An unknown Darvish arrived in town that dawn. People rose euphoric, as if rising from the churning of the sea; they were everywhere-- in streets, fields and river banks. The harem, the world of zenanas, was of course, as quiet as ever. Outside there was chaos—inside only pulsation.
Everybody asked, “Who is he? Who is this man whose unexpected appearance has caused such cacophony alongside birdsong at dawn?”
Everybody rushed to see the man: men, women, elderly persons, all went the same way to take a look at the Darvish. Still, there was no end to their seeing. It was as if Duhshashan went on dragging Draupadi's saree, and before pairs of amazed eyes it kept on growing. People kept on viewing the Darvish in the same manner. But there is a God beyond everything who never reveals the secret of the hidden.
The Darvish did not utter one word-- he was absolutely silent.
Many asked to become his disciple. But he remained unmoved. There were a few that would not leave him alone. To one he said, “Leave your garments behind.” The man threw away his soiled clothes and took up kingly robes. The Darvish only smiled, but did not say anything more.
The Qazi of the town heard everything. He too started to visit the Darvish. However much the Darvish declined to speak to him, the Qazi kept on nagging. At one point the Darvish realized that he won't let go. A faint smile lit up his face.
At last the Darvish spoke. “Listen, Qazi sahib, will you agree to what I have to say?”
The Qazi sprang up, “Of course, my master.”
And so the Darvish laughed and said, “Very well then. Tomorrow is Friday; the Badshah of the land will be here. He will ask you to lead the prayers. Can you do something there?”
The Qazi agreed without thinking. “Of course. What shall I do?”
The Darvish said, “You will take two liquor bottles under your arms. When you stand ready for prayers, you will drop the bottles on the prayer rug and break them.”
The Qazi's face turned blue. He trembled and said, “My Lord, you will be free of me, that's true. My head will surely be off my body afterward. But will I be free?”
The hermit replied, “You've set so many people free. Now it's time that you see to your own freedom.”
The Qazi left the place. He thought, “I'll take two bottles to the mosque tomorrow. The Darvish must know more than I do.”
The Badshah came. Along with him came all the officers, ministers, soldiers and God knows who else! Friday prayers began. The Qazi was the Imam. A little later two bottles of rice wine fell from the Qazi's robes. It is only natural that the pungent smell that rose from the broken liquor bottles made all the faithful at the mosque agree unanimously that there was no worse drunkard than the Qazi in the entire universe. The one who got drunk could be forgiven, but the one who was consumed by drunkenness could not be forgiven, nor spared.
They held a meeting to decide on the punishment of such a brazen debauchee. Everyone except the minister said, “Punishment for such a sinner needs no deliberation. He should be impaled.” The minister then stood up and said, “This insignificant slave begs forgiveness, Your Majesty, but I believe that the death penalty is not enough of a punishment for such a criminal. The exact punishment for such a man would be to strip him of his titles, dignity and assets. If he is merely killed, that's the end of everything. But if he continues to live, he will suffer throughout his life. The insult and humiliation of his position will consume him eventually.” Everyone including the Badshah howled, “Thus it shall be.”
A mad man passing them by like a popcornin the wind laughed, “Those insults and humiliation are the prizes of life. You don't get burned by those; they relieve you from life's burden.”
After being so utterly humiliated at the court of the Badshah, when the Qazi stood at the bend of a dark alley, even the street dogs felt sorry for him. When he was the Qazi, he had punished people for wrong-doing. Now they came forward and gave him a sound beating, letting him know that time was changing for everybody. Then came those whom who had convicted and the way they punished him was worse than being impaled.
And yet, even after all these insults and humiliation there was consolation as well, like the touch of the beloved. The Qazi clutched his bony chest and cried, “O Lord, is this how you drowned all my pride in tears! Oh Darvish, where are you? In what faraway land?”
That evening, when the Qazi finally reached the den of the Darvish like a reptile on his breast, the poor sufferer's eyes were droopy. Nevertheless, he had the strength to cry, “Darvish, teach me!—I have come, and there is so little time!”
In the melody of the Puravi music, in the mingling of evening and dusk, there was such pain, but no one noticed.
It was as if someone had said, “Come, son. Come. All your soiled clothes and tattered pride have been cleansed by your tears.”
The Darvish struck his xylophone and sang:
“Bomay sajjada rongeen kun gorot peere hanga goyed.
Ke salek bekhobor na bud jerahosme manzel ha.”
“Drown your prayer-rug in liquor, if the teacher says.
The one who shows the way, knows where the road ends and begins.”
A shadowy darkness with the melancholy charm of the tear-stained face of a motherless daughter chased by her step-mother slowly descendedeverywhere.
The Qazi gathered all his strength to cry out one last time, “Who is there? O my friend on this journey, who are you?”
Nothing could be heard for a while. A deep sound echoed around the silent banks of the river, “Who—are—you?”
A barely audible responserose from the boat, trembling as it said, “Drunken Hafiz.”
Sohana Manzoor is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh