Abu Majal Al Uski
Born in Cairo, Al Uski came to Jamshoro when he was relatively young, say twelve years old. The intonations of the local dialect quickly fired his imagination, and he was known to recite couplets at will.
One afternoon, when the grasshoppers were busy counting how many wishes had seen dust, Abu Majal (around say fifteen-ish) decided to take a different route. Each day for the past three years, he would studiously follow the road from his house to the madrassa. The occasional passer-by would be greeted with a casual greeting, the odd change in landscape dismissed. This humdrum routine did not bother him the least bit, his youth untouched by the stirrings of curiosity that every now and then tried to bite him from the inside. No, the steady road, the casual greeting and the consistency of path soothed him to the point of lull-ness.
But curiosity has a mind of its own.
At first, it seemed innocuous. Just a bit of meandering off the beaten path. A careless whim taken seriously for a minute or more. But there was always more to it, and he knew it. The meanderings were prelude to an awful awesomeness that the road feigned innocence of.
The road, he thought, should know. It should lead, guide, instruct even. But in the end, it was his whim which held sway.
Fifteen years of prelude. Now had come the time for him to shed the well-trodden path in favour of the unknown. And he knew it well that one of these days, he will cross paths with a destiny he had playfully wrought in verse some years ago. What he saw on the first day was like a vision of a temptress leading him on. On each subsequent day, as he went further off his path, her apparition seemed to flesh out more. Within a month, it is as if he was in pursuit of someone as real as the conversation he has in the evenings with the talkative storekeeper near his home about the petty machinations of the jagirdars.
But nothing was spoken, and that made him think that it may possibly be unreal. And at the end of the ten to fifteen minute diversion, it all went poof and left him feeling as if he had woken from a dream. He eventually found his way back, a bit groggy and shaken, trying to make sense of it for the rest of the day, anticipating the next visit feverishly.
He had been transformed, that was for sure, but to what end he did not know. The days and nights had enough regularity to keep the ground under his feet otherwise. And then, she spoke. With a crisp clarity, her voice rang out, “You have followed me with the curious intensity of a seeker. But to seek is one thing, to choose what is sought is another.” Then she held out a chalice saying, “Drink from this cup if you so choose. I am the guarantor, I Shakuntala.”
The gates of heaven peeped out a squeal of delight.