in the street below, banged his lathi a few times and challenged, “Who’s there?” Azhar somehow managed to regain his composure and identified himself. Laughter rippled across Rehmat’s face. “Mian, you have disgraced the name of Aligarh College.” Rehmat’s taunt was just: when Azhar and Owais were students at Aligarh College, they had been amongst the most enthusiastic participants in the political rallies. Their voices used to ring with extraordinary conviction when they shouted, “Kat ke rahega Hindustan, ban ke rahega Pakistan!” (India will be divided, Pakistan will be created!) After the Partition, however, they had begun to live in fear. [End Page 1]
When Naim Mian woke up, he discovered that Azhar’s bed was empty and that Owais was speechless with terror. He impulsively grabbed his rifle and a box of cartridges. But the moment he heard the crowd in the village square shout “Allahu Akbar!” with wild enthusiasm, the box of cartridges fell from his hands. Alerted by the drums, people began to gather in the village square with their weapons.
Jaffer straightened his turban, picked up his spear, and, smoking his hookah, walked towards the square. Pichwa, who was following him, tightened his tehmad and shouted, “Pehalwan, this is no time to smoke a hookah!” Jaffer quickly dropped his hookah, banged his spear on the ground a few times, and stepped forward to join the crowd. Deliberately, and with great confidence, Pichwa knotted his tehmad, adjusted the amulet around his neck, rolled up the sleeves of his kurta, spat on his palms to moisten them, and then balanced his lathi in his hands to feel its weight. As he walked towards the square, he called out, “Abbay Mammad!” When no one replied, he shouted angrily, “Abbay Mammad, you son of a pig, are you dead?!”
Mammad, struggling to put on his vest, came running from one of the...