“Sahib has died.” Jainat Ram brought me this news along with provisions from the bazaar.
“Sahib? Which sahib?”
“That half-blind sahib.”
“Oh, the one-eyed sahib. Jackson. Poor fellow.” I looked out of the window. Beyond the moss-covered old wall that was damaged in several places like a row of rotting teeth, Sukhu Bai, seated on a raised cement platform with her legs spread out, was wailing loudly. Next to her was Petu, sitting on his haunches and sobbing. Petu, that is Peter, was a unique example of the intermingling of black and white. His eyes were blue like Jackson Sahib’s and his hair was brown. His wheatish complexion had been scorched by the sun and become coppery.
I have been observing this strange family through my window for years. It was here that I first conversed with Jackson sahib.
The 1942 “Quit India” commotion was at its height. Travel from Grant Road to Dadar provided a brief but vivid example of the country’s restlessness. At the corner of Lamington Road, a huge bonfire had been lit into which ties and hats were being thrown, and when someone wanted to, pants would also be taken off and burned. The scene was somewhat naïve but interesting, nonetheless. Crimped ties, stylish new hats and well-tailored trousers were being dumped mercilessly into the fire. Dressed in torn and tattered clothes, the men in charge of the fire were casually feeding the flames with new ones. Not once did it occur to any of them to consider covering their naked black legs with one of the new gaberdine pants, instead of throwing them into the fire.
Just then a military truck arrived and goras with reddened snouts and lips, all toting machine guns in their hands, briskly leapt out of it with a loud thud. The crowd disappeared in an instant. I had witnessed this spectacle from the safety of the municipal office and the minute I spotted the machine guns, I quickly took refuge in my room.
There was confusion in the railway carriages as well. When the train departed from Bombay Central, only three out of eight seats were intact. By the time it reached Lower Parel, those three had also been ripped out and tossed from the window, and so I travelled standing, all the way to Dadar. I was not feeling any resentment towards these boys. It was if all these trains, these ties and pants, were not ours, they belonged to the enemy. We are burning the enemy along with them. Near my house a long tree trunk had been placed horizontally on the road to block traffic, and a sort of wall of garbage had been erected on top of it. I climbed over with difficulty, and had just arrived at the door of my flat when the military truck showed up. And the first gora with a machine gun to jump down with a thud was Jackson sahib. On getting wind of the truck’s arrival, members of the group responsible for the roadblock vanished into the buildings nearby.
Since my flat was on the first floor many of the boys immediately rushed in. Some hid in the kitchen, some disappeared into the bathroom and the latrine.
My door was open, so Jackson walked in with two armed guards to question me.
“There are thugs hiding in your house, hand them over to us.”
“There’s no one in my house, just my servants,” I said casually.
“Which ones are your servants?”
“Those three –” I pointed to the three men puttering around with the dishes.
“Who’s in the bathroom?”
“My mother-in-law is taking a bath.” Who knew where my mother-in-law was at this moment.
“And in the latrine?” A sly look appeared on his face.
“Maybe my mother, or perhaps my sister. How do I know? I just got home.”
“Then how do you know that your mother-in-law is in the bathroom?”
“When I entered the flat she called out, asking for a towel.”
“I see. Well, tell your mother-in-law that blocking roads is a crime,” he muttered and ordered his companions, whom he had left standing at the door, to return to the truck.
“Hunh, hunh, hunh ...” He nodded and, smiling, left the house. There were meaningful points of light in his eyes.
Jackson’s bungalow was adjacent to my boundary wall. To the west was the ocean. His memsahib, along with two children, was in Hindustan for a visit. The older girl was grown up, the younger one was about twelve. Memsahib came to Hindustan during the vacations just for a few days. The moment she arrived the appearance of the bungalow was transformed. The servants would perk up. The interior and exterior of the house were whitewashed, the garden would be graced with new flowerpots, which people in the neighbourhood would start stealing as soon as Memsahib left, while some were sold by the gardener. During Memsahib’s stay the servants appeared in their livery, and Sahib himself donned his uniform all the time or wore a fancy dressing gown. Accompanied by clean dogs, he inspected the flowerbeds as if indeed, he was one of the sahib log.
