The Night of the Golden Butterfly

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EA RLY B IR D B O OKS
FR ESH E BO OK D EA LS, D ELIV ER ED D AIL Y
LO VE
TO R EA D
?
LO VE
GREA T S A LES
?
GET
FA NTA ST IC
DEA LS O N B EST SE LLIN G E BO OKS
DELIV ER ED T O Y O UR I N BO X E V ER Y D AY!

Nig h t o f t h e G old en B utte rfly

Book F iv e o f t h e I sla m Q uin te t
Tariq A li

For A is h a,
who s u ggeste d t h e t itle t w elv e y ea rs a go a nd n ow t h in ks i t u nsu ita ble

Con te n ts
ONE
TW O
TH REE
FO UR
FIV E
SIX
SE V EN
EIG HT
NIN E
TEN
ELEV EN
TW ELV E
TH IR TEEN
FO URTEEN
FIF T EEN
SIX TEEN
SE V EN TEEN
EIG HTEEN
NIN ETEEN
About t h e A uth or

ONE
F ORTY -F IV E Y EA RS A GO
, w hen I l iv ed i n L ah ore , I h ad a n o ld er f rie n d c alle d P la to ,
w ho o nce d id m e a f a v our. I n a f it o f y outh fu l g en ero sity , I p ro m is e d to r e tu rn it
w ith in te re st if a n d w hen ev er h e n eed ed m y h elp . P la to ta u ght m ath em atic s a t a
p osh s c h ool, b ut h ate d s o m e o f h is p upils , th e o nes h e s a id w ere th ere o nly to
l e arn th e f in e a rt o f d eb au ch ery . A nd b ein g a P unja b i P la to , h e a sk ed w heth er I
w ould r e p ay h is f a v our w ith c o m pound i n te re st. F oolis h ly , I a g re ed .
I w as in lo ve, m uch to P la to ’s a n noyan ce. In h is e y es lo ve w as s im ply a n
e x cu se fo r ju ven ile le ch ery a n d, b y its v ery n atu re , c o uld n ev er b e e te rn al. A
c h aste f rie n dsh ip w as m uch m ore im porta n t a n d c o uld la st a lif e tim e. I w asn ’t in
t h e m ood fo r th is ty pe o f p hilo so phy a t th e tim e a n d w ould h av e sig ned a n y
p ie ce o f p ap er h e l a id i n f ro nt o f m e.
For a m an w hose j u dgem en ts w ere u su ally s tr o ng a n d c le ar, P la to ’s d is lik es
c o uld b e ir ra tio nal a n d th e b ord er th at s e p ara te d h is ir o ny fro m h is h atr e d w as
a lw ay s b lu rre d . H e w ould , fo r in sta n ce, b e d eep ly o ffe n ded b y stu den ts w ho
c lip ped th eir fo unta in p en s to th e fro nt p ock ets o f th eir n ylo n s h ir ts d urin g th e
s u m mer m onth s. W hen a sk ed w hy, h e d id n ot r e sp ond, b ut w hen p re sse d w ould
m utte r th at if th ese w ere th eir a esth etic v alu es w hile in th e flo w er a n d h eat o f
t h eir y outh , h e f e are d to th in k w hat v alu es th ey w ould e sp ouse w hen th ey g re w
o ld er. E ven th ough th is is n ot a g ood e x am ple o f it, it w as h is w it th at f ir s t d re w
o ne t o h im , l o ng b efo re h e b ecam e k now n a s a p ain te r.
Once, a frie n d o f o urs w ho h ad re cen tly g ra d uate d a n d h ad b een in ducte d
i n to th e fo re ig n s e rv ic e s a t d ow n a t o ur ta b le , o nly to b e c o nfro nte d b y P la to :
‘ I’m g oin g to ch an ge m y n am e to D io gen es so I can lig ht a la n te rn in th e
d ay lig ht a n d g o in s e arc h o f h onest c iv il s e rv an ts .’ N obody la u ghed , a n d P la to ,
a ccu sto m ed t o b ein g t h e h ero o f e v ery c o nvers a tio n, l e ft u s f o r a w hile ; t h e t a rg et
o f h is b arb a sk ed h ow w e c o uld m in gle w ith s u ch a f o ul c re atu re . W e tu rn ed o n

him : H ow d are h e s p eak i n t h is f a sh io n, e sp ecia lly a s w e h ad d efe n ded h im ? A nd
an yw ay , m utte re d m y f rie n d Z ah id , P la to w as w orth te n f o re ig n-o ffic e c ata m ite s
lik e h im . A fe w m ore re fle ctio ns alo ng sim ila r lin es an d th e fig ure ra p id ly
esc ala te d t o ‘ a t l e ast a h undre d f o re ig n-s e rv ic e c ata m ite s a n d b ra g garts l ik e h im .’
That g ot rid o f ‘h im ’. T hen P la to re tu rn ed a n d s a t p en siv ely fo r th e re st o f th e
afte rn oon, tu ggin g a t h is b la ck m ousta ch e a t re g ula r in te rv als , a lw ay s a s ig n o f
an ger.
The m an ner in w hic h P la to d is c u sse d h is am oro us co nquests w ith clo se
frie n ds w as nev er to ta lly co nvin cin g. H is se x uality had alw ay s re m ain ed a
myste ry . H e w as o fte n w ith dra w n a n d s e cre tiv e a n d it w as o bvio us th at h e h ad
dep th s th at w e, a g en era tio n y ounger, c o uld n ev er h ope to p en etr a te . T here is
much ab out h im th at I still d o n ot k now , th ough fo r alm ost a d ecad e I w as
pro bab ly h is c lo se st frie n d. If o nly m ir ro rs c o uld re fle ct m ore th an a c le ar a n d
unw av erin g im ag e. If w e c o uld a ls o s e e th e in nerm ost c h ara cte r o f th e p ers o n
gazin g at h is o w n re fle ctio n, th e ta sk o f w rite rs an d an aly sts w ould b eco m e
much e asie r, i f n ot r e d undan t.
Pla to n ev er p ro je cte d a n y e x tr a v ag an t s e lf -im ag e, a n d h e a lw ay s m ad e a b ig
deal o f a v oid in g p ublic ity , b ut in a f a sh io n th at s o m etim es le d h im to s te p r ig ht
back in to th e lim elig ht. W hen in w in dy p hra se s o ne o f th e o ld er an d h ig hly
re sp ecte d U rd u p oets w ho r e g ula rly a sse m ble d i n t h e P ak T ea H ouse o n t h e M all
ex ceed ed t h e l im its o f s e lf -p ra is e , P la to w ould m ock h im w ith out m erc y , h urlin g
ep ith ets an d Punja b i pro verb s th at am use d us gre atly but m ad e th e poets
nerv ous. W hen th e p oet u nder a tta ck su dden ly tu rn ed h ard a n d c o nte m ptu ous
an d den ounced P la to as a m ed io crity , je alo us of his su perio rs , P la to w ould
beco m e ex tr e m ely ch eerfu l an d in sis t o n a te st so th at all asse m ble d co uld
dete rm in e w hic h o f h is o pponen t’ s p oem s w ere s e co nd-a n d th ir d -ra te . H e w ould
beg in to re cite o ne o f th e m ore o bsc u re v ers e s in a h ila rio usly h id eo us fa sh io n,
an d w hen th e p oet a n d h is sy co phan ts le ft, P la to a p pla u ded lo udly . H e n ev er
re ally b elie v ed th at th e p oet in q uestio n w as a b ad p oet, n ot e v en f o r a m om en t,
but h e w as a n noyed b y th e n arc is sis m a n d m utu al- a d m ir a tio n s e ssio ns th at to ok

pla ce i n t h e t e ah ouse e v ery d ay . H e h ate d t h e v acan t e x pre ssio ns t h at m ark ed t h e
fa ces o f t h e s y co phan ts w ho s h oute d ‘ w onderfu l’ t o e ach a n d e v ery l in e t h at w as
re cite d . L ik e m an y o f u s, h e d id n ot fu lly a p pre cia te w hat so m e o f th em h ad
gone t h ro ugh i n t h e p re ced in g d ecad es. D is a p poin tm en ts h ad w orn m an y o f t h em
dow n, d ra in ed th eir s tr e n gth , a n d s o m e w ere n ow b ro ken re ed s, fritte rin g a w ay
th eir e n erg ie s in c afe s a n d a ctin g a s c h eerle ad ers fo r th ose w ho h ad a cq uir e d
re p uta tio ns in th e lite ra ry w orld . P la to w as w ell aw are o f th is , b ut h is o w n
cen tr a l c o re , a w ir y s te el r o d, h ad r e m ain ed u nben t, a n d t h is m ad e h im i n to le ra n t
to w ard s o th ers l e ss s tr o ng t h an h e w as.
What h ad c au se d P la to to d em an d h is p ound o f f le sh n ow , a n d w hy in th e
sh ap e o f a n ovel b ase d o n h is lif e ? F or th at is w hat h ap pen ed . A c erta in c h ain o f
ev en ts t r ig gere d a p hone c all c o nvey in g a r e q uest t h at I r in g h im i n K ara ch i. T his
was odd in its e lf , sin ce P la to had alw ay s lo ath ed F ath erla n d’s la rg est city ,
den ouncin g it in te m pera te ly a s a c h ara cte rle ss, h ybrid m onstr o sity . W hen w e
sp oke, h e w as in n o m ood fo r a le n gth y c o nvers a tio n, m ere ly in sis te n t th at o ld
deb ts o f h onour h ad to b e r e p aid . I h ad n o o th er c h oic e. I c o uld , o f c o urs e , h av e
to ld h im to g et lo st a n d I n ow w is h I h ad . N ot so m uch b ecau se o f h im , b ut
becau se o f o th ers w hose s to rie s in te rs e cte d w ith h is . T he m yste ry b oth ere d m e.
What w as i t t h at h ad t ig hte n ed i ts e lf i n to a k not i n h im s o r o ck -h ard t h at t h e o nly
way o f u ndoin g i t w as b y c allin g i n a b are ly r e m em bere d d eb t? W as i t a n ag gin g
dis c o nte n t o ver w hat h e h ad n ot m an ag ed to a ch ie v e, o r s im ply th e te d iu m o f
artis tic en deav our in a co untr y w here th e vag arie s of th e art m ark et w ere
dete rm in ed b y w hat a p peare d in th e N ew Y ork o r L ondon p re ss? P ra is e a b ro ad ,
pro fits a t h om e.
Long b efo re I b eg an th e aw kw ard ta sk o f co m positio n I w ould h av e to
re se arc h c erta in a sp ects o f h is lif e , a n d it w as n ot g oin g to b e s m ooth s a ilin g,
eith er. P la to h ad k ep t la rg e tr a cts o f h is lif e h id den fro m v ie w , o r p erh ap s
re p re sse d th em . E ith er w ay , c ata ra cts la y a h ead . H ow c o uld I w rite a b out h im
unle ss h e l e t m e u nco ver h is d orm an t p ast?
Frie n dsh ip s are rid ic u lo usly m obile . T hey flo w , ch an ge, dis a p pear, go

underg ro und m ole -lik e f o r lo ng s p ells a n d a re e asily f o rg otte n , e sp ecia lly if o ne
frie n d h as s h if te d c o ntin en ts . D urin g a lif e tim e w e a re s u rro unded b y p eo ple in
clu ste rs , s o m e o f w hom c ry sta lliz e in to f rie n ds o f th e m om en t, th en m elt a w ay ,
van is h w ith out tr a ce, to b e e n co unte re d a g ain b y a ccid en t in th e str a n gest o f
pla ces. S om e politic al or w ork frie n dsh ip s en dure m uch lo nger; a fe w la st
fo re v er.
When I ag re ed to write his sto ry , Pla to was th rille d an d ro are d
tr iu m phan tly . T his la u ghte r w as so u nlik e h im th at I w as slig htly u nnerv ed .
Irrita te d b y m y a tte m pt to u nearth th e r e aso n f o r th is s tr a n ge r e q uest, h e a d ded a
rid er. I w ould d o a s h e a sk ed , h e k new t h at, b ut c o uld I d o s o w ith out e m plo yin g
an y o f th e c u nnin g d ev ic es o r o verb lo w n p hra se s c o nsid ere d o blig ato ry th ese
day s? It m ust b e p la in sto ry te llin g, w ith out frills o r to o m an y d ig re ssio ns. I
ag re ed , b ut w arn ed h im t h at I c o uld n’t w rite a b ook t h at w as o nly a b out h im . H e
was th e b est p ers o n to d o th at, a n d c o uld s im ply d ic ta te a m em oir if th at w as
what h e w an te d . N or c o uld I sim ply p ortr a y h is d ev elo pm en t in te rm s o f h is
in te ra ctio ns w ith o th er p eo ple . T he p erio d w ould h av e to b e e v oked , th e s o cia l
milie u ex cav ate d , an d nav el- g azin g re sis te d . I re m in ded him of H era clitu s:
‘T hose w ho a re a w ak e h av e a w orld i n c o m mon, b ut e v ery s le ep er h as a w orld o f
his o w n.’
Pla to accep te d th is gra cefu lly , but co uld n’t re sis t sh arin g a th ought in
re tu rn , I su ppose , to en co ura g e m e. A se tb ack , he in fo rm ed m e, co uld be
tr a n sfo rm ed in to a v ic to ry th ro ugh a w ork o f art. I d is a g re ed v ery str o ngly .
Artis tic c o nsc io usn ess, e v en a t a h ig h le v el, c o uld n ev er ro ll b ack th e re alitie s
im pose d on a so cie ty afte r a his to ric defe at. H is voic e gre w lo uder as he
re sp onded b y n am in g p ain te rs a n d p oets w hose w ork , i n b ad t im es, h ad l if te d t h e
peo ple t o u nim ag in ed h eig hts . T hey h ad d one s o , I a g re ed , t h ey h ad e n ric h ed t h e
cu ltu ra l l if e o f t h e p oor a n d t h e d efe ate d b y p ro vid in g t h em w ith a u se fu l c u ltu ra l
pro p, but th at ch an ged noth in g. T he w orld of vis u al art an d th e re alm of
lite ra tu re re m ain ed tin y is la n ds. T he sh ark s still co ntr o lle d th e ocean s. H e
becam e a n gry . H e w as w ork in g o n a tr ip ty ch th at w ould b e a c all to a rm s. H e

would p ro ve m e w ro ng. H is w ork w ould se t F ath erla n d o n fir e . I ex pre sse d
sc ep tic is m .
‘G re at M aste r P la to , y our v is io ns w ill h it F ath erla n d lik e th underb olts f ro m
heav en .’
‘T alk in g to y ou in th is m ood is w astin g tim e. D o s o m eth in g u se fu l. G o a n d
sta rt th e b ook. G o n ow , a n d w here th e tr u th c an ’t b e s h ow n n ak ed , d re ss it in
hum our a n d i r o ny. C an y ou m an ag e t h at? ’
I w ill t r y .

TW O
Z AHID W AS I N L IG HT
s le ep m ode, d re am in g. I t w as th e p is sin g d re am , h e to ld m e
l a te r, th e b la d der-fu ll ale rt d re am , th e co re o f w hic h h ad re m ain ed co nsta n t
t h ro ughout h is lif e . W ate r, fo re v er flo w in g. U su ally , h e w as h av in g a s h ow er,
b ut s o m etim es it w as a r u nnin g ta p o r, o n a f e w r a re o ccasio ns, a tu rb ule n t s e a.
A t s c h ool a n d in th e m ounta in s w here o ur f a m ilie s s p en t th e s u m mer, h e w ould
d esc rib e h is a fflic tio n in so m e d eta il. It w as, h e e x pla in ed , a c ru de, e ffe ctiv e
i n te rn al a la rm s y ste m . I f h e d ela y ed to o lo ng, h is ta p b eg an to d rip . H is m oth er
o nce p ro vid ed a m ore Ju ngia n e x pla n atio n, b ut it m ust h av e b een fo rg etta b le ,
s in ce s h e c o uld n ot r e call i t a w eek l a te r.
Zah id h im se lf w as c o nvin ced th at h e w as u niq ue. W hen h e w as a b ab y, h is
a m ah h ad p atie n tly w ean ed h im o ff th e m uslin n ap pie s, tr a in in g h im to p ee b y
t u rn in g on a ta p an d w his tlin g th e natio nal an th em . It w ork ed — th e m uslin
n ap pie s w ere p erm an en tly d is c ard ed w hen h e w as o nly a y ear o ld — but it m ust
h av e le ft a m ark o n h is p sy ch e. H e w ould o fte n jo ke th at, A lla h b e p ra is e d , it
w as w ate r th at h ad e n te re d h is d re am s a n d n ot th e n atio nal a n th em , th ough a fte r
a b rie f d is c u ssio n, w e a g re ed it m ig ht h av e b een b ette r th e o th er w ay r o und. A t
t h e e n d o f a m ovie o r a ra d io b ro ad cast h e c o uld a lw ay s fin d a p is so ir . M uch
b ette r t h an b ed -w ettin g.
Late r, w hen h e w as alr e ad y a d is tin guis h ed h eart su rg eo n in th e U nite d
S ta te s, tr e atin g im porta n t p eo ple , Z ah id d is c o vere d th at h is d re am w as n ot a s
u nusu al a s h e h ad o nce th ought. T he re v ela tio n c am e a s a d is a p poin tm en t. H e
u se d to jo ke th at it w as th e e n d o f a ll illu sio ns. It w as th en th at h e d ecid ed ,
a g ain st th e ad vic e of his so n, to in vest so m e of his sa v in gs in ban ks an d
p ro pertie s in u ndesir a b le lo catio ns all o ver th e w orld : M arb ella an d M ia m i,
B erm uda an d N ic e as w ell as— an d th is very m uch fo r old tim es’ sa k e— a
m ounta in re tr e at in th e K ag han v alle y , sa d ly d estr o yed b y th e earth quak e o f

2004. A ll th is I d is c o vere d la te r. I h ad h eard , o f c o urs e , th at h e h ad b eco m e a
Rep ublic an a n d w as h ead o f th e m ed ic al te am th at o pera te d o n D ic k C hen ey in
1999, s a v in g h is lif e , b ut h ad n ot k now n th at h e h ad m oved f ro m D C to L ondon
afte r th e e x plo sio ns o f 9 /1 1 o r th at h e w as n ow in s e m i- re tir e m en t in a p ala tia l
villa i n R ic h m ond, o verlo okin g t h e T ham es. W e h ad l iv ed i n d if fe re n t w orld s f o r
alm ost h alf a c en tu ry .
When th e p hone ra n g, s o on a fte r d aw n, Z ah id a u to m atic ally g ro an ed a n d
str e tc h ed a n a rm o ut to g ra b th e c lo ck . M ust b e a n e m erg en cy a t th e h osp ita l, h e
th ought, b efo re re aliz in g h e w as n o lo nger w ork in g. It w as te n p ast fiv e in th e
morn in g; m ust b e so m eo ne fro m th e east. E arly calls u pse t h im . T hey w ere
in varia b ly fro m F ath erla n d a n d it w as u su ally b ad n ew s: a n oth er d eath in th e
fa m ily , a n ew m ilita ry c o up, a n e x pecte d a ssa ssin atio n, b ut s till t h ey c o uld n ot b e
ig nore d . H is w if e w as s till a sle ep . H e r o se a n d l if te d t h e p hone, a n d w en t o ver t o
dra w th e c u rta in s. D ark c lo uds. L ik e h im , th e c ity s u ffe re d f ro m a w eak b la d der.
He c u rs e d .
The c alle r h eard h im sw earin g, c h uck le d a n d h aile d h im in P unja b i, th e
moth er t o ngue t o b eat a ll o th er m oth erfu ck in g m oth er t o ngues, o r s o i ts p artis a n s
boast. N o tr a n sla tio n c an e v er d o ju stic e to th is m ultila y ere d la n guag e, s o r ic h in
puns a n d d ouble e n te n dre s th at s o m e s c h ola rs h av e a rg ued th at v ir tu ally e v ery
word o f e v ery P unja b i d ia le ct h as a d ual o r h id den m ean in g. I ’m n ot s u re th is is
th e case . T hat w ould hav e cre ate d in su rm ounta b le pro ble m s fo r th e Sik h
re lig io n, w hose f o under, th e v is io nary m ystic p oet N an ak , a g re at m aste r o f th e
la n guag e, w ould n ev er ... I m ean , h e m ust h av e k now n w hat h e w as d oin g w hen
he e le v ate d h is n ativ e P unja b i in to a d iv in e la n guag e f o r th e n ew f a ith , s p lit o ff
fro m t h e c aste -rid den H in dus.
Nor a re th e p ro ble m s o f tr a n sla tio n s im plif ie d b y th e p ro fu sio n o f d ia le cts .
The v oic e th at a d dre sse d D r M ia n Z ah id H ussa in s p oke in th e g uttu ra l d ia le ct
co m mon to L ah ore a n d A m rits a r. A s th e n arra to r, I w ill k eep th e tr a n sla tio n
lite ra l a s fa r a s th is fir s t e x ch an ge is c o ncern ed ; b ut, w is h in g n eith er to ta x th e
re ad er’s p atie n ce n or t o e x pose m y o w n l im ita tio ns, I m ay b e c o m pelle d t o r e v ert

to a l e ss l o uch e m ode i n t h e c h ap te rs t h at l ie a h ead . O r I m ay n ot.
‘I s a y , Z ah id M ia n . S ala am ale ik um .’
The re cip ie n t of th e gre etin g cu rs e d ag ain , but in w ard ly . H e did not
re co gniz e th e v oic e. C lu m sily u nbutto nin g h is p yja m as w ith o ne h an d w hile
hold in g th e p hone in th e o th er, h e s tu m ble d in to th e b ath ro om a n d g av e m uch -
need ed re lie f to h is n eu ro tic b la d der, ju st a s a d elig htf u l d riz zle b eg an to w ate r
London’s num ero us park s an d priv ate gard en s. D esp ite decad es of w is d om
accu m ula te d a t th e G eo rg e W ash in gto n H osp ita l in W ash in gto n, D C, h e d id n ot
know th at s p eak in g o n th e p hone d ir e ctly a b ove th e c o m mode c re ate s a s lig ht
dis to rtio n, a n e ch o e asily r e co gniz ed b y a n a le rt p ers o n a t t h e o th er e n d. A nd t h is
partic u la r c alle r r e lis h ed e m barra ssin g h is f rie n ds.
‘S o f rig hte n ed b y m y v oic e t h at i t m ak es y ou p is s, c ata m ite ?’
‘F org iv e m e, f rie n d. I t’ s e arly h ere . I d on’t r e co gniz e y our v oic e.’
‘I w on’t fo rg iv e y ou, c ata m ite . T he o nly frie n d y ou h av e is in y our h an d.
Why n ot p ut s o m e s o ap o n h im a n d fu ck y our fis t? T hen y ou m ig ht re co gniz e
my v oic e, y ou f ro gfu ck er.’
That la st w as n ot a c o m mon a b u se in L ah ore b ut u niq ue to a n o ld c ir c le o f
frie n ds. Z ah id s m ile d , s tr u gglin g t o i d en tif y t h e n ow f a m ilia r v oic e a n d h urrie d ly
gettin g rid o f th e a fte r-d ro ps, w ith o nly p artia l su ccess. T he tr a d itio ns o f o ur
fa ith , a la s, a re d iv id ed o n th is c ru cia lly im porta n t I s la m ic r itu al. T he S hia in sis t
on th e T w elv er: th e pen is is sh ak en vig oro usly tw elv e tim es to get rid of
ev ery th in g l u rk in g i n sid e. T he S unni a re m ore r e la x ed : s ix s h ak es a re c o nsid ere d
su ffic ie n t. I n h is h urry , Z ah id h ad ta k en th e S ufi p ath — one s tr o ng e x is te n tia lis t
tu g— an d sp atte re d h is p yja m as a s a re su lt. S im ulta n eo usly , h e re co gniz ed th e
calle r’s v oic e.
‘P la to ! P la to . O f c o urs e , i t’ s y ou.’
‘G la d y ou r e co gniz ed y our n am e, f ro gfu ck er.’
Zah id ’s lo ud la u gh, slig htly tin ged w ith h yste ria , w as ty pic al o f th e c ity
where h e w as b orn . H e r e sp onded i n k in d.
‘F or tw en ty -fiv e sis te rfu ck in g y ears y ou d is a p peare d y ours e lf , P la to . D id

you c lim b u p y our o w n a rs e ? Y ou r in g w hile it’ s b are ly lig ht in th is f u ck ed c ity
an d c o m pla in I d on’t r e co gniz e y our v oic e. I t h ought y ou w ere d ead .’
‘M ean -s p ir ite d c ata m ite , w hy a re n ’t y ou? Y our m oth er’s p uden dum .’
‘Y ou v an is h ed , P la to . J u st l ik e y our m oth erfu ck ed p ain tin gs.’
‘O nly fro m your dogfu ck in g W este rn w orld . M y ex hib itio ns here are
alw ay s p ack ed .’
‘W here a re y ou?’
‘L ah ore , b ut f ly in g t o K ara ch i l a te r. I h av e a s tu dio t h ere .’
‘L ong liv e P uris ta n . N ev er fu ck ed th ere , is it? W hy a re y ou rin gin g m e a t
th is h our? A re y ou d yin g? B een w ork in g i t h ard ? N eed a n a rs e t r a n sp la n t? ’
‘S hut y our m outh , cata m ite . I th ought y ou’d alr e ad y b e u p. A re n ’t y ou
fa stin g? T oo e arly to s a y th e m orn in g p ra y ers ? H eard y ou’d g one r e lig io us a n d
ab ase d y ours e lf i n M ak kah .’
Zah id w as a n gere d . ‘ W e’v e a ll c h an ged , P la to . Y ou, to o. F astin g is g oin g a
bit f a r. B ette r n ot t o t h an t o c h eat, l ik e w e d id w hen w e w ere k id s? ’
‘M an y of our old frie n ds are fa stin g now . T ry callin g th em cata m ite s.
They ’re r e ad y t o k ill. W hy n ot y ou? L is te n , M r B ig S urg eo n o r w hate v er c o rru pt
busin ess y ou’re s c re w in g u p th ese d ay s, I r a n g f o r s o m eth in g s p ecia l. M y a rs e is
to rn , f rie n d. T orn . B ad ly t o rn .’
‘T ell m e s o m eth in g n ew .’
‘L ove h as h ap pen ed . I n eed y our h elp . N o jo kes o r c u ntis h q uestio ns a b out
my a g e. I t’ s h ap pen ed .’
Pla to w as s e v en ty -fiv e, e x actly f o urte en y ears o ld er th an h is c o untr y , a s h e
nev er tir e d o f te llin g u s w hen w e w ere g ro w in g u p. H e w as te n o r s o y ears o ld er
th an u s, to o, a n d u se d h is s e n io rity to b oast a b out h is s e x ual e x plo its , re al a n d
im ag in ed , w ith out re str a in t. A bout h ow h e d is lik ed d ocile a n d g en tle m id dle -
cla ss w om en , o bse sse d w ith p im ple r e m overs . H ow h e p re fe rre d th e r a w e n erg y
an d r o ugh h an ds o f p easa n t w en ch es. A ll th is w e k new . B ut lo ve? W hat d ep th s
had u nle ash ed th is m onste r? W onderin g w heth er th is w as re al o r y et a n oth er
Pla to f a n ta sy , Z ah id d ecid ed t o s tr ik e a l ig hte r n ote .

‘W om an , m an or beast? ’ A buse pollu te d th e phone lin es, la sh in g th e
re cip ie n t lik e h ard r a in . B y th e tim e th e m onso on e n ded , Z ah id w as la u ghin g s o
hyste ric ally a n d s tu pid ly th at h e w oke h is w if e . F ro m th e w ay h e w as la u ghin g,
Jin dié k new th e c all m ust b e f ro m L ah ore , a n d th at it w as n eith er b ad n ew s n or
his m oth er. S he im med ia te ly d em an ded to k now w ho w as rin gin g u p s o e arly .
By n ow i t w as p ourin g o uts id e. P la to o verh eard h er m elo dio us v oic e.
‘A h, th e
su neh ri titli
h as a ris e n . M y sa la am s to th e g re at la d y. S he w as
cre ate d t o i n fla m e t h e i m ag in atio n o f p ain te rs . T ell h er t h at a fte r s h e l e ft, o ur c ity
nev er re co vere d . W hy d id n’t s h e d um p y ou a n d fin d a b ette r p ers o n? L ik e m e,
fo r in sta n ce. C ata m ite , I’m re ally ple ase d you hav en ’t ab an doned her fo r a
younger w if e . S om e y oung n urs e w ith m ilk m aid b re asts — ’
‘P la to , i t’ s e arly a n d I — ’
‘I’ll b e b rie f. T he w om an I lo ve is Z ay nab . S he’s m arrie d . N o c h ild re n , b ut
ad ore s h er n ie ces. S he n eed s h elp . S he a sk s m e f o r o nly o ne th in g: m y s to ry a n d
hers ; co lla te d in one m an usc rip t, w ith m y co lo ur illu str a tio ns. N ev er to be
publis h ed . D on’t a sk w hy. I d on’t k now . I t’ s h er o nly r e q uest. H ow c an I r e fu se ?
I o nly r a n g y ou b ecau se I c an ’t tr a ck d ow n th at c ata m ite w ho o nce w as a f rie n d
of o urs — Dara . H e’ll r e m em ber m e. W e s p en t e n ough t im e t o geth er i n t h e k eb ab
sh ops a n d th e te ah ouse , e sp ecia lly d urin g R am ad an , w hen w e a lw ay s b ro ke th e
fa st e arly a n d o fte n . R em in d h im th at I o nce d id h im a v ery b ig f a v our a t s o m e
co st to m y s e lf -e ste em . H e p ro m is e d m e o ne in re tu rn w hen ev er a n d w here v er.
The t im e f o r t h at i s n ow . I n eed h im , Z ah id M ia n . I c an p ain t a n d s ig n m y n am e.
Som eo ne e ls e w ill h av e to w rite th e s to rie s. O r h as D ara b eco m e to o g ra n d fo r
Fath erla n d f rie n ds? ’
‘P la to , p le ase tr y an d fin d D ara ’s e-m ail ad dre ss. I d on’t se e h im . T he
moth erfu ck er still tr e ats m e lik e a tr a ito r. T he la st tim e I m et h im w as at a
Punja b i w ed din g in N ew Y ork . I s m ile d p olite ly in h is d ir e ctio n, a n d h e tu rn ed
aw ay co nte m ptu ously . A lw ay s an arro gan t m oth erfu ck er. H e m ig ht re sp ond
bette r t o a d ir e ct r e q uest f ro m y ou.’
Pla to e ru pte d . ‘ H ock ey s tic k u p y our a rs e , c ata m ite ... a n d h is . I n ev er u se e -

mail. T hat s tu ff is fo r c ata m ite s a n d im pote n ts . J u st g iv e h im th e m essa g e a n d
my n um ber. T ell h im m in e is b ad ly to rn . I re ally n eed th at fis tf u ck er’s h elp . If
you’re t o o s h y, a sk t h e G old en B utte rfly t o r in g h im . S he’ll d o i t f o r m e.’
The r e fe re n ce to th e h ock ey s tic k r e v iv ed m em orie s. P la to w as a n e le p han t.
Tru st him to re m em ber Z ah id ’s dis ta ste fo r th e sp ort. Z ah id ’s fa th er had
cap ta in ed t h e P unja b u niv ers ity t e am i n t h e l a te n in ete en -th ir tie s, a n d s o m e y ears
la te r s c o re d a g oal in th e O ly m pic s th at w on th e s ilv er f o r F ath erla n d. N atio nal
accla im f o llo w ed , b ut n ot f ro m h is C om munis t f rie n ds. M oved b y th eir d is d ain ,
he h ad t u rn ed d ow n t h e o ffe r o f a m ed al a n d m oney f ro m t h e g overn m en t. Z ah id
was s ix y ears o ld a t th e tim e, b ut g ro w in g u p s u rro unded b y s p orts m ed als a n d
cu ps only in cre ase d his av ers io n to hock ey . H is fa th er had tu rn ed eq ually
su ccessfu lly to b usin ess a n d se t u p a n im port- e x port a g en cy , w hic h , w ith th e
help o f c iv il s e rv an ts in n eed o f a c o m mis sio n, h ad p ro sp ere d . Z ah id ’s r e actio n
had b een to jo in a n u nderg ro und C om munis t c ell, c em en tin g o ur f rie n dsh ip . B ut
noth in g i s e v er r e ally u nderg ro und i n F ath erla n d. E very body k new .
Relu cta n tly , Z ah id a g re ed t o m ak e t h e f a ta l c all. A f e w h ours l a te r, a s I w as
care fu lly ta m pin g th e c o ffe e to m ak e m yse lf a n e sp re sso , th e p hone ra n g. M y
fir s t in stin ct w as to h an g u p. It w as o nly th e m en tio n o f P la to ’s n am e th at
sto pped m e. I had n’t sp oken to Z ah id fo r fo rty -fiv e years — not sin ce his
dep artu re fro m L ah ore in th e m id -S ix tie s to re ad m ed ic in e a t Jo hns H opkin s
Univ ers ity i n B altim ore , a fte r h is m arria g e.
To le av e th e c o untr y , h e h ad h ad to o bta in a N o O bje ctio n C ertif ic ate f ro m
th e M in is tr y o f I n te rio r. I n o rd er to d o th at, w e la te r le arn ed , h e h ad r e v eale d th e
where ab outs o f C om ra d e T ip u, a B en gali C om munis t f ro m C hitta g ong w ho w as
at c o lle g e w ith u s in L ah ore . T ip u w as m uch b ette r e d ucate d th an w e in b oth th e
Marx is t c la ssic s a n d p re -m arita l s e x , a n d w e le arn ed a g re at d eal f ro m h im . T hat
cu rs e d s p rin g, h e w as w arn ed b y a f rie n dly b ure au cra t th at h e h ad ju st b een p ut
on th e w an te d lis t f o r s u bvers iv e a ctiv itie s a g ain st th e s ta te . T ip u f e lt h onoure d ,
but a ls o s c are d . N obody lik es to th in k o f e le ctr ic ro ds, ic ic le s o r th e p en is e s o f
th e s e cre t p olic e b ein g s h oved u p h is a rs e in a d in gy c ella r o f th e L ah ore F ort.

Som eo ne w e a ll k new h ad b een t o rtu re d t o d eath a f e w y ears p re v io usly a n d f e ar
was n ot a n i r ra tio nal r e sp onse . T ip u d ecid ed t o g o u nderg ro und. A n a u nt o f m in e
in a re m ote a n d m ounta in ous p art o f th e c o untr y w as lo okin g fo r a g ard en er. I
su ggeste d T ip u, w ho b orro w ed a f e w g ard en in g m an uals a n d le ft f o r th e h ills . A
fe w m onth s l a te r h e w as t r a ck ed a n d a rre ste d . T he C ID h ad b een t ip ped o ff a n d a
se n io r p olic e c h ie f w as h eard b oastin g a fte r a fe w w his k ie s in th e G ym khan a
Clu b th at it w as th e h ock ey s ta r’s s o n w ho h ad o blig ed th em . A s e co nd c o usin
pre se n t a t th e o ccasio n m ad e s u re th at I w as in fo rm ed a b out it, b ut o nly a fte r
Zah id h ad le ft fo r B altim ore . T he n ew s sp re ad in th e c ity a n d I b ro ke o ff a ll
re la tio ns w ith h im . Y outh fu l a rro gan ce, n ow c o nfo rm is t, n ow re b ellio us, ra re ly
perm its a n y s e rio us q uestio nin g o r r e -e v alu atio n o f a ctio ns, e v en ts , e x perie n ces.
We w ere n o d if fe re n t. Z ah id w as a tr a ito r. I c ast h im o ut o f m y m in d, th ough I
co uld h ard ly a v oid h earin g a b out h is s u ccess a s a s u rg eo n. S in ce Z ah id m oved t o
London w e h ad e x ch an ged c u rt n ods a t th e o dd w ed din g r e cep tio n a n d a f u nera l
or tw o, in clu din g th at o f a n o ld F ath erla n d C om munis t w hose s o n h ad in sis te d
on p ra y ers in th e la v is h b ut u gly R eg en ts P ark M osq ue. T ip u h im se lf w as th ere .
He h ad l e d a c h eq uere d c are er a s a n a rm s d eale r, a n d I s a w t h e t w o e m bra ce. B y
th en I h ad c o m e to k now in num era b le , d eep er, w ors e b etr a y als . If Z ah id ’s w as
not to b e fo rg iv en , it m ig ht b e q ualif ie d . B ut a b ove a ll I w an te d to h ear a b out
Pla to . A nd s u dden ly , a fte r a ll th ese y ears , I w an te d to k now a b out Z ah id ’s w if e .
Som ew hat im puls iv ely a n d to m y o w n su rp ris e , I a g re ed to h av e d in ner w ith
th em i n R ic h m ond.
We h ad n ot s p oken f o r a lm ost h alf a c en tu ry . O ld a g e c ir c u m sc rib es th e f u tu re ,
th e l a w s o f b io lo gy p ush o ne t o r e fle ct m ain ly o n t h e p ast, b ut i f a n yth in g, I h av e
te n ded in th e o th er d ir e ctio n. W hy c o ncen tr a te e x clu siv ely o n th e p ast? S om e
frie n ds h av e b eco m e te sty a n d u ltr a -p essim is tic , se ein g n o v alu e a t a ll in th e
postm odern w orld . B io lo gic al c o nse rv atis m o r o ld h opes g one m usty , in b oth
case s i n ducin g m ela n ch olia , d esp air -fille d d ay s a n d a lc o hol- fu elle d e v en in gs.
Sch ool f rie n dsh ip s a re n oto rio usly f ic k le . S om e s u rv iv e f o r p ure ly p ra ctic al

re aso ns, th e m ore p riv ile g ed s c h ools in e v ery c o untr y c re atin g s o cia l n etw ork s
th at m ak e u p fo r th e lo ss o r n onex is te n ce o f re al frie n dsh ip . Z ah id a n d I h ad
atte n ded d if fe re n t s c h ools , b ut w e m et u p in th e m ounta in s e ach s u m mer. A nd
yet o urs w as n ot ju st a se aso nal frie n dsh ip . W e co ntin ued to ta lk w hen w e
re tu rn ed to L ah ore . L ate r w e w ere a t th e s a m e c o lle g e, a n d o ur s h are d p olitic s
bro ught u s c lo se r s till.
For a lm ost te n y ears w e c o nfid ed a ll o f o ur p olitic al a n d s e x ual f a n ta sie s to
each o th er. W hen Z ah id d ev elo ped a n o bse ssiv e c ru sh o n a g en era l’ s d au ghte r,
he in sis te d th at I a cco m pan y h im o n h is V esp a to th e w om en ’s c o lle g e th at s h e
atte n ded . W e w ould w ait o uts id e an d th en fo llo w h er car, o verta k in g it ju st
befo re i t r e ach ed h er h ouse . S he k new . O ccasio nally s h e s m ile d . T he m em ory o f
a sin gle sm ile k ep t h im g oin g fo r w eek s. T hen sh e g ra d uate d an d w as so on
marrie d o ff to th e s c io n o f s o m e f e u dal f a m ily . Z ah id ’s o ffe r, tr a n sm itte d v ia h is
moth er, h ad b een r u dely r e je cte d . Z ah id ’s p olitic al b en t a n d h is f a th er’s r e je ctio n
of h onours h ad m ad e h im o ut o f b ounds fo r d au ghte rs o f arm y o ffic ers an d
bure au cra ts , th e tw o g ro ups th at r a n F ath erla n d in th ose d ay s, p re sid in g o ver th e
kin d o f ty ra n nie s th at b re ak a p eo ple ’s h eart a n d th eir p rid e. T he b oy h ad n o
fu tu re . H ow c o uld h e e x pect t o m arry i n to p riv ile g e?
Zah id r e co vere d , th ough, a n d s h ock ed h is p are n ts b y in sis tin g o n m arry in g
Jin dié , th e d au ghte r o f a m odest b ut e x tr e m ely w ell o ff C hin ese s h oem ak er in
Lah ore . I t w as a M uslim f a m ily , b ut c aste p re ju dic es w en t d eep in F ath erla n d. A
co bble r’s d au ghte r f o r th e o nly s o n o f a w ealth y P unja b i f a m ily ? U naccep ta b le .
He m ig ht a s w ell m arry a N eg ro w om an .
Zah id ig nore d th em . ‘W hat a re w e?’ h e w ould m ock . ‘P easa n ts d esc en ded
fro m lo w -c aste H in dus w hose jo b it w as to g ro w v eg eta b le s f o r th e r u le rs o f th is
city . O ur fo re b ears g re w tu rn ip s a n d p um pkin s; Jin dié ’s fa th er is a c ra fts m an .
Ju st b ecau se h e m easu re s y our fe et fo r s a n dals y ou th in k h e’s lo w er th an y ou.’
He m arrie d J in dié , th e
su neh ri titli
, a s Z ah id ’s P unja b i frie n ds c alle d h er— th e
Gold en B utte rfly . H er b ro th er w as a m em ber o f o ur p olitic al c ir c le . S he w as a
marv el o f b eau ty a n d in te llig en ce, a ra re c o m bin atio n in L ah ore . T here w as a n

air o f g aie ty a b out h er a s w ell a s m aje sty . S he h ad th in lip s a n d p ro fo undly
ex pre ssiv e e y es. S he h ad re ad m ore b ooks th an a ll o f u s p ut to geth er, a n d in
th re e l a n guag es. H er k now le d ge o f P unja b i S ufi p oetr y w en t d eep , a n d w hen s h e
sa n g h er v oic e r e se m ble d a f lu te . A nd s h e d id s in g s o m etim es, u su ally w hen s h e
th ought s h e w as a lo ne w ith o ur s is te rs a n d f e m ale c o usin s, u naw are t h at w e w ere
lis te n in g. W e a ll l o ved h er. I m ore t h an t h e o th ers , a n d I t h in k s h e l o ved m e. S he
had m arrie d Z ah id ju st b efo re h is p olitic al tr e ach ery w as e x pose d , b ut I th ought
sh e m ust h av e k now n o f it a n d th at h ad a n gere d m e g re atly . I t m atte re d in th ose
day s. C onse q uen tly , sh e, to o, h ad b een assig ned to th e d eep est cir c le o f m y
mem ory .
Now I fo und m yse lf lo okin g fo rw ard to se ein g Jin dié ag ain . Our
re la tio nsh ip h ad c o nsis te d m ain ly o f le tte rs , le n gth y p hone c alls a n d a tte m pte d
re n dezv ous. T he la st tim e w e h ad m et o n o ur o w n, fo rty -fiv e y ears b efo re , s h e
had b een i n a s ta te o f u nsp eak ab le c o nfu sio n. C overe d w ith s h am e, s h e h ad f le d .
The n ex t tim e I’d se en h er h ad b een at a fa re w ell d in ner fo r a re tir in g
pro fe sso r. S he h ad c o m e w ith h er b ro th er. I t w as a v ery p ro per o ccasio n, n ot t h at
sh e w as ev er cap ab le o f re la p sin g in to co quetr y . W e d id n ot sp eak an d sh e
ap peare d t o b e i n f ra g ile s h ap e. H er m ela n ch oly g la n ces c u t m e d eep ly , b ut t h ere
was n oth in g to b e d one. S om e m onth s la te r I re ceiv ed a le tte r in fo rm in g m e o f
her e n gag em en t to Z ah id . It w as a v ery lo ng, s e lf -ju stif y in g m is siv e o f th e s o rt
th at w om en a re b ette r a t w ritin g th an m en , a t le ast in m y lim ite d e x perie n ce. I
was s o e n ra g ed a t th e n ew s o f h er e n gag em en t th at I n ev er re ach ed th e e n d. In
la te r y ears I d id w onder w heth er it h ad c o nta in ed a n y w ord s o f a ffe ctio n f o r m e.
I to re it u p in to little p ie ces a n d f lu sh ed it to th e d ep th s o f th e c ity . I t w as b ette r
co nfin ed t o t h e s e w ers , I t h ought, w here t h e r a ts c o uld r e ad b its o f i t. S he s h ould
ap pre cia te th at, s in ce s h e w as m arry in g o ne. Y ears la te r, a m utu al w om an f rie n d
to ld m e s h e h ad n ot d ete cte d a n y a w kw ard c o rn ers in J in dié ’s lif e . T here w ere
tw o c h ild re n a n d th ey w ere th e c en tr e o f h er e x is te n ce. I w ondere d w hat h ad
beco m e o f t h em a n d h er l if e a fte r t h ey l e ft h om e.
I a rriv ed e arly a n d w en t f o r a s h ort w alk b y th e r iv er. T here w as a s u dden

sin kin g fe elin g in th e p it o f m y s to m ach . P erh ap s th is w as a m is ta k e, a fte r a ll.
Why w as I din in g w ith perfid y? T he passa g e of tim e doesn ’t alw ay s heal
wounds in cu rre d in p olitic al o r e m otio nal c o nflic ts . T ip u’s s h if t f ro m p olitic s to
busin ess d id n ot re tr o sp ectiv ely ju stif y Z ah id ’s b etr a y al. A s fo r J in dié , I h ad n’t
th ought o f h er fo r a v ery lo ng tim e a n d w hen I d id sh e a p peare d a s a te n der
ghost. I c o uld n’t h elp f e elin g th at a r e sta u ra n t, n eu tr a l te rrito ry , m ig ht h av e b een
le ss s tr e ssfu l. I w alk ed b ack to m y p ark ed c ar, to ok o ut th e b ottle o f w in e a n d
in sp ecte d th eir R ic h m ond h om e c are fu lly b efo re a le rtin g th em to m y p re se n ce.
The h ouse , a la te G eo rg ia n m an sio n, w as c erta in ly w ell a p poin te d . A m atu re
gard en s lo ped g en tly t o t h e r iv er a n d a t in y q uay w here a b oat w as m oore d . B ut I
had b een s ig hte d a n d th e F re n ch w in dow s w ere p ush ed a p art a s Z ah id w alk ed
dow n to g re et m e. T here w asn ’t a h air o n h is h ead . I t w as p olis h ed a n d s m ooth
lik e a c arro m b oard . G iv en o ur h is to ry , a w arm e m bra ce o r e v en a p erfu ncto ry
hug w as o ut o f th e q uestio n. W e s h ook h an ds. A nd th en J in dié w alk ed o ut, a n d
th e c lo uds d is a p peare d . H er h air w as w hite , b ut h er fa ce w as u nalte re d a n d h er
fig ure h ad n ot co ars e n ed w ith ag e. H er sm ile w as en ough to flo od d ecay in g
mem ory b an ks. I m an ag ed a f e w b an alitie s a s w e w alk ed in doors . W hile Z ah id
wen t t o g et s o m e d rin ks— ju st t o b e d if fic u lt, I a sk ed f o r f re sh p om eg ra n ate j u ic e
an d w as t o ld i t w as p ossib le — I l o oked o ver t h e i n te rio r o f t h e h ouse .
The la rg e liv in g ro om w as c o nven tio nal a n d u nsu rp ris in g. It c o uld h av e
been lif te d str a ig ht fro m
In te rio rs
or one of th e m an y oth er co nsu m eris t
mag azin es th at dis g ra ce a den tis t’ s w aitin g ro om . D o th ey th in k th at th eir
patie n ts a re a ll e m pty -h ead ed , o r a re th e g lo ssy p ic tu re s m ean t to m ak e u p fo r
th e din gy deco r of th eir su rg erie s? The w alls w ere co vere d w ith m ostly
unpre p osse ssin g pain tin gs, w ith ev ery co ntin en t unsu ita b ly re p re se n te d . N o
Pla to , b ut tw o g ouach es b y h is d re ad fu lly fa sh io nab le riv al, I. M . M alik . T here
were a ls o a f e w s w ord s a n d d ag gers , w hic h h ad n ot b een d uste d f o r s o m e t im e.
The o nly o bje ct th at m ad e a n im pre ssio n o n m e w as a n e x quis ite ly p ain te d
Chin ese s c re en d ep ic tin g th re e w om en in e arn est c o nvers a tio n w ith e ach o th er.
Not a tr a ce h ere o f e arth ly e x is te n ce b ein g a m ere illu sio n. H ad I b een f o rc ed to

guess, I w ould h av e v en tu re d th at it w as fro m th e la te s e v en te en th c en tu ry a n d
by so m eo ne w ho e ith er in sp ir e d o r w as in sp ir e d b y Y ongzh en g. S he sa w m y
ap pre cia tiv e l o ok a n d s m ile d .
‘G en uin e o r a c o py?’
‘It’ s n ot a c o py. It re ally is Y ongzh en g. E arly e ig hte en th c en tu ry . A g if t
fro m m y s o n w hen h e l iv ed i n H ong K ong, e arn in g t o o m uch m oney f o r h is o w n
good. I h av e n o i d ea h ow h e m an ag ed t o g et i t o ut o f t h e c o untr y .’
It w as a b it e arly in th e e v en in g to sta rt d is c u ssin g p ro gen y, a n d I w as
wonderin g w here t h e b ooks w ere k ep t, w hen Z ah id t o ok m e b y t h e a rm .
‘J in dié k now s h ow f u ssy y ou a re a b out f o od. S he’s p re p are d a f e ast t o nig ht.
While s h e’s a p ply in g t h e f in is h in g t o uch es, l e t m e s h ow y ou m y s tu dy.’
They se em ed h ap py to geth er, w hic h p le ase d m e. N ot th at Jin dié w as th e
so rt w ho w ould h av e a ccep te d b ein g m ir e d in m is e ry fo r to o lo ng. S he w ould
hav e l e ft a g es a g o.
The la rg e oak -p an elle d stu dy w as certa in ly im pre ssiv e; th e ecle ctic
co lle ctio n a ccu ra te ly re fle cte d th e d if fe re n t ta ste s o f th e h ouse h old . Z ah id s a id ,
‘I’v e b ought all y our b ooks. T hum bprin t th em b efo re y ou le av e.’ H e sp oke
Punja b i, a s w e a lw ay s h ad w hen w e w ere a lo ne. H e w an te d to c le ar u p th e p ast.
‘D ara ji, w hat h urt th e m ost w as th at y ou r u sh ed to ju dgem en t w ith out s p eak in g
to m e.’
I s a t d ow n o n h is d esk a n d s ta re d a t h im . H is e y es w ere s till th e s a m e a n d
lo oked s tr a ig ht b ack a t m e. H e t h en t o ld m e w hat h ad r e ally h ap pen ed . H is f a th er
had s im ply b rib ed a s e n io r p olic e o ffic er t o g et t h e N o O bje ctio n C ertif ic ate , a n d
all Z ah id h ad d one w as s ig n a n a ffid av it a ffir m in g th at h e w as n ot a m em ber o f
an y c la n destin e C om munis t o rg an iz atio n.
‘W e a re n eith er o f u s y oung, Z ah id . L et’ s n ot tr y to d eceiv e e ach o th er o r
giv e s w eet n am es t o t h in gs t h at w ere n ev er n ic e. W ho b etr a y ed T ip u?’
‘W as I t h e o nly o ne w ho k new h e w as w ork in g f o r y our a u nt? ’
‘Y ou m ean i t c o uld h av e b een J a m sh ed ?’
‘It w as t h at s is te rfu ck er. H e a d m itte d a s m uch t o m e.’

‘W hen ?’
‘F orty y ears a g o, w hen sh am e w as still a n e m otio n h e w re stle d w ith . H e
sa id h e c o uld n’t f a ce y ou a fte r t h at a n d a sk ed m e t o f o rg iv e h im f o r a llo w in g t h e
bla m e t o r e st o n m y s h ould ers
‘A nd I th ought h e c o uld n’t f a ce m e b ecau se h e’d b eco m e a c o rru pt, a m ora l
busin essm an i n b ed w ith e v ery m ilita ry d ic ta to r.’
‘Is t h ere a n y o th er k in d?’
We l a u ghed .
‘Z ah id . Y ou k new m e b ette r th an m ost. E very one in L ah ore w as to ld it w as
you. If I w as in a ra g e a n d d id n’t rin g y ou, w hy d id n’t y ou c o nta ct m e? Y our
sile n ce c o nfir m ed y our g uilt i n m y e y es.’
‘It w as th e c o p w ho to ok th e b rib e w ho s p re ad th e v ile r u m ours . M y f a th er
was s c are d . I f I c h alle n ged h im a n d t o ld m y f rie n ds, m y N o O bje ctio n C ertif ic ate
mig ht h av e b een w ith dra w n a n d I w ould n’t h av e b een a b le t o l e av e t h e c o untr y . I
knew th at if I to ld y ou, y ou w ould c o nfro nt th e c o p, ta lk to jo urn alis ts , te ll th e
whole w orld a n d m ak e a b ig f u ss. T hat w ould h av e m ean t n o m ed ic al s tu die s a t
Jo hns H opkin s a n d I w as d esp era te t o b eco m e a d octo r. Y ou e n co ura g ed m e. B ut
th is is tr u th a n d re co ncilia tio n tim e. T here w as a n oth er re aso n w hy I d id n ot
co nta ct y ou.’
‘W hat w as i t? ’
‘J in dié . I k new h ow c lo se y ou tw o w ere . Y ou’d to ld m e e v ery th in g a n d I
th ought ...’
‘M ig ht a s w ell l e t h im t h in k t h e w ors t o f m e a s l o ng a s I ’v e g ot J in dié .’
‘S om eth in g l ik e t h at.’
‘B ut y ou n ev er l o ved h er. Y ou w ould h av e t o ld m e.’
‘T ru e, b ut I l ik ed h er a g re at d eal a n d w an te d t o m arry s o m eo ne. Y ou l o ved
her b ut w ere n ot p re p are d t o m arry h er ...’
‘O r a n yone e ls e .’
‘Y es, b ut th at’ s n ot th e w ay s h e o r m ost g ir ls th ought a t th e tim e, le t a lo ne
her p are n ts . Y ou o ffe re d h er s o m e c ra zy b ohem ia n a lte rn ativ e, a n d th at, to o, in

Lah ore , w here g ir ls le arn ed th e a rt o f le an in g o n w in dow s ills to c atc h s ig ht o f
th eir lo vers , in s u ch a w ay a s to n ev er b e v is ib le f ro m o uts id e. E ven lo gis tic ally
your s u ggestio n w as c ra zy .’
‘It w as a te st o f o ur lo ve. Jin dié fa ile d . A s fo r b ohem ia n lif e sty le s an d
lo gis tic s, o ur p oets , p ro fe sso rs an d artis ts u se d th em co nsta n tly an d n ot ju st
befo re P artitio n. P la to h ad a lis t in h is h ead o f w ho d id it w ith w hom a n d w here
... b oats o n th e R av i w ere re g ula r m eetin g p la ces. L aw re n ce G ard en s in th e
moonlig ht w hen th e w olv es in th e Z oo w ere h ow lin g. N ow th e riv er th at so
arro gan tly a n d re g ula rly flo oded o ur c ity h as n o w ate r le ft. W ere y ou e v er in
lo ve w ith h er? ’
‘N o, b ut I g re w to lo ve a n d re sp ect h er, a n d D ara , p le ase a ccep t th is a s a
fa ct. W e’v e b een h ap py. T w o c h ild re n a n d a n a d ora b le g ra n dch ild .’
‘W hat h as th e p ro ductio n o f ch ild re n an d g ra n dch ild re n g ot to d o w ith
hap pin ess? I h ope y ou’re h ap py b ecau se y ou lik e h er, b ecau se y ou c an ta lk to
her a b out t h e w orld a n d ...’
‘W hen I fir s t pro pose d m arria g e, sh e to ld m e th ere co uld nev er be a
re p la cem en t fo r y ou. H er o nly c o nditio n w as th at if w e w en t a b ro ad s h e n ev er
wan te d to b e in th e s a m e to w n a s y ou. N ev er e v er. S in ce y ou h ad a lr e ad y f o und
me g uilty a n d e x ecu te d m e fo r a c rim e I n ev er c o m mitte d , I w as d elig hte d to
ag re e t o h er c o nditio n. N o m ore w as s a id .’
‘W hy d id n’t s h e e v er w rite a n d t e ll m e t h at y ou w ere i n nocen t? ’
‘N ow t h at y ou’re b oth i n t h e s a m e t o w n, y ou c o uld a sk h er.’
‘I’m g la d Ja m sh ed is d ead . I’m g la d y ou’v e lo st all y our h air an d lo ok
re ally d ecre p it a n d a g ed .’
Zah id b urs t o ut la u ghin g. I t w as s p onta n eo us a n d u naffe cte d , r e m in din g m e
of h ow m uch w e u se d t o l a u gh w hen w e w ere y oung. H e l o oked a t m e c lo se ly .
‘W hy t h e h ell h av en ’t y ou c h an ged ? D oes n oth in g a ffe ct y ou?’
‘I h av e c h an ged , a n d in m ore w ay s th an y ou th in k, b ut s o m e th in gs g o f a r
to o d eep , a n d h ow ev er c h an ged th e w orld is , it is c rim in al to fo rg et w hat w as
once p ossib le a n d w ill b eco m e s o a g ain .’

‘A lw ay s m oth erfu ck in g p olitic s. W hat d id h ap pen t o T ip u?’
‘H e w as a rre ste d , t o rtu re d a n d s e n t b ack to C hitta g ong o n th e r e q uest o f h is
uncle , w ho w as a c iv il s e rv an t. T he u ncle to ok f u ll r e sp onsib ility f o r h im . T ip u
sta y ed in to uch . I th ought h e h ad d ie d in th e c iv il w ar o f 1 971, b ut h e w as o nly
wounded . T he l a st t im e I s a w h im w as a t t h e f u nera l w here h e h ugged y ou. H e’s
an a rm s d eale r w ho u se s h is M ao is t p ast t o p im p f o r t h e C hin ese . A P aris ia n w if e
help s w ith t h e F re n ch s id e o f t h e d eals .’
A g ong, p re te n tio us b ut effe ctiv e, w as so unded b elo w . W e w ere b ein g
su m moned f o r s u pper. T he ta b le w as la id o ut lik e a w ork o f a rt. S he m ust h av e
waste d h alf a d ay a t l e ast.
‘I n ev er t h ought I ’d e v er c o ok f o r y ou.’
‘If i t’ s n ot g ood, y ou n ev er w ill a g ain .’
But it w as g ood. In fa ct, it w as a c o nvin cin g re p eat o f a Y unnan ese m eal
co oked b y h er m oth er th at I h ad e n jo yed a t h er fa m ily a p artm en t in L ah ore a ll
th ose y ears a g o, th e m eal th at in tr o duced m e to p ro per C hin ese c o okin g, n ot th e
muck th ey s e rv ed in th e tw o re sta u ra n ts in to w n. W hat a w onderfu l w ay J in dié
had ch ose n to re v iv e th e m ost delic io us m em orie s fro m th e past, m in glin g
an cie n t re cip es w ith ad ole sc en t lo ve. To sta rt, th ere w ere th re e ty pes of
mush ro om s, in clu din g th e m ost priz ed :
ch i- tz o ng
, w hic h w hen co oked in a
partic u la r w ay ta ste s lik e c h ic k en . T hen
ka n-p a-c h un
, o r ‘d ry fu ngi’ , stir -frie d
with re d c h illie s, s p rin g o nio ns a n d b eef fille t, w hic h g av e th e p ala te a s m uch
ple asu re a s o ne’s fir s t F re n ch k is s. T he m ain c o urs e w as c h ic k en s e rv ed in th e
ste am p ot in w hic h it c o oked , w hic h re se m ble d a n e sp re sso c o ffe e p ot w ith a
ch im ney p ro tr u din g f ro m i ts m id dle , s e aso ned w ith s c en te d h erb s, a g re at d eal o f
gin ger, a n d m ore m ush ro om s. T he m eth od p ro duces s te am ed c h ic k en a s s o ft a s
mars h m allo w s a n d th e m ost e x quis ite c h ic k en so up I h av e e v er ta ste d . T o g o
with th is th ere w ere s o m e ‘ o ver-th e-b rid ge’ r ic e n oodle s a n d
nuo m i
, th e s tic k y
ric e th at is o nly a v aila b le in Y unnan a n d p arts o f V ie tn am . N eith er o f m y h osts
co uld e at th e b ak ed g re en c h illie s th at a d orn ed a sin gle p la te p ut n ex t to m e;
th ese , t o o, I h ad f ir s t t a ste d a t t h e o rig in al b an quet i n L ah ore .

Last, b ut n ot le ast, th ere w as
ru -s h an
( d air y f a n ), a n oth er d elic acy th at s e ts
Yunnan cu is in e ap art fro m th e co okin g of alm ost all oth er H an C hin ese
pro vin ces. T his is a c h eese -lik e p ro duct, s o lid , h ard , a n d v ery th in ly s lic ed in to
fa n -s h ap ed p ie ces, w hic h a re e ate n w ith g oose b erry c o m pote a n d r a w m an goes.
Sin ce J in dié ’s s to m ach , lik e th ose o f m ost H an p eo ple , is s e n sitiv e to a ll d air y
fo ods, Z ah id a n d I e n ded u p e atin g to o m uch o f it th at e v en in g. I d eclin ed th e
mao ta i
, a g ru eso m e s p ir it w hose n am e w hen s p oken in P unja b i m ean s ‘ d eath is
near’.
My s to m ach h ad b een c o m ple te ly w on o ver, b ut th e p ath to m y h eart w as
still b lo ck ed b y a f o re st o f s tin gin g n ettle s. I n m ore r e la x ed m ode, I a sk ed a fte r
th e c h ild re n a n d th eir liv es. T he s o n, S ule im an , h ad tir e d o f m ak in g m oney a n d
tu rn ed to C hin ese h is to ry . H e w as in lo ve w ith a C hin ese w om an a n d liv ed in
Kunm in g. N o, h e w as n ot a t a ll r e lig io us a n d o nly m ild ly in te re ste d in p olitic s.
The d au ghte r, N eela m , w as re lig io us, a n d m arrie d to a g en era l in Is lo o. T heir
so n w ould b e e le v en n ex t y ear. I s m ile d , th in kin g o f h ow d esp era te ly Z ah id h ad
once b een in lo ve w ith a g en era l’ s d au ghte r; n ow h is o w n d au ghte r w as w ed ded
to a g en era l.
It w as m y tu rn to b e q uestio ned , b ut it w as o bvio us th ey a lr e ad y k new a
gre at d eal, a n d I s h eep is h ly c o nfir m ed m uch o f th e in fo rm atio n th at J in dié h ad
accu m ula te d re g ard in g m y lif e . S he ev en re calle d a fe w ep is o des th at I h ad
to ta lly f o rg otte n . J in dié h ad k ep t a s tr ic t w atc h o n m e e v en f ro m a fa r. S he a sk ed
fo r d eta ils o f m y l if e t h at I h ad a ls o l o ng f o rg otte n .
‘Y ou s e e’, s a id Z ah id , ‘ w e n ev er r e ally lo st to uch w ith y ou e v en th ough w e
co uld n ev er b e in c o nta ct fo r a ll th ose y ears . Jin dié ’s sp ie s re p orte d o n y our
ev ery m ovem en t. O nce w hen y ou c am e to g iv e a le ctu re a t G eo rg eto w n, w e s a t
rig ht a t t h e b ack i n d ark g la sse s a n d f u nny h ats s o y ou w ould n’t r e co gniz e u s.’
‘I w ould n’t h av e r e co gniz ed y ou w ith out a h at, y ou t u rn ip .’
I c h atte re d a w ay in P unja b i, p le ase d th at th e th ought o f Z ah id w ould n o
lo nger p lu nge m e in to a g lo om y re v erie tin ged w ith re p ugnan ce. T he m oth er
to ngue e n co ura g es im pru den ce a n d in dis c re tio ns, b ut b oth o f u s w ere e n jo yin g

th e re u nio n. Jin dié w as sile n t, ev en th ough sh e w as p ro bab ly m ore flu en t in
Punja b i n ow th an Z ah id . I th ought I d ete cte d a n a n xio us lo ok fro m h er a t o ne
poin t, b ut i t s o on d is a p peare d . J u st a s I w as a b out t o l e av e, I r e aliz ed t h at w e h ad
not y et d is c u sse d P la to ’s p lig ht. Z ah id h ad n o id ea to w hom o r w hy h e h ad g ot
marrie d o r w heth er t h is , t o o, w as a f a n ta sy . H e a d m itte d t h at h e n eith er l ik ed n or
co uld u nders ta n d P la to ’s p ain tin gs. J in dié d is a g re ed v ery s tr o ngly a n d w e b oth
unite d , to a ccu se h im o f p hilis tin is m . I s u ggeste d th at I. M . M alik ’s d eco ra tiv e
work s h ould b e r e m oved to h is s tu dy o r th e w ash ro om . H e s a id th at h e h ad p aid
a g re at d eal fo r th e g ouach es a n d a sk ed w hy I o w ed P la to a fa v our in th e fir s t
pla ce. Jin dié co uld not to ta lly co nceal her nerv ousn ess at th is . I m um ble d
so m eth in g a b out th e d is ta n t p ast a n d f o g-b ound m em ory , b ut p ro m is e d I w ould
sp eak w ith P la to t h e f o llo w in g d ay .
The e v en in g h ad tu rn ed o ut to b e s u rp ris in gly p le asa n t. J u st b efo re I le ft,
Jin dié d is a p peare d b rie fly , r e tu rn in g w ith a l a rg e p ack et t h at o bvio usly c o nta in ed
a m an usc rip t.
‘A ll th ose y ears a g o y ou to ld m e I s h ould w rite th e s to ry o f m y f a m ily a n d
th e lo ng m arc h th at b ro ught u s fro m Y unnan to In dia . I d id , a n d h ere it is . A t
fir s t I th ought I w as w ritin g it f o r N eela m , b ut w hen s h e w en t r e lig io us I k new
sh e co uld n ev er u nders ta n d h er m oth er. F or h er, all fre ed om le ad s to m ora l
co rru ptio n. B ut I c arrie d o n w ritin g. S in ce it w as y our id ea, I th ought I ’d g iv e it
to y ou. I t’ s f o r th e g ra n dch ild re n r e ally . N ot to b e p ublis h ed , b ut I w ould lik e to
know w hat y ou t h in k. S orry i t t u rn ed o ut s o l o ng.’
I t o ok t h e m an usc rip t w ith d elig ht, w onderin g w heth er i t h eld u p a m ir ro r t o
th e d ra w in g r o om s o f L ah ore . T his little b utte rfly c o uld a lw ay s s tin g lik e a b ee.
Her w asp is h desc rip tio ns of vis its underta k en w ith her m oth er to th e gre at
house s o f t h e c ity h ad a lw ay s m ad e m e l a u gh.
‘J in dié , I ’m to uch ed a n d h onoure d . If th ere is a n yth in g I c an ’t u nders ta n d,
may I r in g y ou f o r a n e x pla n atio n?’
Zah id lo oked a t b oth o f u s in tu rn a n d s m ile d . ‘Y ou’re in th e s a m e to w n
ag ain . Y ou’re a lw ay s w elc o m e h ere . A nd y ou sh ould k now th at I w as n ev er

giv en a c h an ce t o r e ad t h e m an usc rip t.’
Her e y es fla sh ed . ‘Y ou g av e u p re ad in g a lo ng tim e a g o. O nly m ed ic al
jo urn als a n d th e le ss d em an din g a ir p ort th rille rs . T oo w earis o m e to r e ad p ro per
books. H e o nly b ought y ours l a st w eek .’
‘H e t o ld m e.’
It w as tim e to ta k e m y le av e. I ro se an d sh ook h an ds w ith Jin dié . T he
tr e m or w as u nm is ta k ab le . Z ah id w alk ed m e t o m y c ar.
‘S eein g y ou a g ain w as a p le asu re .’
This tim e w e em bra ced w arm ly , as o ld frie n ds d o. I th ought ab out th e
ev en in g a ll th e w ay h om e a n d f o r s o m e d ay s a fte rw ard s. I t w as n eith er p olitic al
tr e ach ery n or th e h ard s c h ool o f m is fo rtu ne n or m y p rid e a n d ill h um our n or h is
in cessa n t f riv olity th at h ad le d to th e b re ach . I t w as J in dié . S om eh ow th is d id n’t
rin g tr u e. I re calle d him te llin g m e th at he nev er fo und her attr a ctiv e an d
co uld n’t u nders ta n d w hat I s a w in h er. H e w ould a lw ay s in sis t th at m y lo ve f o r
her w as n eith er te n der n or p ure . I’d str o ngly d en ie d th e c h arg e. M y lo ve w as
certa in ly t e n der. A s f o r t h e o th er, t h e l o ve t h at i s p ure v erg es o n r e lig io us e csta sy
an d w ors h ip a n d th at n ev er m ean t a n yth in g to m e. It a ls o s e p ara te s lo ve fro m
passio n. T he f ir s t f o r t h e w if e , t h e l a tte r f o r a c o urte sa n a n d l a te r a m is tr e ss.
Tru e, h e h ad b een o bse sse d w ith t h e g en era l’ s d au ghte r a t t h e t im e, b ut h ow
co uld h e h av e c h an ged h is m in d a b out J in dié w ith in a f e w y ears ? A nd w hat h ad
posse sse d h er to m arry h im ? T hese p uzzle s r e m ain ed , b ut, m ost im porta n tly , h e
had n ot b etr a y ed T ip u. L ookin g b ack , it w asn ’t a s u rp ris e th at J a m sh ed w as th e
tr a ito r. H is p olitic s a n d s e x uality — ev er tr a n sie n t— wen t in ta n dem . H is c h arm
had o nce d is g uis e d h is a m bitio n. H e c am e f ro m a m odest P ars i b ack gro und. A ll
he w an te d w as to b e ric h , lik e th e o th er P ars i b usin essm en , w ho h ad p ro sp ere d
th ro ughout South Asia an d esp ecia lly a gre at- u ncle whose nam e when
pro nounced in P unja b i m ean t te stic le . W hen J a m sh ed h ad a ch ie v ed th is a im , th e
ch arm d is a p peare d a n d h e b ecam e a g an gste r. H is a p peara n ce, to o, u nderw en t a
ch an ge. H e w as b lo ate d a n d w ith h is a w fu l d ark g la sse s lo oked lik e th re e p im ps
gone m ould y. W as h e p aid in c ash to b etr a y T ip u? W as th at h ow h e h ad b eg un

his d esc en t t o t h e s e w ers o f b ig b usin ess i n F ath erla n d?
Pla to h ad n ev er tr u ste d h im . H e w ould o fte n le av e a b ru ptly w hen J a m sh ed
arriv ed a t th e c o lle g e c afe te ria to jo in o ur ta b le . T he c o untr y w e g re w u p in w as
perm an en tly sw ath ed in can t, an d th e m ost tir e so m e fo rm s of hypocris y
flo uris h ed . T hat w as w hy P la to b ecam e s o s p ecia l f o r u s. H e u rg ed u s to ig nore
re lig io n, re n ounce sta te -s p onso re d politic s, ple asu re ours e lv es in w hate v er
fa sh io n w e d esir e d a n d la u gh a t o ffic ia ld om . H ow in A lla h ’s n am e h ad th is m an
beco m e e n gulf e d i n a n e m otio nal c ris is s o l a te i n h is l if e ?

TH REE
Z AHID H AD T O LD H IM
to rin g a t a d ecen t h our, a n d w hen th e p hone h is se d th at
m orn in g a t n in e, I k new i t m ust b e h im .
‘P la to ?’
‘Y ou r e co gniz ed m y v oic e b efo re I s p oke.’
‘A re y ou a ll r ig ht? ’
‘N ev er b een s o h ap py i n m y l if e . I ’m n ot j o kin g.’
‘T hen w hy d id y ou s w ear s o m uch w hen t a lk in g t o Z ah id ?’
‘H ow m uch t im e d o w e h av e?’
‘T he m orn in g’s f re e.’
‘T hen le t m e sta rt by te llin g you w hy I now so m etim es use ab usiv e
l a n guag e.’
Slo w ly , th e ta le u nfo ld ed . P la to w as n ev er o ne fo r s h allo w s e n tim en ta lity
a n d h is v oic e g re w h ard er a s h e p ro gre sse d . I n b rie f, A hm ed , a p ain te r f rie n d o f
h is , h ad a b an doned h is w if e a n d c h ild re n f o r a y ounger m is tr e ss. T his w as b an al
a n d p re d ic ta b le , b ut h e w as u neasy a n d k ep t r e tu rn in g to th e w if e a n d m ountin g
h er e v ery F rid ay a fte rn oon, b efo re h av in g l u nch w ith h is b oys. O ne d ay h is w if e ,
Z arin a, c o uld ta k e it n o lo nger a n d lo st c o ntr o l. S he a b use d h im n onsto p: y our
m oth er’s cu nt, sis te rfu ck er, fu ck yours e lf , so dom ite , cata m ite , dogfu ck er,
d au ghte rfu ck er ... s ta y w ith t h e c am el- c u nte d b itc h y ou’v e f o und a n d d on’t c o m e
t o m e a g ain . H ow lo ng th is w ould h av e la ste d is a m atte r o f s p ecu la tio n. A hm ed
c o vere d h er f a ce w ith a p illo w a n d s m oth ere d h er. T hen h e w ep t u nco ntr o lla b ly .
T he o ld er s o n r a n g t h e p olic e, w ho t o ok h im a w ay .
‘I c o uld n’t u nders ta n d’, P la to c o ntin ued , ‘ w hy th e u se o f b ad la n guag e h ad
l e d to v io le n ce a n d m urd er. A fte r a ll, it w as o nly h er w ay o f te llin g h im h ow
a n gry s h e w as a t b ein g a b an doned a n d m is tr e ate d . I w en t t o s e e h im a n um ber o f
t im es in p ris o n. H e w as fille d w ith s h am e a n d a t fir s t d id n ot w an t to d is c u ss

what h e h ad d one, b ut a fte r I p re ssu re d h im th e f o llo w in g e x pla n atio n e m erg ed .
His w if e had nev er use d bad la n guag e befo re an d had ofte n punis h ed th e
ch ild re n w hen t h eir t o ngues l e t s lip a n o bsc en ity . T his i s a f a m ily t h at l iv es i n t h e
heart o f t h e o ld c ity , w here e ach l a n e h as i ts o w n s p ecia l o bsc en itie s. A hm ed t o ld
me th at th e s ig ht o f th e w om an h e h ad c h ose n to m oth er h is c h ild re n s u dden ly
tr a n sfo rm ed b y h atr e d w as a b lo w to h is s e lf -e ste em , h is id ea o f h im se lf : h e h ad
been f ille d w ith a n ger a t th e th ought th at h e’d m arrie d a w om an w ho h ad tu rn ed
out to b e s o v ulg ar. I t w as th e d is c o very o f th is u nknow n s id e o f h er th at m ad e
him l o se c o ntr o l a n d k ill h er.’
‘D id t h ey h an g h im ?’
‘W hat w orld d o y ou l iv e i n ? H e w as r e le ase d t h re e m onth s l a te r. H is l a w yer
arg ued it w as a n “ h onour k illin g”, a n d th e ju dge w as p aid in a d van ce. A hm ed
now liv es p eacefu lly w ith h is n ew w if e . T he tw o b oys h av e b een s e n t o ff to a
cad et c o lle g e a n d w ill s o on b eco m e y oung a rm y o ffic ers . I d on’t s p eak to th e
dog, b ut o ccasio nally I in dulg e in o bsc en e la n guag e to e x pre ss m y so lid arity
with h is l a te w if e . D o y ou b elie v e m e?’
‘N o.’
‘It’ s tr u e. Y our o ld frie n d Z ah id lo ves b ein g a b use d a n yw ay . M ak es h im
fe el h e’s b ack h om e. H ow w as t h e b utte rfly ?’
‘R ese rv ed a n d d ig nif ie d a s a lw ay s. M ore th an I c an s a y fo r y ou. W hat d o
you w an t o f m e?’
‘C ould y ou w rite a l o ng e ssa y a b out m e?’
‘Y our p ain tin gs? ’
‘Y es, b ut m ore a b out m y l if e . S he w an ts i t a n d I c an ’t d en y h er a n yth in g.’
‘H ow o ld i s s h e?’
‘F if ty -tw o.’
‘N ot b ad . O nly tw en ty -s e v en y ears y ounger th an y ou. I w as h opin g sh e
mig ht b e o ne o f y our y ounger m odels . W hen d id h er h usb an d d ie ?’
‘W ho to ld y ou it w as d ead ? I t w ill n ev er d ie . I t’ s s till a liv e a n d p re se n t. I n
fa ct s h e k eep s i t c lo se t o h er b ed .’

