A Balochi Short story by Ghani Parwaz
( Translated by Fazal Baloch)
The moment he stepped into the office he was astonished to see the distorted features of his colleagues. Someone’s eyes were bulging out of their sockets. Someone’s ears were stretched out. Someone’s tongue was sticking out. Someone’s lips had swollen. He stared at them with bewilderment.
Aftab, the clerk, raised his head and bulged out his eyes a bit further and said: “You are looking at us in such a way as if we are creatures from some other planets.”
Imdad, the assistant, raised his ears a little more and asked him: “Why are you looking at us with such wonder”?
Zaheer, the cashier, stuck out his tongue and remarked: “I think he is not feeling well today.”
Muzzamil, the clerk, puffed his already swollen lips and said: “We need to bring him back on the track.”
He strolled ahead, stood right in their midst and said: “But why do you all look so strange today?”
First they looked at each other and then directed their gaze at him and asked him: “What is wrong with us, by the way?”
He smiled acerbically and retorted: “Someone’s eyes are bulging out. Someone’s ears are unusually raised. Someone’s tongue is sticking out. Someone’s lips are swollen.”
Aftab, the clerk, instantly pulled out a small mirror from his pocket and looked into it.
“You damn liar,” he mumbled.
One by one they all looked their features in the mirror.
Someone lashed out at him, “Why do you fashion such big lie?”
“Is this the way to make fun of your colleagues?” Someone else expressed his displeasure.
Muzamil was not satisfied yet. He strolled over to the bathroom and thoroughly scanned his face in front of a giant mirror.
“Lies wouldn’t last long.”
Azhar sat on his chair and looked around and said: “Truth and lies apart, but your faces do not look as usual.”
Ms. Farhat, the secretary to the Chairman, stepped in.
“What happened? Why are you looking so flummoxed?” she asked them.
“Azhar says our features look distorted.” Muzzamal said while looking at Ms. Farhat.
She looked at their faces and said: “No. Everything seems to be as usual.”
“Look at yourself, madam,” Azhar said.
“What has happened to me?” Farhat was puzzled a bit.
“Your cheeks are swollen.”
“O my God!” She covered her face with her hands and scurried to the bathroom. She returned in a moment and blasted at Azhar: “You are a duffer. You don’t even deserve the slot of a watchman.”
“He thrashed at us and even didn’t spare you.”
Someone suggested, “We must take up the matter with the boss.”
“Don’t worry. Let the boss come. I will do the rest,” Farhat assured them.
A while later the door turned open and Zahir Ali, the Chairman, stepped in. He cast a cursory look at the staff and made it to his office. Farhat followed him.
“What is the problem, today you all look anxious?” The Chairman placed his sunglasses on the table.
“Today Azhar has lost his mind,” Farhat replied.
“He is talking nonsense.”
“Just relax yourself I will see him.”
The Chairman pressed the bell and asked the peon to call Azhar in.
“Sir! Have you called me?” Azhar looked at him anxiously.
“Yes. Why are you misbehaving with your colleagues?”
“No, Sir, I haven’t done anything wrong. I just told them whatever I saw with my eyes.”
“By the way what did you see?”
“They all have distorted faces.”
“How? Any example.”
“Bulging eyes. Elongated ears. Puffed lips. Swollen cheeks.”
The Chairman asked him, “And you are also staring at me with amazement. Do you see any change in my features?”
“Sorry Sir! I wouldn’t be that rude. After all you are my boss.”
“Go ahead and tell me if you see something unusual in me.”
“As you wish Sir — you have a protruding paunch today,” he revealed in a somewhat trembling tone.
The Chairman walked over to the bathroom. He returned in a while and blasted at Azhar: “You rascal!”
Azhar trembled with fear and pleaded: “I am sorry Sir.”
“You don’t deserve any relaxation.” He looked at him with anger and pressed the bell.
The peon rushed in: “Yes Sir!”
“Call the staff in,” he commanded.
All the staff gathered in the Chairman’s office.
“Do you see any change in your own features?” The Chairman asked them with great concern.”
“No Sir,” was their answer.
“And something unusual in mine?”
“Not at all.” They replied.
“Then why on earth, is this knucklehead insisting that we have distorted features?” He was furious.
“Sir something must be wrong with his eyes.” Muzammil pointed towards Azhar’s eyes.
“Muzzamil is right; you must have an eye problem.” The Chairman looked at Azhar.
“Yes, indeed I had an eye-problem, but I have had them treated recently.”
“The treatment has further ruined your eyes,” the Chairman looked deep into his eyes.
“Anyway, what was the problem with your eyes?”
“My eyes used to twinkle,” he replied.
“What? Do eyes ever twinkle?” The Chairman was amazed.
“Yes, they used to twinkle and I felt new and brighter eyes were growing inside my eyes.”
“What was the nature of the treatment?” The Chairman asked him.
“I had an eye surgery.”
“I feel the surgery went terribly wrong.”
“It went wrong?” Azhar was confused a bit.
“Yes, it did,” the Chairman affirmed his statement.
“But now I have a much better and brighter vision than ever, Sir. Now even I can see the invisible things.”
“What do you mean by the invisible things,” the Chairman shot back.
“I mean that I can see what the bulging eyes are looking for. I can hear what the elongated ears desire to hear. I know what the swollen lips want to say. I know what the puffed out cheeks seek. And what the protruding paunch…”
“Shut your nonsense!” The Chairman cut into the middle of his speech. “Had you not been an old employee, I would have kicked you out of the office.”
“Have mercy on me Sir,” Azhar pleaded.
“I accept your apology but only on one condition.” The Chairman dragged his chair a bit forward and pointed his index finger towards Azhar.
“I accept whatever condition you set.” Azhar bowed his head in respect.
“I will get your eyes operated again and its expense will be deducted from your salary in nominal installments,” the Chairman gave the verdict.
“What do you think now?” Muzammil quipped with a sardonic smile.
“What can I say,” Azhar replied in a state of utter helplessness.
A few days after the operation Azhar resumed his routine in the office. Now everybody looked normal to him. He didn’t notice anything unusual in their features. He was standing by the door when the Chairman burst in.
The Chairman asked him sarcastically, “How are your eyes now?”
“As usual, Sir,” Azhar replied.
“Remember, too much brightness of vision is always disastrous. It can land you in deep trouble.”
“I will never forget your advice Sir.” A meaningful smile appeared on Azhar’s lips, “because I cannot endure too much suffering.”
Ghani Parwaz is one of the most celebrated Balochi writers. He has been writing Balochi fiction for the past five decades. So far he has published seven anthologies of short stories and five novels. Apart from fiction, he also writes poetry and literary criticism. He received several awards for his literary contributions including “the Presidential Award for the Pride of Performance”. He lives in Turbat Balochistan.
Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated several Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters in 2017 and Silence Between the Notes — the first ever anthology of Partition Poetry published by Dhauli Books India in 2018. His upcoming works of translation include Why Does the Moon Look So Beautiful? (Selected Balochi Short Stories by Naguman) and God and the Blind Man (Selected Balochi Short Stories by Minir Ahmed Badini).