But no sooner had Memsahib left than he would heave a sigh of relief, go to his office, and after work put on his shorts and undershirt and sit on the veranda in his armchair, drinking beer. Perhaps his dressing gown had been stolen by his bearer. The dogs left with Memsahib, and two or three terriers, looking upon the bungalow as one that had been orphaned, would settle down in the courtyard.
As long as Memsahib was around, dinner parties were the order of the day, and early in the morning she would call out to her ayah in the most lyrical of tones: “Ayoo!”
“Yes, Memsahib!” Ayah would make a frantic dash when she heard her, but it was rumoured that after Memsahib left, she became the begum. In Memsahib’s absence she took care of Sahib’s sexual needs. Philomena and Petu were living proof of her temporary reign.
Partly because of the “Quit India” turmoil and also because Memsahib had grown weary of the filthy, sweating inhabitants, she didn’t stay long this time, returned earlier than usual to her country, and I had another meeting with Jackson, this time through this window.
“Has your mother-in-law finished bathing?” he asked, smiling roguishly as he spoke in Bombay lingo.
“Yes, Sahib, she’s finished bathing – she has taken a bath in blood,” I replied sarcastically.
Just recently, several fourteen and fifteen year-old boys had been killed in firing that had taken place at Hari Niwas. I was certain that among them were some who had taken refuge in my house the day the military truck came. I was repelled by Sahib. A live weapon of British rule was standing in front of me, making fun of the blood of those innocent people who had lost their lives at his hands. I felt like clawing his face. It was difficult for me to determine which of his two eyes was the glass one, because the glass eye was a first-rate example of English craftsmanship. Packed with the cunning of Jackson’s entire white race. The poison of arrogance was equally present in both eyes. I banged the window shut.
I was angry with Sukhu Bai. That bitch, she had decided to be the delicious morsel for the wicked dog that belonged to the white race. Was there a dearth of cripples and bastards in her own country that she felt the need to auction off its honour? Every day Jackson got drunk and beat her up.
There were extraordinary events unfolding in the country, the white rulers were about to outstay their welcome.
“Their government won’t survive much longer,” some people were saying.
“I say, these are all pipe dreams, it’s no joke throwing them out,” said others, while I would listen to long speeches by the country’s leaders and think, no one mentions Jackson Sahib. He calmly grabs Sukhu Bai by her hair and slaps her. He beats Philomena and Petu. Why don’t the ones who raise cries of “Jai Hind!” do something about him?
But I didn’t know what to do. Tharra was being produced in my backyard – I knew everything, but what could I do? I had heard that if you reported the scoundrels they threatened your life. And actually, I didn’t know whom to report this to. The taps in the entire building leaked day and night, the drains were putrid, but I had no idea where and with whom I should lodge a complaint. Those living in the neighbourhood had no idea who they should complain to if a nasty woman emptied her garbage from a window above on someone’s head. In most such cases the person on whom the garbage had landed would raise his head, look towards the window and, shouting insults, brush the filth from his clothes and go his way.
One day I intercepted Sukhu Bai.
“Tell me, you stupid woman! This scoundrel beats you every day and you feel no shame?”
“He doesn’t beat me every day, Bai,” she argued in Bombay lingo.
“Well, he hits you at least four or five times in two months, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, he does, Bai – but I beat the scoundrel, too.” She broke into a laugh.
“Come on, you liar.”
“Arre, I swear by Petu – I gave him a bit of a beating the day before yesterday.”
“But aren’t you ashamed? You suffer all this at the hands of a white man?” Like a true patriot I delivered a lecture. “These pirates have plundered our country for so long –” etc., etc.
“Oh, Bai, Sahib hasn’t robbed anyone. It’s these servants who steal from him day and night. Memsahib left, and the bearers made off with the cutlery—and with pants, coat, hat, shoes, all gone. Come and see, there’s nothing left in the bungalow. You say he’s a thief, I say if it weren’t for me, these wretches would hack pieces of his flesh and take those away, too.”
“But why do you have such a soft spot for him?”
“Why won’t I, he’s my man. Don’t you see, Bai...” Sukhu Bai smiled.
“Memsahib is a whore...yes!” Sukhu Bai declared. “I know her very well, yes. It’s London where she wants to live all the time.” Here she delivered a foul abuse and added, “She’s always there, never here, and when she comes, then all the time arguing with Sahib, scolding the servants.”
I tried to explain to her that soon the English would be leaving Hindustan and Sahib would leave as well. But she didn’t understand a thing, kept saying, “Sahib won’t leave me – Bai, he doesn’t like Vilayat one bit.”
I had to move to Poona for a few years. The world changed during that time and the English actually left Hindustan. The country was divided. The white ruler played his hackneyed trick before leaving and the country was bathed in rivers of blood.
I returned to Bombay to find that the bungalow’s appearance had undergone a change. I didn’t know where Sahib was. A refugee family was now settled in his house. Sukhu Bai was living in one of the servant’s quarters. Philomena was quite tall now, and she and Petu attended an orphanage school nearby.
As soon as Sukhu Bai heard I was back, she landed up at my house with a few moong beans in her hand.
“How are you, Bai?” she asked, pressing my legs just as a formality.
“How are you – where’s your Sahib? He went to London, didn’t he?”
“No, Bai.” Her face fell. “I told him he should go, but he didn’t. He lost his job as well. The orders came but he didn’t go.”
“So where is he?”
“He’s in the hospital.”
“Why? What happened?”
“The doctors, they said he is drinking too much, his liver is ruined and his mind is not right. There’s a lunatic asylum not far from here, they put him there, in first class.”
“But he was going back, wasn’t he?”
“Everybody told him to, and I said, you go, please.” She burst into tears. “But no, he said, ‘Daaling, I’m not leaving you’.”
I don’t know what happened to me when I saw Sukhu Bai crying. I completely forgot that Sahib was the citizen of a despotic nation, a man who had soldered the chains of bondage. Who had shot bullets into children who were my compatriots. Who had rained fire with his machine gun at unarmed people. A cog in the horrible machinery of the British Raj that had shed the blood of the brave people of my country, whose only fault was that they demanded their rights. But at that moment I didn’t remember anything, except that Sukhu Bai’s “man” was in a lunatic asylum. I was extremely disappointed by my emotional reaction, because a patriot should not feel any sympathy or attachment for a member of a tyrannical nation.
It was not just me, actually, everyone had forgotten. Without any thought as to whether the worm that was responsible for her creation was white or black, all the boys in the neighbourhood were madly in love with the blue-eyed Philomena. When she returned from school, so many deep sighs followed in her wake and so many glances were laid at her feet. Mad with love for her, not one single boy remembered that she was the daughter of that white monster who had drenched a fourteen-year old boy in blood at the corner of Hari Niwas, and who had fired at defenceless women in front of the Mahim church, just because they were shouting slogans.
He had squeezed out the blood of young boys in Chowpatty and dispersed a crowd of emaciated, half-naked, hungry boys with machine guns – everything was forgotten. All they could think of was that the young girl with golden cheeks and blue eyes had a supple waist and pearls strewn behind her fleshy, ripe lips.
One day Sukhu Bai came running over with prasad. “My Sahib has returned!” Her voice was quivering, her eyes sparkled like gems. What love there was in the word “my”. If once in your life you get the chance to make someone yours with such complete abandon, then the desire for reincarnation is fulfilled.
“Is he cured?”
“Arre, Bai, he was never crazy. The officers just took him and put him in there. He’s run away.” She added furtively.
Now I got scared. A defeated Englishman and then an escapee from the lunatic asylum – who could I report this to? Who wants to get involved with the Bombay police? Well, who cares if he’s mad, I’m not about to make his acquaintance.
But I was completely wrong. I had to get to know him. I was also curious about why Jackson hadn’t gone to his wife in England. What kind of person gives up paradise and lives out his days in a shack? One day I got the chance. For a few days Jackson didn’t leave his small lodgings. Then gradually, he started sitting near the doorway. He was skinny. His complexion, which used be red like a monkey’s, was burned to a reddish brown.
Dressed in a plaid lungi and dirty undershirt, he looked like one of the many old Gurkhas roaming the streets of Hindustan. The difference between his real and artificial eye was now beginning to show. The glass was still shiny, clear and “English,” but the good eye, after turning muddy and dim, had sunk a little. He generally roamed around without the glass eye. One day I was at my window and saw him standing under the jamun tree. He would absently pick up a stone, smile at it like a child and then fling it with all his might. Seeing me, he shook his head and grinned.
“How are you feeling, Sahib?” I asked, my curiosity aroused. “I’m fine, I’m fine.” He smiled and thanked me.
I went out and engaged in small talk with him. Very soon he was conversing with me without reserve. Finally, one day, I seized the opportunity and started to probe. After days of hard work I had discovered that he was the illegitimate son of a noblewoman. His maternal grandfather had paid a farmer to raise him, but this was done so skilfully that the farmer never learnt the true identity of the family the child belonged to. The farmer was harsh and tyrannical. He had many sons who found ways to torture Jackson. He was beaten every day, but was well fed. He had started trying to run away when he was thirteen or fourteen. Finally, after four years of failed attempts, he made his way to London with great difficulty. Here he tried every profession under the sun, but by now he had become so hardened, stubborn and devious that he couldn’t hold a job for more than a few days.
But he was handsome and popular with young women. Dorothy, his wife, was from a very snobbish family, and was also not so clever. Her father was an influential man. Jackson thought the gypsy life he was leading was full of problems; every other day he had to deal with the police and the courts. Why not marry Dorothy and save himself from damnation.
But Dorothy was beyond his reach, accustomed to moving in high society. Those were the days when both of Jackson’s eyes were open. He lost one eye much later in a bar brawl, following a fight with Dorothy at home. That was when he only had one daughter.
“Well, how did you capture Dorothy?” I probed further.
“That happened when both my eyes were functioning,” Jackson smiled.
Somehow he had been able to entrap Dorothy. The poor woman was not even a virgin, but she made a great deal of fuss and married him despite her father’s disapproval. Perhaps she had given up hope of finding a husband and was looking for an opportunity such as this.
The father also seemed to recognise his daughter’s limitations. Unable to fend off his wife’s persistent demands, he was forced to send Jackson to Hindustan. This was a time when every Englishman was dispatched to Hindustan, and regardless of whether he had only been polishing shoes in England, he would arrive here and immediately become a sahib.
Jackson broke all the rules. He turned out to be as useless and careless as ever when he arrived in Hindustan. His biggest flaw was his lack of good taste. Instead of living in a style exemplified by poise and dignity, he started mixing indiscriminately with the natives. When he was appointed forest officer in the area near Basti, he frequented all kinds of questionable opium houses instead of going to the club.
There were just a few bungalows that belonged to the English in the neighbourhood, and most of the residents were older, not the outgoing type. As a result the deserted club, where Indians and dogs were not allowed, remained empty for the most part. Nearly all the officers’ wives lived in their own country. If an officer’s wife came over for a visit, he would take leave and go with her to Simla or Nainital. Soon the wife would tire of the heat and filth of Hindustan and return to her home. Sighing deeply, the memory of his beautiful wife in his heart, the sahib would come back.
These sahib folk actually managed quite well with native girls, and the relationship did no one any harm. The sahib got off cheap and it was good for Hindustan as well. In the first place their offspring were either light-skinned or altogether white, and second, they were very fortunate as their influential fathers set up orphanages and schools for them. Compared to the rest of Hindustanis, their education, subsidised by the government, was of much better quality. This good-looking Anglo-Indian class was second only to the English. The young men were easily absorbed into jobs in the army, navy and railways. Girls who were ordinary looking found better jobs than Hindustani girls, adding a touch of glamour to schools, offices and hospitals. Those who were beautiful were very successful in the business of selling their beauty in the westernised markets of large cities.
When Jackson Sahib arrived in Hindustan he had all the flaws of a one-eyed man.
Drinking had become second nature. He fought with everyone and was repeatedly transferred as a result. From the forestry department he was moved to the police, something he deeply regretted. He had fallen for a mountain girl and would have sent for her, except that when he arrived in Jabalpur he fell madly in love with a dancer, and was so consumed by his love for her that his wife spent the entire vacation in Nainital without him visiting her. His excuse was too much work, and then he lied that he couldn’t get leave. Dorothy’s father’s contacts facilitated his leave, but he didn’t take it.
On the one hand, Dorothy had fallen in love with him again in his absence and wanted a second honeymoon, but at the same time she was troubled by the way he expressed his love. After the long time he had spent in Hindustan he had become a complete stranger to her. The mountain girl and the dancer had spoiled him with their absolute devotion. The wife who came for two months every year was a stranger to him, too. To make matters worse, he had to exercise a certain degree of decorum in her presence.