‘W hat? ’
‘P re p are y ours e lf fo r a su rp ris e , M r D ara . M y Z ay nab is m arrie d to th e
Kora n .’
‘A lla h h elp u s.’
‘H e n ev er d oes, a s w e k now .’
‘S o s h e’s t h e d au ghte r o f s o m e S in dhi f e u dal e n gag ed i n s o rd id c alc u la tio ns
ab out h is p ro perty .’
Pla to w as o verc o m e b y a f it o f b itte r la u ghte r. ‘ Y es, b ut in h er c ase it w as
th e b ro th er, n ot th e fa th er, w ho fo rc ed h er to m arry th e H oly B ook. H e m ust
hav e m ad e a lo t o f m oney s e llin g h er s h are o f th e la n d. I t’ s n ot th at o ld a g e h as
mad e h im g en ero us. H e d ro pped d ead a fe w y ears a g o. T he y ounger b ro th er
ad ore s Z ay nab . H e b ought h er a n a p artm en t in C lif to n o verlo okin g th e s e a. S he
wan te d to b uy o ne o f m y p ain tin gs. I s h ow ed h er a s e le ctio n. S he b ought th em
all. T hen I d id a n im ag in ed p ortr a it o f h er o n h er w ed din g n ig ht. T hat m ad e h er
la u gh s o m uch t h at I f e ll i n l o ve. C an y ou i m ag in e?’
I c o uld , b ut P la to s till w an te d to g o th ro ugh it in g re at d eta il a n d I d id n’t
sto p h im . I p re fe rre d P la to in lo ve to P la to m ela n ch olic , fille d w ith w his k y-
so ak ed d esp air a n d s u ic id al. H e p re fe rre d liv in g o n th e e d ge a n d in a w ay h is
lo ve fo r Z ay nab fe ll in to th at c ate g ory . F or th e ig nora n t s h e w as th e e q uiv ale n t
of a C ath olic n un, e x cep t t h at s h e w as w ed t o t h e K ora n , n ot J e su s. T he t r a d itio n
re fu se d to d ie o ut. T o b eco m e h er lo ver w as to d efy h eav en an d b eco m e a
passio nate s in ner. I w as s u re th at h er m arita l s ta tu s w as th e tu rn -o n. P la to p aid
no h eed to o ffic ia l m ora lity , to ok g re at p le asu re in d efy in g p ublic o pin io n a n d
en jo yed sta rtlin g his co nfo rm is t co nte m pora rie s. H is lif e an d his pain tin gs
re fle cte d t h ese f e elin gs.
He re co unte d in so m e d eta il h ow th e fir s t m eetin g h ad b een b rie f, b ut
pro fita b le . H e desc rib ed her clo th es, th e co lo ur of her hair undern eath th e
dia p han ous
dupatta
. T he w ay h er e y es c h an ged c o lo ur a n d s o o n. S he s u m moned
him a w eek l a te r t o e x pla in t h e a lle g oric al s id e o f h is w ork . T hen h e a sk ed h er t o
pose f o r h im . S he d id s o f u lly c lo th ed , b ut h e p ain te d h er ly in g n ak ed in h er b ed

waitin g fo r her H oly B ook— husb an d. H e sa id th e pic tu re w as in sp ir e d by
Mag ritte , b ut if it w ere e v er s h ow n in p ublic h e w ould b e D D’d ( d is e m bow elle d
an d d ecap ita te d ) b y so m e fa n atic . I ch alle n ged th is asse rtio n. G iv en th at th e
gro te sq ue p ra ctic e o f K ora n -m arria g e w as r e g ula rly d en ounced a s u n-Is la m ic b y
ev ery cle ric al fa ctio n in F ath erla n d an d h ad ev en u nite d S hia an d W ah hab i,
su re ly it w as th e m en in th ese fa m ilie s w ho s h ould b e D D’d fo r m is u sin g th e
Holy B ook t o s a fe g uard t h eir p ro perty .
I th ought m y lo gic w as im peccab le , b ut P la to ig nore d m e a n d c o ntin ued
with h is sto ry . Z ay nab , h e sa id , w as n ot a v ir g in . I sig hed w ith re lie f. T he
ad van ta g e o f th is ty pe o f m arria g e, s h e h ad to ld h im , w as th at th ere w as n o n eed
to d is se m ble . E very p re tty w om an Z ay nab k new in F ath erla n d h ad a h usb an d,
an d q uite a fe w in a d ditio n to a h usb an d h ad a lo ver a s w ell a n d, a s a n e x tr a ,
an oth er p ers o n to k eep h er f ro m g ettin g to o b ore d d urin g th e d ay . T alk lik e th is
had en tr a n ced P la to . H e w as still g rip ped b y m ad ness, to rm en t an d jo y, th e
pro cess c lin ic ally d esc rib ed b y S te n dhal i n
Love
a s ‘ c ry sta lliz atio n’.
‘P la to , a re y ou l iv in g i n h er a p artm en t? ’
‘W hy n ot? S he p re te n ds I’m h er c o ok-b utle r-c h au ffe u r, a n d w hen ev er h er
frie n ds o r re la tio ns v is it I a ct th e p art, a s I o nce d id fo r y ou a n d th e G old en
Butte rfly .’
None of his obse ssio ns w ith w om en had ev er la ste d very lo ng, an d I
en quir e d g en tly h ow l o ng h e g av e Z ay nab .
‘L is te n , c ata m ite ... s o rry , th at s lip ped o ut b y m is ta k e. Z ay nab w ill m ak e
su re m y b ody i s b ath ed a n d e n sh ro uded b efo re t h e b uria l. I ’m t o o o ld t o m ove o n
an yw here n ow . W ill y ou t e ll m y s to ry a n d h ers ? ’
‘Y es t o y ours , b ut I d on’t k now h er a t a ll.’
‘S he’s c o m in g t o y our t o w n n ex t m onth . Y ou’ll m eet h er.’
‘A re y ou c o m in g, t o o?’
‘H ow can th e co ok-c h au ffe u r tr a v el ab ro ad w ith th e la d y? H er frie n ds
are n ’t t h at s tu pid .’
‘T hat’ s w here y ou’re w ro ng, P la to . T hey a re s tu pid . Y our p hoto gra p h h as

been in
Daw n
. Y our p ain tin gs h av e fe atu re d o n te le v is io n, a n d n one o f th em
re co gniz ed y ou?’
‘S erv an ts a re i n vis ib le .’
‘T ill t h ey c u t t h eir m aste r’s t h ro at.’
We h ad b een s p eak in g f o r th re e h ours a n d n ow a t th e r is k o f o ffe n din g h im
I sa id fa re w ell a n d n ote d h is p hone n um ber. P la to ’s su bm is siv e, sh y, p le ase -
ig nore -m e-I’m -a -n obody e x te rio r h ad b een c are fu lly c u ltiv ate d o ver th e y ears
an d a lw ay s w ork ed w ith th ose w ho d id n’t re ally k now h im . It w asn ’t to ta lly
fa k e, o r e ls e h e w ould h av e p ro m ote d h is o w n w ork m ore e n erg etic ally , b ut
when I p ush ed h im o n th is h e w ould s im ply r e p ly th at if th e w ork w as a n y g ood
it w ould l a st a n d h e w as n ot t o o i n te re ste d i n m oney . H is a tte m pte d b la ck m ail o f
me w as c ru de a n d in effe ctiv e, sin ce Z ah id k new th e w hole sto ry , b ut it w as
undoubte d ly a s ig n o f P la to ’s d esp era tio n, h is f e ar o f d yin g ju st a s h e h ad m et a
wom an h e r e ally l ik ed .
Pla to e n te re d o ur liv es a lm ost h alf a c en tu ry a g o. Z ah id a n d I h ad le ft o ur
re sp ectiv e h ig h s c h ools a n d j o in ed t h e c o lle g e i n L ah ore , w here w e w ere b le sse d
with a tr u ly e n lig hte n ed p rin cip al. A b io lo gis t b y tr a in in g, h e w as a ls o a g if te d
Punja b i s c h ola r a n d h ad tr a n sla te d s o m e o f o ur e p ic s in to U rd u. T hey w ere n ot
quite th e sa m e th in g in F ath erla n d’s sh in y, o rn ate sta te la n guag e, b ut h e h ad
done th em bette r th an an ybody els e . H e had als o co m mis sio ned a P unja b i
tr a n sla tio n o f S hak esp eare . T he su ccess o f
The T em pest
, sta g ed th e p re v io us
year, h ad b een h elp ed b y th e acto r p la y in g C alib an , w ho b ore an u nnerv in g
re se m bla n ce to th e m ilita ry d ic ta to r e n tr u ste d b y W ash in gto n to r u n F ath erla n d.
We h ad r e tu rn ed to L ah ore f ro m th e m ounta in s in tim e f o r th e P unja b i p re m ie re
of
Ham le t
. E xpecta tio ns w ere h ig h: O phelia w as b ein g p la y ed b y a v ery p re tty
Kash m ir i b oy c alle d A sh ra f L one, a n d a n um ber o f o ld er s tu den ts w ho lu ste d
afte r h im h ad d ecid ed th ey lo ved th e th eatr e .
Ham le t
w as to b e p erfo rm ed in th e
Open A ir T heatr e in S ep te m ber, w hen th e h eat h ad a b ate d , th e m onso on a n d
acco m pan yin g h um id ity o f A ugust h ad r e tir e d f o r a n oth er y ear a n d th e e v en in gs
were p le asa n t w ith th e s c en t o f ja sm in e a n d q ueen -o f-th e-n ig ht w afte d b y s o ft,

re fre sh in g b re ezes a cro ss th e c o lle g e la w ns to th e a m phith eatr e . T he tr a n sla to r
was a d is tin guis h ed P unja b i p oet.
A n ew th eatr ic al p ro ductio n w as a b ig e v en t in th e c u ltu ra l lif e o f th e c ity .
The open in g nig ht of
Ham le t
w as atte n ded by num ero us pare n ts an d th e
in te lle ctu al e lite o f L ah ore . T hose w ith se n sitiv e p oste rio rs b ro ught th eir o w n
cu sh io ns to p la ce o n th e c ir c u la r ro w s o f re d bric k s e ats o verlo okin g th e s ta g e.
There w as a s e n se o f e x pecta tio n, a n e v en in g a w ay f ro m th e v ulg ar in te re sts o f
ev ery day lif e : w hat co uld be lo ftie r th an Shak esp eare tr a n sla te d in to th e
la n guag e o f o ur c ity b y o ne o f F ath erla n d’s m ost r e sp ecte d a u th ors ? T he la tte r’s
arriv al a t t h e t h eatr e w as g re ete d w ith e n th usia stic a p pla u se .
The p la y b eg an . A ll w en t w ell till th e g host s c en e. T he a cto r p la y in g th e
ghost w as a y oung p ro fe sso r o f E nglis h , s lig htly n eu ro tic a n d v ery a rro gan t. H e
had stu die d a t E din burg h U niv ers ity a n d sp oke P unja b i w ith a slig ht S co ttis h
accen t. H e h ad n ev er a cte d b efo re , b ut h ad lo bbie d fo rc efu lly to b e p art o f th e
pla y a n d f in ally th e h ara sse d d ir e cto r h ad g iv en h im th e s m all r o le o f th e g host.
When h is tu rn c am e to s p eak h e w as p ara ly zed w ith s ta g e frig ht a n d fo rg ot h is
lin es. T he e x cessiv ely s h ort s e n io r s tu den t p la y in g H am le t b eg an to p an ic . T he
th ir d tim e h e re p eate d ‘
Hai, m ayra y p io d a b hooth ’
(
‘ Oh, m y fa th er’s g host’ )
with out elic itin g an y re sp onse fro m th e ghost, an ir rita te d voic e fro m th e
au die n ce s h oute d a l o ud p ro m pt:
‘P id ke, b ach a a pni m a d i c h ooth !’
( R unt, s a v e y our m oth er’s c u nt! )
To sa y th e effe ct w as ele ctr ic w ould b e an u nders ta te m en t. T he acto rs
co lla p se d b efo re th e a u die n ce. H am le t w as a g ig glin g w re ck . T he g host p asse d
out w ith s h am e. T he s ta g e lig hts w ere tu rn ed o ff a n d o n f o r a t le ast te n m in ute s.
The s o und o f l a u ghte r d ro w ned a ll e ls e : a s o ne w av e s u bsid ed , a n oth er r o se . T he
sta g e m an ag em en t re aliz ed th e p la y w as o ver fo r th e n ig ht a n d a n nounced th at
th e c ritic s w ere w elc o m e o n t h e n ex t d ay .
Every one w as lo okin g f o r th e P unja b i F re u d w hose b on m ot h ad m ad e th e
ev en in g m ore m em ora b le b y w re ck in g it. T he o w ner o f th e v oic e w as in h is
th ir tie s, b esp ecta cle d , d re sse d in
sa lw ar/k u rta
a n d c h ew in g
paan
a n d h ad a th ic k

cro p o f B ry lc re em ed b la ck h air . H e a p peare d to b e o n h is o w n. S om e m em bers
of th e a u die n ce b eg an to s h ak e h is h an d a n d o th ers w ere p oin tin g a p pre cia tiv ely
in h is d ir e ctio n, b ut h e s e em ed d ete rm in ed to g et o ut o f th e th eatr e a s f a st a s h e
co uld . Z ah id a n d I g ra b bed h im a s h e w as l o okin g f o r h is b ic y cle i n t h e s h ed .
‘D is a p pear, b oys. I w is h I h ad n’t s p oken .’
We i n vite d h im t o j o in u s t h e n ex t d ay f o r d rin ks i n R esp ecte d ’s j u ic e b ar.
‘W hat s o rt o f j u ic e?’
‘T he m ost d elic io us f ru it j u ic e i n t h e c ity .’
He la u ghed w ith out c o m mittin g h im se lf . W e n ev er e x pecte d h im to s h ow ,
but in th e m ean tim e n ew s o f h is w ittic is m h ad tr a v elle d fa r a n d w id e, fro m th e
café s to th e k eb ab s ta lls o f th e c ity . A t c o lle g e th e n ex t d ay it s e em ed th e o nly
su bje ct o f c o nvers a tio n. S tu den ts a sk ed e ach o th er, ‘ W ere y ou th ere ?’ Z ah id a n d
I w ere m uch in d em an d a s w itn esse s, a n d e v ery tim e w e r e p eate d P la to ’s w ord s
th ere w ere g ale s o f a d m ir in g la u ghte r. L ate r th e s a m e d ay , w hen w e r e p air e d to
th e C offe e H ouse , n ot fa r fro m th e c o lle g e, th e p oets a n d c ritic s g ath ere d th ere
had als o b een d is c u ssin g th e can celle d p la y an d th ere w as an o verw helm in g
cu rio sity a s t o t h e a u th or o f t h e p ro m pt. W hy h ad t h is y oung m an n ot b een h eard
of b efo re ? S uch a n atu ra l ta le n t d ese rv ed h is o w n sp ecia l ta b le in th e café .
Lite ra ry v ete ra n s ra ck ed th eir b ra in s to th in k o f a p re ced en t a s s ta rtlin g a s h is
re m ark ab le in te rv en tio n. I w ondere d w heth er th e sa m e d is c u ssio n w as ta k in g
pla ce in C hen ey ’s L unch H om e, a f iv e-m in ute w alk a w ay , w here a sp ir in g p oets
min gle d w ith h ig hbro w c ritic s a n d m odern is t b la n k v ers e w as a n o bse ssio n. A t
th e C offe e H ouse w e d is c u sse d t h e p oetr y o f L ouis A ra g on a n d I ly a E hre n burg ’s
novels . The Lunch Hom e pre fe rre d Bau dela ir e an d Gid e an d re g ard ed
Shak esp eare a s a n a n tiq ue b ore , b ut e v en th ey c o uld n ot a v oid a d is c u ssio n o f
th e P unja b i
Ham le t
.
It w as in th ese c afé s th at I f ir s t b eg an to u nders ta n d th e s c ale o f th e tr a u m a
th at had afflic te d L ah ore durin g th e P artitio n of 1947 an d tr a n sfo rm ed th is
co sm opolita n c ity in to a m onocu ltu ra l m etr o polis . N am es o f S ik h a n d H in du
write rs a n d jo urn alis ts w ere re calle d w ith sa d ness a n d th ose p re se n t w ho h ad

witn esse d th e h orro rs o f w hat is n ow re fe rre d to as eth nic cle an sin g w ould
sh udder a s t h ey r e m em bere d t h ose t im es. F ew d w elt o n 1 947 f o r l o ng. I t w as j u st
over a d ecad e ag o an d th e w ounds w ere o nly to o v is ib le . T here w ere m ore
ple asa n t m em orie s. A c lu b, n ow s a d ly d efu nct, c alle d M etr o F ath erla n d, w here
in th e h ead y y ears o f th e early F if tie s y oung M uslim m en an d w om en m et,
ord ere d d rin ks a n d d an ced . O n h is w ay to th is p ara d is e , a w rite r w ould s u dden ly
glim pse th e v eil p artin g o n a b urq a-c la d w om an ’s f a ce a s s h e b ought a p ie ce o f
fin e s ilk in A nark ali, a n d d esc rib e th e v is io n a s c ele stia l lig ht illu m in atin g th e
Ka’a b a. T hat s till h ap pen s.
Pla to m ad e u s w ait a w hole w eek b efo re h e e m erg ed fro m h is d en . W e
lo oked c are fu lly f o r a n y tr a ce o f tr iu m phalis m o n h is f a ce. T here w as n one. O ur
ta b le w as re str ic te d to ic o nocla sts : a m ix o f stu den ts a n d y oung le ctu re rs , th e
occasio nal o ld er p ro fe sso r a n d a fe w g ra d uate s w ho w ere n ow , m ain ly , y oung
civ il s e rv an ts w ith m uch s p are t im e e ach d ay . H an gers -o n w ere n ot t o le ra te d a n d
an yone su sp ecte d o f b ein g th ere to in gra tia te h im se lf w ith th e te ach ers w as
an grily d is m is se d w ith a fe w ch oic e ep ith ets . W e g re ete d P la to w arm ly . H e
becam e a re g ula r fix tu re , a rriv in g u su ally a t lu nch tim e. T he o w ner o f th e ju ic e
bar, c u rly -h air e d R esp ecte d T ufa il, w hose c o m pute r-lik e b ra in n ev er f o rg ot w hat
we o w ed h im , r e fu se d to c h arg e P la to f o r a w hole m onth . R esp ecte d — ev ery one
calle d h im th at e v er sin ce h e h ad o nce c o m pla in ed th at stu den ts w ere fa r to o
ru de a n d d id n ot a p pre cia te h is s k ills . T his w as b ecau se th e c o m mon te rm s o f
ad dre ss, a ffe ctio nate ly in te n ded , w ere p im p, c ata m ite , to rn -a rs e , e tc ., a n d T ufa il
had b eco m e tir e d o f h earin g stu den ts h alf h is ag e sh outin g, ‘P im p! A la rg e
mix ed p om eg ra n ate an d o ra n ge ju ic e.’ H e re fu se d to se rv e an y stu den t w ho
haile d h im in a b usiv e la n guag e. O vern ig ht w e g av e h im h is n ew n am e. M an y
cu sto m ers h ad n o id ea w hat h is re al o ne w as. R esp ecte d w as a g re at w it a n d
ra co nte u r a n d o fte n s a t a t o ur t a b le t o j o in i n t h e b an te r. E ven B ab uji, t h e e ld erly
pro prie to r o f th e ad ja cen t café , w hic h p lie d u s w ith te a, sa m osa s an d
sh am i
keb ab s a ll d ay l o ng, w ould c o m e a n d s it w ith u s w hen P la to a rriv ed .
Zah id w as m ore c o nsc ie n tio us th an I w as a n d o fte n le ft to a tte n d le ctu re s,

but I s p en t m ost o f m y tim e th ere , a t o ur ta b le in th e c o rn er u ndern eath th e b ig
pip al tr e e, w ith its eig ht p la ces p erm an en tly re se rv ed fo r u s. R esp ecte d an d
Bab uji w ould n ev er p erm it an yone els e to sit th ere ev en if n one o f u s h ad
arriv ed . I t w as a ro und th is ta b le th at w e b eg an , s lo w ly , to d is c o ver P la to ’s p ast.
It t o ok m onth s b efo re h e b ecam e r e la x ed e n ough t o s h are h is l if e s to ry w ith u s.
His n am e r e ally w as P la to . H e w as b orn in a v illa g e n ot f a r f ro m L udhia n a,
in E ast Punja b , now part of In dia . H is pre co city as a ch ild an d co nsta n t
questio nin g h ad g re atly ir rita te d h is f a th er, a lo cal s c h oolte ach er, w ho p ro bab ly
had n o a n sw er to so m e o f th e b oy’s q uerie s. A fla tu n, th e lo cal v ers io n o f th e
philo so pher’s nam e, co rru pte d fro m A ra b ic , w as ofte n use d pejo ra tiv ely to
desc rib e p eo ple w ho ta lk ed to o m uch o r r e p eate d ly a sk ed a w kw ard q uestio ns o r
were ju st to o arg um en ta tiv e. A nd so th e th re e-y ear-o ld M oham med b ecam e
Moham med A fla tu n, a n d w as re g is te re d u nder th at n am e a t th e lo cal m ad ra ssa
an d la te r a t th e h ig h s c h ool in L udhia n a, w here a f e w te ach ers h ad a ctu ally r e ad
Pla to . T his w as a v ery lo ng tim e a g o. T he n ic k nam e w as m ean t to r id ic u le h im ,
but a s h e g re w , P la to to ok it a s a c o m plim en t a n d la te r im mers e d h im se lf in th e
tr a n sla te d e d itio ns o f th e G re ek c la ssic s. H is o bse ssio n w ith P yth ag ora s le d to a
lif e lo ng lo ve affa ir w ith m ath em atic s, th e su bje ct h e n ow ta u ght at an u ltr a -
sn obbis h L ah ore sc h ool w here en tr y w as base d ex clu siv ely on cla ss, w ith
pre fe re n ce g iv en t o l a n ded f a m ilie s.
‘Y ou t e ach t h ere ? D o y ou d re ss a n y d if fe re n tly ?’
‘W hy s h ould I ? D on’t th ey n eed m e m ore th an I n eed th em ? O nce y ou liv e
to p le ase o th ers , y ou l iv e i n f e ar o f t h eir d is p le asu re , a n d f e ar m ak es o ne s tu pid .’
Late r w e d is c o vere d fro m a c o lle ag ue o f h is , w ho lo ath ed h im , th at h ad
Pla to accep te d th e offe r of a stip en d fro m Cam brid ge to stu dy hig her
math em atic s h e w ould h av e p ro sp ere d in th at d is c ip lin e. T he o ffe r w as m ad e
afte r he se n t a w ell- k now n C am brid ge don so m e co m men ts on his w ork ,
sc rib ble d o n th e b ack o f a n o ld s h eet o f a n sw ers to a n e x am h e h ad m ark ed a t
sc h ool. B ut P la to d is lik ed s p ecia liz atio n, a n d a s h e to ld u s o n o ne o ccasio n, ‘I
did n ot w an t to d ro w n in a p ool o f m ath em atic s fo r th e re st o f m y lif e .’ T he

pro sp ect w as u nap pealin g. B ut w hy te ach a t a s c h ool? W hy n ot a t th e c o lle g e?
Offe rs h ad b een m ad e th ere , to o, a n d h e h ad tu rn ed th em d ow n. S ch ool w as le ss
dem an din g, h e m ain ta in ed . F urth erm ore , h e h ad n o u niv ers ity d eg re es at all,
nev er m in d a P hD , a n d, b esid es, h e c o uld e d ucate s o m e o f th ose p riv ate s c h ool
boys in o th er d is c ip lin es, in clu din g th at o f lif e , w ith w hic h th ey w ere m ostly
unacq uain te d .
The s a m e c o uld n ot b e s a id o f P la to . L if e h ad o vere d ucate d h im a n d th e
mark s o f its le sso ns w ere p la in to s e e. H e w as lig ht- s k in ned a n d th ic k -lip ped ,
with h ollo w c h eek s th at g av e h im a n a g ele ss lo ok, a n d th is a ttr a ctiv e u glin ess
was en han ced by th ic k bla ck hair th at he ra re ly both ere d to gro om . H is
Bry lc re em ed a p peara n ce a t
Ham le t
h ad b een u nusu al.
One d ay h e to ld u s h ow h e h ad e sc ap ed fro m th e 1 947 p ogro m s in E ast
Punja b a n d f le d to L ah ore . H e w as in h is la st y ear o f s c h ool w hen n ew s r e ach ed
Ludhia n a th at a ll o f th e tw o h undre d o r s o M uslim s in h is v illa g e, in clu din g h is
pare n ts a n d t h re e y ounger s is te rs , a s w ell a s a u nts a n d u ncle s a n d c o usin s, h ad a ll
been t a k en t o t h e l o cal m osq ue a n d s e t o n f ir e . T here w asn ’t a s in gle s u rv iv or. A
kin dly S ik h m ath s te ach er w ho h ad b efrie n ded P la to h ugged h im a n d w ep t. T he
sa m e m an to ok h im to th e c en tr e o f to w n w here a c o nvoy o f b use s w as b ein g
re ad ie d to f e rry M uslim s a cro ss to th e o th er s id e o f th e p artitio ned s u bco ntin en t.
Pla to w as d azed , u nab le t o r e g is te r t h e f a ct t h at h e h ad l o st e v ery one. H e w as p ut
on a b us th at c o nta in ed m ain ly w om en a n d c h ild re n ; h is o ld te ach er e x pla in ed
th e c ir c u m sta n ces a n d p le ad ed w ith a w om an t o l o ok a fte r h is p upil. S he d id .
‘T he tw o b use s in fro nt o f u s w ere sto pped b y S ik hs a n d I sa w th e m en
lin ed u p a n d k ille d in t h e m ost b ru ta l f a sh io n. S om e o f t h em w ere o n th eir k nees
ple ad in g fo r m erc y , k is sin g th e fe et o f th ose a b out to m assa cre th em . I th ought
th ey w ould k ill u s t o o, s a v in g t h e w om en t o b e r a p ed a n d s la u ghte re d a fte rw ard s.
But th ey w ere in te rru pte d b y a m ilita ry p atr o l le d b y B ritis h o ffic ers . T hat in
its e lf w as r a re , b ut t h at’ s h ow w e s u rv iv ed .’
He s p oke m atte r-o f-fa ctly , w ith f e w t r a ces o f o utw ard e m otio n, b ut t h e p ain
was r e fle cte d i n h is e y es. H e w en t o n, ‘ T hen I r e ach ed t h is g re at c ity , t h e P aris o f

th e E ast, w hic h P unja b is e v ery w here u se d to d re am o f v is itin g. H e w ho h as n ot
se en L ah ore h as n ot s e en th e w orld a n d a ll th at s e n tim en ta l n onse n se . A nd h ere
Muslim s w ere h ard a t w ork k illin g S ik hs a n d H in dus a n d l o otin g t h eir p ro perty . I
was in a r e fu gee c am p, a n d o ne o f m y u nif o rm ed p ro te cto rs , a fte r d is c o verin g I
had n o silv er o r g old o r a n y m oney o n m e, w an te d so m e k in d o f re w ard a n d
decid ed to r a p e m e. I w as s a v ed b y o th er r e fu gees, w ho h eard m y s c re am s a n d,
Alla h b e p ra is e d , d ra g ged th e M uslim p olic em an o ff m y b ack . M y fa m ily h ad
been re lig io us. I w as ta k en re g ula rly to th e m osq ue, le arn ed th e K ora n b y ro te
with out u nders ta n din g a s in gle w ord , a n d p artic ip ate d in a ll th e ritu als . W hen I
sa w w hat w as b ein g d one b y a ll s id es in th e n am e o f r e lig io n I tu rn ed m y b ack
on r e lig io n f o re v er.’
The t a b le h ad f a lle n s ile n t. R esp ecte d q uie tly p la ced a t r a y w ith t u m ble rs o f
fre sh ly s q ueezed o ra n ge a n d p om eg ra n ate ju ic e b efo re u s. T here w ere te ars in
his e y es. In th e e arly S ix tie s, th e tr a u m a o f P artitio n s till a ffe cte d m an y in th e
city , b ut f e w w an te d to ta lk a b out it. T he m em orie s w ere to o r e cen t, a n d p arts o f
th e c ity s till b ore t h e s c ars . T he a tte m pt b y t h e g en era tio n b efo re o urs t o s u ppre ss
th e m em ory o f t h e k illin gs w hic h t h ey h ad p artic ip ate d i n o r w itn esse d h ad l e ft a
deep em otio nal sc ar, m ad e w ors e by nev er bein g dis c u sse d an d dealt w ith
open ly . A m ad ness h ad se iz ed o rd in ary p eo ple a n d n ow th ey w ere in d en ia l.
When P la to to ld h is s to ry , it w as th e f ir s t tim e a n yone h ad d is c u sse d P artitio n a t
our ta b le . A fte rw ard s m an y o f u s d id , a n d I h eard n um ero us a cco unts o f w hat
had t a k en p la ce i n t h e h eart o f t h is c ity d urin g t h e f a te fu l m onth o f A ugust 1 947.
Pla to l iv ed in a tin y a p artm en t o n th e U pper M all, th e m ain th oro ughfa re o f
th e c ity , p ast th e G overn m en t H ouse , th e o ld N ed ous h ote l a n d th e c an al, in a
blo ck o f fla ts k now n fo r s o m e re aso n a s S co tc h C orn er. D urin g th e w in te r w e
would o fte n w alk u p th e M all w ith h im , p ast th e a rc ad es a n d th e o ld G ym khan a
Clu b, th e s c h ool w here h e ta u ght a n d th e L ah ore Z oo, w hic h h ouse d th e m ost
mis e ra b le a n im als I h av e e v er se en . (It w as ru m oure d th at m ost o f th e m eat
ra tio ns m ean t fo r th e lio ns c o uld b e ta ste d in th e c afé .) T he z o o w as a h alf w ay
poin t w here w e p au se d to s a m ple th at d ay ’s
gol g appa
b efo re p artin g c o m pan y

clo se to S co tc h C orn er. P la to n ev er in vite d u s in to h is q uarte rs , a n d d esp ite o ur
burn in g c u rio sity , w e n ev er a sk ed .
Zah id a n d I ta lk ed a b out h im in cessa n tly . A m em ber o f o ur c la n destin e
Marx is t cell an gere d u s o ne d ay b y re fe rrin g to P la to as a ‘p etty -b ourg eo is
in div id ualis t’ . W hen w e to ld P la to a b out it h e la u ghed a n d s a id th e d esc rip tio n
was a ccu ra te . H e w as n ev er in te re ste d in M arx is m o r th e C om munis t P arty a n d
tr e ate d th em a s a fo rm o f re lig io n. H e h ad re ad M arx a n d a d m ir e d s o m e o f h is
work , b ut n ev er a d m itte d it to u s, ‘b ecau se y ou id io ts tr e at h im a s if h e w ere a
pro phet, a n d if y ou’re g oin g in f o r th at, y ou m ig ht a s w ell s tic k to th e r e al o nes:
Mose s, J e su s a n d o ur v ery o w n.’
Dis c u ssio ns b ecam e h eate d w hen H an if M a, a L ah ori C hin ese stu dyin g
physic s a n d d estin ed f o r g re at th in gs, w as a ccep te d a t o ur ta b le a s a r e g ula r. H e
was im med ia te ly a n d u nim ag in ativ ely g iv en th e n ic k nam e C onfu ciu s, w hic h h e
accep te d w ith g ood g ra ce b ut so m etim es fo und ir k so m e. H e p re te n ded to b e
im pre sse d , h ow ev er: it w as so phis tic ate d o f u s e d ucate d P unja b is n ot to h av e
sim ply a n d a ffe ctio nate ly a d dre sse d h im a s ‘C hin a’ a s th e sh opkeep ers d id in
Anark ali b azaar. ‘ W hat c an w e o ffe r y ou to day , C hin a’, ‘ H av e s o m e te a, C hin a,
while y ou r e m em ber w hat y our m oth er s e n t y ou t o b uy’,
etc .
‘W e a re s im ple ru stic s, C onfu ciu s. H ere w e w ear o ur a rs e o n o ur s le ev e.
And y ou’re a P unja b i ju st a s m uch a s w e a re , e v en if y ou sp eak a fe w m ore
la n guag es,’ Z ah id t o ld h im .
Confu ciu s la u ghed , a n d w e w ere to d is c o ver h is sto ck o f b ad w ord s h ad
been g le an ed o n B ead on R oad , w here g an gs o f ru ffia n s ru le d s u pre m e. I o nly
wen t t h ere t o t h e s w eet s h ops, t o e at
gula b j a m uns
a n d
ra sg ulla s
. C onfu ciu s w as
fu ll o f fu n, b ut n ot u naffe cte d b y th e g re at tr a n sfo rm atio n in th e c o untr y o f h is
fo re b ears , w hic h had als o to uch ed m an y of us. W e, to o, w an te d to m ak e
re v olu tio n a n d ta k e th e C hin ese r o ad . I t w as d if fic u lt to b e liv in g in th e v ic in ity
an d r e m ain u nm oved b y w hat w as b ein g a ch ie v ed . C onfu ciu s w ould d efe n d h is
re v olu tio n a g ain st a ll o f P la to ’s ta u nts . T hese e x ch an ges g ra d ually w ean ed u s
aw ay fro m P la to , to h is g re at a m use m en t. ‘B usy m ak in g th e re v olu tio n, b oys? ’

becam e o ne o f h is m ore tir e so m e r e fra in s w hen Z ah id , C onfu ciu s a n d I le ft th e
ta b le to a tte n d a c ell m eetin g. C onfu ciu s d ev elo ped a re al h atr e d fo r h im a n d
bare ly s p oke w hen h e w as p re se n t, e v en w hen P la to tr ie d to d ra w h im o ut o n
math em atic s o r p hysic s. Z ah id a n d I c o uld n ev er b re ak w ith P la to , n or d id w e
wan t to , ev en th ough h is cy nic is m co uld b e ex tr e m ely co rro siv e an d n erv e-
ra ck in g a t tim es. H e h ad g ro w n s o u se d to b ein g s e lf -re lia n t th at a ll f rie n dsh ip s
mad e him su sp ic io us. It w as his in te llig en ce th at ch alle n ged us all. E ven
Confu ciu s a ccep te d t h at t h is w as s o .
One y ear, as th e te n -w eek su m mer h olid ay s ap pro ach ed , P la to , h earin g
Zah id a n d m e p lo ttin g o ur e x plo its , a sk ed c asu ally w here w e w ere g oin g. ‘T he
mounta in s,’ I t o ld h im , ‘ N ath ia g ali f o r m e a n d M urre e f o r Z ah id .’ H e s m ile d .
‘I m ig ht s e e y ou t h ere .’
‘W onderfu l,’ s a id Z ah id a fte r a s lig ht h esita tio n, u nsu re w heth er P la to w as
bein g ir o nic . I k new h e d id n’t q uite m ean it. It w as a n in tr u sio n. O ur s u m mers
were v ery p re cio us. W e fe lt c o m ple te ly fre e, a n d e v en th ough w e w ere tw en ty
mile s a p art o ne o f u s w ould o fte n w alk o ver to se e th e o th er. W e h ad o th er
frie n ds t h ere t o o, n ot p art o f t h e t a b le , s u m mer f rie n ds w hom w e m et o nly o nce a
year. T hese f rie n dsh ip s o fte n b ecam e i n te n se , s in ce t h ere w ere f e w r e str ic tio ns i n
th e m ounta in s a n d g en der s e g re g atio n w as f ro w ned u pon.
The th ought o f P la to b ein g th ere d id s tr ik e m e a s a b it o dd. H e w as p art o f
our g ro w n-u p sid e. T he m ounta in a ir h ad a re g re ssiv e e ffe ct o n u s. W e w ere
ch ild re n a g ain , b ut c h ild re n fille d w ith lu stf u l th oughts . P la to , u ltr a se n sitiv e to
an y slig ht, in te n ded o r re al, lo oked in m y d ir e ctio n. H e m ust h av e c au ght th e
am big uous n ote i n Z ah id ’s r e sp onse .
‘A nd y ou, D ara S hik oh. D o y ou t h in k i t’ s w onderfu l n ew s a s w ell? ’
‘N ot s u re , P la to . D ep en ds o n h ow y ou b eh av e d urin g p ic n ic s. C an y ou p la y
an in str u m en t? C an y ou s in g o r a ct? T his w ill b e y our re al te st. I a lw ay s k now
you’re s lig htly t e n se w hen y ou c all m e D ara S hik oh.’
He i m med ia te ly r e la x ed .
‘D on’t w orry . I w on’t d is g ra ce y ou b oys. A nd D ara S hik oh is th e o nly

Mughal p rin ce I re ally a d m ir e . A kbar w as a to ta l fa k e. B ro ad m in ded a s fa r a s
oth er f a ith s w ere c o ncern ed , b ut a k ille r o f t h ose h e r e g ard ed a s h ere tic s.’
In f a ct, m y n ic k nam e w as m y o w n f a u lt. I h ad m is in fo rm ed m an y a f rie n d
th at I w as n am ed a fte r D ara S hik oh, a s c ep tic p oet a n d p hilo so pher w ho s h ould
hav e s u cceed ed S hah J e h an b ut w as b ru ta lly b ru sh ed a sid e b y a y ounger b ro th er,
Auru ngzab , t h e d ev out r u le r a n d a sc etic w ho l e ft u s t h e B ad sh ah i m osq ue, a t e n -
min ute w alk fro m th e c o lle g e, a s h is le g acy . I w as a ctu ally n am ed a fte r a n o ld
frie n d o f m y fa th er’s w ho h ad tr a g ic ally d ro w ned w hile b oth o f th em w ere
sw im min g fro m o ne b an k o f th e R av i to a n oth er in th e m oonlig ht. P erh ap s h e
had b een n am ed a fte r D ara S hik oh.
Befo re w e l e ft f o r t h e m ounta in s, C onfu ciu s i n vite d Z ah id a n d m e t o s u pper
at h is h ouse . N eith er o f u s k new w here h e liv ed , b ut h e h ad e ate n w ith u s a t
hom e m an y a t im e a n d h is m oth er m ust h av e i n sis te d h e i n vite u s i n r e tu rn .
‘P le ase r e m em ber n ot to c all m e C onfu ciu s a t h om e. W on’t a m use a n yone.
They ’ll j u st t h in k i n dig en ous P unja b is a re s tu pid .’
‘W hat a b out M ao ?’
‘E ven w ors e . M y f a th er t h in ks o f h im a s a b ad p oet a n d a p hilis tin e.’
All w e k new a b out C onfu ciu s’s f a th er w as t h at h e o w ned t h e b est s h oe s h op
on th e M all. T he f a m ily h ad o bvio usly b een th ere f o r a lo ng tim e, a s te stif ie d b y
th e p hoto gra p hs o n th e w all in w hic h y oung M r M a p ose d p ro udly w ith lo ng-
dep arte d B ritis h c o lo nia l o ffic ers . M y f a th er a n d I w en t th ere e ach y ear to h av e
our fe et m easu re d fo r su m mer sa n dals an d w in te r sh oes. N oth in g ev er
su bstitu te d f o r t h at i n l a te r y ears .
Confu ciu s h ad a g re ed to m eet u s o uts id e th e s h op, b ut w e w aite d a w hile
fo r a n oth er g uest. H e fin ally a rriv ed . H is b ik e h ad s u ffe re d a p unctu re a n d th e
usu al r e p air s ta ll w as n ot o pen . T his w as T ip u, s tu dyin g p hysic s, a t F .C . ( F orm an
Chris tia n ) C olle g e, r u n b y U S m is sio narie s o n t h e o th er s id e o f t h e c ity . T ip u h ad
a so ft, d ark fa ce a n d la rg e b ro w n e y es. C onfu ciu s h ad m et h im a t a se m in ar,
dis c o vere d h e w as a M arx is t fro m C hitta g ong in E ast F ath erla n d, a n d w an te d
him in vite d to o ur c ell m eetin gs. O ur r u le s w ere s tr ic t. A c ell c o uld n ot in clu de

more th an s ix s tu den ts a t a tim e a n d n one o f th e m em bers w as m ean t to k now
ab out t h e o th er c ells . W e d id , o f c o urs e , s in ce t h ere w ere o nly t w o o th ers , b ut w e
pre te n ded it w as a h uge s e cre t. I t a d ded to th e g la m our. T here w ere n o e x is tin g
cells a t T ip u’s c o lle g e. H e w as c o nte m ptu ous o f h is f e llo w s tu den ts a n d h is e y es
bla zed a s h e in fo rm ed u s th at n o s e lf -re sp ectin g c o lle g e in E ast F ath erla n d w as
with out its C om munis t c ells . I d id k now o f o ne c ell in F .C ., b ut it w ould h av e
been a te rrib le b re ach o f c o nfid en ce to in fo rm h im o f its e x is te n ce. I m ad e a
men ta l n ote t o l e t t h em k now o f h is .
This c o nvers a tio n w as t a k in g p la ce o n t h e M all, i n t h e m id dle o f a c ro w d o f
sh oppers . W e c o uld h av e g one o n fo r h ours , b ut w ere la te a lr e ad y. C onfu ciu s
to ok u s a cro ss th e ro ad to a n o ld n in ete en -tw en tie s a p artm en t b lo ck , w here h e
liv ed a n d w here h is m oth er w as p atie n tly w aitin g t o f e ed u s.
‘S ala am ale ik um , D ara . H ow ’s y our f a th er? ’
I d id n’t re co gniz e th e sh oem ak er fo r a m in ute . C onfu ciu s’s fa th er w as
dre sse d in a C hin ese gow n an d a fin ely em bro id ere d sk ullc ap . W e w ere
in tr o duced to th e r e st o f h is f a m ily , a n d th at w as th e f ir s t tim e Z ah id a n d I s a w
Jin dié , th e G old en B utte rfly . S he s to od n ex t to h er m oth er, w earin g a tr a d itio nal
but s ty lis h P unja b i
sa lw ar/k a m eez
lig ht b lu e s u it, w ith th e
ka m eez
ju st to uch in g
her k nees. H er silk en b la ck h air , c o verin g a h ead th at w as a n e lo ngate d o val,
alm ost to uch ed th e flo or. T he ey eb ro w s fo rm ed perfe ct arc h es. N o m ak eu p
dis fig ure d h er th in lip s. S he w as a d elic ate c re atu re , e x tr e m ely b eau tif u l ra th er
th an p re tty , b ut th ere w as n ot a tr a ce o f sh yness o r a ffe cta tio n a s sh e sh ook
han ds, in sp ectin g e ach o f u s in tu rn w ith a q uiz zic al, se m i- h um oro us lo ok. I
nev er s u sp ecte d s h e w as a r o m an tic e ag er f o r q uic k r e su lts . I f o und it d if fic u lt to
co ncen tr a te o n to o m uch e ls e th at e v en in g. W hat h ad C onfu ciu s s a id a b out u s?
Did s h e r e aliz e I h ad f a lle n in lo ve w ith h er? H ow c o uld s h e n ot? I t h ad to b e a
man date f ro m h eav en .
Afte r g re etin g Jin dié , I b ow ed p olite ly to C onfu ciu s’s m oth er. L ik e h er
husb an d, M rs M a w as d re sse d in a n a n tiq ue C hin ese g ow n. H er h air w as p in ned
up in a b un a n d h er f a ce s h ow ed a to uch o f lip stic k a n d p ow der, b ut a t th e s a m e

tim e c o nvey ed a n i m pre ssio n o f p ru den ce a n d g ood s e n se .
I w as s o t h unders tr u ck b y J in dié t h at i t t o ok m e s o m e t im e t o n otic e t h at t h e
liv in g r o om w as lin ed w ith b ooks, m ain ly C hin ese e d itio ns, s o m e o f w hic h w ere
undoubte d ly v ery o ld . J in dié w as ta lk in g to T ip u, q uite d elib era te ly , I th in k, to
punis h m e f o r t h e w ay I h ad l o oked a t h er. I n f a ct, s h e i g nore d m e f o r t h e r e st o f
th e e v en in g, s p eak in g m ain ly to T ip u a n d Z ah id b ut o ccasio nally g la n cin g in m y
dir e ctio n to s e e h ow I w as o ccu pyin g m yse lf . I m oved a w ay to lo ok c lo se ly a t
so m e b eau tif u l iv ory o bje cts o n th e m an te lp ie ce a n d th en th e s ilk s th at c o vere d
th e w alls , o n w hic h h ung a p la in w hite p la te w ith b lu e K ufic c allig ra p hy. M r M a
sid le d u p t o e x pla in t h at i t w as a n in th -c en tu ry p ie ce m ad e b y p otte rs i n Y unnan ,
who p ro duced s u ch w are e x clu siv ely f o r th e m erc h an ts in B asra , w ho b ro ught it
to C ord oba a n d P ale rm o. N one o f th is m ean t m uch to m e a t th e tim e. I s m ile d
polite ly a n d a sk ed a b out th e b ooks. H e to ok o ne o ut. I t lo oked e x quis ite , f a d ed
gold C hin ese c allig ra p hy o n e v en m ore f a d ed t h ic k l e ath er.
‘W hat i s i t, M r M a?’
‘T he H an K ita b . Y ou h av e h eard o f i t? ’
‘N o. I ’m s o rry . C hin a i s a m yste ry . A ll w e k now a b out i s t h e r e v olu tio n.’
That a n noyed h im a n d h e re tu rn ed th e b ook to its p la ce. C onfu ciu s h ad
obse rv ed t h e s c en e a n d c am e u p t o r e assu re m e. I w asn ’t b oth ere d a t a ll, b ut w as
beco m in g m ore a n d m ore e n ra g ed b y t h e w ay h is s is te r w as f lir tin g w ith T ip u.
The fo od, w hen it w as se rv ed , w as a lm ost a s d iv in e a s Jin dié . T he lo cal
Chin ese re sta u ra n ts w ere tr u ly a w fu l, c ate rin g to im ag in ed lo cal ta ste s. P ulp -
fo od i s a lw ay s b ad . T his w as t h e f ir s t t im e I h ad t a ste d p ro per C hin ese f o od, a n d
I c o m plim en te d M rs M a o n t h e q uality o f h er c o okin g, t h e v ir tu al o pposite o f o ur
Punja b i c u is in e. S he e x pla in ed th at w hat w e w ere c o nsu m in g w ere Y unnan ese
delic acie s, v ery d if fe re n t f ro m w hat w as s e rv ed a t b an quets i n B eijin g. I a sk ed i f
sh e h ad r e ceiv ed a n y h elp f ro m h er d au ghte r. T he r e p ly w as a n in sta n ta n eo us
no
an d a gla re in Jin dié ’s dir e ctio n. In a bid to attr a ct th e la tte r’s atte n tio n, I
sy m path iz ed lo udly , h opin g to a n noy h er a n d f a ilin g m is e ra b ly . S he ig nore d th e
bait.

I d id d is c o ver fro m h er m oth er, h ow ev er, th at J in dié a tte n ded a w om en ’s
co lle g e. T his w as u se fu l in fo rm atio n, s in ce th e c o lle g e in q uestio n w as p ack ed
with s e v en o r e ig ht o f m y c o usin s a s w ell a s d au ghte rs o f o ld f a m ily f rie n ds. I t
was p re sid ed o ver b y a s tr ic t I n dia n -C hris tia n s p in ste r la d y w ho to ok h er jo b a s
prin cip al f a r to o s e rio usly w hen it c am e to th e s o cia l lif e o f h er s tu den ts . T o s a y
sh e k ep t a w atc h fu l e y e o n h er g ir ls w ould b e in accu ra te . S he h ad c re ate d a s p y
netw ork o f fa v ourite s w ho to ld h er e v ery th in g. Y es, e v ery th in g, in clu din g th e
dre am s th at s o m e o f th eir f e llo w s tu den ts r e co unte d o ver b re ak fa st. T he c o lle g e
its e lf h ad b een s e t u p in 1 920 b y a p rim S co ts w om an c alle d R osa m und N air n
an d bore her su rn am e. T he gir ls at N air n w ere co nsid ere d to be alm ost as
modern a s th eir c o unte rp arts a t P rim ro se in K ara ch i a n d A m ble sid e in D hak a,
an d t h at w as s a y in g a g re at d eal a t t h e t im e.
Apart fro m m y fru str a tio n o ver J in dié , th e e v en in g w en t w ell. Z ah id a n d I
both m ad e s u re w e c alle d o ur f rie n d H an if a s o fte n a s w e c o uld — so o fte n t h at h e
beg an t o l o ok a n noyed . A t t h is p oin t J in dié a d dre sse d u s c o lle ctiv ely :
‘Is i t t r u e t h at y ou c all h im C onfu ciu s? ’
The w hole ta b le e ru pte d in la u ghte r. I t w as o nly a s w e w ere a ll le av in g a n d
fa re w ells w ere b ein g s a id t h at s h e w alk ed u p t o m e.
‘It w as r e ally n ic e t a lk in g t o y ou.’
‘B ut y ou d id n’t.’
‘I k now .’
Sin ce m y h ouse w as n ot t o o f a r f ro m F .C . C olle g e, Z ah id g av e b oth m e a n d
Tip u a lif t, d ro ppin g T ip u o ff fir s t so th e tw o o f u s c o uld h av e a c alm p ost-
morte m . W e s to pped th e c ar o n th e u nfin is h ed r o ad o uts id e m y h ouse . I t w as a
wild ern ess th en , w ith th e o nly th e m au so le u m o f a S ufi v en era b le lit in th e
dis ta n ce w ith o il l a m ps.
I h ad lik ed T ip u in stin ctiv ely a n d w as d ete rm in ed th at h e s h ould jo in o ur
cell e v en i f i t m ean t b ik in g s ix m ile s t o w here w e w ere . H e w as o bvio usly b rig ht,
an d b ette r r e ad th an a ll o f u s. Z ah id d is a g re ed a n d th ought it w ould b e b ette r if
Tip u w ere r e cru ite d t o h is l o cal c ell. B ut I w an te d t o k eep a n e y e o n h im , i n c ase

Jin dié re ally d id w an t h im a n d n ot m e. I e x pla in ed th is to Z ah id , w ho w asn ’t
su rp ris e d i n t h e l e ast.
‘I n otic ed y our g aze’, s a id Z ah id , ‘ a n d s o d id s h e.’
‘A re y ou s u re s h e d id ?’
‘H ow c o uld sh e n ot, c ata m ite ? Y ou w ere sta rin g a t h er q uite o bvio usly .
Every one n otic ed . T hat’ s w hy s h e i g nore d y ou t h e w hole e v en in g.’
There w as l ittle e ls e t o d is c u ss, b ut w e d id s o a n yw ay f o r a lm ost t w o h ours .
Then I w en t h om e a n d se arc h ed m y fa th er’s stu dy fo r tr a n sla tio ns o f C hin ese
lite ra tu re a n d h is to ry . T he sh elv es w ere p ack ed w ith E uro pe a n d S outh A sia .
Chin ese c iv iliz atio n w as re p re se n te d b y p olitic al a n d h is to ry b ooks w ritte n b y
Am eric an s an d E uro pean s, an d a fe w tr a n sla tio ns of M ao Z ed ong an d L iu
Shao xi. T here w as a F ore ig n L an guag es P ublis h in g H ouse tr a n sla tio n o f
Dre a m
of t h e R ed C ham ber
, b ut i t w as u nre ad ab le . D eep ly f ru str a te d , I w en t t o b ed .
Alm ost e v ery th in g lo st its im porta n ce f o r m e e x cep t th e m em ory o f J in dié .
In t h e t w o w eek s b efo re t h e c o lle g es s h ut d ow n I m ad e d esp era te e ffo rts t o c atc h
sig ht o f h er. Z ah id h ad h is o w n p ro ble m s o n th is f ro nt, tr y in g to s e e A nju m , th e
gen era l’ s d au ghte r, b ut w as a s h elp fu l a s h e c o uld b e, w aitin g w ith m e o uts id e
Nair n to d is c o ver h ow J in dié w en t h om e. M an y y oung w om en b ik ed in th ose
day s, a n d I w as h opin g sh e w as o ne o f th em , b ut w e n ev er sa w h er le av e. I
peste re d o ne o f th e c o usin s I th ought I c o uld tr u st. S he to ld th e o th ers a n d th ey
would c o m e t o s ta re a n d g ig gle a t Z ah id a n d m e, t r y in g t o s h am e u s i n to l e av in g.
But w e h ad n o s e lf -e ste em in th ese m atte rs , a n d s o fo rfe itin g o ur d ig nity n ev er
pose d a p ro ble m .
Afte r an h our o uts id e N air n , w e w ould m ove o n to G ulb erg , w here th e
obje ct o f Z ah id ’s lo ve w en t to a la d ie s’ c o lle g e m odelle d o n E uro pean f in is h in g
sc h ools , w here ‘h om e an d so cia l sc ie n ces’ w ere so m ix ed up th at co okin g
co unte d a s a h om e s u bje ct a n d in te rio r d eco ra tio n a s a s o cia l s c ie n ce. G ulb erg
tr a in ed y oung w om en to b e h ouse w iv es.
Vogue
w as th e s a cre d m ag azin e o f th is
esta b lis h m en t, d ev oure d e ag erly b y te ach er a n d p upil. Z ah id s w ore th at A nju m
was n ot e m pty -h ead ed b ut h ad b een f o rc ed to g o th ere b y h er p are n ts in o rd er to

pre p are f o r m arria g e.
Zah id w an te d th e g en era l’ s d au ghte r a n d s h e w an te d h im . L ette rs h ad b een
ex ch an ged . T hey m et f o r c o ffe e in a tin y p la ce r u n b y a k in dly o ld G erm an la d y
an d g eare d fo r tr y sts . It w ork ed lik e th is : A nju m an d a g ir lf rie n d w ould b e
dro pped o ff b y th e c h au ffe u r; th ey w ould g et a ta b le . Z ah id a n d I w ould a rriv e
on h is V esp a; w e’d g et an oth er ta b le . If w e re co gniz ed an ybody, w e w ould
main ta in t h e p re te n ce t h at w e w ere t h ere c asu ally , a n d m ove o ff q uic k ly , b ut t h is
was r a re . I h ad t o e n te rta in A nju m ’s f rie n d, w ho w as v ery p re tty a n d v ery s tu pid .
She w ould g ig gle a t th e s lig hte st p ro vocatio n, a n d I g ot s o f e d u p th at I tr ie d to
te ach h er c h ess s o w e d id n’t h av e to s p eak to e ach o th er. S he w as f la tte re d a n d
le arn ed th e m oves, w hic h e n han ced h er s ta tu s a t th e f in is h in g s c h ool: ‘ M y, m y,
you’v e b eco m e s u ch a n i n te lle ctu al.’
Occasio nally , vile sc o undre ls on a m oto rb ik e fo llo w ed th e gir ls an d
bla ck m aile d th em fo r petty cash , but th is sto pped w hen th e G erm an la d y
in fo rm ed h er h usb an d, w ho t u rn ed o ut t o b e a s e n io r p olic e o ffic er a n d p ut a c o p
on guard duty in th at str e et. H e w as m ere ly pro te ctin g his w if e ’s busin ess
in te re sts , b ut t h e g estu re w as g re atly a p pre cia te d b y h er c u sto m ers .
Merc if u lly , a ll th is c am e to a n e n d w hen A nju m g en tly b ro ke th e n ew s th at
sh e w as t o b e e n gag ed t o a n a ffe cte d E nglis h -p ublic -s c h ool- e d ucate d f e u dal i d io t
fro m M ulta n . Z ah id ’s f e atu re s a ssu m ed a d eath ly p allo r a s h e r o se f ro m h er t a b le
an d sta g gere d o ver to m in e. S peech e lu ded h im fo r a m om en t a n d th en in a
ch oked v oic e h e s a id , ‘ L et’ s g o. N ow .’
We le ft. T he s o ul h ad b een to rn o ut o f h im . T oo m an y h ours w ere w aste d
dis c u ssin g th e re je ctio n. T he d ay a fte r, h e to ld m e q uite s e rio usly th at h e w as
hav in g g re at d if fic u lty in r e sis tin g th e te m pta tio n to b lo w o ut h is b ra in s. A w eek
la te r, h e w as c alm er a n d m ore r e fle ctiv e.
‘S he h ad s u ch a g en tle n atu re ,
ya ar
,’ h e w ould r e p eat t im e a n d t im e a g ain .
Perh ap s th at w as th e p ro ble m , I su ggeste d . H er ‘g en tle n atu re ’ p re v en te d
her r e sis tin g p are n ta l p re ssu re s a s o th ers , w e b oth k new , h ad d one. H is h eart w as
sic k en ed b y th e e ase w ith w hic h h er p are n ts h ad tr iu m phed . I fe lt a se n se o f

re lie f. N o m ore p la y in g c h ess w ith a n a sp ir in g f a sh io n m odel. I c an ’t r e m em ber
her n am e, b ut sh e w as m odellin g tw o o utf its , ‘N au ghty N ym ph’ an d ‘H ello ,
Offic er’, in th e In te rc o ntin en ta l in R aw alp in di w hen th e stu den t in su rre ctio n
ag ain st t h e m ilita ry b eg an i n 1 968. A s f o r m y f rie n d, h e t o ok t o w an derin g a b out
to w n, f u ll o f e m otio ns b ut a v oid in g e v ery lo catio n th at re m in ded h im o f h er: It
se em ed a s if th e e n tir e c ity h ad b eco m e a s e a o f b itte rn ess f o r h im . T he m em ory
of A nju m h au nte d h im f o r a l o ng t im e. T he w ors t p ossib le p assio n i s t h e p assio n
fo r a w om an o ne h as n ev er p osse sse d . H e r e co vere d s lo w ly .
‘T here are oth er so rro w s in th e w orld , Zah id ,’ I sa id co m fo rtin gly ,
para p hra sin g t h e w ord s o f a m uch -lo ved p oet, t h en i n p ris o n f o r t h e t h ir d t im e.
‘N o, t h ere a re n ’t.’
This sh ould hav e ale rte d m e. I sh ould hav e re aliz ed th at politic al
co m mitm en t o f a n y s o rt w as n oth in g m ore th an a s o cia l o blig atio n f o r h im , b ut
it’ s e asy t o s a y t h is w ith h in dsig ht. A t t h e t im e w e a ll t h ought o f o urs e lv es a n d o f
univ ers ity s tu den ts i n g en era l a s t h e b ack bone o f t h e c o untr y . I ts f u tu re d ep en ded
on u s, b ut in th e w ord s o f th e r e al C onfu ciu s, ‘ T o le ad in to b attle a p eo ple th at
has n ot fir s t b een in str u cte d is to b etr a y th em .’ Z ah id in sis te d th at th e fa cts
pro ved o th erw is e a n d w ould c o unte r th is w ith th e e x am ple s o f th e F re n ch a n d
Russia n re v olu tio ns. H e o fte n in clin ed to m ore ra d ic al s o lu tio ns th an I d id a n d
so m etim es m ock ed m y c au tio n. F rie n dsh ip , t o o, h as i ts i llu sio ns, j u st a s s tr o ng a s
th ose o f l o ve.
Thre e d ay s b efo re w e w ere d ue to le av e fo r th e m ounta in s, o ur C onfu ciu s
dro pped b y f o r lu nch . M y m oth er lik ed h im b ecau se h e h ad a p le asin g f a ce, w as
ultr a -p olite a n d a lw ay s m ad e a p oin t o f p ra is in g t h e d eco r o f t h e h ouse a n d, e v en
more im porta n tly , ad m ir in g her ro se gard en , w hic h w as usu ally ig nore d by
vis ito rs an d by us. M y fa th er w as im pre sse d by his str o ng su pport fo r th e
Chin ese R ev olu tio n, n ot c o m mon th en in é m ig ré c ir c le s. I f e lt c lo se r to h im f o r
obvio us re aso ns. N ev erth ele ss th e c o nvers a tio n se em ed e x cessiv ely stilte d till
my p are n ts le ft fo r th eir s ie sta . It w as la te J u ne. T he te m pera tu re h ad re ach ed
108 d eg re es F ah re n heit a n d th e ta r o n th e ro ad s w as b eg in nin g to m elt. I w as

ra ck in g m y b ra in s to fin d a w ay o f a sk in g a fte r Jin dié w ith out a p pearin g to o
eag er, b ut d is c re tio n p re v aile d . H e w as h er b ro th er, afte r all, an d m ig ht b e
offe n ded b y a n in fo rm al d is p la y o f in te re st. T hen , ju st b efo re h e le ft, C onfu ciu s,
tr y in g to s o und a s c asu al a s p ossib le , s a id , ‘B y th e w ay , w e m ig ht s e e y ou in
Nath ia g ali. M y m oth er i s d esp era te t o a v oid t h e h eat t h is y ear, a n d w e’v e b ooked
a c o tta g e i n P in es H ote l f o r a m onth .’
I m an ag ed t o c o nceal m y j o y.
‘W ith a ll o f u s l e av in g, t h e c ity o f c u ltu re w ill b e e m pty .’
We l a u ghed a t o ur o w n a rro gan ce.

FO UR
I N T H E E A RLY D AYS,
m y fa th er w ould d riv e u s th ere , sp en d a w eek , a n d th en
r e tu rn to L ah ore . T he m ounta in ro utin e in o ur h ouse h old w as w ell e sta b lis h ed .
T he s e rv an ts w ould w ak e u s u p a t th re e in th e m orn in g, w hen it w as s till p itc h
d ark o uts id e. M y tw in s is te rs , th re e y ears y ounger, a n d I w ould b e p la ced h alf -
a sle ep in th e b ack o f a ra m sh ack le C hev ro le t s ta tio n w ag on a n d b y fo ur a t th e
l a te st m y fa th er w ould b e d riv in g n orth w ard s o n th e G ra n d T ru nk R oad , w hic h
h ad b are ly a n y o th er tr a ffic a t th at h our. T his w as th e re aso n fo r th e p re -d aw n
d ep artu re s, w hic h f e lt l ik e t o rtu re a t t h e t im e. M y s is te rs a n d I w ould w ak e a g ain
w hen th e su n ro se an d w ait fo r th e in ev ita b le sto p at W azir a b ad Ju nctio n
R ailw ay S ta tio n, w here th ey s e rv ed e x celle n t s c ra m ble d e g gs o n to ast, b re w ed a
f in e p ot o f te a a n d h ad re la tiv ely c le an to ile ts . T hat w as a v ery lo ng tim e a g o.
S oon a fte rw ard s w e w ould c ro ss th e m ig hty Jh elu m a n d o nce a g ain h ear th e
s to ry o f h ow A le x an der th e G re at h ad fo und th e riv er to o d if fic u lt to fo rd a n d
a lm ost l o st h is l if e . W e c am e t o k now t h is t a le s o w ell t h at i n t h e y ears a h ead w e
w ould r e p eat it in u nis o n a s w e a p pro ach ed th e b rid ge, to p re -e m pt th e p are n ta l
v ers io n. The nex t sto p w as R aw alp in di, a brie f halt to pic k up ch ic k en
s a n dw ic h es a n d c h ille d c o ffe e a t th e S ilv er G rill b efo re th e fin al s tr e tc h , w hic h
b eg an o n th e ta rm ac ro ad to M urre e, th e o ffic ia l h ill s ta tio n w hic h m y m oth er
l o ath ed b ecau se it w as n ot S im la a n d w as o verc ro w ded w ith th e ‘ w ro ng s o rt’ o f
p eo ple — not co untin g Z ah id an d his fa m ily , of co urs e , an d th e m an y oth er
f rie n ds w ho s p en t th e s u m mers th ere . In m y m oth er’s im ag in atio n M urre e w as
B ab ylo n, t o b e a v oid ed e v en a s a s to pover o n t h e w ay t o o ur A rc ad ia .
Bey ond M urre e la y th e ro ugh ro ad to th e
galis
, th e v alle y s b etw een th e
H im ala y an fo oth ills , clo th ed in p in es; so on afte r le av in g th e h ill sta tio n th e
f ra g ra n ce o f th ese tr e es b ecam e o verp ow erin g. M ore th an a h undre d y ears a g o,
t h e B ritis h h ad c o m e to th e
galis
a n d b uilt h ill- c o tta g es w ith q uain t n am es lik e

Kir k sto ne, M oonris in g, R etr e at, e tc ., to re m in d th em o f h om e. F ir s t w e p asse d
Khair a g ali, th en C han gla g ali, th en D oongag ali, a n d o n a r id ge tw o m ile s a b ove
th at la y N ath ia , th e q ueen o f th em a ll, w ith its o w n c lu b a n d te n nis c o urts a n d,
most im porta n tly , a lib ra ry fille d w ith b ooks, m ain ly b y a u th ors o ne h ad n ev er
heard o f b efo re o r n ev er w ould a g ain : th e lite ra ry e q uiv ale n t o f B -m ovie s a n d
so m etim es s ta rtlin gly g ood.
Heav en in th ose day s w as arriv in g here , in halin g th e sc en t of w ild
str a w berrie s, s ig htin g th e s n ow -c o vere d p eak o f N an ga P arb at in th e H im ala y an
dis ta n ce a n d w onderin g w hic h o f o ur s u m mer f rie n ds h ad a rriv ed .
This y ear, a ll I c o uld th in k a b out w as J in dié . W hen w as s h e a rriv in g? W hat
day ? W hat h our? I h av e s c an t m em orie s o f th at tim e n ow , a tim e o f u nre q uite d
passio ns th at s e em ed to b e th e f a te o f o ur g en era tio n. T o w rite th e lif e o f P la to I
hav e to w ork h ard to co lle ct m yse lf an d re m em ber w hat els e h ap pen ed th at
su m mer. I t’ s e asie r n ow , s in ce m y m em orie s o f J in dié h av e f a d ed .
When w e re ach ed o ur s u m mer h ouse , th e c are ta k er d eliv ere d a n um ber o f
messa g es a n d h an ded m e a s c ra p o f p ap er. N one o f th e m essa g es w ere o f a n y
sig nif ic an ce. S um mer f rie n ds f ro m P esh aw ar h ad a lr e ad y a rriv ed , in clu din g tw o
dem on te n nis p la y ers , P ash tu n b ro th ers , w itty a n d e asy m an nere d , w ho u su ally
pulv eriz ed th eir o pponen ts . Z ah id a n d I h ad b eate n th em o nce a n d th at w as o nly
becau se w e c o uld s e e b ette r in th e m is t th at e n velo ped th e c o urt. T he n ote w as
fro m Y ounis , th e jo lly s u b-p ostm aste r w ho p re sid ed o ver th e ti n y p ost o ffic e in
su m mer a n d s ta y ed in th e re st h ouse b elo w th e b azaar. H e w ondere d w hen w e
co uld m eet fo r a c u p o f te a. T he n ex t d ay frie n ds fro m L ah ore a n d K ara ch i
arriv ed as w ell. W e m et an d ex ch an ged p le asa n tr ie s, b ut m y th oughts w ere
els e w here .
My f rie n ds n otic ed h ow d is tr a cte d I h ad b eco m e a n d a ssu m ed th at a s I w as
due to le av e th e c o untr y la te r th at y ear, m y m in d h ad a lr e ad y d ep arte d a n d I
fo und th eir c o m pan y tir e so m e. H ow c o uld I te ll th em a ll th at I w as su ffe rin g
fro m lo ve f e v er? T here w ere a ls o tw o y oung w om en p re se n t w ho w ere g re at f u n
becau se th ey n ev er r e la p se d in to c o quetr y a n d lo ath ed b ourg eo is p ettin esse s a n d

whose c o m pan y, f o r th ose r e aso ns, I e n jo yed a g re at d eal. I c o uld o nly im ag in e
th eir sc ath in g co m men ts if I ad m itte d to an yth in g th at re m ote ly re se m ble d
se rio us p assio n.
I w alk ed alo ne to th e Pin es H ote l an d ex ch an ged gre etin gs w ith th e
pro prie to r a n d sta ff. S oon a fte r P artitio n, in 1 947, w hen I w as th re e a n d m y
sis te rs h ad n ot y et b een b orn , w e b eg an s ta y in g a t th e P in es, a n d th e p ro prie to r,
Zam an K han , a t a ll, p ot- b ellie d P ash tu n w ith p erm an en tly b lo odsh ot g re y e y es—
th e re su lt o f a n o verfo ndness fo r th e b eer p ro duced a t th e M urre e B re w ery b y
one of Ja m sh ed ’s m ore pro sp ero us re la tiv es— had beco m e a fa m ilia r an d
frie n dly fig ure o ver th e y ears . T here w as little th at e sc ap ed h im . H e g av e m e a
hug a n d i m med ia te ly o ffe re d s o m e i n fo rm atio n.
‘T hat g re en -e y ed g ir l f ro m P esh aw ar w hom y ou lik ed s o m uch la st y ear is
arriv in g n ex t w eek w ith h er m oth er.’
I fe ig ned d elig ht a n d th en s a id in a c asu al to ne, ‘A frie n d o f m in e, H an if
Ma, t o ld m e h e w as c o m in g t h is y ear. T hey ’re a C hin ese f a m ily f ro m L ah ore .’
Zam an g ra b bed m e b y th e arm an d to ok m e to h is o ffic e. T ogeth er w e
lo oked a t t h e r e se rv atio ns r e g is te r. T he M as w ere d ue i n t w o d ay s.
‘I d id n’t k now y ou w ere frie n ds. I’ll p ut th em in th e c o tta g e w here y ou
sta y ed te n y ears a g o. S o I ’ll b e s e ein g m ore o f y ou th is y ear. G ood. Y ou k now
you c an a lw ay s e at h ere .’
‘Y es, b ut n ot in y our d in in g ro om w here y ou still se rv e th ose d is g ustin g
ste w s t h e E nglis h u se d t o l ik e.’
He p in ch ed m e a n d la u ghed . T hrille d b y th e n ew s a n d o n a h ig h I w alk ed
dow n to th e b azaar a n d m et o ld frie n ds, b ought a n o ff-w hite C hitr a li h at a n d
warm ed m y han ds on a cu p of delic io us, if overs w eet, m ounta in te a, a
co nco ctio n m ad e b y b oilin g t e a l e av es i n m ilk a n d s u gar t ill t h e c o lo ur i s e x actly
rig ht. O ne o f t h e m ost w arm in g d rin ks i n t h e w orld . W hen I w alk ed i n to t h e p ost
offic e, s itu ate d a b ove a s lo pin g r a v in e le ad in g to th e d eep -v alle y v illa g es b elo w ,
where th e lo cal p eo ple liv ed th ro ughout th e y ear, I g ot a s h ock . S eate d n ex t to
Younis th e su b-p ostm aste r w as P la to . I’d co m ple te ly fo rg otte n th at he w as

co m in g h ere t h is s u m mer.
‘Y ou d id n’t k now t h at w e w ere o ld f rie n ds, d id y ou?’ a sk ed Y ounis . Y ounis
an d h is m oth er h ad b een in th e s a m e b us th at to ok th e re fu gees fro m L udhia n a
an d it w as s h e w ho h ad lo oked a fte r P la to till th ey re ach ed th e c am p. Y ounis ’s
fa th er, a n ig ht w atc h m an w ork in g fo r a H in du-o w ned fa cto ry in L udhia n a, h ad
nev er been se en ag ain . They had fa m ily in Pesh aw ar, an d Y ounis had
matr ic u la te d a n d b eco m e a G ra d e 6 c iv il s e rv an t.
‘G ra d e 6 ’, s a id P la to , ‘ is r e co gnitio n th at y ou w ill n ev er r is e in th e s e rv ic e.
Sub-p ostm aste r f o r l if e .’
Younis r o are d w ith l a u ghte r. ‘ B ette r t h an a p eo n. I j u st h ope I c an s p en d a ll
my s u m mers h ere t ill I d ie .’
It w as b are ly n oon. Y ounis o ffe re d m e so m e lo cally fe rm en te d ap ric o t
liq uor in m y te a. I d eclin ed th e p le asu re , b ut b oth o f th em p oure d g en ero us
help in gs in to th eir o w n b ow ls . S om e f rie n ds a rriv ed to p ost le tte rs a n d jo in ed u s
fo r a w hile , till th eir s is te rs a n d m oth ers w aitin g o uts id e s h oute d a t th em . O nce
th ey h ad le ft, Y ounis w his p ere d , ‘I h ear fro m B osta an K han th at th e g ir l fro m
Pesh aw ar w ill b e h ere n ex t w eek .’
Bosta an w as a n o ld w aite r a t t h e P in es, a n d a c ard sh arp . W hy h ad t h ey b een
gossip in g a b out h er?
‘B ecau se o f y ou.’
The p re v io us s u m mer I h ad m ad e a f o ol o f m yse lf w ith G re en ey es a n d s h e
had e n jo yed s n ubbin g m e i n p ublic . O ne d ay I n otic ed h er i n a c o rn er o f t h e c lu b
av id ly d ev ourin g a l e tte r, o bvio usly a b ille t- d oux. H er w hite f a ce t u rn ed d eep r e d
when s h e s a w m e.
‘W ho i s t h e l u ck y b oy?’
‘N one o f y our b usin ess.’
But i t w as. I ’d a p pro ach ed Y ounis , w ho, a s u su al, w as s lig htly t ip sy . H e h ad
beco m e a frie n d a n d re g ale d Z ah id a n d m e w ith s to rie s o f e v er-s o -re sp ecta b le
fa m ilie s b ein g to rn a su nder b y n ew s o f c o nsta n t in tr ig ues a n d in fid elitie s. H ow
did h e k now ? H e re ad th eir le tte rs , o f c o urs e , s te am in g th em o pen a t w ill a n d

re se alin g t h em c are fu lly b efo re d eliv ery . H e s w ore t h at h e o nly t a rg ete d t h e m ost
sn obbis h f a m ilie s, t h e o nes w ho l o oked d ow n o n h im a n d t r e ate d h im a s a s e rf. I
did th in k o f a sk in g h im to o pen th e e x ch an ge b etw een m y p are n ts ju st to re ad
what t h ey w ere w ritin g a b out m e, b ut d ecid ed a g ain st i t o n t h e g ro unds t h at t h ere
mig ht s o m e e m barra ssin g d ecla ra tio ns o f l o ve a n d l o yalty . I n g en era l i t w ould b e
accu ra te to s a y th at w hat Y ounis k new , w e k new . T oday h e w ould b e c alle d a
hack er a n d s e cre tly a d m ir e d , b ut a t th e tim e it w as c o nsid ere d q uite s c an dalo us
an d h ad w e sp re ad th e w ord h e w ould h av e lo st h is jo b. E ven Z ah id , u su ally
im mune to e th ic s, w as s lig htly s h ock ed . W e n ev er d id b etr a y h im . H ow c o uld
we? W e w ere h eav ily i m plic ate d . S o Y ounis w as n ow t o ld w hat w as n eed ed .
There w ere n o p hoto co pie rs th en . E very tim e L ailu m a, th e g old en -h air e d ,
gre en -e y ed P ash tu n b eau ty — her n am e m ean t M oonlit N ig ht— re ceiv ed o r p oste d
a l e tte r, a m esse n ger f ro m Y ounis , u su ally t h e l o cal p ostm an , w ould r u sh o ver t o
where v er I w as a n d d ra g m e to th e p ost o ffic e s a y in g th ere w as a n u rg en t p hone
call f ro m Z ah id i n M urre e. T here w ere f e w p hones i n t h ose d ay s a n d Z ah id o fte n
ra n g. T hough th e te le p hone e n gin eer a t th e e x ch an ge o fte n le t m e u se h is p hone
in e m erg en cie s a n d to ok m essa g es, th e o nly p ublic p hone w as lo cate d in th e
vera n da o f t h e p ost o ffic e.
In a sm all b ack ro om , I re ad L ailu m a’s le tte rs to h er lo ver re g ula rly a n d
dis p assio nate ly . T hey t o uch ed m e a n d w ere , i n a n y c ase , f a r m ore e n dearin g t h an
her lo ver’s u ltr a -e m otio nal, o verb earin g a n d p erm an en tly e m bitte re d to ne. S he
was t h e c o nsta n t b utt o f h is i r o ny, b ut f o r n o r e aso n. H e w as t h e t y pe w ho m ak es
me f e el th at s o m e o f u s h av e m ore in c o m mon w ith a p es th an w ith o th er m en . I
gav e u p a ll h ope. S he w as o bvio usly in lo ve w ith th is s tu pid b east. T he le tte rs
re v eale d h ow s tr o ngly h er p are n ts d is a p pro ved o f th e m atc h . I a g re ed w ith th eir
in stin cts if n ot th eir re aso nin g. T he y oung m an cam e fro m th e w ro ng so cia l
cla ss: h is f a th er w as a s h aw l- tr a d er w ith a s ta ll i n t h e K is sa k han i b azaar. D esp ite
my str o ng in te re st in h er, I w ould h av e b een o n th e m an ’s sid e in th is w hole
affa ir h ad h is c h ara cte r b een e v en m arg in ally m ore a ttr a ctiv e. E ith er h e c o uld n’t
ex pre ss h im se lf p ro perly o r h e r e ally w as o bnoxio us. A fte r a r a m blin g d is c u ssio n

fu elle d b y m an y c u ps o f a p ric o t l iq uor-la ced t e a, Y ounis , Z ah id a n d I a g re ed t h at
th e m atc h s h ould b e d is c o ura g ed .
A f e w d ay s b efo re L ailu m a le ft N ath ia g ali, I f o und h er o n h er o w n, s e ate d
undern eath a c h estn ut t r e e n ot f a r f ro m P in es H ote l. I h in te d t h at a f rie n d o f m in e
in P esh aw ar h ad i n fo rm ed m e o f h er d ile m ma. S he w as s tu nned .
‘I d on’t b elie v e y ou.’
I th en r e v eale d h er w ould -b e-lo ver’s n am e a n d h is f a th er’s o ccu patio n. S he
nearly f a in te d .
‘A lla h h elp m e.’
‘H e w on’t, b ut I w ill.’
‘Y ou!’
I c alm ed h er d ow n fir s t a n d p ro m is e d th at h er s e cre t w as s a fe ly b urie d in
my h eart. H ow ev er, a cco rd in g to m y f rie n d w ho k new h er b elo ved w ell, it w as
obvio us th at h e w as p ro ne to f its o f u nco ntr o lla b le ill te m per a n d w as b ooris h in
oth er w ay s to o. W as it tr u e, I a sk ed , th at h is te n dern ess a lte rn ate d w ith f u ry ? I f
so , h is je alo us te m pera m en t w ould c re ate in su rm ounta b le p ro ble m s a n d fo r n o
re aso n a t a ll. I f h e e v en s a w h er ta lk in g to a g ir lf rie n d h e d id n’t k now , h e w ould
lo se co ntr o l. I carrie d o n in th is w ay , d esc rib in g th e w ors t ch ara cte ris tic s o f
man y o f m y a cq uain ta n ces. T o m y a sto nis h m en t, h er sta rtle d e y es fix ed th eir
gaze o n m in e a n d s h e n odded s tr o ngly i n a g re em en t.
‘Y our f rie n d m ust k now h im r e ally w ell. I ’m b eg in nin g to th in k e x actly th e
sa m e. I w as th in kin g o f b re ak in g o ff a ll c o nta ct w ith h im , b ut I d ela y ed w ritin g
th e l e tte r. I r e ally d on’t w an t h im t o t h in k m y p are n ts h av e a n yth in g t o d o w ith i t.
They ’re j u st s tu pid . J u st b ecau se h is f a th er s e lls s h aw ls a n d f u rs .’
‘T hat a lo ne w ould b e r e aso n t o w ed t h e b oy’, I s a id , ‘ e sp ecia lly i f t h e f a th er
has a t r e asu re t r o ve o f o ld p ash m in as a n d s h ah to osh .’
For th e f ir s t tim e e v er, s h e la u ghed . M y h eart m is se d a f e w b eats . T here is
an a w fu l P unja b i s a y in g th at a tta ch es g re at im porta n ce to la u gh te r a s a n a d ju nct
of s e x ual c o nquest, ‘
hasi te p hasi’
( if s h e l a u ghs, y ou’v e t r a p ped h er). I t w as n ot
tr u e, b ut fo r o nce I d id b elie v e I h ad im pro ved m y c h an ces. Y ounis , to o, w as

co nvin ced t h at t h is w as t h e c ase .
‘I know th ese Pash tu n gir ls . T hey ’re m uch m ore ad van ced th an your
Punja b i b eau tie s. M ak e y our m ove, m y frie n d. C em en t th e P unja b i— Pash tu n
allia n ce. G iv e F ath erla n d s o m eth in g t o b e p ro ud o f.’
But it w as to o la te to m ak e a n y f u rth er m oves th at s u m mer. S he le ft a f e w
day s la te r, a fte r w e’d e x ch an ged E nglis h n ovels . I h ad s u ggeste d s h e s e n d th e
bre ak -o ff le tte r f ro m h ere s o th at s h e c o uld s ta rt a n ew c h ap te r in h er lif e w hen
sh e r e ach ed P esh aw ar a n d n ot b e b oth ere d b y h im . S he th ought th is w as a g ood
id ea. Y ounis a n d I b oth a g re ed th at th e le tte r w as b eau tif u lly w ritte n , e x tr e m ely
dig nif ie d a n d f a r t o o g en ero us. S he w en t u p e v en m ore i n m y e stim atio n.
It w ould h av e b een d is lo yal i f I h ad k ep t P la to a n d Y ounis i n t h e d ark a b out
Jin dié , a n d in Z ah id ’s a b se n ce I n eed ed to ta lk a b out h er w ith s o m eo ne. I to ld
th em . P la to w as p hilo so phic al.
‘T hese th in gs h ap pen . Y ou ju st n eed a tin y b it o f h ope f o r lo ve to b e b orn .
Has s h e g iv en y ou c au se f o r h ope?’
‘N ot s u re .’
‘T hen y ou t h in k s h e h as. W ell, w e’re a ll h ere t o h elp .’
Younis w as d is a p poin te d . ‘ I w as im ag in in g y ou w ith th e m oonlit L ailu m a,
but A lla h d ecid es. T here i s n o r e aso n t o s e al o ff t h at o ptio n. A m I t o o pen a ll t h e
le tte rs a d dre sse d t o t h e C hin ese l a d y?’
‘N o,’ I sa id , m ortif ie d b y w hat Jin dié m ig ht th in k if sh e e v er fo und o ut.
‘L et’ s w ait.’
I h ad s p ra in ed m y a n kle w hile p la y in g te n nis a n d w as in cap acita te d th e d ay
th ey a rriv ed , b ut o rd ere d a h ors e a n d r o de o ver to th e P in es th e n ex t d ay to p ay
my re sp ects a n d d ra g C onfu ciu s to th e o ld c lu b. W hen Jin dié sa w m e b ein g
help ed d ow n fro m th e h ors e sh e b urs t o ut la u ghin g, sto ppin g o nly w hen sh e
notic ed t h at I w as l im pin g w ith t h e h elp o f a s tic k .
‘I’m so rry , b ut I ju st n ev er im ag in ed y ou o n h ors e b ack . Y ou’re h urt? ’ I
ex pla in ed . C onfu ciu s h ad g one in se arc h o f m e. H ow w e m is se d e ach o th er I
don’t k now , b ut M rs M a o rd ere d s o m e te a a n d B osta an d uly a rriv ed w ith a tr a y

an d so m e tr u ly te rrib le cu cu m ber sa n dw ic h es m ad e w ith sta le b re ad , lig htly
so ak ed in w ate r to m ak e it a p pear fre sh . H e g av e m e a k now in g s m ile , w hic h
co uld o nly m ean t h at Y ounis h ad a le rte d h im t o m y s ta te o f m in d.
I w arn ed J in dié a n d h er m oth er a g ain st e atin g t o o o fte n i n t h e h ote l a n d t o ld
Bosta an to o ffe r th e sa n dw ic h es to m y h ors e , w hic h h e p ro m ptly d id , o nly to
hav e th em r e je cte d b y th e a n im al. T his c au se d g en era l m errim en t a n d a c h eerfu l
Mrs M a w en t i n doors t o u npack .
‘It’ s r e ally b eau tif u l h ere . Y ou’v e b een h ere e v ery s u m mer s in ce y ou w ere
tw o?’
I n odded , tr y in g n ot to lo ok a t h er to o o pen ly . S he w as w earin g a b lo use
over a p air o f b la ck tr o use rs a n d h er h air w as in a b un h eld to geth er b y iv ory
clip s.
‘M y f o ot is o n th e m en d a n d in a f e w d ay s I ’ll b e w alk in g a g ain . W e’re a ll
goin g u p t h at m ounta in . M uksh puri. A p ath l e ad s t o i t f ro m t h e o th er s id e o f t h is
hote l. T he g ro w n-u ps u su ally s to p h alf w ay u p, a t L ala zar, w here e v ery one e ats
lu nch a fte r w e k id s h av e r e tu rn ed f ro m t h e s u m mit.’
‘A nd a fte r l u nch ?’
‘W e p ic k d ais ie s, s in g, lis te n to Z ah id p la y th e a cco rd io n, te ll s to rie s a n d
th en c o m e d ow n a n d l ig ht a f ir e .’
‘W here w ill y ou l ig ht t h e f ir e ?’
Befo re I c o uld c o ntr o l m yse lf th e w ord s s lip ped o ut. ‘In y our h eart.’ S he
becam e ag ita te d an d sto od u p as if to le av e. I w as sp are d th e ag ony o f h er
dep artu re b y t h e a p peara n ce o f a n o ut- o f-b re ath C onfu ciu s.
‘O ne m ore th in g, J in dié ,’ I s a id , w an tin g to m ak e u p f o r m y m is ta k e. ‘ Y ou
must w alk a lo t o ver th e n ex t f e w d ay s to a cclim atiz e. O th erw is e y our le g s w ill
be s tif f a fte r w e c lim b t h e m ounta in .’
‘I s u ppose y our l e g s a re n ev er s tif f.’
‘O nly b ecau se I w alk s e v era l m ile s a d ay .’
‘O n h ors e b ack ?’ S he la u ghed a g ain a n d d is a p peare d . I s ig hed w ith r e lie f. I
to ok C onfu ciu s t o t h e b azaar a n d i n tr o duced h im t o Y ounis . L ate r t h at d ay Z ah id

arriv ed to s ta y w ith m e f o r a f e w d ay s a n d p re p are f o r th e M uksh puri c lim b. I n
th e e v en in g I h obble d w ith h im to th e c lu b. W hile e v ery one w as p la y in g te n nis
an d p in g-p ong, I re tir e d to th e lib ra ry a n d re lie v ed th e v olu nte er lib ra ria n fo r a
fe w h ours . J in dié c am e i n t o l o ok a t t h e b ooks a n d s a id , ‘ C olo nia l r u bbis h .’
I h ad n o i d ea s h e w as t h at w ay i n clin ed a n d w as q uite d elig hte d , b ut f e lt t h e
lib ra ry h ad t o b e d efe n ded .
‘T he b est b ooks h av e b een s to le n . O nly th e ru bbis h is le ft, b ut th ere a re a
fe w o th ers . P earl S . B uck i s q uite r e ad ab le .’
‘W hat? A re y ou m ad o r j u st s tu pid ? E very l ite ra te C hin ese l a u ghs a t h er.’
‘C ould th at b e b ecau se s h e d esc rib es th e lo w est d ep th s o f C hin ese s o cie ty
an d so m e lite ra te C hin ese fin d th at e m barra ssin g? I h av e to a d m it I le arn ed a
gre at d eal f ro m h er b ooks.’
‘T hat’ s o nly b ecau se y ou’re i g nora n t a n d k now n oth in g a b out C hin a.’
‘T ru e. O ne h as t o s ta rt s o m ew here . S he g ot t h e N obel P riz e f o r n o r e aso n?’
‘T hose i d io ts i n S to ck holm w ere i g nora n t, j u st l ik e y ou. T hey w ere t a k en i n
by m is sio nary s e n sitiv itie s. H av e y ou r e ad
The D re a m o f t h e R ed C ham ber
?’
‘I t r ie d , b ut t h e o ffic ia l t r a n sla tio n i s u nre ad ab le . I s i t a v aila b le i n E nglis h ?’
‘H ow d o I k now ? M y f a th er is th e e x pert o n a ll th is a n d w ill a ls o k now th e
best t r a n sla tio n.’
‘In P unja b i, I h ope. C onfu ciu s is a tr u e P unja b i. H e h as a ssim ila te d e v ery
Lah ori p re ju dic e, in clu din g th at p ro fo und m alic e a g ain st th e c u ltu re d re fu gees
who c ro sse d t h e J u m na a n d f o und t h em se lv es i n a n i llite ra te h ell.’
She l a u ghed a n d l it t h e r o om , j u st a s a w hole g an g o f k id s a rriv ed t o b orro w
books, d is tu rb in g o ur v ery f ir s t c o nvers a tio n. T he d ay w e c lim bed th e m ounta in ,
Jin dié , fo rg etf u l o f h er c u sto m ary re se rv e, su dden ly to ok m y a rm — a
co up d e
fo udre
if e v er th ere w as o ne— an d a s c o m e o f th e p arty lo oked a sk an ce, sh e
pre te n ded s h e h ad s lip ped . T he g estu re , h ow ev er, h ad b een n otic ed , a n d k now in g
lo oks w ere ex ch an ged . S tr a n ge h ow th e ex ch an gers o f k now in g lo oks n ev er
re aliz e t h at o ne c an s e e t h em .
Lailu m a a rriv ed th e f o llo w in g d ay , to geth er w ith h er e x te n ded f a m ily , a n d

in sta n tly becam e part of our cro w d. She w as in re m ark ab ly good sp ir its ,
unders to od p erfe ctly th at J in dié a n d I h ad b eco m e c lo se a n d p la y ed th e p art o f
ch ap ero ne t o p erfe ctio n. S he w as n ow e n gag ed t o a l a w yer s h e l ik ed a n d t h an ked
me a g ain in Jin dié ’s p re se n ce fo r a ll m y h elp la st y ear. S tr a n ge, I th ought to
myse lf , h ow m y d esir e f o r h er h ad d is a p peare d s o c o m ple te ly . L ove o f th e s o rt I
fe lt fo r th e B utte rfly h ad a sid e e ffe ct, in th e sh ap e o f w hat c an o nly b e th e
dro lle st o f v ir tu es: c h astity .
Once w e w ere a lo ne, J in dié w an te d to k now th e w hole tr u th . In stin ctiv ely
sh e h ad g uesse d th at m y m otiv es in h elp in g th e P esh aw ari p rin cess h ad n ot b een
to ta lly p ure . I to ld h er th e tr u th , c o ncealin g n oth in g, b ut m ad e h er p le d ge s h e
would n ev er r e v eal th e s u b-p ostm aste r’s r o le . S he a g re ed , b ut le t m e k now th at
sh e t h ought w hat w e d id w as d esp ic ab le .
‘T he e n d j u stif ie s t h e m ean s.’
‘H av e y ou i n str u cte d h im t o o pen m y m ail a s w ell? ’
‘N ot y et.’
‘If y ou d o I ’ll n ev er s p eak t o y ou a g ain .’
‘If I d id , y ou’d n ev er k now .’
‘I w ould . I k now y our ty pe b ette r th an y ou th in k. S poilt P unja b i b oys w ho
th in k th ere a re n o ru le s in s o cie ty . A nyw ay , m ost o f th e le tte rs I g et a re fro m
frie n ds o r m y fa th er, a n d th ey a ll w rite in M an darin , so n eith er y ou n or th at
cre ep y p ostm aste r w ould e v er b e a b le t o r e ad t h em .’
‘C re ep y su b-p ostm aste r, you m ean .’ Jin dié hit m e on th e arm w ith a
cle n ch ed fis t. ‘W ould y ou lik e to k now w hat so m e o f o ur acq uain ta n ces a re
writin g h om e a b out y ou a n d m e?’
‘W hat d o y ou m ean ?’
‘W hat I s a id .’
‘H av e y ou r e ad a n yth in g?
‘A d eta ile d le tte r fro m th at b uck -to oth ed g ir l y ou re ally lik e b ecau se sh e
co nsta n tly f la tte rs y ou. S he w ro te a b out u s t o h er b est f rie n d i n M ulta n . I t’ s u gly .
Guess w hat. A n ew ro m an ce is b re w in g in th e h ills , lik e m ounta in c h ai. Y ou’ll

nev er b elie v e it. D ara a n d Jin dié , th at C hin ese g ir l w ho’s a t c o lle g e w ith m e.
They ’re so sh am ele ss. T hey c an b are ly k eep th eir h an ds o ff e ach o th er. T hey
watc h e ach o th er a ll t h e t im e.’
Jin dié l a u ghed . ‘ Y ou a re e v il, b ut I ’m w arn in g y ou ...’
‘W hy s h ould I w an t t o r e ad y our l e tte rs ? ’
‘C urio sity . Je alo usy . P osse ssiv en ess. Im becility . A ll th e P unja b i v ir tu es.
Your c h oic e a s t o w hic h a p plie s b est t o y ou.’
‘I w on’t re ad y our le tte rs , b ut g et a se n se o f p ro portio n. W hat y ou c all
Punja b i v ir tu es a re r e ally u niv ers a l. W e’re ju st m ore o pen . L ess s u btle , b ut a ls o
le ss h ypocritic al.’
She sm ile d an d I w an te d to k is s h er lip s, b ut w as to o sc are d to d o so
becau se o f th e p ro xim ity o f M rs M a, w ho n ow c alle d f o r h er d au ghte r to c o m e
in doors . H ad th e o ld la d y b een e av esd ro ppin g a s s h e w atc h ed th e s u n s e t fro m
th e c o tta g e w in dow ?
When I r e p orte d t h is c o nvers a tio n t o P la to a n d Z ah id , t h ey b oth a g re ed t h at t h ere
was little d oubt th at sh e lo ved m e, a n d w e d is c u sse d h ow to m ove fo rw ard .
Zah id a rg ued in fa v our o f p ro posin g m arria g e, b ut th is w as fo olis h s in ce I h ad
pro m is e d m y p are n ts I ’d g o s tu dy la w in B rita in . I t w as to o e arly f o r a n y ta lk o f
marria g e, a n d I d re ad ed th e th ought o f s a y in g a n yth in g to m y m oth er, in m an y
way s a d eep ly co nse rv ativ e p ers o n w ith fix ed id eas o n th ese m atte rs . P la to
ad vis e d a l o ng e n gag em en t t h at w ould s ig nif y c o m mitm en t a n d, n o d oubt, J in dié
co uld als o go ab ro ad . T he fin al decis io n co uld be le ft till la te r. A lo ng
en gag em en t w asn ’t a p pealin g, b ut i t m ad e s e n se . T he t h re e o f u s a g re ed t h at t h is
was w hat s h ould b e d one o nce t h e s u m mer w as o ver. B efo re p ro ceed in g, I h ad t o
mak e s u re t h at J in dié w as i n f a v our o f t h is s o lu tio n.
That la st s u m mer in N ath ia g ali w as d om in ate d b y a p ro cess th at I h av e a lr e ad y
re fe rre d to earlie r in co nnectio n w ith so m eo ne els e , th e pro cess a lo velo rn
Ste n dhal d esc rib ed a s c ry sta lliz atio n i n h is c o m pen diu m
Love:

At th e s a lt m in es o f S alz b urg , th ey th ro w a le afle ss w in tr y b ough in to
one o f th e a b an doned w ork in gs. T w o o r th re e m onth s la te r th ey h au l it o ut
co vere d w ith a s h in in g d ep osit o f c ry sta ls . T he s m alle st t w ig , n o b ig ger t h an
a to m tit’ s cla w , is stu dded w ith a g ala x y o f sc in tilla tin g d ia m onds. T he
orig in al b ra n ch i s n o l o nger r e co gniz ab le .
What I h av e c alle d c ry sta lliz atio n is a m en ta l p ro cess w hic h d ra w s
fro m e v ery th in g th at h ap pen s n ew p ro ofs o f th e p erfe ctio n o f th e lo ved o ne
... o ne o f y our frie n ds g oes h untin g, a n d b re ak s h is a rm : w ould n’t it b e
wonderfu l t o b e l o oked a fte r b y t h e w om an y ou l o ve! T o b e w ith h er a ll t h e
tim e a n d t o s e e h er l o vin g y ou ... a b ro ken a rm w ould b e h eav en ...
Adm itte d ly m y s p ra in ed a n kle a n d r id e to h er f ro nt d oor h ad p ro duced d if fe re n t
re su lts , b ut th e th ought b eh in d it, o n m y p art, h ad b een th e sa m e. A ll o f m y
th oughts th at su m mer w ere a m atu ra tio n o f th e cry sta lliz atio n p ro cess. O ne
ev en in g, a ll o f u s y oung p eo ple w ere i n vite d t o d in ner i n K ala b ag h, a n A ir F orc e
re cre atio n c en tr e a fe w m ile s a w ay fro m N ath ia . O ur h osts w ere tw o P ash tu n
frie n ds, L ailu m a’s c o usin s, w hose fa th er w as a s e n io r A ir F orc e o ffic er. It w as
an i d yllic e v en in g. T he s k y w as b eau tif u l, b ut i t w as g ettin g c h illy a n d w e d ra p ed
ours e lv es in sh aw ls . L ailu m a g re ete d us o n arriv al an d I to ld h er w e w ere
wearin g th e sh aw ls to m ark h er esc ap e fro m th e sh aw l m erc h an t’ s so n. S he
ig nore d m e f o r t h e r e st o f t h e e v en in g.
We c arrie d to rc h es fo r th e re tu rn jo urn ey . I h av e n o m em ory o f a n yth in g
els e th at h ap pen ed th at e v en in g e x cep t th e fa ct th at J in dié a n d I a b an doned a ll
pre te n ce. W e w alk ed n ex t to e ach o th er. W e ta lk ed o nly to o ne a n oth er a n d o n
th e w ay b ack w e t o ok a d van ta g e o f t h e d ark a n d h eld h an ds. L ailu m a c am e c lo se
to u s a n d w his p ere d , ‘ B e c are fu l’ , b ut w e w ere b ey ond c au tio n a n d a sk ed h er to
walk w ith u s. T he f u ll m oon w as w an in g, b ut w hen w e r e ach ed t h e o ld c h urc h i n
Nath ia w e c o uld s till s e e its lig ht illu m in atin g N an ga P arb at, th e th ir d -h ig hest
peak in th e H im ala y as. T here w ere tw o o r th re e s p ecia l p la ces w here th at p eak
co uld b e o bse rv ed , a n d s o o ur p arty s p lit u p: J in dié , L ailu m a a n d I w en t to th e

obse rv atio n sp ot b eh in d th e lig htn in g-s c arre d ch urc h . T he o th ers d is a p peare d
els e w here .
‘J in dié .’
‘I k now .’
We e m bra ced e ach o th er, a n d I s tr o ked h er c h eek s, b ut n oth in g m ore . W e
decla re d o ur lo ve a n d I s u ggeste d w e im med ia te ly g et e n gag ed to p re v en t o ur
re sp ectiv e p are n ts fro m th in kin g ab out o th er alte rn ativ es. S he h eld m e tig ht,
kis se d m y e y es. W e w ere s u rp ris e d b y o ur a u dacity a n d la u ghed a b out it a t th e
tim e. B efo re w e c o uld c o ntin ue th e d is c u ssio n, w e h eard L ailu m a s h outin g o ur
nam es a s a w arn in g. W e w alk ed a w ay a n d jo in ed h er a n d th e r e st. N eith er o f u s
sp oke till w e re ach ed th e P in es H ote l. T hen Z ah id a n d I w alk ed b ack a n oth er
mile to m y h ouse a n d I to ld h im . T here w as a n oth er m em ber o f o ur p arty th at
ev en in g: J a m sh ed h ad a rriv ed to s ta y w ith a c o usin in D oongag ali, b ut g iv en h is
weak , c o w ard ly a n d c o nte m ptib le c h ara cte r, I ’m tr y in g to a v oid m en tio n o f h im
as m uch a s I c an in th is a cco unt. P la to d esp is e d h im a n d I n ev er to ld h im a b out
Jin dié , t h ough h e p ro bab ly f o und o ut, s in ce i t w as h ard ly a s e cre t a n ym ore .
Thre e d ay s b efo re J in dié w as d ue to le av e s h e a g re ed to a tr y st in th e c h urc h . I
knew w here th e k ey w as k ep t, a n d in th e p ast w e h ad o fte n u se d it a s p la ce to
re n dezv ous. T he d ay s w hen a p rie st w ould co m e fro m P esh aw ar fo r S unday
pra y ers h ad e n ded in th e F if tie s. T he b uild in g w as in a sta te o f d is re p air a n d
ofte n l e ak ed w hen t h e r a in w as h eav y. T hen J in dié d ecid ed t h at s h e d id n ot w an t
to m eet th ere . W hen I a sk ed w hy, s h e s a id it m ad e h er f e el lik e a c h ara cte r in a
Pearl S . B uck n ovel. I n ev er le t h er fo rg et th at re m ark , b ut h er re je ctio n o f th e
ch urc h m ean t a lo ng tr e k w ith L ailu m a, w ho w as p erfe ctly w illin g to w alk
beh in d u s o r i n f ro nt a t a s u ita b le d is ta n ce. S he c o lle cte d J in dié . I m et t h em a t t h e
em pty G overn m en t H ouse . I h ad g one h untin g o nce w ith th e c are ta k er a n d n ow
he le t u s in w ith a h uge w elc o m e. W e w alk ed o ut th e b ack th ro ugh its lu sh
gard en s an d en te re d a p ath th at le d to M ir a n Ja n i, th e h ig hest m ounta in in
Nath ia . W e fo und a beau tif u l m ead ow an d sa t on th e gra ss w hile L ailu m a

open ed a b ook a n d tr ie d to ig nore u s fo r th e n ex t tw o h ours . J in dié s p oke fir s t,
an d h er v oic e w as t r e m ulo us w ith e m otio n.
‘I’v e d ecid ed . I d on’t w an t t o g et e n gag ed t o y ou.’
I s e iz ed h er h an d a n d k is se d i t. ‘ W hy? W hy?’
‘It’ s w ro ng f o r u s t o b eh av e i n s u ch a t r a d itio nal w ay . M y m oth er s a y s i f w e
lo ve e ach o th er w e c an d o w hat w e w an t. I c o uld g o to L eed s U niv ers ity a n d
en ro l in th e C hin ese d ep artm en t a n d w e c o uld se e e ach o th er e v ery w eek en d.
And i f w e w an te d t o , w e c o uld g et m arrie d . O r n ot? I t’ s f o r u s t o d ecid e. N obody
els e .’
I w as in h eav en . I p ut m y h ead o n h er la p a n d a fte r a w hile s h e b eg an to
str o ke m y h air . ‘It’ s d one,’ I s a id . ‘T hat’ s w hat w e’ll d o. I’m g la d y ou’v e to ld
your m oth er. I ’ll t e ll m in e.’
‘N o n eed to if y ou d on’t w an t to ,’ s h e r e p lie d . ‘ C onfu ciu s s a id y our m oth er
was v ery b eau tif u l a n d o pen -m in ded in s o m e w ay s b ut a ls o v ery tr a d itio nal a n d
co nse rv ativ e in o th ers . S he m ay n ot lik e h er s o n m arry in g a C hin ese c o bble r’s
dau ghte r.’
I h ugged h er a n d k is se d h er h ead a n d h an ds a n d c h eek s. ‘ J in dié , m y m oth er
is tr a d itio nal, b ut s h e m arrie d m y fa th er a g ain st h er o w n fa th er’s w is h es. T hey
were f ro m t h e s a m e f a m ily , b ut m y f a th er h ad b eco m e a C om munis t a n d ...’
‘T he w hole o f L ah ore k now s th e s to ry , D ara , b ut th at d oesn ’t s to p p eo ple
beh av in g dif fe re n tly w hen th eir ow n ch ild re n are in volv ed in so m eth in g of
whic h t h ey d is a p pro ve.’
We c arrie d o n ta lk in g a ll th e w ay b ack . L ailu m a to ld m e s h e a g re ed w ith
Jin dié . N o co nfe ssio ns in L ah ore w hats o ev er. In B rita in w e co uld d o as w e
wis h ed . L ate r P la to a n d Z ah id s tr o ngly a g re ed a s w ell.
‘Y ou k now h ow h ead str o ng y our m oth er i s ,’ s a id Z ah id . ‘ D on’t s a y a w ord .
I h ope y ou h av en ’t k ep t a d ia ry .’
‘I h av e, b ut i t’ s p erm an en tly l o ck ed a n d o nly I k now w here i t’ s k ep t.’
‘D on’t b e fo olis h . S he’ll h av e it o pen ed a n d re se ale d o r re lo ck ed . D on’t
undere stim ate P unja b i m oth ers . T hey ’re j u st a s b ad a s J e w is h o nes.’

Zah id w as a ls o p re p arin g t o s tu dy a b ro ad , b ut n ot t ill t h e f o llo w in g y ear.
Jin dié a n d I w ould h av e s ix m ore w eek s t o geth er i n L ah ore b efo re m y d ep artu re .
When I re tu rn ed to L ah ore , ev ery one w as ta lk in g ab out T ip u’s arre st an d
dis a p peara n ce, a n d w ith in a f o rtn ig ht Z ah id h ad b een a ccu se d o f b etr a y in g h im .
Now th at I th in k b ack o n th ose d ay s, I can re call th at it w as Ja m sh ed w ho
co nvey ed th e n ew s to o ur h ouse h old . H e b oasts o f h is in fa m ie s n ow , fla u nts
th em s h am ele ssly , b ut o n th at d ay h is c o nsc ie n ce w as o n p ara d e. H e r e fe rre d to
Zah id ’s b ase c h ara cte r a n d h ow h e m ust b e p unis h ed . Ja m sh ed w as a lw ay s a
lo w lif e , a n d h is b ra n d o f a m ora lity b ecam e m y s u pre m e a v ers io n.
At f ir s t I w as d ev asta te d a n d th en d ep re sse d , b ut a fte r a f e w d ay s I w as in a
ra g e w ith Z ah id . W ho c o uld h av e g uesse d th at s u ch m alig nan cy w as lu rk in g in
th at h eart? J in dié a n d I w ould e n dle ssly d is c u ss t h is e v en t. S he w as a lw ay s m ore
care fu l a n d w arn ed m e n ot to b elie v e e v ery s ta te m en t th at c am e f ro m th e p olic e.
Zah id , m ean w hile , h ad d is a p peare d to K ara ch i to s ta y w ith a n u ncle , w hic h , a s
fa r a s I w as c o ncern ed , w as e x tr e m ely s u sp ic io us b eh av io ur. P la to a g re ed w ith
me, b ut t h en h e t r u ste d n obody.
‘E ach o f u s h as t h e c ap acity t o d is sim ula te w ith s u ch p ro fu ndity t h at w e c an
ofte n s u rp ris e o urs e lv es. P erh ap s Z ah id th ought h e w as d oin g y ou a fa v our in
gettin g T ip u o ut o f t h e w ay . D id n’t y ou t e ll m e t h at T ip u w as s tu ck o n J in dié ?’
‘T here w as n oth in g i n t h at, P la to , j u st m y d is e ase d b ra in .’
While a ll th is w as g oin g o n, m y m oth er, a s Z ah id h ad p re d ic te d , h ad f o und
my d ia ry w ith th e h elp o f h er m aid s, r e ad it, a n d d is c u sse d it a t le n gth w ith m y
fa th er, w ho, to h is e n orm ous c re d it, re fu se d to e v en g la n ce a t it. S he w ork ed
hers e lf in to a te rrib le s ta te . I k new s o m eth in g w as w ro ng th e m in ute I g ot h om e
th at d ay . M y m oth er w as in a s u lk , b are ly r e p lie d to m y g re etin g a n d p re te n ded
sh e w as re ad in g a b ook. A fe w m in ute s la te r sh e b urs t in to m y ro om in an
ele m en ta l ra g e a n d a n nounced th at s h e h ate d w eak m en w ho fe ll in lo ve w ith
wom en a n d g ro velle d a t t h eir f e et.
I w as a sto nis h ed . ‘T hen y ou m ust h ate m y fa th er fo r fa llin g in lo ve w ith

you. I n f a ct n ow t h at y ou m en tio n i t, I w is h h e ...’
Befo re I c o uld c o m ple te m y s e n te n ce s h e ru sh ed fo rw ard a n d s la p ped m y
fa ce. T hen s o m uch r u bbis h b eg an to p our o ut th at I d ecid ed th ere a n d th en th at
if s h e e v er m en tio ned th e w ord
Chin ese
o r
co bble r
a g ain I w ould w alk o ut a n d
se ek re fu ge w ith P la to a t S co tc h C orn er o r fle e to th e h ouse o f a s y m path etic
au nt. I t w as a lm ost a s if s h e k new th at o r, w hat is m ore lik ely , h ad b een w arn ed
by m y f a th er n ot t o t r a v el d ow n t h at r o ad , a n d s o s h e s u dden ly c h an ged h er t a ck .
All h er lif e h er fe elin gs a b out c h ild is h tr if le s h ad b een s o v io le n t th at in m ore
sa n e m om en ts s h e a d m itte d h er w eak ness a n d r e p ro ach ed h ers e lf . N ot th at d ay .
Now , tr e m blin g w ith r a g e, s h e s h oute d , ‘ S he’s th e s a m e a g e a s y ou. S he s h ould
be a t l e ast f iv e o r s ix y ears y ounger.’
I w as s o ta k en a b ack th at I b urs t o ut o f la u ghin g, a n d th en p oin te d o ut th at
so m e o f th e h ap pie st c o uple s i n th e f a m ily w ere r o ughly th e s a m e a g e, in clu din g
tw o o f h er b ro th ers a n d th eir w iv es, w here as J in dié w as tw o y ears y ounger th an
me, n ot t h at i t m atte re d i n t h e l e ast. I n f a ct, I t o ld m y m oth er, o ne o f o ur c o usin s
had m arrie d h is s te p m oth er’s s is te r, w ho w as te n y ears o ld er th an h e w as, a n d
th ey , t o o, w ere b lis sfu lly h ap py.
In f a ct, I s a id , it w as a m atte r o f s o m e r e g re t to m e th at J in dié w asn ’t a f e w
years o ld er sin ce I p re fe rre d m atu re w om en . U nab le to re sp ond, sh e m oved
fo rw ard to a ssa u lt m e o nce a g ain , b ut I s te p ped a sid e a t th e la st m in ute a n d s h e
fe ll o n m y b ed in ste ad . T he n ex t m orn in g s h e ra d ia te d a s u rfa ce c alm , b ut w as
still s e eth in g. S he w as s o m etim es c ap ab le o f m an ufa ctu rin g th e m ost fa n ta stic
untr u th s, b ut a ls o s p ecia liz ed in tr iv ia l f ib s, a n d w as u su ally c au ght o ut b ecau se
of h er in co nsis te n cie s. S he c o uld n ev er r e m em ber w hat s h e h ad s a id to th e s a m e
pers o n s o m e w eek s p re v io usly . A s I tu ck ed in to m y s c ra m ble d e g gs, I s m ile d a t
her t o s h ow t h ere w as n o i ll w ill o n m y p art. S he t o ok t h is a s a c u e f o r h ypocris y
an d a m ala p ro pis m , a n oth er f e atu re o f h er d ia le ct.
‘I k now w hat y ou’re th in kin g. Y ou th in k I’m o ppose d to h er b ecau se h er
fa th er h as b een m easu rin g o ur f e et f o r d onkey ’s e ars .’
I b eg an t o l a u gh. ‘ N o, m oth er. H e h as b een m easu rin g d onkey ’s f e et f o r m y

fa th er’s a n d g ra n dfa th er’s e ars .’
She h urle d a b oile d e g g a t m e, w hic h m is se d . A t th is p oin t I d ecid ed it w as
best to g o o ut fo r a lo ng w alk . A s fa te w ould h av e it, I fo und m yse lf w alk in g
unco nsc io usly in th e d ir e ctio n o f N air n C olle g e, a n d ju st b efo re I re ach ed th e
gate a c ar h onked a t m e. I t w as a c o usin . W e e x ch an ged g re etin gs. T he c h au ffe u r
got o ut a n d h eld o pen t h e b ack d oor. I g ot i n . W e d ro ve i n to t h e c o lle g e c ar p ark .
‘D ara , h av e y ou c o m e t o s e e J in dié ?’
‘W ell, I w asn ’t p la n nin g t o , b ut ... y es!’
‘S he m ay h av e le ft. I ’ll g o a n d s e e, b ut if y ou’re c au ght, M is s W illo ughby-
Ash le y m ore w ill r in g a ll o ur p are n ts .’
‘N oth in g s h e c an d o t o m e.’
‘D ara , at le ast co ver y our h ead w ith a sh aw l so th ey ’ll th in k y ou’re a
wom an .’
‘W hat a b out m y m ousta ch e? O h, I fo rg ot. M is s W illo ughby-A sh le y m ore
sp orts o ne a s w ell. I’m h ap py to p ut o n a d is g uis e . B rin g b ack a b ra a n d s o m e
so ck s.’
She g ig gle d a n d w alk ed h urrie d ly to th e g ir l’ s h oste l, a v erita b le h are m
where w e w ere d en ie d e n tr y , b ut w here m is c h ie f o f e v ery s o rt f lo uris h ed . W ith in
te n m in ute s s h e w as b ack w ith th e r e q uir e d ite m s. I w as w earin g a
sa lw ar/k u rta
an d h urrie d ly a sse m ble d a p air o f b re asts , m uch to th e c h au ffe u r’s a m use m en t,
co vere d m y h ead an d h alf m y fa ce w ith a sh aw l, p ut o n a slig ht lim p an d
acco m pan ie d m y e v er-s o -s p ortin g c o usin to a frie n d’s ro om , w here J in dié w as
waitin g. S he g ig gle d .
‘A b it o f e y e m ak eu p a n d y ou’d b e a p erfe ct h erm ap hro dite !’
The frie n ds sc arp ere d . T he m in ute w e w ere a lo ne I d itc h ed th e b ra a n d
so ck s. W e f e ll c h aste ly in to e ach o th er’s a rm s. I m an ag ed to im prin t a tin y k is s
on her lip s. B elie v e m e, dear re ad er, it w as pure ly to ken . O ur lip s bare ly
to uch ed , b ut it s ta rtle d h er. S he s a t b olt u prig ht a n d r a p ped m e o n th e k nuck le s
with a f ly s w at.
‘W hy d o y ou a lw ay s m ak e m e a n gry ? I’ll n ev er s e e y ou a lo ne u nle ss y ou

pro m is e t o b eh av e.’
‘H av e y ou r e ad t h e
Thousa nd a nd O ne N ig hts
, J in dié ?’
She p ush ed m e a w ay . W an tin g d esp era te ly to a m use h er, I d esc rib ed th e
co nvers a tio n w ith m y m oth er. S he i n sta n tly b ecam e m ela n ch olic .
‘I w arn ed y ou n ot t o t e ll h er.’
‘S he ra n sa ck ed m y desk an d booksh elv es, th en fo rc ed open th e se cre t
dra w er i n m y c u pboard a n d f o und m y d ia ry .’
‘W hy d id y ou k eep a d ia ry ? S o i m matu re .’
‘F an ta sie s h av e t o b e r e co rd ed s o m ew here .’
She w an te d to k now w hat I h ad w ritte n . I p ro vid ed a b rie f s u m mary . S he
co vere d h er f a ce w ith h er h an ds.
‘Y ou w ro te t h at w e s p en t a ll n ig ht t a lk in g?’
‘O n t h e p hone! I d id . I t’ s t r u e.’
‘I k now , b ut i t c re ate s a b ad i m pre ssio n.’
‘W ho c are s? ’
She b ecam e s ile n t. T hen s h e s a id , ‘ G o. L et m e t h in k a b out a ll t h is n ow . A nd
don’t r in g m e f ro m h om e. G o t o t h e G erm an c afé .’
Our guard s w ere outs id e, w aitin g patie n tly an d eav esd ro ppin g. They
en te re d th e ro om pro m ptly . S lig htly dep re sse d , I re su m ed m y dis g uis e an d
walk ed o ut, m ovin g m y b utto ck s su ggestiv ely . A s w e w alk ed p ast th e tr e e to
whic h w as a tta ch ed th e N air n C olle g e b ell— th at e v il to csin w hic h s u m moned
th e w om en to c la ss a n d a sse m blie s a n d s ig nalle d th at v is ito rs s h ould le av e— I
to ok o ut m y p en knif e a n d d eta ch ed th e b ell f ro m th e r o pe. M y e sc o rts , th re e o f
th em c o usin s o f m in e, w ere h orro r-s tr u ck .
‘H ai A lla h , A lla h . W e’ll all be ex pelle d . Y ou m onste r. Y ou’re nev er
co m in g h ere a g ain . R ude b oy. E vil o ne. V ip er!’ A nd s o o n. I r u sh ed to th e c ar,
clu tc h in g th e b ell to m y sto m ach , an d w as d riv en aw ay . M is s W illo ughby-
Ash le y m ore , I w as la te r to ld , in stitu te d a fu ll- s c ale in vestig atio n an d ev en
su m moned a s e n io r p olic e o ffic er w hose d au ghte r w as a t th e c o lle g e, to f rig hte n
th e s tu den ts , b ut th e m yste ry w as n ev er s o lv ed . T he m em en to , ru sty a n d w orn

lik e t h e c o lle g e t o w hic h i t o nce b elo nged , s till h an gs f ro m t h e m an go t r e e i n m y
moth er’s o ld g ard en , w here it w as o fte n u se d b y th e g ard en er to frig hte n a w ay
th e p arro ts . T he fo llo w in g w eek J in dié a n d I m et a t th e G erm an c afé , a n d s h e
co nfe sse d th at th e th eft o f th e b ell h ad c h eere d h er a g re at d eal, r e sto rin g m e to
her f a v our.
But w ors e w as ab out to h ap pen . A s th e tim e n eare d fo r m y d ep artu re ,
frie n ds o rg an iz ed f a re w ell g et- to geth ers . T hose w ho s h are d o ur r e se rv ed ta b le a t
th e co lle g e café had a sp ecia l ev en t w here fru it ju ic es an d
sa m osa s
w ere
pro vid ed f re e o f c h arg e. R esp ecte d h ugged m e w ith e m otio n.
‘Y ou w on’t f o rg et u s, w ill y ou?’
How c o uld I f o rg et a n y o f th em ? W ith f e w e x cep tio ns th ey ’re a ll d ead n ow , a ll
th e f rie n ds w ho w ere p erm itte d to s it a t o ur ta b le , w hose p urity a n d in te g rity w e
guard ed s o f ie rc ely f ro m f a k es, f ra u ds a n d f o ols . P ro fe sso r J u naid d ra n k h im se lf
to d eath . H aro on h ad a h eart a tta ck i n h is l a te f if tie s. R esp ecte d d is a p peare d w ith
th e o ld c an te en , h is la te r w here ab outs u nknow n. A nd s o it w en t. P la to , Z ah id ,
Confu ciu s an d I are p ro bab ly th e so le su rv iv ors o f o ur A tla n tis . I sa w th eir
ghosts w hen I v is ite d th e c o lle g e a fte r a f o rty -y ear a b se n ce. I c o uld a lm ost h ear
th eir v oic es. I re aliz ed m y e y es w ere m ois t. M y se n tim en ta lity su rp ris e d m e;
se n tim en ta lity w as s o m eth in g th at w as b ru ta lly c o ndem ned b y u s w hen w e w ere
young. H ow w e h ate d a ll th ose a t n eig hbourin g ta b le s w ho ta lk ed a b out n oth in g
els e b ut th e g lo rio us M ughal p ast o f th e c ity , M ughal r u le in I n dia a n d M ughal
th is a n d M ughal th at; P la to w ould sh out, ‘M ughal w in e, M ughal le ch ery a n d
opiu m , M ughal f o ndness f o r b oys ...’ A noth er o f u s w ould in te rru pt lo udly a n d
sin g th e p ra is e s o f L ah ore u nder th e S ik hs, d elib era te ly e x ag gera tin g th e v ir tu es
of M ah ara ja R an jit S in gh, th e o ne-e y ed w arrio r w ho h ad h eld th e B ritis h a t b ay
an d m ain ta in ed a n in dep en den t P unja b . H is o ld p ala ce w as n ot s o f a r a w ay f ro m
where w e sa t, c lo se to th e B ad sh ah i M osq ue a n d th e D ia m ond M ark et— co ld
durin g t h e d ay , a f u rn ace a t n ig ht— in t h e o ld r e d -lig ht d is tr ic t w here s o m e o f t h e
gau die st c o urte sa n s’ h ouse s h ad b een b uilt b y a g re at- u ncle o f m in e. T he o ld

Royal d is tr ic t: m osq ue, p ala ce a n d b ro th el a ll w ith in e asy re ach o f e ach o th er
an d c lo se t o t h e r iv er t h at n o l o nger f lo w s.
There w ere o th er t a b le s w here p erfu m ed y oung m en p ra ctis e d a w it t h at h ad
been c are fu lly r e h ears e d , t o i m pre ss e ach o th er a n d t h e w om en s tu den ts w ho h ad
th eir te a a n d
sa m osa s
s e p ara te ly in a n a d jo in in g g ard en a n d w hose la u ghte r a n d
tin klin g v oic es e n han ced t h e c h arm o f t h e p la ce.
Reh ears e d w it w as n ot p erm itte d a t o ur ta b le . P la to d ete ste d th e p ra ctic e a s
a c u rs e o f th e a g e a n d g la re d s u sp ic io usly a t a n y o f u s if h e th ought a b on m ot
la ck ed s p onta n eity . T his e x te m pore w it c o uld o nly b e a h it- a n d-m is s a ffa ir , b ut i t
was p re fe ra b le to th e o th er s o rt. P la to ’s c am e w ith a n e ccen tr ic ity th at— unlik e
his w it— ap peare d to b e care fu lly cu ltiv ate d . A cco rd in g to so m e o f h is o w n
pupils , h e h ad t a k en to c y clin g r o und t h e s c h ool a n d w as o fte n s e en p re cario usly
bala n ced a s h e s to od o n th e s e at o f a m ovin g b ik e, a rm s o uts tr e tc h ed , r e p eate d ly
sh outin g, ‘
Alla hu A kb ar
’. W hen w e a sk ed if th is w as tr u e, h e n odded . W hy?
‘N ev er h eard o f s a tir e ?’
Was it o ld frie n ds I w as m ourn in g o r a n o ld c ity , a n o ld w orld th at h ad
sin ce c h an ged s o m uch a n d fo r th e w ors e , a w orld in w hic h e x pecta tio ns fo r a
bette r fu tu re w ere a lw ay s h ig h a n d in w hic h th e u ltr a -W ah hab i b eard , g an gste r
politic s a n d c an cero us c o rru ptio n h ad y et to a p pear a n d d ro w n a ll h ope. T he
Ja m aat- i- Is la m i boys w ere pre se n t in m in is c u le num bers th en , an d w ould
so m etim es a rg ue w ith u s, r e p ly in g p arro t- lik e to a ll o ur c ritic is m s w ith a s in gle
phra se , ‘ Is la m is a c o m ple te c o de o f lif e ,’ a n d th at w as h ow w e u se d to a d dre ss
th em . ‘ T ell m e s o m eth in g, I s la m is -a -c o m ple te -c o de-o f-lif e , c o uld it b e tr u e th at
we a re d esc en ded f ro m a p es? H av e y ou e v er c o nsid ere d t h e p ossib ility o r s tu die d
th e e v id en ce?’
As I lo oked a t th e f a d ed p hoto gra p hs in th e o ld h all, th e s c en e o f s o m an y
tu m ultu ous e v en ts , I s a w a lo ng-fo rg otte n P ash tu n fa ce th at m ad e m e s m ile . A
decen t h um an b ein g b ut a t e rrib le p ed an t, h e h ad , t o o ur g re at s u rp ris e , j o in ed t h e
arm y a n d r is e n t o b eco m e a g en era l. T he l a st I h eard o f h im w as a d esc rip tio n o f
his ra g e a t b ein g s tr ip -s e arc h ed a t D ulle s A ir p ort w hile o n h is w ay to a tte n d a

Pen ta g on b rie fin g in D ecem ber 2 001. W e w ere a ll th ere o n th at w all, e x cep t f o r
Pla to , w ho o f c o urs e n ev er s tu die d a t t h e c o lle g e. H ow s tr a n ge i t s e em s n ow , b ut
none o f u s w ho c o ngre g ate d a t o ur ta b le e ach m orn in g w ere b elie v ers . N ot a
sin gle o ne. A nd t h at w as n orm al. W e w ere n ot a lo ne.
A fe w e ld erly p ro fe sso rs w an dere d o ver a n d g re ete d m e w arm ly , in sis tin g
th at t h ey h ad s h are d t h e t a b le . S om e r e m em bere d d efy in g t h e i n ju nctio ns a g ain st
politic al d em onstr a tio ns a n d m arc h in g t o t h e U S C onsu la te t o p ro te st t h e m urd er
of P atr ic e L um um ba in 1 961. O th ers re co unte d e p is o des th at h ad n ev er ta k en
pla ce, a n i m ag in ed p ast. I s m ile d . T o e ach h is i llu sio ns.
Befo re I le ft L ah ore fo r E ngla n d, I sa id fa re w ell to a ll m y o ld h au nts e x cep t
Zah id ’s h ouse , w hic h h is tr e ach ery h ad d ecla re d o ut o f b ounds. I lo ved an d
este em ed th is city : its co ura g e, w hic h riv alle d its cu is in e; its w it an d se lf -
dep re cato ry h um our; its e n erg y, m ale a n d fe m ale ; its c afé s w hic h , e v en a fte r
1947, p re se rv ed a c o nsta n cy a n d a d ep th o f i d eas; i ts s o ftn ess o r h ard c o ars e n ess,
dep en din g o n th e o ccasio n. T he n ew s u burb s th at w ere b ein g b uilt w hen I le ft
house d a n a lto geth er d if fe re n t c la ss o f c itiz en s. T hese w ere y oung m en b orn o f
pro vin cia l fa th ers or nouveau ric h e tr a d ers , w ho had m oved to th e city to
in cre ase t h eir f o rtu nes.
Pla to lo ath ed th em a s o nly h e c o uld , s e ein g c o m ed y in w hat th ey r e g ard ed
as v ir tu e. H e w ould in su lt th em to th eir f a ces, s a y in g th ey w ere th e m ost o btu se
an d b arb aric r u ffia n s h e h ad e v er s e t h is e y es o n, e v en t h ough h e k new t h is w as a
slig ht ex ag gera tio n. H e w ould m ock th eir ex ag gera te d m an neris m s an d b ody
la n guag e, th eir sn obbery an d dre ss co des, th eir etio la te d ap peara n ce an d
ab om in ab le e g otis m , b ut a b ove a ll th e c allo usn ess th ey d is p la y ed to w ard s th ose
th ey s a w a s th eir s o cia l in fe rio rs . I k new s o m e o f th em . I n th eir f a v our it c an b e
sa id t h at t h ey d id n ot y et c arry w eap ons. T heir c h ild re n d o.
At h om e, m y m oth er w as c o nvin ced th at s h e h ad w on m e o ver, th at th ere
was n o fu rth er c au se fo r a n xie ty o n th e ‘C hin a fro nt’ . S he b oaste d to a n o ld er
sis te r t h at e v ery th in g h ad b een h an dle d w ith e x quis ite g ra ce, t h e s o rt o f r e m ark a

to rtu re r m ig ht m ak e a fte r a p ris o ner h e’s b een w ork in g o n is fo und d ead . T he
co re o f h er re al w orld w as m ad e u p o f h er s is te rs , a fe w y ounger w om en w ho
dote d o n h er ev ery w ord , an d h er fa m ily , w hic h m ean t m y fa th er an d, ala s,
myse lf . A s fo r m y sis te rs , th ey w ere m ad e to lo ok p re tty so th at th ey d id n’t
dis g ra ce h er a t p ublic o ccasio ns, b ut th eir fu tu re w as c ir c u m sc rib ed b y a s in gle
dead ly i n stitu tio n: m arria g e.
She p osse sse d m an y v ir tu es, w as a m ia b le a n d g en ero us m ost o f th e tim e,
but pro ne, as I hav e sa id , to fits of unco ntr o lla b le ra g e. P la to accid en ta lly
witn esse d o ne o f th ese w hile v is itin g m e an d w as im pre sse d b y it. S he h ad
assu m ed h e w as a t r a d esm an .
Her o w n m arria g e to m y f a th er h ad n ot b een s tr ic tly c o nven tio nal, to p ut it
mild ly . A n elo pem en t an d se cre t w ed din g; a sc an dal in th e fa m ily ; m y
gra n dfa th er t h re ate n in g t o k ill h er a n d h im se lf i f t h e m arria g e w ere n ot a n nulle d ;
th e a n ger o f m y p ate rn al g ra n dm oth er, f ro m a m ore b lu e-b lo oded f a ctio n o f th e
fa m ily a n d e n ra g ed th at h er s o n w as n ot c o nsid ere d s u ita b le s im ply b ecau se o f
his C om munis t v ie w s. I t h ad a ll w ork ed o ut in th e e n d, a n d a n o ffic ia l w ed din g,
atte n ded b y th e c ity ’s n ota b le s, h ad d uly ta k en p la ce. A ll th is s h ould h av e m ad e
my m oth er m ore re la x ed in h er o w n v ie w s, b ut it w as as if , h av in g se t an
au dacio us fa sh io n w hen sh e w as y oung, sh e w as n ow su rp ris e d b y h er o w n
bold ness, a n d s h e o fte n d is p la y ed a p se u do-m ora lity t h at w as d is tr e ssin g t o a ll o f
us. W ere th ere o th er s k ele to ns in h er p ast o f w hic h w e h ad n o id ea? H er s e m i-
hyste ric al d efe n ce o f m onogam y, an d th is in a cu ltu re w here m onogam y is
activ ely d is c o ura g ed , h as le ft m e s u sp ic io us to th is d ay . A t th e tim e, h ow ev er,
sh e a p peare d t r iu m phan t. S he h ad w re ck ed m y h ap pin ess a n d w as b oastin g a b out
her s u ccess t o m y f a th er a n d h er c ir c le o f i n tim ate s.
How w ro ng s h e w as a n d h ow r ig ht a s w ell, b ut n ot b ecau se o f m y a p pare n t
cap itu la tio n. It w as Jin dié w ho to ok m y m oth er’s stu pid str ic tu re s to heart.
Sudden ly w e w ere n o lo nger m ean t fo r e ach o th er. S he w as to o o ld a n yw ay .
Why d id n’t I m arry o ne o f m y d ele cta b le c o usin s, a s w as th e tr a d itio n in o ur
fa m ily . T hey w ere e v er s o p re tty . S ure ly I c o uld in sp ect a fe w fif te en -y ear-o ld

ones n ow so th at th ey c o uld b e re ad y in a fe w y ears ’ tim e. W e b elo nged to
dif fe re n t w orld s. I t w as p oin tle ss a n noyin g t h e f a m ily . S he w ould n ot b e s e ek in g
en tr y a t L eed s U niv ers ity . W e m ust n ot s e e o r s p eak t o e ach o th er a g ain .
I w as in a p an ic . H ow co uld th is b e? W hy? S he w ould n’t te ll m e. In
desp era tio n I w en t to s e e h er m oth er, a w om an o f a d m ir a b le im puls e s a n d ra re
good s e n se . M rs M a s o oth ed m y e g o, b ut o ffe re d n o a d vic e. H er d au ghte r w as
th e o nly p ers o n w ho c o uld d ecid e, s h e to ld m e w ith q uie t p rid e. C onfu ciu s, to o,
unders to od m y p ain , b ut h e w as h alf -s c are d o f J in dié ’s s h arp to ngue a n d w ould
nev er d re am o f d efy in g h er w ill. I n eed ed Z ah id an d cu rs e d h im fo r h av in g
destr o yed o ur frie n dsh ip . P la to w as u se le ss in th ese m atte rs , b ut s a id h e w ould
do a n yth in g to h elp , a n d h e s tr e sse d th e
anyth in g
. It w as th en th at a c ra zy id ea
beg an t o f o rm i n m y h ead , o ne w ith w hic h P la to b ecam e c en tr a lly i n volv ed .

FIV E
I
HAD K EPT N OTH IN G
s e cre t f ro m J in d ié . M y s e lf -e ste em v an is h ed i n h er p re se n ce.
E ver sin ce th e su m mer in N ath ia g ali, all verb al co nstr a in t betw een us had
d is a p peare d . N ow I sim ply c o uld n’t u nders ta n d th e re aso ns fo r h er e m otio nal
r e tr e at. P erh ap s s h e th ought th at s o m e o f m y m oth er’s p re ju dic es w ere g en etic
a n d w ere in gra in ed in th e re st o f u s a s w ell, b ut w hate v er it w as I n eed ed to
k now b efo re I le ft. I h ad to lu re h er to a la st, d esp era te re n dezv ous, b ut to
r e assu re h er th at m y in te n tio ns w ere p ure , th e lo catio n h ad to b e s im ulta n eo usly
p ublic an d se cre t. T he o nly p la ce th at fitte d th is d esc rip tio n w as th e m arb le
M ughal t e rra ce i n t h e S halim ar G ard en s o n t h e e d ge o f t h e c ity .
‘H ow a re y ou g oin g to s c ale th ose w alls in th e m oonlig ht w ith out S ata n ’s
h elp ?’ P la to a sk ed in d esp air . It w as T hurs d ay . M y d ep artu re w as p la n ned fo r
S unday .
My p la n w as s im ple . I w ould c o nvin ce J in dié t o m eet m e o ne l a st t im e. S he
w ould te ll h er p are n ts sh e w as sp en din g th e n ig ht a t th e h ouse o f o ne o f m y
f e m ale c o usin s. P la to , d re sse d a s a c h au ffe u r, w ould b orro w a frie n d’s c ar a n d
p ic k h er u p fro m h om e o n F rid ay e v en in g. T hey w ould m eet m e o uts id e th e
S halim ar G ard en s. I t c o uld w ork .
‘T he g ard en s a re l o ck ed . T here a re n ig ht w atc h m en . H ow w ill w e g et i n ?’
Pla to h ad n o id ea th at I h ad s o lv ed th is o ne. C lo se f a m ily f rie n ds w ere th e
h ere d ita ry g uard ia n s o f S halim ar, t h eir r e w ard f o r h av in g t ille d t h e s o il a n d s o w n
t h e s e ed s w hen th e g ard en s— a M ughal p assio n— were b ein g c o nstr u cte d . A nis ,
t h e y ounger s o n w ith la n guid e y es, a f e w y ears o ld er th an m e, w as a d ear f rie n d.
S en t at a v ery y oung ag e to b oard at an E nglis h p ublic sc h ool, h e h ad fir s t
b eco m e a b it p uffe d u p a n d th en su ffe re d a b re ak dow n, fro m w hic h h e n ev er
f u lly r e co vere d . H is f o re b ears h ad g ra b bed th e a d jo in in g la n ds w hen th e M ughal
E m pir e c o lla p se d , a n d h ad b eco m e g en tr y . W e u se d to la u gh a g re at d eal w hen

his f a th er, a r a d ic al m em ber o f F ath erla n d’s C onstitu en t A sse m bly , d esc rib ed t h e
ris e o f h is f a m ily .
I ra n g A nis , e x pla in in g m y d ile m ma. H e o ffe re d h is c ar a n d th e k ey to a
priv ate e n tr y g ate th at h ad b een u se d fo r a ssig natio ns fo r c en tu rie s. A nd I w as
not to w orry a b out th e g uard s. T hey w ere te n an ts a n d w ould b e in str u cte d to
pro te ct o ur p riv acy . D id I n eed f o od a n d w in e? N o. A s ita r p la y er h id den b eh in d
th e b ush es to e n han ce th e a tm osp here ? N o! H e m ad e it s o und lik e a B olly w ood
movie . P la to a n d I w en t t o p ic k u p t h e k ey a n d t h e c ar. A nis d re w u s a l ittle m ap
sh ow in g e x actly w here th e h id den g ate w as s itu ate d . ‘D ara ’, h e s a id in a lo ud
voic e a s I w as a b out t o l e av e, ‘ is t h is t h e C hin ese b eau ty y our m oth er h as w arn ed
us a ll a g ain st? ’
I n odded .
‘H m m. T hought s o . W hate v er it is , I h ope y ou s u cceed . D on’t ta k e n o fo r
an a n sw er. E lo pe w ith h er. T ak e th e c ar. A lla h p ro te ct u s f ro m o ur m oth ers . D id
you s a y y ou w ere s p en din g t h e n ig ht h ere ? I t’ s f in e.
Perfe ctly f in e. I ’ll a le rt th e s e rv an ts . B est o f lu ck , d ear D ara . A fra id I c an ’t
offe r y ou a n y m ean in gfu l a d vic e.’
Every th in g w as n ow s e ttle d , e x cep t J in dié ’s c o nse n t. I w as t w en ty . S he w as
eig hte en . N eith er o f u s h ad a n y r e al e x perie n ce o f l if e , w hic h i s w hy w e r e g ard ed
our p riv ate c o nvers a tio ns, m ain ly o n th e te le p hone, a s r a re f o rm s o f h ap pin ess. I
had g one th ro ugh d ark im ag in in gs, w onderin g w hat e x is te n ce m ig ht b e w ith out
her. W ould m y e y es e v er l ig ht u p a t a s u bstitu te w ell- c u rv ed b re ast? W hat w ould
sh e s a y w hen I t o ld h er I h ad s e cu re d S halim ar j u st s o t h at w e c o uld t a lk i n p eace
fo r t h e w hole n ig ht f a ce t o f a ce r a th er t h an h old in g a r e ceiv er c lo se t o o ur e ars ? I
th ought all m y pers u asiv e pow ers w ould need to be dep lo yed in ord er to
co nvin ce h er to e v en sp eak w ith m e. B ut o ur b re ach h ad la ste d a w eek , a n d
sp eak in g to e ach o th er a b out e v ery th in g, a s g ood f rie n ds d o, h ad b eco m e s u ch a
hab it f o r b oth o f u s t h at s h e, t o o, m ust h av e s u ffe re d w ith dra w al s y m pto m s.
And p erh ap s it w as th is th at h ad b ro ught a b out a c o m ple te c h an ge in h er
mood. S he a g re ed r e ad ily t o t h e e n tir e p la n , o bliv io us t o t h e s u rp ris e i n m y v oic e

as I e x pre sse d m y d elig ht. I f e lt q uie tly c o nfid en t. S he w ould b e m in e. A ll w ould
be w ell. W e w ould n ev er p art.
Pla to p la y ed h is p art to p erfe ctio n. It w as a b eau tif u l O cto ber e v en in g. A t
fir s t w e w alk ed to th e ra m parts a b ove th e o ld w all a n d g azed a t th e lig hts o f
Lah ore . S he le t m e h old h er h an d a n d k is s it, w hic h I d id re p eate d ly . S he to ld
me, w ith out m y a sk in g, a ll th e b ad th in gs th at w ere s a id o f m e b y h er f rie n ds a t
Nair n . S in ce m ost o f th em w ere tr u e I th ought it b est to sp ort a lo fty a ir a n d
re fra in f ro m r e sp ondin g i n k in d. T he g ard en s w ere m ag ic al a t n ig ht, w ith t h e c ity
at a d is ta n ce a n d t h e s ta rs a b ove. T here w as t o ta l s ile n ce, e x cep t f o r t h e h oot o f a
so lita ry ow l. G ra d ually w e got use d to th e sta rlig ht. A t fir s t w e ta lk ed in
whis p ers , till w e r e aliz ed w e w ere th e o nly tw o p eo ple th ere a n d c o uld s p eak in
our n orm al v oic es.
I re m em ber th at w e b oth w ore s h aw ls a n d p aced u p a n d d ow n th e e m pty
gard en a s w e ta lk ed . I w an te d to k now a b out h er f a m ily . W hen a n d w hy h ad h er
fo re b ears le ft C hin a? It w as a lo ng sto ry , sh e sa id , a n d w ould re q uir e a t le ast
th re e h undre d n ig hts a n d o ne. L et’ s s ta rt n ow , I p le ad ed , b ut s h e d id n’t w an t to
ta lk a b out a ll th at to nig ht. S he h ad o nce w his p ere d a s o ng in P unja b i f o r m e a n d
I a sk ed f o r a n e n co re :
‘T hen s in g s o m e W aris S hah i n m y e ars .’
‘T here w ere g le am s o f S ufi l ig ht i n C hin a, t o o, d id y ou k now ?’
‘It’ s S ufi d elig hts t h at i n te re st m e m ore t o nig ht.’
She to ok m y a rm a s w e c arrie d o n w alk in g a n d ta lk in g in th e s ta rlig ht b ut
keep in g w ell cle ar of th e su bje ct th at w as ag ita tin g us both . M yste rio usly ,
cu sh io ns h ad ap peare d o n th e m arb le b en ch es w here w e h ad esta b lis h ed o ur
base . A nis , d esp ite m y w is h es, h ad o rg an iz ed fla sk s w ith te a a n d a b ox fu ll o f
ch ic k en s a n dw ic h es. S he d id n’t e v en n otic e. If a b lo ody s ita r b eg in s to w hin e
beh in d a b ush , I ’ll k ill y ou, A nis . M erc if u lly , n oth in g e ls e h ap pen ed .
‘J in dié ...’
‘D on’t. I t’ s n o u se .’
I e m bra ced h er a n d k is se d h er e y es. S he la y b ack in m y a rm s a n d I s tr o ked

her h ead . ‘ W hy d id y ou d ecid e n ot t o g o t o L eed s? ’
‘W hy s p oil o ur l a st e v en in g t o geth er b y t a lk in g a b out u nple asa n t f a cts ? J u st
accep t w e’re n ot in te n ded f o r e ach o th er, a n d le t’ s f o re g o lo fty th oughts a n d ju st
be.’
I k is se d h er l ip s a n d s h e r e sp onded . A nd t h en I t h ought i f w e m ad e l o ve a n d
sh e b ecam e p re g nan t it w ould b e a fa it a cco m pli a n d s h e w ould h av e to m arry
me a n d d am n t h e r e st o f t h e w orld . I t s o unded , e v en t h en , l ik e a b ad l o ve d ra m a,
but th e in te n sity o f th e m om en t d ro w ned a ll m y c ritic al f a cu ltie s. I w as g rip ped
by t h e p assio n t h at c o m bin es l o ve a n d l u st.
She w as r e la x ed a n d k ep t s tr o kin g m y f a ce a n d k is sin g m e. T hen a s I h eard
th e m uezzin c allin g th e f a ith fu l to th e e arly m orn in g p ra y er, I m ad e a f a ta l e rro r.
I p ut m y h an d u ndern eath h er s h aw l a n d th en u ndern eath h er s h ir t, s e arc h in g f o r
th e cre am y te x tu re of her bre asts . I str o ked th e little orb still co nceale d
undern eath t h e b ra . S he d id n’t o bje ct, w hic h e m bold en ed m e f u rth er. I a tte m pte d
to lif t th e b ra a n d k is s th e f le sh . I t w as a s e rio us ta ctic al e rro r. S he ju m ped u p, a
lo ok o f h orro r o n h er f a ce.
‘W hy d id y ou d o t h at? ’
‘I w an t t o m ak e l o ve t o y ou. I t’ s o ur o nly n ig ht t o geth er a n d I t h ought ...’
She sh oute d a t m e in C hin ese , y ellin g th e w ord
se m en
re p eate d ly a s sh e
poin te d a f in ger i n m y d ir e ctio n.
‘J in dié , I ’m s o rry .’
‘Y ou’re n ot. Y ou’re s e m en . Y ou’re s e m en . D o y ou k now th at? T hat’ s a ll
you a re . S em en . I h ate y ou. Y ou d on’t re ally lo ve m e. T here is n oth in g p ure
ab out y our l o ve. I w an t t o g o h om e. N ow .’
What c o uld I d o? I p le ad ed f o rg iv en ess. I w ep t. I f e ll o n m y k nees. I k is se d
her han ds. The young are noth in g, if not m elo dra m atic an d th e lo catio n
undoubte d ly h elp ed , b ut it w as to n o a v ail. S he w as in a ra g e a n d re p ro ach in g
hers e lf b itte rly fo r h av in g ag re ed to th e m eetin g in th e fir s t p la ce. S he ra n
to w ard s t h e g ate . I f o llo w ed h er o ut. P la to s a w h er t e ars a n d u nders to od.
‘P le ase ta k e m e h om e n ow , P la to . T hen y ou c an c o m e b ack a n d r e tu rn M r

Sem en t o h is m oth er.’
Was it m y im ag in atio n o r d id P la to r e p re ss a s m ile ? A s th e c ar d ro ve o ff, a
fa m ilia r v oic e s ta rtle d m e.
‘Y ou s h ould h av e f o rc ed h er.’
It w as A nis . ‘S orry , D . I w as u nab le to re sis t b earin g w itn ess. W ere y our
te ars r e al? I m pre ssiv e i n a n y c ase .’
Well a w are o f h is v oyeu ris tic h ab its , I w asn ’t to ta lly su rp ris e d . In fa ct, I
was n ow p le ase d b y h is p re se n ce. I t w as a w elc o m e d is tr a ctio n a n d s to pped m e
fe elin g to o d is tr a u ght. W e w ere b oth h ungry a n d th e s a n dw ic h es w ere ra p id ly
co nsu m ed .
‘D id y ou h ear e v ery th in g?’
‘O nly w hen y ou w ere b oth se ate d . H ope th e c u sh io ns w ere c o m fo rta b le .
The m arb le is c o ld a n d u nco m fo rta b le a t n ig ht a n d h ad y ou p ro ceed ed a s y ou
sh ould h av e th e C hin ese b eau ty w ould h av e a p pre cia te d th eir w arm th , if n ot
yours .’
‘I c o uld n ev er h av e f o rc ed h er o r a n yone e ls e , A nis .’
He s ig hed s a d ly in a g re em en t. ‘ O ur f o re b ears w ould w eep if th ey c o uld s e e
how p ath etic w e h av e b eco m e.’
Though w e n ev er r a is e d th e s u bje ct w ith h im , it w as h ard ly a s e cre t to h is
frie n ds th at A nis ’s o nly in te re st in w om en w as a s c o nvers a tio nalis ts a n d f rie n ds.
His m oth er’s a tte m pts to fo rc e h im in a h ete ro se x ual d ir e ctio n fa ile d re g ula rly .
City b eau tie s w ere p ara d ed b efo re h is e y es t o t r y a n d e n tic e h im t o m arry , b ut h e
nev er sh ow ed th e slig hte st in te re st a n d th ey n ev er c am e b ack . T he c o urte sa n s
hir e d b y h is d esp era te p are n ts t o a ro use h im f ro m h is t o rp or w ere p aid d ouble b y
him o n th e c o nditio n th ey lie d to a ll a n d s u ndry a b out h is p ro w ess, w hic h th ey
did w ith v erv e, I k now b ecau se I o nce o verh eard o ur m oth ers d is c u ssin g th e
pro ble m a n d h is m oth er b oastin g o f h ow g ood A nis w as in b ed w ith a p ro per
wom an . M y m oth er h ap pily jo in ed in th e b arra g e o f b itc h y a tta ck s o n ‘m odern
gir ls ’. A nis a n d I la u ghed a g re at d eal th at d ay . O ne o f th e y ounger c o urte sa n s
had e n ded u p a f rie n d o f o urs a n d w ould r e g ale u s w ith s to rie s o f c ity v en era b le s

—sh e alw ay s n am ed n am es— who v is ite d th e D ia m ond M ark et o n a w eek ly
basis . A c o usin o f m in e la te r f e ll in lo ve w ith a n d m arrie d h er. ‘ I k now w hat s h e
was, b ut s o w hat. T hat l if e h as m ad e h er m onogam ous a n d l o yal. R ath er h er t h an
so m eo ne fro m o ur w orld .’ H e w as rig ht, o f c o urs e . A nd h is th re e c h ild re n a ll
stu die d m ed ic in e: th e g ir ls w ork in h osp ita ls in T ex as; th e b oy sp ecia liz ed in
orth opaed ic s u rg ery a n d b ecam e a s k ilf u l s u rg eo n a n d a b orn -a g ain M uslim . H e
was h ead -h unte d b y th e r e lig io us g uerrilla s in A fg han is ta n a n d e n ded u p a s th eir
in -h ouse d octo r, t r e atin g t h e w ar w ounded a t t h e m obile h osp ita ls o f t h e T alib an .
Acco rd in g to h is m oth er, h e tr e ate d O sa m a B in L ad en s h ortly b efo re th e la tte r’s
dem is e .
I f e lt m uch b ette r a fte r A nis a n d I h ad f in is h ed o ur te a a n d s a n dw ic h es o n
th e S halim ar te rra ce, b ut a p uzzle r e m ain ed . I a sk ed A nis a b out th e w ord w hose
use i n t h at e v en in g’s u nple asa n t f in ale h ad m ystif ie d m e.
‘D o y ou th in k th at
se m en
, o r
ts e m en
a s s h e h is se d it, is a n a b usiv e te rm in
Chin ese ? T hat w ould b e a u niq ue co in cid en ce; in E nglis h it is th e se ed th at
pro duces l if e .’
‘O r n ot; a s th e c ase m ay b e ... y ou d id n’t h av e a w ak in g w et d re am , d id
you? J u st a sk in g. I d id w onder a b out th at u sa g e. I n ote d th at s h e r e fe rre d to y ou
as s e m en a t le ast s ix tim es in a s e n te n ce a n d a h alf , a n d o nce a g ain la te r w hen
re fe rrin g to y ou in a c o nvers a tio n w ith P la to . Im pre ssiv e. It’ s a v ery in tim ate
ab use . S he o bvio usly lo ves y ou. N o d oubt a b out th at, b ut y our m oth er is a n
effe ctiv e o pponen t o f a ll b rid es-to -b e. S he’s s o ju dgem en ta l. I ’m a fra id it’ s o ne
of h er m ore r e p u ls iv e f e atu re s. M y m oth er’s e x actly th e s a m e. S ure ly th ey c an ’t
hav e a s e m en -p hobia in th e P eo ple ’s R ep ublic ? N ev er b een th ere . W e c o uld a sk
th e C hin ese a m bassa d or t h e n ex t t im e h e c o m es o ver f o r s u pper.’
He re la p se d in to d eep th ought an d w as lo st to th e w orld . I w as fe elin g
ex tr e m ely l o w a s w ell. S udden ly h e c am e b ack t o l if e .
‘I w as th in kin g th at th e o nly o th er p la ce w here I o nce h eard a p ejo ra tiv e
re fe re n ce to s e m en w as in V en ic e. T he g ondolie rs , a s y ou k now , a re e x tr e m ely
co m petitiv e an d o n ev ery le v el. T hey o fte n re fe r to each o th er as
boro n
o r

boro ni
, w hic h is n ot lo cal sla n g fo r “ b aro n”, a s a ssu m ed b y th e to uris ts , b ut
sin gula r a n d p lu ra l f o r “ b lo b o f s p erm ”, o r s o t h ey t o ld m e.’
Desp ite m y b ro ken h eart, I co uld n’t h elp la u ghin g. ‘W hen w ere y ou in
Ven ic e?’
‘W e w en t in a sc h ool p arty w hen I w as six te en . T en y ears ag o. V ery
en jo yab le t r ip d esp ite t h e b oro ni.’
‘S ure ly b ecau se o f i t.’
He la u ghed . I s a w h im o nce a g ain in E din burg h a n d la te r tw ic e in L ondon,
an d th en , lik e s o m an y o th er L ah oris , h e d is a p peare d fro m m y lif e c o m ple te ly .
Occasio nally a le tte r w ould a rriv e a sk in g fo r m y o pin io n o n s o m e b ook o r th e
oth er th at h e w as th in kin g o f p ublis h in g in U rd u, fo llo w ed b y a lo ng sile n ce.
Anis n ev er m arrie d , d esp ite h is m oth er’s c o ntin ual p re ssu re , a n d n ev er le ft th e
fa m ily h ouse , d esp ite th e a d vic e o f a ll h is frie n ds. T here w as n o sh orta g e o f
money o r la n d in th e f a m ily . H e s im ply c o uld n’t d ecla re h is in dep en den ce. O ne
day I g ot a p hone c all f ro m m y m oth er. A nis h ad i n vite d s o m e f rie n ds f o r d in ner.
When th ey le ft h e h ad p ro lo nged th e f a re w ell a n d w ax ed u ltr a se n tim en ta l a b out
frie n dsh ip , w hic h sh ould h av e a le rte d th em , sin ce it w as o ut o f c h ara cte r, b ut
nobody th ought th ere w as an yth in g w ro ng. L ate r th at n ig ht h e sw allo w ed a
cy an id e p ill. H e h ad l e ft b eh in d a n ote e x pla in in g w hy h e h ad c o m mitte d s u ic id e.
When th e s h ak en s e rv an ts s u m moned h is m oth er n ex t m orn in g, th e o ld w id ow
re m ain ed c alm . S he l o oked a t h is b ody w ith out a t r a ce o f e m otio n. T hen s h e s a w
th e n ote a n d c o nfis c ate d it b efo re th e p olic e a rriv ed . W hat d id y ou w rite , A nis ?
Why d id n’t y ou w rite to a n y o f u s? O r w as th e le tte r a c o m pla in t a d dre sse d to
your m oth er?
Pla y in g th e c h au ffe u r a ll th ose y ears a g o, w hen h e d ro ve J in dié a n d m e to th e
Shalim ar G ard en s a n d b oth o f u s b re ath ed o nly i n s ig hs, w as t h e b ig f a v our P la to
did fo r m e in re tu rn fo r w hic h I p ro m is e d h im an yth in g th at la y w ith in m y
pow er. T hat is w hy I a m im mers e d in re co nstr u ctin g h is lif e . W hat h e m ay n ot
hav e f u lly r e aliz ed w as th at in w ritin g a b out h im I w ould , o f n ecessity , h av e to

re su sc ita te th e liv es o f o th ers , in clu din g m y o w n. W hate v er h e m ay th in k n ow ,
he d id n ot a n d c o uld n ot h av e t h en e x is te d o n h is o w n.
It w as m ore t h an t h ir ty y ears l a te r w hen I u nders to od w hat J in dié h ad m ean t
when s h e a sk ed m e to r e ad C ao X ueq in ’s
Dre a m o f th e R ed C ham ber
, th e g re at
Chin ese n ovel o f th e la te e ig hte en th c en tu ry . T he a u th or te lls h is re ad ers th at
le ad in g a lif e o f p overty a n d w re tc h ed ness h as m ad e h im r e aliz e th at th e f e m ale
frie n ds o f h is y outh w ere m ora lly an d in te lle ctu ally h is su perio rs , an d so h e
wan ts to r e co rd th eir liv es to r e m in d h im se lf o f th e g old en d ay s h e c arrie s in h is
heart. I t is a h au ntin g n ovel o f lif e in a n e n clo se d s e t o f m an sio ns o ccu pie d b y a
wealth y fa m ily in th e se rv ic e o f th e e m pero r’s c o urt. T here a re fiv e v olu m es
know n; a p pare n tly th e a u th or c o uld n ot c o m ple te th e s to ry in h is lif e tim e. T he
book re m in ded m e a g re at d eal o f Jin dié , e v en th ough sh e w as p ro bab ly to o
young w hen s h e fir s t e n co unte re d it. H ad s h e m odelle d h ers e lf o n D ai- y u, th e
ultr a se n sitiv e b eau ty w hose p assio ns w ere h id den e v en fro m h eav en ? R ead in g
th e novel w as an in te n se ex perie n ce fo r m e, partly becau se m an y of th e
ex perie n ces a n d e m otio ns o f t h e y oung p eo ple a s t h e a u th or d esc rib es t h em w ere
fa m ilia r a n d m ad e m e t h in k n ot o nly o f J in dié b ut a ls o o f v ario us f e m ale c o usin s
I had le ft beh in d. T he plo t is cen tr e d on a gro up of se lf -a b so rb ed young
ro m an tic s a tte m ptin g to ig nore th e c o lla p sin g e d if ic e o f th e m an sio n th ey s h are
with th eir e ld ers . T hat, to o, w as n ot u nfa m ilia r. H ad I re ad th e b ook s o oner, I
mig ht h av e u nders to od Jin dié ’s p re o ccu patio ns b ette r, b ut m y en lig hte n m en t
would a lw ay s h av e b een to o la te a s f a r a s s h e w as c o ncern ed . A s e co nd n ovel I
re ad h ad n ot b een s u ggeste d b y h er b ut b y h er b ro th er, C onfu ciu s. I t w as a ta le
writte n a h undre d y ears o r s o b efo re th e
Dre a m
. H ugely d iv ertin g, it h as to b e
one o f t h e g re at e ro tic m aste rp ie ces o f w orld l ite ra tu re . I n
Chin P in g M ei
, o r
The
Plu m in th e G old en V ase
, e v ery s in gle m ajo r c h ara cte r is v ip ero us a n d th ere is
vir tu ally n obody in all th e th re e v olu m es th at an y re ad er can sy m path iz e o r
id en tif y w ith , a p ola r o pposite to th e fir s t n ovels w ritte n in E nglis h an d th e
work s o f M is s A uste n a n d th e B ro ntë s is te rs . H alf w ay th ro ugh t h e f ir s t v olu m e I
re aliz ed th at J in dié m ust h av e r e ad s o m e e x tr a cts f ro m o r e v en th e w hole b ook,

an d a n o ld m yste ry w as s o lv ed . W hat s h e h ad s h oute d a t m e o n th at m em ora b ly
aw fu l n ig ht in th e p av ilio n o f th e S halim ar G ard en s w as n ot
se m en
b ut
Hsi- m en
,
th e n am e o f th e a n ti- h ero a ro und w hose s e x ual r a m pag in g a n d a v aric e th e e n tir e
novel r e v olv es. I s to pped r e ad in g f o r a w hile w hen I r e aliz ed th is a n d la u ghed . I
was s lig htly s h ock ed a s I th ought o f h er y et a g ain . S he h ad b een e ig hte en a t th e
tim e a n d m ust h av e re ad th e b ook in se cre t. P erh ap s D ai- y u w as n ot h er ro le
model a fte r a ll. A nd th en m em orie s s tir re d o f s o m e o f th e th in gs C onfu ciu s h ad
sa id w hen w e w ere d is c u ssin g e ro tic lite ra tu re . ‘ N oth in g e q uals w hat w e h ad in
Chin a,’ h e’d t o ld m e, s o t h ere m ust h av e b een a n o ld e d itio n o f i t o n h er f a th er’s
sh elv es. A nd, le av in g asid e H si- m en h im se lf , th is is h ow o ne o f th e m in or
pers o nag es i n t h e n ovel i s d esc rib ed i n t h e l is t o f c h ara cte rs : ‘ W en P i- k u, W arm -
Butto ck s W en , P ed an t W en , L ic en tia te W en , a p ed era st re co m men ded to H si-
men C h’in g b y h is fe llo w lic en tia te N i P ’e n g to b e h is s o cia l s e cre ta ry ; h ouse d
acro ss th e s tr e et f ro m H si- m en C h’in g’s r e sid en ce ... d iv ulg es H si- m en C h’in g’s
priv ate co rre sp onden ce to N i P’e n g, w ho sh are s it w ith H sia Y en -L in g;
so dom iz es H ua-t’ u ng ag ain st his w ill an d is ex pelle d fro m th e H si- m en
house h old w hen h is i n dis c re tio ns a re e x pose d .’
Even in re tr o sp ect, I w as m ortif ie d at bein g co m pare d to th e am ora l
lib ertin e w ho in se rte d h is p lu m in e v ery g old en v ase th at h e c o uld la y h an ds o n
an d f ro m e v ery p ossib le p ositio n. A ll I h ad d one w as to tr y a n d f e el th e c u rv e o f
her l e ft b re ast.
Cle arly I h ad to d is c u ss C hin ese lite ra tu re w ith J in dié a t o ur n ex t m eetin g
an d h opefu lly in Z ah id ’s a b se n ce. I f I w as H si- m en , s u re ly Z ah id m ust b e W en
Pi- k u. I e -m aile d h er to th at e ffe ct a n d s h e r e p lie d in sta n tly , s u ggestin g a tim e, a
date a n d a l o catio n. S he a ls o w ondere d w heth er I h ad b een a b le t o r e ad h er l e tte r,
essa y a n d d ia rie s. I h ad n’t, b ut I a m n ow a b out t o d o s o .

SIX
D EAR D :
You a sk ed f a r t o o m any q uestio ns b efo re y o u l e ft L ahore . O ne t h at i r rita te d
m e t h e m ost w as w heth er I s a w m yse lf a s a P unja bi o r a s a C hin ese g ir l. I n ste a d
o f r e p ly in g th at I w as a C hin ese P unja bi, w hic h I th in k is w hat y o u w ante d to
h ea r, I r e m ain ed s ile n t b eca use it is m ore c o m plic a te d . D id y o u e ver n otic e h ow
o fte n I r e m ain ed s ile n t w hen y o u q uestio ned m e? D id y o u? It w ould h ave b een
i m polite to te ll yo u th at th ey w ere u su ally stu pid q uestio ns th at ir rita te d m e
g re a tly . Y ou a lw ays a sk ed a bout m y fa m ily h is to ry . I n th is c a se th e r e a so n I d id
n ot r e p ly w as n ot b eca use y o ur q uery w as fo olis h , b ut s o m eh ow I fe lt th e tim in g
w as w ro ng, a nd, to b e tr u th fu l, I d id n’t w ant th e in fo rm atio n p asse d o n to y o ur
m oth er, w hic h y o u w ould h ave d one a nd w ith a l o ok o f t r iu m ph.
The e n clo se d m anusc rip t i s r e a lly f o r y o u. P erh aps i t’ s t o o l e n gth y a nd d ull.
I f y o u fe el th at, d on’t e ven tr y a nd b e d ip lo m atic . T hat w as n ever y o ur s ty le . It
w as su ch a sa d a nd d iffic u lt su bje ct th at I w as o fte n in clin ed to sto p. B ut it
b eca m e a h abit a nd w as m y w ay o f c o nductin g a o ne-s id ed c o nversa tio n w ith
y o u, i n w hic h y o u j u st h ad t o l is te n a nd n ot q uestio n m e e very f e w s e n te n ces. T he
e a rly se ctio n is ty p ew ritte n ! I h ad a g re a t d ea l o f sp are tim e a t G eo rg eto w n
b efo re th e c h ild re n a rriv ed , w hile Z ahid w as s a vin g liv es. H e’s g ood a t h is jo b
b ut so m etim es g oes to o fa r. A fe w y ea rs b ack h e sa ved a life th at th e e n tir e
f a m ily , e xcep t f o r h im , f e lt d id n ot d ese rv e t o b e s a ved .
I d id n ot m uch c a re fo r th e c o m pany o f o th er m ed ic a l w iv es a nd w as n ever
i n to s h oppin g a s a h abit, le t a lo ne a cq uir in g je w elle ry ; th ese o bje cts s lip b y m e
u nperc eiv ed . S o I sp en t m any h ours in th e u niv ersity lib ra ry re a din g C hin ese
h is to ry , s o m eth in g th at w as im possib le to d o a t d ea r o ld N air n C olle g e, w here
t h e h is to ry w e w ere ta ught w as to o, to o fa rc ic a l. S o w hat y o u h ave is in th re e
p arts . T ale s th at m y p ate rn al g re a t- g ra ndm oth er to ld u s w hen w e w ere very

sm all a nd th at w ere r e g ula rly r e p ea te d b y h er g ra ndso n a nd h is m oth er. It is
ora l h is to ry o f t h e k in d f a m ilia r t o m ost f a m ilie s, t h ough i f I r e m em ber w ell y o ur
fa m ily s to rie s a lw ays h ad a lte rn ativ e v ersio ns th at w ere p ro bably c lo se r to w hat
must h ave h appen ed . T he b ulk o f w hat I h ave s e n t y o u is o ra l h is to ry , b ut w here
I c a n I h ave c o nfir m ed i t d urin g m y l a bours a t t h e l ib ra ry . I h ave a dded a m ap t o
help y o u situ ate Y unnan. P unja bis a re g en etic a lly p ro vin cia l a nd n eed a ll th e
help t h ey c a n g et.
There a re m y in co m ple te d ia rie s a bout w hat h appen ed to m e a fte r y o ur
atte m pte d r a pe fa ile d ( I’m te a sin g; I n ever th ought th at fo r a m om en t) a nd y o u
le ft L ahore n ever to r e tu rn . I th in k I k n ow w hy. Z ahid d id r e tu rn fo r a w hile a nd
we b eg an to s e e e a ch o th er, fir st to ta lk a bout y o u a nd th en o urse lv es, a nd w hen
he s u ggeste d m arria ge, n eith er o f u s p re te n ded it w as lo ve o r p assio n. It w as
fr ie n dsh ip a nd c o nven ie n ce. A nd, ju st s o th at y o u k n ow , h e is a v ery s w eet a nd
kin d m an a nd m y l ife h as n ot b een u nhappy a t a ll. O f c o urse h e h as b eco m e v ery
wea lth y n ow , b ut th is h as n ot m ade h im m is e rly o r d is a gre ea ble . I n m any w ays,
th ough n ot p olitic a lly , h e r e m ain s th e s a m e. I c a n’t p re te n d th at a ll is w ell. M y
life h as l a cked s o m eth in g, b ut t h en w hose l ife i s p erfe ct? Y ours?
One q uestio n I w ill a nsw er n ow . I a lw ays th ought o f m yse lf a s a L ahori
Punja bi. I f p ush ed fu rth er, I w ould h ave s a id I w as a Y unnanese P unja bi. N ever
a C hin ese F ath erla ndi. T hose tw o id en titie s w ere n ot m in e. A t th e tim e yo u
would n ot h ave u ndersto od t h is , b eca use , l ik e m y b ro th er, y o u w ere i n fe cte d w ith
th e r e vo lu tio n, a nd t a lk o f H an d om in atio n w ould h ave b een b ru sh ed a sid e b y a ll
of y o u w ith c o nte m pt a s i t s till i s b y Z ahid . P erh aps t h e r e a so n f o r t h is i s t h at t h e
Punja bis have beco m e th e H an eq uiv a le n ts of F ath erla nd, cru sh in g oth er
natio nalitie s a t w ill, b ut th at’ s y o ur s to ry . B ette r w rite it b efo re th e B alu ch a nd
th e P ash tu ns a nd t h e S in dhis p ro duce t h eir o w n.
Som etim es I w ondere d w heth er yo u ever to ok m e se rio usly . I su ppose I
sh ould h ave w ritte n a ges a go a nd t o ld y o u t h at Z ahid h ad h ad n oth in g t o d o w ith
Tip u’s a rre st, b ut k n ow in g y o u I a ls o k n ew w hat w ould h appen . Y ou w ould h ave
esta blis h ed c o nta ct w ith Z ahid , a polo gis e d , m ade fr ie n ds a nd, b ein g P unja bis ,

wallo w ed in a lo t of em otio n, m ale ca m ara derie and se lf- p ity . H ad th at
happen ed , w ith y o u c o m in g in a nd o ut o f o ur h ouse o n w hate ver c o ntin en t, it
would h ave b een u nbea ra ble fo r m e, s in ce in th e s h adow o f th at b ro th erh ood I
would h ave b eco m e a c ip her. S o it w as p ure s e lfis h ness th at s to pped m e fr o m
te llin g y o u. I p re ven te d h im fr o m d oin g s o a s w ell, b y e m plo yin g u nderh anded
arg um en ts . W hen th e c h ild re n a rriv ed a nd b eca m e th e c en tr e o f m y life , th en I
co uld h ave to ld y o u, b ut w e in habite d s u ch d iffe re n t w orld s th at I th ought y o u’d
pro bably fo rg otte n o ur v ery e xis te n ce. N oth in g in y o ur n ovels th at I h ave r e a d
in dic a te d o th erw is e . E nough. I h ope th e m anusc rip t a nsw ers a ll th e q uestio ns
yo u a sk ed w hen y o u s till lo ved m e, a nd if th ere a re o th ers I’ll a nsw er th em a s
well, s in ce w e’r e i n t h e s a m e c ity a gain a fte r f o rty -fiv e y ea rs.
— Jin dié .
PS: Y ou a sk ed m e a bout t h e C hin ese e q uiv a le n ts f o r A ra b n am es; h ere a re s o m e
of t h em :
* M a f o r M uham mad
* H a f o r H assa n
* H u f o r H ussa in
* S ai f o r S aid
* S ha f o r S hah
* Z hen g f o r S ham s
* K oay f o r K am aru ddin
* C huah f o r O sm an

SE V EN
M Y G REAT-G RAN D M OTH ER Q IN -S H I
, w hom w e k n ew a s E ld er G ra nny, w as a n ie ce o f
D ù W én xiù . T he n am e w ill n ot m ea n a nyth in g to y o u o r to m ost p eo ple , b ut it’ s
i n sc rib ed in th e a nnals o f th e H an a s a b yw ord fo r r e b ellio n, Is la m a nd ‘p etty -
b ourg eo is n atio nalis t d evia tio ns’. E ld er G ra nny w ould ta lk a bout th e r e b ellio ns
i n Y unnan a s if th ey h ad h appen ed in th e p re vio us w eek. H ui, o r s o m etim es H ui
H ui, w as th e C hin ese n am e fo r M uslim s o r p eo ple o f M uslim o rig in , b ut I
s u ppose y o u k n ow t h at b y n ow . O r w as C hin a o nly M ao a nd L in B ia o f o r y o u a s
w ell? N oth in g e ls e m atte re d . I c a n’t h elp t h ese a sid es b eca use I c a n s till g et v ery
a ngry w ith y o u s o m etim es.
E very ev en in g ju st befo re w e w en t to bed , F ath er w ould se n d us to E ld er
G ra n ny’s tin y little r o om n ear th e k itc h en . S he m ust h av e b een in h er n in etie s a t
t h e tim e, a n d w e a ll k new s h e w ould d ie s o on. M y fa th er w ors h ip ped h er. S he
w as h is l a st l in k w ith Y unnan e x cep t f o r O ld L iu , a c o bble r f ro m D ali w ho r e ally
w as a n a n tiq ue— one h undre d y ears o ld in 1 954. H e h ad ta u ght G ra n dfa th er a n d
F ath er th e a rt o f m easu rin g f e et a n d c u ttin g le ath er to m ak e s h oes. F ath er w ould
t e ll u s th at O ld L iu a lw ay s m ad e a s h oe f ro m ju st o ne p ie ce o f le ath er. T hat w as
t h e te st. If y ou u se d m ore th an a sin gle p ie ce y ou w ould n ev er b e a m aste r
s h oem ak er. S an dals w ere d if fe re n t, o f c o urs e , b ut L iu n ev er t o ok t h em s e rio usly .
Eld er G ra n ny h ad n o te eth a t a ll a n d c o uld e at o nly s o up a n d b arle y ric e.
H er to oth le ssn ess m ad e u s la u gh, b ecau se w e w ere c h ild re n a n d e v en th ough
v en era tio n o f o ur e ld ers h ad b een i n stille d i n to u s a t e v ery o pportu nity , a P unja b i
c y nic is m h ad c re p t in to o ur liv es a s w ell, in fe ctin g u s w ith th e L ah ori s e n se o f
h um our. O fte n s tu pid , s o m etim es s u rp ris in gly s u btle , b ut u su ally v ery f u nny.
At s to ry -tim e w e w ould s it a t h er f e et, n ot lo okin g a t h er w hen s h e ta lk ed ,
s o as not to gig gle w hen sh e becam e re ally ex cite d an d a sh ow er of sp it

desc en ded o n u s a n d i t b ecam e r e ally h ard t o k eep a s tr a ig ht f a ce. D esp ite a ll t h is
we unders to od ev ery w ord . S he sp oke M an darin w ith a str o ng Y unnan ese
accen t. W hen s h e u se d s tr a n ge w ord s, H an if w ould s h out, ‘ W e d on’t k now w hat
th at m ean s, E ld er G ra n ny,’ ev en th ough it w as co nsid ere d ru de to in te rru pt
eld ers a n d h e a lw ay s p re te n ded th at h e d id n’t re ally c are a b out o ur p ast. S he
did n’t m in d a t a ll. S he w ould s to p in m id -s e n te n ce a n d p atie n tly e x pla in w hat
each w ord m ean t. H an if w asn ’t r e ally in te re ste d in th e s to rie s, b ut h e lo ved h er
pre se n ce, s o m ostly h e s a t q uie tly , th in kin g a b out c ric k et a n d h is s c h ool f rie n ds.
Eld er G ra n ny w ould b eg in e ach sto ry th e sa m e w ay , so th at h er in tr o ductio n
becam e e m bed ded in o ur h ead s. I u se d to te ll th e s a m e s to rie s to m y c h ild re n ,
but in P unja b i b ecau se th ey n ev er le arn t M an darin , to th eir g re at r e g re t. ‘ P le ase
sta rt n ow , E ld er G ra n ny,’ I w ould s a y , a n d s h e w ould b eg in :
‘A nd th ere w as o nce a city , a b eau tif u l city , m uch m ore b eau tif u l th an
Beijin g, a n d it w as c alle d D ali. I t w as b uilt o n th e e d ge o f a la k e, s u rro unded b y
mounta in s, a n d in th e s p rin g w hen th e b lo sso m s w ere o ut w e c o uld b e f o rg iv en
fo r th in kin g th at th is w as a re p lic a o f h eav en . K unm in g m ay h av e b een th e
cap ita l, b ut D ali w as th e h eart o f Y unnan , w hic h , a s y ou k now , is its e lf th e m ost
beau tif u l co untr y in C hin a. In th is beau tif u l city , th ere liv ed a fa m ily . O ur
fa m ily . W e h ad b een h ere fo r s u ch a lo ng tim e th at n obody re m em bere d h ow
lo ng, a n d in C hin a th at c an o nly m ean a v ery , v ery , lo ng tim e a g o. S om e o f u s
liv ed o n t h e l a n d, b ut m ost o f u s w ere t r a d ers , i n clu din g D ù W én xiù ’s f a th er. H e
was a s a lt m erc h an t, b ut th at d id n ot s a tis fy h im b ecau se it w as n ot a esth etic ally
ple asin g, a n d s o h e s e t u p a s h op w ith t h e f in est t e x tile s a n d p otte ry .
‘T he te x tile s w ere b eau tif u l, b ut d esig ned o nly f o r th e n obility . T hey w ere
mad e o f p ure s ilk . T he p otte ry w as s im ple . H e h ad d is c o vere d th at o ur p otte rs
were m ak in g th ousa n ds o f p la te s w ith th e b lu e th at h ad b eco m e s o p opula r in a ll
of th e M uslim w orld . F ro m Y unnan th ese p la te s w ith A ra b ic c allig ra p hy w ould
be tr a n sp orte d to B ag hdad a n d P ale rm o a n d, la te r, to th e O tto m an la n ds o f th e
gre at S ulta n , a n d f ro m t h ere t o C ord oba i n a l- A ndalu s a n d t o A fric a a n d e v en t h e
barb aria n w orld . W hen tr a d e w ith th e A ra b s c ease d , y our g re at fo re b ears m ad e

su re t h at th e p otte rie s n ev er c lo se d d ow n. S kills h an ded d ow n f ro m f a th er to s o n
are t o o p re cio us t o l o se . O nce l o st, t h ey n ev er r e tu rn .
‘T hose p la te s b ecam e th e p rid e o f e v ery fa m ily in D ali, e v en th ose w ho
were n ot H ui. A t th e T hir d M onth F air , w hic h w as th e la rg est in th e w orld , I
th in k, b ecau se tr a d ers c am e fro m e v ery p ro vin ce in C hin a, b ut th ere w ere a ls o
Lam as f ro m T ib et a n d t r ib al p eo ple s a n d o th ers f ro m S ia m a n d B en gal- In dia a n d
Burm a a n d C och in C hin a. T hey u se d to s a y th at in th e v ery e arly y ears o f th e
fa ir t h ere w ere t r a d ers f ro m a s f a r a w ay a s M eso pota m ia i n t h e w orld o f t h e A ra b
peo ple s, a n d t h at i t t o ok t h em s ix m onth s t o m ak e t h e j o urn ey , s o t h ey w ere a ll a
year o ld er w hen t h ey r e tu rn ed t o B asra .
‘M y g ra n dfa th er, W én xiù ’s fa th er, a lw ay s u se d to th ro w a b ig b an quet fo r
th e m ost im porta n t v is ito rs , w hose f a m ilie s h ad b een tr a d in g w ith o urs f o r m an y
gen era tio ns. D ù W én xiù h ad a lw ay s th ought th at h e w ould c o ntin ue in th e tr a d e
of h is f a th er a n d f o re b ears . M y g ra n dfa th er s a id t h at o ur a n cesto rs h ad f ir s t c o m e
here w ith th e a rm ie s o f Q ubila i K han . It w as s a id in o ur fa m ily th at o ur g re at
fo re b ear, w ho fin ally se ttle d in D ali an d b uilt th e h ouse w here w e all liv ed
afte rw ard s, h ad b een re sp onsib le fo r su pply in g th e G re at K han ’s a rm ie s w ith
fo od a n d w om en . I h av e n o id ea w heth er th at is a f a ct o r n ot. I h ope it w as ju st
fo od h e s u pplie d . S o w e h ad b een i n t h e c ity f o r m an y c en tu rie s.
‘S om e H ui, esp ecia lly th ose w ho liv e in K han fu [C an to n] an d B eijin g,
would n ev er b e h ap py tr a cin g th eir lin eag e to th e tim e o f th e G re at K han . T hey
in sis t th ey a re th e d ir e ct d esc en dan ts o f th e A ra b tr a d ers a n d a m bassa d ors w ho
cam e to th ese s h ore s w hile th e P ro phet, h onour h is n am e, w as s till a liv e. T he
Pro phet h ad o nce sa id , “S eek k now le d ge w here y ou fin d it, ev en as fa r as
Chin a,” a n d th e H ui in K han fu c la im th at is w hy th eir a n cesto rs a rriv ed in th e
fir s t p la ce: to s e ek k now le d ge, n ot p ro fit. P eo ple a re s o rid ic u lo us s o m etim es.
Sulta n S ule im an u se d to s m ile a n d s a y th at e v ery B elie v er w an ts to b elie v e th at
he h as a t in y d ro p o f A ra b b lo od i n h im , b ecau se h e w an ts t o b e b le sse d w ith t h e
sa m e b lo od a s t h e P ro phet.
‘H ow ev er w e c am e, w e in te rm arrie d s o m uch th at w ere it n ot f o r th e ta b oo

on p ork a n d c ir c u m cis io n w e w ould b e n o d if fe re n t f ro m t h e H an . B ut w e w ould
nev er b e th e sa m e a s th e M an ch u. [A t th is p oin t, D , sh e w ould p au se , n ot to
re g ain h er b re ath , b ut to o ffe r a s h ort p ra y er to A lla h a sk in g h im to p unis h th e
Man ch u fo r th eir c rim es. H an if w ould a lw ay s in te rru pt, ‘M ao Z ed ong is n ot a
Man ch u, E ld er G ra n ny,’ b ut s h e w ould b ru sh h im a sid e w ith a g estu re . T hen s h e
would c o ntin ue.]
‘D ù W én xiù w as h ap py h elp in g m y fa th er o rg an iz e o ur tr a d in g a ctiv itie s.
He w ould h av e d one t h at f o r t h e r e st o f h is l if e a n d r e m ain ed h ap py, b ut F ate h ad
oth er p la n s f o r h im .
‘I th in k it w as s p rin gtim e in 1 856, w hen th e w ors t k illin gs o f o ur p eo ple
to ok p la ce in K unm in g. T he M an ch u g overn or h ate d th e H ui p eo ple in a n y c ase ,
but p ric es fe ll a n d th e n ew ly s e ttle d H an b ecam e re se n tf u l o f th ose w ho c o uld
still w ork . T he M an ch u g overn or, S huxin g’a , h ate d u s H ui b ecau se w hen h e h ad
been in th e n orth w est h e h ad b een d efe ate d b y s o m e M uslim r e b els . T hey w ere
not H ui. T hey sp oke th eir o w n la n guag e an d h ad th eir o w n cu sto m s, b ut o f
co urs e th ey s h are d o ur fa ith a n d p ra y ed a s w e d o, fa cin g w est, a n d, n atu ra lly ,
th ey n ev er a te p ork . S huxin g’a ’s s o ld ie rs h ad b een d efe ate d b y th em a n d h e w as
ru nnin g a w ay d is g uis e d a s a w om an . T he re b els c ap tu re d h im . L et’ s s e e if y ou
are a w om an , th ey sa id , a n d th en th ey str ip ped h im a n d th re w p eb ble s a t h is
te stic le s. H e h ate d th em f o re v er a fte r th at a n d s u ffe re d f ro m p eb ble -s ic k ness f o r
th e r e st o f h is lif e . H e d id n ot th in k h ow lu ck y h e w as to b e a liv e. T hen h e w as
se n t b y th e M an ch u to Y unnan , an d o nce in K unm in g h e b eg an to p lo t h is
re v en ge, b ut a g ain st u s H ui. H e t h ought w e w ere a ll t h e s a m e a s t h e p eo ple i n t h e
north w est. It w as h e w ho o rg an iz ed th e m assa cre in K unm in g. A nd o nce th ese
th in gs s ta rt t h ere ’s n o k now in g h ow t h ey w ill e n d. E ven b efo re h e c am e, t h e H an
were k illin g u s i n t h e v illa g es, b urn in g o ur h om es a n d m osq ues. B y t h e t im e t h is
monste r s ta rte d in K unm in g, w e h ad lo st n early f o rty th ousa n d m en , w om en a n d
ch ild re n . S o o ur y oung m en t o ok u p a rm s t o d efe n d t h em se lv es. W hat e ls e c o uld
th ey d o?
‘W én xiù s u dden ly a d opte d a n A ra b n am e, S ule im an , to s tr e ss h is fa ith , to

unite o ur p eo ple a n d d efy th e M an ch u. T hey k ille d so m an y o f u s th at y ear.
Thousa n ds a n d th ousa n ds p eris h ed . I t m ad e o ur y oung m en v ery a n gry . W e a re
not g oats to b e le d to sla u ghte r so e asily , W én xiù to ld h is fa th er, a n d h e a n d
oth er y oung m en w en t i n to t h e m ounta in s t o t e ach t h em se lv es h ow t o f ig ht.
‘M y f a th er w as a H an , b ut h e f o ught o n o ur s id e b ecau se h e w an te d Y unnan
to b e f re e o f t h e M an ch u. A ll w e Y unnan ese a re v ery p ro ud p eo ple . T he M an ch u
calle d u s b an dits , b ut th ey w ere th e r e al b an dits . D o y ou k now w hat b an dits a re ,
Han if M a?’
‘I l ik e b an dits , E ld er G ra n ny. I w an t t o b e a b an dit.’
Her c ack le w as i n fe ctio us a n d m ad e e v ery one l a u gh, i n clu din g F ath er.
‘T here a re g ood b an dits a n d e v il b an dits , l ittle H an if M a. G ood b an dits h elp
th e p oor. E vil b an dits w ork f o r th e H an r u le rs , n ev er th e p oor. W én xiù w as o nly
nin ete en y ears o ld , b ut m y m oth er t o ld m e t h at h e n ev er l o st h is t e m per, n ot e v en
when h e w as a little b oy. S o a fte r th ey w en t to th e m ounta in s a n d c h an ged th eir
nam es, a ll h is frie n ds w ould c all h im S ule im an D ù W én xiù , till h e b ecam e th e
Sulta n . D id y ou k now th at, little J in dié a n d H an if ? Y our a n cesto r w as th e S ulta n
of Y unnan . I m ay h av e b een o nly e ig ht y ears o ld , b ut I c an s till r e m em ber w hen
all t h e p eo ple c am e o ut o n t h e s tr e ets o f D ali t o g re et h im : “ S ulta n S ule im an
wan
su i,
S ulta n S ule im an
wan s u i
.” It w as th e fir s t s lo gan I e v er le arn ed . W hen w e
wen t w ith m y m oth er to se e h im in h is sm all p ala ce, sh e m ad e u s re p eat th e
slo gan . H e lif te d m e u p a n d k is se d m y c h eek s. H is b eard w as v ery so ft, v ery
dif fe re n t f ro m t h e b eard s i n X in jia n g.
‘T here w ere m an y d if fe re n t p eo ple o f ev ery so rt w ho liv ed in Y unnan
durin g h is tim e. H an , H ui a n d n on-H an , m an y o f w hom w ere tr ib al p eo ple a n d
oth ers w ho w ere B uddhis t. S ule im an D ù W én xiù f o ught th e M an ch u a rm ie s a n d
defe ate d t h em , b ut h e n ev er p erm itte d a n y d is c rim in atio n a g ain st t h e H an p eo ple
in Y unnan . T here w as s o m uch in te rm arria g e. M y m oth er, W én xiù ’s fa v ourite
younger s is te r, w as m arrie d t o a H an Y unnan ese , w ho w as m y f a th er. I t w as l ik e
th at a ll o ver o ur c o untr y . W e w ere a ll in te rre la te d , a n d if th e M an ch u h ad n ot
in te rfe re d w ith u s a n d s e n t in m ore a n d m ore o f th eir p eo ple to s te al o ur w ork ,

our m in es, o ur tr a d e a n d o ur p ro perty , a n d th is a t a tim e w hen th in gs w ere b ad
fo r e v ery one, t h ere w ould h av e b een n o r e b ellio n.
‘A nd i t w as a ll t h e p eo ple , n ot j u st t h e H ui, w ho f o ught a g ain st t h e M an ch u.
Had it o nly b een u s, w e w ould h av e b een d efe ate d m uch , m uch s o oner. A lw ay s
re m em ber th is , c h ild re n . Y our g re at a n cesto r w as a M uslim , a H ui, b ut h e r u le d
fo r a ll t h e p eo ple . N ot j u st t h e H ui. T hat m ad e m y f a th er s o h ap py, b ecau se a fte r
th e k illin gs i n K unm in g a n d t h e v illa g es e v ery body e x pecte d t h e H ui t o g o i n f o r
re v en ge k illin gs. S ulta n S ule im an k new th at w ell a n d it m ad e h im a n gry . “ W e
are n ot s u ch p oor-s p ir ite d p eo ple th at w e s e ek re v en ge o n in nocen ts . T he b est
re v en ge is to m ak e th e w hole o f Y unnan s tr o ng a n d fre e fro m th e ru le o f th e
Man ch u, w ho ste al, o ppre ss an d k ill all Y unnan ese w ho re fu se to w ear th e
queu e.” T he d ay a fte r h e s a id t h at, m an y o f t h e H an w ho h ad l iv ed i n Y unnan f o r
man y g en era tio ns c am e o ut a n d p ublic ly h ad t h eir q ueu es r e m oved . T hat w as t h e
way th ey sh ow ed th eir su pport fo r y our g re at a n cesto r. Y ou m ust a lw ay s b e
pro ud o f h im a n d re sp ect h is m em ory . A re y ou lis te n in g, H an if M a a n d little
Jin dié ?’
She ra re ly sa id m ore th an th at, b ut so on a fte r sh e d ie d m y fa th er b eg an
sp en din g a f e w h ours e ach S unday t e llin g u s m ore s to rie s a n d s o m etim es r e ad in g
fro m m an usc rip ts h e h ad in h is p osse ssio n a n d s h ow in g u s w here th ese p la ces
were o n th e m ap . Y our frie n d H an if /C onfu ciu s b ecam e re ally a lie n ate d fro m
th ese s to rie s a n d w ould p le ad w ith m y f a th er to b e a llo w ed to g o a n d p la y w ith
his f rie n ds o n t h e n eig hbourin g s tr e ets .
‘Y ou c an p la y w ith w hom ev er a n d w hen ev er y ou lik e, H an if ,’ m y fa th er
would s a y . ‘ B ut I s o m etim es w orry th at th ey w ill w arp y our m in d a n d d ra g y ou
dow n t o t h e g utte r. Y ou m ust n ev er l o se y our s e lf -e ste em .’
Han if w ould su rre n der a b je ctly . H e h ate d se ein g o ur fa th er u pse t a n d h e
would sit th ro ugh our fa m ily his to ry le sso ns, but his m in d w as usu ally
els e w here . O nce w hen h e w as fif te en o r s ix te en a n d m y fa th er w as n ot in th e
house , h e to ld m e a n grily , ‘ C hin a is b ein g tr a n sfo rm ed b y M ao Z ed ong a n d th e
Com munis ts . E very th in g w ill b e d if fe re n t. W hat’ s th e u se o f b lin d an cesto r-

wors h ip , w hic h w as th e c u rs e o f th e o ld s o cie ty a n d k ep t th e p easa n ts e n sla v ed ?
If I h ad b een a liv e a t t h at t im e i n Y unnan , I w ould h av e f o ught w ith o ur f o re b ear.
What’ s t h e p oin t o f a ll t h is n ow ?’
I nev er co uld se e it th at w ay m yse lf . F or m e it w as an accre tio n of
know le d ge. E ven if o ur f o re b ears h ad n ot b een in volv ed in th e r e b ellio n I w ould
hav e w an te d t o k now w ho w e w ere a n d w hy w e h ad b een f o rc ed t o f le e Y unnan .
We d id n ot le av e v olu nta rily to s e ek w ork e ls e w here . W e w ere frig hte n ed . W e
th ought th ey w ould k ill u s a ll. Y oung g ir ls w ere b ein g k id nap ped e v ery d ay a n d
so ld a s s la v es. W e h ad k in d n eig hbours in th e o th er r e g io ns a n d th ey h elp ed u s
becau se o ver c en tu rie s w e h ad tr a d ed a n d in te rm arrie d w ith th em a s w ell. M an y
of o ur p eo ple w ere g iv en re fu ge in G uan gzh ou a n d T ib et a n d a ls o in B urm a.
What m ad e H an if r e ally a n gry w as a te n den cy , I d on’t th in k it w as s tr o nger th an
th at, o n th e p art o f m y p are n ts a n d Y ounger G ra n ny to p ortr a y lif e in Y unnan
befo re th e M an ch u w en t o n th eir k illin g sp re e a s a g old en a g e. I k now th ese
ra re ly e x is t in h is to ry , b ut w e a lw ay s p re se rv e m em orie s o f s o m e g ood th in gs
an d c all t h em a ‘ g old en a g e’ t o k eep o ur h opes a liv e. F or i f i t w as p ossib le o nce,
it c o uld b e a g ain . [U to pia n th oughts a re n ot n ecessa rily b ad , o r a re th ey , D ? I
once re ad s o m eth in g b y y ou m an y y ears a g o e ith er in p ra is e o f o r p re d ic tin g a
world r e v olu tio n in y our lif e tim e. P erh ap s I m is u nders to od w hat y ou w ro te , b ut
ev en th ough th e th in kin g b eh in d it s tr u ck m e a s c ru de a n d s c h em atic , I lik ed th e
Uto pia n s tr a in . H av e I g ot i t c o m ple te ly w ro ng? I f s o , a p olo gie s.]
There w ere so m e g ood th in gs th at h ap pen ed in Y unnan w hen S ule im an
decla re d h im se lf th e S ulta n . H e p ut a s to p to th e c ease le ss ra id s a u th oriz ed b y
th e Q in g co urt, w hic h h ad affe cte d m ost Y unnan ese , w ho re g ard ed th e H an
mara u ders a s o dio us. I o nce c o m pare d th e Y unnan ese S ulta n ate to Y en an a n d
th e M ao is t a tte m pt to u nite th e p eo ple a g ain st fo re ig n (in th eir c ase , J a p an ese )
ag gre ssio n. S ule im an tr ie d to u nif y Y unnan a s a sin gle sta te to sta v e o ff th e
im peria l m aste rs in B eijin g. J u st b ecau se th e C hin ese e m pir e w as c o te rm in ous
with t h e p eo ple i t c o nquere d d id n ot m ak e t h e M an ch u b ette r t h an t h e J a p an ese .
Of co urs e I dev elo ped th is lin e of th in kin g to arg ue ag ain st H an if ’s

uncritic al a n d c ru de M ao is m . [ A nd y ours ? O r d id y our b ra n d o f M arx is m i m pose
a b an o n b lin d w ors h ip ? C an ’t r e m em ber n ow .] O f c o urs e h e w as e n ra g ed a t a n y
co m paris o n o f th e r e v olu tio nary g overn m en t to th e r e actio nary M an ch u, b ut th at
was n ot w hat I w as a rg uin g. I w as sim ply c o m parin g it to a m id -n in ete en th -
cen tu ry u pris in g th at su cceed ed fo r a w hile in cre atin g a sta te th at w as n ot
th eo cra tic lik e th e T aip in g H eav en ly K in gdom in N an jin g, w here re ad in g th e
Bib le w as m ad e c o m puls o ry .
Han if g ot s o a n gry w ith m e o ne d ay t h at h e s a t i n t h e l iv in g r o om a n d r e ad a
fe w b ooks a n d m an usc rip ts . H e h ad a ty pic al E ld er B ro th er lo ok o n h is fa ce
when I c am e h om e f ro m N air n o ne d ay , a m ix tu re o f c o nte m pt a n d t r iu m ph. ‘ L et
me te ll y ou a fe w th in gs, J in dié ’, h e s a id , ‘b efo re y ou ta k e a n cesto r w ors h ip in
th is h ouse h old to s u ch h eig hts th at it b eco m es d if fic u lt to fin d a w ay d ow n.’ I
was p le ase d a t b ein g ta k en s e rio usly a n d s a t d ow n o bed ie n tly to lis te n to E ld er
Bro th er.
He p ic k ed u p th e la te -n in ete en th -c en tu ry b ook h e h ad fo und o n F ath er’s
booksh elv es a n d r e ad o ut t h e f o llo w in g p assa g e:
‘D ù W én xiù se t in to a ctio n a se rie s o f b uild in g p ro gra m s b ase d o n Q in g
im peria l in stitu tio ns in B eijin g, in clu din g a n im peria l F orb id den C ity . A t b oth
th e u pper a n d lo w er p asse s, h e h ad G re at W alls b uilt, w ith o nly o ne e n tr a n ce,
whic h r a n fro m h ig h in th e C an gsh an M ounta in s d eep in to E rh ai L ak e, m ak in g
th e v alle y i m pen etr a b le .’
I s h ru gged m y s h ould ers . ‘ S o w hat? ’
‘T hat is fa r to o ch ild is h , Jin dié . S o w hat? S o th is gre at fo re b ear w as
en gag ed i n p ure m im ic ry . Q in g b uild in gs a n d M in g r o bes.’
‘I d on’t th in k th at w as s o s tu pid . H e w ore M in g r o bes to s tr e ss th at it w as
th e M an ch u w ho w ere t h e i n te rlo pers .’
‘B ut Jin dié , d on’t y ou u nders ta n d w hat I’m sa y in g? T here w as n oth in g
pro gre ssiv e a b out S ulta n S ule im an . T he T aip in g w ere b ette r. T hey n atio naliz ed
th e l a n d a n d g av e w om en e q ual r ig hts .’
That d ro ve m e m ad : ‘ A nd im pose d a C hris tia n th eo cra cy ! T hey w ere m uch

more ir ra tio nal. T he c ra zy g uy w ho le d th e re v olt b elie v ed h e w as th e y ounger
bro th er o f J e su s. Y ou p re fe r th em o nly b ecau se th e M ao is ts r e fu se to r e co gniz e
th e Y unnan re b ellio n a s p ro gre ssiv e fo r fe ar o f e n co ura g in g s o m eth in g s im ila r.
But I a ccep t t h at S ulta n S ule im an w as n ot a p ro gre ssiv e. H ow c o uld h e b e? Y our
belo ved M arx h ad n’t y et b een t r a n sla te d i n to C hin ese .’
‘I k now , b ut th e F re n ch R ev olu tio n h ad ta k en p la ce. In th is p art o f th e
world , S ulta n T ip u, w ho w as fig htin g th e B ritis h fif ty y ears b efo re S ule im an ’s
vic to ry , e x ch an ged frie n dly le tte rs w ith N ap ole o n in w hic h h e sig ned h im se lf
“C ito yen T ip u”. A t l e ast h e t r ie d .’
‘B ut his en em y w as N ap ole o n’s en em y, an d an yw ay N ap ole o n m ad e
him se lf a S ulta n . S ule im an d id n ot a p peal fo r o uts id e h elp . H e k new h e c o uld
win o nly w ith t h e s u pport o f h is o w n p eo ple .’
‘T hen w hy d id o ne o f h is g en era ls a p peal f o r s u pport t o Q ueen V ic to ria ?’
‘T hat w as a fte r th e d efe at, a n d h e a p peale d fo r re fu ge, w hic h is h ow w e
cam e t o L ah ore .’
Late r w hen I ask ed Fath er ab out w hy Sule im an had tr ie d to build a
Forb id den C ity i n D ali, h e s m ile d .
‘V ery sim ple . H e w an te d to sh ow th at h is g overn m en t w as fo r all th e
Yunnan ese , in clu din g th e H an . T he a rc h ite ctu re w as d esig ned to r e assu re p eo ple
th at th ey co uld hav e th eir ow n sta te , ju st lik e th e M an ch u in B eijin g. H is
en em ie s w ere s p re ad in g th e r u m our th at e v ery body w ould b e f o rc ib ly c o nverte d
to I s la m . H e k new it w as a n a tte m pt to d iv id e th e Y unnan ese a n d d id e v ery th in g
possib le to c o unte r th at s u ggestio n. L arg e b an ners w ere p ain te d a n d h ung o ver
th e c ity w alls :
Make P ea ce w ith H an C hin ese , D ow n w ith Q in g C ourt: U nite H ui
and H an p eo ple a s o ne, to e re ct th e fla g o f re b ellio n, to g et rid o f M anch u
barb aria ns, to r e su rre ct Z honghua, to c u t a w ay c o rru ptio ns, to s a ve th e p eo ple
fr o m w ate r a nd f ir e
.
‘S om etim es h e d elib era te ly r e fra in ed f ro m p ra y in g i n t h e G ra n d M osq ue o n
Frid ay , sp en din g th e afte rn oon w ith n on-H ui le ad ers d rin kin g ric e w in e. O f
co urs e h e n ev er to uch ed p ork . T hat w ould h av e b een g oin g to o fa r. T he se al

Sule im an u se d w as in C hin ese a s w ell a s A ra b ic , b ut th e c allig ra p hy w as in o ur
ow n s ty le . G o a n d lo ok a t it. It’ s th ere , ju st a b ove th e m an te lp ie ce, o ne o f th e
fe w m em en to s E ld er G ra n ny m an ag ed t o k eep , a p art f ro m o ne r o be.’
The m ore H an if becam e dis a ffe cte d fro m our Y unnan ese past, th e m ore it
becam e a re fu ge fo r m e. H ow co uld o ne fa il to b e m oved b y th e g lo rio us
re sis ta n ce o f t h e Y unnan ese a n d o ur a n cesto rs ? T he i m pact o f t h e v ic to ry i n D ali
was b eg in nin g to sp re ad . It’ s a lw ay s lik e th at is n ’t it, D ? A b ig w av e c re ate s
rip ple s. T hen a n d n ow .
Im peria l ag en ts in G uan gzh ou w ere ex tr e m ely w orrie d by how m uch
su pport th ere w as fo r th e lo ng-h air e d re b els in Y unnan . T hey d esc rib ed h ow
ev en in G uan gzh ou peo ple had sto pped sh av in g th eir fo re h ead s an d w ere
gro w in g t h eir h air t o d em onstr a te s o lid arity w ith t h e g overn m en t i n D ali. S im ila r
re p orts w ere c o m in g fro m b ord er to w ns n ear T ib et. E very one a ssu m ed th at th e
lo ng-h air e d p eo ple w ere a ll H ui, b ut th is w as n ot th e c ase . T he T aip in g re b els
had a ls o g ro w n t h eir h air t o s h ow c o nte m pt f o r t h e M an ch u.
Fath er o fte n u se d to sa y th at if th e S ulta n ate h ad su rv iv ed an oth er fiv e
years , th e B ritis h a n d p erh ap s e v en th e F re n ch w ould h av e re co gniz ed Y unnan
as a n in dep en den t sta te . B eijin g, a w are o f th e d ev elo pin g tr a d e lin ks b etw een
Dali a n d th e E uro pean s, w as d ete rm in ed to m ove s w if tly a n d c ru sh th e S ulta n ’s
arm ie s.
Som eo ne in te llig en t m ust h av e b een a d vis in g th e Q in g e m pero r, w ho w as
to ld to ig nore th e in su lts — Sule im an had le t it be know n th at his gra sp of
Man darin an d C hin ese cu ltu re w as o n a m uch h ig her le v el th an th at o f th e
Man ch u b arb aria n s i n B eijin g, a n d i t i s s a id t h at w hen t h e e m pero r w as i n fo rm ed
of th is re m ark b y h is so n, h e b ecam e so a n gry th at h e h ad a se iz u re , a n d six
eu nuch s w ere r e q uir e d t o l if t h im a n d p la ce h im o n h is b ed . T he e m pero r w an te d
to a ssa u lt D ali im med ia te ly b ut w as to ld th e p ro vocatio n w as a tr a p a n d th e H ui
gen era ls w ould w ip e o ut th e im peria l a rm y. A n o ld p ala ce e u nuch r e m in ded h im
th at th e E uro pean p ow ers h ad w on th e O piu m W ar ju st o ver a d ecad e a g o. T hey

were w aitin g a n d w atc h in g, a n d if B eijin g b ecam e is o la te d th e f o re ig ners m ig ht
decid e to h elp th e H ui in Y unnan . If y ou a tta ck K unm in g a n d D ali, h e to ld th e
em pero r, th ere w ill b e a p ro lo nged c o nflic t th at w ill u nderm in e th e c o urt, a n d
what i f s o m e n ew r e b ellio n e ru pts i n t h e l o w er Y an gtz e, c u ttin g o ff t h e s u pply o f
gra in a n d ric e? If o ur su pply ro ute s a re c u t w e a re fin is h ed . T he lo ng-h air e d
re b els m ig ht e v en m ove o n to B eijin g r e in fo rc ed b y B rita in a n d F ra n ce. T he H ui
hav e b een a ccu m ula tin g m usk ets a n d b uild in g g un-to w ers a ll o ver Y unnan . T hat
is w hat th e e m pero r w as to ld , a n d f o r o nce h e lis te n ed to h is a d vis e rs a n d a sk ed
th em to pre p are an alte rn ativ e m eth od of destr o yin g th e in dep en den ce of
Yunnan .
That d ecis io n tu rn ed o ut to b e o ur u ndoin g. T he Q in g c o urt b ought s o m e
Muslim g en era ls a n d m ad e o vertu re s t o t h e H ui i n K unm in g, w ho w ere m ean t t o
be o ur a llie s, a n d b y d iv id in g o ur r a n ks th ey d efe ate d u s. T hat, D , is th e v erd ic t
of h is to ry a n d th e o verrid in g w eak ness o f Is la m . S in ce th e v ery b eg in nin g th e
fo llo w ers o f th e P ro phet h av e b een u nab le to liv e in a s in gle m an sio n. T his h as
le d to m an y d efe ats , b ut I fe ar y ou m ig ht b e g ettin g b ore d w ith th is h is to ry
le sso n f ro m a n u ntr a in ed h is to ria n , a n d s o I ’v e t r a n sla te d t h is d ocu m en t f ro m o ur
fa m ily ’s a rc h iv e th at m y fa th er g uard ed so d ev ote d ly a n d w hic h I in herite d . I
hav e n ow se n t m an y o f th e d ocu m en ts a n d b ooks to th e m use u m in Y unnan ,
where t h ey a re d is p la y ed q uite p ro udly .
But th is o ne d ocu m en t I k ep t, b ecau se it w as v ery p ers o nal. I t w as w ritte n
by E ld er G ra n ny’s m oth er a fe w w eek s befo re sh e die d . She w as Sulta n
Sule im an ’s y oungest s is te r. H e h ad a p poin te d h er Y unnan ’s tr a d e c o m mis sio ner
in B urm a. T hat’ s h ow s h e s u rv iv ed , a n d la te r th e B ritis h g av e h er p erm is sio n to
sh if t h er o pera tio ns to C alc u tta . W e m oved to L ah ore so on a fte r h er d eath in
1882, an d only becau se so m e of th e H ui w ho w ere desc en dan ts of th e
co lla b ora to rs h ad esta b lis h ed th em se lv es in C alc u tta an d b eg an to m ak e o ur
co m merc ia l ex is te n ce dif fic u lt. M y gre atg ra n dfa th er re fu se d to pay th em
pro te ctio n m oney a n d, a s a c o nse q uen ce, w e h ad t o l e av e t h e c ity .
That h is to ry i s w ith out a n y i n tr in sic v alu e t o a n yone o uts id e o ur f a m ily . I t’ s

lik e im mig ra n t lif e ev ery w here , an d I o bse rv ed sim ila r d iv is io ns am ong th e
su bco ntin en ta l H ui in th e U nite d S ta te s. A lw ay s d iv id ed b y c la n s a n d p olitic al
affilia tio ns. W hat alw ay s am use d m e gre atly w as th e fa cia l ex pre ssio ns of
Punja b i ta x i d riv ers in N ew Y ork an d C hic ag o an d n ow L ondon w hen th ey
re aliz ed I w as m ore f lu en t i n t h eir l a n guag e t h an s o m e o f t h em — th ey t e n d t o u se
to o m an y E nglis h w ord s— an d th at I h ad u nders to od e v ery w ord u tte re d o n th e
cell phones to w hic h th ey are perm an en tly atta ch ed . It w as as if th ey had
re ceiv ed an ele ctr ic sh ock . I su ppose it w ould b e th e sa m e in Y unnan if a
health y, m ousta ch io ed P unja b i b oy s u dden ly b ro ke in to o ur d ia le ct. F org iv e th e
dig re ssio n.
I h av e tr a n sla te d th e o ld d ocu m en t fro m C hin ese a s a ccu ra te ly a s I c o uld ,
but I c o uld n ot h av e it d ouble -c h eck ed b y a n yone in th e fa m ily . E very one is
dead an d your old frie n d C onfu ciu s has dis a p peare d . W e hav en ’t se en m y
bro th er f o r m ore th an tw en ty y ears . O uts id e h elp I c o nsid ere d in ap pro pria te . F or
one th in g, th e d ocu m en t is s till p riv ate , a n d f o r a n oth er, I a m n ot c o nvin ced th at
it is a n a ccu ra te a cco unt. A ls o th ere a re e le m en ts in it th at a re c in em atic , a n d I
would hate a ta rt lik e Z han g Y im ou to be te m pte d . H e’s w re ck ed en ough
Chin ese h is to ry . S om e s w ear w ord s I h av e l e ft in C hin ese w ith m y tr a n sla tio n i n
bra ck ets . V ery m ild c o m pare d to P unja b i, b ut m ore h urtf u l, s a id w ith out a tr a ce
of a ffe ctio n.
I th in k E ld er G ra n ny’s m oth er w as se arc h in g fo r o th er e x pla n atio ns. S he
co uld n ot q uite b rin g h ers e lf to b elie v e th at th e g re at b etr a y al w as d ue s o le ly to
money , je alo usy a n d a n u nhealth y p ow er a d dic tio n. M an y c en tu rie s a g o, a s y ou
keep w ritin g, a l- A ndalu s a n d S iq illiy a h ad a lr e ad y e x perie n ced w hat h ap pen ed
in Y unnan a h undre d a n d s ix ty y ears a g o. A c ase o f th ose w ho n ev er le arn f ro m
past m is ta k es b ein g d estin ed t o r e p eat t h em ?

EIG HT
Q IN -S H I, M Y D EA REST
c h ild , I a m w ritin g th is m em ora n dum fo r y ou a n d y our
c h ild re n a n d w hoev er c o m es a fte r th em . I t is th e s to ry o f y our u ncle ’s la st d ay s,
b ut a ls o a b out a g re at d eal m ore , a s y ou sh all re ad . I a m n ot u se d to w ritin g
a n yth in g e x cep t t r a d in g r e p orts a n d b ala n ce-s h eets a n d, r a re ly a n d o nly w hen m y
b ro th er S ulta n S ule im an in str u cte d m e, d eta ile d d ossie rs o n th e r u le rs o f B urm a
a n d In dia a n d w hat w e m ig ht e x pect fro m th em in th e fu tu re . A s y ou k now , I
l o ved m y b ro th er d early . H e n ev er tr e ate d w om en a s m ere b eare rs o f c h ild re n
a n d h e p erm itte d m e to m arry a H an , o uts id e o ur fa m ily a n d c o m munity , b ut a
p ure Y unnan ese b oy. Y our fa th er re fu se d to le av e D ali w ith m e in 1 872, e v en
w hen o rd ere d to d o s o b y th e S ulta n , w ho w as w orrie d a b out h is p re g nan t s is te r
t r a v ellin g o n h er o w n. I w as t h re e m onth s p re g nan t w ith y ou a n d h ad r e tu rn ed t o
g iv e a r e p ort o n o ur t r a d in g s itu atio n. M y b ro th er h ad r u le d f o r s ix te en y ears , b ut
h e k new w e w ere a b out t o b e d efe ate d a n d h e w an te d u s a ll t o l e av e. Y our f a th er
r e fu se d . H e w as k ille d d efe n din g t h e S ulta n . A H an f ig htin g t h e H ui t r a ito rs . H is
m em ory h as n ev er le ft m e, w hic h is w hy I n ev er re m arrie d , th ough th ere w ere
m ore th an a f e w o ffe rs . T ogeth er w ith y our u ncle , y our f a th er w as tr u ly th e k in d
o f m an o f w hom o ur g re at s c h ola r L iu C hih w ro te i n o ld er t im es:
Only t h ose w ho a re t h e m ost s in cere , a uth en tic , t r u e a nd r e a l c a n f u lly
re a lis e t h eir o w n n atu re ;
Able to fu lly r e a lis e th eir o w n n atu re , th ey c a n fu lly r e a lis e th e n atu re
of h um anity ;
Able to fu lly r e a lis e th e n atu re o f h um anity , th ey c a n fu lly r e a lis e th e
natu re o f t h in gs;
Able to fu lly r e co gnis e th e n atu re o f th in gs, th ey c a n ta ke p art in th e
tr a nsfo rm in g a nd n ouris h in g p ro cess o f H ea ven a nd E arth ;

Once t h is i s a ch ie ved t h ey c a n f o rm a t r in ity w ith H ea ven a nd E arth .
Befo re I te ll y ou w hat h ap pen ed in th ose la st m onth s, I w an t y ou to re m em ber
th at t h e H ui i n s o uth easte rn C hin a w ere n ev er f u lly t r u ste d b y t h e M uslim p eo ple
in th e n orth w est, w ho w ere fa r m ore rig id th an w e w ere in th e a p plic atio n o f
th eir b elie fs a n d t h e o bse rv an ce o f r itu als . T he H an m is tr u ste d u s b ecau se a ll t h at
div id ed th em fro m u s w as ritu al. T hey s im ply c o uld n ot u nders ta n d h ow p ork
co uld b e fo rb id den , sin ce, u nlik e so m e B uddhis ts , w e w ere n ot v eg eta ria n s.
When th ey s ta rte d b urn in g o ur v illa g es n ear K unm in g b efo re th e b ig m assa cre ,
th ey w ould fir s t ad dre ss u s im polite ly as
Hou d id i
[m onkey ’s b ro th er],
Gou
nain ai
[g ra n dm oth er’s a dog] an d alw ay s
Zhu sh i ta de Z uxia n pai
[y our
an cestr a l ta b le t is a p ig ]. O ne o f m y g re at- u ncle s u se d to s a y th at th e H ui a re
desc en ded f ro m th e g ood s o n o f A dam w ho d id n ot e at p ork a n d th e H an f ro m
th e b ad s o n w ho a te p ork a ll th e tim e. I t is s tr a n ge th at th is m eat b ecam e s u ch a
big is su e, b ut th e H an re g ard ed eatin g it as h ealth fu l, an d m an y H ui n oble
fa m ilie s, o rd ere d b y th e e m pero r to d ese rt th eir fa ith o r in cu r h is d is p le asu re ,
use d t o p ro ve t h eir l o yalty b y o ste n ta tio usly e atin g p ork a t c o urt b an quets . A t m y
bro th er’s b an quets in D ali, s in ce th ere w ere m an y n on-H ui Y unnan ese p re se n t,
pork w as a lw ay s s e rv ed , b ut th e p ollu te d d is h es w ere n ev er k ep t in th e p ala ce
kitc h en s. O ur n orth w este rn c o usin s w ould r e g ard s e rv in g p ork e v en to n on-H ui
as a h ere sy .
I so m etim es w ondere d w hat th e e m pero rs w ould h av e d em an ded h ad th e
Ara b s n ot o bse rv ed th e p ork ta b oo a n d h ad th e m eat n ot b een f o rb id den b y th e
Honoure d C la ssic . It w ould h av e b een d if fic u lt to s e w th e fo re sk in s b ack o nto
th e m en . B ut e n ough o f t h is n onse n se .
Six m onth s b efo re th e S ulta n w as c ap tu re d , a y oung s o ld ie r a rriv ed a t th e
co urt f ro m K unm in g. H e w as u narm ed , b ut h urt. H is a rm w as b le ed in g p ro fu se ly
th ro ugh m ak esh if t b an dag es. H e w as o ffe re d fo od a n d w ate r, b ut in sis te d o n
se ein g th e S ulta n p ers o nally . S ule im an sa w th e y oung m an an d im med ia te ly
ord ere d th at a su rg eo n b e se n t fo r, b ut th e so ld ie r in sis te d th at it w as a fle sh

wound a n d h ad b een w ra p ped in a sa lt b an dag e. H e w ould b e fin e so on. H e
ask ed t o s p eak t o t h e S ulta n i n p riv ate .
Very fe w p eo ple k new th at m y b ro th er h ad a n etw ork o f s p ie s th ro ughout
Yunnan , m ain ly to re p ort on M an ch u activ itie s in our co untr y an d th e
neig hbourin g re g io ns. T he so ld ie r sa id h e w as o ne o f th em . T he c o de to h elp
id en tif y t h e n etw ork w as W an g T ai- y u’s ‘ T ru e A nsw ers ’. E ach r e g io n i n Y unnan
had b een g iv en a s e p ara te s e t o f t h em .
‘W hat i s y our p assw ord ?’
‘A q uestio n.’
‘A sk .’
‘T he l a n guag e o f t h e L ord — what i s i ts s o und a n d s c rip t? ’
Sule im an g azed a t th e y oung m an ’s f a ce a n d s m ile d . ‘ T he r e al w ord o f th e
Lord b elo ngs t o n eith er s o und n or s c rip t. A sk t h e s e co nd q uestio n.’
‘H ow d id t h e H onoure d C la ssic c o m e t o b e?’
‘It d esc en ded f ro m h eav en .’
The so ld ie r w as fro m K unm in g. Sule im an gav e him so m e w ate r an d
in sis te d o n te n din g to th e w ound h im se lf . H e g en tly r e m oved th e s o ld ie r’s s h ir t
an d b lo use a n d d re w b ack in s u rp ris e . I t w as a w om an . S he c o vere d h er b re asts ,
le av in g th e h urt arm h an gin g b y h er sid e. S ule im an w ash ed it an d d rie d it
te n derly , t h en t o re a b it o f h is o w n s ilk t u nic a n d b an dag ed h er a rm .
‘H ow w ere y ou h urt, L i W an ?’
She l o oked s c are d . H ow c o uld h e k now h er n am e?
‘It’ s i n sc rib ed o n t h is a m ule t. I t i s y our n am e?’
She n odded in re lie f. ‘O ne o f M a R ulo ng’s m en tr ie d to s to p m e a s I w as
le av in g t h e c ity , s in ce I h ad n o i d en tif ic atio n. I b ru sh ed h im a sid e. H e d re w o ut a
dag ger, w hic h g ra zed m e. I b ro ke h is n eck a n d l e ft t h e c ity .’
‘H ow o ld a re y ou, L i W an ?’
‘E ig hte en . M a R ulo ng i s m y u ncle .’
‘W hat? ’
‘O ur f a m ily d esp is e s h im . T hat i s w hy I a g re ed t o j o in y our n etw ork .’

‘W ho r e cru ite d y ou?’
‘W e a re f o rb id den t o s a y .’
‘I a m t h e S ulta n . I c an f in d o ut e asily .’
‘P le ase d o. I a m f o rb id den t o s a y .’
And n or d id s h e, b ut th e in ev ita b le h ap pen ed . Y our u ncle a v oid ed th e f o ur
vic es. H e w as n ot a d dic te d to w in e, lu st, a v aric e o r a n ger, b ut h e w as a h um an
bein g w ith a ll th e str e n gth s a n d w eak nesse s o f o ne a n d w e Y unnan ese a re a
passio nate p eo ple . M y b ro th er w as o verc o m e b y e m otio n. T he y oung w om an
must h av e b een fla tte re d , b ut s h e re sis te d . T hen h e a sk ed h er a n oth er q uestio n
fro m t h e m aste r’s w ork .
‘W hic h i s p rio r, h eav en o r e arth ?’
She sm ile d , but re fu se d to re p ly an d in sis te d , very co rre ctly , th at th e
questio n h ad n oth in g t o d o w ith h er r e cru itm en t t o t h e n etw ork .
‘Y ou a re t a lk in g s ta te cra ft a n d I a m s p eak in g p assio n’, s a id t h e S ulta n , ‘ a n d
I o rd er y ou t o r e p ly .’
She a n sw ere d : ‘If y ou k now th e se q uen ce o f m en a n d w om en , y ou w ill
natu ra lly k now t h e p rio rity a n d p oste rio rity o f h eav en a n d e arth .’ H e r o are d w ith
la u ghte r, a n d s h e a d ded : ‘ T he M aste r W an g T ai- y u w as a b rillia n t s a g e, b ut n ot
alw ay s c o rre ct. T hat w as a w ro ng a n sw er, s in ce in o ur c o untr y a n d e sp ecia lly in
th e m ore re m ote re g io ns, th e se q uen ce o f m en a n d w om en is n ot a lw ay s th e
sa m e.’
You can te ll fro m th is co nvers a tio n, Q in -s h i, th at your uncle w as
dev elo pin g a p assio n fo r L i W an , a n d d esp ite h er p re te n ce, it w as o bvio us th at
sh e w as n ot in dif fe re n t to h is a tte n tio n, b ut s h e w as a v ery d is c ip lin ed g ir l a n d
would n ot l e t h im t o uch h er t ill s h e h ad g iv en h im a d eta ile d a cco unt o f w hat t h e
Qin g c o urt h ad a sk ed o f M a R ulo ng in r e tu rn f o r th e p ro m is e d g overn ors h ip o f
all Y unnan .
His fe v er o f p assio n c o ole d a s h e h eard th e sto ry . H e b ecam e fir m a n d
fie rc e, b ut f ir s t h e w an te d t o b e s u re t h at L i W an ’s s o urc es w ere t r u stw orth y. S he
hesita te d , b ut o nly f o r a m om en t.

‘H e t o ld m e s o h im se lf .’
‘E xpla in .’
‘T he n etw ork te ach es u s th at w e m ust u tiliz e e v ery p ossib le m eth od to g ain
in fo rm atio n w ith out aro usin g su sp ic io n. M a R ulo ng so m etim es vis ite d our
house h old . I s a w h im lo okin g a t m e in th e w ay o ld m en d o. T hen h e a sk ed m y
moth er w heth er I w ould c o m e a n d k eep h is d au ghte r c o m pan y. S he r e sis te d , b ut
I s to od u p w ith a s m ile a n d s a id I w ould l ik e t h at v ery m uch .’
‘E nough. I d on’t w an t t o h ear a n y m ore .’
‘Y ou s h ould . I t c o ncern s y ou. A fte r h e h ad h is w ay w ith m e, a n d I s h ould
re p ort th at h e h ad th e v io le n t an d ro ugh m an ner o f a sh ep herd lo ck ed in a
mounta in h ut w ith o nly h is s h eep f o r t h e w in te r, a n d b elie v e m e, i t f ille d m e w ith
re v uls io n, b ut a fte rw ard s h e s p oke o pen ly in m y p re se n ce. H e s p oke o f h av in g
you k ille d a n d y our h ead s e n t to B eijin g in a d ia m ond-e n cru ste d s ilv er b ask et a s
a g if t to th e e m pero r. H e s p oke o f b eco m in g a n a lly o f th e M an ch u a n d ru lin g
Yunnan fro m th e F orb id den C ity in D ali. H is allie s te ll th e p eo ple th at D ù
Wén xiù is n ot a p ro per H ui, th at h e e ats p ork , d oes n ot s a y h is p ra y ers a n d h as
no c o ncu bin es, th at th ey a lo ne a re th e re al d efe n ders o f th e H onoure d C la ssic .
All t h is i s b ein g s a id e v en n ow .’
She p ro vid ed th e S ulta n w ith a c o m ple te p ic tu re o f w hat th e tr a ito rs w ere
pla n nin g. F or d ay s S ule im an w as b usy a n d d id n ot se e h er, b ut h e c o uld n ot
fo rg et h er fe atu re s n or th e so ft sk in th at h e h ad b an dag ed . T ogeth er w ith h er
obvio us in te llig en ce, th ey w eig hed o n h im a g re at d eal. S in ce th is is n ot a s to ry
of p ers o nal p assio n b ut a h is to ry o f p olitic al d efe at I w ill n ot d w ell o n e v ery
deta il e x cep t to s a y th at s h e b ecam e h is f a v ourite lo ver. T hey w ere in se p ara b le ,
an d s in ce s h e k new th e e n em y s o w ell s h e w as o fte n p re se n t a t m eetin gs o f th e
Gra n d C ouncil t h at o rg an iz ed t h e d efe n ce o f t h e c ity .
When th is n ew s re ach ed M a R ulo ng h e p an ic k ed a n d is re p orte d to h av e
co nsid ere d s u ic id e, s in ce h e th ought th at S ule im an w ould s e n d a ssa ssin s to k ill
him . M en w ho p lo t m urd er a lw ay s b elie v e th at it is b ein g p lo tte d a g ain st th em .
Sule im an w as g en ero us. H e s e n t a m esse n ger to p le ad w ith M a R ulo ng n ot to

co m mit tr e ach ery b ut to sh are p ow er in D ali. S ule im an su ggeste d th at th eir
ch ild re n s h ould m arry e ach o th er to c em en t th e a llia n ce, b ut M a R ulo ng w as to o
fa r g one in h is in tr ig ues a n d w as a fra id th at th is o ffe r w as a tr a p , th at S ule im an
mean t t o e n sn are a n d k ill h im .
Sule im an w as d om in ate d b y o ne id ea, a n d th at w as to n ev er l e t th e M an ch u
re ta k e D ali a n d K unm in g a n d to re m ain fre e o f th e Q in g c o urt. F or a w hile it
se em ed h e w ould su cceed . O f th e g overn ors -g en era l d esp atc h ed b y B eijin g to
Yunnan , o ne w as assa ssin ate d , an oth er co m mitte d su ic id e, o ne lo st h is m in d
co m ple te ly , s e v era l w ere fir e d fo r in co m pete n ce a n d o ne re fu se d to ta k e u p h is
positio n in th e re b el re g io n. E ven th eir p olic y o f u sin g H ui to fig ht H ui h ad
fa ile d , a n d M a R ulo ng w as b eco m in g in cre asin gly is o la te d a s m ore a n d m ore o f
his H ui s o ld ie rs d ese rte d h im . B ut f a te w as a g ain st u s. T here w ere to o f e w o f u s
an d ju st to o m an y Q in g so ld ie rs , a n d th ey w ere n ow a ll u nite d to c ru sh D ali.
In cap ab le of defe atin g th e E uro pean s, th ey w an te d to pro ve th ey w ere still
cap ab le o f s o m e v ic to rie s a g ain st u s.
The re st y ou k now . O ur c o uncil m et a n d th e S ulta n to ld th em th at fu rth er
re sis ta n ce w as im possib le . T he M an ch u w ould kill ev ery pers o n an d ev ery
an im al in th e c ity u nle ss h e, D ù W én xiù , g av e h im se lf u p. H e h ad d ecid ed to g o
to t h e Q in g e n cam pm en t e arly t h e n ex t m orn in g a n d s u rre n der. Y our f a th er w ep t,
Qin -s h i, a n d b eg ged t o g o w ith h im , b ut h e r e fu se d . H e w ould g o a lo ne. T he n ex t
morn in g h e p ut o n h is s u lta n ’s ro bes fo r th e la st tim e a n d s e ate d h im se lf in h is
se d an c h air . T housa n ds o f p eo ple ru sh ed o ut o f th eir h om es to sa y fa re w ell.
Man y w ere w eep in g. A t t h e S outh ern G ate h e g ot o ut a n d t h an ked t h e p eo ple f o r
th e w ay th ey h ad s u pporte d h im f o r e ig hte en w hole y ears . O nce in sid e h is c h air
he s w allo w ed a fa ta l d ose o f o piu m a n d w as d ead b y th e tim e h e re ach ed th e
en em y c am p. H is c o rp se w as d ra g ged in fro nt o f th e Q in g a rm y a n d h e w as
decap ita te d .
His su rre n der w as a m is ta k e, b ecau se th e M an ch u w ere d ete rm in ed o n
re v en ge. T hey pers u ad ed our gen era ls to dis a rm , an d th re e day s la te r th ey
assa u lte d th e c ity . Y our f a th er d ie d d efe n din g h is p eo ple . T housa n ds o f in nocen t

Hui w ere s la u ghte re d . W om en a n d c h ild re n s till a liv e w ere g iv en a s w ar b ooty t o
th e Q in g s o ld ie rs .
And Li W an , w ith her heav en ly beau ty ? Sev era l m onth s befo re th e
su rre n der, s h e h ad g iv en b ir th to a d au ghte r a n d w as p re g nan t a g ain . S he w as
gre atly v ex ed a n d e v en o ffe n ded w hen S ule im an in sis te d s h e h ad to le av e th e
city an d se ek sa fe ty els e w here . S he d id n ot w an t to g o, b ut h e in sis te d an d
becam e an gry , re m in din g h er o f h er d uty to th e h ig her cau se , to th eir lo fty
prin cip le s an d th e questio ns an d an sw ers . H e sa id , ‘O ne day you or your
dau ghte r o r th e c h ild in sid e y ou n ow m ig ht b e n eed ed to c o ntin ue th e fig ht fo r
Yunnan .’ T hen f o r t h e l a st t im e h e a sk ed h er a q uestio n f ro m t h e g re at w ork .
‘W hy i s t h is p la ce o f w ors h ip c alle d C le an a n d A ware ?’ S he s o bbed . ‘ W hen
wate r i s c le an , f is h a p pear.’
‘W hat i s w ate r? W hat a re f is h ?’
Tears p oure d d ow n h er c h eek s. ‘ T he T ru e T each in g a n d R eal P eo ple .’
‘N ev er fo rg et th at, m y deare st w om an w hom I hav e lo ved m ore th an
an yth in g i n t h is w orld .’
Still s h e r e sis te d t h e i d ea o f l e av in g h im , a n d t h en , f in ally , m uch a g ain st h er
ow n w ill, sh e a g re ed to a cco m pan y h er p are n ts in a h eav ily g uard ed c ara v an
ord ere d b y th e S ulta n to ta k e th em to C och in C hin a. H e p ro m is e d h e w ould jo in
her th ere ; s h e k new it w ould n ev er h ap pen . F if ty s o ld ie rs e sc o rte d th e f a m ily to
th eir s a fe h av en , w here s o m e o f o ur p eo ple w ere a lr e ad y liv in g. T he so ld ie rs ,
to o, h ad o rd ers n ot t o r e tu rn .
I m ad e s o m e in quir ie s in B urm a a n d o ffe re d m oney fo r a n y in fo rm atio n,
but n ev er h eard a n yth in g a b out th em . P erh ap s o ne d ay L i W an ’s d au ghte r, o r,
who k now s, h er s o n, w ill f in d y ou, a n d th en y ou tw o c o usin s w ill h av e m uch to
dis c u ss.
Qin -s h i, m em ory i s t h e p re se rv e o f t h e v ic to rs , b ut w here v er y ou g o, I n ev er
wan t y ou o r y our c h ild re n to f o rg et w ho w e w ere a n d w hat th ey d id to u s. T hey
sa y th at th e g ra ss g ro w s s tr o nger o n p la in s e n ric h ed w ith b lo od, b ut s o m etim es
noth in g w ill g ro w o n t h at s o il.

NIN E
A
QUARTER O F A
c en tu ry h ad e la p se d s in ce I h ad l e ft L ah ore , a n d t h en f a te p la ced
a p ain te r in m y w ay . P la to re -e n te re d m y lif e in 1 988, b ut in su ch a u niq ue
f a sh io n th at a t f ir s t I d id n’t r e co gniz e h im . A L ondon n ew sp ap er r a n g to a sk if I
w ould w rite a b out a n u nusu al e x hib itio n o f p ain tin gs b y a n u nknow n F ath erla n d
a rtis t in an obsc u re E ast E nd galle ry . T he galle ry w as house d in a fo rm er
m ed ie v al n unnery a n d o nly e x hib ite d n ew w ork . F ro m f ir s t- tim e s in ners to f ir s t-
t im e a rtis ts , sa id th e w om an o n th e p hone to a m use m e. T he p ain te r’s n am e,
S hah P erv aiz S hah , m ean t n oth in g t o m e, a n d t h at i n i ts e lf w as i n tr ig uin g, s in ce I
t h ought I k new e v ery se rio us p ain te r in F ath erla n d. H e m ust b e a n ew y oung
t h in g, a n d I w asn ’t i n t h e m ood. T he w om an p ers is te d . I t w as h is f ir s t e x hib itio n.
I t w ould m ean a g re at d eal to h im if I w en t, a n d th e p ain te r h ad w an te d m e to
k now th at it d id n’t m atte r if I h ate d th e p ain tin gs. H e n ev er p ain te d to p le ase ,
a n d i f I c h ose to r id ic u le h is f o llie s in p rin t th at w as f in e b y h im . T his in ju nctio n
h ad th e d esir e d e ffe ct. I d ecid ed to g o th e f o llo w in g m orn in g, a n d it w as a g re ed
t h at I w ould w rite a p ie ce o nly if I lik ed th e w ork . T hey r a n g m e b ack a n d to ld
m e t h at t h e c are ta k er w ould l e t m e i n a n d t u rn o n t h e l ig hts .
It w as a b eau tif u l N ovem ber m orn in g, c o ld , c ris p a n d c lo udle ss. I g ot o ff a t
M ile E nd a n d w alk ed to th e o ld n unnery . T he B en gali c are ta k er w as w aitin g
p atie n tly . H e w as d re sse d in a slig htly eccen tr ic fa sh io n: a b rig ht re d b ere t
c o vere d h is h ead a n d h uge d ark g la sse s c o nceale d m ost o f h is f a ce. P erh ap s h e,
t o o, w an te d to b e a n a rtis t. N eith er o f u s sp oke a s h e u nlo ck ed th e d oor a n d
t u rn ed o n t h e l ig hts . T he p la ce w as h orrib ly l it, p erh ap s i n h om ag e t o i ts p ast, b ut
e x tr e m ely u nfa ir to th e p oor p ain te r. T o m y g re at ir rita tio n, th e c are ta k er h ung
a ro und in th e b ack gro und, w atc h in g m e c lo se ly a s I b eg an to lo ok a t th e w ork s.
T hey w ere b la ck a n d w hite e tc h in gs a n d th ey d ep ic te d p ure a g ony, w hic h w as
w hat th e e x hib itio n s h ould h av e b een title d . I t to ok m e s o m e tim e to s tu dy e ach

fra m e. T he f ig ure s d ep ic te d w ere in d if fe re n t s ta g es o f d esp air . M unch ’s
Scre a m
multip lie d b y a h undre d .
Som e y ears a g o, a fte r g iv in g a le ctu re in O slo I d ra g ged a g ro up o f n ew ly
arriv ed P unja b i m ig ra n ts w ho a tte n ded m y ta lk to th e M unch m use u m to s h ow
th em th eir n ew c o untr y ’s g re ate st a rtis t. S om e w ere re lu cta n t to w aste p re cio us
tim e b ut c am e a n yw ay . A ll o f t h em w ere s tu nned , a n d o ne, S ala h , w ho b ecam e a
dear frie n d, h ad m ois t e y es a s h e w his p ere d in P unja b i, ‘T his is a n a rtis t w ho
knew i n ner p ain . O ur S ufi p oets s a y , t h at t h e c u re f o r t h at l ie s i n o nese lf . N eith er
Alla h n or a p sy ch ia tr is t c an h elp .’
I w as r e m in ded o f th at r e m ark n ow a s I s tu die d e ach e tc h in g c lo se ly . T his
pain te r h ad ex perie n ced m ore th an in ner p ain . H e w as b earin g w itn ess to a
te rrib le tr a g ed y. M en , w om en a n d c h ild re n s to od d yin g, to geth er in th re e o f th e
pic tu re s, se p ara te ly in th e o th ers . O ne sh ow ed a ch ild stu ck to its m oth er’s
bre ast. T heir e y es w ere g azin g in d if fe re n t d ir e ctio ns. B oth w ere d ead . A fte r a n
hour I s lu m ped o n a b en ch . I t w as n ot w hat o ne e x pects s o s o on a fte r b re ak fa st. I
lo oked fo r a c ata lo gue o r th e s h eet o f p ap er d eta ilin g th e w ork a n d th e p ain te r.
There w as n oth in g.
The c are ta k er, w hose p re se n ce I h ad b y n ow c o m ple te ly f o rg otte n , m utte re d
in b ro ken U rd u, ‘ U psta ir s , m ore . N o r u sh . T here a re n o l im its o n t im e.’
Upsta ir s ? I w as n ot su re I c o uld ta k e a n y m ore , b ut a s h e tu rn ed o n th e
lig hts I s ta g gere d u p t h e w in din g s ta ir s t o a n oth er s p ace. W hat h ad t h e n uns d one
here ? I t w as o bvio us. T his h ad b een a p rim itiv e c h ap el, w ith a tin y c o nfe ssio nal
in a c o rn er f o r th e m oth er s u perio r to c o nso le h er c h arg es in w hate v er w ay s h e
co nsid ere d f it. N unnerie s a lw ay s m ak e m e t h in k o f t h e
Deca m ero n
.
Then I lo oked a t th e p ic tu re s. C olo ur! T hese w ere n ot e tc h in gs b ut v ib ra n t
pain tin gs: w ate rc o lo urs an d a fe w o ils , th ough m in ia tu re in siz e. A s fo r th e
su bje ct m atte r, w e h ad g one fro m M unch to G ro sz , th ough in re ality th is a rtis t
was lik e n eith er. S hah P erv aiz S hah , o r S PS, as h e sig ned h im se lf , w as an
orig in al. I h ad n o d oubt o n th is s c o re . M y m ood c h an ged a n d I b eg an to la u gh
lo udly . T hese w ere th e m ost s a v ag e c aric atu re s o f m ulla h s th at I h ad e v er s e en .

The lite ra ry tr a d itio n in th e P unja b a n d e ls e w here in th e Is la m ic w orld h ad , o f
co urs e , n ev er s p are d t h e r o d w hen i t c am e t o t h e m ulla h s, b ut t h is w as s o m eth in g
new a n d r e fre sh in g. V ir tu ally e v ery p ain tin g m ad e m e la u gh. H ere w as a m ulla h
walk in g w ith h is v eile d w if e , b ut in h is m in d’s e y e h e w as s e ein g n ak ed
houris
with h uge b re asts . A noth er b eard ed v en era b le w as h old in g a n e re ct f rie n d in h is
han d a s h e e n vio usly w atc h ed tw o y oung m en p le asu rin g e ac h o th er. I ro are d
with d elig ht. I w an te d to m eet S PS o r w hate v er h is r e al n am e m ig ht b e, s in ce it
was o bvio us n ow t h at h e p ain te d u nder a p se u donym , a n d w ho c o uld b la m e h im ?
I w ould d o m ore th an ju st w rite a b out it. I w ould g et h is w ork f ilm ed a n d s h ow n
on t e le v is io n.
The care ta k er had been fo llo w in g m e as I stu die d each of th ese
maste rp ie ces, b ut I h ad n’t n otic ed h im . A s h e s a w m e la u ghin g a t a s k etc h o f a
mulla h ab se n tm in ded ly str o kin g his pen is w hile he gazed lo ngin gly at th e
fo rb id den a p ple o n t h e c ele stia l t r e e, h e a d dre sse d m e i n P unja b i.
‘L ik e t h em ?’
‘T hey ’re b rillia n t. D o y ou k now t h e a rtis t? ’
‘I a m t h e a rtis t. D on’t y ou r e co gniz e m e?’
He to ok off his stu pid bere t an d dark gla sse s. E ven th en I had so m e
dif fic u lty , s in ce h e w as b ald a s a t u rn ip . T hen I r e aliz ed .
‘P la to ? C an i t b e?’
‘S o n ow y ou d on’t r e co gniz e m e.’
We e m bra ced e ach o th er. M y f a ilu re to r e co gniz e h im w as a n e v en b ig ger
sh ock th an h is a ctu al p re se n ce. It w orrie d m e. T he o nly e x pla n atio n w as th at I
had n ot lo oked to o c lo se ly a t th e c are ta k er u nlo ck in g th e g alle ry a n d la te r it w as
th e p ain tin gs th at h ad d em an ded a ll m y a tte n tio n. I a p olo giz ed p ro fu se ly b ut h e
was t r iu m phan t.
‘H ow l o ng h av e y ou b een i n B rita in , P la to ?’
‘I c am e s o m e y ears a fte r y ou, b ut I h ad t o f in d w ork a n d s o I h ad n o t im e t o
lo ok f o r y ou o r Z ah id M ia n o r a n yone e ls e .’
‘Z ah id w as h ere ?’

‘Y es, a n d th e B utte rfly , b ut n ot fo r lo ng. H e’s a h eart s u rg eo n in S ata n ’s
city n ow . W ash in gto n, D S, D is tr ic t o f S ata n .’
I m an ag ed a w eak sm ile , w onderin g, as usu al, how Jin dié ’s heart had
su rv iv ed t h e m arria g e. P la to h ad r e tu rn ed w ith u nw elc o m e m em orie s.
‘T his is a m azin g w ork , P la to . I n L ah ore y ou n ev er s p oke a b out p ain tin g. A
le ap f ro m m ath em atic s.’
‘Y ou r e ally l ik e i t? ’
‘I d o.’
‘T hen I ’ll p ain t m ore . I h ad d ecid ed t h at i f y ou t h ought i t w asn ’t w orth w hile
I w ould s to p.’
‘I’m n ot a n a rt c ritic ’
‘If it w as o ne o f th ose I w an te d , I w ould n ev er h av e p ush ed th em to in vite
you. Y ou u nders ta n d. B y th e w ay . T hat w om an f ro m th e m ag azin e w an ts m e to
pain t h er.’
It w asn ’t ‘b y th e w ay ’. S om eth in g w as u p a n d it w as P la to . H e s m ile d a t
me.’
‘N ow y ou u nders ta n d t h e e tc h in gs.’
‘P artitio n?’
‘W hat e ls e ?’
‘T he p ain e x pre sse d i s u niv ers a l. W ar. F am in e.’
‘P artitio ns. A lw ay s p artitio ns. W hen ev er th ey d iv id e, w e s u ffe r. H av e y ou
tim e? S hould w e f in d a t e ah ouse ?’
‘Y es, b ut n ot h ere . L et’ s g o t o D ru m mond S tr e et.’
I in sp ecte d his bald head an d to ld him th at w ould hav e been a bette r
dis g uis e th an th e b ere t, b ut ir rita tin gly , n ow th at w e w ere in a p ublic s p ace, h e
in sis te d w e o nly s p eak E nglis h . H is a v ers io n to m ix in g la n guag es w as a s s tr o ng
as e v er, a n d h e re acte d a n grily w hen I p oin te d o ut th at e v ery la n guag e w as a
mix tu re . H ad h e c o unte d th e n um ber o f S an sk rit w ord s in P unja b i, o r P ers ia n
an d A ra b ic d eriv ativ es in U rd u o r A ra b ic in S pan is h ? H e b ru sh ed U rd u a sid e
with a r u de g estu re .

‘W hat e ls e d o y ou e x pect f ro m a c o urtie r’s l a n guag e?’
‘G halib , I q bal a n d F aiz ... a ll c o urtie rs ? ’
‘Iq bal a n d F aiz w ere b orn i n S ia lk ot. T hey s h ould h av e w ritte n i n P unja b i.’
‘B ut P la to , F aiz ex pla in ed w hy h e d id n’t w rite in P unja b i. B ab a B ulle h
Shah h ad s a id a ll t h ere w as t o s a y i n P unja b i. T here c o uld b e n o o th er.’
‘N onse n se ,’ s a id P la to . ‘ H e c o uld h av e e q ually s a id t h at G halib a n d M ir h ad
sa id e v ery th in g i n U rd u.’
‘B ut th ey had n’t, don’t you se e? F aiz use d th e m odel, re fin ed it w ith
politic al i m ag ery . P olitic s a s l o ve. L ove a s p olitic s.’
‘P le ase s p eak i n E nglis h .’
‘C an ’t d is c u ss o ur p oets i n E nglis h , P la to .’
‘T hen s a v e t a lk t ill l a te r.’
He h ad sh ru nk a little an d w alk ed w ith a slig ht sto op. A nd th ere w as
so m eth in g e ls e . P erh ap s it w as b ecau se I w as s o m uch o ld er n ow th at I n otic ed ,
but P la to a p peare d lo st in a w ay h e h ad n ev er d one in L ah ore . W ould h e h av e
pro m pte d H am le t’ s g host a t th e R SC ? S in ce I w as g oin g to re v ie w h is w ork , I
need ed to k now w hy a n d h ow h e h ad b eco m e a p ain te r. T hat w as th e s u rp ris e .
Math em atic ia n , lite ra ry c ritic , c y clin g a cro bat, c o nvers a tio nalis t, b on v iv an t a n d
now a p ain te r a n d a v ery u nusu al o ne, t o o. B ut h e h ad t o t e ll t h e s to ry i n P unja b i,
an d s o h ad t o w ait t ill w e r e ach ed P unja b i s p ace i n D ru m mond S tr e et.
I sa id in E nglis h , ‘Is th ere an yth in g y ou w an t to d o h ere th at fo r so m e
re aso n y ou h av en ’t y et d one?’
‘Y es. I w an t to s e e C am brid ge a n d th e m ath em atic s s e ctio n o f th eir lib ra ry .
So I c an se e a w orld th at o ffe re d m e a tte n tio n, b ut th at I re je cte d . N o h urry ,
unders ta n d? W hen y ou h av e a f re e d ay , t a k e m e t h ere .’
By th e tim e w e re ach ed th e In dus c afé in D ru m mond S tr e et it w as a lm ost
tim e f o r lu nch . I a sk ed f o r a c o rn er ta b le in th e r e cess n ear th e b ack , c lo se to th e
‘fa m ily ta b le s’ w here w om en w ere a cco m modate d a n d w here w e w ould n’t b e
dis tu rb ed , a n d o rd ere d k eb ab s a n d t ik kas a n d t h e
hale em
f o r w hic h t h e p la ce w as
fa m ous. I t w as c h eap f o od i n fin ite ly s u perio r t o t h e t r e n dy I n do-P ak e ate rie s t h at

cate re d t o i n dig en ous t a ste s a n d w ould d o a n yth in g f o r a M ic h elin s ta r.
It w as h ere t h at P la to r e v erte d t o P unja b i a n d d esc rib ed h is l if e s in ce h e h ad
le ft L ah ore , t w o y ears o r s o a fte r m e.
‘W e w ere l u ck y i n t h ose d ay s. W e d id n’t n eed v is a s. I b orro w ed m oney a n d
le ft. W hy? B ecau se th in gs w ere c h an gin g. L if e a t o ur ta b le d ie d s o on a fte r y ou
le ft. T hey w ere p la n nin g to d em olis h B ab uji’ s c afe a n d R esp ecte d ’s fru it ju ic e
parlo ur an d re p la ce th em w ith so m eth in g m odern an d ugly . The co lle g e
cen te n ary w as a p pro ach in g, a n d th ey th ought th ey s h ould ta rt u p. T hey p ut o n
to o m uch lip stic k a n d f a ce p ow der, lik e th e g ir ls in th e D ia m ond M ark et. A ls o I
was n o lo nger h ap py w ith ju st te ach in g r ic h k id s. T he q uality o f m y p upils w as
not im pro vin g. I f a n yth in g, th e o pposite . I d on’t k now . M an y r e aso ns. I g ot f e d
up. S om e o f o ur f rie n ds w ere c u ddlin g u p t o t h e m ilita ry d ic ta to r, j u st l ik e a ll t h e
new sp ap ers . I w as d is g uste d . I re m in ded m yse lf th at, a fte r a ll, th is w asn ’t m y
co untr y . L ah ore w asn ’t m y t o w n. I w as a r e fu gee f ro m a n oth er P unja b . T he o nly
frie n d I h ad l e ft f ro m t h ose d ay s w as Y ounis t h e s u b-p ostm aste r. R em em ber? O f
co urs e you do. Y ou had your ow n re la tio nsh ip w ith him . B ut he liv ed in
Pesh aw ar a n d lo ved th e p la ce. H e w as m arrie d . C hild re n . V ery d if fe re n t fro m
me. I l e ft.
‘W hen I arriv ed in L ondon I h ad th e n am e o f o ne co nta ct, a co usin o f
Younis w ho w as m arrie d to a M ir p uri gir l, an d w ork ed on a build in g site
carry in g b ric k s fo r th e b ric k la y ers a ll d ay lo ng. H e liv ed in E alin g, in a h ouse
fille d w ith o th ers l ik e h im . H e g re ete d m e w arm ly b ut s a id I w ould h av e t o f in d a
nig ht jo b, s o I c o uld s le ep in h is b ed d urin g th e d ay . L ate r I c o uld f in d a r o om . I
got a jo b w ith in a w eek , w ork in g a s a w aite r in a n a ll- n ig ht p la ce w here tr u ck s
sto pped r e g ula rly f o r p etr o l a n d I m ad e te a o r c o ffe e. I liv ed o n b ak ed b ean s a n d
white b re ad e v ery d ay a n d f o r m an y m onth s. T he b ody s u ffe re d . N ot i n te re stin g.
‘T hen F ate d ealt m e a s lig htly b ette r h an d. A c o usin o f th e p etr o l p um p’s
ow ner fe ll ill. H e h ad a fra n ch is e s e llin g n ew sp ap ers o uts id e a tu be s ta tio n in
North L ondon. T hey a sk ed m e w heth er I w ould w ork t h ere t ill h e r e co vere d . S o I
becam e a n ew sa g en t. I t w as b ette r w ork , e v en th ough I h ad to s ta rt a t f iv e in th e

morn in g a n d f in is h a t s ix -th ir ty in th e e v en in g. M orn in g p ap ers till la st e d itio ns
of th e e v en in g p ap ers fo r fin al ru sh h our. I n ow h ad a ro om o f m y o w n in a
board in g h ouse n ear K ilb urn H ig h R oad . I e arn ed e n ough t o e at t w o m eals a d ay
an d g o to th e c in em a. A ls o , I m ust b e h onest, to s tr ip jo in ts , w hic h w ere v ery
ex pen siv e f o r m e, b ut I h ad to m ak e th ose v is its , o th erw is e I ’d h av e g one m ad .
Ten s h illin gs e n tr y i t w as, b ut I n eed ed t h e i m ag es t o c o m fo rt m y
se ekh
k eb ab a t
hom e. I w as p aid te n p ounds a w eek , w hic h w as a lo t in th e e arly S ix tie s in
London. O ne p ound o n s tr ip s h ow s tw ic e a w eek , b ut s till I s a v ed th re e p ounds
each w eek .
‘T he lif e o f a n ew sa g en t w as v ery d ull, a n d b etw een tw elv e n oon a n d s ix I
had a l o t o f s p are t im e. I r e ad a ll t h e p ap ers a n d d id t h e
Tim es
c ro ssw ord p uzzle .
Still I h ad t o o m uch t im e. O ne d ay I b ought a h ard co ver e x erc is e b ook a n d i n m y
sp are h ours I s ta rte d d ra w in g, b ut ju st to o ccu py m yse lf . T here w as n oth in g e ls e
to d o. S tr a n ge p eo ple w ith w ounded b odie s b eg an to p our o ut o f m y w ounded
heart. I t w as ju st lik e th at, a n d I h ad n o id ea w hat w as h ap pen in g. I n m y y outh ,
as y ou k now , I w as g ood a t e q uatio ns, a n d s o m etim es I p la y ed w ith th e f ig ure s
in a lg eb ra , a d din g a f e w te stic le s h ere a n d s o m e n ip ple s th ere , b ut s to pped a fte r
bein g c an ed b y t h e t e ach er f o r m y s in s.
‘O ne d ay a n E nglis h c u sto m er s a w o ne o f m y s k etc h es a n d s a id , “ T hese a re
good. Y ou s h ould s h ow th em . W an t to s e ll o ne to m e? H ow m uch ?” I a sk ed f o r
te n s h illin gs. H e g av e m e a p ound. I h oped h e w ould r e tu rn , b ut I n ev er s a w h im
ag ain . It w as a flu ke, b ut it en co ura g ed m e. I carrie d o n d ra w in g. A ll th ose
sk etc h es you sa w to day I did in bla ck in k as I w aite d fo r peo ple to buy
new sp ap ers . I b ought la rg er a n d b ette r p ad s fro m a rtis ts ’ s h ops a n d b ette r in k
an d d id n ot s to p till I h ad n oth in g m ore to s a y . S om etim es a t h om e I w ould lo ok
at th e dra w in gs an d th in k th ey w ere ru bbis h an d m an y tim es I th ought of
destr o yin g th em , b ut s o m eth in g s to pped m e. I k now it s o unds s tu pid , b ut o nce I
th ought I h eard y our v oic e in m y h ead te llin g m e n ot to d o a n yth in g till y ou h ad
se en t h em .
‘O ne d ay a P unja b i b oy, a S ik h w ho u se d to le av e e arly f o r w ork a n d b uy a

Mir ro r
f ro m m e e v ery m orn in g s u ggeste d h e c o uld f in d m e a b ette r jo b a s a b us
co nducto r. S o I th an ked m y e m plo yer a n d h an ded in m y n otic e. A fte r a w eek o f
le arn in g I b ecam e a b us c o nducto r. T hat’ s w hen I r e ally g ot to s e e th is c ity . N o
tim e fo r s k etc h in g, b ut m uch b ette r w ag es a n d a s tr o ng tr a d e u nio n. T he S ik h
boy w as a d riv er, a n d w e b ecam e g ood f rie n ds. H e w ould te ll m e n ot to g et to o
work ed u p b y r a cis t a b use u nle ss it w as a p asse n ger. T hen I s h ould s to p th e b us
an d w e w ould th ro w h im o ff. W e d id th is s o m etim es, b ut g ot n o s u pport fro m
an y o th er p asse n gers . T hey l o oked o ut o f t h e w in dow , p re te n din g n ot t o n otic e.
‘I b eg an to lo ok o ut o f th e w in dow a s w ell a n d ig nore th e a b use . I n otic ed
th ere w as a lw ay s a lo ng q ueu e in o ne p la ce o n C harin g C ro ss R oad , a n d th at
so m e v ery b eau tif u l y oung g ir ls a n d h an dso m e b oys a lw ay s g ot o ff th e b us to
jo in it. O ne d ay I a sk ed o ne o f th e b oys, a n d h e e x pla in ed th ey w ere a rt s tu den ts
queu in g to p ain t n udes e v ery T hurs d ay , w hic h is w hen th e q ueu e w as lo ngest. I
ask ed if it w as fre e. H e lo oked a t m e str a n gely a n d n odded . T his w as a re al
dis c o very . In S oho th ey c h arg ed te n s h illin gs to s e e n ude w om en . O n C harin g
Cro ss R oad , j u st n ex t d oor, i t w as f re e.
‘I w as o w ed m y h olid ay , so I to ok tw o w eek s. O n T hurs d ay o f th e fir s t
week I b ought a p air o f d en im s a n d a n ic e j u m per a n d j o in ed th e q ueu e. N obody
questio ned m e. I w alk ed b eh in d a c u te g ir l w ith a p onyta il a n d s a t a t a d esk ju st
beh in d h er. I n f ro nt o f m e t h ere s to od a n e ase l a n d a s m all t r a y f u ll o f p aste ls . A s
th e n ak ed m odel w alk ed in , m y h eart s ta rte d b eatin g s o f a st I th ought th e o th ers
must b e a b le t o h ear i t. T he m odel c am e t o t h e f ro nt o f t h e r o om a n d s to od t h ere ,
ta k in g u p d if fe re n t p ose s. F in ally s h e la y d ow n w ith h er a rm s o uts tr e tc h ed a n d
th e b eard b etw een h er le g s g lis te n in g. T hat w as h ow s h e s ta y ed , s ta rk n ak ed a n d
in th at p ose f o r m ost o f th e tw o h ours , w ith s m all b re ak s to s tr e tc h a n d d rin k te a
th at a ro use d m e e v en m ore . I w as th e o nly p ers o n w ho a p peare d e x cite d b y th e
sig ht o f h er. S he s e em ed s o n atu ra l, u nlik e th e n ak ed w om en I’d s e en in S oho.
The o th ers s ta rte d p ain tin g. T he te ach er w as lo okin g a t m e lo okin g a t th e m odel
an d I h urrie d ly p ic k ed u p t h e p aste ls a n d b eg an t o s k etc h w ith out t h in kin g. A fte r
te n m in ute s t h ere w as a t a p o n m y s h ould er. I t w as t h e t e ach er.

‘“ Y ou h av e a v ery g ood e y e f o r c o lo ur.”
‘T his s u rp ris e d m e s in ce th e o nly c o lo ur I h ad u se d till th en w as g re y , b ut I
sm ile d a n d th an ked h er a n d h urrie d ly a d ded o th er c o lo urs . T hat f in is h ed w ork is
still at h om e. M y fir s t re al p ie ce o f w ork . T he te ach er p ra is e d it. T he o th er
stu den ts c o ngra tu la te d m e. T hat i s h ow I b ecam e a n a rtis t. I f o rg ot t o s a y t h at t h e
fir s t tim e I s a w th at m odel’ s b ody h air I im ag in ed a m ulla h ’s b eard . A nd I s a w
th e m ulla h ’s f a ce, b ut th at is w hat I p ain te d a t h om e. M y tin y b ed ro om w as n ow
als o a s tu dio . I c arrie d o n w ork in g o n t h e b use s f o r a f e w m ore y ears , b ut w ork ed
overtim e a t w eek en ds a n d t o ok T hurs d ay s o ff t ill t h e t e ach er t o ld m e t o g o h om e
an d p ain t. I d id n ot n eed a te ach er a n ym ore . O ne o f th e g ir ls in m y c la ss h ad
beco m e a c ritic . W e b ecam e lo vers fo r a s h ort tim e a n d s o m e o f th e w om en in
th e m ulla h p ain tin gs a re b ase d o n h er. A noth er f rie n d o f h ers is s o m e b ig e d ito r
on th e m ag azin e th at r a n g y ou. W hat a re y ou g oin g to w rite ? W hate v er y ou d o,
ple ase d on’t b lo w it u p to o m uch . N o e m bro id ery o n th e c lo th . Ju st p ure a n d
sim ple ; th at’ s u su ally m ore e ffe ctiv e if y ou h av e s o m eth in g to s a y . I f th ey n eed
ad vertis in g c o py t h ey ’ll h ir e s o m eo ne.’
‘I’m u se le ss a t a ll th at, P la to . I ’ll ju st w rite w hat I f e el. I h ope it w ork s f o r
you. B ut t h ere a re s o m e g ood c ritic s h ere a n d I h ope o ne o f t h em l ik es i t.’
He s h ru gged h is s h ould ers . ‘ B elie v e m e, D ara . I d on’t c are . T here a re f iv e
oth er p eo ple w hose ju dgem en t I v alu e. If th ey lik e m y w ork , th at’ s e n ough fo r
me.’
‘Y ou h av e t o m ak e a l iv in g, P la to .’
‘T hat is a d is g ustin g s e n te n ce. A t o ur ta b le in L ah ore y ou w ould h av e b een
ask ed t o l e av e f o r a f e w d ay s. P le ase w ith dra w i t i m med ia te ly .’
I d id , b ut I w as w orrie d a b out h im . A t t h e t im e h e w as w ork in g a s a s e cu rity
guard f o r a w are h ouse , a n d th at m ean t a n ig ht s h if t a n d w earin g a u nif o rm , b ut
all t h is a m use d h im . W hen I a sk ed w hy h e h ad c h an ged h is n am e, h e s m ile d .
‘I w as to ld b y th e g ir ls th at P la to s o unded r id ic u lo us a n d p re te n tio us in th e
West.’
I d is a g re ed . W hy n ot A fla tu n in th at c ase ? B ut h e h ad m ad e u p h is m in d,

an d it w as a s S hah P erv aiz S hah th at I w ro te o f h im a n d in tr o duced h im to a
docu m en ta ry f ilm mak er. S he w an te d to ta k e h im b ack to L ah ore a n d L udhia n a,
when ce h e h ad m ad e th e b us jo urn ey e tc h ed in h is p sy ch e, b ut P la to w asn ’t
ag re eab le to re tu rn in g a n yw here . H e r e fu se d . F lu m moxed b y h is o bstin acy , s h e
en ded u p m ak in g a tw en ty -m in ute d ocu m en ta ry b ase d o n a b rie f in te rv ie w a n d
his p ain tin gs. A s e rio us a rt c ritic r e v ie w ed t h em f o r t h e f ilm a n d i t w as s h ow n o n
a w ell- e sta b lis h ed arts pro gra m me. Pla to m ay hav e bound him se lf by th e
str o ngest p ossib le v ow s t o r e sis t t h e p assio ns o f t h e m ark etp la ce, b ut I t h in k e v en
he w as p le ase d b y t h e i m pact o f h is f ir s t e x hib itio n. T he e tc h in gs a n d t h e m ulla h
pain tin gs a ll w en t q uic k ly , a n d P la to , f o r th e f ir s t tim e in h is lif e , f o und h im se lf
with a h ealth y b an k b ala n ce.
With th e help of his new frie n ds an d ad m ir e rs , he fo und an artis t’ s
ap artm en t n ear H ogarth ’s ro undab out o n th e b usy ro ad to th e a ir p ort in W est
London. N ow h e f e lt o ppre sse d b y t o o m uch s p ace. I t w as t o o g ra n d f o r h im . H e
paced u p a n d d ow n a ll t h e t im e, w atc h in g t h e t r a ffic g o b y, b ut h e c o uld n’t w ork .
He m oved b ack to N orth L ondon a n d b ought a g ro und-flo or th re e-ro om fla t in
Kilb urn . O ne o f t h e r o om s w as h uge a n d h ad F re n ch w in dow s t h at o pen ed i n to a
gard en w ith a c ru m blin g w all a n d a f e w a p ple tr e es. A ll th is b ecam e p re cio us to
Pla to . H e s e em ed h ap py w hen ev er I s a w h im b ut f a r f ro m a n y illu sio ns o f b ein g
su ccessfu l in th e tr a d itio nal se n se a n d still p ro ne to fits o f a m ela n ch oly th at
wen t s o d eep th at it frig hte n ed m e. H e re ally h ad b een c are fre e in L ah ore . T he
past h ad b een r e p re sse d in th ose e arly y ears . H e n ev er ta lk ed a b out it, b ut it h ad
re tu rn ed to h au nt h im in m id dle a g e. O r h ad th ere b een s o m eth in g b ack th en ,
to o, t h at I h ad c o m ple te ly m is se d ? H e w as s u rro unded b y w om en t h ese d ay s, a n d
th at w as c erta in ly a s te p f o rw ard . I n L ah ore h e h ad a lw ay s b een lo nely a n d h ad
re b uffe d a ll q uestio ns r e fe rrin g to h is s e x uality , u nusu al in a c ity w here d if fe re n t
parts o f o ne’s a n ato m y w ere p ro udly w orn o n o ne’s s le ev e.
He h ad th re e m ore e x hib itio ns o ver th e n ex t fe w y ears . I w en t a n d b ought
so m e o f h is w ork . H is s ty le h ad c h an ged . T he m ulla h w ith e x pose d g en ita ls a n d
a n ude o n e ith er a rm h ad g iv en w ay to im ag in ed la n dsc ap es w ith s u rre al b easts

an d m erm aid s. A lw ay s m erm aid s. I d id n’t lik e th em a t a ll. W hat w as g oin g o n
his h ead ? I m ig ht n ev er h av e k now n h ad I n ot r e ceiv ed a p hone c all f ro m A lic e
Ste p fo rd , a fe m in is t a rt c ritic a n d p ain te r w ho lo ath ed b ein g re fe rre d to a s a
fe m in is t p ain te r. T here is n o s u ch th in g, s h e w ould s a y . I h ad m et h er w ith P la to
an d a ssu m ed t h ey w ere t o geth er i n t h e w ay p eo ple w ere w ith out a ctu ally s h arin g
th e s a m e a cco m modatio ns. I n ev er q uestio ned h im a b out h er. I t w as o bvio us h e
ad ore d h er. W hat s h e s a id a b out h is w ork m atte re d a g re at d eal to h im , a n d e v en
when s h e w as s c ath in g h e t e n ded t o a g re e w ith h er a n d d um p t h e w ork . I w arn ed
him o nce, g en tly , a g ain st b eco m in g t o o d ep en den t o n h er w him s. T hat s h e d id n’t
lik e a ll o f h is p ain tin gs w as n o r e aso n t o d estr o y a n y o f t h em .
In r e tu rn f o r t h is u nw an te d a n d u nw elc o m e a d vic e h e g if te d m e w ith o ne o f
his o ld e x erc is e b ooks c o nta in in g a s lig htly b orin g s e x s to ry s e t in a n cie n t E gypt
th at h e h ad w ritte n h im se lf a n d illu str a te d w ith p ain tin gs o f a n cie n t m ale s w ith
multip le p en is e s e n gag ed in e n deav ours o f v ario us k in ds. I t d id m ak e m e s m ile ,
but A lic e S te p fo rd h ate d it, a n d, to b e f a ir , I c o uld u nders ta n d h er r e aso nin g. H e
co uld n ot b rin g h im se lf to d estr o y th e b ook, w hic h is w hy it re m ain s in m y
posse ssio n. O n h earin g t h at I w as s lig htly m ystif ie d b y t h e p re se n t, h e s a id .
‘L ook a t t h e p ain tin g o f t h e p rie st w ith t h re e p en is e s. L ook a t t h em c lo se ly .’
I d id s o a n d r e aliz ed t h at a ll t h re e o rg an s w ere d ep ic tio ns i n v ario us s iz es o f
th e E gyptia n pre sid en t, H osn i M ubara k . Som eh ow , th at m ad e th em re ally
dis g ustin g. I m an ag ed a w eak l a u gh.
Alic e S te p fo rd had ru ng to in vite m e to her stu dio fo r lu nch , sa y in g,
‘T oday , p le ase , if p ossib le .’ I t w as p ossib le a n d I m oto re d o ver to th e a d dre ss in
SW 3, assu m in g th at Pla to w ould be pre se n t. H er C hels e a stu dio w as a
re v ela tio n, a b it to o ta ste fu l f o r a b ohem ia n p ad . L unch w as s e rv ed s o on a fte r I
arriv ed , an d A lic e w aste d no tim e in sh arin g her co ncern s w ith m e. O ur
co nvers a tio n tu rn ed out to be ex tr e m ely se rio us an d I w as to uch ed by her
in te n sity . N ot th at it p re v en te d m e fro m w onderin g w hat h er b re asts m ig ht b e
lik e undern eath her sw eate r, an d th at w as befo re sh e unco rk ed a bottle of
Châte au L afite a n d d ecan te d i t w ith a n a p olo getic s m ile .

‘M y o nly w eak ness a p art fro m p ain tin g. S to le n fro m D ad dy’s c ella r la st
week en d.’
Dad dy w as L ord S te p fo rd , w hose fo re b ears h ad fo ught o n th e w ro ng s id e
durin g th e C iv il W ar— an d h e h ad th re e b eau tif u l d au ghte rs , tw o o f w hom w ere
marrie d to th eir m ilie u . A lic e w as th e f a m ily b ohem ia n , a n d w hen s h e in fo rm ed
her p are n ts th at h er b oyfrie n d w as a n In dia n b us c o nducto r w ho w as tr y in g to
pain t s h e h ad r e ceiv ed a te rrib le m is siv e f ro m S te p fo rd , w ho w as o ld -fa sh io ned
on th e s u bje ct o f m ix ed m arria g es. T he le tte r m ad e it c le ar th at w hile h e d id n ot
care w ho s h e s a w in h er o w n tim e, h e a b so lu te ly fo rb ad e h er to s o il th e fa m ily
nam e b y m arry in g a H otte n to t, a n E sk im o, a N eg ro , a C hin am an , a N ip o r a W op
an d c erta in ly n ev er a j u m ped -u p I n dia n , l e t a lo ne a P ak i. P la to s a w t h e l e tte r a n d
la u ghed . H e h ad n o th ought o f m arria g e a n d s u ggeste d s h e te ll D ad dy th at s h e
was sa fe , b ut A lic e w as liv id . S he w ro te b ack a sk in g w heth er h er fa th er w as
aw are th at s h e h ad b een in vite d to e x hib it h er w ork in S ydney a n d W ellin gto n.
And if h e w as, w hy h ad th e M ao ris a n d a b orig in als b een e x clu ded fro m h is
oth erw is e c o m pre h en siv e b an ? H e w ro te b ack im med ia te ly . W hen h e c o m pile d
th e lis t h e h ad assu m ed th at ev en sh e w ould ex clu de can nib als as p ote n tia l
husb an ds. H er m oth er tr ie d to m ak e u p b y s u ggestin g A lic e b rin g ‘ y our I n dia n ’
hom e o ne w eek en d. A lic e i m polite ly d eclin ed t h e o ffe r.
All t h is I k new , b ut w hy w ere w e h av in g l u nch ? S he d esc rib ed h er a ffe ctio n
fo r P la to , w hic h w as n o s u rp ris e , b ut t h ere w as c le arly a p ro ble m .
‘C an I re ly o n y our e te rn al d is c re tio n, D ara ? P le ase d on’t te ll h im a b out
th is , b ut I t h ought y ou m ig ht b e a b le t o h elp .’
Till n ow , n obody in m y w hole lif e h ad e v er a sk ed m e, le av e a lo ne w ith
su ch s o ft e y es a n d p outin g lip s, w heth er th ey c o uld r e ly o n m y d is c re tio n. I w as
so to uch ed b y h er tr u st th at I p le d ged to ta l se cre cy an d h elp w hen ev er an d
how ev er i t w as n eed ed . T he w in e, t o o, w as d elic io us. T he h ours w ere g lid in g b y.
What e m erg ed w as th at s h e h ad b een s e ein g P la to f o r m ore th an tw o y ears .
They h ad p ain te d e ach o th er n ak ed . T hey h ad s p orte d w ith e ach o th er, b ut n ot
to o s e rio usly , a n d h e h ad , s h e n ow to ld m e, a lw ay s k ep t h is p en is s a fe f ro m h er

to uch a n d s h e h ad o nly s e en i t f la ccid . I w as s e rio usly t a k en a b ack .
‘A nd th ere I w as, s o g la d th at e v ery th in g h ad tu rn ed o ut s o w ell f o r b oth o f
you. W ork , l o ve a n d s e x i n t h e s a m e s p ace. P ure st j o y.’
‘N o. D efin ite ly n ot.’
Not o nce h ad P la to w an te d o r atte m pte d to m ak e lo ve to h er. A ll h er
atte m pts h ad b een r e b uffe d . T his w orrie d h er. I t w orrie d m e t o o.
‘W hat is it w ith h im , D ara ? A m I th at u nattr a ctiv e? It c an ’t b e a re lig io us
in hib itio n, c an i t? O r i s h e g ay ? I f s o , I w is h t o b lo ody G od h e w ould j u st t e ll m e
an d w e c o uld a ll r e la x .’
I w as d esp era te to re la x , b ut th e n ew s h ad s tu nned m e. W hat th e h ell w as
wro ng w ith P la to ? W as t h ere s o m eo ne e ls e ?
‘Y ou d on’t t h in k h e’s g one r e lig io us? ’
‘C an ’t be re lig io n, A lly . T hat w ould be good fo r you. Is la m is tr u ly
se n su ous. M en w ho l e t w om en d ow n b y s ta y in g d ow n t h em se lv es a re c o nsid ere d
wors e th an h ere tic s a n d u nbelie v ers lik e m e. N o, d efin ite ly n ot re lig io n. C ould
he b e g ay ? It w ould h av e b een im possib le to k eep th at a s e cre t in L ah ore . W e
would h av e k now n. L et m e m ak e a fe w u ltr a -d is c re et in quir ie s a n d g et b ack to
you.’
‘W ill y ou, D ara ? I ’d b e s o g ra te fu l. T his i s s o b ad f o r o ne’s s e lf -e ste em .’
We f in is h ed t h e b ottle , a n d w hile s h e m ad e c o ffe e I i n sp ecte d h er b ooks a n d
pain tin gs a n d p eep ed in to h er b ed ro om , w here P la to h ad le t th e s id e d ow n v ery
bad ly .
‘W ould y ou l ik e s o m e c o gnac w ith y our c o ffe e?’
‘I l ik e y our p ain tin gs v ery m uch . S urp ris e d m e. I t h ought t h ey w ould b e ...’
‘M ore d id actic .’
‘S om eth in g l ik e t h at.’
‘G la d y ou lik e th em . I a lw ay s fe el th at fin an cia l c o nsid era tio ns s o m etim es
necessita te bad art. N ev er fo und th at te m ptin g an d nor does your frie n d.
Affin itie s.’
‘T ru e. B ut it’ s alw ay s w orth re m em berin g th at fin e se n tim en ts do not

au to m atic ally p ro duce g ood w ork , e ith er.’
‘D o y ou th in k m ela n ch oly c an b e c o nta g io us? I s it p ossib le th at if a f rie n d
is d ep re sse d y ou c an f e el d ep re sse d t o o, e v en a t a d is ta n ce?’
‘O nly i f t h e f rie n dsh ip i s s o d eep t h at a p art o f i t i s r e p re sse d .’
She a g re ed s tr o ngly . W e lo oked a t e ach o th er a n d it w as o bvio us to b oth o f
us w hat th e nex t ste p w ould be. N or did w e le t each oth er dow n. A s th e
en jo yab le a fte rn oon w as c o m in g t o a n e n d a n d I w as p uttin g m y c lo th es b ack o n,
I a sk ed w heth er sh e still w an te d m e to h ead a n u noffic ia l in quir y to u nco ver
Pla to ’s s e cre t.
‘Y es, p le ase . I m ean I s h ould k now , d on’t y ou t h in k?’
I w as h opin g s h e h ad m oved o n a lr e ad y, b ut h urt e g os re q uir e n urs in g. I
pro m is e d to h av e a r e p ort r e ad y s o on. S he s a id s h e s o re ly n eed ed m y a d vic e a s
to h ow sh e sh ould p ro ceed w ith P la to . I su ggeste d th at g iv en th e fa ilu re to
esta b lis h p hysic al c o nta ct, a c lo se w ork in g f rie n dsh ip m ig ht b e m ore a p pro pria te .
She n odded e ag erly .
‘A nd c an w e h av e l o ts o f l u nch es t o geth er, D ara ?’
‘T hat i s a m uch s im ple r r e q uest a n d e asy t o f u lf il.’
But th is is P la to ’s s to ry , n ot m in e, a n d a ll te m pta tio n to d esc rib e th e id yllic
year I s p en t w ith A lly S te p fo rd m ust b e r e sis te d . I th ought P la to m ig ht b e m ore
in clin ed to s h are c o nfid en ces in o ur m oth er to ngue, s o I ra n g h im a fe w w eek s
la te r, a n d w e re p air e d , a s u su al, to D ru m mond S tr e et. It w as h e w ho b eg an th e
in quis itio n.
‘A re y ou f u ck in g A lly S te p fo rd ?’
This str a ig htf o rw ard q uestio n so unds so cru de in P unja b i th at ev en m y
well- c o nditio ned ears re b elle d . I re p rim an ded him w ith out an sw erin g his
questio n. H e r e p hra se d i t.
‘D id h er e y es b ew itc h y ou? W as i t l u st a t f ir s t s ig ht? W as i t h er p ain tin gs o r
her a p artm en t? T ell m e, d ear f rie n d. W hat r e ally a ttr a cte d y ou?’
I d ecid ed to a n sw er in th e a ffir m ativ e. I t w as p oin tle ss to lie , b ut I tw is te d
my r e sp onse s o a s t o f o rc e h im o n t o t h e d efe n siv e.

‘Y es,
I a m s e ein g h er a n d f o r n one o f th ose f o olis h r e aso ns, b ut th ere w ere
no d iv id ed lo yaltie s, P la to . S he to ld m e y ou w ere n ’t lo vers a t a ll, n ot e v en o n a
sp ir itu al le v el. I w asn ’t s u re w heth er to b elie v e h er o r n ot. W as s h e ly in g ju st to
re assu re m e, o r i s i t t r u e?’
An e m barra ssin gly lo ng s ile n ce fo llo w ed , a n d a re m ors e fu l lo ok re p la cin g
th e e arlie r a n ger o n h is f a ce.
‘W hat i s i t, P la to ? I s t h ere s o m eo ne e ls e ?’
‘W hat s h e s a id is tr u e. I’v e n ev er to ld a n yone e ls e th is b efo re , b ut I th in k
you s h ould k now .’
I th ought th is w ould b e a d ecla ra tio n o f h is c o m in g o ut a n d b re ath ed a s ig h
of r e lie f.
‘I’m im pote n t, D ara . A lw ay s h av e b een . M y
alif
w on’t s ta n d to a tte n tio n. I t
won’t t a k e t h e
meem
. I t’ s n ev er e re ct. U nlik e t h e s u n, I n ev er r is e . U nders ta n d?’
How c o uld I n ot, b ut I w as n oneth ele ss s tu nned s in ce th is c o ntr a d ic te d s o
man y earlie r sto rie s. I re calle d so m e o f th e in gén ue’s ta le s w e h ad h eard in
Lah ore . W ere th ey a ll d uplic ito us? O r h ad th e fa n ta sy tr a p ped h im to s u ch a n
ex te n t t h at h e f o und i t d if fic u lt t o b ack o ut?
‘B ut P la to , y ou d esc rib ed y our v is its to th e s tr ip jo in ts a n d h ow th is w as a ll
becau se y ou n eed ed a m em ory e n han cer w hen y ou m astu rb ate d .’
‘I d id t e ll y ou t h at, a n d i t w as t r u e, e x cep t t h at I c o uld n ev er j e rk o ff. I h av e
nev er h ad a n e re ctio n.’
‘W hy d id n’t y ou t e ll A lly ?’
‘I w as e m barra sse d . I t h ought i t w ould d is tu rb h er t r a n quillity .’
‘N ot te llin g h er d is tu rb ed h er tr a n quillity a g re at d eal m ore . H av e I y our
perm is sio n t o t e ll h er? ’
He b ecam e th oughtf u l. ‘ O kay , b ut p le ase s tic k to th e f a cts . D on’t m ak e th e
sto ry m ore s a lty o r s p ic y .’
‘I w on’t. S he’ll fe el re assu re d a n d w ill b e v ery s y m path etic . S he’s a g ood
pers o n. H av e y ou e v er t h ought o f s e ein g a n a n aly st? ’
‘G re ed y c h arla ta n s a ll o f t h em a n d w ith v ery d ir ty , o ne-tr a ck m in ds.’

‘P la to , b e r e aso nab le . Y ou s o und lik e a P unja b i r u stic . N ot a ll o f th em a re
lik e t h at. L et m e f in d a g ood o ne f o r y ou. I f i t w ork s, y our l if e c o uld c h an ge. I f i t
doesn ’t, y ou c erta in ly w on’t b e w ors e o ff th an y ou a re n ow . T he im pote n ce m ay
be p sy ch olo gic al, a n d if s o it c an b e c u re d . I t m ay w ell b e lin ked to th e h orro rs
of P artitio n. Y ou w ere fif te en a t th e tim e. S o th ose m em orie s s ta y ed . Y ou s a w
wom en b ein g r a p ed a n d k ille d . Y ou o w e i t t o y ours e lf t o s e e a g ood a n aly st. T ell
me s o m eth in g. B efo re P artitio n, d id y ou h av e a n y e x perie n ces i n t h e v illa g e?’
He c h eere d u p. ‘T here w as a v illa g e g ir l. S he w as so b eau tif u l. I re ally
wan te d h er. In th e su m mer m onth s, I’d fo llo w h er to th e str e am w here sh e
wash ed a n d s p y o n h er, b ut s h e n ev er to ok o ff a ll h er c lo th es. O nly h er to p to
hurrie d ly s o ap h er a rm pits , w ip e h er n eck a n d b re asts c le an . A nd it’ s tr u e th at a t
th e tim e I d id f e el a r is e b elo w a n d h ad w et d re am s a s a r e su lt a n d w as s la p ped
by m y m oth er, w ho h ad t o w ash t h e s h eets m ore o fte n .’
‘D id a n yth in g h ap pen o r w as i t a r o m an ce f ro m a fa r? ’
‘O ne e v en in g I w alk ed u p w hile sh e w as w ash in g h ers e lf a n d a sk ed if I
co uld p ut m y h an d o n h er b re ast a n d k is s h er l ip s.’
‘A nd?’
‘S he s la p ped m y f a ce.’
I k ep t a s tr a ig ht f a ce. ‘ I d oubt w heth er th at w as a r e al tr a u m a, P la to . D id it
nev er o ccu r to y ou to ju st d o w hat y ou a sk ed p erm is sio n to d o? T hen th e s la p
would h av e b een w orth its w eig ht in o ld s ilv er. B ut th is is v ery p ro m is in g. L et
me f in d y ou a g ood p ers o n. W e’ll f ig ure o ut s o m eth in g.’
He a g re ed . A fe w w eek s la te r, I a p pro ach ed a h ig hly re g ard ed a n aly st o n
his b eh alf . S he k new h is p ain tin gs a n d w as q uite k een to se e h im a fte r I h ad
ex pla in ed th e pro ble m . But Pla to had dis a p peare d . H is phone had been
dis c o nnecte d . T he a p artm en t w as b ein g le t b y a n e sta te a g en t a n d th ere w as n o
fo rw ard in g a d dre ss. T he re n t, I w as to ld , w as b ein g d ep osite d in h is L ondon
ban k a cco unt.
I fo und it o dd a n d s lig htly u pse ttin g th at h e h ad d ecid ed to fle e w ith out a
sin gle w ord o f f a re w ell. P erh ap s h e r e se n te d th e f a ct th at h e h ad b een f o rc ed to

re v eal h is a ilm en t to m e. O n p re v io us o ccasio ns a n d in r e la tio n to o th er s u bje cts
when h e f o und h im se lf tr a p ped h e w ould m utte r th at h e w as a n u nso phis tic ate d
pro vin cia l at h eart an d le av e th e ro om . B ut h e w as alw ay s im passio ned an d
slin kin g a w ay w as o ut o f c h ara cte r.
Ally a n d I ta lk ed a b out h im o fte n . S he w as q uite u pse t w hen I to ld h er o f th e
mala d y th at a fflic te d h im . S oon s h e g av e u p p ain tin g. O ne d ay s h e ra n g to s a y
th at s h e h ad r e aliz ed h er r e al v ocatio n w as to s tu dy m usic . S he h ad d one s o a s a
te en ag er a n d h ad p la y ed th e p ia n o re aso nab ly w ell, b ut lif e h ad in te rv en ed a n d
sh e h ad c h an ged d is c ip lin es a n d g one to th e S la d e. O f la te th e m usic e m bed ded
in h er h ad re tu rn ed to th e fo re an d sh e w as re tu rn in g to h er fir s t lo ve. S he
co uld n’t s e e m e b ecau se s h e w as m ak in g h asty p re p ara tio ns to le av e fo r N ew
York a n d s h e h ate d f a re w ells . Y ears la te r s h e w as a ck now le d ged a d is tin guis h ed
art a n d m usic c ritic , a n d o ne d ay I re ceiv ed a n in vita tio n to h er w ed din g a lo ng
with a c ry ptic n ote :
‘E ven th ough th e p are n ts w an te d a w hite w ed din g th ey ’re n ot co m in g.
Hope you are . C ould you giv e m e aw ay ? I w ould lik e th at an d it w ill be
wic k ed ly f u nny.’
I sa w th e jo ke w hen I re ach ed th e c h urc h o n th e U pper W est S id e. T he
gro om w as an A fric an -A m eric an vio lin is t. H e certa in ly w as on th e Lord
Ste p fo rd b an ned lis t, a n d s o I h ad to g iv e h er a w ay , m uch to th e p uzzle m en t o f
man y p re se n t, th ough n ot o f h er s is te rs , w ho fo und th e w hole b usin ess h ugely
div ertin g. P oor L ord S te p fo rd b ecam e u nw ell s o on a fte r th is e v en t w as w id ely
re p orte d in th e E nglis h ta b lo id s. A lly ’s h usb an d b eh av ed e x quis ite ly w hen h er
fa th er p asse d a w ay th e fo llo w in g y ear. H e a tte n ded th e fu nera l a n d p la y ed a
Beeth oven v io lin so lo a t th e w ak e th at fo llo w ed in S te p fo rd sh ir e H ouse , a n d
was, u nsu rp ris in gly , a b ig h it w ith th e S te p fo rd c la n a n d th eir f rie n ds. T hen th e
co uple r e tu rn ed t o N ew Y ork a n d w e l o st t o uch .
As fo r P la to , a fte r a y ear I w as to ld th at h e h ad re su rfa ced in K ara ch i. H e
re fu se d t o l iv e i n t h e P unja b . T oo m an y m em orie s l a y b urie d i n t h at w orld . S in ce

he h ad b eco m e k now n in B rita in , h is w ork h ad b een e x hib ite d in a ll th e to p
galle rie s in F ath erla n d— all s ix o f th em . H e r e tu rn ed to th e m ulla h p ain tin gs a n d
ad ded a fe w lo cal p olitic ia n s to im pro ve th e te x tu re o f th e sa tir e . T hese w ere
nev er e x hib ite d , b ut r e m ain ed in h is p riv ate c o lle ctio n, r u m ours r e g ard in g w hic h
sw ep t th e sm all w orld o f th e n ativ e e lite . T he b eg um s o f h ig h so cie ty w ould
in vite h im a n d h is c o lle ctio n t o t h eir h om es, m ostly w hen t h eir h usb an ds w ere a t
work . H e b ecam e th e e q uiv ale n t o f a h ig h-g ra d e d eale r in K ash m ir i s h aw ls w ith
his ille g al
sh ato osh
m uch in d em an d. P la to c h arg ed a s u rp ris in gly h ig h p ric e f o r
th ese p ain tin gs. I s u ppose h e w as ju stif ie d in d oin g s o , s in ce a n um ber o f th em
co uld h av e c o st h im h is lif e . T he b eard ed s u bje cts o f h is c la n destin e c aric atu re s
had e sta b lis h ed a str o ng b ase in K ara ch i, a n d g ettin g rid o f P la to w ould h av e
been p art o f a d ay ’s w ork . S o P la to b rib ed th e se cu la r g an gste rs w ho ra n th e
to w n, w ho fo und h im a la rg e h ouse o n th e o uts k ir ts o f K ara ch i w here h e g re w
old c o m fo rta b ly a n d w as re g ula rly v is ite d b y a sp ir in g p ain te rs . N atu ra lly , th e
gan gste rs w an te d a c u t o n e ach p ain tin g h e s o ld , b ut th en e v ery one d oes th at to
so m eo ne o r o th er i n F ath erla n d. T hat w as t h e l a st I h eard o f P la to t ill h is s ta rtlin g
phone c all t o Z ah id .

TEN
T HE C A LL W AS U NEX PE C TED
. A v oic e I h ad n’t h eard f o r a lm ost f if te en y ears . T he
a ccen t w as n ow tr a n sa tla n tic , b ut it w as d efin ite ly A lic e S te p fo rd . W hat d id s h e
w an t, w hy m e a n d w hy n ow ?
‘G re etin gs, D ara .’
‘W here a re y ou?’
‘In L ondon. W e m oved h ere a fte r th e I ra q w ar, th ough h eav en k now s w hy.
I t w as a m is ta k e. E ngla n d’s d ead . D ead p olitic s, d ead c u ltu re , s e rv ility t h e n orm ,
e v en th e o ld
Guard ia n
lo okin g m ore a n d m ore lik e a m ark etin g a rte fa ct. T he
B BC tr y in g h ard n ot to b e lik e F ox T V , b ut in s o m e w ay s w ors e w ith its h an d-
w rin gin g c o nfo rm is m . F ak e o bje ctiv ity i s t h e r e al k ille r. A nyw ay , y ou m ust h av e
s e en t h at E ll p la y ed a t t h e O bam a i n au gura tio n? T im e t o r e tu rn .’
I h ad n’t s e en th e liv e b ro ad cast o f th e in au gura tio n a n d h ad m is se d E lio t
L in co ln L ittle J r. p la y in g t h e f id dle . S he w asn ’t p le ase d .
‘R id ic u lo us. W here w ere you? In so m e re m ote co rn er of th e A m azo n
B asin ? I th ought te le v is io n w as e v ery w here . A n ew R om an e m pero r is c h ose n
a n d a n oin te d , th e w orld is w atc h in g, b ut n ot y ou. Y ou re ally d id n’t s e e it liv e?
A m azin g. E ll w as s o g ood. H is v io lin w ep t w ith j o y. N ot a c lic h é, n ot a c lic h é ...
a n yw ay I d id n’t rin g to q uarre l. F re e fo r s u pper to m orro w ? S till a b ach elo r o r
w ould y ou l ik e t o b rin g s o m eo ne? T here ’s a l a d y o ver f ro m y our p arts e x tr e m ely
k een t o m eet y ou. A f rie n d o f o ld P la to .’
‘H is l a te st f la m e, I h ope. I n eed t o s p eak w ith h er.’
‘C ru el c h oic e o f w ord s, m y d ear. N o f la m e w ith out f ir e , a n d a s w e k now ...’
‘M ean , m ean A lly . I t m ay n ot b e p hysic al, b ut a p pears to b e a v ery in te n se
a ffa ir , a cco rd in g t o o ur o ld f rie n d. I ’m s u ffe rin g a s a r e su lt a n d h av e t o m eet h er.
I t w ill a ls o b e g ood t o s e e b oth o f y ou a g ain .’
‘E ll le ft la st w eek . A nd J e zeb el, o ur te en ag er, w en t b ack to B ro okly n a f e w

years a g o. J e z is n ow th e le ad g uita ris t in a c ra zy n eo -p unk o utf it in B ro okly n.
She’s o nly e ig hte en . Y ou’ll l o ve t h e b an d’s n am e. T he S ev en te en th o f B ru m air e ,
th e F re n ch re v olu tio nary e q uiv ale n t o f th e se v en th o f N ovem ber. It’ s b ecau se
th ey h ad a ll ju st tu rn ed s e v en te en w hen th e b an d w as s e t u p a n d w ere flic k in g
th ro ugh m y books an d fo und a re fe re n ce to th e 18th B ru m air e an d delv ed
deep er. C ool, th ey a ll th ought. R eal h oot. I’v e c lo se d th e h ouse . C om e to th e
stu dio . E ig htis h ? P ro m is e s u pper w ill b e s e rv ed p ro m ptly . I t’ ll j u st b e u s t h re e.’
Her a rtis tic e n erg y w as n ow c h an nelle d in to h er h usb an d’s a n d d au ghte r’s
work . A s I d ro ve to C hels e a la te r th at d ay , I m ad e a m en ta l n ote to a sk w heth er
sh e w as p ain tin g a g ain . U nlik e its o w ner, th e s tu dio h ad c h an ged little . A lly w as
ele g an tly attir e d as alw ay s, but th e dyed hair w as notic eab le , w hic h su re ly
defe ate d th e w hole e x erc is e , a n d s h e w as m uch b ulk ie r, b ut th en s o w e w ere w e
all. B ut th e c o ntin uitie s o utw eig hed th e c h an ges. A lly ’s th ro aty la u gh re v iv ed
old m em orie s, a s d id t h e w in e.
‘G eo rg e got th e build in gs; m y oth er sib lin gs got m oney an d pie ces of
fu rn itu re . I in herite d th e c ella r. It w as in th e w ill. N atu ra lly , I s h are it w ith th e
sib lin gs, e x cep t f o r p re -1 986 w in es. E ll d oesn ’t d rin k a t a ll.’
‘Is h e a M uslim ?’
‘B ut d arlin g, y ou k now f u ll w ell h e i s ... s u re ly I t o ld y ou.’
‘A lly , I g av e y ou a w ay i n c h urc h .’
‘S o y ou d id . S o y ou d id . O f c o urs e , it w as s o m e y ears la te r th at E ll s h if te d
fa ith s an d did th e H ajj. I did n’t m uch care th at he fo und Is la m w as m ore
co ngen ia l th an P re sb yte ria n is m . A ll I s a id w as th at if h e a s m uch a s lo oked a t
an oth er w om an lu stf u lly , I w ould n’t h ir e a B la ck w ate r m erc en ary to castr a te
him , I ’d d o it m yse lf . O th erw is e it d id n’t b oth er m e to o m uch . M ost A m eric an s
lo ve re lig io n, a n d it’ s p art o f th e p ack ag e if y ou m arry o ne o f th em . W hat d id
an noy m e w as th at h e c h ose s u ch a n u nbelie v ab ly p om pous n am e. It w as o nly
when h is a g en t w arn ed h im v ery f ir m ly t h at h is f a m e a s a v io lin is t h ad b een b uilt
wearin g t h e o ld id en tity , a n d th at c o ncerts b y a l- H ajj S heik h M oham med A ro m a
mig ht n ot a p peal a s m uch to th e b ox o ffic e, th at h e d ecid ed to c arry o n u nder a

“fa ls e ” n am e. H e is so v ery w eak a n d in so m an y w ay s, o th erw is e h e’d h av e
dis c ard ed th e o ld n am e lik e a p air o f so ile d u nderp an ts . A fte r a w fu l 9 /1 1 h e
pan ic k ed y et f u rth er a n d s im ply s to pped u sin g h is M uslim n am e a t a ll. T his , I ’v e
alw ay s th ought, w as u tte rly p ath etic a n d p an derin g to Is la m ophobia . It’ s a s if
Muham mad A li had re v erte d to C assiu s C la y . B ut at le ast he re m ain ed a
Muslim . I d is lik e a ll re lig io ns, D ara . I h ope y ou’re n ot th in kin g o f a la te -lif e
co nvers io n.’
‘D on’t b e silly . A nd sp eak in g o f Is la m ophobia , w hy sh ould E ll n eed a
ch an ge o f r e lig io n t o b e u nfa ith fu l? ’
‘I’m g oin g t o m ak e a s a la d d re ssin g.’
She co uld not ex pla in th e re aso nin g beh in d E lio t’ s co nvers io n. It w as
su rp ris in g, sin ce it w asn ’t th e re su lt o f a le n gth y sta y in p ris o n, w here th e
Honoure d C la ssic h as h ad a m ag ic al im pact o n m an y y oung A fric an -A m eric an s
an d e sp ecia lly o n t h eir d ie t. I m ad e a m en ta l n ote t o d elv e d eep er, b ut a ll g lo om y
th oughts v an is h ed w ith t h e a p peara n ce o f A lly ’s o th er g uest.
Zay nab S hah ’s ap peara n ce sta rtle d m e. H er d eep b ro w n ey es w ere n ot
la n guoro us but fille d w ith m is c h ie f. H er aq uilin e nose gav e her a hau ghty
ex pre ssio n, b ut th e m in ute sh e sm ile d h er e n tir e fa ce re la x ed . S he sp oke in a
liv ely a n d d eep v oic e, h er m in d w as c le ar-s ig hte d a n d, in stin ctiv ely , I fe lt th at
sh e s c o rn ed th e m ask o f h ypocris y . M an y w om en f ro m th e s a m e s o cia l c la ss a re
la y ere d i n d uplic ity , a p ric e t h ey p ay f o r l iv in g a n d f u nctio nin g i n F ath erla n d.
Whate v er t h e b asis o f t h eir r e la tio nsh ip , P la to h ad s tr u ck g old . O f t h is I h ad
no d oubt. I h ad d one so m e h om ew ork an d re aliz ed th at I k new o ne o f h er
bro th ers , th e decen t one, as sh e la te r in fo rm ed m e. T he oth er had la id th e
ab om in ab le t r a p t h at w re ck ed h er l if e .
I h ad n ot b een p re p are d fo r th is c o m bin atio n o f in te llig en ce a n d b eau ty .
Zay nab w as d re sse d in a c o lo urfu l S in dhi
ch olo
a n d m aro on
su th an
, o r lo ose
co tto n tr o use rs . She cro sse d her le g s as sh e sa t dow n, th e Sin dhi co lo urs
ble n din g w ell w ith A lly ’s d ecre p it, f a d ed o liv e-g re en v elv et s o fa . T here w as n ot
th e s lig hte st tr a ce o f s ta rc h in ess in h er, o f th e v arie ty o fte n d is p la y ed b y s o cie ty

beg um s in F ath erla n d w hen fir s t e n co unte rin g s tr a n gers . Z ay nab w as in fo rm al,
an d her dartin g, sm ilin g ey es su ggeste d a fre e-a n d-e asy ap pro ach to lif e .
Outs id e, I r e m em ber, t h e s k y w as o verc ast.
A w rite r w ith n o o th er c o ncern s o r p re o ccu patio ns w ould h av e p ro duced a
maste rw ork b ase d e x clu siv ely o n th e tr a g ed y th at b efe ll th is a m azin g w om an .
My v ers io n, a la s, c an o nly o ffe r a p ro sa ic a cco unt a s p er th e s tr ic t in str u ctio ns
giv en m e b y th e p ro gen ito r o f th is b ook a n d c u rre n tly a n in tim ate o f th e la d y.
The la st th in g I f e el lik e d oin g is q uestio nin g h er a b out h im , b ut p ro m is e s m ust
be k ep t. I w ill o nly p ro vid e a b asic o utlin e, a n d h ere , to o, a s is m y w eak ness,
ex pla in th e h is to ry a n d so cia l c o nditio ns th at p ro duced so m eo ne lik e h er a n d
ex pla in w hy s h e f e ll in lo ve w ith m y f rie n d P la to . O r d id s h e? W hat la y h id den
in s o lo vely a b ody, o r b eh in d s o m an y b ack w ard to sse s o f th e h ead ? D id s h e
hav e an an gelic o r a d ev ilis h so ul, o r w as it a m ix tu re o f th e tw o th at h ad
affe cte d Pla to so deep ly ? She had not yet lo oked at m e se rio usly , but
co ncen tr a te d h er a tte n tio n o n A lly . A n o ld to rm en to r, v an ity , m ad e a su dden
ap peara n ce a n d b eg an t o m ock a t m e, a t t h e s a m e t im e a le rtin g m e t h at a n y f a ls e
ste p s c o uld o nly le ad to th e a b yss. A nd th e w arn in g ir rita te d m e, fo r I w as fa r
fro m g re en a n d h ard ly d ev oid o f e x perie n ce, u nlik e P la to .
Zay nab lo oked y ounger th an f if ty -tw o— as if s h e w ere in h er la te f o rtie s a t
most. I t w as d if fic u lt to te ll. S he’d b een b orn to a n e x tr e m ely w ealth y f a m ily o f
Sin dhi la n dow ners . T hese m en w ere th e m ost p rim itiv e lo rd s in F ath erla n d,
where c o m petitio n in th e fie ld re m ain s h ig h. T o a d d to th e w oes o f th eir s e rfs ,
fo r t h at i s w hat t h e p easa n ts w ere , s o m e o f t h e l a n dow ners w ere h ere d ita ry s a in ts
or
pir s
, w hic h m ean t th at th eir w ord w as n ot s im ply th e la w b ut c am e d ir e ctly
fro m th e s p ecia l re la tio nsh ip th ey e n jo yed w ith G od. C halle n ge th is s ta tu s a n d
th ey w ould fig ht lik e d ev ils p osse sse d . W hen th e B ritis h an noyed a d is ta n t
co usin o f Z ay nab ’s g ra n dfa th er, h e h ad r e p lie d w ith a r e b ellio n th at h ad la ste d a
whole y ear a n d fo rc ed th e e m pir e to d ep lo y tr o ops in th e in te rio r o f S in d, a n d
th is i n 1 942 w hen B ritis h t r o ops h ad j u st s u ffe re d a c ru sh in g d efe at i n S in gap ore .
Unab le to re sis t th e Ja p an ese , th ey tu rn ed w ith a v en gean ce o n th e H ur

peasa n ts a n d c ru sh ed th em . A n E nglis h d is tr ic t o ffic er in volv ed in th e c o nflic t
had w ritte n a p re te n ded n ovel,
The T erro ris t
, re ally b ase d o n h is in te rro gatio ns
of S in dhi pris o ners , so m e of th em in fo rm ers . T he re b els w ere dep ic te d as
unth in kin g b ut c o ura g eo us m en w ho h ad b lin dly f o llo w ed th e
pir
, th eir r e lig io us
le ad er. T his w as, o f c o urs e , a n i n co m ple te v ie w , s in ce t h e c o lo nia l o ffic er, f o und
it d if fic u lt t o a ck now le d ge t h at t h ere w as g en uin e h atr e d o f t h e o ccu pyin g p ow er
an d th at th is h ad m ere ly b een u se d b y th e
pir —
in th is c ase , Z ay nab ’s g re at-
uncle , w ho w as quie tly han ged w ith only a fe w peo ple w atc h in g, pro bab ly
in clu din g th e n ovelis t. U nlik e th e F re n ch a n d I ta lia n s, th e B ritis h r a re ly s h ow ed
off in I n dia : th ey h an ged th eir e n em ie s w ith out f a n fa re f o r f e ar o f in sp ir in g n ew
marty rs .
The e v en t le ft a m ark o n th e w hole f a m ily . Z ay nab ’s e ld est p ate rn al u ncle ,
th e co m munity ’s new le ad er, sp ir itu al an d te m pora l, decid ed to fo llo w th e
fa sh io n o f th e tim es a n d b eco m e u ltr a -lo yal to th e B ritis h . H e h ad n ev er th ought
much of th e vario us natio nalis t le ad ers who were fig htin g fo r In dia ’s
in dep en den ce. A ll th e Sin dhi prim itiv es— as th ey w ere calle d by peasa n t
activ is ts w ho e sc ap ed to a c ity — fe lt th re ate n ed b y th e d ep artu re o f th e B ritis h .
The only questio n th at w orrie d th em w as w heth er th eir en clo se d w orld of
pro perty a n d s e rfd om w ould s u rv iv e. H is to ry h as r e co rd ed th at th ese in stitu tio ns
su rv iv ed w ell, a s d id s u ch s a cre d p riv ile g es a s t h e d ro it d u s e ig neu r, w hic h i s n ot
ex actly t h e s a m e a s t h e R ig hts o f M an , t h ough A lly i n h er m ore m ilita n t f e m in is t
day s w ould s tr o ngly d is p ute t h is a sse rtio n.
Zay nab w as b orn in o ne o f th e m an y la rg e h ouse s b uilt a m id th e d ozen
villa g es a n d th ousa n ds o f a cre s th at m ad e u p h er fa m ily ’s e sta te . T his o ne w as
not f a r f ro m th e s m all to w n o f J a m sa d iq a n d a f o ur-h our d riv e to th e s a ta n ic c ity
Kara ch i, s o a ll m odern c o nven ie n ces w ere a v aila b le , a n d s o m e o f th e p rim itiv es
affe cte d a n u ltr a -c o sm opolita n p ers o nality w hen t h ey a p peare d a t t h e S in d C lu b.
When s h e w as e ig ht o r n in e, Z ay nab ’s e x tr a o rd in ary b eau ty b eg an s in glin g
her o ut fo r sp ecia l a tte n tio n. H er fa th er, w ho a d ore d h er, d ie d w hen sh e w as
tw elv e. H er o ld er b ro th er, w ho in herite d h is fa th er’s s h are o f th e e sta te , w as a

dour a n d r e actio nary p rim itiv e. H e s a w h ow a ll w ho c am e in to c o nta ct w ith h er
wors h ip ped h is y oung s is te r. S he w as s in gula rly d ev oid o f a rtif ic e. H er p riv ate
tu to rs , a ll o f t h em f e m ale , h ad e d ucate d h er w ell. I n a d ditio n t o S in dhi a n d U rd u,
sh e c o uld r e ad A ra b ic a n d P ers ia n a n d s p eak E nglis h a n d F re n ch . S he p osse sse d
a n atu ra l g ra ce th at w as o bvio us a t f ir s t g la n ce. W ord o f h er b eau ty h ad s p re ad
th ro ughout th e p ro vin ce. T he p rim itiv es d is c u sse d it o fte n , an d m an y y oung
blo ods w ere d ete rm in ed to w in h er h an d. W hic h p rim itiv e w ould h er fa m ily
ble ss? B ets w ere la id a n d, u nbek now n to Z ay nab , a fie rc e riv alr y h ad a lr e ad y
co m men ced . T here w ere d em an ds fro m p rim itiv es w ith ev en m ore la n d th an
Zay nab ’s f a m ily . T hey a ll w an te d a n im med ia te e n gag em en t, s o th at a s s o on a s
sh e w as se v en te en th ey co uld pre te n d sh e w as eig hte en an d cele b ra te th e
nuptia ls .
Zay nab ’s m oth er h ad d ie d g iv in g b ir th to h er, a n d h er f a th er’s s e co nd w if e
was a c o ld ly c alc u la tin g so cie ty w om an fro m K ara ch i, n ot in th e slig hte st b it
in te re ste d in little Z ay nab o r h er o ld er b ro th ers . In fa ct, s h e w as ra re ly o n th e
esta te . H er m ain in te re st w as a ccu m ula tin g e n ough je w elle ry a n d m oney s o th at
sh e c o uld s c arp er to a E uro pean c ity a fte r th e o ld m an d ie d . T his s h e a ch ie v ed
su ccessfu lly , if not gra cefu lly , an d when la st heard of was liv in g in
Knig hts b rid ge, c lo se t o a n E gyptia n g ro cery .
Sam ir S hah , th e sm all- m in ded , b ig ote d o ld est b ro th er, w as sm itte n w ith
je alo usy o f h is sis te r. H e k new th at h ad Z ay nab b een b orn a m an , sh e w ould
hav e d is p la ced h im co m ple te ly . S he w as still o nly tw elv e y ears o f ag e, an d
alr e ad y ta le s o f h er s m all k in dnesse s to th e fa m ilie s o f s e rfs w ho s e rv ed in th e
house h old h ad s p re ad th ro ughout th e v illa g es, a n d th ere w ere m an y e x pre ssio ns
of r e g re t t h at s h e h ad b een b orn a w om an .
Sám ir S hah c alle d a c o nfe re n ce o f m ale e ld ers to d ecid e h is s is te r’s fa te .
These p rim itiv es m et a n d a g re ed t h at t h e o nly b rid eg ro om w orth y o f h er, c le arly ,
was th e K ora n . H er fa v ourite b ro th er, S ik an dar, fo ught v alia n tly o n h er b eh alf ,
but h e w as o nly s ix te en h im se lf a t th e tim e. T he p oor b oy w as b ru ta lly m ock ed
fo r h is im matu rity a n d e v en m ore f o r h is d is re g ard f o r p ro perty . H e s to rm ed o ut

in t e ars .
This w as a s m uch a s I ’d k now n o f Z ay nab ’s s to ry b efo re s h e a rriv ed .
We e x ch an ged p le asa n tr ie s w hile A lly la id th e ta b le a n d o ffe re d u s w in e.
Zay nab did not re fu se . S he ask ed how m y lif e of P la to w as pro ceed in g. I
mutte re d a n onco m mitta l r e p ly .
‘T ell m e h onestly ’, s h e a sk ed , ‘ is t h ere m uch t o w rite a b out? M ig ht i t n ot b e
sim ple r f o r y ou t o j u st w rite a n e ssa y t o g o w ith h is p ain tin gs? ’
‘H e t o ld m e t o w rite e v ery th in g, a n d m uch o f t h at w ould b e u nsu ita b le a s a n
in tr o ductio n t o h is p ain tin gs.’
‘I d on’t s e e w hy. T hey ’re e x plic it e n ough.’
‘In a w ay th ey a re , b ut th ey s till r e q uir e a g re at d eal o f in te rp re ta tio n. W ait
till y ou s e e t h e c o lle ctio n t h at o ur h oste ss w an te d h im t o d estr o y b ecau se i t w as a
co m ple te “ m ale f a n ta sy a n d to ta lly s e x is t” . R ath er th an d o th at h e g av e it to m e,
an d I t h ought y ou m ig ht l ik e t o s e e h is e arlie r w ork s o I ’v e b ro ught i t a lo ng. A lly
was u nfa ir . I ju st th in k h e h ad s e en to o m an y e ro tic J a p an ese w ork s, w here th ey
dra w th ese th in gs v ery la rg e. T his w as P la to ’s v ers io n o f a ll th at a n d it is n ’t
with out a c erta in c h arm . N ot t h at A lly a g re es.’
‘D ara ’, sa id A lly , ‘I’v e been m ean in g to sa y th is : D o you m in d not
ad dre ssin g m e a s A lly a n ym ore ? E very one I k now c alls m e A lic e.’
‘B ut w hy?’
‘B ecau se E lio t h ate s “ A lly ”.’
‘W hy? I t s o unds l ik e A li a s it’ s p ro nounced h ere , a n d g iv en h is o w n f a ith it
sh ould m ak e h im f e el c lo se r t o y ou. H ow p ath etic o f P la to t o c all y ou A lic e. A nd
you, M s S te p fo rd , a g re ein g to le t a m ale d ecid e h ow y ou s h ould b e a d dre sse d .
Sham e.’
Zay nab , cle arly fe elin g th at th e dis c u ssio n of nic k nam es had beco m e
te d io us, s u ccessfu lly d iv erte d t h e c o nvers a tio n.
‘I lo ve th e w ay y ou call h im P la to so n atu ra lly . F or m e h e’s P erv aiz ,
so m etim es P ay je e, b ut I m ig ht t r y P la to . S ounds n ic e t h e w ay y ou s a y i t.’
Alic e an nounced su pper ju st as Z ay nab w as le afin g th ro ugh th e P la to

pen is e s. S he s m ile d a t s o m e o f th e d ra w in gs b ut lin gere d o n n one. I k new th en
th at t h e b ook w ould s ta y w ith m e. A lly h ad b een l o okin g o ver h er s h ould er.
‘Z ay -N ab , d on’t y ou t h in k I w as r ig ht? I m ay h av e m ello w ed s o m ew hat, b ut
I s till t h in k t h at t h ese p ain tin gs o ffe r n oth in g t o t h e w orld o r t o a n yone.’
‘N ot to m e,’ s a id Z ay nab in a re fle ctiv e to ne. ‘B ut th ey o bvio usly m ean t
so m eth in g t o h im o r h e w ould n’t h av e d one t h em . I t h in k D ara a s h is b io gra p her
sh ould r e ta in c u sto dy, a s w e o fte n s a y i n o ur c o untr y . P erh ap s o ne o f t h em c o uld
be t h e c o ver o f y our b ook o n P la to .’
‘P erh ap s not. Perh ap s th ey co uld re p la ce Fath erla n d fla g , more
re p re se n ta tiv e o f t h e p eo ple w ho r u n t h e c o untr y .’
Zay nab la u ghed . ‘ I’ll s u ggest it to m y b ro th er, w ho’s n ow a s e n io r m in is te r
fo r s o m eth in g.’
‘C orru ptio n?’
‘S uppertim e, c h ild re n .’
Zay nab se em ed so se lf -a ssu re d a n d a t e ase in th e w orld th at I w ondere d
wheth er h er lif e h ad b een a s m uch o f a tr a g ed y a s it h ad b een p ain te d b y P la to
an d o th ers . I k new th at A lic e w ould b ro ach th e s u bje ct b efo re to o lo ng, a n d s h e
did n ot d is a p poin t m e.
‘Z ay -N ab , e r, w e’v e b een w onderin g. P la to s a id h e h ad f a lle n i n l o ve w ith a
marrie d w om an . I s y our h usb an d a liv e o r a re y ou d iv orc ed ?’
‘N eith er, r e ally , A lic e.’
Alic e, s lig ht p uzzle d , lo oked a t b oth o f u s in tu rn . ‘I g iv e u p. W hat’ s th e
myste ry ?’
‘S urp ris e d P la to h asn ’t t o ld y ou. I ’m m arrie d t o o ur H oly B ook.’
‘W hat? I s t h is r e al? A re y ou k id din g? D ara , d id y ou k now ?’
‘Y es. T hese t h in gs h ap pen i n F ath erla n d.’
Zay nab e x pla in ed h er p lig ht to a n a sto nis h ed A lic e, w ho h ad th ought s h e
knew e v ery th in g o n m atte rs re la te d to g en der. It w as w onderfu l w atc h in g h er
fa ce r e g is te r a n e sc ala tin g s c ale o f in cre d ulity a s Z ay nab ’s s to ry p ro ceed ed . T he
effe ct w as e n han ced b y t h e d eep c alm v oic e i n w hic h Z ay nab t o ld i t.

‘In m y p art o f th e c o untr y th e b ig la n dlo rd s a re so d esp era te to p re se rv e
th eir esta te s th at an yth in g th at th re ate n s th e siz e o f th eir h old in gs h as to b e
fo ught. A s a fe m ale I w as e n title d to m y s h are o f th e p ro perty — under Is la m ic
la w th at’ s a h alf o f w hat th e m en in herit. W ere it n ot fo r sh aria I w ould g et
noth in g a t a ll. M ak es o ne th in k. In th e a b se n ce o f la w s th at in sis t o n a to ta lly
eq ual s h are , i t’ s b ette r t o g et s o m eth in g. D on’t y ou a g re e, A lic e?’
Would A lic e a g re e? S he w ould . I s n orte d w ith d elig ht, o nly to b e s ile n ced
by a g estu re f ro m Z ay nab .
‘E ven a q uarte r o f a m an ’s s h are o f o ur e sta te a m ounte d to th ousa n ds o f
acre s, a n d i n t h e n atu ra l c o urs e o f e v en ts a ll t h at l a n d w ould h av e g one o ut o f t h e
fa m ily . If I m arrie d a n d h ad c h ild re n , m y s h are o f th e e sta te w ould b e d iv id ed
am ong th em , d im in is h in g th e fa m ily h old in gs. E ven if I m arrie d a c o usin , m y
bro th ers w ould lo se m y s h are . T here w as o ne re m ed y, a s c h em e d ev is e d m an y
moons a g o: a fe m ale w hose rig ht o f in herita n ce th re ate n ed h er fa m ily ’s e sta te
co uld b e m arrie d to th e K ora n . S o a c ere m ony to ok p la ce w hen I w as tw elv e in
whic h th e lo cal
pir
, a r e ta rd ed p ock m ark ed p rim itiv e— a m ale c o usin o f m in e—
decla re d m y m arria g e to th e K ora n le g al a n d h oly . F or a m onth I w as lo ck ed u p
with o ur H oly B ook a n d n oth in g e ls e . F ood w ould b e le ft o uts id e, a n d n one o f
th e m aid s w as a llo w ed t o s p eak t o m e. H ow I w is h ed m y m oth er w ere s till a liv e.
‘T he p urp ose o f th is c o nfin em en t w as to a cclim atiz e m e to m y fu tu re . A
year la te r, w hen I b eg an to m en str u ate , th e b ook w ould b e r e m oved w hile I w as
uncle an . T hey th ought th at u nder th is tr e atm en t I w ould e ith er a d ju st to m y n ew
re ality o r t a k e m y o w n l if e . T here w ere s to rie s o f w om en i n m y p ositio n w ho h ad
done s o . A nd, to b e h onest, th ere w ere tim es I th ought it m ig ht b e e asie r to d ie
th an t o l iv e l ik e t h is , a n d I s p oke o f m y t h oughts w ith w om en f rie n ds w ho w ould
sta rt w eep in g a t th e id ea. B ut o ne w om an d id p ro m is e th at if I r e ally w an te d it,
sh e w ould o bta in a c y an id e c ap su le fro m h er h usb an d, a s e n io r o ffic er in s o m e
in te llig en ce a g en cy . I p ro m is e d I w ould n ev er s w allo w it w ith out ta lk in g to h er
fir s t, b ut I n eed ed a c o uple f o r e m erg en cie s. S he o bta in ed t w o. I w an te d t o m ak e
su re t h at t h ey w ork ed , s o I f e d o ne t o m y b ro th er’s f rig hte n in g h ound, a d og t h at

had co st h im a fo rtu ne an d w as as la rg e as o ne o f y our S hetla n d p onie s. It
work ed .’
Alic e w as h orrif ie d .
‘O h, Z ay -N ab . T ell m e it is n ’t so . Y ou p ois o ned a p ed ig re e g re y hound.
Why n ot y our b ro th er? ’
‘It w as th e H ound o f th e S hah sk erv ille s, m y d ear. It te rrif ie d th e p easa n ts .
There w as m uch r e jo ic in g w hen n ew s o f th e a n im al’ s d eath s p re ad . S om e o f th e
se rfs c alle d th e d og P ir S ah ib , a n d a t f ir s t p eo ple th ought it w as th e p ock m ark ed
pir
w ho h ad m et w ith a n a ccid en t, w hic h a ls o p le ase d th em , b ut th e d og’s d eath
cam e a s a re lie f, s in ce h e h ad a lr e ad y k ille d a c h ild . D on’t te ll m e h ounds a re
gen tle c re atu re s, A lic e. D ep en ds o n th eir m aste rs . S ám ir S hah h ad e n co ura g ed
th e h ound to b e w hat it w as. D o y ou w an t to s e e th e o th er c ap su le ? I k eep it in
th is l ittle
nasw ar
c o nta in er t h at o nce b elo nged t o m y m oth er.’
She r e ach ed f o r h er b ag a n d t o ok o ut a t in y o ld s ilv er s n uffb ox. I n sid e i t l a y
th e b eau tif u lly d is g uis e d k ille r, a c ap su le th e s iz e a n d s h ap e o f a p earl. S he to ld
us how on hearin g of th e hound’s death her bro th er had beco m e to ta lly
dis tr a u ght, c an celle d a n im porta n t p olitic al to ur a n d im med ia te ly r e tu rn ed h om e
in h is o ffic ia l h elic o pte r. T he c o untr y ’s to p v ete rin ary s u rg eo n w as s e n t f o r a n d
an a u to psy p erfo rm ed . T he p ois o n h ad le ft n o tr a ce. T he v et, w ho sm uggle d
hero in as a n ig ht jo b, d ecla re d w ith an air o f to ta l co nfid en ce th at th e S hah
hound h ad s u ffe re d a f a ta l h eart a tta ck . S ám ir S hah s c re am ed a t h im .
‘I n ev er k new t h at h ounds h ad h eart a tta ck s, y ou p im p.’
‘I’m a fra id th ey d o in F ath erla n d, s ir , a n d e sp ecia lly in th is r e g io n. M ust b e
th e h eat. T hey a re u se d t o c o ld w eath er, y ou s e e. G erm an s h ep herd s a re i m mune,
but n ot h ounds. G en era l F aro oqi’ s h ound h ad a fa ta l h eart atta ck o nly th re e
month s a g o. I f I h ad k now n y our b east h ad a w eak h eart I m ig ht h av e a tte m pte d
a d ual b ypass o r o rg an iz ed a t r a n sp la n t. T oo l a te n ow a n d I ’m t r u ly s o rry , s ir . T o
whic h h onoura b le p ers o n s h ould I s e n d m y i n voic e?’
Even A lic e m an ag ed a s m ile a s Z ay nab c o ntin ued h er s to ry .
‘T he d og w as m um mif ie d , a n d th at is h ow I f ir s t s a w P la to , th ough f ro m a

dis ta n ce. M y b ro th er h ad a sk ed f o r th e b est p ain te r in th e c o untr y to b e h ir e d to
pain t th e b east. I. M . M alik w as a w ay a t a b ie n nale s o m ew here in E uro pe, s o
your P la to w as g iv en th e c o m mis sio n. H e h eard th e o ffic ia l sto ry , a n d, b ein g
Pla to , fo und o ut a g re at d eal m ore b y ta lk in g to th e v illa g ers . A s w e k now , h e
can n ev er p ain t a r e alis t p ortr a it. W hat h e d id in ste ad w as b rillia n t. H e p ortr a y ed
a s tr a n ge b east w ith a n gel’ s w in gs a n d, a la s, to o la rg e a p riv ate p art, b ut it w as
th e fa ce th at w as re m ark ab le . A t fir s t gla n ce you w ould re aliz e it w as m y
bro th er. T he e x pre ssio n o n th e h ound’s f a ce r e p lic ate d th e p erm an en t f ro w n th at
dis fig ure d h is m aste r’s . I th ought m y b ro th er w ould b e f u rio us, b ut n o. T his is a
wonderfu l p ain te r, h e to ld u s la te r, w ho h as c ap tu re d th e a ffin ity b etw een h ound
an d m aste r so b eau tif u lly . T he p ain tin g h an gs in th e h all w here y ou e n te r h is
house .
‘W hen I a sk ed fo r p erm is sio n to c o ngra tu la te th e p ain te r in p ers o n, to m y
asto nis h m en t, S ám ir S hah ag re ed . S tr a n ge m an h e w as, m y b ro th er. H e w as
am ora l, w ith out sc ru ple s of an y so rt, re ad y to tr a m ple on an yth in g an d
ev ery th in g th at s to od in h is w ay , a s I k now o nly to o w ell. Y et th e d eath o f th e
hound u ndoubte d ly a ffe cte d h im , a n d q uite d eep ly . P la to w as v ery h an dso m ely
re w ard ed f o r h is w ork a n d I h ad m y f ir s t c o nvers a tio n w ith h im . I t l a ste d e x actly
fif te en m in ute s, a n d th en th e P aje ro d ro ve h im b ack to K ara ch i. O f c o urs e , h e
knew im med ia te ly th at I h ad g uesse d h is re al in te n tio n a n d d id n ot a tte m pt to
dis sim ula te . A ll h e sa id w as th at e v ery la n dlo rd a n d p olitic ia n in th e c o untr y
sh ould b e p ain te d a s a m ongre l. T he m is c h ie f in h is e y es w as a p pealin g, a n d
als o , I s u ppose , th e f a ct th at h e w as th e f ir s t m an o uts id e m y im med ia te f a m ily ,
ex clu din g o ur s e rfs , w ith w hom I h ad e v er s p oken , a n d I w as fa st a p pro ach in g
fo rty . T hat m ad e a n im pact, th ough e v en a t fir s t sig ht h e d id n ot se em v ery
dev elo ped f ro m a s e x ual p oin t o f v ie w . A w om an in m y p ositio n i s m ore a le rt in
th ese m atte rs th an s o m eo ne lik e A lic e, f o r in sta n ce. I f e lt th at p hysic al p le asu re s
were n ot a P la to p rio rity . T here a re s o m e p eo ple I k now , m ale a n d f e m ale , w ho
can n ev er a ccep t a n y fe elin gs th ey th em se lv es a re in cap ab le o f e x perie n cin g a s
au th en tic . P la to w as th e o pposite . I co uld re ad th at in h is ey es, an d it w as

co nfir m ed i n t h e m onth s t h at f o llo w ed .
‘A re y ou w onderin g w hy I d id n’t e sc ap e fro m m y p ris o n, e sp ecia lly a s I
had th e k ey to th e d oor in m y p ock et? S im ple . I h ad n o m oney in m y n am e. N o
ban k a cco unt. N o n oth in g. I d id n’t r e ally e x is t. T here w as a n oth er f a cto r. H ad I
met a m an an d m arrie d him it w ould hav e been a su ic id e w ed din g. T he
prim itiv es w ould h av e m et a n d d ecre ed th at I h ad d is h onoure d th e K ora n , a n d
pir s
w ould h av e b een f o und t o p ro nounce t h e d eath s e n te n ce. I t w asn ’t t ill S ám ir
an d th e b ro th er n ex t in a g e to h im , w hom I h ate d s o m uch th at I p re fe r n ot to
men tio n h is n am e, d ie d in a p la n e c ra sh a n d S ik an dar c am e h om e to ta k e c h arg e
of t h e e sta te s t h at m y l if e b eg an t o i m pro ve.
‘S ik an dar a n d h is w if e to ok m e o ut e v ery w here , a n d fo r th e fir s t tim e I
beg an to e x perie n ce e v ery day lif e in th e b ig c ity . S ik an dar b ought m y s h are o f
th e la n d, a n d g av e m e th e m oney a n d a g re at d eal m ore , in clu din g th e la rg e
ap artm en t in K ara ch i. H e h ad a so rro w fu l ex pre ssio n w hen h e to ld m e th at
th ough h e w an te d m y h ap pin ess, it w ould b e b est if I d id n’t m arry . H e w as n ot
pow erfu l e n ough t o p re v en t t h e
pir s
f ro m i s su in g a d eath s e n te n ce. B y t h is t im e I
did not hav e an y desir e s in th at dir e ctio n, an d th en P la to en te re d m y lif e ,
brin gin g h ap pin ess an d in te lle ctu al co m fo rts th at I h ad n ot th ought p ossib le .
Every one b elie v es h e’s m y co ok-c h au ffe u r. Y ou k now h is fa ce. W ith a tin y
dis g uis e a n d a c h an ge in b ody l a n guag e h e c an p la y a n y p art. H e to ld m e th at h e
had t a k en y ou i n , D ara , b y p re te n din g t o b e a B en gali c are ta k er.’ S he t h re w b ack
her h ead a n d l a u ghed . A lic e l o oked s h ell- s h ock ed . N one o f u s s p oke.
‘T ell m e, Z ay -N ab , is m arria g e to th e K ora n p erm itte d b y Is la m ? N ev er
heard o f i t b efo re .’
‘O f c o urs e n ot. T he c le ric s a tta ck th e p ra ctic e e v ery d ay , d en ouncin g th e
la n dlo rd s, b ut th ey d o n oth in g. A fe w su ic id e b om bers in th e h au nts o f th ese
guys m ig ht w ork w onders . I n ste ad , t h ey p unis h t h e p oor.’
‘A p rim itiv e d ev ic e to d estr o y p rim itiv es,’ s a id I. ‘T he id ea is n ot w ith out
merit, b ut it’ s th eir e co nom ic p ow er th at n eed s to b e d estr o yed . N o p oin t k illin g
in div id uals i f t h e i n stitu tio n s u rv iv es.’

