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  • The Boat
  • Intizar Husain
    Translated by Alok Bhalla (bio) and Vishwamitter Adil (bio)

1

It was still raining outside. Inside, it was warm and humid. Exasperated by the oppressive humidity, one of them opened the window for a moment and then shut it immediately.

“Has the rain decreased?”

“No, it is still raining heavily.”

“Is this the Day of Judgement?”

“Allah! The rain outside is better than the hell in here.”

“There isn’t much to choose between the rain outside and the oppressive heat in here.”

“Where can we go? Everything is underwater.”

“Why is it still raining?”

“Because we are still alive.”

“How many of us are here? We can be counted on our fingertips.”

“There are also the animals.”

“Perhaps that’s why it’s so oppressive in here. How difficult it is to breathe when one is shut in with animals!”

“Yes. And who knows how long we’ll have to stay imprisoned in this place. There is no sign of the rain stopping. It’s been raining like this for days.”

“When did it start raining?”

“When?”

“Yes. Can anyone remember when it started raining? How many days ago?”

They tried to count the number of days. But no one could remember when it had begun to rain. Neither the day, nor the time.

“That means we don’t know how long we have been on this boat or when we began our journey!”

They were bewildered. How long had they been travelling? How many days, how many years, how many generations? That is what always happens when it rains or when one is on a long journey. When it rains continuously, it seems as if it has been raining and raining for years. It is the same with long journeys. If someone travels without a break, he feels as if he has been doing so eternally, from one birth to the next.

“We left home the day it started raining. Does anyone remember?”

Home! [End Page 95]

That was the first time anyone had uttered the word home.

They were startled. “We had homes once!” They recalled their homes as if they had left them behind just recently.

“Alas, if only she had gotten into the boat with me! Who knows where she is now and what waters surround her?”

“Who is she?”

“Oh, she’s the one who collided into me as she was descending the stairs.”

And the whole scene flashed before him: that woman whose eyes were like those of a deer and whose breasts were like ripe and luscious fruit. When he held her in his arms as she rushed down the stairs, he felt as if he were holding a trembling dove. A moment later, she freed herself and ran with long strides like a wild antelope. Then, suddenly, she stopped and returned. The next moment, when the sun was still burning in the sky, she sank beneath the weight of his body and lay in his embrace under the shadow of the palm tree behind the hill.

Steps, courtyards, meandering paths, hills, tall trees full of fruit and birds. How much he recalled! But why remember houses that had crumbled in the rain and had been washed away by the flood? None of them had accepted the fact that the waters had risen above the mountain peaks and had not spared their homes.

“How can we forget our homes? We spent our days there, sang songs for new brides there, lamented the dead there.”

Their eyes brimmed with tears. They remembered their homes and wept. Slowly, without hope and without doubt, they accepted the fact that their homes had been destroyed.

“O dear friends, those houses were destined to be destroyed.”

“How?”

2

Then Gilgamesh fell on his knees and spoke. “O fellow travellers, if you have the clarity of vision, then consider my fate. Behold how many tumultuous and wild seas I had to cross to reach that land where Utnapishtim was resting. I prayed to him thus: ‘O Utnapishtim, I had heard that those who seek, find blessing; that at the end of a journey, there is salvation. But I have searched for a long time...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-943x
Print ISSN
1045-7909
Pages
pp. 95-104
Launched on MUSE
2015-09-29
Open Access
No
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