One day, in a state of drunkenness, he demanded a kind of love-making in the style of the mountain girl and the dancer. Dorothy was so incensed that Jackson didn’t know what to do.“Have you been consorting with local women just like sleazy, low class Englishmen?” she demanded. Jackson swore up and down that he hadn’t, then kissed her so passionately that she was convinced of his virtuousness.
He felt sorry for her and told her to go to Jabalpur with him, but the flies and heat drove her mad. She might have suffered through it, but when a two-mouthed snake appeared in her bathroom she started packing. Jackson did his best to convince her that it wasn’t a snake and didn’t bite, but she left for Delhi the next day.
Using her contacts she had him transferred back to Delhi. The second world war had just broken out. Separation from the dancer and Dorothy’s permanent stay in Delhi became a source of extreme distress for him. Sukhu Bai had been hired to take care of the children. When Dorothy left for home with the kids after she got tired of the heavy rains, Jackson turned his attention to Sukhu Bai.
Oh my, how convoluted Jackson’s story was, because Sukhu Bai was actually Ganpat, the head waiter’s keep, and he had coaxed her out of Pawan Pul and brought her to Delhi. He already had a wife and kids. In order to save himself from the burden of her upkeep he got her a job as ayah for Jackson’s children. Sukhu Bai was quite content with a job that only required her to mop floors, wash dishes and cater to Ganpat’s needs.
Sometimes Ganpat passed her on to one of his friends as a favour or as payment for a debt. But he accomplished this so cleverly that for a long time Sukhu Bai didn’t know what was going on. She had already begun drinking, but after she came to live with Ganpat she would drink crude country liquor regularly every evening. Ganpat would bring the customer into his room. No one was afraid of Jackson. Neglecting their work, the servants would drink and gamble, and after Dorothy’s departure all the bad characters from Shivaji Park congregated at Jackson’s bungalow and created a racket late into the night.
When she was quite drunk, Ganpat would leave Sukhu Bai with the customer and go out on some pretext or the other. Sukhu Bai thought she was fooling Ganpat, and gradually went from serving her master to performing the role of the wife’s substitute. This is how she finally got rid of Ganpat who wheedled her entire salary out of her. Ganpat left for the Middle East to work as a bearer in the army and Sukhu Bai permanently filled the spot left vacant by the Memsahib. The only thing was that when Memsahib came to Hindustan during vacations, she would return to her small quarters, and when Dorothy called out in her shrill voice—“Ayoo –!” Sukhu Bai dropped everything and ran in, saying, “Yes, Memsahib.” She thought her English was perfect after she learned to say “Memsahib”. Actually, what else is there in the English language except words like, “yes”, “no”, “damn fool”, “swine”?
Rulers can make do with just a few words, long, complicated sentences aren’t required. For the horse pulling a tonga, “takh, takh” and the language of the whip are enough. But Sukhu Bai didn’t know that the half-dead horse in the Englishman’s tonga had turned rebellious and overturned the carriage, and now its reins were in someone else’s hands. Her world was very limited: it contained her, her two children and her ‘man!’
When Memsahib came to Hindustan Sukhu Bai would very generously give up the role of substitute wife and assume the one of the nanny.
She was not at all jealous of Dorothy. Memsahib might be an example of western beauty, but when weighed on the scales of Hindustani beauty, the result was zero. Her skin reminded one of a peeled turnip, one that had been picked from the branch before it was ripe, and sometimes her face looked like that of a person taken out of a cold and airless grave after being buried for years. Her peppery silver hair was like an old woman’s, and this is why people like Sukhu Bai thought of her as a sunflower, an unpopular flower in Hindustan. When she washed her face her pencilled eyebrows disappeared and her face resembled a picture that has been spoilt by an eraser of poor quality.
To add to this, Dorothy regarded herself as extremely unfortunate and wronged, and thought she was right in making this marriage fail. No matter how high Jackson climbed in his career she could never be proud of him, because every job or promotion had been arranged by her father. Had an idiot been afforded these opportunities, he too would have made something of himself.
Sukhu Bai, on the other hand, belonged to him – she was hot, she had blazed like a bonfire at Pawan Pul, and had warmed the hands of thousands. She was Ganpat’s mistress, whom he loaned to his friends like an old shirt. For her, Jackson Sahib was a god, the avatar of respectability. What a difference there was between the ways in which he and Ganpat expressed their love. Ganpat chewed her up and spat her out just for a change of taste, but Sahib, like a helpless, needy person, looked upon her as the elixir of life. There was something childlike and vulnerable about his love.