‘W hic h g overn m en t in F ath erla n d w ill e v er d o th at, D ara ? It’ s b een g oin g
on f o r t o o l o ng.’
‘S o m ed ie v al,’ s a id A lic e. ‘ S o b lo ody m ed ie v al.’
‘M ed ie v al E uro pe p erh ap s, A lly , b ut n ot th e m ed ie v al I s la m ic w orld . T hey
were s p are d fe u dalis m . Z ay nab ’s m is e ry c an ’t b e b la m ed o n Is la m . D id n’t y ou
once s a y i n p ublic t h at p atr ia rc h y p lu s p ro perty e q uals m urd er? ’
‘S pare m e m y ju ven ilia , D ara . P le ase . T here a re m ore im porta n t is su es a t
sta k e. Z ay nab , m ay I a sk y ou a v ery p ers o nal q uestio n? W e c an te ll th is m ale
monste r t o l e av e i f y ou w an t.’
‘T he m onste r c an s ta y . A sk w hate v er y ou w is h .’
‘A re y ou a v ir g in ?’
For th e f ir s t tim e th at e v en in g, h er f a ce c lo uded o ver, a n d f o r a m om en t it
se em ed th at A lic e h ad c ro sse d a h eav ily p ro te cte d f ro ntie r. Z ay nab s ig hed , th en
sa id , ‘ I d on’t m in d th e q uestio n a t a ll. P la to a sk ed m e e x actly th e s a m e o ne a n d
becam e q uite u pse t w hen I re p lie d tr u th fu lly , an d it w as th e m em ory o f h is
sa d ness th at I w as th in kin g a b out w hen y ou r e p eate d th e q uestio n. N o, I ’m n ot a
vir g in . T ech nic ally , if I c an p ut it lik e th at, I d eflo w ere d m yse lf w ith a c an dle
when I w as s e v en te en . T hat w as a ls o th e y ear I w as b eg in nin g to re ad B alz ac,
not th at th e tw o e v en ts a re lin ked in a n y fa sh io n. It’ s ju st th at w hen I sta rte d
re re ad in g h im m an y y ears la te r, m em orie s o f th e c an dle I h ad b urn t a t m y a lta r
alw ay s r e ap peare d . T he m aid s h ad r e p la ced th e s h eets v ery q uic k ly . T hey w ere
my o nly c o nfid an te s a n d frie n ds. I to ld th em e v ery th in g a n d th ey n ev er, e v er
betr a y ed m e. I t w as th e o nly g ir l ta lk th at w as p ossib le a n d I e n jo yed it g re atly .
There w ere n o affe cta tio ns, n o m elo dra m a, n o fe elin g th at w e w ere en te rin g
unch arte d o r p erilo us w ate rs . N one o f th at. T hey w ere a ll m arrie d a n d w ould
desc rib e th eir ex perie n ces in gre at deta il. T w o of th em had husb an ds w ho
perfo rm ed lik e an im als . T hey m ad e th e co m paris o n w ell, becau se th eir se x
ed ucatio n had co nsis te d of w atc h in g str a y dogs an d donkey s an d hors e s
co pula tin g a t v ario us tim es. O ne o f th em h ad a m ore th oughtf u l h usb an d w ho
would g iv e h er a g re at d eal o f p le asu re a n d s h e w as n ot s h y a b out d esc rib in g t h e

fo re p la y . T he o th ers w ould g ig gle a n d a sk t o s h are h im . I a ctu ally d id .’
Even I j u m ped u p a t t h is p oin t.
‘Y ou d id w hat? ’
‘W hen I f ir s t p ut th is p ro positio n to h er, s h e th ought th at I w as te asin g a n d
gig gle d a t m y jo ke. I s a id I w as s e rio us a n d h er fa ce w en t p ale a s th e s a n d. A t
fir s t I im ag in ed it m ig ht b e je alo usy o n h er p art. T hat I w ould h av e u nders to od,
ev en t h ough I h ad n ot a t t h at t im e f e lt t h e e m otio n m yse lf , b ut h ad r e ad a b out i t a
gre at d eal in F re n ch n ovels . I f s h e h ad b een je alo us, I w ould h av e im med ia te ly
with dra w n th e re q uest. W hen I m ad e th is o bvio us s h e w as m ortif ie d . It w asn ’t
th at a t a ll, s h e to ld m e. S he th en a d m itte d s h e h ad ta lk ed a b out m e to h im , to ld
him a b out th e c an dle a n d th e s ta in ed s h eet. H e h ad e x pre sse d s o rro w a t m y f a te
an d a b use d t h e m en w ho h ad r e d uced m e t o t h ese s tr a its .
‘S he w as s u re h e w ould o blig e, a n d f o r h er p art s h e w as h ap py t o s h are h im .
Had I n ot a fte r a ll, s h e a sk ed , s h are d m uch w ith h er a n d th e o th er m aid s? H er
only f e ar w as th at w e’d b e fo und o ut, a n d th ere , to o, s h e w as n ot a fra id o n h er
ow n b eh alf . If h e a n d I w ere c au ght w e w ould b oth b e p ut to d eath . H im fir s t.
They w ould d is e m bow el a n d b urn h im . S he c o uld n ot b ear th e th ought o f lo sin g
him o r m e. I r e assu re d h er: it w as m ere ly a n id ea a n d b etw een th e id ea a n d th e
deed t h ere i s o fte n a l o ng i n te rv al. I n a n y c ase , e v ery th in g w ould h av e t o b e v ery
care fu lly p la n ned .
‘W hen sh e in fo rm ed him of m y pro positio n an d her co ncern s, he
im med ia te ly calm ed h er fe ars . O ver th e n ex t m onth s w e d ev is e d a p la n . Its
deta ils a re o f n o s ig nif ic an ce. I n m y s itu atio n, m elo dra m a w as n ev er f a r f ro m t h e
su rfa ce, a n d w ith s o m e r e aso n. A nd s o o ne d ay it h ap pen ed , a n d e v ery th in g h is
wif e h ad c o nfe sse d r e g ard in g th eir m ost in tim ate m om en ts tu rn ed o ut to b e tr u e.
Fro m th at d ay o n, w hen ev er I w as m en str u atin g, h e w ould c o m e a n d p le asu re
me, e x cep t w hen u nfo re se en c ir c u m sta n ces m ad e th e o pera tio n ris k y. T hat is
how I cam e to ex perie n ce th e delig hts of bein g a w om an . A nd you know
so m eth in g, a fte r m y fir s t y ear in K ara ch i, w here I o bse rv ed th e u nhap pin ess o f
so m an y w om en f ro m m y c la ss w ho h ad b een m arrie d f o r s o m e tim e, a n d h eard

th eir ta le s o f w oe a b out p hila n derin g h usb an ds a n d b ein g a b an doned b y th eir
ch ild re n , I d id b eg in to w onder w heth er b ein g m arrie d to th e K ora n a n d b ein g
ple asu re d b y a m an I s h are d w ith a d ear frie n d h ad in s o m e w ay s b een a le ss
cu m bers o m e e x perie n ce.’
Alic e a p pla u ded lo udly , w hic h g ra te d o n m e. ‘It’ s tr u ly w onderfu l,’ sh e
cro w ed . ‘ It r e sto re s m y f a ith in h um an ity . W hen w e w ere y oung w e u se d to s a y
th at m arria g e w as ak in to pro stitu tio n, sin ce cash dep en den cy m ad e m an y
wom en p ris o ners . M ay I a sk h ow l o ng t h is b usin ess o f s h arin g w en t o n?’
‘It s till d oes, b ut e x tr e m ely i r re g ula rly . O nce o r t w ic e a y ear, I s e n d f o r h im .
I o nce tr ie d a v ery c le v er jo urn alis t, b ut h is c le v ern ess, a la s, w as c o nfin ed to h is
new sp ap er c o lu m ns. H e w as v ery s tu pid a n d c ru de i n b ed a n d I h ad t o a sk h im t o
le av e b efo re it w en t a n y f u rth er. A fte rw ard s w hen w e m et o n s o cia l o ccasio ns I
th in k h e w as m ore e m barra sse d t h an I w as.
‘M y f rie n dly m aid m oved to K ara ch i w ith m e, a n d s o d id h er c h ild re n . H e
would c o m e h ere o nce o r tw ic e a fo rtn ig ht to se e th em . S o w e’v e n ev er lo st
co nta ct. H e’s a ls o a v ery s h arp -w itte d o bse rv er o f w hat g oes o n in th at w orld .
Ofte n I p ass o n th e th in gs h e te lls m e to S ik an dar, w ho is a lw ay s a m azed b y m y
“sp y n etw ork ”. I w ro te a p oem a b out h im in S in dhi b ut it d oesn ’t s o und s o g ood
in E nglis h . It w as in p ra is e o f th e s o il, ric h in a rd our, th at p ro duced s u ch m en ,
co m pelle d to s e ek th e s u n in sid e th em se lv es; th eir s e cre t p assio ns, c o ncen tr a te d
en erg ie s th at k ep t th eir m usc le s ta u t a n d p ro duced a v olu ptu ousn ess w ith out a
tr a ce o f la n guor. E nough. I ’m v ery f o nd o f h im , e v en th ough o ur c o nvers a tio ns
are o fte n l im ite d t o i s su es r e la tin g t o t h e l a n d. T hat i s w hat u pse t P la to . H e f o und
it a ll q uite d is c o ncertin g. I to ld h im I w ould b e d elig hte d if h e c o uld r e p la ce m y
ag in g p easa n t, b ut h e s im ply c o uld n’t. W e d id t r y .’
‘S o d id w e,’ s a id A lic e, u nab le t o r e sis t t h e c o m petitio n. ‘ T hat’ s w hen D ara
walk ed i n a n d s e rv ed m y n eed s s o w ell. I c an r e co m men d h im .’
‘A ll t h at i s o ver n ow , p ra is e A lla h . M y l if e h as c h an ged i ts c o urs e : I ’m o n a
gra n d t o ur, f ir s t E uro pe, t h en C hin a.’
I l e ft t o v is it t h e w ash ro om w ith t h eir m ock in g l a u ghte r i n t h e b ack gro und. I

co uld s e e h ow P la to h ad fa lle n s o b ad ly fo r h er. S he w as a n a m azin g c re atu re .
Could s h e b e th e in sp ir a tio n fo r a ll th e m erm aid s th at h e n ow p ain te d ? W hen I
re tu rn ed I a sk ed w heth er s h e w as h is l a te st m use a n d m odel.
‘I a m . I s it f o r h im , b ut h e c an ’t e x pla in w hy I m ust a lw ay s b e d ep ic te d a s a
merm aid .’
‘S ure ly it’ s d is g ustin gly o bvio us,’ s a id A lic e. ‘ H e d oesn ’t w an t to im ag in e
you w ith p riv ate p arts . W hat o th er p ossib le re aso n c o uld th ere b e? T he ro le o f
th e m erm aid i n a n cie n t m yth olo gy i s e sse n tia lly t h at o f a p ric k -te ase r.’
The r e m ark ir rita te d m e. S he w as tr y in g to s h ow o ff. ‘ D on’t b e r id ic u lo us,
Ally ... e r, A lic e. M erm aid s h av e a t o ta lly d if fe re n t f u nctio n i n d if fe re n t ...’
‘P le ase , le t’ s n ot a rg ue a b ut m erm aid s. I’v e h ad a re ally n ic e e v en in g, b ut
we h av en ’t y et d is c u sse d y our P la to , a n d I ’m w orrie d .’
‘W hy?’ w e a sk ed i n u nis o n.
‘H is d ep re ssio ns a re g ettin g w ors e , n ot b ette r. Y ou c an s e e a ll o f th is in h is
la te st w ork . T here a re d ay s w hen h e i s c o m ple te ly s u ic id al, w hic h i s w hy I n ev er
le av e t h is c ap su le a t h om e. I c arry i t w here v er I g o. I n a m ela n ch olic f it h e c o uld
gra b a n d s w allo w it, a n d w here w ould th at le av e m e? I s e e le ss a n d le ss o f h im .
He sp en ds m ore a n d m ore tim e in h is stu dio . D rin kin g a n d p ain tin g, d ay a n d
nig ht, a s if h e w ere ra cin g a g ain st d eath . T he h um our in h is w ork h as a lm ost
dis a p peare d .’
‘B ut w hy?’
‘I’m n ot su re . T here is th is ab su rd an d fo olis h riv alr y p ro m ote d b y th e
pre ss. Is P erv aiz S hah a s g ood a s I. M . M alik ? N um ero us a rtic le s, a n d p eo ple
who k now n oth in g a b out a rt w ritin g lo ng a n d d ull e ssa y s o n b oth p ain te rs . E ven
th ose w ho p ra is e P la to h av en ’t a c lu e a s to w hat h e’s a b out a n d w here h is a rt
ste m s f ro m . H as e ith er o f y ou s e en I . M . M alik ’s w ork ?’
Alic e h ad n ev er h eard o f h im . I k new h im s lig htly fro m th e p ast a n d h ad
se en h is p ain tin gs a t v ario us e x hib itio ns.
‘H e’s d eco ra tiv e, s h allo w , p re te n tio us a n d th is w as m y o pin io n lo ng b efo re
Pla to e n te re d th e f ie ld . I . M . M alik p ain ts to p le ase a n d s e ll. F air e n ough, b ut I

can s e e w hy i t d riv es P la to c ra zy . B ut I c an ’t t o ta lly a ccep t t h at I M M’s s u ccess i s
th e w hole c au se . P la to k now s I M M’s a rtis tic w orth p erfe ctly . I f y ou c an b ear to
dow nlo ad im ag es o f h is la te st p ie ce o f c o ncep tu al a rt, y ou’ll s e e th at e v en o ld
IM M re aliz es th at s h it p ro duces m oney . H e h as u se d h ors e m an ure , d rie d c o w -
dung c ak es a n d p ig eo n d ro ppin gs to c re ate a h uge b ir th day c ak e fo r h is o w n
nin etie th . T here is a n a d ditio nal p ro ble m . I. M . M alik lo oks lik e a sh ru nken ,
co nstip ate d a cco unta n t, w hic h c an b e s lig htly o ff-p uttin g.’
Alic e d is a g re ed w ith m y a sse ssm en t. S he th ought it w as p erfe ctly p ossib le
th at P la to h ad g one in to a d eclin e b ecau se o f th e s ta te o f g lo bal c u ltu re . ‘ It’ s th e
sa m e e v ery w here . A s a m usic c ritic I s it th ro ugh c o untle ss o pera s a n d c o ncerts
here a n d a t t h e M et i n N ew Y ork . T ic k ets a re s o o verp ric ed t h at n ot m an y m usic
lo vers c an a ffo rd s e ats . It’ s c o rp ora te e n te rta in m en t n ow a n d th e a u die n ces a re
very p hilis tin e. D ir e cto rs k now th is a n d p la y to th eir w eak nesse s. T hey la u gh a t
so m e s tu pid s la p stic k in a M ozart o pera , th ey a p pla u d a b ad ly s u ng a ria s im ply
becau se t h e s ta r s to ps a n d w aits f o r t h e a p pla u se ,
etc .
I t i s d ep re ssin g. T he a b ility
to d is c rim in ate is d is a p pearin g f a st in W este rn c u ltu re . P eo ple lik e w hat th ey ’re
to ld to lik e, a n d s in ce th ey ’v e p aid a h ig h p ric e f o r it th ey c o nvin ce th em se lv es
th at w hat th ey ’v e se en an d h eard w as g ood. T he th eatr e ’s n o d if fe re n t. A ny
se rio us critic is m is re g ard ed as d is lo yal. A fte r a w eek at w ork I o fte n fe el
su ic id al.’
I k new P la to b ette r t h an e ith er o f t h em d id a n d k new t h at h is d ep re ssio n h ad
little t o d o w ith l a ck o f a p pre cia tio n. T hat h ad n ev er b oth ere d h im a t a ll. I f e are d
it w as h is p ast, a n d h is im pote n ce a n d h is lo ve a n d d esir e fo r Z ay nab th at h e
co uld o nly p artia lly f u lf il. H e h ad r e fu se d t o s e e a n a n aly st. M ig ht a c h em ic al d o
th e tr ic k ? It s e em ed c ru el, b ut I w ondere d w heth er Z ay nab h ad tr ie d V ia g ra o r
one o f i ts e q uiv ale n ts .
‘H e’d be horrif ie d . H e’s alw ay s m ak in g vic io us jo kes ab out th e six ty -
so m eth in gs w ho c ru is e n onsto p in th e V ia g ra tr ia n gle in C lif to n. T he th ought o f
him ...’
‘I w asn ’t s u ggestin g y ou h an d h im a ta b le t. B ut y ou p ois o ned th e h ound,

did n’t y ou? G iv e it to P la to m ix ed w ith w hat th e B an gla d esh is re fe r to a s
sh ag
gosh t
. W ho k now s, b oth o f y ou m ay g et l u ck y.’
Alic e b ack ed u p th is s u ggestio n. ‘ N o h arm in tr y in g it o nce. I f it w ork s a n d
th e d ep re ssio n d is a p pears , d o it re g ula rly . If it d oesn ’t, y ou lo se n oth in g. W hy
did y ou n ev er s u ggest i t t o m e, D ara ?’
‘W e w ere m uch y ounger t h en a n d y ou w ere s till A lly .’
Zay nab w as w orrie d . W hat if it g av e h im a h eart a tta ck ? S he’d r e ad th at a
fo rm er p re sid en t o f N ig eria h ad d ie d o f an o verd ose w hile o n th e jo b. W e
ad vis e d cau tio n th e fir s t tim e. P erh ap s ju st h alf th e re co m men ded d ose . S he
pro m is e d sh e w ould tr y w hen sh e re tu rn ed . B efo re th at sh e p la n ned a tr ip to
Paris . It w as h er fir s t tim e a n d s h e w an te d to s e e w ith h er o w n e y es th e L atin
Quarte r w here B alz ac h ad liv ed , w ork ed a n d sta v ed o ff h is c re d ito rs . F re n ch
novelis ts h ad k ep t h er c o m pan y d urin g th e e arly y ears o f h er m arria g e to th e
Honoure d C la ssic , a n d s h e s till r e tu rn ed to th em f ro m tim e to tim e. H er lif e h ad
beco m e a n ev er-e n din g ru sh . S he c o uld n ev er sta y in o ne p la ce fo r to o lo ng.
Even w hen a t h om e s h e tr a v elle d a g re at d eal, s e ein g p arts o f th e c o untr y th at
were n ew t o h er.
Her s is te r-in -la w b elo nged to th e o ld r u lin g f a m ily in S w at, a n d s h e w ould
ofte n g o a n d s ta y th ere in th e s u m mer, u sin g it a s a b ase to v is it G ilg it. S he to ld
me t h is a s I w as d ro ppin g h er o ff a t h er h ote l.
‘H av e y ou e v er b een to S w at? S tr a n ge to th in k th at th ere ’s a w ar g oin g o n
now , a w ar in w hic h P la to a n d I fin d it d if fic u lt to s u pport e ith er s id e. O ne o f
Pla to ’s p ain tin gs s h ow s b oth s id es a s o ne. A h ydra -h ead ed b east.’
‘N o m erm aid s o n t h e l a n dsc ap e?’
‘N one. Y ou h av en ’t a n sw ere d m y q uestio n.’
I d esc rib ed a tr ip I’d ta k en to S w at o ver fo rty y ears b efo re , w ith a s m all
gro up o f stu den ts tr a v ellin g b y a G TS b us fro m M ard an , w here I h ad b een
sta y in g w ith c lo se f a m ily f rie n ds. O ur b us w ound i ts w ay a lo ng t in y r o ad s w here
one h ad to p ull to th e s id e a n d s to p w hen a c ar o r lo rry a p pro ach ed fro m th e
opposite d ir e ctio n. S udden ly a n o ld R olls R oyce p ulle d u p b eh in d u s, its d riv er

honkin g a g gre ssiv ely a n d g estu rin g th at h e w an te d th e b us to m ove o ut o f th e
way . O verta k in g w as n ot p erm itte d , a n d o ur d riv er, c o rre ctly , r e fu se d . T en m ile s
on th ere w as a b ro ad er s tr e tc h o f th e r o ad . T he c ar p asse d u s th en a n d s c re ech ed
to a h alt in fro nt o f u s. W e s to pped . T he o w ner o f th e R olls w as th e W ali o f
Sw at, a tr a d itio nal tr ib al c h ie f, e n noble d a n d p la ced in p ow er b y th e B ritis h a n d
merc ile ssly la m pooned b y E dw ard L ear. H e w alk ed o ut o f th e c ar. T he S w atis
sittin g in th e b us c o w ere d . M en a n d w om en c o vere d th eir h ead s a n d tr ie d to
hid e. T he P ash tu n d riv er, n ow t r e m blin g w ith f e ar, w as a sk ed t o s te p o uts id e. H e
ple ad ed f o r f o rg iv en ess. H e’d h ad n o id ea it w as th e W all’ s c ar. H is p le as w ere
ig nore d . T he W ali to ok a rif le fro m o ne o f h is b odyguard s a n d s h ot o ur d riv er
dead . T hen h e d ro ve a w ay . W e w ere str a n ded fo r th re e h ours b efo re a n oth er
driv er a rriv ed .
‘A lla h s a v e u s,’ s a id Z ay nab . ‘ T hat w as m y s is te r-in -la w ’s g ra n dfa th er.’
I l e t h er o ut o f t h e c ar.
‘P erh ap s w e c an c o ntin ue th is c o nvers a tio n in P aris ? I’ll b e s ta y in g a t th e
Crillo n f o r t w o w eek s.’
‘E njo y, i t w as t h e S S h ead quarte rs d urin g t h e w ar.’
‘D oes t h at m ean n o?’
‘N o. B ut i t d oesn ’t m ean y es e ith er.’
‘W hy? I h av e m uch m ore to te ll y ou, th in gs I d id n’t w an t to m en tio n in
fro nt o f A lic e S te p fo rd .’
‘A nd i t h as t o b e i n P aris ? ’
‘Y ou m ust a d m it i t w ould b e m ore c o ngen ia l. W here e ls e c an I p ra ctic e t h at
Fre n ch t h at M ile V erb iz ie r-ta u ght m e i n m y y outh ?
Vous
c o m pre n ez?’
I m ad e n eith er c o m men t n or c o m mitm en t, b ut w av ed a f rie n dly f a re w ell a s
sh e l e t h ers e lf o ut o f t h e c ar.

ELEV EN
T HE N EW S W AS O N
th e f ro nt p ag e o f th e
In te rn atio nal H era ld T rib une
. A f o rm er
g en era l an d tw o o f h is g uard s h ad b een sh ot d ead in th e h eart o f Is lo o, th e
h eav ily -p olic ed F ath erla n d c ap ita l. F ro m th e to ne o f th e re p ort it w as c le ar th at
h e h ad b een g en uin ely s u pportiv e o f th e W est’ s e ffo rts in A fg han is ta n a n d th e
k ille rs w ere a ssu m ed to b e a l- Q aed a o r th e T alib an , o r b oth , o r a n o ffs h oot o f
e ith er. In o th er w ord s, th ere w ere n o clu es at all. It h ad n ot b een a su ic id e
t e rro ris t. O n th e co ntr a ry , th e re p ort str e sse d , it had been a w ell- p la n ned
e x ecu tio n b y a k ille r o r k ille rs w ho h ad e sc ap ed a n d le ft n o tr a ces. Y et a n oth er
c asu alty o f th e A fg han w ar, I th ought, a n d tu rn ed th e p ag e to r e ad th e r e st o f th e
i n te rn atio nal n ew s, n o l o nger t o b e f o und i n m ost B ritis h p ap ers .
Then m y c ell p hone, a little -u se d o bje ct, b eg an to b uzz. J in dié w as r in gin g
f ro m Is lo o. S he h ad to c an cel o ur d in ner e n gag em en t s c h ed ule d fo r th at n ig ht.
T he d ead g en era l, s h e i n fo rm ed m e, w as h er s o n-in -la w . S he s o unded c alm , a b it
t o o c alm , I th ought, a s I o ffe re d m y c o ndole n ces. S he w ould r in g o n h er r e tu rn ,
w hic h s h ould b e w ith in a f o rtn ig ht. Z ah id c o uld s ta y th e f o rty d ay s if h e w is h ed .
N ot h er.
Paris b eck oned . Z ay nab w ould b e t h ere f o r t h re e m ore d ay s. I r a n g. S he w as
s u rp ris e d a n d, I th in k, p le ase d . I re se rv ed a ro om a t m y fa v ourite d iv e in th e
Q uarte r a n d b ooked a s e at o n a n e arly a fte rn oon t r a in t o F ra n ce.
I h ad b een lo okin g f o rw ard to s e ein g J in dié o n h er o w n a n d d is c u ssin g th e
e v en ts i n Y unnan t h at h ad t r a n sfo rm ed h er f a m ily ’s l if e . T he l e tte r d esc rib in g t h e
l a st d ay s o f t h e D ali s u lta n ate a ffe cte d m e m ore t h an I h ad r e aliz ed . A t l e ast t h ey
h ad n’t d ecap ita te d h is d ead b ody b efo re th e e y es o f h is w om en a n d c h ild re n .
W hy b oth er, th ey m ust h av e th ought, w hen w e a re g oin g to ra p e a n d k ill th em
a ll. W hat h ad h ap pen ed to th e b eau tif u l s p y a n d h er c h ild ? D id th ey s u rv iv e in
C och in C hin a? H ow d elic io us if o ne o f th e d esc en dan ts h ad fo ught a g ain st th e

Am eric an s in V ie tn am . I h ad re cu rrin g th oughts ab out im peria l ru le rs sin ce
an cie n t t im es w ho n ev er p aid h eed t o t h e r e st o f h um an ity .
Jin dié , h ad s u pplie d m e w ith k now le d ge u su ally a v aila b le o nly to s p ecia lis t
sc h ola rs . T he T aip in g a n d B oxer re b ellio ns fe atu re in v ir tu ally e v ery b ook o n
modern C hin ese h is to ry . W hy n ot Y unnan an d D ali? W eig hed o n an y sc ale ,
eig hte en y ears o f s e m i- in dep en den ce d efe n ded a g ain st r e p eate d M an ch u a ssa u lts
was n o m ean a ch ie v em en t. I c o uld n ot f u lly f a th om th e r e aso n f o r d is a p pearin g
th is r e b ellio n f ro m h is to ry .
Dep riv ed o f J in dié ’s c o m pan y f o r a n oth er t w o w eek s, I h ad t im e t o r e ad h er
dia ry a t l e is u re a n d b eg an i t a s t h e t r a in m oved o ut o f L ondon. S he h ad p ro vid ed
me w ith p hoto co pie d e x tr a cts . T hey w ere h an dw ritte n , b ut i n t h e n eat s c ra w l t h at
sh e a n d o th ers h ad b een ta u ght b y th e n uns a t a J e su s a n d M ary c o nven t s c h ool
in F ath erla n d a n d th at n ev er g ot b ette r, u su ally w ors e , w hen th e lu ck ie r g ir ls
fin is h ed th eir e d ucatio n a t N air n C olle g e. T he e x tr a cts I w as g iv en b eg an o n h er
wed din g d ay . T his i r rita te d m e g re atly , e v en t h ough t h e e v en t w as g iv en a t h re e-
lin e en tr y , d ate d Ja n uary 1 970. W hy w as sh e cen so rin g th e earlie r y ears ? I
wan te d to c o m pare h er v ers io n o f e v en ts w ith m in e. In ste ad I g ot a d eta ile d
acco unt o f th e c h ild re n , th e jo ys o f b re astf e ed in g, te eth in g p ro ble m s, c h oic e o f
nurs e ry , sp eak in g M an darin to th em as w ell as P unja b i, th e n ovels sh e w as
re ad in g, d esc rib ed w ith out a n y s u sta in ed r e fle ctio n. H er f a th er h ad d ie d in 1 974.
Her m oth er had so ld th e sh op an d th e beau tif u l old co lo nia l ap artm en t in
Elp hin sto ne B uild in gs a n d jo in ed th em in W ash in gto n, e n ab lin g J in dié to s p en d
more tim e a w ay fro m h er fa m ily c h ore s, in th e u niv ers ity lib ra ry . T he e n tr y o n
Confu ciu s d eta in ed m e lo nger th an th e o th ers . E ven th ough h e h ad b eco m e a
blo w hard M ao is t an d se v ere d all co nnectio ns w ith his co unte rre v olu tio nary
re v is io nis t f rie n ds, I s till h ad a s o ft s p ot f o r h im . H e w as a b rillia n t p hysic is t a n d
th ere is little d oubt th at h ad h e re m ain ed in F ath erla n d h e w ould h av e b een
dra g ooned to w ork o n th e F ath erla n di n ucle ar b om b. T he le ad ers h ad b een
desp era te fo r nucle ar physic is ts . But Confu ciu s, lik e M ao is m , had lo ng
dis a p peare d . A ll a tte m pts in D C a n d Is lo o to g et th e C hin ese e m bassy to h elp

lo cate h im h ad e n ded in fa ilu re . H e w as flu en t in w ritte n a n d s p oken C hin ese .
Had h e ta k en o n a n ew id en tity , c h an ged h is n am e, b ro ken w ith h is r e cen t p ast
an d g one in s e arc h o f o th er r o ots , o r h ad h e b een k ille d in a f a ctio nal b attle w ith
a r iv al g ro up? N obody k new . I c o uld n’t b elie v e h e w as d ead .
Ju ne 1 979, D C
Moth er v ery a gita te d o n se ein g th e sc en es fr o m T ie n A n M ie n S quare o n th e
even in g n etw ork n ew s. S he’s s u re s h e s ig hte d m y b ro th er. I tr y to e xp la in th at
Hanif w ould h ave little s y m path y w ith m ost o f th ese s tu den ts . H e w ould r e g ard
th em a s ‘ c a pita lis t- r o aders’ a nd ‘ r e vis io nis ts ’. B ut s h e w on’t l is te n . H er e yes a re
glu ed t o t h e t e le vis io n n onsto p t h ese d ays. W e a ll w orry . N o l e tte r f r o m H anif f o r
nea rly fo ur y ea rs. B efo re h e u se d to w rite a t le a st o nce e very th re e m onth s. I
wis h h e h adn’t g one to C hin a. ‘I m ust p artic ip ate in th e G re a t P ro le ta ria n
Cultu ra l R evo lu tio n, J in dié . It’ s h appen in g n ow . H is to ry is b ein g m ade. I c a n’t
sta nd o n o ne s id e.’ H e p le a ded w ith t h e C hin ese e m bassy i n I s lo o f o r a o ne-y ea r
stu dy v is a in 1 969 a nd th en d is a ppea re d . D id th ey fin d h im a nd lo ck h im u p fo r
havin g n o le g al p apers? T he R ed G uard g ro up h e jo in ed w as d is b anded . H e
wro te th at h e w as te a ch in g E nglis h a t a sc h ool in K unm in g. T hen a p ostc a rd
fr o m D ali. T hre e le tte rs fr o m B eijin g a nd th en s ile n ce. I ’m s u re h e w ould w rite
to o ur m oth er i f h e c o uld . I s h e s till a liv e?
24 J a nuary 1 984, D C
Moth er d ie d p ea cefu lly to day. I g ot a s h ock w hen I to ok h er s o m e te a a nd s a w
her ly in g th ere s tiff w ith h er m outh a nd e yes w id e o pen . I s c re a m ed . Z ahid fe lt
her puls e . H e exa m in ed her and th ought sh e m ust have die d a fe w hours
pre vio usly . H er h ea rt sto pped b ea tin g, b ut n o n ois e , n o a tte m pt to sh out m y
nam e. It w as in h er s le ep a nd th at w as n ic e to h ea r. I k ep t th in kin g o f a ll th e
th in gs I s h ould h ave d one f o r h er. I d on’t t h in k I e ver t o ld h er h ow d eep ly I l o ved
her a nd h ow m uch I h ad d ep en ded o n h er in m y y o uth . E ven in th ose d ays s h e

sa id th in gs o nly if s h e h ad to . I t w as F ath er w ho ta lk ed to u s a lo t a nd p unis h ed
us. S he w ould w atc h , a w ry s m ile o n h er f a ce.
It w as d iffe re n t w ith m y c h ild re n . T hey la te r to ld m e h ow s h e la ughed a nd
pla yed w ith th em w hen Z ahid a nd I w ere a bse n t. S he w ould ta lk e n dle ssly a bout
Yunnan a nd th e la st d ays o f D ali, te llin g th em th e s a m e s to rie s th at I h ad h ea rd
fr o m E ld er a nd Y ounger G ra nnie s, s to rie s th at I h ad p ut a sid e, n ot w is h in g to
burd en th e c h ild re n w ith m em orie s th at m ea nt n oth in g to th em . I t w as a fte r m y
moth er d ie d t h at N eela m s ta rte d p ra yin g a nd w ea rin g a h ija b.
Hanif’ s d is a ppea ra nce w eig hed h ea vily o n m y m oth er a nd n ot t a lk in g a bout
it m ust h ave m ade it w orse . W hen ever I m en tio ned h im s h e w ould a sk m e to b e
sile n t. S he s im ply d id n ot w is h t o t a lk a bout i t.
We’v e a ll b een w eep in g. T he c h ild re n , w ho a dore d h er, in sis te d o n s ta yin g
a t h om e to day. W e b urie d h er la te in th e a fte rn oon in th e M uslim c em ete ry .
Zahid a ngrily b ru sh ed a sid e th e I m am w ho s a id th at N eela m a nd I s h ould n’t b e
pre se n t.
She n ever s a id m uch a fte r F ath er d ie d , a lw ays fe lt s h e w as a b urd en o n u s.
How m any tim es d id I r e a ssu re h er th at w e c o uld n’t d o w ith out h er. I t w as tr u e.
She l o ved t h e c h ild re n a nd c o oked f o r th em , w en t o ut w ith t h em w hen Z ahid a nd
I w ere o ut o f t o w n. H er o nly r e g re t w as t h at s h e h ad n ever v is ite d Y unnan t o p ay
tr ib ute t o h er a ncesto rs.
I w en t to th e c h ild re n ’s b ed ro om s in tu rn to k is s th em g oodnig ht. S ule im an
was to o u pse t to ta lk . N eela m a sk ed : ‘W ho is D ara ?’ I a nsw ere d q uic kly . ‘A n
old , old fr ie n d of yo ur fa th er.’ She persis te d . ‘A nd a fr ie n d of yo urs? ’ I
wondere d if m y m oth er h ad s a id s o m eth in g, b ut th at s e em ed s o u nlik ely . ‘W hy
don’t y o u a nsw er, M om ? I’v e r e a d y o ur d ia ry .’ I s la pped h er a nd th en s ta rte d
weep in g a nd h ugged h er. T hat n ig ht I d estr o yed th e o ld d ia ry . ‘ W hat d iffe re n ce
does it m ake if s h e k n ow s? ’ w as Z ahid ’s tir e d r e sp onse . I t m ade a d iffe re n ce to
me. N eela m n ever r a is e d th e m atte r a gain . D id n’t s le ep a ll n ig ht. I w en t to th e
kitc h en , m ade te a th e w ay m oth er use d to and kep t burstin g in to te a rs as
diffe re n t m em orie s o f h er q ueu ed u p in m y h ea d. S he n ever la m en te d th e lo ss o f

her p ast, b ut th e c h ild re n h ad c o nfir m ed th at it n ever le ft h er. I w andere d in to
th e a ttic a nd o pen ed th e s u itc a se fu ll o f o ld p hoto gra phs. I w as s till th ere w hen
th e c h ild re n w oke u p t h e n ext m orn in g.
But w hat h ad s h e w ritte n in th e n ow d estr o yed d ia rie s? It w as n ot lik e h er to
burn a n yth in g re la te d to th e p ast. H er fa th er h ad im pre sse d o n h is c h ild re n th at
arc h iv es w ere a n im porta n t p art o f a f a m ily ’s h is to ry . A f a m ily w ith out a rc h iv es
was o ne th at w as a sh am ed o f o r tr y in g to c o nceal its p ast fo r w hate v er re aso n.
He sa id th at in m y p re se n ce o n o ne o ccasio n. T his w as a so re su bje ct in o ur
house h old , w here th e se rv an ts w ith out th in kin g had so ld m y fa th er’s en tir e
arc h iv e to th e re cy clin g m erc h an t w ho c am e to c o lle ct o ld n ew sp ap ers e v ery
month . It w as m y fa th er’s fa u lt fo r n ot filin g th em p ro perly , b ut h e b la m ed m y
moth er f o r h av in g k ep t th em in s a ck s th at w ere d ep osite d n ex t to th e d is c ard ed
new sp ap ers . I h oped it w asn ’t th e tr a u m a o f re ad in g th e n ow d estr o yed d ia rie s
th at h ad tu rn ed y oung N eela m to w ard s re lig io n. M ore lik ely it w as th e id en tity
politic s th at is th e cu rs e of A m eric an cam pus, lif e . I carrie d on bro w sin g,
sk ip pin g d esc rip tio ns o f h olid ay s till I s a w th e w ord N ath ia g ali o n th e p ag e. I
hoped t h is m ig ht b e a m ore r e fle ctiv e e n tr y .
5 J u ly 1 986, N ath ia gali
It’ s ch anged . O verc ro w ded , ea ch new ugly house in tr u din g on anoth er. N o
pla nnin g a t a ll. D ep re ssin g b ein g h ere a nd t h is i s o ur f ir st w eek. T he p la ce i s f u ll
of e yeso re s. T oo m uch l o ggin g h as d en uded t h e p in e f o re sts . F ro m a d is ta nce t h e
mounta in s l o ok l ik e s h orn s h eep . T he c h ild re n h ave h ea rd s o m any s to rie s a bout
th e m agic o f th is p la ce th at th ey’r e w onderin g w hat it w as th at Z ahid lik ed s o
much a bout it. H e w as a m aze d , to o; ‘ It’ s b eco m e lik e M urre e a nd c o m pare d to
th at th is w as h ea ven .’ T he o ld c lu b n o lo nger in u se . P eep ed th ro ugh th e b ro ken
win dow o f th e L ib ra ry . T he le a kin g ro of w as n ever re p air e d . B ooks w re cked .
Zahid in sis te d w e w alk to th e P ost O ffic e. S till th ere b ut n o Y ounis . T he o ld
postm an r e co gnis e d Z ahid . S aid Y ounis d ie d a fe w y ea rs a go. C ir rh osis o f th e

liv er. There ’s a new su b-p ostm aste r. A yo ung m an w ith a flo w in g bea rd
in tr o duces h im se lf. T ea o ffe re d b ut d eclin ed . T his y o ung m an w ould n ever h ave
le t D a nd. Z re a d le tte rs n ot in te n ded fo r th em . Y este rd ay I w alk ed to th e
Churc h . S till t h ere a s t h e s p ot w here D a nd I f ir st f e lt c lo se . W hat h e w ould m ake
of th is p la ce n ow ? D id h e e ver r e tu rn ? W hen ? C an’t h elp th in kin g a bout h im
here ... w e all w alk ed acro ss th e path to M oksh puri and ca m e dow n in
Doongagali w hic h w as l e ss c ro w ded a nd s e em ed m uch n ic er. W ould D t h in k t h at
to o n ow ? H e u se d to b e sc a th in g a bout D oongagali even th ough tw o o f h is
fr ie n ds liv ed h ere . H e w as a lw ays te a sin g th em . T he c h ild re n , to o, p re fe rre d th is
gali a nd Z ahid a sk ed t h e l o ca ls a bout l a nd a va ila bility . T hey c la m med u p.
The d ays c re ep b y a nd m y s p ir its a re lo w . I w ant to le a ve h ere a nd g o to
Lahore .
I h ad f e lt th e s a m e a b out th e p la ce w hen I r e tu rn ed in 1 984, e v en th ough a t th e
Gre en ’s H ote l e n d o f N ath ia th e e y eso re s w ere s o m e d is ta n ce a w ay , b ut e v en
th en th ere w as m uch ta lk o f A fg han r e fu gees a n d n earb y tr a in in g c am ps f o r th e
jih ad is fig htin g th e R ussia n s in A fg han is ta n . M an y lo cals h ad c o m pla in ed th at
th e A fg han s w ere w re ck in g th e e n vir o nm en t. T he re g io n is m uch w ors e n ow . I
tr y n ot t o t h in k a b out i t t o o m uch . I w as h opin g t o e n co unte r a n a rre stin g p en ned
portr a it of Z ah id in her dia ry , so m eth in g th at gav e so m e acco unt of his
pro fe ssio nal a n d p ers o nal tr a je cto ry . J in dié w as n ev er o vertly p olitic al lik e h er
bro th er o r l ik e t h e r e st o f u s, b ut h er s y m path ie s l a y o n w hat u se d t o b e o ur s id e.
She w ould l is te n c are fu lly , o ccasio nally i n te rje ct a r e m ark o r t w o a n d s o m etim es
den ounce p oor C onfu ciu s a s a m in dle ss f a n atic . T he a d je ctiv e w as m is p la ced . I
certa in ly w asn ’t p re p are d f o r w hat I w as a b out t o r e ad .
4 D ecem ber 1 986, D C
In a fe w h ours to day m uch o f w hat I h ad b uilt u p in m y life o ver th e p ast n in e
and a h alf y ea rs h as c o lla pse d . A ll th at r e m ain s a re th e c h ild re n . T his is m uch ,
much w orse t h an t h e a ffa ir w ith t h e n urse . T hat n ever b oth ere d m e. I n f a ct I w as

re lie ved , sin ce I c o uld n ever p ro vid e h im w ith th e p assio n th at h e n eed ed so
desp era te ly . B ut th is is u naccep ta ble . H e c a m e h om e a t th e u su al tim e. H alfw ay
th ro ugh d in ner h e te lls m e in a s c a su al a v o ic e a s h e c a n m anage th at h e h as
decid ed to jo in th e R ep ublic a n P arty . T he F ath erla ndi d octo rs in th e U nite d
Sta te s a re d iv id ed . T he n ew a rriv a ls g ra vita te to w ard s th e D em ocra ts o r a re
apolitic a l. T he old er se ttle r docto rs, now ea rn in g sm all fo rtu nes, go in th e
dir e ctio n th eir in vestm en ts ta ke th em . R ea gan is b ette r fo r b usin ess s o th ey g o
with th e R ep ublic a ns. Z ahid u se d to d en ounce th em a s ta rts . H e’s b eco m e o ne
him se lf. It m ark s a r e a l d eg en era tio n a nd a b ig s h ift in s e n sib ilitie s. H ow lo ng
ca n I l iv e w ith h im ? T ill t h e c h ild re n h ave l e ft h om e? F iv e m ore y ea rs.
On a perso nal le vel I have no co m pla in ts . O ur m arria ge w as one of
co nven ie n ce. N eith er o f u s p re te n ded w e w ere in lo ve. W e kn ew ea ch o th er
re a so nably w ell a nd th at h elp ed . B ette r th an m arry in g a co m ple te str a nger.
There w ere n o h id den c o rn ers in o ur liv es. W e b oth h ad o ur g hosts . H e k n ew
every th in g a bout D a nd m e. I k n ew a fe w th in gs a bout h im a nd A nju m . H er lo ss
had h urt h im m ore th an h e w ould e ver a ckn ow le d ge. In th e e a rly d ays o f o ur
marria ge I w ould t r y a nd d ra w h im o ut, b ut t h e p ain w as t o o s tr o ng. H e t o ld m e:
‘T alk in g a bout h er to y o u o r a nyo ne e ls e w on’t h elp . If it d id I w ould .’ I n ever
men tio ned h er n am e a gain .
Afte r h e a nnounced h is n ew p olitic a l a ffilia tio n, I le ft th e r o om . H e d id n’t
fo llo w m e t o t r y a nd e xp la in t h e p hilo so phic a l l e a p t h at h e h ad m ade. T here w as
only o ne e xp la natio n. O pportu nis m b orn o f g re ed . H e is a d octo r. H e c a n tu rn
th e m ic ro sc o pe o n h im se lf. I a vo id h im n ow . T he c h ild re n k n ow t h at s o m eth in g’s
wro ng.
Today h e tr ie d to c o nfr o nt m e. P ure b lu ste r. H e d id n’t b elie ve in it, b ut
oth ers h ad in sis te d . It w ould h elp th e c o m munity o f d octo rs fr o m F ath erla nd.
What d id it m atte r to m e, sin ce I h ad n ever sh ow n th e slig hte st in te re st in
politic s. I l e t h im w allo w i n s e lf- p ity f o r a w hile , b efo re r e p ly in g.
‘I w as n ever p olitic a l lik e y o u w ere , b ut th e r e a so n I lik ed y o u a nd m arrie d
yo u w as b eca use I t h ought y o u h ad s o m e i n te g rity . S om e p rin cip le s i n w hic h y o u

belie ved . T hat m ea nt a lo t to m e. N ow I fin d y o u lo ath so m e. I c a n n ever r e sp ect
yo u a gain . Y ou’r e n o d iffe re n t fr o m y o ur c o lle a gues w ho s till o rg anis e g en der-
se g re g ate d d in ners to s h ow th eir a ffe ctio n fo r th e o ld c o untr y . Y ou’v e b eco m e
one o f t h em . I f i t w ere n ’t f o r t h e c h ild re n I w ould l e a ve y o u n ow a nd m ake s u re I
hir e d a r e a lly g ood d iv o rc e l a w yer.’
He d id n’t r e p ly a nd I c o uld n’t r e sis t a f in al k ic k.
‘D ara w as so rig ht w hen h e to ld m e o nce th at it w asn ’t in stitu tio ns lik e
marria ge th at m atte re d . T he o nly u nio ns th at w ork h ave to b e b ase d o n g en uin e
passio ns. L ove a nd p olitic s.

He w as s ile n t.
I t o ld t h e c h ild re n . T hey d id n’t r e p ly , e ith er.
Poor Z ah id . H e m ust h av e b een a s s tu nned b y th is r e sp onse a s I w as n ow . D id I
sa y t h at t o h er? S lo w ly i t c am e b ack . I t m ust h av e b een t h at n ig ht i n t h e S halim ar
Gard en s. It h ad b een a re sp onse to so m eth in g sh e h ad sa id lin kin g lo ve to
marria g e. E ig hte en a t th e tim e, sh e w as lim ite d in h er e x perie n ces a n d h ad a
fix ed n otio n o f th e p erfe ct lo ver-h usb an d. S he m ay w ell h av e id en tif ie d w ith
Dai- y u, th e e th ere al h ero in e in C ao X ueq in ’s m aste rp ie ce, b ut s u re ly h er id eal
lo ver c o uld n’t p ossib ly b e B ao -y u— or h ad th e f ic tio n b eco m e s o r e al th at it h ad
im pin ged o n re ality ? E ven s o , n ot B ao -y u. N o. H e w as fa r to o fla k y. S he h ad
certa in ly c h an ged s in ce t h ose d ay s. E xperie n ce i s o fte n t h e b est t e ach er, b ut w hat
on e arth h ad im pelle d h er to s ta y o n, a n d e sp ecia lly a fte r th e c h ild re n le ft h om e?
Hab it? C onven ie n ce? I w an te d a n sw ers . S he h ad to c o m e b ack s o on. A f o rtn ig ht
was t o o f a r a w ay .
The t r a in h ad r e ach ed t h e G are d u N ord .

TW ELV E
I
W ASN ’T C O M PL ETELY S U RE
w hy I w as in P aris . Z ay nab w as a p re te x t, s in ce s h e
w as re tu rn in g to L ondon. I w as to o o ld to b ru sh u p m y F re n ch . T he tim e fo r
j ’ a im e, tu a im es, il a im e, n ous a im ons
w as lo ng g one. A nd a n o ld a n d c lo se
f rie n d h ere , M ath urin , a g if te d c o m pose r, w as n o lo nger a liv e. U su ally M ath o
w as th e f ir s t p ers o n I r a n g. W e w ould m eet w ith in h ours , d eb rie f e ach o th er o n
t h e s ta te o f t h e w orld a n d t h e w orld o f o ur p ers o nal l iv es, r e tir e t o a c afé n ear S t-
G erm ain , an d th ere he w ould deta il th e la te st atr o citie s of certa in P aris ia n
i n te lle ctu als , fa r g one in v an ity a n d c o nceit, th at w e h ad b oth c o m e to lo ath e.
T hey w ere th e ‘ u ltr a s’ o f th e n ew o rd er: s o cia l, e co nom ic , p olitic al lib era ls , th ey
h ate d th eir o w n ra d ic al p asts an d n ow ev en o ppose d tr a d itio nal co nse rv ativ e
G au llis m a n d r e p ublic an is m f o r b ein g to o
gauch is te
a n d
éta tis te .
T heir c arp in gs,
f a r fro m co stin g th e in te n ded ta rg ets an y sle ep le ss nig hts , sim ply pro voked
m ir th .
Math o w ould p ro vid e m e w ith r ic h g ossip , c o m ple te a cco unts o f w hat w as
r e ally goin g on undern eath th e su rfa ce. Politic al an d se x ual affa ir s w ere
e ffo rtle ssly c o m bin ed in h is n arra tiv e. W hat a n gere d h im g re atly w as th at e v en
s o m e of th e Fre n ch ex tr e m e le ft had beco m e partia lly in fe cte d w ith th e
n eo lib era l id eo lo gy;
Lib era tio n
a cte d a s th e p rin cip al c o nduit o f th ese id eas a n d
w as o fte n l e ss i n te re stin g t h an t h e t r a d itio nal c o nse rv ativ e j o urn als . T he p ala d in s
o f th e f in an cia l m ark ets w ere s e en a s b old c ru sa d ers , o pen in g n ew p ath s f o r th e
s u balte rn s o f c o nsu m eris t e x cess. It w as n ot e n vy th at h ad s o ure d M ath urin . It
w as a m ix tu re o f c o nte m pt a n d a n ger w ith th e n ew o rd er. H e w ould s p eak o f
s o m e co lle ag ues in th e w orld o f m usic as h av in g b eco m e so te n se th at th ey
s tif le d th e m usic th ey w ere b ein g p aid to p la y . H e w ould n am e n am es f ro m th e
p ast, frie n ds w e h ad in co m mon, w om en w e b oth k new , an d d esc rib e th eir
c u rre n t activ itie s. H e o fte n sp oke o f o ne w om an in p artic u la r, a p artic u la rly

dogm atic
ouvrie ris te
f o r w hom h e h ad k ep t a p erm an en t s p ace in h is h eart, a b it
lik e th e ir rita tin g re se rv ed sig ns in public car-p ark s, w ho w as now an
en orm ously su ccessfu l a rm s d eale r a n d h ad b ought h ers e lf a fa rm w here sh e
re are d p ed ig re ed h ors e s a n d r o de t h em a s a l e is u re a ctiv ity . W e l a u ghed . H e w as
fir m ly c o nvin ced i t w ould e n d b ad ly f o r t h e t u rn co ats .
‘A nd yet’ , M ath o w ould sa y in his gra v elly voic e, ‘I still m is s her
so m etim es. T here w as s o m eth in g b eau tif u l a n d s o ft u ndern eath th e h ard e x te rio r
th at sh e w ore both th en an d now . S ad ness can so m etim es la st fo r years . I
co m pose d a s y m phony t o b id h er f a re w ell. S he c am e t o t h e p re m ie re w ith o ne o f
her c lie n ts fro m th e G ulf . T hey le ft a fte r fif te en m in ute s. N one o f th e c ritic s
lik ed th e w ork . I th in k th ey w ere rig ht. It w as to o s e n tim en ta l, b ut it s o ld w ell.
Too w ell i n P aris a n d n ot a t a ll w ell e ls e w here . L ate r I d is c o vere d t h at a P R f ir m
sh e u se d w as b uyin g th e C D s in b ulk fro m a ll th e s h ops h ere . S tr a n ge g estu re ,
but m y b an k w as h ap py.’
On o ne o ccasio n, a s w e w ere sittin g a t h is ta b le in th e C afé d e F lo re , a
fo rm er acq uain ta n ce sa u nte re d over to w ard s us. M ath o w arn ed m e: ‘H e’s
co m ple te ly g one o ver t o t h e u ltr a s b ut f o r s o m e u nknow n r e aso n l ik es t o p re te n d
he’s still o n o ur sid e, w allo w s in ru bbis h y n osta lg ia a n d h as n oth in g to sa y .
Ple ase d on’t e n co ura g e h im to s ta y . I c an ’t s ta n d h is s p in dly le g s w alk in g in o ur
dir e ctio n.’
As lo ng a s M ath o w as a liv e, I w ould c o m e o fte n to P aris . I w as s tu ck in
deep est F ath erla n d w ith out a ccess to a c o m pute r o r c ell p hone w hen h e d ie d
fif te en y ears a g o, a n d a s a c o nse q uen ce I c o uld n ot a tte n d h is f u nera l. A fte r t h at I
vir tu ally s to pped c o m in g t o t h is c ity . I m is se d h im . I m is se d h is s h arp t o ngue, h is
en erg y, h is v ic io us s e n se o f h um our a n d h is r e fu sa l to s u rre n der to th e w orld in
whic h w e a ll l iv ed .
Once, a fte r a n o verlo ng N ew Y ear’s E ve s u pper— waitin g f o r 1 976— at h is
lo ver’s ap artm en t, w here to o m an y bottle s of re d w in e had alr e ad y been
co nsu m ed b efo re th e b ubble s th at g re ete d th e N ew Y ear, I th ought M ath o w as
fa st asle ep an d not lis te n in g to our co nvers a tio n, know in g th at he had th e

cap acity to d ro p o ff w hen ev er h e f e lt in te lle ctu ally e x hau ste d . I ’d f o rg otte n th at
it w as fo olis h to put to o m uch fa ith in th ese nap s, becau se as so on as he
dis a g re ed , w hic h h e d id o n h earin g m e d is c u ssin g th e e v en ts in L is b on w ith h is
mis tr e ss, h e w ould im med ia te ly w ak e u p a n d r e su m e th e th re ad o f th e d is c o urs e
ta k in g p la ce a ro und h im . T hat s a m e e v en in g, M ath o o pen ed h is e y es a n d b ecam e
gen uin ely ir a te w hen I c o nfe sse d to th e a sse m ble d p arty th at I h ad n ev er re ad
an y S te n dhal. T o m ak e u p fo r th e
fa ux p as
I n am ed th e F re n ch n ovelis ts I h ad
re ad a n d e n jo yed , o nly t o b e b ru sh ed a sid e b y h im .
‘N o n eed to f la u nt y our ig nora n ce, m y d ear. R ead h im a n d I g uara n te e th at
you w ill lo ve h im . I d on’t k now th e b est E nglis h tr a n sla tio ns, b ut in F re n ch h e’s
with out an eq ual. Z ola is esse n tia lly a jo urn alis t; P ro ust is a se lf -in dulg en t
gen iu s; B alz ac i s , o f c o urs e , b rillia n tly p re d ic ta b le ; b ut S te n dhal, h e i s s o m eth in g
els e . T he w ay he unveils a str u ggle of id eas an d th e re su ltin g em otio ns is
maste rfu l. A n u nw ittin g r e ad er n ot f u lly a b le t o g ra sp t h e w rite r’s m in d s u dden ly
beg in s to sy m path iz e w ith a ch ara cte r w hose ra d ic al b elie fs are fa r re m oved
fro m h is o w n. B efo re h e k now s it h e’s tr a p ped . H ap pin ess a n d m is e ry a re o fte n
re la te d to th e ris e a n d fa ll o f re v olu tio nary p olitic s. R ead h im , D ara . T his is a n
in str u ctio n f ro m t h e C om mitte e o f P ublic S afe ty .’
Than ks to M ath o, I d id e x actly th at a n d h av e n ev er sto pped . H is b ooks
becam e th e e q uiv ale n t o f a n in dis p en sa b le lo ver. T hey a cco m pan y m e o n a ll m y
tr a v els . W hat i s s o w onderfu l a b out t h em i s t h e w ay i n w hic h h e b re ak s t h e r u le s,
politic al a n d lite ra ry . H e w rite s a t a n e n via b le p ace a n d e x pla in s s o m ew here in
one o f h is n ovels th at ‘ I w rite m uch b ette r a s s o on a s I b eg in a s e n te n ce w ith out
know in g h ow I s h ould e n d i t.’
Once I h ad re ad h im h e b ecam e re g ula r fo dder in m y d is c u ssio ns w ith
Math o, a n d n ew q uestio ns a ro se . H ad S te n dhal e v er l a in w ith a w om an o uts id e a
bro th el? I did not th in k so . H is bio gra p hers fa ile d to co nvin ce m e of th e
opposite , b ut M ath o b ecam e in dig nan t a t s u ch a th ought, e v en th ough h e h ad n o
pro of w hats o ev er. I w as q uite p le ase d to d is c o ver th at th e g re at n ovelis t s h are d
th is l a ck o f f a cility w ith m y p ain te r f rie n d P la to .

As I d ra g ged m y su itc ase in th e d ir e ctio n o f th e ta x i q ueu e, I w ondere d
what S te n dhal’ s re fin ed in te lle ct w ould h av e m ad e o f co nte m pora ry F ra n ce,
where th e ultr a s he hate d so m uch had re cap tu re d offic ia l politic s. The
unre q uite d lo ve th at d om in ate d h is lif e a n d fic tio ns w as tw in ed to m em orie s o f
politic al p assio ns a n d b etr a y ed h opes. T he s ig ht o f P aris , if y ou d on’t liv e th ere ,
brin gs b ack a ll t h ese m em orie s.
Ste n dhal a n d B alz ac h ad s tr o lle d a lo ng th ese s tr e ets , th e la tte r p uzzle d a s to
how th ere c o uld b e n ot a s in gle r e fe re n ce to m oney in
La C hartr e u se d e P arm e
.
Befo re th em oth ers had w alk ed here , to o, V olta ir e an d D id ero t, S ain t Ju st,
Robesp ie rre , a n d la te r B la n qui a n d th e C om munard s, f o llo w ed b y N iz an , S artr e
an d de B eau voir . It w as th e in te lle ctu al w ork sh op of th e w orld . H ere th e
in div id ual en te rp ris e s of philo so phers an d re v olu tio narie s becam e part of a
co ntin uum th at w as c erta in ly o ne s id e o f th e in te lle ctu al h is to ry o f F ra n ce. T hat
is w hat m ak es th e c ity p re cio us fo r o uts id ers a n d e x ile s, e v en w hen tim es a re
bad . T hose w ho lo ve h is to ry m ust lo ve P aris . W an der th e s tr e ets la te a t n ig ht in
th e Q uarte r an d lin ger over th eir nam ep la te s; it’ s a re fre sh in g an tid ote to
pre v ale n t f a sh io ns.
Math o is n o m ore , b ut h is c ir c le o f f rie n ds s till e x is ts , a v alia n t m in ority o f
dis sid en t p ublis h ers , in te lle ctu als a n d w ork ers w ho re g ula rly a n d c o ura g eo usly
ch alle n ge t h e e sta b lis h ed o rd er a n d i ts m ed ia cra cy — men a n d w om en w ho l iv e i n
a h uge b ubble , w ho a re u nab le to a cco unt f o r th em se lv es, a n d d o n ot r e g ard th is
in a n y w ay a s a p ro ble m , w ho ra re ly q uestio n th e s o cio his to ric al re alitie s th at
hav e p ro duced th em , n ot e v en w hen th ose re alitie s e ru pt a n d th re ate n to b ury
th eir f u tu re i n t h e l a v a.
I h av e m ain ta in ed c o nta ct w ith m an y o f th e d is sid en ts , a ll g ood p eo ple , b ut
none o f th em c an e v er r e p la ce M ath o. T he q uestio n ‘ W hy f ig ht b ack if n obody
els e d oes? ’ alw ay s re m ain ed alie n to h im . H ad h e b een aliv e I w ould h av e
atte m pte d t o e x pla in t h e r e aso ns f o r t h is t r ip a n d h e w ould h av e a sk ed w hy I w as
goin g to d in e w ith su ch an u nusu al la d y fro m F ath erla n d an d w hy sh e w as
sta y in g a t th e C rillo n, a n d I c an re ad m an y o th er q uestio ns a s if in y our liv in g

ey es, M ath o, o ld f rie n d. Y our a b se n ce h as m ad e y ou e v en m ore v iv id a n d I c an
hear y our m usic a n d y our i n dig natio n v ery c le arly .
To m y s u rp ris e , s h e w as w aitin g f o r m e a t th e s ta tio n, s lig htly o verd re sse d
an d a b it te n se . I d id n’t im med ia te ly r e co gniz e h er. I t c an ’t b e th e w om an I s a w
in London. She’s tr a n sfo rm ed . A hau te co utu re tr o use r su it, mak eu p,
im macu la te ly c u t a n d d re sse d h air a n d t o o m uch j e w elle ry .
‘D ara !’
‘Y ou s h ould h av e w arn ed m e. I s i t a f a n cy -d re ss d in ner? ’
‘D on’t b e m ean . W hy s h ould I s p en d th e r e st o f m y l if e m ourn in g m y p ast?
I h av e a re aso nab le in co m e b ecau se m y o nly d ecen t b ro th er h as a c o nsc ie n ce.
I’m f re e h ere t o d o a s I w is h . D on’t I h av e t h e r ig ht? ’
‘T hat’ s n ot a g ood q uestio n a n d n ev er w ill b e a n d y ou k now th at p erfe ctly
well. Y ou l o ok l o vely .’
‘B ut y ou’re d is a p poin te d .’
‘P aris is a lw ay s b est a fte r it’ s r a in ed a b it, th e c ity is c le an se d a n d th e s k y
re v erts t o b lu e.’
‘Y ou s e em ed p re o ccu pie d w hen I r a n g y ou. W ho w ere y ou t h in kin g o f? ’
‘S te n dhal.’
My re sp onse tr ig gere d a m em ory a n d I la u ghed a t m yse lf . S he in sis te d o n
sh arin g t h e j o ke, a n d r e aliz in g t h at h er s p ark lin g e y es a n d r e d l ip s w ould g iv e m e
no r e st, I to ld h er. O nce in B erlin , r e se arc h in g a n ovel s o on a fte r th e W all f e ll, I
re tu rn ed to m y h ote l a n d p ic k ed u p a m essa g e to c all V era F uch -C oad y, a n E ast
Coast a cad em ic t h en i n t o w n w ork in g o n W alte r B en ja m in ’s r a d io b ro ad casts f o r
ch ild re n a t th e W is se n sc h aft C olle g e. I ra n g. S he w as o bvio usly d is tr a cte d . I
ask ed w heth er I h ad d is tu rb ed h er. I c o uld rin g b ack la te r. ‘N o. N ot a t a ll. I’m
not d oin g a n yth in g. S hould w e h av e d in ner to nig ht? ’ I a g re ed . S he r a n g b ack a
fe w m in ute s l a te r.
‘D ara , y ou k now w hen y ou r a n g a m in ute a g o, I s a id I w as d oin g n oth in g.
This w asn ’t e x actly a ccu ra te . I n f a ct I w as t h in kin g o f A dorn o. S ee y ou l a te r.’
I w as s p eech le ss, m utte re d s o m eth in g to th e e ffe ct th at I lo oked f o rw ard to

se ein g h er s o on a n d h oped s h e lik ed o yste rs , p ut th e p hone d ow n a n d c o lla p se d
in to l a u ghte r.
Zay nab s m ile d p olite ly . ‘ W ho i s A dorn o?’
Merc if u lly a ta x i b ecam e a v aila b le a t th at m om en t. S he se em ed n erv ous,
in w ard ly e x asp era te d o r s c are d . W hen I a sk ed if a n yth in g w as w eig hin g o n h er
sp ir its sh e d esc rib ed an ep is o de th at h ad ta k en p la ce earlie r th at d ay . W hile
walk in g in th e Q uarte r a n d s a v ourin g th e s u nsh in e s h e w as s ta rtle d b y th e s ig ht
of a g an g o f p olic em an , w ho p oure d o ut o f a v an , s u rro unded a n A fric an , s p re ad -
eag le d him ag ain st a w all, se arc h ed him , dem an ded pap ers th at w ere not
fo rth co m in g a n d t h en b undle d h im i n to t h e v an a n d d ro ve a w ay .
‘It h ap pen s in F ath erla n d a ll th e tim e, b ut h ere , to o, D ara ? I w as re ally
sh ock ed . P eo ple w atc h ed i n s ile n ce a n d t u rn ed a w ay .’
‘J u st lik e F ath erla n d,’ I to ld h er. ‘It h ap pen s a ll o ver E uro pe. In Ita ly th ey
lo ve b urn in g g ypsie s a n d ta u ntin g M uslim s. R ep re ssio n a n d c o w ard ic e in th e
fa ce o f it h av e b eco m e e v ery day o ccu rre n ces. A fric an s fro m th e c o lo nie s, k id s
fro m th e
banlie u s
, a re o fte n tr e ate d lik e s h riv elle d le av es. K ic k ed in to th e d ir t.
You’ll g et u se d t o i t.’
‘H av e y ou?’
I d id n’t r e p ly .
Late r th at e v en in g a s o ur m eal w as b ein g s e rv ed I tr ie d to d is c u ss h er lif e
an d P la to ’s , w hic h w as afte r all, th e su ppose d p urp ose o f m y tr ip . S he w as
dete rm in ed t o d is c u ss l ite ra tu re . W e c o m pro m is e d . M y r e fe re n ce t o S te n dhal h ad
in tr ig ued h er.
‘I m ust c o nfe ss I’m still b eso tte d w ith B alz ac. I c an m atc h m an y o f h is
sto rie s w ith re al- lif e e q uiv ale n ts in F ath erla n d. M oney a n d p ow er, c o rru ptio n
fe ed in g o n c o rru ptio n, a n d th e o rig in s o f e v ery ric h fa m ily u su ally u nco ver a
crim e.’
The o nly S te n dhal s h e h ad e v er r e ad w as h is c o m pen diu m
Love
.
‘I c o uld n ev er id en tif y w ith th e c ry sta lliz in g b ough in th e S alz b urg m in es.
So E uro pean . N ot h is fa u lt, o f c o urs e . I tr ie d to tr a n sfe r h is m eth od to S in d.

Here , I w ould s a y , it is th e s a n d th at is s u pre m e. T he d ust s to rm s, th e h ot w in ds
th at s e ar th e s k in a n d th e m in d, le av in g u s n um b a n d te m pora rily p ara ly zed a n d
dis tr a u ght. T hat, to o, is lik e lo ve. H av e y ou n ev er re ad Ib n H azm ’s tr e atis e o n
lo ve? H e w ro te it in C ord oba, e ig ht c en tu rie s b efo re S te n dhal. V ery b rillia n t.
I’v e s u rp ris e d y ou. Y ou p re fe r th in kin g o f m e a s a m arty re d p ro vin cia l f ro m a n
Asia n b ack w ate r.’
I h ad n ot b een s u re till th en , b ut n ow I k new I w an te d to s p en d th e n ig ht
with h er. S he r e ad m y f a ce.
‘D id y ou k now th at m y lu sh ro om w ith a fo ur-p oste r w as o nce a to rtu re
ch am ber, o r s o t h e m aid t o ld m e.’
‘A re y ou s till i n l o ve w ith P la to ?’
‘N o. I w as fo r th e fir s t fe w w eek s, b ut it w as p ure fa n ta sy . H e w as v ery
honest w ith m e re g ard in g h is c o nditio n a n d w e b ecam e v ery c lo se frie n ds. I
co uld d is c u ss a n yth in g w ith h im .’
‘H e’s a lw ay s l o ved m arty re d p ro vin cia ls . W hy t h e h ell d id y ou i n sis t I w rite
a b ook a b out h im ?’
‘J u st t o s e e i f y ou c o uld a n d w ould , a n d i f y ou d id w e h ad t o m eet.’
‘I’m f la tte re d , b ut d id it n ev er o ccu r to y our p ro vin cia l m in d th at w e c o uld
hav e m et w ith out t h e b ook?’
‘H ad y ou b een a c o m pose r I w ould h av e in sis te d o n a P la to s o nata . I f y ou
had b een a p ain te r I w ould h av e a sk ed fo r a p ortr a it, ju st to s e e h ow y ou s a w
him . T ry t o u nders ta n d, D ara . I w as b ore d .’
‘H m mm.’
‘H e to ld m e y ou w ere o nce in lo ve w ith a C hin ese g ir l. W here o n e arth d id
you m eet h er? ’
‘In L ah ore . S he w as a C hin ese P unja b i.’
‘H ow s w eet. T ell m e m ore .’
‘N o. P ro vin cia ls t r y in g t o p atr o niz e t h eir s u perio rs a lw ay s m ak e t h em se lv es
lo ok f o olis h . S he’ll b e i n t h e P la to b ook. I t’ s a ll a b out m ilie u t h ese d ay s, n ot j u st
th e i n div id ual a n d h is i d eas.’

‘I n eed s o m e a d vic e f ro m y ou.’
‘H ow c o uld I d are to a d vis e s u ch a s tr o ng-m in ded a n d s in gula r w om an a s
yours e lf ? Y ou’v e m an ag ed p re tty w ell o n y our o w n t ill n ow .’
‘I’m to uch ed . D oes th is m ean you’ll sp en d th e nig ht in m y to rtu re
ch am ber? ’
‘W ould y ou l ik e m e t o ?’
‘Y es, b ut o nly a fte r w e’v e h ad d esse rt. I t’ s t o o d elic io us h ere .’
‘A re y ou s u re i t i s n ’t a n i ll- c o nsid ere d s u bte rfu ge?’
She l a u ghed a s s h e p la ced t h e o rd er, a n d a fte r a n e sp re sso e ach , I s u ggeste d
so m e f re sh a ir b efo re r e tir in g. S he to ok m y a rm a n d w e w alk ed th e P aris s tr e ets ,
whic h w ere s lo w ly e m pty in g o f p eo ple a s th e c ity w en t to s le ep , d is c u ssin g its
his to ry a n d th e w ay s o f th e w orld . I s p oke o f th e c o untr y w here I c o uld n ot liv e,
where p eo ple w ere s p ew ed o ut a n d f o rc ed to s e ek r e fu ge a b ro ad , w here h um an
dig nity h ad b eco m e a w re ck ag e. H er o w n lif e w as a liv in g-d eath e x am ple o f a
hum an b ein g p utr e fy in g i n t h e f ilth t h at w as o ur F ath erla n d.
‘Y ou h ate i t s o m uch ?’
‘N ot it, but its ru le rs . Scu m of th e earth . B lin d, uncarin g m onste rs .
Fath erla n d n eed s a t s u nam i t o d ro w n t h em a n d t h eir i ll- g otte n g ain s.’
She b ecam e q uie t.
Afte r w e m ad e l o ve, s h e r e tu rn ed t o t h e q uestio n o f J in dié a n d I t o ld h er t h e
sto ry .
‘A noth er str o ng-m in ded a n d sin gula r w om an . Y ou se em to sp ecia liz e in
th em . H ow c o uld s h e b ear t o w alk o ff w ith Z ah id ? Y ou w ere s u ch c lo se f rie n ds.’
‘P erh ap s t h at’ s w hy P la to , u nlik e Z ah id , r e m ain s a v ery g ood f rie n d.’
‘D on’t w orry a b out h im . H e k new w e w ere d estin ed f o r e ach o th er. H e to ld
me t h at e v ery w om an h e r e ally l o ves b ut c an ’t s a tis fy e n ds u p i n b ed w ith y ou.’
‘S ure ly t h ere ’v e b een m ore t h an t w o.’
She la u ghed w ith out r e str a in t, h ig hlig htin g a n oth er a ttr a ctiv e f e atu re o f h er
pers o nality .
The n ex t m orn in g o ver b re ak fa st sh e a sk ed w heth er sh e sh ould m ove to

London p erm an en tly . T here w as n o w ay s h e w as g oin g b ack to F ath erla n d. S he
was fe arfu l th at K ara ch i w as g oin g to e x plo de a n d th ere w ould b e a c iv il w ar
betw een th e N orth a n d th e S outh , P ash tu ns v ers u s U rd u s p eak ers w ith S in dhis
ap pla u din g fro m th e s id e, h opin g e ach w ould d estr o y th e o th er b ut fe arfu l th at
th e P unja b i a rm y w ould r id e t o t h e r e sc u e.
‘A nd P la to ?’
‘P la to is d yin g. I d id n’t w an t to te ll y ou la st n ig ht, D ara , a n d fo r p ure ly
se lf is h r e aso ns. I d id n ot w an t y ou t o t h in k o f a n yth in g e ls e .’
This c am e a s a c o m ple te s h ock a n d w as d eep ly u nse ttlin g. F or s o m e tim e
neith er o f u s s p oke. A noth er o ld frie n d w as a b out to d ie a n d w ith h im a la rg e
part o f m y o w n p ast a n d s h are d m em orie s o f c ata m ite s th at w e h ad c o lle ctiv ely
cu rs e d . I fe lt a sin gle , sa lty te ar c re ep d ow n m y fa ce a n d Z ay nab b ru sh in g it
aw ay .
‘I d id w onder w hen I h eard h is v oic e o n th e p hone. It w as h oars e , b ut h e
co uld s o und l ik e t h at a fte r a b ad n ig ht. W hat i s i t? ’
‘L ung c an cer t h at h as s p re ad . I t w as d ia g nose d a f e w m onth s a g o. I p le ad ed
with h im b ut h e r e fu se d to c o m e a b ro ad . H e r e fu se d c h em oth era p y. H e liv es o n
pain kille rs . A ll he does is pain t. H e sa id you w ould lik e his la st pain tin gs
becau se th ey a re fro m in sid e h im , lik e th e v ery fir s t e tc h in gs. E xcep t th ese a re
huge c an vase s. T here i s a l a d der i n t h e s tu dio . B efo re I l e ft h e s a id , “ L ook a t t h is
one. M y l a st w ork . T his h uge c at i s m e a n d I ’m w atc h in g F ath erla n d. L ook, h ere
are F ath erla n d’s f o ur c an cers : A m eric a, t h e m ilita ry , m ulla h s a n d c o rru ptio n. F or
th e cat th ere ’s ju st a sin gle o n e, b ut th e cat w ill d ie fir s t. F ath erla n d is o n
in te n siv e c h em oth era p y. A ll s o rts o f n ew d ru gs a re b ein g u se d , b ut th ey m ig ht
en d u p p ro ducin g n ew c an cers .” I t’ s a h orrif ic p ain tin g, D ara . T he i n ner c ir c le o f
Hell. H e w an ts y ou t o w rite a b out i t.’
‘I w ill a fte r I ’v e s e en i t, b ut w hy d id n’t h e t e ll m e?’
‘H e d id n’t w an t y ou o r A lic e S te p fo rd to k now . I h av e n o id ea w hy th is is
so . A nd th at is th e r e al r e aso n h e w as s o d esp era te th at y ou w rite a b out h im . I t
had n oth in g t o d o w ith a n y r e q uest f ro m m e.’

When P la to d ie d , Z ah id a n d I w ould b e v ir tu ally th e s o le s u rv iv ors o f th e ta b le
aro und w hic h w e h ad a ll b eco m e frie n ds. O f a ll o f u s, P la to h ad h ad th e m ost
ex tr a o rd in ary q ualitie s, an d w hile so m e o f th ese w ere v is ib le in h is art, o ne
alw ay s fe lt th at h e h ad n ev er a llo w ed h im se lf to re ach fu ll b lo om . H e w as a t
once t h e m ost h onoura b le a n d t h e m ost u nfo rg iv in g o f m en .
I th in k h e f e lt th at lo ss w hen I d ro ve h im to C am brid ge a ll th ose y ears a g o;
I o bse rv ed h is c o ncen tr a te d g aze a s h e lo oked a t th e la te st b ooks in th e f ie ld th at
nev er b ecam e h is o w n. H e h ad sm ile d in a str a n ge w ay th at I in te rp re te d a s
re g re t b ut w as p ro bab ly n ot.
‘D o y ou s till u nders ta n d t h is s tu ff, P la to ?’
‘A little , b ut it h as m oved so fa r a h ead . W ay b ey ond m e n ow . T he c o ld
would hav e kille d m e. Lik e poor R am an uja n , in cap ab le of to le ra tin g th e
co hab ita tio n o f e x tr e m es.’
‘I th ought it w as re p re sse d h om ose x uality th at s e n t h im s c u rry in g b ack to
In dia .’
‘A noth er way of puttin g it co uld be th at it was th e unre p re sse d
hom ose x uality o f th e g re at m ath em atic ia n w ho in vite d h im h ere th at f rig hte n ed
th e p oor c ata m ite .’
‘B oth o f u s c o uld b e r ig ht.’
‘L et’ s av oid P unja b i m elo dra m a. I th in k h e d ie d o f tu berc u lo sis th at h e
co ntr a cte d h ere , b ut I ’m n ot s u re .’
It w as a c ris p N ovem ber d ay , b ut b itte rly c o ld . W e h ad w alk ed f o r a n h our
by th e r iv er a n d a f rie n dly p oet a t K in gs g av e u s lu nch . P la to n ev er s p oke m uch
in c o m pan y a n d w hen h e d id t h ere w as n o a rtif ic e. T hat i s w hy I w as p uzzle d b y
his fa ilu re to te ll m e h e w as d yin g. It w ould h av e b een in c h ara cte r fo r h im to
jo ke ab out it an d re g re t th at h e w asn ’t a B elie v er, o th erw is e h e co uld h av e
lo oked f o rw ard to a t le ast o ne
houri
a n d h is a ilm en t in sta n ta n eo usly c u re d . O urs
was a h eav en fo r o ld m en . W hen w e w ere d riv in g b ack fro m C am brid ge, h e
ex pre sse d no re g re ts . A ll he w ould sa y is th at one can nev er co m ple te ly

dete rm in e th e p ath th at o ne’s lif e ta k es. O th er f a cto rs a lw ay s in te rv en e to s h ap e
our b io gra p hie s. I a sk ed i f h e w as t h in kin g o f a n yth in g s p ecif ic .
‘If t h ere h ad b een n o P artitio n I m ig ht h av e c o m e h ere .’
‘B ut y ou w ould n ev er h av e h ad t im e t o p ain t.’
‘I w ould n ot h av e n eed ed t o p ain t.’
Zay nab o rd ere d m ore c o ffe e.
‘P erh ap s y ou s h ould h av e l e ft h im t h e p ois o n c ap su le .’
‘H e w ould b e d ead b y n ow , a n d h e i s d esp era te t o f in is h t h e p ain tin g.’
‘H e n ev er w ill. H e c an ’t. H e k now s th at a n d a ll h e’ll d o is to c arry o n
en ric h in g t h e c o lo urs .’
‘L is te n to m e, D ara . I h ir e d tw o n urs e s to b e w ith h im a t a ll tim es. T here is
a d octo r o n c all w ho h as p ro m is e d m e to m ak e h is la st h ours e asy . I ju st c o uld
not b ear to b e th ere w hen h e d ie d . H e k new th at, w hic h is w hy h e a sk ed m e to
le av e t h e c o untr y .’
I b elie v ed h er. S udden ly I h ad a d esp era te u rg e to sp eak to h im o ne la st
tim e. T o s a y a fe w th in gs I h ad n ev er s a id to h im . A bout h ow im porta n t h e’d
been fo r a ll o f u s. O f h ow th e p le asu re h e to ok in d efy in g p ublic o pin io n h ad
in fe cte d u s, w ho w ere a g en era tio n y ounger, a n d h ow h is u nceasin g a tta ck s o n
tim e-s e rv ers an d opportu nis ts durin g a m ilita ry dic ta to rs h ip had giv en us
co ura g e.
‘Z ay nab , r in g t h e n urs e , p le ase . I w an t t o s p eak w ith h im .’
She d ia lle d t h e n um ber. T here w as n o r e p ly .
‘K eep t r y in g, k eep t r y in g.’
Fin ally th e n urs e a n sw ere d . S he w as in a n a m bula n ce. P la to h ad c o lla p se d
so m e h ours a g o a n d w as u nco nsc io us. T hey w ere ta k in g h im to th e h osp ita l.
Zay nab a n d I e m bra ced e ach o th er a n d w ep t. W e s p en t m ost o f th at d ay in th e
Louvre , w alk in g in a d aze, s ittin g f o r a lo ng tim e in f ro nt o f a P oussin , th in kin g
of P la to a ll th e tim e a n d w onderin g w heth er h e w as a lr e ad y d ead . W hen w e
re tu rn ed to h er h ote l th ere w ere d ozen s o f m essa g es. W e d id n ot e at, b ut w en t

str a ig ht u p. W e w ep t f ir s t a n d t h en l a u ghed a s w e s a t o n t h e b ed a n d t a lk ed a b out
him . W e p au se d to d rin k s o m e c o gnac a n d w en t to b ed , b ut s le ep c am e f itf u lly .
Im ag es o f P la to a t d if fe re n t s ta g es o f h is lif e k ep t m e h alf a w ak e, a n d w hen I
tr e m ble d , Z ay nab ’s s o oth in g h an ds w ould m assa g e m y h ead .
Pla to h ad le ft f ir m in str u ctio ns r e g ard in g h is b uria l. N o p ro te cti o n m oney w as to
be p aid to s e cu re a p la ce in a n y g ra v ey ard . H e w as q uite h ap py to b e e ate n b y
dogs. Z ay nab h ad su ggeste d th at sin ce h is p ain tin g o f th e d ead h ound fo r h er
dead b ro th er h ad e n han ced th e v alu e o f th e S hah e sta te s, h e s h ould b e b urie d
clo se t o w here s h e h ad f ir s t s ig hte d h im . P ir S ik an dar S hah a cco rd in gly a rra n ged
fo r P la to ’s b ody to b e tr a n sp orte d to h is la n ds a n d h e w as B urie d in th e S hah
fa m ily g ra v ey ard , b ut w ith out a n y h ead sto ne, a s i s t h e c u sto m i n t h at r e g io n.
‘I c an ta lk to h im w hen I n ex t v is it th e p ris o n o f m y y outh . M ay I a sk y ou
so m eth in g?’
It w as o bvio us th at w e w ere g oin g to s p en d th is d ay d oin g n oth in g, b ut I
need ed a b ris k w alk a n d Z ay nab s h ow ed n o i n clin atio n t o g et d re sse d .
‘W hat? ’
‘If y ou w ere a sk ed t o d esc rib e m e t o s o m eo ne w ho h ad n o i d ea o f m e, w hat
would y ou s a y ?’
‘A S in dhi m atr o n w hose n atu ra l b eau ty i s i n ex tr ic ab ly l in ked t o h er p rid e.’
‘W hy m atr o n? A m I r e ally g ettin g p lu m p, y ou u nfe elin g h ound? A part f ro m
“m atr o n” I l ik ed t h at d esc rip tio n.’
‘“ M atr o n” s ta y s. I t d en ote s m atu rity a n d a u th ority m ore t h an p lu m pness.’
‘W hen th e S te p fo rd la d y w as q uestio nin g m e a b out in tim ate m atte rs y ou
did not sp eak at all. D oes th at m ean you had no th oughts , or w ere th ey
re p re sse d ?’
‘I d id th in k th at, fo r y our p easa n t p ara m our, m ak in g lo ve to y ou m ust b e
lik e h av in g a n un fo r a m is tr e ss, n ot th at h e w ould h av e g ot th e re fe re n ce. N ot
th at y ou w ere a n un. A n un i s f u ll o f p ie ty , a n d t h e s in o f h av in g a l o ver p ro vid es
her w ith an ex cep tio nal fris so n th at can ’t b e fa k ed . T he p ie ty p ro duces th e

passio n. I n y our c ase , I t h in k, t h ere w as n eith er. J u st s im ple m ech an ic s.’
‘Y ou c an t h in k w hat y ou l ik e. W as i t s im ple m ech an ic s t h is m orn in g?’
‘I w asn ’t r e fe rrin g t o u s.’
‘G ood. Y este rd ay w as a b it s o rro w fu l. I k ep t h earin g a S in dhi l a m en t i n m y
head a s I t r ie d t o a ro use y ou. D o y ou h av e t o l e av e t o day ?’
‘I m ust. I h av e to p re p are a ta lk f o r a c o nfe re n ce. I n eed a f e w d ay s in th e
lib ra ry ’
‘T hat se em s ex cessiv e. W hen is y our C hin ese frie n d re tu rn in g fro m th e
murd er i n quir y i n I s lo o?’
‘H ow d id y ou k now a b out t h at? ’
‘I m ad e it m y b usin ess. M y b ro th er s a y s th ey h av e n o id ea w ho k ille d th e
gen era l. I t w asn ’t t h e u su al s u sp ects w ho a re b la m ed f o r e v ery th in g t h ese d ay s.’
‘I n ev er t h ought i t w as, b ut w hy a re y ou s o i n te re ste d ?’
‘B ecau se y ou a re , a n d I fe el lin ked th ro ugh y ou. I th ought if I d is c o vere d
so m eth in g y ou c o uld p ass i t o n t o y our f rie n d. W hat m y b ro th er d id s a y w as t h at
Gen era l R afiq h ad s e v era l m is tr e sse s.’
‘A c rim e o f p assio n?’
‘A lw ay s p ossib le an d n ot ju st in b elo ved F ath erla n d. A nd th ere w ill b e
an oth er o ne i f y ou e v er t u rn y our b ack o n m e. I l ik e y ou.’
‘R em ain c alm . W e’re b oth m atr o ns a n d m ust p re se rv e a c erta in d eco ru m .
No r e aso n t o r e g re ss t o o ur t e en y ears . S orry , t h at d oesn ’t a p ply t o y ou.’
‘W hen w ill y ou b e b ack ?’
‘W ith in a f o rtn ig ht.’
‘S hould I b uy a n a p artm en t i n P aris o r L ondon? H as t o b e a b ig c ity .’
‘B erlin .’
‘S o I c an l e av e y ou i n p eace t o t a k e a C hin ese m is tr e ss i n L ondon. N o w ay .
I’m b uyin g a n a p artm en t in L ondon. P ric es a re d ro ppin g m ore a n d m ore e ach
day , a n d A lic e h as s ig hte d a s u ita b le b uy.’
I s a t d ow n a n d s h ook h er.
‘L is te n to m e care fu lly . Jin dié is a frie n d fro m th e p ast w ho liv es w ith

Zah id , a n oth er f rie n d, w hom I o nce w ro nged . S he i s n ot m y m is tr e ss.’
‘S he w ill b e s o on. O f th is I ’m s u re . L et’ s n ot a rg ue. W e’ll b oth k now w hen
it h ap pen s. A s a m atte r o f f a ct I p re fe r P aris . L et’ s g o a n d s e e a p artm en ts t o day .’
‘In t h e F au borg S t- G erm ain ?’
‘W hy n ot? I w an t s o m eth in g i n t h e L atin Q uarte r a n d w ould n’t i t b e f u n i f I
fo und so m eth in g n ic e o n th e ru e d e B alz ac. A nd w hic h o f S te n dhal’ s n ovels
sh ould I r e ad f ir s t? ’
‘D if fic u lt. B uy th em a ll a n d to ss a c o in . H ow lu ck y y ou a re to r e ad th em in
Fre n ch . I lo ve th em a ll, b ut if y ou p ut a g un to m y h ead I ’d s a y
Lucie n L eu w en
.
That a n d th e tw o b est- k now n o n es n eed to b e r e re ad e v ery tw o y ears , a n d a t m y
ag e e v ery s ix m onth s. O ne a lw ay s le arn s s o m eth in g n ew . I w ould a ls o s tr o ngly
re co m men d h is t h in ly d is g uis e d m em oir .’
‘B y t h e t im e y ou r e tu rn I ’ll h av e f in is h ed t h em . I r e ad v ery f a st.’
‘D oes u nders ta n din g k eep u p w ith y our p ace?’
‘D oes i n so le n ce k eep u p w ith t h e c h arm ?’
‘R ew rite .’
She w as s e rio us e n ough a b out b uyin g a fla t, a n d w e s p en t a fe w h ours in
vario us s tr e ets lo okin g a t a v aila b le p ro perty . S he lik ed o ne o n th e r u e d e B iè v re ,
an d w hen I p oin te d o ut t h at M itte ra n d a n d a P olis h M arx is t i n te lle ctu al h ad o nce
sh are d th e str e et, a d din g th at B alz ac’s fa v ourite e ate ry w as h ere , sh e b ecam e
ag ita te d . T he a g en t w as ru ng. T he a p artm en t w as h uge fo r s u ch a s m all s tr e et,
but sh e w ould h av e frie n ds to sta y o ver a n d w ould b e e n te rta in in g re g ula rly .
There w as n o h ag glin g. S he w ould p ay th e a sk in g p ric e. T he a g en t g av e m e a n
asto nis h ed l o ok a s i f t o a sk w heth er s h e w as s e rio us. I s u ggeste d t h at h e c lo se t h e
deal q uic k ly b efo re s h e s a w s o m eth in g o n t h e r u e d e B alz ac.
‘W ell, th at’ s se ttle d . N ow sh ould w e go an d in sp ect so m e an tiq ue
fu rn itu re ?’
Her liv in g ro om w as e sp ecia lly la rg e, a n d I s u ggeste d th at th e s p ace a b ove th e
fir e p la ce m ig ht b e a h om e f o r P la to ’s u nfin is h ed m aste rp ie ce. S he s c re am ed .

‘H ai A lla h , n ev er. N ev er. I t’ s a f rig hte n in g p ain tin g. Y ou h av en ’t e v en s e en
it. A nyw ay it’ s to o b ig fo r th is a p artm en t o r a n y o th er. It s h ould b e in a p ublic
sp ace.’
‘W here i s i t a t t h e m om en t? ’
‘A t o ur S in d h om e, I h ope, c are fu lly c o vere d w ith m uslin s h eets to d ry it
pro perly . H e w as w orrie d th at lo cal h oodlu m s m ig ht r a id h is s tu dio w hen n ew s
of h is d eath b ecam e k now n. A ll th e o th er p ain tin gs a re in a w are h ouse . T his la st
one i s n ow a t h om e. W e n eed a m use u m i n E uro pe o r N orth A m eric a t o g iv e i t a
hom e, a n d s o m eo ne lik e y ou s h ould w rite a n e x pla n atio n. It re ally n eed s o ne.
Can y ou t h in k o f a t itle ?’
‘C an ceris ta n ?’
‘D on’t b e s illy . S om eth in g s im ple a n d n onpro vocativ e, l ik e U nfin is h ed ...’
‘L ast T houghts i n a D yin g C ountr y ?’
‘N o. I v is it re g ula rly , a n d F ath erla n d’s d eath h as b een p re d ic te d fa r to o
ofte n .’
‘D yin g T houghts i n t h e L ast C ountr y .’
‘S hut u p. O ne m ore t r y , a n d t h en I ’ll—

‘A rtis tic Str u ctu re s of Politic al M ean in g in an Unknow n Countr y .
Unfin is h ed , 2 009.’
‘B rillia n t. T hat w ill b e th e title . In fa ct, g iv en th at y ou h av en ’t se en th e
work , it’ s p re tty c lo se to th e m ark a n d s o unds o bsc u re . “ U nknow n” in th e s e n se
of b ein g u nknow n t o i ts r u le rs . Y es? G ood.’
I r e ceiv ed a k is s o n t h e c h eek . I t t u rn ed o ut t h at s h e w as t h e s o le e x ecu to r o f
Pla to ’s esta te , an d sh e g av e m e co m ple te au th ority to neg otia te th e sa le o f
ASPM UC to a s e rio us m odern m use u m w here v er I w is h ed . S he w ould a rra n ge
fo r i t t o b e p hoto gra p hed a n d h av e s lid es p oste d d ir e ctly t o m e.
‘U nle ss y ou w an t t o j u st f ly o ver a n d s e e i t.’
‘N ot th is m onth , b ut I m ig ht d o th at s o m etim e. A lw ay s h elp s. In a n y c ase
th e c u ra to r o f w hic h ev er m use u m ta k es it w ill c erta in ly w an t to s e e it b efo re th e
purc h ase , o r a t l e ast s e n d a n e x pert.’

‘T his b ook y ou’re w ritin g. I t i s n ’t j u st a b out P la to ?’
‘N o, a n d i t’ s n ot a b io gra p hy. I t’ s f ic tio n.’
‘A lla h p ro te ct y ou.’
‘N o r e aso n f o r A lla h to b e u pse t. I ’m ju st s a d th at P la to w ill n ev er r e ad it.
He w as o ne o f t h e s ix te en p eo ple I w as w ritin g i t f o r.’
‘A m I i n clu ded ?’
‘P la to a n d I w en t b ack f o rty -fiv e y ears . I ’v e b are ly k now n y ou a w eek .’
‘I f e el I ’v e k now n y ou a l o ng t im e, a n d t h e b ook w as m y i d ea. I w ill b e o ne
of t h e s ix te en . L et t h e f ig ure r e m ain .’
On t h e t r a in b ack t o L ondon, I t h ought m ain ly a b out P la to , s in ce I h ad b een
ask ed b y a d aily p ap er to w rite h is o bitu ary . H is lif e h ad r a re ly b een u ntr o uble d
or h ap py till Z ay nab o ffe re d h im a h av en . B ut n or h ad h e d ie d a p hysic ally o r
men ta lly b ro ken m an , lik e s o m an y o f h is w ealth y p eers w hose liv es h ad b een
le d w ith out a t r a ce o f g en ero sity o r c o m passio n, m en w ho h ad j u stif ie d , f o r p etty
gain , s o m e in desc rib ab le h orro rs o f th e m odern w orld . P la to d ie d w ith h is p rid e
an d s e lf -re sp ect i n ta ct.
One s u m mer e v en in g in L ah ore w e w ere d is c u ssin g th e f a te o f I s la m in th e
West. P la to fir s t m ock ed th e n osta lg ia a n d s e n tim en ta lity th at p re v aile d o n th e
su bje ct— a s u re s ig n o f to ta l ig nora n ce, h e r e m ark ed . Z ah id b ack ed h im u p, a n d
when a n oth er f rie n d s a id th at th e d ecis io n b y M uslim s in a l- A ndalu s to e at p ork
in o rd er to s u rv iv e w as a c rim e, Z ah id d efe n ded th eir rig ht to e at c o w d ung if
necessa ry i n o rd er t o s u rv iv e. A s tr a n ge, s a d s m ile p re fa ced P la to ’s r e sp onse .
‘It’ s o ne th in g to e at p ork in o rd er to s u rv iv e. I w ould h av e d one th e s a m e.
But th ey w an te d u s to s w allo w o ur h is to ry , o ur c u ltu re , o ur la n guag e, o ur e n tir e
past, a n d a ll t h at i s n ot s o e asily d ig estib le .’

TH IR TEEN
O N T H E T W EN TY -F IF T H D AY
a fte r th e m urd er o f G en era l I ly as R afiq , c o m man din g
o ffic er o f th e S pecia l S erv ic es A ssa u lt B atta lio n, I w en t to h av e d in ner w ith h is
m oth er-in -la w . In cap ab le of sto m ach in g an y fu rth er hypocris y , Jin dié had
r e fu se d to s ta y fo r th e
ch eh lu m
, th e fo rtie th d ay a fte r b uria l th at c o nclu des th e
r itu al o f o ffic ia l m ourn in g. S he le ft Z ah id to c o nso le th eir d au ghte r a n d r e tu rn ed
t o L ondon. H er o ffe r to b rin g th e g ra n dch ild re n b ack w ith h er to g iv e th em a n d
t h e w id ow ed N eela m a b re ak h ad b een t u rn ed d ow n.
The m eal sh e se rv ed , u nlik e th e sto ry th at acco m pan ie d it, w as o n th e
s k im py sid e, a b it to o h ealth y fo r m y ta ste s, b ut all I w an te d to k now th at
e v en in g w as w ho k ille d R afiq a n d w hy. N o r e al e v id en ce h ad e m erg ed s o f a r—
t h ough th is tin y f a ct h as y et to s p oil a g ood s to ry f ro m c ir c u la tin g in F ath erla n d.
A cco rd in g to Jin dié , each of his co lle ag ues su sp ecte d dif fe re n t peo ple w ith
v ary in g m otiv es. I ru bbed m y han ds to geth er in delig ht. It w as a cla ssic
F ath erla n d c o nsp ir a cy . T hre e v ers io ns w ere f lo atin g in c y bers p ace, s h e to ld m e,
a n d an y o f th em co uld b e tr u e, b ut sh e n o lo nger care d . A s fa r as sh e w as
c o ncern ed , h er s o n-in -la w h ad b een a r e p ro bate a n d h ad c o m e to th e b ad e n d h e
d ese rv ed . Y et an oth er
Rash om on
m om en t fo r o ur d eb ase d elite , I th ought to
m yse lf . A ssa ssin s a re ra re ly u nco vere d in F ath erla n d, w hic h a d ds to its m an y
c h arm s.
The f ir s t a n d m ost- b elie v ed a cco unt lin ked th e d eath to th e m ach in atio ns o f
a fe llo w g en era l, M uham mad R if a at, w ho c o m man ded a g arris o n in a c ru cia l
t o w n o n th e e d ge o f b ad la n ds w here d ro ne-ro ck ets r a in ed d ow n r e g ula rly o n th e
v illa g es an d th e str e am s h ad tu rn ed re d . R ep ute d ly , th e tw o g en era ls , clo se
f rie n ds sin ce th eir sc h ool day s, w ere sh arin g a m is tr e ss, K halid a ‘N au ghty ’
L ate ef, th e s p ir ite d s p ouse o f a ju nio r o ffic er d esp era te f o r p ro m otio n. N au ghty
L ate ef’s c h arm s h ad o n o ne o ccasio n le d to f is tic u ffs b etw een th e tw o m en , a n d

all th is in th e p re se n ce o f f e llo w o ffic ers . A dulte ry , e sp ecia lly w ith th e w if e o f a
ju nio r o ffic er, a n d b re ach o f d is c ip lin e w ere b oth p unis h ab le o ffe n ces.
Gen era l R if a at, w ho had not pro voked th e assa u lt, had been offic ia lly
re p rim an ded , a b la ck m ark th at p re sa g ed e arly r e tir e m en t to a f o re ig n e m bassy ,
Kazak hsta n o r, i f h e w as l u ck y, A ustr ia .
Gen era l R afiq w as re p rim an ded in p riv ate b y h is c h ie f a n d to ld in s tr o ng
la n guag e th at s u ch c la sh es w ere u nse em ly . N oth in g m ore . H e w as a n im porta n t
co m ponen t in th e lo cal ‘w ar o n te rro r’ an d a re g ula r at th e U S em bassy in
Fath erla n d. A n an gry G en era l R if a at decid ed th at th is sta te of affa ir s w as
unaccep ta b le a n d p la n ned a p riv ate r e v en ge w ith th e h elp o f h is o ld s c h oolm ate ,
Gen era l B ag hlo l K han , a w eak -k need P ash tu n, i n c o m man d o f t h e I n te r-S erv ic es
In te llig en ce b ut fa m ed n eith er fo r h is o w n in te llig en ce n or fo r a n yth in g e ls e ,
ex cep t o bey in g o rd ers fro m h is su perio rs . B ag hlo l lo ath ed R afiq b ecau se o f
dep artm en ta l riv alr ie s, b ut th ere w ere a fe w o th er re aso ns a s w ell. T he la tte r,
so on a fte r ta k in g c o m man d o f th e A ssa u lte rs , a s h is b atta lio n w as k now n, h ad
unco vere d tw o IS I p la n ts a m ongst h is se n io r o ffic ers . H e o rd ere d th em to b e
re tu rn ed i m med ia te ly t o t h eir b ase w ith h is c o m plim en ts . T hese t o ok t h e f o rm o f
so m e c h oic e in su lts , in clu din g a th ro w aw ay r e fe re n ce to th e I S I c h ie f a s G en era l
Cam el’ s A rs e , not an in dig en ous ep ith et but one w hic h R afiq had fir s t
en co unte re d a s a y oung o ffic er d urin g h is d ay s in S au di A ra b ia m an y m oons
ag o, w hen F ath erla n d so ld ie rs d efe n ded th e k in gdom ag ain st in te rn al th re ats .
New s of th e so briq uet had sp re ad , in cre asin g R afiq ’s popula rity w ith th e
so ld ie ry . C am el’ s A rs e w as w hat t h ey t h ought a s w ell.
Giv en t h is h is to ry , G en era l B ag hlo l K han w as o nly t o o h ap py t o r e sp ond to
a p ers o nal re q uest fro m h is o ld frie n d G en era l R if a at. H e c alle d in o ne o f th e
offic ers w hom R afiq h ad in su lte d a n d s e n t b ack ; to geth er th ey p re p are d a c ru de
but e ffe ctiv e t r a p . N au ghty w as b ro ught i n t o I S I H Q a n d t o ld t h at u nle ss s h e d id
what s h e w as a sk ed to d o, h er h usb an d, M ajo r L ate ef, w ould b e p ro vid ed w ith
IS I v id eo s sh ow in g h er in a ctio n w ith a t le ast th re e g en era ls . S he w as sh ow n
clip s fro m all th re e v id eo s, in w hic h sh e p la y ed a sta rrin g ro le . A stu nned

Nau ghty f e ll in to lin e. S he r a n g R afiq a n d a rra n ged a r e n dezv ous. H er ta sk w as
to lu re h im in to m ak in g a f e w u nsa v oury r e m ark s a b out th e a m oro us a d ven tu re s
of th eir b oss, th e c h ie f o f a rm y s ta ff, w hom W ash in gto n w as p lo ttin g to r e m ove
fo r r e aso ns u nco nnecte d w ith t h is s o rd id a ffa ir .
Rafiq , in a re la x ed m ood, w as only to o delig hte d by th e unsc h ed ule d
re n dezv ous a n d h ap pily p ro vid ed N au ghty w ith a s a lty a cco unt o f th eir c h ie fs
am oro us e x plo its , w ith e x act d eta ils o f t h e l o calitie s i n e ach c ity w here h is m an y
lo vers liv ed , h ouse s th at th ere fo re re q uir e d ro und-th e-c lo ck se cu rity , d iv ertin g
so m e o f h is a ssa u lte rs fro m th e w ar a g ain st th e te rro ris ts . H ow c o uld h e h av e
guesse d th at N au ghty h ad a h id den re co rd in g d ev ic e a tta ch ed to a n o rif ic e s h e
knew h e h ad y et to e x plo re ? T hro ugh th is tin y d ev ic e, a n ose -rin g, th e e n tir e
co nvers a tio n w as m onito re d b y R if a at’ s c h um s in th e IS I, w ho, u nsu rp ris in gly ,
were aw are th at ev ery th in g sa id b y R afiq w as tr u e. M ean w hile , in case th e
en co unte r b ecam e s o p assio nate th at th e r in g f e ll o ut, a s e cre t v id eo c am era h ad
been s e t u p, w hic h film ed th e e n tir e a fte rn oon. S om e o f th is u ned ite d m ate ria l
was s o ld b y I S I o pera tiv es i n t h e t h riv in g p orn o-m ark ets a ll o ver t h e c o untr y a n d
pla y ed e x cep tio nally w ell i n t h e w ar z o nes, w here m en w ere s ta rv ed o f a ffe ctio n.
Bag hlo l w en t to th e c h ie f o f s ta ff a n d p la y ed th e ta p e. G en era l S ohail R aza
becam e liv id . N ot b ecau se o f th e w om en . T hat d id n ot b oth er h im a t a ll, b ut
becau se o f th e p ote n tia l r is k to h is o w n lif e . R afiq w as c o nfro nte d a n d f ir e d th at
sa m e w eek , b ut S ohail w as f o nd o f th is b ra sh g en era l w ho r e m in ded h im o f h is
ow n y outh a n d h e k new th at in a sim ila r situ atio n h e m ig ht h av e b eh av ed in
ex actly t h e s a m e w ay .
He o ffe re d G en era l R afiq a s in ecu re : h ead o f a k ey c o m merc ia l s e cto r o f
th e m ilita ry -in dustr ia l c o m ple x w here h e w ould h av e d ouble th e s a la ry h e h ad
en jo yed a s a s e rv in g g en era l, w ith re g ula r k ic k back s fro m p ote n tia l c o ntr a cto rs
in th e W est th at w ould tr ip le th e d ouble d s a la ry . In a d ditio n, th ere w as a la rg e
man sio n a tta ch ed t o t h e j o b t h at h e c o uld , o f c o urs e , b uy a t a r e d uced p ric e a s h e
ap pro ach ed his re tir e m en t. T here w as nil re sp onsib ility , sin ce all th e key
decis io ns w ere ta k en b y r o ck et f u el e x perts a n d o th er s p ecia lis ts . R afiq , b y n ow

in a b lin d a n d s tu pid ra g e, re fu se d w hat w as, a fte r a ll, a n e x tr e m ely g en ero us
offe r. H is p rid e w as h urt. H e fe lt h e w as b ein g u nfa ir ly p unis h ed a n d h e k new
who w as b eh in d i t a ll.
He re sig ned fro m th e m ilita ry o n h is b are p en sio n, n oth in g c o m pare d to
what h e h ad b een o ffe re d , b ut su ffic ie n t to fe ed a h undre d p oor fa m ilie s in
Fath erla n d each m onth . A fte r a fe w w eek s of su lk in g in his te n t an d th en
num ero us v is its to th e im peria l b unker in I s lo o, R afiq w ro te a le tte r to h is m ost
se n io r c o nta ct in th e D efe n se I n te llig en ce A gen cy a t th e P en ta g on. I t w as s e n t in
a t o p-s e cu rity c o de f ro m t h e b unker. T he g en era l w as i m med ia te ly s u m moned t o
DC a n d i n te rro gate d a t l e n gth .
He h ad n ot s im ply b ro ken ra n ks b ut d iv ulg ed a n im porta n t s ta te s e cre t to
Fath erla n d’s fa ir -w eath er ally , a natio n th at m an y in sid e th e arm ed fo rc es
co nsid ere d m ore an en em y th an a frie n d. T he in fo rm atio n h e p ro vid ed w as
ex plo siv e. G en era ls R if a at a n d B ag hlo l w ere a ccu se d o f h av in g le ak ed to th e
en em y se cre t p la n s fo r h is b atta lio n to assa u lt te rro ris t en cam pm en ts in th e
bord er z o nes. O n th re e o ccasio ns, h e to ld h is m in ders , h is h ig hly tr a in ed , h an d-
pic k ed so ld ie rs h ad b een a m bush ed a n d k ille d b y th e te rro ris ts . H e su ggeste d
th at th e D IA c arry o ut its o w n in vestig atio n in to th e tw o g en era ls c o ncern ed a n d
le ft b eh in d a c arrie r b ag f u ll o f c lu es a n d e v id en ce. N ot s u rp ris in gly , s e ein g th at
th ey w ere f u ndin g F ath erla n d’s a rm y, th e P en ta g on d ecid ed to a ct s w if tly . T his
was, he had to ld th em , not so m uch a questio n of bre ach in g a co untr y ’s
so vere ig nty b ut a n ecessa ry a u dit to p ro te ct im peria l fin an cia l in te re sts in b ad
tim es. H e h oped t h ey w ere t o uch ed b y h is c o ncern .
When n ew s o f th is tr e ach ery r e ach ed its in te n ded ta rg ets in F ath erla n d, th e
ta rg ets d ecid ed to e lim in ate G en era l R afiq a n d d is c re d it h im in th e c o untr y a t
la rg e a s a tr a ito r. T hey d id , a n d th e m ech an ic s o f h ow th ey d id a re o f little
co ncern . T his w as t h e e n d o f t h e f ir s t v ers io n.
‘D oes i t s o und c re d ib le t o y ou, D ara ?’
I s h ru gged m y s h ould ers . ‘T hat w hole w orld is s o m urk y th at a n yth in g is
possib le . I f G en era l R afiq a ctu ally d id w hat th is v ers io n a lle g es, th en I th in k th e

th eo ry i s b elie v ab le .’
‘T hat’ s w hat poor N eela m th in ks. She’s co nvin ced it w as an arm y
decis io n.’
‘J u st s o t h at w e c an e x clu de t h em , w hat a re t h e o th er t w o p ossib ilitie s? ’
The f ir s t o f t h ese , w hic h w as v ir tu ally t h e s a m e a s a n o ffic ia l b rie fin g g iv en
by th e a rm y to se le ct jo urn alis ts , su ggeste d th at th e d eath w as a w ell- p la n ned
Talib u ex ecu tio n. R afiq had been know n as a no-n onse n se gen era l, clo se ly
lin ked to W este rn in te llig en ce ag en cie s. H is te am h ad ta rg ete d an d k ille d a
num ber o f s e n io r T alib u c o m man ders , a n d o nce th ey d is c o vere d th at h e w as n o
lo nger p ro te cte d b y th e m ilita ry , th ey g ot in fo rm atio n o n h is r e g ula r m ovem en ts
fro m N au ghty ’s h usb an d, M ajo r L ate ef o f m ilita ry in te llig en ce. A nd th ey m ad e
no m is ta k es. T he T alib u, a cco rd in g to J in dié , a re a s p ecia l s q uad o f th e T alib an
whose ta sk is to p en etr a te F ath erla n d m ilita ry a n d p olic e. T hey a re in te llig en t,
beard le ss a n d u su ally d re sse d in W este rn c lo th es a n d d ark g la sse s. W hen o ne o f
th em w as cap tu re d an d to rtu re d , th e U S o ffic er su perv is in g h is in te rro gatio n
co m plim en te d h im o n h is c lo th es a n d re m ark ed to th e to rtu re r th at p eo ple n ow
dre sse d lik e th at in M alib u. T he p ris o ner r e p lie d a n grily in a W est C oast a ccen t,
‘W e a re T alib u, n ot M alib u.’ T hat w as h ow t h ey d is c o vere d t h e e x is te n ce o f t h is
sp ecia l u nit, o r s o th ey c la im . T he p ris o ner g av e n o m ore in fo rm atio n a n d w as
kille d .
‘W ell? ’ s a id J in dié w hen s h e f in is h ed .
‘C an ’t b e r u le d o ut.’
‘N o. E xcep t th at o ne o f th e T alib u v is ite d N eela m in s e cre t a n d s w ore o n
th e K ora n t h at t h ey w ere n ot r e sp onsib le .’
‘C ould b e d is in fo rm atio n. A nd t h e t h ir d ?’
‘T oo s tu pid f o r w ord s, b ut b elie v ed b y m an y p eo ple R afiq u se d to r e fe r to
co nte m ptu ously a s t h e c o m mon h erd . T hey s a y i t w as t h e A m eric an s.’
I s n orte d w ith d elig ht. ‘ I w ondere d a b out th at. U su ally it’ s th e f ir s t a n sw er.
And it c an ’t b e d en ie d th at w hen it c o m es to p ro cu rin g a ssa ssin atio ns h ere a n d
els e w here t h ey f in d s o m e v ery c le v er p im ps.’

‘Y es, D ara , b ut it is rid ic u lo us in th is c ase . T he w hole w orld k now s th at
Rafiq w as o ne o f th e s ta u nch est p ro -W est g en era ls in th e c o untr y . T hre e B ritis h
in te llig en ce p eo ple c am e t o o ur h ouse a n d s a t i n t h is r o om t o o ffe r Z ah id a n d m e
th eir c o ndole n ces b efo re w e le ft to a tte n d th e f u nera l. W hy s h ould th ey k ill th eir
ow n? O h, y ou a re jo kin g. I’d fo rg otte n th at s id e o f y ou. L ast tim e w e m et y ou
were s o p ro per. H av e y ou h ad e n ough t o e at? ’
‘N o.’
She b urs t o ut l a u ghin g a n d t h at r e m in ded m e o f o ur y outh . W e m oved f ro m
th e k itc h en t a b le t o t h e l iv in g r o om . I w an te d t o t a lk a b out h er d ia rie s a n d r e la te d
matte rs , b ut s h e w as w orrie d a b out h er d au ghte r.
‘W hat m ak es t h em s o r e lig io us, D ara ?’
‘P hila n derin g h usb an ds, a d esir e t o c lin g t o s o m eth in g i n a w orld d om in ate d
by m oney , p ure d esp era tio n?’
‘B y th at c rite ria I sh ould b e in a n unnery ... b ut w e’ll d is c u ss th at so m e
oth er t im e.’
‘W hen d id N eela m m ove in th is d ir e ctio n? Y our d ia rie s s u ggeste d it w as
while s h e w as a t s c h ool i n W ash in gto n.’
‘Y es, b ut sh e g ot o ver th at p artic u la r v arie ty . H er b est frie n ds w ere tw o
Afric an -A m eric an k id s f ro m M uslim f a m ilie s. W hen s h e w en t to V assa r, w hic h
is n ow m ix ed , b y th e w ay , th ere w as n o tr a ce o f a n y o f th is in h er lif e . S he
se em ed h ap py. S ule im an s a y s s h e h ad a C hin ese b oyfrie n d w ho w asn ’t r e lig io us
at a ll, a n d e v ery th in g s e em ed f in e.’
‘W here d id s h e m et R afiq ?’
‘A t o ur h ouse in W ash in gto n, I’m a fra id . H e w as a m ilita ry a tta ch é a t th e
em bassy . Z ah id in vite d h im to a d dre ss a g ath erin g o f F ath erla n d P hysic ia n s f o r
Bush . R afiq s a id h e w ould n ot c o m e u nle ss it w as a m ix ed g ath erin g. S o w iv es
an d d au ghte rs a n d n ie ces a n d fe m ale h an gers -o n w ere p re se n t. S he a n d R afiq
lik ed e ach o th er. H e a sk ed p erm is sio n t o s e e h er. T w o y ears l a te r t h ey m arrie d .’
‘T hen i t m ust b e t o d o w ith h im . D id y ou l ik e h im ?’
‘N o, b ut sh e d id . N eith er Z ah id n or I w ere k een th at sh e m arry in to th e

arm y.’
‘It m ust b e R afiq -re la te d . D oesn ’t m ak e se n se a n y o th er w ay . H av e y ou
ask ed h er? ’
‘S he w ould n ev er te ll m e. S he’s b eco m e a n a lie n a s f a r I ’m c o ncern ed . W e
had a n o ld w oodcu t o f o ur S ulta n S ule im an o f Y unnan . It b elo nged to E ld er
Gra n ny a n d w as p ro bab ly in herite d f ro m h er m oth er. N eela m h ad it f ra m ed a n d
still tr e asu re s it, b ut D ù W én xiù ’s s u lta n ate w as n ev er lik e w hat s h e im ag in es
Is la m s h ould b e a n d h ow it m ust im pose its e lf o n s o cie ty . I s a id th at to h er o nce
an d s h e s n ap ped b ack lik e a little d og. S ulta n S ule im an w as d efe ate d b ecau se h e
wasn ’t a tr u e B elie v er; he allo w ed peo ple to o m uch fre ed om an d th at is
co rru ptio n. I lo st co ntr o l at th at p oin t an d sla p ped h er fa ce. S he g av e m e a
tr iu m phan t sm ile a n d le ft th e ro om . I k now it w as stu pid o f m e. W hat re ally
mak es m e an gry is th e w ay sh e’s b rin gin g u p th ose ch ild re n . T hey ’re b ein g
in doctr in ate d . T he b oy i s t e n a n d i s t o ld n ot t o t a lk t o g ir ls . T he g ir l a g ed e ig ht i s
bein g ta u ght how to w ear th e hija b . Is sh e cra zy ? N o w onder R afiq w en t
els e w here f o r h is p le asu re s.’
We d is c u sse d N eela m fo r a fe w h ours w ith out re ach in g a n y c o nclu sio n. I
was a b out to le av e w hen I re m em bere d s o m eth in g. W hat, I a sk ed h er, h ad s h e
writte n in th e destr o yed se ctio n of th e dia ry th at had so upse t th e te en ag e
Neela m ? M ig ht t h at h av e p ro m pte d h er c o nvers io n? J in dié c o lo ure d s lig htly .
‘It’ s s im ply a n a cco unt o f o ur y o uth , o f h ow c lo se w e o nce w ere a n d o f m y
lo ve fo r y ou. S om e o f it m ay h av e b een ex pre sse d in str o ng an d em otio nal
la n guag e. I re ally c an ’t re m em ber n ow e x cep t th at I h ead lin ed it w ith a n o ld
sa y in g: F am e i s s w eet, b ut y outh i s s w eete r.’
‘S ure ly t h at c an ’t b e a C hin ese p ro verb , o r h av e y ou s u bstitu te d “ y outh ” f o r
“v en era te d an cesto rs ” . A s w e k now , th ey ’re sw eete r th an ev ery th in g els e , a
se n tim en t I ’m b eg in nin g t o a p pre cia te m ore w ith e ach p assin g y ear.’
‘It’ s R om an , n ot C hin ese .’
‘N ow th ey alw ay s did ap pre cia te young m en . T here m ust hav e been
so m eth in g i n w hat y ou s a id t h at u pse t y oung N eela m .’

‘S he th ought it w as a se cre t fro m h er fa th er. Z ah id w as a se n sitiv e a n d
lo vin g f a th er. I h av e n o c o m pla in ts o n th at s c o re . H e to ld h er a ll a b out th e s to ry
of h is frie n dsh ip w ith y ou an d th at h e k new ab out u s lo ng b efo re w e w ere
marrie d . I th ought all th at w as g ood fo r h er. H er p are n ts w ere v ery o pen . I
sh ould n’t h av e d estr o yed t h ose b its . I w as i n a t e m per.’
As I ro se a n d th an ked h er fo r th e h ealth y m eal, s h e a sk ed if I w an te d to
sta y . T here w as a c o m fo rta b le s p are r o om a n d w e c o uld c arry o n t a lk in g. I a sk ed
fo r s o m e c o ffe e. T here w as n one. B ut w hen it w as m id nig ht s h e d id o ffe r m e a
gla ss o f r e d w in e.
‘W hy did you co ntin ue to sta y w ith Zah id afte r he had beco m e a
Rep ublic an ? T he a n ger in y our d ia ry s u rp ris e d m e, b ut th ere s e em ed to b e n o
fo llo w -u p.’
‘T he c h ild re n ...’
‘A fte r t h e c h ild re n h ad l e ft h om e?’
‘P erh ap s becau se I had now here els e to go. Som etim es I’v e bitte rly
re g re tte d m y d ecis io n.’
‘J in dié , h ow c o uld th at e v er b e a re aso n fo r so m eo ne lik e y ou? W hat a n
ab su rd id ea. Y ou c o uld h av e liv ed c o m fo rta b ly a n yw here in th e w orld , a n d v ery
co m fo rta b ly i n L ah ore o r D ali.’
‘E ven th ough Z ah id h as c h an ged a g re at d eal, s o m etim es h e is v ery m uch
lik e y ou. H e s a id a lm ost e x actly th at a t a v ery b ad p erio d in o ur r e la tio nsh ip a n d
mad e it c le ar th at I w ould n ev er b e in n eed . It w as w hen h e s u ggeste d th at w e
se p ara te t h at I c h an ged m y m in d.’
‘J u st t o b e d if fic u lt? ’
‘P artia lly . T here w as n o o th er a lte rn ativ e, a n d b y th en I h ad g ot u se d to
liv in g w ith s o m eo ne w ho d id n ot m ean m uch to m e. I u se d to s e n d h is m oney to
th e D em ocra ts a n d R alp h N ad er. E very th in g c h an ged a fte r 9 /1 1. H e le arn ed h is
le sso n.’
‘D id h e re ally sa v e C hen ey ’s lif e in 2 000, o r is th at a n oth er F ath erla n d
myth ?’

‘It’ s t r u e, b ut h e w as p art o f a t e am . H e w as s o b oastf u l. T he c h ild re n d id n’t
sp eak t o h im f o r a m onth .’
‘T hat w as a g ood e n ough r e aso n t o w alk o ut.’
‘W ith in t w en ty -fo ur h ours o f 9 /1 1, C hen ey in str u cte d h is s ta ff to m ak e s u re
th at Z ah id w as r e m oved f ro m h is m ed ic al te am . T he M uslim n am e w as e n ough.
He c am e h om e th at n ig ht lo okin g lik e a b eate n d og. W e s o ld e v ery th in g a n d le ft
fo r L ondon s o m e m onth s l a te r. D id y ou k now t h at h e l ite ra lly r a n i n to A nju m b y
accid en t? ’
‘T hese th in gs h ap pen . W ho w ould h av e th ought I w ould h av e m et y ou
ag ain ? O r h im . W here d id h e m eet A nju m ? I n I s lo o?’
‘N o, in so m e sw eet- s o undin g N orfo lk to w n. H e w as at so m e ex clu siv e
med ic al c o nfe re n ce a n d h ad g one o ut f o r a w alk b y t h e s e a. S he r e co gniz ed h im .
Zah id w as s tu nned . S he w as w earin g a s k ir t a n d b lo use a n d a c ro ss ro und h er
neck .’
‘W hat? S he b ecam e a C ath olic ? W hat h ap pen ed t o t h at i d io t s h e m arrie d ?’
‘A lc o holic . U se le ss. In fe rtile . Im pote n t o n ev ery fro nt. A ll h is b usin ess
pro je cts f a ile d . T he la st w as a n a tte m pt to lin k u p w ith a n I ris h b uild in g f ir m to
build ro ad s in th e in te rio r o f S in d. W ork w as s lo w . T hey lo st th e c o ntr a ct. T he
ch ie f en gin eer w as sta y in g w ith th em . A nju m le ft F ath erla n d w ith h im . H e
tu rn ed o ut to b e a n on-d rin kin g C ath olic f u ndam en ta lis t lin ked to O pus D ei. A re
th ey a n yth in g lik e th e F alu n G ong? C an y ou im ag in e? H e f o rc ed h er to c o nvert,
atte n d c h urc h e v ery S unday a n d m ak e re g ula r v is its to th e c o nfe ssio nal. Z ah id
sa id s h e w as s o m is e ra b le th at s h e s ta rte d w eep in g a s th e h orro r s to rie s p oure d
out o f h er.’
‘W hy d id n’t h e o ffe r h er r e fu ge i n R ic h m ond?’
Jin dié l a u ghed .
‘H e d id , b ut sh e sa id h er h usb an d w ould tr a ck h er d ow n. S he w as re ally
sc are d o f h im . T hat u pse t Z ah id g re atly .’
‘J u st a s w ell s h e d um ped h im w hen s h e d id .’
‘W hy? T hey b oth m ig ht h av e b lo sso m ed . I ’m s le ep y.’

‘Y ou c an ’t s ta y u p a ll n ig ht? ’
She sta rte d la u ghin g. ‘T oo old now to sp en d a nig ht w ith you in th e
gard en .’
‘N eith er o f u s is y oung. I t’ s p oin tle ss d eceiv in g e ach o th er o r e x ag gera tin g
what w ere str o ng but youth fu l em otio ns. I still hav en ’t fo rg otte n th at you
sc re am ed
Hsi- m en
a t m e. W hat w ere y ou d oin g re ad in g th e
Chin P in g M ei
a t
th at a g e?’
‘It w as at hom e, a very old ed itio n in m y fa th er’s co lle ctio n. B oth
Confu ciu s an d I u se d to re ad it in se cre t, b ut care fu lly , so th at th e v olu m es
were n ’t d am ag ed . N o s e lf -re sp ectin g C hin ese t e en ag er i n t h ose d ay s c o uld a d m it
to n ot h av in g r e ad s o m e o f i t. A t l e ast i n o ur l a n guag e, i t’ s v ery f u nny a s w ell a s
ero tic .’
‘T ru e, a n d e v en in tr a n sla tio n, b ut h ow d o y ou e x pla in th at th ere is n ot a
sin gle c h ara cte r, m ale o r f e m ale , o ne c an i d en tif y w ith ?’
‘T he a n onym ous a u th or p ro bab ly b elo nged to s o m e o bsc u re re lig io us s e ct
whic h s a w h um an n atu re a s e v il a n d u nch an geab le .’
‘A b le ak v ie w o f h um an ity .’
‘N ot at all su rp ris in g in six te en th -c en tu ry Chin a, w here co rru ptio n,
ex tr a v ag an ce a n d t h e u se o f w om en a s p le asu re m ach in es h ad a ffe cte d e v ery one.
There w as a re aso n fo r th e a u th or to re m ain a n onym ous. T he s e x th at W este rn
re ad ers e n jo y s o m uch w as jo yle ss. It w as p art o f th e d eg en era tio n o f C hin ese
so cie ty a n d t h at i s w hat h e w as e x posin g.’
‘J in dié . I’m not su re th e au th or desc rib ed lo vem ak in g as jo yle ss.
Explo ita tiv e, m ale -d om in ate d , b ut n ot j o yle ss.’
‘It a p peare d s o t o m e.’
She l e ft t h e r o om a n d r e tu rn ed w ith o ne o f h er b ooks.
‘I w an t to r e ad s o m eth in g to y ou. I t’ s b y H su n-tz u , w ho w as v ery h ostile to
th e a rg um en t o f M en ciu s th at h um an n atu re is e sse n tia lly g ood, b ut b eco m es
co rru pte d b y s o cie ty .’
‘I a g re e w ith M en ciu s.’

‘T he a u th or o f
Chin P in g M ei
d id n’t. H e a g re ed w ith H su n-tz u th at m an ’s
dis g ra ce is b ut a n im ag e o f h is v ir tu e. L is te n : “ M eat w hen it r o ts b re ed s w orm s;
fis h th at is o ld a n d d ry b rin gs fo rth m ag gots . W hen a m an is c are le ss a n d la zy
an d f o rg ets h im se lf , th at is w hen d is a ste r o ccu rs .” H e w as a tta ck in g th e r u le rs o f
th e t im e f o r t h eir r e fu sa l t o a ccep t m ora l r e sp onsib ility .’
‘A u niv ers a l d is e ase a s f a r a s r u le rs a re c o ncern ed , th en a n d n ow . I ’m s till
not t o o c o nvin ced b y a n y o f t h is ... I w onder h ow m y o ld f rie n d C onfu ciu s-y our-
bro th er w ould h av e i n te rp re te d t h e n ovel.’
‘It’ s o bvio us. A d eg en era te w ork r e fle ctin g a d eg en era te a g e. T hat w as th e
Mao is t lin e on ev ery th in g cla ssic al durin g th e G re at Pro le ta ria n C ultu ra l
Rev olu tio n.’
I w ondere d w hic h o f th e m en w ho’d le d th e C hin ese re v olu tio n to v ic to ry
had r e ad th e n ovel. M ao w ould c erta in ly h av e e n jo yed it, a n d s o m e o f h is la te r
lif e g av e th e im pre ssio n o f b ein g m odelle d o n th at o f H si- m en , th ough th e
fic tio nal c h ara cte r n ev er h ad to c o nte n d w ith a to ugh-m in ded w if e lik e C hia n g
Chin g. I n ev er l ik ed h er, b ut I c o uld n’t h elp a d m ir in g h er p ois e a n d a rro gan ce a s
sh e c o nfro nte d h er p ro se cu to rs i n c o urt b efo re b ein g s e n te n ced t o a l if e i n p ris o n
afte r th e c o lla p se o f th e G an g o f F our. I t c o ntr a ste d w ell w ith th e d em ean our o f
bro ken B ols h ev ik in te lle ctu als in th e Sta lin is t sh ow -tr ia ls of th e Thir tie s,
co nfe ssin g to ‘c rim es’ th ey had nev er co m mitte d . W hat had our Lah ori
Confu ciu s m ad e o f i t a ll? H is t e stim ony w ould r e ally b e s o m eth in g. I w ille d h im
to b e a liv e. D id J in dié t h in k h e w as? S he s h ook h er h ead .
‘I t h in k h e m ust h av e d ie d u nder a f a ls e i d en tity .’
‘I fe el h e’s s till a liv e a n d k eep in g a n e y e o n u s fro m a fa r. J u st a fe elin g.
Pure i r ra tio nality . I s y our s o n S ule im an s till i n Y unnan ?’
‘Y es, I ’m g oin g t o s e e h im n ex t m onth . I ’v e n ev er b een , y ou k now . T im e t o
go an d b id fa re w ell to th e an cesto rs . W an t to co m e? Z ah id w ould b e v ery
hap py.’
It w as a t e m ptin g o ffe r a n d I p ro m is e d t o t h in k a b out i t.
‘C hin a i s g oin g t h ro ugh a r e m ark ab le c y cle i n i ts h is to ry . H ow w ill i t e n d?’

‘D on’t k now . S om etim es a n atio n g ro w s m ore i n a d ecad e t h an i n a c en tu ry ,
but th ere h av e b een so m an y d ecad es an d cen tu rie s in th e C hin ese p ast th at
pro phecy i s i m possib le . I f I c an I w ill a cco m pan y y ou t o C hin a. T here i s n obody
els e I w ould r a th er b e w ith i n Y unnan .’
‘I w ill a ccep t t h at a s a c o m plim en t.’
I g ra cio usly d eclin ed h er o ffe r o f th e g uest ro om , th ough g ra ce is n ot
gen era lly r e g ard ed a s o ne o f m y v ir tu es a n d is f ro w ned u pon a s a n a ffe cta tio n in
most o f t h e P unja b .
‘It w as a re ally n ic e e v en in g, Jin dié . I’m re ally h ap py w e fin ally sp en t a
nig ht t o geth er w ith out q uarre llin g.’
She k is se d m y fo re h ead . ‘W hy d id y ou d ecid e n ot to s ta y ? F rig hte n ed o f
bein g r a p ed b y m e d is g uis e d a s H si- m en ?’
‘I j u st d on’t l ik e w ak in g u p i n a h ouse w here t h ere i s n o c o ffe e.’
She p ush ed m e g en tly o ut t h e d oorw ay .
I d ro ve b ack to N orth L ondon ju st a s d aw n w as b re ak in g. W hate v er th e
tim e o f y ear, th is h as to b e th e n ic est tim e o f d ay to b e a w ak e in L ondon, ju st
befo re th e b ig c ity w ak es u p. I c ro sse d th e riv er a t K ew , sto ppin g fo r a fe w
min ute s t o s e e i f a h ouse I ’d s h are d w ith f rie n ds a fte r l e av in g u niv ers ity w as s till
th ere . It w asn ’t, a n d, slig htly d is a p poin te d , I d ro ve o n a n d w as h om e w ith in
fif te en m in ute s. T here are ad van ta g es to liv in g in an early V ic to ria n sq uare
with in te n m in ute s o f S t P an cra s s ta tio n. N ovelis ts a n d b ach elo rs s h are th is in
co m mon: b oth a re p erm an en tly a t t h e m erc y o f c ap ric io us i m puls e s. I e sp re sso ed
myse lf tw o c o ffe es, sh av ed a n d sh ow ere d , le ft a m essa g e fo r Z ay nab o n h er
mach in e a sk in g h er to g et so m e c ro is sa n ts , ru sh -p ack ed a b ag , a d din g a fe w
books, e arp hones a n d m y iP od, a n d w alk ed to th e s ta tio n. A t s ix -fif te en in th e
morn in g I w as o n t h e t r a in t o t h e C ontin en t.

FO URTEEN
T HE C RO IS SA NTS W ER E C O LD
b y t h e t im e w e f in is h ed m ak in g l o ve, b ut d ip pin g t h e
c o ld e d ge o f o ne in a b ow l o f m ilk y h ot c o ffe e c an so m etim es b e a n e q ually
s e n su ous e x perie n ce. Z ay nab K ora n , n ee S hah , h av in g liv ed in P aris fo r o ver a
m onth o n h er o w n, p ro vid ed m e w ith a n e m otio nal a cco unt o f h er s o cia l l if e .
‘I’m n ot s u re I m ad e t h e r ig ht d ecis io n, D . I l o ve t h is c ity a n d I l o ve F re n ch
c u ltu re , b ut so m eth in g’s h ap pen ed . H av e y ou h eard o f a F ath erla n d w om an
c alle d N au ghty L ate ef? T hat’ s w hat s h e c alls h ers e lf .’
She w as fla b berg aste d w hen I d esc rib ed N au ghty ’s re cen t ad ven tu re s in
F ath erla n d. S he r e p eate d ly s h ook h er h ead i n d is b elie f.
‘S he’s w ritin g h er m em oir s , a n d th ey ’v e s ta rte d p ro m otin g h er a lr e ad y. L et
m e s h ow y ou t h e m ag azin e.’
Nau ghty h ad m ad e th e c o ver o f
Fem in is m e A ujo urd ’h ui
, a jo urn al th at h ad
n ot c ro sse d m y p ath b efo re a n d w as la rg ely f u ll o f a d s f o r p erfu m e, lin gerie a n d
r e la te d g oods. N au ghty , h ers e lf a n Is lo o H ui, w as th e c o ver s to ry . P rio r to th is ,
I ’d h ad n o i d ea w hat s h e l o oked l ik e, b ut t h e i m ag e o n t h e c o ver d id n ot c o m e a s
a su rp ris e . T he m odesty im plie d b y th e A rm an i sc arf c o verin g h er h ead w as
i m med ia te ly n eg ate d b y h er tw o frie n ds b elo w , p ro udly ju ttin g fo rw ard a s if to
s a y , ‘L ook, lo ok, w e h av e th em in F ath erla n d to o.’ H er lo oks w ere ty pic al o f
F ath erla n di s ta rle ts w ho d is g ra ce a n a lr e ad y a b ysm al c in em atic tr a d itio n: a fa ir
s k in , b ro w n e y es w ith a tin ge o f g re en o r b lu e e y es w ith a rin g o f b ro w n, a
t o oth paste -a d s m ile , w av y h air , b ig b re asts a n d a s a u cy e x pre ssio n.
This w as w hat u ndis c ern in g m ale s f ro m th e h ig h c o m man d o f F ath erla n d’s
a rm ed f o rc es r e q uir e d f o r r e st a n d r e la x atio n; a n d a ll i n a ll i t w as b est t h eir n eed s
w ere fu lf ille d b y in dig en ous c o m moditie s. It a v oid ed th e tr o uble o f im portin g
E aste rn E uro pean c all g ir ls , w hom t h e f a ll o f C om munis m h ad m ad e a v aila b le i n
v ery la rg e n um bers to th e r e st o f th e w orld a n d w ho n ow c lu tte re d th e h undre d

or s o b ro th els i n K ab ul a n d n um ero us f iv e-s ta r m onstr o sitie s i n t h e G ulf .
The p re tty w iv es o f th e m ore o bed ie n t ju nio r an d n ot- s o -ju nio r o ffic ers
were re g ard ed a s fa ir p re y , o ccasio nally to b e h ad w ith th e fu ll a g re em en t o f
husb an ds ey in g a ra p id pro m otio n or a sin ecu re in th e m ilita ry -in dustr ia l
en te rp ris e s a n d p le asa n tly s u rp ris e d th at th eir w iv es h ad tu rn ed o ut to b e s u ch
lu cra tiv e in vestm en ts . T his w as th e w orld s o w ell d esc rib ed in th e a n onym ous
Chin P in g M ei.
T he F ath erla n d h ig h c o m man d w as litte re d w ith H si- m en ty pes,
who t h eir j u nio rs w ere o nly t o o h ap py t o m im ic .
The in te rv ie w with Nau ghty sp an ned six glo ssy pag es. She was
masq uera d in g a s a w ro nged M uslim w om an , d esc rib in g h er o ppre ssio n in la v is h
deta il. T he n um ber o f t im es s h e h ad b een f o rc ed b y d if fe re n t m en , t o ta lly a g ain st
her w ill, th e te ars th at fo llo w ed each ex perie n ce an d how w hen sh e had
co m pla in ed a b out t h is t o a r e lig io us s c h ola r, h e h ad l o oked a t h er w ith a n ger a n d
sa id , ‘W om en lik e y ou s h ould b e s to ned to d eath .’ F ic tio n, th in ly d is g uis e d a s
fa ct fo r th e Euro pean m ark et, esp ecia lly Fra n ce an d H olla n d, w here th e
pre m iu m s o n th is s o rt o f m ate ria l w ere h ig h. S he in fo rm ed th e re ad er th at s h e
was w ork in g on a book fo r a gia n t G erm an co nglo m era te an d its N orth
Am eric an , F re n ch , B ritis h a n d S pan is h s u bsid ia rie s.
It w as n ot th at w ro nged an d o ppre sse d w om en w ere in sh ort su pply in
Fath erla n d— th ough th eir su ffe rin gs w ere not ex clu siv ely th e outc o m e of
re lig io us o ppre ssio n— but N au ghty w as n ot o ne o f th em . I c o uld n’t w ait f o r h er
book. T he fic tio n w as so b la ta n t th at it w as b ound to g en era te a re sp onse . I
co uld n’t help ch uck lin g at mark et fa sh io ns. Fak e an ti- c o m munis m an d
Holo cau st m em oir s h ad b eco m e p opula r a fe w d ecad es ag o, w ith p ublis h ers
ju stif y in g th ese fa u x bio gra p hie s as an atte m pt to gra p ple w ith a uniq ue
ex perie n ce of horro r, ra th er th an se ein g th em fo r w hat th ey w ere , ta w dry
atte m pts t o e x plo it a h is to ric al t r a g ed y i n o rd er t o a p pease o ne’s b an k m an ag er.
Now i t w as o pen s e aso n o n I s la m . A ny p ie ce o f r u bbis h w as f in e a s l o ng a s
it ta rg ete d th e fo llo w ers o f th e P ro phet, p re fe ra b ly ru bbis h fro m w om en w ith
ple asin g e x te rio rs , w ho w ould b e e asie r to m ark et in th e W est. I c o uld s e e w hy

Zay nab , fo rc ib ly m arrie d to th e K ora n , w as se rio usly upse t by N au ghty ’s
dra m atic e n tr a n ce o n th e E uro pean s ta g e. Z ay nab h ad a re al ta le to te ll, a s to ry
th at h ad th e H oly B ook at its cen tr e an d th e u se s m ad e o f it b y cru el an d
ra p acio us la n dlo rd s to o ppre ss th eir s is te rs a n d d au ghte rs . S he h ad n ev er s p oken
ab out a n y o f th at in p ublic w hen s h e w as in E uro pe. S he to ld m e s h e h ad n o
desir e t o f a n t h e f la m es o f p re ju dic e.
Zay nab th re w th e m ag azin e in th e k itc h en b in . ‘ L et it p utr e fy h ap pily in th e
co m pan y o f r o ttin g v eg eta b le m atte r a n d d is c ard ed e g gs p ast t h eir s e ll- b y d ate .’
‘W hy a re y ou s o a n gry ? N au ghty ’s ju st tr y in g to a sse rt h er in dep en den ce
an d m ak e a b it o n t h e s id e. N ot t h e f ir s t n or t h e l a st t o d o s o .’
‘P erh ap s n ot, b ut d o y ou h av e a n y id ea h ow b ad th in gs a re in th is to w n? A t
th re e d in ner p artie s o ver th e p ast fo rtn ig ht, an d w ith v ery d if fe re n t ty pes o f
peo ple , th e m in ute th ey r e aliz ed I w as b ro ught u p a M uslim , th e s a m e q uestio n
was p oin te d ly re p eate d a n d u su ally b y v ery n ic e, c u ltu re d p eo ple a n d a lw ay s
with a c h arm in g s m ile : W hy d oes y our r e lig io n in sis t o n f e m ale c ir c u m cis io n? I
was e n ra g ed b y th is a b su rd ity . W here o n e arth h av e th ey g ot th at id ea fro m ? I
was p olite th e fir s t fe w tim es a n d sa id th at a s fa r a s I k new th e m illio ns o f
Muslim s in In donesia , C hin a an d S outh A sia had nev er su ffe re d fro m th is
pra ctic e. It w as re str ic te d to p arts o f A fric a an d h ad tr ib al o rig in s. C hris tia n
wom en in th ose a re as w ere a ls o m utila te d . N o in ju nctio n in th e K ora n o r th e
tr a d itio ns t h at I k now s o w ell d em an ds i t. A nd I w as q uite p ro ud t h at t h is w as s o .
I w as u nch alle n geab le . T he th ir d tim e it h ap pen ed I d id ra is e m y v oic e. If m en
can b e c ir c u m cis e d , w hy n ot w om en ? I t w as a s ig n o f o ur e q uality . A nyth in g a
man c o uld b ear, s o c o uld w e.’
‘A nd?’
‘S hock . H orro r. T ill th ey r e aliz ed I w as b ein g f a cetio us, a n d th en I le t th em
hav e it. I re ally d id . T his la st d in ner p arty w as in a v ery p ro per, p olite , e v en
hau te b ourg eo is h ouse h old . S till th ey a sk ed . T he le v el o f ig nora n ce w as s o to xic
th at t h ere w as a m om en t w hen I t h ought I ’d d ro p m y p ois o n c ap su le i n t h e h ost’ s
win e.

‘T o c h an ge th e s u bje ct, I in quir e d w heth er a n yone a t th e ta b le w as a s tr ic t
belie v er, sin ce I c erta in ly d id n ot q ualif y . T w o y oung m en , b oth N orm alie n s,
ad m itte d w ith out a tr a ce o f s h yness th at th ey w ere p ra ctis in g R om an C ath olic s
an d, to th e e m barra ssm en t o f th eir p are n ts , th ey p ut u p a s ta u nch p hilo so phic al
defe n ce. I a sk ed a b out a b ortio n. T hey w ere o ppose d . D iv orc e a n d c o ntr a cep tio n
were is su es th at c o uld b e d is c u sse d , b ut th is w as n ot a ro m an tic re v ere n ce fo r
re lig io us t r a d itio n. I t w as t h e r e al t h in g.
‘S o th ey ’re a ll d oin g re lig io n, I th ought to m yse lf . A nd F ra n ce, lik e Ita ly ,
desp ite p re te n sio ns to th e co ntr a ry , is a C ath olic co untr y . T he v en eer o f th e
Enlig hte n m en t is w earin g off very fa st. W hy ju st atta ck us?
Munafiq een .
Hypocrite s. Y ou c an ’t im ag in e w hat a re lie f it w as to e sc ap e fro m a ll th is a n d
re tu rn to b ed w ith m y S te n dhal. Y ou w ere s o r ig ht. I lo ve h im , a n d h e w rite s a t
su ch a p ace th at y ou re ad h im w ith th e s a m e rh yth m . W hy th e s o ppy lo ok o n
your fa ce? A m I w ro ng? I’m g la d y ou’re b ack . C an ’t y ou m ove h ere ? I m ean
tr a v el fro m P aris to w here v er y ou g o to g iv e y our le ctu re s, in ste ad o f fro m
London?’
I h ad n ev er im ag in ed I w ould so m ed ay h ear Z ay nab d efe n din g th e fa ith
with su ch vim , but th en E uro -c ra ssn ess had th at effe ct on m an y M uslim s,
belie v ers a n d u nbelie v ers , w ho n ow l iv ed a n d w ork ed o n t h e C ontin en t. A m onth
in th is c ity h ad r e v iv ed h er s p ir its . I k new s h e h ad b een e x tr e m ely d ep re sse d b y
Pla to ’s d eath a n d b y h er in ab ility to s ta y b eh in d a n d w atc h h im s u ffe r a n d d ie .
But s h e w as r e co verin g, a n d r a p id ly . I t w as th is q uality in Z ay nab , h er r e fu sa l to
sh am in o rd er to p le ase , a s so m an y o f o ur a cq uain ta n ce d id , th at I fo und so
attr a ctiv e. T his q uality h ad c re ate d t h e a ffin ity . F ro m t h e v ery f ir s t t im e I m et h er
I h ad b een str u ck b y her la ck of affe cta tio n, w heth er w e w ere alo ne o r in
co m pan y— as w e w ere a b out to b e th at n ig ht, sin ce sh e h ad in vite d a d ozen
peo ple t o d in ner a t a r e sta u ra n t s itu ate d c o nven ie n tly c lo se t o t h e e n tr a n ce o f h er
ap artm en t. T hat’ s w here w e n orm ally a te , s in ce— lik e m an y o th er w om en o f m y
acq uain ta n ce— sh e w as n ot o ne o f n atu re ’s c o oks. I t w as t im e f o r a c o nfe ssio n.
‘Z ay nab , I h av e n o id ea w heth er o r n ot B alz ac e v er a te h ere . I ju st m ad e

th at u p to ex ped ite y our d ecis io n o n th e ap artm en t.’ S he la u ghed , h er ey es
dartin g a fe w fla m es in m y d ir e ctio n. ‘H ai, A lla h . T hat is s o fu nny. I b ecam e
ex cite d w hen y ou to ld m e. A fte r I h ad c o m e to k now th e p eo ple w ho o w n th e
pla ce I d ecid ed to s h are th is in fo rm atio n w ith th em . T hey w ere s o th rille d th at
th ey p ut a la rg e p ortr a it o f h im in th e e n tr a n ce h all, a s y ou’ll s e e to nig ht, a n d
als o a quote fro m
Le P ère G orio t
on th e m en u. D ara , th ey ’re th in kin g of
ch an gin g t h e n am e t o
Le P ère G orio t
. W hat s h ould w e d o?’
‘T his i s h ow h is to ry i s w ritte n t h ese d ay s. L eav e i t b e. B ut l e t’ s s u ggest t h at
Eugén ie G ra ndet
m ig ht b e a b ette r n am e f o r t h e p la ce. I t’ s a m erc ile ss a ssa u lt o n
stin gin ess a n d m ig ht e n co ura g e th eir c u sto m ers to sp en d m ore . A n um ber o f
ap posite q uota tio ns fro m th at co uld b e fo und to em bro id er th eir m en us an d
en han ce th e im pact. T hey ’re d oin g it a ll to in cre ase c u sto m . M ak in g m oney . A
tr u e h om ag e t o B alz ac.’
‘H ow s h ould I i n tr o duce y ou t o t h e o th er g uests ? I d on’t m ean w hat y ou d o,
but ...’
‘W hat w e d o?’
‘S om eth in g lik e th at. O ne o f th e F re n ch m en is m arrie d to a fa d in g b eau ty
fro m K ara ch i, s o w hate v er is s a id w ill r e ach F ath erla n d. O f th at w e c an b e s u re .
It’ s a w fu l h ow I ’m p ic k in g u p y our s tu pid j a rg on.’
We d is c u sse d th e is su e fo r fa r to o lo ng. A lte rn ativ es w ere c o nsid ere d a n d
dis c ard ed . Z ay nab ofte n in dulg ed in th e m ost ra sh ju dgem en ts , a tr a it not
unre la te d t o h er e arly y ears o f e n fo rc ed p ie ty a n d i s o la tio n.
‘I c o uld s a y y ou’re m y b ro th er-in -la w w ho’s v is itin g f o r a f e w d ay s.’
‘D oes t h e K ora n h av e a b ro th er? ’
‘Y ou f o ol. I m ean t m y b ro th er’s b ro th er-in -la w .’
‘Y ou m ean y our s is te r-in -la w ’s b ro th er,’
A fit of gig glin g te m pora rily im mobiliz ed her. I su ggeste d a sim ple r
so lu tio n: I w ould be ju st an oth er guest. T his w ould av oid an y unnecessa ry
rig m aro le . A gre em en t w as re ach ed . A p hone call in th e afte rn oon fro m th e
fa d in g b eau ty w as a re lie f. A n e m erg en cy h ad a ris e n a n d s h e a n d J e an -C la u de

had to g o a n d c o m fo rt th eir s o n in L yon. Z ay nab w as tw o g uests s h ort, a n d th is
worrie d her. I su ggeste d one of m y nonfic tio n publis h ers . If H en ri de
Montm ore n cy w ere in to w n h e w ould b e fu n a n d s h e w ould re aliz e th at P aris
still c o nta in ed c ritic al m in ds, e v en m ore d is g uste d w ith o ffic ia l c u ltu re th an s h e
ap peare d t o b e. H e w as a v aila b le . H e h ad a n ew y oung T unis ia n w om an , S am ir a ,
in t o w a n d t h ey w ould h ap pily j o in u s f o r s u pper. T here w as a t in y g litc h . H e h ad
ag re ed t o m eet a C hin ese a u th or w ritin g a b ook o n S han ghai f o r a d rin k a n d t h ey
mig ht b e a b it la te . I su ggeste d h e b rin g h is C hin ese a u th or a lo ng to d in ner.
Sudden ly th e party beg an to fe el m ore pro m is in g. Zay nab had orig in ally
org an iz ed th e d in ner to b e p olite , re tu rn in g th e h osp ita lity o f th e Is la m ophobes
who h ad f e d h er o ver t h e p ast m onth . S he k new t h is h ad a ll t h e m ak in gs o f a d ir e
ev en in g an d th at sin ce sh e w as th e hoste ss, sittin g th ro ugh it in dis d ain fu l
sile n ce, a s a tis fy in g o ptio n o n o th er o ccasio ns, w as e x clu ded .
In f a ct, th e e v en in g p ro ceed ed s m ooth ly till H en ri d e M ontm ore n cy a n d h is
party a rriv ed . S am ir a h ad n ot b oth ere d to d re ss u p, w hic h s u rp ris e d s o m e. T he
Chin ese au th or gra cio usly beam ed at us all. It w as H en ri w ho becam e
arg um en ta tiv e e arly o n, ju st a s w e w ere b usy c o nsu m in g th e fir s t c o urs e . H e
an nounced t h at h e h ad j u st r e tu rn ed f ro m G aza a n d b eg an t o s p eak o f c rim es a n d
atr o citie s th at w ere b ein g c o m mitte d b y Is ra el. E ven a t th e b est o f tim es th is is
not a s u bje ct g re atly a p pre cia te d in p olite s o cie ty in P aris . O ne o f th e w om en
pre se n t, th e w if e o f a lib era l n ew sp ap er e d ito r, e x cu se d h ers e lf a n d w e h eard h er
bein g lo udly sic k in th e la v ato ry . H er h usb an d ru sh ed to h er h elp a s sile n ce
re ig ned a t th e ta b le . T hen th e c o uple re tu rn ed , th e jo urn alis t a p olo giz ed fo r h is
wif e , w ho w as n ot f e elin g w ell, a n d t h ey l e ft.
Hen ri, w hose su rn am e c o nceale d h is S ep hard ic o rig in s, o f w hic h h e w as
im men se ly p ro ud, re m ain ed u nre p en ta n t. ‘T his is n ot th e fir s t tim e, y ou k now .
She w as s ic k a t a n oth er d in ner p arty w here I w as p re se n t a f e w y ears a g o. T hat
year I w as r e tu rn in g f ro m J e n in . I d on’t th in k s h e’s r e ally s ic k a t a ll. I t’ s a n a ct
of p ro te st. T he m in ute I s a w h er I k new th at a m en tio n o f G aza w ould s e n d h er
str a ig ht t o t h e t o ile t.’