When the English left with their Tot Plan, he didn’t leave with them. Dorothy did everything in her power to make him return, even threatened him, but he sent in his resignation and stayed back.
“Sahib, don’t you miss your children?” I asked him one day. “I miss them very much. Philo comes home late in the evening and Petu goes off to play with his friends. I want them to sit with me sometimes.” He started on his stories.
“Not Petu and Philomena, I mean Esther and Liza,” I said cheekily.
“No...no...” He shook his head and laughed. “Puppies are attached only to the bitch, not to the dog that has a role in their birth,” he replied, winking his good eye.
Why doesn’t he go? He’s lying here, rotting. It wasn’t just me, but others in the neighbourhood were also getting impatient with his presence.
“He’s a spy. He’s been left here deliberately, so that he can help the British return to rule again,” said some people.
When the boys in the street saw him they asked, “Sahib, when will you go to England?”
“Sahib, you’re not going to quit India?”
“Leave Hindustan, Sahib.”
“The chora has left.”
“That gora has left.”
“Why don’t you go, too?”
The tramps on the street followed him, reciting from popular Indian film songs, poking fun at him.
That was when I began feeling very sorry for him. Where are the keepers of the world who teach every weak nation the lessons of civilisation? Who clothe the naked in frocks and pants? Who beat the drum of the superiority of their white blood? It is that blood that now appears naked in the form of Jackson. But no missionary comes to cover him up.
When the brats on the street got tired of jeering at him and left, he sat in front of his quarter and smoked a biri. His good eye looked out towards the far horizon, searching for the borders of a country where no one is white and no one is black, where nobody can be forced to leave or return, and where errant mothers do not bear illegitimate children and leave them at your threshold or mine, to begin living lives of honour and respectability.
Sukhu Bai worked as a maid in several homes and earned quite a bit of money. In addition, she made wicker baskets, chairs and tables and earned some money that way as well. When Jackson wasn’t drunk, he crafted odd-looking baskets with no bottoms. Sukhu Bai brought him half a peg of liquor every evening that he guzzled in no time, and then began quarrelling with her. One night he obtained a whole bottle somehow and kept drinking all night. Early next morning he fell asleep in the doorway. Philomena and Petu jumped over his sleeping form and went to school. Sukhu Bai called out, cursing, and then she left as well. He lay there till noon. When the children returned from school they found him sitting against the wall. He had high fever, which got worse the next day and turned into delirium.
All night he was babbling. God knows whom he was thinking of. Perhaps remembering his mother whom he had never seen and who, at this moment, was at some grand party expounding on “moral rectification”. Or maybe he was thinking about the father who, having played the role of a breeding stud, paid no more attention to him than he would to excrement flowing from his own body. Who was probably in some other colonised country, working on bolstering national prestige. Or was he remembering Dorothy’s contemptuous favours, which like the whip of a cruel farmer, rained on his sensibilities? Maybe he was recalling the bullets from his machine gun that had pierced the chests of innocent people and were now returning to wound his soul. All night he was crying out, tossing his head. The furnace in his chest sizzled. The walls around him shouted: “You have no country – no race – no colour!”
“Your country and your race are Sukhu Bai who gave you refuge and love. Because she too is an outcast in her own country, just like you. Just like the millions who are born in every corner of the world. Whose births are not celebrated with trumpets, and who are not mourned when they die!”
Dawn was breaking. The chimneys of the mills were spewing smoke and swallowing the long lines of workers. Tired prostitutes were freeing their bodies from the grip of their nighttime customers and bidding them goodbye.
“Hindustan chod do!”
Voices filled with contempt and hatred struck his head like
hammers. He looked sorrowfully at his woman who had fallen asleep with her head resting on the edge of his bed. Philomena was asleep on a piece of sacking in the kitchen doorway. Petu was sleeping with his head tucked behind her waist. A sigh escaped from his heart and a tear fell from his good eye and was absorbed in the soiled mat.
The fading mark of the British Raj, Eric William Jackson, left Hindustan.
Original story: “Hindustan Chod Do”, 1953. Excerpted with permission from Quit India And Other Stories, translated from the Urdu by Tahira Naqvi, Women Unlimited.