We c arrie d o n w ith t h e m ain c o urs e . A noth er o f h er g uests , w ho w ork ed f o r
Cre d it S uis se , a sk ed m e w here I w as sta y in g. A s I w as th in kin g o f a su ita b le
hote l, Z ay nab i n te rru pte d .
‘A t m y p la ce. A nd n ot i n t h e g uest r o om .’
‘A h’, s a id H en ri, ‘ y ou a re l o vers . V ery p le ase d . V ery g ood n ew s, D ara .’
Till t h en th e C hin ese a u th or, C hen g C hia o -fu , h ad r e m ain ed s ile n t. I lo oked
at h im m ore c lo se ly . H e s m ile d . I w as s u re w e h ad m et s o m ew here .
‘W hat b ook a re y ou w ritin g f o r H en ri, o r i s i t a s e cre t? ’
‘H en ri t h in ks i t’ s o n a f a m ous b an kin g s c an dal i n S han ghai t h at l e d t o t h re e
public e x ecu tio ns. T hat w ill b e a sm all b ook. I’m w ork in g o n a m uch la rg er
book, o n th e h is to ry o r, m ore a ccu ra te ly , th e so cio lo gy o f fe stiv als in C hin a.
There a re so m an y o f th em a n d th eir o rig in s h av e a lw ay s in te re ste d m e. T he
ex is tin g w ork o n t h em i s n ot g ood.’
Chia o -fu ’s E nglis h w as p erfe ct, n ot a tr a ce o f an y C hin ese accen t, b ut
befo re I c o uld q uestio n h im , Z ay nab a tte m pte d to e n gag e H en ri’ s c o m pan io n in
co nvers a tio n.
‘D o y ou w ork f o r H en ri? ’
‘Y ou c o uld s a y t h at I w ork o n h im .’
We w ere ju st fin is h in g a t th is p oin t, b ut n ot w is h in g to h ear m ore in th is
vein , Z ay nab ’s o th er g uests p le ad ed th e c o nstr a in ts o f tim e a n d le ft u s. T here
was a r e lie v ed b urs t o f la u ghte r f ro m h er. A m ore r e la x ed a tm osp here p re v aile d .
It w as o nly te n , a n d m ore w in e a n d c h eese w as la id o n th e ta b le . I a sk ed C hia o -
fu w heth er h e’d s tu die d i n B rita in o r t h e U nite d S ta te s.
‘N eith er.’
‘W here d id y ou l e arn E nglis h ?’
‘I c an ’t r e m em ber.’
The w ay h e s a id t h at w as f a m ilia r. I l o oked a t h im m ore c lo se ly .
‘D o y ou t h in k w e’v e m et b efo re ?’ h e a sk ed . ‘ T hat m ig ht b e i n te re stin g.’
‘D o y ou m in d r e m ovin g y our s p ecta cle s? ’
He d id a s I a sk ed a n d I w as a lm ost s u re . I s p oke to h im in P unja b i, u sin g a

phra se t h at h e h ad o fte n d ep lo yed i n t h e o ld d ay s.
‘Y ou d og, C onfu ciu s, y ou c o ld -h earte d c ata m ite . W here h av e y ou b een a ll
th ese y ears ? ’
He a n sw ere d i n P unja b i. ‘ W ho a re y ou? H av e w e m et? ’
‘W e m et in L ah ore . I k new y our p are n ts a n d J in dié . S he liv es in L ondon
now .’
He lo oked b la n k, a n d s o m eth in g n one o f u s h ad c o nsid ere d a s a p ossib ility
was n ow a c erta in ty , u nle ss h e w as f o olin g. B ut i t s o on b ecam e c le ar t h at h e h ad
lo st h is m em ory , a t le ast p artia lly . I c arrie d o n s p eak in g to h im in P unja b i, a n d
he r e p lie d a n d a sk ed q uestio ns.
‘D id y ou g iv e u p p hysic s? ’
‘I d on’t k now . I d id e co nom ic s a t B eijin g U niv ers ity .’
Zay nab sa w th at I w as clo se to te ars . She sa id , ‘C onfu ciu s, do you
re m em ber P la to ?’
‘Y es, I t h in k s o . H e m ad e m e l a u gh. W hat h ap pen ed t o h im ?’
‘H e d ie d a f e w m onth s a g o.’
‘I’m s a d t o h ear t h at. A nd y ou k new h im , t o o?’
Hen ri h ad im med ia te ly re aliz ed th at w hat w as ta k in g p la ce w as s e rio us. I
ex pla in ed ra p id ly in b ro ken F re n ch w ho C hia o -fu re ally w as a n d w as to ld in
re tu rn th at h e w as r e g ard ed a s o ne o f th e to p e co nom is ts in th e c o untr y , b ut h ad
been s id elin ed b ecau se o f th e s c ath in g c ritic is m s h e h ad m ad e o f th e d ir e ctio n in
whic h C hin a w as h ead ed . I c o uld n’t re str a in a fe w te ars . S om eth in g o f th e o ld
Han if M a-C onfu ciu s h ad sta y ed in h im . W hat h ap pen ed to th is b oy? W hose
id en tity h ad h e a ssu m ed o r b een g iv en a n d i n w hat c ir c u m sta n ces? H is c o nfu sio n
was n ow p alp ab le . T he fa ct th at h e co uld su dden ly sp eak a to ta lly d if fe re n t
la n guag e th at h e’d h ad n o id ea w as in h im h ad sh ak en h is se lf -c o nfid en ce. I
ask ed w heth er I c o uld r in g h is s is te r a n d i n fo rm h er.
‘L ate r, p le ase . L et’ s j u st t a lk n ow . I n P unja b i.’
Zah id a n d Jin dié a rriv ed th e n ex t m orn in g a n d w e a ll m et la te r th at d ay .
Confu ciu s w as still bew ild ere d . H e did n’t re co gniz e Jin dié , but accep te d

ra tio nally th at s h e c o uld b e h is s is te r d esp ite h er s tu m blin g C hin ese . S he w ould
ofte n r e v ert to P unja b i, r e m in din g h im o f th eir c h ild hood, u sin g m ix ed P unja b i-
Man darin p hra se s f ro m t h eir p ast t h at w ere k now n o nly t o t h em . O ccasio nally h e
would s m ile , h is o nly tin y f lic k er o f r e co gnitio n. M ore w ould ta k e tim e. I c o uld
se e t h at s h e h ad b een c ry in g a n d a tte m pte d t o c o m fo rt h er.
‘T han k y ou f o r f in din g h im .’
‘P ure l u ck .’
‘B ut y ou w ere c o nvin ced h e w as a liv e.’
We e m bra ced w arm ly . ‘ G o w ith h im to B eijin g a n d f in d o ut m ore . S ta y f o r
as l o ng i t t a k es, J in dié .’
‘I’ll w rite a n d l e t y ou k now .’
I s h ook h an ds w ith C onfu ciu s a n d s a id f a re w ell in P unja b i. ‘ W e w ill m eet
ag ain , C onfu ciu s. I’m so h ap py th at Z ah id an d I are n ot th e o nly re m ain in g
su rv iv ors o f t h e t a b le a t c o lle g e.’
‘W as t h ere s o m eo ne w e u se d t o c all R esp ecte d ?’
Zah id a n d I s c re am ed i n t a n dem . ‘ Y es!’
‘W hy d o y ou c all m e C onfu ciu s? ’
‘I’ll le t Z ah id e x pla in a ll th at in g re at d eta il to y ou. I lo ok f o rw ard to y our
book.’
The i n te n se a ffe ctio n t h at J in dié f e lt f o r h im c o uld o nly h av e h eig hte n ed t h e
pain s h e f e lt w hen it b ecam e o bvio us h e d id n ot k now h er. W hat d id h e k now ?
Did h e r e m em ber h is M ao is t d ay s? W as t h e p ast a t o ta l n onsta rte r? I t c o uld n’t b e
if s p eak in g in P unja b i h ad r e m in ded h im o f R esp ecte d . P erh ap s it w as a ll in sid e
him w aitin g f o r a n o pportu nity to r e tu rn to th e s u rfa ce. Z ah id w as c o nfid en t th at
so m e o f it w ould b e r e co vere d , th ough th e s h ock o r a ccid en t th at h ad c au se d th e
lo ss o f m em ory in th e f ir s t p la ce m ust h av e b een a v ery lo ng tim e a g o. A nd th at
would b e a p ro ble m .
I r e tu rn ed to th e R ue d e B iè v re e x hau ste d . Z ay nab w as o ut a n d I s w itc h ed
on th e co m pute r to re ad ab out m em ory lo ss. N oth in g d efin itiv e. T oo m an y
varia b le s. O ne in te re stin g s ta tis tic , h ow ev er, r e v eale d th at in s ix ty p erc en t o f th e

case s s tu die d i n C alif o rn ia , m em ory h ad l a rg ely o r c o m ple te ly r e tu rn ed .
I h ad se rio usly co nsid ere d g oin g to K unm in g an d D ali w ith Jin dié an d
Zah id , m eetin g y oung S ule im an a n d d is c o verin g w hat w as l e ft o f t h e m onum en ts
fro m th e tim e o f th e re b ellio n. H ow m uch o f th e D ali F orb id den C ity still
ex is te d ? H ad th e M an ch u, lik e th e R ed G uard s a c en tu ry la te r, w re ak ed th eir
re v en ge o n th e a rc h ite ctu re a s w ell? It w ould a ll h av e to w ait n ow . C onfu ciu s
had b eco m e t h e c en tr e o f h er w orld .
The n ex t d ay w as t h e f ir s t r e al s p rin g d ay o f t h e y ear. P aris w as c are sse d b y
delic io usly w arm b re ezes; Z ay nab a n d I w alk ed v ir tu ally t h e w hole d ay . S he h ad
heard a b out J in dié a n d m e, Z ah id a n d h is lif e fro m P la to , a n d c le arly in s o m e
deta il. N ow s h e t u rn ed t o w ard s m e, l o okin g s lig htly w orrie d .
‘I t h in k J in dié s till l o ves y ou.’
‘ Afla tu ni i s h q
. P la to nic l o ve.’
‘O ur P la to d id n’t th in k so . D id h e e v er te ll y ou th at w hen h e w as b ein g
dis c o vere d t h an ks t o y our h elp , s h e w ould c o nta ct h im t o a sk a b out y ou a n d y our
lif e ?’
‘H e n ev er t o ld m e. I t w as o bvio usly t o o t r iv ia l t o b e r e p eate d . I n a n y c ase i t
mean s n oth in g. I a m fo nd o f h er. I lik e h er. N oth in g m ore . S he a n d Z ah id a re
quite c lo se in s o m e w ay s a n d th eir lif e h as d ev elo ped a r h yth m th at s u its b oth o f
th em . I t h ap pen s t o c o uple s w ho’v e b een t o geth er a l o ng t im e. Y ou l o ok v ex ed .’
She d id n ot r e p ly , a n d I w ondere d w heth er t h is h ad a n yth in g t o d o w ith u s. I
ask ed h er.
‘I s u ppose it d oes, in a w ay . W hen w e f ir s t b ecam e in tim ate I h ad n o id ea
what I re ally fe lt a b out y ou, b ut n ow I’v e g ot u se d to y ou. I m is s y ou w hen
you’re n ot h ere , a n d t h at i s n ot g ood. W hat d o y ou t h in k?’
‘I th in k w e n eed to f in d y ou a b oy to y. A v ig oro us y oung s ta llio n w ho c an
esc o rt y ou a ll o ver t h e w orld . A j o ck ey c ap ab le o f r id in g a n y m are . A P la to -s ty le
ch au ffe u r, b ut y oung a n d v ir ile .’
‘B e s e rio us, D ara . I ’m n ot j o kin g.’
I c o uld s e e n um ero us o bsta cle s to a n y p erm an en t a rra n gem en t, b ut I c o uld

als o s e e th e a ttr a ctiv e s id e o f w hat s h e p ro pose d . I h ad g ot s o u se d to b ein g o n
my o w n a n d e n jo yin g w hat I d id th at a c o m ple te b re ak in m y o ld ro utin e w as
unap pealin g. P erh ap s w e c o uld b e to geth er fo r lo ng w eek en ds, a n d m ore if w e
wan te d , b ut I c o uld a ls o s e e t h at, a fte r a l e n gth y i n te rv al, f a te w as o ffe rin g a n ew
possib ility o n a p la tte r a n d t h at, t o o, w as p le asin g.
‘L et’ s ta lk a b out th is la te r a n d s e e h ow w e s h ould p ro ceed . A s y ou k now ,
I’v e b eco m e a tta ch ed t o y ou.’
‘N ot s o a tta ch ed t h at I a m i n vite d t o s ta y i n y our L ondon f la t.’
‘L et’ s g o t o m orro w . C om e a n d s e e i t f o r y ours e lf .’
‘A re y ou s e rio us? ’
I w as, a n d th en I a ls o re m em bere d th at n eith er o f u s h ad in fo rm ed A lic e
Ste p fo rd o f P la to ’s d eath . T hat e v en in g I r a n g h er in N ew Y ork . S he d em an ded
to k now w hy w e h ad n’t t o ld h er. I t h ough i t b est t o b e t r u th fu l.
‘W e f o rg ot.’
She b ecam e v itu pera tiv e, b ut t h en c alm ed d ow n a n d w ep t s e n sib ly .
‘H as t h ere b een a n o bitu ary ?’
‘T w o, i n
Art M onth ly
. B oth g ood.’
‘I m ean t t h e
New Y ork T im es
.’
‘N o.’
‘I’m g oin g to w rite o ne. A nd I a ssu m e th at Z ay nab is th e e x ecu to r a n d a ll
th e p ain tin gs n ow b elo ng t o h er.’
‘T his i s t r u e, A lly .’
‘A lic e. G ood. H e d id a n ude o f m e o nce. U su al s tu ff. H uge b allo on-s h ap ed
bre asts w ith a ll t h e o th er a cco m pan im en ts . C ould y ou t e ll Z ay nab t h at i f i t h asn ’t
been so ld I’d lik e to buy it off her? D on’t lik e th e th ought of it han gin g
an yw here . I m ig ht e -m ail y ou fo r s o m e d eta ils o f h is y outh , b ut o th erw is e I’ll
write m ain ly a b out h is w ork .’
Whic h s h e d id , in tr o ducin g P la to to a n a rt p ublic th at h e h ad n eith er k now n
nor c o vete d . H e w as th e o nly o ne o f m y f rie n ds w ho, in a ll th e tim e I k new h im ,
sh ow ed n o in te re st— neg ativ e o r p ositiv e— in th e a ffa ir s o f th e U nite d S ta te s, o r

an y d esir e t o v is it i t. T his l a ck o f c u rio sity a n noyed m e, a n d w hen I r e p rim an ded
him he w ould co nte m ptu ously sh ru g his sh ould ers , but nev er offe re d an
ex pla n atio n.
We m ay re tu rn la te r to th e im pact o f A lly ’s o bitu ary , b ut in th e m ean tim e
Zay nab is w aitin g fo r m e in th e re sta u ra n t to h ear m y v ie w s o n o ur fu tu re . I
th ought o f a ll th e th in gs I lik ed a b out h er, so m e o f w hic h h av e a lr e ad y b een
lis te d . A noth er q uality th at I a p pre cia te d w as h er in cap acity to m ak e s m all ta lk
an d t o g iv e h er u ndiv id ed a tte n tio n t o p eo ple s h e d id n ot l ik e o r v alu e. B ette r n ot
to s p eak th an m ain ta in a p re te n ce. A nd th ough s h e w as in h er e arly f if tie s n ow ,
sh e h ad re ta in ed a g ir lis h q uality , la rg ely w ith th e h elp o f h er m is c h ie f-fille d
ey es, a n d t h is b elie d h er a g e. A ll t h ese t r a its c o uld n ot h av e b een t h e r e su lt o f h er
uniq ue upbrin gin g, or oth er unfo rtu nate s in a sim ila r positio n m ig ht hav e
ben efite d e q ually . N or w as th ere a tr a ce o f b itte rn ess in h er. S he d id n ot s u sp ect
peo ple s h e lik ed o f b ase m otiv es o r ju m p to e m bitte re d c o nclu sio ns re g ard in g
th eir a ctio ns. I ’m s u re th at is w hat P la to s a w in h er, to o, a n d w hy h e a d ore d h er
in t h e w ay h e d id .
My h esita tio n w as p ure ly s e lf is h . I w an te d n o f u rth er d is ru ptio ns in m y lif e
an d I w as fe arfu l th at th is m ig ht hap pen , w hic h w as w hy I had dev is e d a
co m pro m is e fo rm ula th at m ig ht su it u s b oth : w eek en ds a n d h olid ay s to geth er
an d e v ery t h ir d w eek a c h an ge o f c ity . A s I e n te re d t h e r e sta u ra n t t h e f ir s t t h in g I
notic ed w as t h at t h e p ortr a it o f B alz ac h ad d is a p peare d f ro m t h e w all. Z ay nab s a t
at h er t a b le n ear t h e w in dow , s m ilin g. A s I j o in ed h er s h e p oin te d a t t h e m en u t o
in dic ate th at th e B alz ac q uote h ad d is a p peare d a s w ell. W hat h ad h ap pen ed ?
That cata m ite H en ri de M ontm ore n cy had hap pen ed . H e had re tu rn ed one
lu nch tim e a n d i n fo rm ed t h e: S pan is h p ro prie to r t h at t h e p la ce p ostd ate d B alz ac’s
death a n d th is w as n ot a s tr e et m uch v is ite d b y th e n ovelis t in a n y c ase . I s h ould
hav e a le rte d H en ri to th e jo ke, b ut h e h ad w ritte n a h ig hly re g ard ed h is to ry o f
Paris a n d p ro bab ly w ould h av e b eco m e c ro ss w ith m e. H is to ry w as s a cre d a n d
woe b etid e th ose w ho to ok lib ertie s w ith it. W e tr ie d n ot to la u gh. Z ay nab

whis p ere d t h at s h e h ad t o ld t h em i t w as a n h onest m is ta k e o n m y p art.
We ta lk ed a n d s h e a p peare d p erfe ctly h ap py w ith m y s o lu tio n, a s lo ng a s
sh e c o uld s ta y w ith m e in L ondon. W hy s h ould th at h av e b een a p ro ble m ? S he
gestu re d a s i f t o i m ply t h at I k new . I w as g en uin ely p uzzle d .
‘D on’t y ou k eep L ondon p ure f o r J in dié ?’
It w as je alo usy . I b urs t o ut la u ghin g, re p eate d w hat I h ad s a id b efo re , a n d
ex pla in ed w hy I h ad n’t s ta y ed in th e g uest r o om in R ic h m ond a n d th e e x cu se I
had o ffe re d J in dié . F or a m in ute I w as th e s u bje ct o f a f ix ed a n d p ro fo und g aze,
an d t h en s h e b urs t o ut l a u ghin g.
‘I k now h ow fu ssy y ou a re a b out y our c u rs e d c o ffe e. T hat m ay w ell h av e
been t h e r e al r e aso n a s w ell. S o t h ere w ere t w o r e aso ns f o r n ot s ta y in g. N ow I ’m
co nvin ced .’
She h ad m ore w in e th an u su al th at n ig ht a n d a t o ne p oin t w as o verc o m e
with a g ig glin g fit, to w hic h s h e w as s o m etim es p ro ne. T his tim e th ere w as n o
ap pare n t r e aso n. F in ally s h e s p oke.
‘I h av e b een s w orn to to ta l s e cre cy a n d if th is a p pears a n yw here I ’ll lo se a
very g ood frie n d in N ew Y ork . S he’ll n ev er fo rg iv e m e. It’ s a b out a p ro fe sso r
fro m o ur p arts .’
‘W hic h p arts d id y ou h av e i n m in d?’
‘G eo gra p hic al. I n t h is c ase , S outh A sia .’
The s to ry c o ncern ed e g os in a cad em ia . A le ad in g p ro fe sso r in th e lite ra tu re
dep artm en t o f a u niv ers ity in th e M id w est h ad b een in vite d to H arv ard so m e
week s a g o, w here sh e w as d ue to re ceiv e a n h onora ry d eg re e, fo llo w ed b y a
ban quet a t w hic h th ere w ould b e s p eech es. H er b est w ork w as b eh in d h er, b ut it
had o nce h elp ed h er a cq uir e a n e n orm ous re p uta tio n a n d a c u lt fo llo w in g fo r
re aso ns t h at e v en a t t h e t im e— it w as t h e h eig ht o f t h e p ostm odern is t w av e i n t h e
la te Eig htie s— co uld be only partia lly ju stif ie d . Subse q uen tly sh e had
la n guis h ed , p ro ducin g b ooks th at h er s tu den ts w ere c o m pelle d to re ad b ut th at
were n ot p art o f c o urs e lis ts o n o th er c am puse s. T he N ew Y ork u niv ers itie s, in
partic u la r, h ad ig nore d h er re cen t w ork a n d h ad s to pped in vitin g h er to le ctu re .

For th at re aso n, th e h onora ry d eg re e a t H arv ard a n d th e fa n fa re s u rro undin g it
had c o m e a t a g ood t im e f o r h er.
Durin g th e d in ner, a t w hic h Z ay nab ’s f rie n d h ad b een p re se n t, th e g uest o f
honour w as ig nore d b y m ost o f th e o ld m en a t th e ta b le . T his la ck o f a tte n tio n
upse t h er g re atly , a n d s h e b urs t in to s ile n t te ars , w hic h w en t u nnotic ed , a n d th en
beg an to w eep lo udly . E very one p re se n t fe ll s ile n t; n ow s h e w as th e c en tr e o f
th eir u ndiv id ed a tte n tio n. A k in dly re tir e d p ro fe sso r in h is e ig htie s p ut h is a rm
aro und h er t o a sk w hy s h e w as s o u pse t.
‘W ell, it’ s lik e th is ,’ s a id th e v is ito r. ‘A fte r ly in g fa llo w fo r a lo ng tim e I
acq uir e d a y oung E gyptia n lo ver la st m onth . A ll w en t w ell till y este rd ay , w hen
he r e fu se d c u nnilin gus p oin t- b la n k b ecau se o f h is r e lig io n. I j u st t h ought a b out i t
an d t h at m ad e m e c ry .’
There w as p in -d ro p sile n ce. S he lo oked a p pealin gly a t th e g ath erin g a n d
ple ad ed fo r s o m e e x pert a d vic e. ‘D o a n y o f y ou k now w hy th e C optic C hurc h
fo rb id s c u nnilin gus? ’
I la u ghed as Z ay nab fin is h ed . It w as th e o ne o f th e m ore o rig in al an d
co m pre h en sib le u tte ra n ces th at I ’d h eard r e p orte d o f th is p artic u la r p ro fe sso r in
tw en ty years . A nd ju st befo re le av in g th e re sta u ra n t, I th in k I m an ag ed to
co nvin ce its h ir s u te p ro prie to r th at w heth er o r n ot B alz ac h ad lite ra lly e ate n a t
th is lo catio n w as ir re le v an t. H is s p ir it n ow h overe d o ver th is e n tir e a re a, if n ot
th e c o untr y a s a w hole , a n d h e s h ould re in sta te th e p ortr a it a n d th e q uota tio n.
The S pan ia rd p ro m is e d t o g iv e t h e m atte r s e rio us c o nsid era tio n.
Late r th at n ig ht w e a g re ed th at a s P la to ’s f rie n d a n d p ossib le b io gra p her, I
would acco m pan y Zay nab to her fa m ily esta te s an d stu dy his unfin is h ed
maste rp ie ce.
‘I’v e to ld y ou I h ate it, D . If y our o pin io n is th e sa m e a n d th e w ork is
with out a n y i n tr in sic v alu e, l e t i t s ta y a t h om e. W hy i n flic t i t o n t h e w orld ? P la to
would h av e r e sp ecte d t h e d ecis io n.’
Sle ep d id n ot c o m e e asily th at n ig ht. E very s o o fte n Z ay nab w ould s it u p,
tu rn o n th e la m p a n d q uestio n m e. ‘D , w hat w as th at s tu pid P unja b i s o ng th at

Pla to use d to sin g or hum an d w hic h had quite a fu nny fir s t lin e but w as
oth erw is e c o nven tio nal? ’
I re m em bere d . ‘T he fir s t lin e w as P la to ’s c o ntr ib utio n, a n d th e re st o f th e
so ng w as e arly B olly w ood, v in ta g e 1 958, I t h in k.’
‘“ T he s ig ht o f y our b re asts s e n ds m e t o s le ep .” S tu pid P la to .’
Half an h our la te r: ‘A re stu pid p eo ple g en era lly m ore h ap py th an m ore
in te llig en t o nes? ’
‘Z ay nab , i t’ s n early t w o i n t h e m orn in g.’
‘S o w hat? W hy, c an ’t y ou s le ep ? B ut f ir s t p le ase a n sw er m y q uestio n.’
‘H ow th e h ell sh ould I k now ? M ak e a lis t o f y our fa m ily m em bers a n d
an sw er y our o w n q uestio n.’
‘I k now s o m e re ally s tu pid o nes, b ut th at’ s n ot m y p oin t. W hat I m ean is
wheth er o r n ot t h ey e v en u nders ta n d t h e c o ncep t o f h ap pin ess.’
I t u rn ed o ff t h e l ig ht a n d t o ok h er i n m y a rm s.

FIF T EEN
S IX M ONTH S L A TER , W HEN
I r e tu rn ed t o P aris , i t w as d if fic u lt t o i g nore t h e f a ct t h at
N au ghty L ate ef h ad t a k en t h e c ity b y s to rm .
Her b ook w as o ut. I t h ad b een s o ld to e v ery la rg e p ublis h in g c o rp ora tio n in
t h e w orld . T he a d van ces h ad b een m odest, sin ce th e in dustr y — was in se v ere
c ris is , b ut fo r th is b ook s u bven tio ns h ad b een p ro m is e d b y v ario us fo undatio ns
a n d cu ltu ra l o rg an iz atio ns to co ver th e lo sse s. P oste rs w ith N au ghty ’s im ag e
w ere e v ery w here . S he h ad c h an ged h er n am e to s o m eth in g th at w as b oth u se r-
f rie n dly an d ex otic . S he w as n ow Y asm in e A ura tp asa n d. T he m ark et w ould
r e sp ond w ell to th at, w ith a tin y b it o f en co ura g em en t fro m th e p ublis h ers ’
m ark etin g d ir e cto rs . T heir sh re w dness a n d c y nic is m w ould b oth e n su re g ood
s a le s a n d, m uch m ore im porta n tly , p ro je ct th e a u th or s tr a ig ht in to th e w orld o f
c ele b rity . U nlik e h er m ale e q uiv ale n ts , s h e d id n ot n eed a n y m ed ic al h elp in th e
w ay o f a h air tr a n sp la n t o r w hat is u nap petiz in gly re fe rre d to a s a n ose jo b.
N au ghty w as a h ealth y P unja b i g ir l w ith r u stic g ood lo oks. A ll s h e r e q uir e d w as
s o m e w ork o n h er E nglis h d ic tio n, b ut n ot t o o m uch , a n d o n h er o vere ag er s m ile ,
w hic h sh e w as a sk ed to m ak e a to uch m ore re fin ed , a b it m ore m odest, ju st
e n ough s o th at s h e d id n ot s e em to b e e n jo yin g h er n ew s ta tu s q uite a s m uch a s
s h e a ctu ally d id . T he m ed ia cra ts w ere in str u cte d to g o e asy o n h er, a t th e s a m e
t im e m ak in g s u re th at s h e b ecam e a n o vern ig ht c ele b rity . T hat w as im porta n t,
s in ce sh e n eed ed to b e u se d to ju stif y , in th e sw eete st an d m ild est m an ner
p ossib le , ev ery W este rn atr o city in M uslim la n ds re q uir in g ju stif ic atio n an d
s im ulta n eo usly h elp to p re p are p ublic o pin io n to accep t fu tu re crim es. W hat
m ust b e a v oid ed w as to o e arly a c o m paris o n o f h er w ritin g w ith V olta ir e ’s . T hat
c la im h ad s e rio usly d is c re d ite d a p re v io us o pera tio n o f t h is s o rt, a n d W ash in gto n
h ad b een f o rc ed t o s te p i n a n d t r a n sp ort t h e h ero in e i n q uestio n t o t h e s a fe ty o f a
r ig ht- w in g t h in k-ta n k. P erh ap s i n s ix m onth s’ t im e t h e p hra se ‘ th ere i s a t o uch o f

Did ero t in h er w ork ’ c o uld b e su ggeste d to Je an -P ie rre B ertr a n d, th e h ost o f
Orin ic o .c o m , t h e t r a v ellin g b ook s h ow a ir e d o n F ra n ce 2 , w hic h w as f ilm ed o n a
carg o p la n e a n d s p onso re d b y t h e e p onym ous c o m pan y.
The in te rv ie w w ith N au ghty in
Le M onde
h ad b een c o nducte d o r, if r e ad ers
will p ard on a h om ely t r u th , w ritte n , b y o ne o f Z ay nab ’s d in nerp arty g uests , w ho,
lik e m ost s e n io r jo urn alis ts in th e W este rn w orld , w ro te c o py a s im ag in ativ e a s
an y o f th ose g alla n t c ap ta in s w ho e n liv en ed th e s ix te en th c en tu ry w ith ta le s o f
ad ven tu re s in u nknow n w orld s w here th ey k ille d c o untle ss b rig an ds a n d a v ast
num ber of heath en s. (T hose sto rie s in th eir day had in sp ir e d or pro voked
hundre d s o f sa tir ic al an d, so m etim es, ex tr e m ely v ulg ar so nnets , w hic h w ere
se cre tly a d m ir e d b y m an y.)
In our tw en ty -fir s t cen tu ry , a M uslim w om an ’s re al vir tu es can not be
ap pre cia te d o n t h eir o w n, b ut l ik e t h e a d ven tu ro us c ap ta in s’ h av e t o b e s p ic ed u p
with s to rie s, im ag in ed o r r e al, o f c o ura g e in th e f a ce o f o verw helm in g o dds— in
her c ase , o f I s la m is t t y ra n ny. A nd s in ce t h e s tr u ggle a g ain st t h is t y ra n ny i s l e d b y
hum an ita ria n politic ia n s an d gen era ls w ith hig h co lla te ra l fro m th e W este rn
world , th ey a n d th eir g lo bal n etw ork o f m ed ia a co ly te s b eco m e th e f in al a rb ite rs
of w hat th ese w om en ’s b ooks a re w orth . Z ay nab , a n u nsu ng M uslim h ero in e o f
valo ur, h ad fo llo w ed N au ghty ’s an tic s w ith a se n se o f h orro r, b ut als o w ith
gro w in g a d m ir a tio n.
Now s h e lo oked a t th e c lo ck a n d r u sh ed to s w itc h o n h er te le v is io n to A rte .
‘It’ s th e o nly th in g le ft w orth w atc h in g ... s o m etim es. T here w ere m ore s e rio us
deb ate s o n F ath erla n d T V n etw ork s d urin g t h e m ilita ry p erio d. N ot n ow .’
‘W hat a re w e w atc h in g?’
‘S hhh.’
Arte h ad d ecid ed to b ro ad cast a liv e d ouble in te rv ie w w ith N au ghty a n d a
critic o f h ers , a h ija b -c la d M ag hre b ia n F re n ch w om an . T heir tw o p oin ts o f v ie w
were t o b e o ffe re d t o t h e v ie w ers a s a n e ith er-o r c h oic e. Z ay nab w ould n ot l e t m e
sw itc h it o ff, n or w ould s h e a llo w m e to le av e th e r o om . T he s h ow w as liv e, s h e
sa id , a n d a n yth in g c o uld h ap pen , w hic h I s tr o ngly d oubte d . V ery r a re ly a re t h ese

th in gs le ft to c h an ce, a n d u nfo re se en s p onta n eity is m uzzle d th e m om en t it r e ars
its u nw elc o m e h ead .
The silk -s h ir te d in te rv ie w er sh arin g a b it o f h is h air y ch est— it w as th e
ubiq uito us B ertr a n d— in tr o duced th e tw o w om en in a h usk y F re n ch v oic e. I
pre fe rre d r e ad in g t h e G erm an s u b-title s.
‘Y asm in e A ura tp asa n d, of co urs e , is fa m ilia r to you. H er str u ggle fo r
en lig hte n m en t in a d ark w orld h as in sp ir e d u s g re atly . In th e rig ht co rn er is
Yusu fa al- H ad id , a young sc h oolte ach er who has publis h ed a slig htly
undip lo m atic critic is m of M ad am e Aura tp asa n d’s work in
Le Monde
Dip lo m atiq ue
, w here e ls e ?’
He atte m pte d to am use u s w ith h is b oxin g-m atc h te rm s, als o m ean t to
assu re u s t h at h e w as o nly t h e r e fe re e. H is t a sk w as t o s e p ara te t h e c o m bata n ts i f
th e fig ht b ecam e to o ro ugh, to p re v en t a n y fo uls , a n d to p ose a n ew q uestio n
when ev er h e d eem ed a r o und c o m ple te d . T o s e t t h e t o ne f o r t h is n ew o bje ctiv ity ,
he s h ow ed th e a u die n ce a te n -m in ute film o n N au ghty ’s w orld a n d th e s o cie ty
th at p ro duced h er. B eard s, b om bs, h orrif ic fo ota g e o f T alib an to uts flo ggin g a
wom an , s ta tis tic s o f h onour k illin gs, ‘b ala n ced ’ b y in te rv ie w s w ith a fe w g ood
peo ple in F ath erla n d, m ain ly w om en , w ho p oin te d o ut th at m ost w om en w ho
were p ut to d eath w ere k ille d in th e fa m ily a n d n ot b y fu ndam en ta lis ts . T hen
in te rv ie w s w ith m an y b ad p eo ple w ho w an te d m ore w ars , s u pporte d th e d ro nes,
an d a ccep te d w ith s a d f a ces th at th e c o lla te ra l d am ag e w as a p ric e th at h ad to b e
paid f o r f re ed om . I w ondere d w heth er th ey w ould b e s a y in g th at if th eir f a m ilie s
had b een w ip ed o ut. In te rc u t w ith a ll th is w ere im ag es o f N au ghty in p eacefu l
Paris , r e fle ctin g o n th e d if fe re n ce b etw een th e tw o w orld s. W onderfu l s tu ff. J u st
lik e a b oxin g m atc h w hose o utc o m e h as b een d ecid ed i n a d van ce— as l o ng a s t h e
fa ll g uy s tic k s t o t h e b arg ain . I a ssu m ed t h at i n Y usu fa a l- H ad id t h ey h ad f o und a
partic u la rly o btu se y oung I s la m is t w ho w ould k nock h ers e lf o ut, s in ce N au ghty
had t o s tic k t o h er s c rip t a n d w as i n cap ab le o f a k ille r b lo w . I w as w ro ng.
The y oung w om an w ith th e c o vere d h ead b eg an to s p eak . I n a d ecep tiv ely
gen tle v oic e, s h e c o ngra tu la te d th e d ir e cto r fo r g iv in g u s a film fro m w hic h a ll

unple asa n t im ag es o f P aris ia n c o ps h ara ssin g b la ck p eo ple h ad b een e lim in ate d .
This c o uld n ot h av e a n e asy a cco m plis h m en t i n ‘ o ur P aris ’. W hy h ad t h ey f ilm ed
Mad am e A ura tp asa n d ex clu siv ely in th e arc ad es? B ertr a n d co nceale d his
ir rita tio n w ith a p atr o niz in g s m ile . S he w as, o f c o urs e , e n title d to h er o pin io ns,
becau se F ra n ce w as a f re e c o untr y . T his r e m ark , o f c o urs e , i m plie d t h at a l- H ad id
was n ot F re n ch , b ut s o m e o th er, u nsp ecif ie d , n atio nality . T hen h e b eg an p osin g
his i n te llig en t- s o undin g b ut b an al q uestio ns.
Nau ghty h ad b een e ffe ctiv ely tu to re d a n d c are fu lly re h ears e d . H er F re n ch
was im pro vin g d aily . A t o ne p oin t s h e s a id , w ith a s ig h, ‘ W hat a jo y it is to r e ad
Did ero t.’
Bertr a n d g ush ed , ‘ I m ust c o nfe ss th at a fte r r e ad in g y our o w n w ork I s a id to
Ju stin e, m y w if e — a fa m ous o pera s in ger, b y th e w ay , a n d a g re at fa n o f y our
work — th at I th in k w e h av e a n ew ta le n t a m ongst u s. A w om an f ro m a w ar z o ne
with a t o uch o f D id ero t.’
The c am era lin gere d , fir s t o n h is c h est a n d th en o n h ers . B efo re h e c o uld
re su m e, Y usu fa i n te rru pte d i n a c alm a n d r e aso nab le v oic e:
‘E xcu se m e, M ad am e A ura tp asa n d, b ut w ould y ou m in d sh arin g w ith u s
whic h o f D id ero t’ s w ork s g av e y ou s u ch j o y?’
Poor N au ghty w as f lu m moxed , o n t h e e d ge o f p an ic . S he w ip ed s o m e s w eat
off h er f a ce a n d s ip ped s o m e w ate r. B ertr a n d s te p ped i n a d ro itly .
‘Y ou t o ld m e b efo re t h at i t w as t h e
Sto ry o f t h e N un.

‘Y es, y es’, s a id a g ra te fu l N au ghty , ‘ th at’ s th e o ne. B rillia n t, b rillia n t, v ery
brillia n t.’
Yusu fa p ers is te d . ‘I lik e it, to o. W hic h ch ara cte r d id y ou m ost id en tif y
with ?’
This tim e B ertr a n d w as p re p are d . ‘W e c an d is c u ss D id ero t a n oth er tim e.
Now I w an t to ask , M ad am e A ura tp asa n d, w heth er y ou h av e ev er w orn th e
burq a.’
She n odded , a s a s a d lo ok c am e o ver h er fa ce. Z ay nab h oped a fe w te ars
mig ht f o llo w , b ut th ey w ere h eld in c h eck , th ough h er e y ela sh es f lic k ere d in a n

atte m pt t o s q ueeze s o m eth in g o ut.
‘I w as fo rc ed to w ear it b y m y fa th er w hen I w en t to s c h ool. I fe lt b ad ly
co nstr ic te d . I t w as a s i f m y b ra in w as b ein g c o m pre sse d . A fte r I w as m arrie d m y
husb an d d id n ot in sis t o n it, ex cep t w hen o th er m en , str a n gers , cam e to o ur
house , b ut n ot w hen I w en t s h oppin g.’
Bertr a n d t u rn ed t o Y usu fa .
‘I s ta rte d w earin g a h ija b o nly w hen i t w as p ro hib ite d i n F re n ch s c h ools a n d
so m e m unic ip alitie s th re ate n ed to m ak e it ille g al in p ublic s p aces. N ow I q uite
lik e i t a s a g estu re o f d efia n ce, o r s h ould I s a y f re ed om ?’
‘O h’, sa id N au ghty , w ho h ad c le arly n ot u nders to od th e re fe re n ce, ‘I a m
so rry th at y ou a re c o m pelle d to w ear it. D on’t y ou f e el its o ppre ssiv e w eig ht o n
your m in d? S tif lin g, c ru sh in g y our t h oughts ? ’
In re sp onse , Y usu fa re cite d a v ers e w hose e ffe ct w as so h ypnotic th at it
ev en s ile n ced B ertr a n d f o r a f e w s e co nds:
I s a id t o m y r o se -c h eeked l o vely , ‘ O y o u w ith b ud-lik e m outh ,
why k eep y o ur f a ce h id den l ik e a f lir ta tio us g ir l? ’
She l a ughed a nd r e p lie d , ‘ U nlik e t h e b ea utie s o f y o ur w orld ,
In t h e c u rta in I ’m s e en , b ut w ith out i t I ’m h id den .’
Your c h eek c a n’t b e s e en w ith out a m ask ,
Your e yes c a n’t b e s e en w ith out a v eil.
As l o ng a s t h e s u n’s f u lly s h in in g,
Its f a ce w ill n ever b e s e en .
When t h e s u n s tr ik es o ur s p here w ith i ts b anner o f l ig ht,
It d azzle s t h e s ig ht f r o m a fa r.
When i t s h in es b eh in d a c u rta in o f c lo uds,
The g aze r c a n s e e i t w ith out l o w erin g h is e yes
.
Nau ghty w as m oved , ev en th ough sh e w as n ot m ean t to b e. H er u nsc rip te d
re m ark s m ig ht h av e d estr o yed h er.

‘S o b eau tif u l, Y usu fa . S o b eau tif u l. D id y ou w rite t h e p oem ?’
‘N o, n o, i t’ s J a m i.’
‘A h, J a m i,’ s a id B ertr a n d. ‘ T he A ra b s u se d t o p ro duce s u ch g ood p oetr y .’
Yusu fa c o rre cte d h im . ‘ H e w as P ers ia n , a n d d ie d i n 1 492, n ot l o ng a fte r t h e
fa ll o f G ra n ad a.’
As fa r as Z ay nab an d I w ere co ncern ed th e young F re n ch w om an had
knock ed out both N au ghty an d th e re fe re e. T he re st of th e in te rv ie w w as
co m pose d o f se t p ie ces, b ut Y usu fa ’s sp ir it sh one th ro ugh an d B ertr a n d w as
dis c o m fite d a n d c le arly a n noyed w ith h im se lf . T he re se arc h er w ho h ad fo und
Yusu fa w as b ound t o s u ffe r h is w ra th .
As w e w en t d ow n to e at, Z ay nab p oin te d o ut a n oth er tr iu m ph. H en ri d e M .
had b een d efe ate d . T he e ate ry h ad r e in ven te d i ts e lf a s E ugén ie G ra n det’ s , a n d a s
we e n te re d I s a w th at th e p ortr a it o f B alz ac w as b ack o n th e w all, to geth er w ith
fra m ed co vers fro m m an y of his w ork s. A nd th e m en u w as once ag ain
em bla zo ned w ith a q uota tio n.
Zay nab n ow c o nfe sse d th at H en ri h ad a sk ed h er to w rite a s h ort b ook o n
Nau ghty ’s ris e in th e w orld fo r h is s m all b ut s e le ct p ublis h in g h ouse . S he h ad
ag re ed . A nd s h e h ad m et N au ghty .
‘H ow d id y ou m an ag e t h at? ’
‘I w ro te a fa n le tte r s tr e ssin g o ur a ffin itie s a n d s h e w ro te b ack s u ggestin g
we m eet.’
‘D ecep tio n.’
‘P ure a n d s im ple .’
‘T he r e su lts ? ’
‘I h av e t h e w hole s to ry , b ut H en ri i s j o in in g u s s o on, s o y ou’ll h av e t o w ait.
It w ill b e b orin g f o r y ou t o h ear i t r e p eate d .’
I d id n ot h av e t o w ait t o o l o ng. H en ri w alk ed i n a n d l a u ghed a s h e s a w h ow
th e p la ce h ad b een t r a n sfo rm ed . ‘ T his o ne y ou h av e w on,’ h e a ck now le d ged .
He, to o, h ad s e en th e A rte in te rv ie w a n d e x pre sse d h is d elig ht a t Y usu fa ’s
perfo rm an ce. H e w ould tr y to c o nta ct h er, to ju dge w heth er o r n ot sh e h ad a

book in h er, b ut in th e m ean tim e h e w as b an kin g o n Z ay nab to lif t th e v eil o n
Mad am e A ura tp asa n d. ‘H er re sp onse to th e S ufi p oem m ust h av e w orrie d h er
min ders .’
I p oin te d o ut th at it w as a tin y la p se a n d th ey w ould so on c o rre ct it. If
an yth in g it had hum an iz ed N au ghty a little . T hey co uld use th at to th eir
ad van ta g e. H en ri to ok o ut th at d ay ’s
Hera ld T rib une
a n d p ut it o n th e ta b le .
There o n th e fro nt p ag e w as N au ghty , fla n ked b y B ertr a n d an d so m e o f th e
pio neers in h er o w n fie ld , w ho in clu ded a n u nco ngen ia l a n d b lo ate d n ovelis t,
perm an en tly h ig h o n h is o w n f a m e o r s h am e, w hic h ev er w ay o ne l o oks a t i t, w ho
wore a c ro oked s m ile fo r th e c am era s w hile h is b ead y e y es w ere u nash am ed ly
tu rn ed in th e d ir e ctio n o f th e w ell- s tr o ked N au ghty m am marie s ( o r
mam mas
, a s
th ey a re a ffe ctio nate ly k now n in P unja b i, a n d im morta liz ed a s s u ch , a t le ast f o r
his f rie n ds, b y P la to ’s s o ng l in e i n t h eir h onour).
‘S he’s o n co urs e fo r tw o o r th re e p riz es th is y ear,’ sa id H en ri, w ith a
man ia cal la u gh. ‘W hat w ill b e th e c o nte n ts o f y our b ook, Z ay nab ? A nd w hen
can I e x pect a f in is h ed m an usc rip t? ’
‘T he c o nte n ts a re o bvio us. It’ s h er s to ry a s s h e to ld it to m e. In h er o w n
word s, but w ith ex pla n atio ns by m e w here necessa ry . In a phra se , th e
unvarn is h ed t r u th .’
Had Z ay nab a ctu ally t a p ed t h e c o nvers a tio n?
‘Y es, a n d w ith h er k now le d ge.’
I w as a sto nis h ed . ‘ S he t r u ste d y ou c o m ple te ly ?’
‘B y th e e n d s h e d id . A nd w e w ere w ro ng. S he’s n ot a m onste r. C ould h av e
beco m e o ne, b ut h eld b ack .’
Hen ri, ev er sc ep tic al, in quir e d w heth er N au ghty w as aw are th at th is
mate ria l s h e h ad p ro vid ed m ig ht b e p ublis h ed .
‘A s y ou w ill s e e i n t h e t r a n sc rip ts , I i n fo rm ed h er o f t h is p ossib ility a n d s h e
ag re ed w ith a n erv ous la u gh. H er o nly s tip ula tio n, a ls o o n ta p e, w as th at I w arn
her w ell in ad van ce. S he’s en tr a n ced w ith her new la n dsc ap e, but has fe w
illu sio ns. I h av e to c o nfe ss th at I lik ed h er. S he h asn ’t a n id eo lo gic al b one in h er

body a n d k now s o nly to o w ell th at s h e’s b ein g u se d , a s s h e h as b een a ll h er lif e .
She w an ts th e tr u th fo r h er c h ild re n , w ho w ill n ot s p eak to h er a t th e m om en t.
Bertr a n d w an te d h er to g o b ig o n th is a sp ect o f th e o pera tio n: h er c o ura g e is
measu re d b y th e d is a ffe ctio n o f h er ch ild re n , w hom sh e h as h ad to d is c ard .
Did ero t a n d M ed ea in o ne. S he re fu se d . If h er c h ild re n w ere m en tio ned in a n y
new sp ap er, t h e w hole d eal w as o ff.’
‘T his is re m ark ab le ,’ sa id H en ri, afte r h e h ad d ig este d th e in fo rm atio n.
‘W e’d b ette r m ak e c o pie s o f e v ery th in g, a n d I w ill c o nsu lt o ur la w yer w hen
we’re r e ad y. T his c o uld b e e x plo siv e.’
Zay nab h an ded h im t h re e c o pie s o f t h e t r a n sc rip t a n d t h re e C D s.
‘Y ou a re a r e al p ro fe ssio nal, M ad am e K ora n .’
As I r e ad th e tr a n sc rip ts th e n ex t m orn in g I , to o, th ought th at H en ri d e M .
had a n e x celle n t b ook o n h is h an ds. N au ghty ’s s to rie s a b out e v ery day lif e w ith
her h usb an d a n d th e g en era ls , a n u nre m ittin g a cco unt o f m ora l, p olitic al a n d
fin an cia l c o rru ptio n, w as o f m uch g re ate r in te re st to u s th an to W este rn r e ad ers ,
but h er a cco unt o f h ow sh e h ad b een h ead -h unte d b y F re n ch In te llig en ce a n d
se d uced in to h er n ew ro le w as a fa sc in atin g in sig ht in to th e m urk y w orld o f
modern w ar p ro pag an da. I t h ad a lw ay s b een th e s a m e g am e, b ut n ew c o nditio ns
an d n ew e n em ie s r e q uir e d n ew m eth ods, a n d th e la n d w here th e E nlig hte n m en t
was b orn w as p erfe ctly s itu ate d to c arry th em o ut, m uch m ore s u btle a t it th an
th e w ooden -h ead ed D utc h a n d D an es, w ho w ere r a sh a n d c ru de i n t h eir m eth ods.
Nau ghty h ad g iv en Z ay nab a d eta ile d v ers io n o f e x actly w hat h ad h ap pen ed
to h er. S he h ad n am ed n am es. T he n am e o f th e c h arm in g y oung F re n ch m an ,
flu en t in U rd u, P ash to a n d P ers ia n , w ho h ad fir s t e sta b lis h ed c o nta ct w ith h er
afte r G en era l R afiq w as k ille d ; th e n am es o f h is c o lle ag ues a t th e e m bassie s in
Kab ul a n d Is lo o, w ho h ad in fo rm ed h er th at h er lif e w as n o lo nger s a fe . T hey
had i n te rc ep te d s e cre t m essa g es a n d t h e t e rro ris ts h ad e v en h ir e d a h it m an t o k ill
her. L ate r s h e th ought th is c o uld n’t b e tr u e, s in ce s h e h ad , u nw ittin gly , d one th e
in su rg en ts a f a v our. T hey h ad h ate d R afiq . B ut b y th en it w as to o la te : s h e w as
alr e ad y s e ttle d in a h id eo ut n ear R am bouille t, r e ceiv in g c ra sh c o urs e s in F re n ch

an d e lo cu tio n le sso ns to im pro ve h er E nglis h . A t le ast s h e w ould n ev er re g re t
th at s id e o f t h e o pera tio n.
Then M . B ertr a n d en te re d th e tr a n sc rip ts in th e guis e of her cre ep y
te le v is io n tu to r. H e ta u ght h er th e tr ic k s o f h is tr a d e a n d w hile d oin g s o m ad e a
su dden p re -e m ptiv e s tr ik e o n th e p oor m am marie s. S he fe n ded h im o ff, b ut h e
nev er a p olo giz ed , ju st s h ru gged a s if to s a y , I ’m a F re n ch m an a n d y ou k now w e
all lo ve w om en . S he w asn ’t u nuse d to b eh av io ur o f th is s o rt in F ath erla n d, b ut
th e co m paris o n betw een her fa v ourite m ilita ry lo ver an d B ertr a n d w ould
certa in ly n ot e n han ce t h e l a tte r’s r e p uta tio n.
If h er a cco unt w asn ’t s im ply a s e t o f p ru den t f a ls e h oods, th en th e p rin cip le
re aso n w hy sh e a g re ed to th e e n tir e o pera tio n w as fin an cia l. S he h ad a lr e ad y
nette d a m illio n d olla rs f o r t h e b ook a n d h ad n’t h ad t o w rite a s in gle w ord e x cep t
fo r h er s ig natu re o n th e c o ntr a ct d ra w n u p b y h er a g en t. T he b ook w as th e r e su lt
of a c o lla b ora tio n b etw een a w ell- k now n F ath erla n d jo urn alis t a n d h er F re n ch
co unte rp art. T hey w ere p aid f o r th at o nly , b ut w ith th e c o lla te ra l m oney s h e h ad
co m in g, N au ghty c o nfid ed to Z ay nab , b y th e e n d o f th e y ear s h e e x pecte d to n et
a c o ol tw o m illio n e u ro s. T his w ould e n ab le h er to liv e in dep en den tly w here v er
sh e c h ose a n d p erh ap s e v en c re ate th e b asis fo r a re co ncilia tio n w ith h er s o ns,
whom s h e n ow w an te d t o e d ucate a b ro ad .
It w as a situ atio n in w hic h m ora lity had pla y ed no part on an y sid e.
Pers o nally , I doubte d w heth er it w ould be possib le fo r N au ghty to liv e in
Fath erla n d a g ain a fte r a ll th e p ublic ity , b ut s tr a n ger th in gs h ap pen a ll th e tim e
an d, w ho k new , p erh ap s Z ay nab ’s in te rv ie w m ig ht h elp , b ut o nly if th e n ew
book c au se d t h e s c an dal w e h oped f o r.
Man y p eo ple to day k now a ll a b out th ese g oin gs-o n, y et lite ra ry a n d o th er
hack s f a ll in to lin e w ith out a w ord o f p ro te st, c o ncealin g r e ality u nder a v en eer
of fin e w ord s lik e ‘c iv iliz atio n’, ‘fre ed om o f sp eech ’,
etc .
O f th ose w ho are
willin g to w rite th e tr u th , m ost r e v eal o nly a v ery s m all p art o f it, m ask in g th eir
re v ela tio ns w ith s u ch o bsc u re m eta p hors a n d a m big uous la n guag e th at th e e n d
re su lt is te d io us to d ecip her e v en fo r th ose o f u s w ho k now ; fo r o th ers , it is

sim ply u nre ad ab le . T here is m ore th an o ne d ead ly p la g ue ra g in g in th e w orld
to day , b ut f e w c an c all t h e i lls t h at b ese t u s b y t h eir r ig ht n am es.
Zay nab w as w ork in g o n h er m an usc rip t, a n d I w as g ettin g r e stle ss. S he h ad s o m e
way to g o. T he in te rv ie w h ad b een c o nducte d in a m ix tu re o f U rd u a n d E nglis h ,
an d n ow h ad to b e c le an ed u p a n d tr a n sla te d in to F re n ch , a fte r w hic h H en ri
would re ad it a n d d ecid e its fa te . M ean w hile Z ah id h ad e -m aile d m e s a y in g h e
was b ack a n d w onderin g w heth er w e m ig ht m eet u p o ne o f th ese w eek s. T he
pre se n t se em ed a s g ood a tim e a s a n y. Z ay nab p ro te ste d fe eb ly , th en a g re ed ,
in sis tin g o nly th at s h e w an te d m e p re se n t w hen N au ghty c am e fo r a m eal n ex t
week en d, afte r re tu rn in g fro m her tr iu m phal to ur of th at M oth er of all
Fath erla n ds th at is th e U nite d S ta te s o f A m eric a. I p ro m is e d n ot to m is s th is k ey
G2 su m mit, th e co nfe re n ce o f tw o n ew au th ors . S he h urle d a sa n dal in m y
dir e ctio n.
The n ex t d ay I w en t to s e e Z ah id a n d m et N eela m , w ho h ad a rriv ed fo r a
sh ort sta y w ith h er ch ild re n . S he lo oked at m e cu rio usly , b ut w as p erfe ctly
ple asa n t. I m ad e m y c o ndole n ces. T he c h ild re n s a id s a la am s. T he m outh w ate rin g
sc en ts e m an atin g f ro m th e k itc h en w ere f ro m th e m eal s h e w as p re p arin g f o r a ll
of u s. Z ah id a n d I w en t f o r a w alk i n R ic h m ond P ark .
On C onfu ciu s th ere w as s till n o p ositiv e n ew s. H e r e m ain ed in a c o nfu se d
sta te . Z ah id h ad le ft C hin a s o on a fte r s e ein g S ule im an in K unm in g. H is s o n w as
th riv in g a n d s h ow ed l ittle i n te re st i n r e tu rn in g t o t h e w orld o f f in an ce, w hic h h ad
alr e ad y p ro vid ed h im w ith s u ffic ie n t w ealth to liv e w ith out lif tin g a fin ger fo r
th e n ex t tw en ty y ears . H e w as d eep ly im mers e d in h is to ry a n d w as stu dyin g
vario us p hase s o f th e C hin ese E m pir e a fte r th e s ix te en th c en tu ry . J in dié w as in
Beijin g fo r th e d ura tio n. S he c o uld n’t le av e h er b ro th er, a n d C onfu ciu s h ad a
la rg e a p artm en t w here b oth h e a n d h is w if e h ad m ad e J in dié v ery w elc o m e. It
was o bvio us th at Z ah id , a p ro vin cia l P unja b i to th e c o re , d id n ot re ally w is h to
dis c u ss C hin a. H e w as w orrie d a b out F ath erla n d.
‘B ut w e’re a lw ay s w orrie d a b out F ath erla n d. H as th ere e v er b een a tim e

when w e w ere n ot? ’
He in sis te d th at in o ur y outh w e h ad h ad h ig h h opes a n d th at in r e tr o sp ect
all t h ose s u m mers i n N ath ia g ali d urin g t h e F if tie s a n d S ix tie s d id n’t s e em s o b ad .
I r e m in ded h im th at w hile w e w ere m oonin g a fte r g ir ls in th e m ounta in s, r a d ic al
stu den ts w e k new w ere h av in g i c ic le s s h oved u p t h eir b ack sid es, p olitic al l e ad ers
an d p oets w ere in p ris o n a n d th e d eb acle o f E ast F ath erla n d w as h overin g in th e
back gro und.
He a g re ed . ‘ B ut c o m pare d t o l a te r ...’
‘If w e g et in to r e la tiv e v alu es, o ld f rie n d, w e’re s u nk. I m ean y ou a n d m e.
The c o untr y ’s a lr e ad y d ow n t h ere .’
‘Y ou h eard a b out J a m sh ed ?’
I n odded . O ur q uondam f rie n d h ad b ought h is w ay to h ig h o ffic e a n d th en
been g unned d ow n b y a g an g h ir e d b y th e f a th er o f a y oung w om an th at b oth h e
an d h is s o n h ad r a p ed . J a m sh ed w as d ead . T he s o n w as h ole d u p i n D ubai. S om e
new sp ap ers m ain ta in ed i t w as t h e t e rro ris ts , b ut n obody b elie v ed t h em .
‘D id y ou f e el a n yth in g? B e h onest.’
I s h ook m y h ead . ‘ N oth in g a t a ll. I w as i n dif fe re n t. C om pare d w ith P la to h e
was w orth l e ss t h an a p ig eo n d ro ppin g.’
‘S am e h ere . A nd y et, th is w as a g uy w ho w as c o nsta n tly in o ur c o m pan y,
Dara .’
‘H alf a c en tu ry a g o a n d i n a n oth er c o untr y .’
‘O ld f rie n dsh ip s d ie , b ut s o m e c an b e r e v iv ed .’
‘L ik e o urs . T hough h ad w e b een frie n ds a t th e tim e o f y our R ep ublic an
dev ia tio n, h ars h w ord s m ig ht h av e b een e x ch an ged .’
‘H ad w e been in to uch an d clo se , th at dev ia tio n m ig ht nev er hav e
hap pen ed . It w as h erd in stin ct. Jin dié n early le ft m e o ver th at an d th e k id s
becam e a n gry a n d a lie n ate d . I t w as a b lip . N oth in g s e rio us.’
‘A nd o pera tin g o n C hen ey ?’
‘D on’t y ou s ta rt ...’
We sta rte d la u ghin g. Then I re v erte d to th e day s of our youth an d

dem an ded a c o m ple te a cco unt o f lif e w ith Jin dié . A t fir s t h e re sis te d , b ut th e
mag ic o f t h e P unja b i l a n guag e g ot t o h im a n d h e b eg an t o t a lk . M ost o f i t I k new
fro m b oth o f th em , b ut h e w as fra n k. T he re la tio nsh ip h ad w ork ed o n m an y
le v els b ut n ev er p hysic ally . H e h ad n o id ea w hy, b ut h e w as s u re it w ould h av e
th e s a m e w ith m e o r a n yone e ls e . W om en w ho e n jo y s e x c an e n jo y i t i n d if fe re n t
way s w ith d if fe re n t m en . O bvio usly , h e a rg ued , it is m ore in te n se w ith s o m eo ne
you l o ve. T he o pposite h old s t r u e, t o o. S om e w om en d on’t e n jo y m ak in g l o ve.
‘I’m s a d t o h ear t h at, Z id di ...’
‘It’ s t h e f ir s t t im e y ou’v e c alle d m e t h at i n a lm ost f if ty y ears .’
‘D id y ou e v er a sk h er w hy?’
‘D id y ou?’
I w as s lig htly t a k en a b ack . ‘ H ow c o uld I ? ’
‘I th in k y ou c o uld a n d s h ould . S he m ig ht te ll y ou if th ere ’s a n yth in g to te ll.
I h ad a lw ay s a ssu m ed th at a ll y oung w om en a re w aitin g f o r p assio nate lo ve, b ut
Jin dié w asn ’t o ne o f t h em .’
‘D ai- y u,’ I m utte re d .
Zah id w as fa m ilia r w ith th e n ovel. J in dié h ad fo rc ed h im to re ad it in th e
early d ay s o f th eir m arria g e, a n d h e h ad e n jo yed d oin g s o . H e s till th ought o f
th at n ovel. ‘A nd p le ase d on’t sa y it’ s th e o nly n ovel I’v e e v er re ad . In c ase
you’re i n te re ste d , I e v en r e ad o ne b y y ou. E ven t h ough i t w as s e t w ay b ack i n t h e
past, I t h ought I r e co gniz ed s o m e o ld f rie n ds.’
He a g re ed th at th ere w as a g re at d eal o f D ai- y u in J in dié . T he s w ir lin g o f
passio ns b ut in ab ility to f u lf il th em . N o w onder B ao -y u h ad g one f o r th e m aid s
in s u ch a b ig w ay .
‘H e n ev er w en t fo r a n yth in g in a b ig w ay . H e w aite d fo r e v ery th in g to
hap pen t o h im .’
‘H e r e m in ded m e i n s o m e w ay s o f A nis . R em em ber h im ?’
‘H ow c o uld o ne f o rg et h im ? I k now h e w as a f rie n d o f y ours , b ut h e w as s o
affe cte d th at I n ev er r e ally lik ed h im . E ven th e w ay h e w alk ed . A s if th ere w ere
so m eth in g stu ck u p h is ars e . I w as p olite to h im o nly b ecau se I k new y our

fa m ilie s w en t b ack a l o ng w ay .’
Poor A nis . Z ah id ’s v ie w o f h im w as q uite c o m mon. I t w as a ls o u nfa ir .
‘L is te n t o m e, Z id di. I t w asn ’t h is f a u lt h is f a th er s e n t h im o ff t o a n E nglis h
public s c h ool. A lla h k now s w hat h ap pen ed to h im th ere . T here w as a n in cid en t
an d h e w as e x pelle d . H e w as g ay . H ad h e b een b orn t e n y ears l a te r i t w ould h av e
been fin e. H is m oth er w as a p ara n oid la d y. S pie d o n h im w hen h e re tu rn ed .
Bought g ir ls fo r h im . It b ecam e to o m uch . U nab le to fa ce lif e , h e re m oved
him se lf f ro m t h e s c en e i n t h e o nly w ay h e k new . S uic id e.’
‘T hey w ere p am pere d k id s, D ara ji. T hey h ad e v ery th in g. I f h e w an te d m en ,
what w as th e p ro ble m ? Is F ath erla n d s h ort o n th is fro nt? I d id n’t k now h im a s
well a s y ou s o I c an ’t s a y m uch m ore . H ow ’s Z ay nab ?’
‘S he’s w ell.’
‘J u st w ell? N ot th riv in g, n ot p assio nate ly in lo ve w ith y ou, n ot s u ccessfu lly
movin g y ou f ro m L ondon t o P aris ? S he’s j u st w ell. I s e e.’
He a lw ay s u se d t o m ak e m e l a u gh. I d id s o n ow , b ut s a id n oth in g.
‘If y ou th in k th e n ew s h asn ’t sp re ad to F ath erla n d, y ou c an th in k a g ain .
Every one k now s th at y ou a n d Z ay nab a re to geth er. I u se d to e n vy th e fa ct th at
you h ad d one y our b io lo gic al d uty a n d re tu rn ed to b ein g a b ach elo r. It s e em s I
was w ro ng.’
‘W e liv e se p ara te ly , but str ik e to geth er. A nd, sin ce you ask ed , her
in te llig en ce m atc h es h er b eau ty .’
‘O f c o urs e . H ow c o uld i t n ot? H ow c o uld y ou g o j u st f o r b eau ty ?’
As lu ck w ould h av e it, a t th at v ery m om en t m y p hone b uzzed w ith a te x t
messa g e f ro m Z ay nab :
When p le asu re h as e n tir e ly r u n i ts c o urs e i t i s c le ar o ne s in ks b ack i n to
in dif fe re n ce, b ut an in dif fe re n ce w hic h is n ot th e sa m e as b efo re . T his
se co nd s ta te d if fe rs f ro m th e f ir s t in th at it a p pears w e a re n o lo nger a b le to
ta k e s u ch d elig ht i n e n jo yin g t h e p le asu re w e h av e j u st e x perie n ced ... b ut i f
in t h e m id st o f p le asu re w e a re w re n ch ed a w ay f ro m i t, s u ffe rin g w ill r e su lt.

I s h ow ed i t t o Z ah id , w ho g av e a n a p pre cia tiv e w his tle .
‘Y ou’v e s tr u ck g old .’
‘S he d id n’t w rite t h at. I t’ s f ro m S te n dhal, w hom I k now y ou h av en ’t r e ad .’
‘A t le ast sh e knew w here to lo ok. Y ou se em hap py an d re la x ed . T he
ch ild re n w ell? ’
‘Y es. A nd t h e g ra n dch ild re n .’
‘W hat d id y ou t h in k o f J in dié ’s n ote s o n C hin a a n d h er d ia ry ?’
‘B oth w ere in co m ple te , b ut th e C hin a m ate ria l w as g rip pin g. I w as lo okin g
fo rw ard in th e d ia ry to a fe w s a lty re fe re n ces to o ur y outh , b ut th ey h ad b een
destr o yed .’
‘I re ad th em . T hey w ere n ’t th at h ot. I k eep te llin g y ou th at sh e’s n ot a
passio nate p ers o n.’
‘S hut u p a b out th at, a n d a n yw ay I’m n ot s u re y our a sse ssm en t is a ccu ra te
on th at f ro nt. I t’ s to o la te . H ow m an y n urs e s a n d f e llo w d octo rs d id y ou f in d to
mak e u p f o r J in dié ’s d efic ie n cie s? ’
‘N ot t h at m an y.’
‘N oth in g s e rio us.’
‘O ne c o uld h av e b een , b ut J in dié m oved s w if tly a n d p ut a s to p to it. T he
deta ils a re d ull.’
‘S he to ld m e ab out A nju m an d your ch an ce m eetin g in N orfo lk .’ H e
sto pped w alk in g. W e f o und a b en ch .
‘D ara , th at w as tr u ly d ep re ssin g. S he w as a c o m ple te w re ck . S he lo oked
lik e a v ery o ld C hris tia n la d y, w ith a sto op. R em em ber w hen w e fir s t sta rte d
goin g to N ath ia g ali? T here u se d to b e o ld E nglis h la d ie s w ho w ere n ic e to u s.
They c o uld n’t b ear re tu rn in g to E ngla n d. T hey w ere o ld b ut still fu ll o f lif e ,
activ e, g oin g fo r lo ng h ik es. A nju m w as th e e x act o pposite . It w asn ’t ju st th at
her a p peara n ce w as s h riv elle d . S he h ad d rie d u p in sid e. I f e lt v ery s a d w hen s h e
to ld m e her sto ry . H er fir s t husb an d an alc o holic dis a ste r, th e se co nd a
te eto ta llin g r e lig io us m an ia c. N o c h ild re n f ro m e ith er.’
‘W hy d id n’t h er s is te rs f ly o ver a n d r e sc u e h er? ’

‘I a sk ed h er. S he h asn ’t to ld a n yone w here s h e is n ow . S he g av e m e h er
ad dre ss an d phone num ber, but only fo r em erg en cie s. S he’s th e one in an
em erg en cy . A nyw ay I e -m aile d N azle en , h er y ounger sis te r, a n d g av e h er th e
deta ils . S he m ust b e t a k en a w ay f ro m t h is m onste r.’
‘A nd t h e o ld f la m e?’
‘T hat w en t o ut i n t h e l a st c en tu ry w hen I r e ceiv ed r e p orts o f h er f a m ily l if e .
A s c en e o ut o f a R ussia n n ovel.’
‘W hic h o ne?’
‘B asta rd . D og. C ata m ite . S hould I t r y D osto ev sk y?’
‘G ood g uess. Y ou w ere s a y in g?’
‘W hen I h eard w hat w as g oin g o n fro m m utu al frie n ds, I d id m ak e o ne
atte m pt t o s e e h er.’
‘P re -o r p ost- J in dié ?’
‘P re . I d ro ve to S ah iw al. W e m et a t a p re arra n ged s p ot a n d I f o llo w ed h er
car to so m e godfo rs a k en p la ce. A tin y str e am an d a fe w tr e es is all I can
re m em ber. W e ta lk ed f o r a f e w h ours , b ut s h e w as n ot p re p are d to w alk o ut o n
th e d ru nkard , w ho o fte n a ssa u lte d h er in a n d o ut o f h is c u ps. T here w ere n o
ch ild re n . I c o uld n’t u nders ta n d w hy s h e d id n’t l e av e h im .’
‘O h, I c an . S ham e a t h av in g fa ile d , fe ar o f p are n ta l d is p le asu re , a s o cie ty
sc an dal, a ll o f th at a ffe cte d h er, b ut th ere w as a b asic p ro ble m th at y ou a v oid ed
dis c u ssin g w ith m e, a n d w hen I h in te d a t it o n o ne o ccasio n, y ou to ld m e to s h ut
my m outh a n d g estu re d t h at i f I d id n’t, y ou w ould .’
‘I d on’t r e m em ber, b ut w hat w as i t? ’
‘S he w asn ’t th at b rig ht. I ’m s o rry , b ut it’ s tr u e. S he w as v ery b eau tif u l, s h e
co uld h old h er o w n at so cia l g ath erin gs, b ut ap art fro m m oney an d b ein g a
so cie ty w if e th ere w as n oth in g e ls e . S he tw itte re d n onsto p a b out h er h olid ay s
ab ro ad , lik e a sq uaw kin g parro t. A ch eerfu l little bir d bra in . N oth in g m ore .
Afflu en ce h ad m ad e h er o bnoxio us. Y ou g ot s o a n gry w hen I s u ggeste d y ou a sk
her if s h e h ad e v er r e ad a b ook. A nd f in ally , d esp era te a n d f e elin g h opele ss, s h e
ju m ps i n to b ed w ith s o m e i d io t I ris h e n gin eer w ho o ffe rs s a lv atio n, b ut n ot o f t h e

varie ty s h e w an te d . I w onder w hat y ou w ould h av e d one w ith h er.’
He b ecam e t h oughtf u l.
‘I d on’t k now . P erh ap s y ou’re r ig ht. S om etim es I t h in k i f s h e’d h ad c h ild re n
an d c o m e t o t h e S ta te s i t m ig ht h av e w ork ed o ut.’
‘S uburb an b lis s a s th e s o lu tio n. Is th at w hat y ou th in k? O th er w om en lik e
her, a ll le ad in g e m pty liv es. S he m ig ht h av e fitte d in . Y ou’re rig ht. S he w ould
hav e le arn ed to c o ok a n d b ak e a n d e v ery th in g sh e m ad e w ould h av e b een so
delic io us, a n d th en o ne d ay s h e w ould h av e re aliz ed it w as a ll g oin g n ow here
with y ou, s in ce y ou w ere p erm an en tly a t th e h osp ita l, a n d r u n o ff w ith th e f ir s t
guy w ho m ad e a p ass. It m ig ht h av e b een b ette r fo r h er, b ut w hat a b out Z id di
Mia n ? Y ou w ould h av e c ra ck ed , b oy. G one to th e d ogs. Jin dié m ay n ot h av e
tu rn ed y ou o n, b ut s h e w as a g ood m oth er a n d e x tr e m ely s h arp -w itte d . Y ou w ere
nev er b ore d .’
‘T ru e, b ut sh e’s b een a b it ro ugh o n N eela m , w hic h re m in ds m e th at a
ch ic k en b ir y an i is w aitin g fo r u s a t h om e.’ Jin dié sa id o n y our la st v is it y ou
co m pla in ed n onsto p a b out h er c o okin g.’
‘S he m ean t h er n onco okin g.’
‘N eela m i s a g re at c o ok. E ven y ou w ill a d m it t h at.’
We w alk ed b ack t o t h e h ouse .
‘W hat hav e you done w ith all your pro pertie s? Four lo catio ns? Four
hom es? W hy d id y ou d o t h at? ’
‘M y a cco unta n t d id o n m y b eh alf . T w o w ere g if te d t o N eela m a n d t h e o th er
tw o t o S ule im an . I t h in k N eela m h as s o ld t h e b each h ouse i n M ia m i. W e k ep t a n
ap artm en t i n N ew Y ork , w hic h y ou’re w elc o m e t o u se w hen ev er y ou w is h .’
Jin dié ’s d esc rip tio n o f h er d au ghte r h ad g iv en m e t h e i m pre ssio n o f a y oung
born -a g ain f a n atic w ed ded t o h er r e fo und f a ith a n d u nin te re ste d i n t h e r e st o f t h e
world . T his w as n ot m y o pin io n, a n d n ot j u st b ecau se s h e w as a w onderfu l c o ok.
The w ay s h e d ealt w ith h er c h ild re n , a d dre sse d h er f a th er a n d p ut m e a t m y e ase
was a d m ir a b le . T here w as m uch o f t h e y oung J in dié i n h er.
Afte r th e c h ild re n h ad g one to b ed th e th re e o f u s s a t in th e liv in g ro om ,

whic h w as m arre d b y a g ro te sq ue d eer h ead , w hic h h ad e sc ap ed m y n otic e o n
earlie r v is its a n d w hic h I n ow p le ad ed w ith Z ah id to re m ove. H e d id s o o n th e
sp ot a n d t o ok t h e a n tle re d o bje ct o ut o f t h e r o om . I n h is a b se n ce N eela m b ecam e
much m ore fo rth co m in g. I h ad n ot ra is e d th e su bje ct, b ut sh e sp oke o f Jin dié
with gre at affe ctio n an d sa id her m oth er’s lif e had been neith er easy nor
partic u la rly h ap py.
‘S he w an te d m e to h av e th e lif e s h e n ev er h ad , a n d w hen I f e ll in lo ve w ith
Rafiq s h e n ev er tr ie d to s to p m e, b ut I k new s h e d is a p pro ved . H e w as to o b ra sh ,
to o f u ll o f h im se lf , a n d m y m oth er’s i n stin cts t o ld h er I w ould n ot b e h ap py w ith
him . U nfo rtu nate ly , th is tu rn ed o ut to b e tr u e. I n ev er to ld m y p are n ts e v en a
quarte r o f w hat h ap pen ed . L ate n ig hts fu elle d b y a lc o hol a n d w om en . D ru nk
befo re th e c h ild re n — th at I c o uld n ot f o rg iv e. H is w om en r in gin g h om e n onsto p
an d p re te n din g to b e frie n dly to m e. A rm y lif e . I m ad e a te rrib le m is ta k e, b ut
merc if u lly th e c h ild re n c am e e arly . T hey b ecam e th e o nly th in g I c are d a b out.
Now th ey ’re o ld er. I w as p la n nin g to le av e R afiq a n d to ld h im so th e w eek
befo re h e w as k ille d . M om w as h orrif ie d w hen I b ecam e re lig io us, b ut b elie v e
me, it w as th e o nly w ay I c o uld c o pe w ith lif e . T he c h ild re n n eed ed a se t o f
ru le s, a n d in o ur c o untr y , a s y ou k now , th ere a re f e w r o le m odels . S o I tu rn ed to
th e P ro phet. M om t h in ks I ’m a f a n atic , b ut t h at i s n ot t r u e. I n eed ed A lla h t o d eal
with R afiq a n d h is f rie n ds.’
‘W ho k ille d h im ?’
‘N ot th e T alib an o r th e T alib u o r a n y g ro up lik e th em . T hat’ s c le ar e n ough.
It w asn ’t s u ic id e te rro ris m , b ut a c lin ic al o pera tio n, lik e th e o ne A bu p erfo rm ed
on D ic k C hen ey . E very th in g c are fu lly p la n ned . N o t r a ces a t a ll. H e w as k ille d b y
his o w n p eo ple , fo r te llin g th e A m eric an s to o m uch . T hat h orrib le N au ghty
Late ef is w ors e th an a p ro stitu te . T hey d o it fo r th e m oney . H av e y ou s e en th e
way s h e’s b een p ic k ed u p b y th e W est? A re th ey th at s tu pid ? S he c o uld n ev er
hav e w ritte n t h at f o olis h b ook. S he’s i llite ra te .’
I w ondere d w heth er I sh ould te ll N eela m ab out th e g oin gs-o n in P aris .
In stin ct s o unded a n a la rm . I r e fra in ed , s a y in g o nly , ‘ S he’s b ein g e d ucate d .’

Neela m b urs t o ut l a u ghin g. ‘ I s u ppose t h at’ s g ood.’
‘N eela m , it’ s n ot fo r m e to s a y , b ut is th ere n o w ay y ou c an m ak e frie n ds
with y our m oth er a g ain ?’
‘Y ou c an s a y w hat y ou lik e. I th in k y ou’re th e o nly p ers o n s h e r e g ard s a s a
clo se frie n d. S he a d ore s th e c h ild re n , a n d th at is a lw ay s a n im porta n t b rid ge. I
will tr y . I ’m ta k in g th e c h ild re n to B eijin g to s e e th eir U ncle S ule im an a n d m eet
Gre at- U ncle H an if M a. M y s o n w an ts to le arn C hin ese . T hat w ill m ak e M om
hap py. W hy d id n’t y ou a n d s h e w ork o ut? ’
‘I w as n ev er th e m arry in g k in d. Y ou lo ok d is a p pro vin g, d esp ite y our o w n
marria g e a n d h ow y ou d esc rib e y our m oth er’s l if e .’
‘It w as n ot a d is a p pro vin g l o ok a t a ll. N obody t o ld m e t h at.’
‘W ere y ou u pse t a t r e ad in g a b out m e i n h er d ia ry ?’
‘D id s h e s a y t h at? I t’ s n ot t r u e. I w as t o uch ed a n d b eg an t o a sk w hy s h e h ad
marrie d m y f a th er. I t w as s h e w ho o verre acte d a n d t o re t h e p ag es u p. S he w as i n
a r e al s ta te . I w as n ot s h ock ed a t a ll. I f a n yth in g, p le ase d — but I d id h av e a f e w
questio ns.’
‘D ai- y u.’
‘T hat
Dre a m o f th e R ed C ham ber
. S he’s r e ad it a t le ast a d ozen tim es. I t’ s
her H onoure d C la ssic .’
Men tio n o f th e H oly B ook m ad e m e th in k o f Z ay nab a n d h er d in ner g uest.
In a f e w d ay s I w ould b e s e ate d a t th e s a m e ta b le a s th e w om an w ho h ad a lte re d
Neela m ’s b io gra p hy, p ossib ly f o r t h e b ette r.
‘N eela m , w hat a re y our p la n s? I h ope y ou h av e s o m e p ro je ct.’
‘N ic e y ou a sk ed . I d id la w a t W ash in gto n S ta te . I’m q ualif ie d , y ou k now .
Nev er p ra ctis e d , a n d t h at w as a n oth er r e aso n f o r M om ’s a n ger,
Now I’m s tu dyin g Is la m ic la w . T he s h aria c o urts w ill n eed a fe w w om en
la w yers to d efe n d w om en a n d I h ope a f e w w om en ju dges a s w ell, lik e in I ra n .
And I ’m g oin g t o s ta rt w ork s o on.’
I s u ggeste d th at s h e m ig ht c o nsid er w ork in g in o rd in ary c o urts a s w ell, ju st
in c ase w ork o pportu nitie s in th e o th ers d rie d u p. Q uite a f e w S unni th eo lo gia n s

would a rg ue a g ain st w om en b ein g p erm itte d t o p ra ctis e .
‘P ossib ly , b ut w e c an o rg an iz e a s p ecia l S unni N GO to p ay th em o ff, a n d
fin d o th er t h eo lo gia n s t o o verru le t h em .’
Her c y nic is m w as p le asin g.
‘It’ s g ettin g la te . S ure y ou w on’t sta y ? T he b ed is v ery c o m fo rta b le a n d
th ere ’s a n e n s u ite b ath ro om .’
‘Is t h ere a n y d ecen t c o ffe e i n t h e h ouse ?’
‘O f c o urs e . M y f a th er c an ’t d o w ith out it a n d w ill m ak e y ou a n e sp re sso o r
whate v er y ou w an t fo r b re ak fa st. Ju st sto p h im b oastin g to o m uch ab out it.
We’v e a ll h eard h is c o ffe e s to rie s a m illio n t im es.’
‘T hen , I ’ll s ta y .’

SIX TEEN
I
DETEC TED A S L IG HT
p an ic w hen I e m bra ced a n d k is se d Z ay nab . I t t u rn ed o ut t h at
N au ghty , s o undin g s tr a in ed a n d d is ta n t a fte r h er U S to ur, h ad a sk ed to b rin g h er
p ublic is t- a g en t to d in ner to nig ht. T he a u gurie s w ere b ad . Z ay nab h ad b een f ir m
i n h er re fu sa l. It w as a p riv ate o ccasio n, s h e to ld h er in te rv ie w ee. A fte r s e v era l
a g ita te d ex ch an ges, M ad am e A ura tp asa n d, as w e sh ould now hav e been
r e fe rrin g to h er b ut c o uld n’t, h ad a g re ed to c o m e a lo ne a s lo ng a s th e m eal w as
a t h om e. H er p ublic is t d id n ot w an t h er to b e se en in a p ublic p la ce u nle ss
p hoto gra p hers h ad b een arra n ged an d th ere w as at le ast o ne o th er cele b rity
p re se n t.
Zay nab h ad ask ed E ugén ie G ra n det’ s to p re p are a m eal in ad van ce an d
d eliv er it h alf a n h our b efo re h er g uests a rriv ed . A part fro m N au ghty , th e o nly
o th er p ers o n in vite d w as H en ri, w ho h ad e x pre sse d a d esir e to s e e th e m onste r
f ro m c lo se u p.
It w as b are ly m id day , b ut I w as d esp atc h ed to g o an d b uy so m e w in e.
Z ay nab w as d is tr a cte d , a n d th e r e aso n f o r th at w as o bvio us, a t le ast to m e. S he
h ad , n ot u nnatu ra lly , d ev elo ped a g re at d eal o f s y m path y fo r N au ghty a n d h ad
b eg un t o s e e h er e x clu siv ely a s a v ic tim . M y a tte m pts t o w ean h er f ro m t h is v ie w
h ad b een r e b uffe d . H en ri, t o o, w as s c ep tic al, w hic h w as w hy h e h ad b een i n vite d
t o s u pper.
Nau ghty w as la te , a s c ele b s a re s u ppose d to b e, b ut it w as h er a ttir e th at
s u rp ris e d a ll o f u s. S he w ore a lo ose tr a ck su it m ad e o f s o m e in defin ab le d ark
g re en m ate ria l a n d a w hite silk h ead sc arf th at sh e p ulle d o ff a n d th re w w ith
a b an don o n t h e s o fa . W e s m ile d . T hen I c o m plim en te d h er o n h er c lo th es.
‘V ery p atr io tic o f y ou t o d re ss u p i n F ath erla n d c o lo urs .’
‘D elib era te , d elib era te ,’ s h e s a id i n a f u nny a ccen t, a s i f t r y in g t o c u ltiv ate a
n asa l tw an g. ‘ M y p ublic is t in th e S ta te s a ls o d oes m ak eo ver jo bs o n F ath erla n di

politic ia n s. H e to ld m e I s h ould w ear F ath erla n d c o lo urs . J u st to s h ow I s u pport
our g overn m en t a g ain st te rro ris m . I w ore th is o n th e
habsh i
la d y’s s h ow . C opra
Fre ed om . V ery popula r sh ow . M is s C opra ad vis e d m e not to w ear w hite
bra ssie re u ndern eath g re en t o p.’
‘T hat w as an in te llig en t su ggestio n b y M ad em ois e lle F re ed om . S o y ou
sw itc h ed to a gre en bra ssie re durin g th e ad vertis in g bre ak , M ad am e
Aura tp asa n d?’
‘ Oui, M onsie u r
. C opra h as b ra s o f e v ery c o lo ur ju st in c ase th e g uest is
wearin g o ne th at c an b e s e en . M an y f a m ilie s a n d c h ild re n w atc h C opra F re ed om
sh ow .’
As w e sa t dow n to din ner, N au ghty lo oked unco m fo rta b le , but a fe w
re sto ra tiv e g la sse s o f w in e re la x ed h er a g re at d eal. W hen H en ri p ra is e d h er
in te rv ie w a n d h er c o ura g e, N au ghty d ecid ed to h url h er fir s t g re n ad e. A fte r a
slig ht p au se , s h e a sk ed p olite ly , ‘
Quelle i n te rv ie w , M onsie u r
?’
Zay nab e ru pte d , ‘ O ur i n te rv ie w , N au ghty !’
‘O h, th at o ne. I th ought th at w as ju st in fo rm al, Z ay nab . B y th e w ay , J e an -
Pie rre B ertr a n d w an ts t o w rite m y b io gra p hy f o r v ery b ig N ew Y ork p ublis h er.’
Befo re Z ay nab co uld sp eak ag ain I ad dre sse d N au ghty in P unja b i. S he
ap peare d delig hte d an d re p lie d in a
potw ari
dia le ct of th e la n guag e, m uch
sw eete r a n d s o fte r th an th e L ah ori v ers io n. I s h if te d to
potw ari
, th e la n guag e o f
my c h ild hood, b ecau se I p re fe rre d it a n d still sp oke it w hen v is itin g n orth ern
re g io ns of F ath erla n d. N au ghty gra b bed m y arm an d dra g ged m e fro m th e
kitc h en in to th e liv in g ro om , w here th e fo llo w in g co nvers a tio n tr a n sp ir e d in
dia le ct.
‘L is te n , k in d s ir . Y ou e x pla in it to th e la d y. I c an ’t a llo w h er to p ublis h th e
in te rv ie w . I k now I a g re ed , b ut in A m eric a th ey lo ved m e. L ook, d ear s ir , I’m
ju st a v illa g e g ir l. I o nly w en t to sc h ool fo r fiv e y ears . C ap ta in L ate ef w as a
dis ta n t r e la tio n. M y f a th er g av e m e t o h im b ecau se h e d id n’t w an t a d ow ry . I j u st
wan t h er, h e t o ld m y f a th er. N ev er t r e ate d m e w ell. H e g ets h om e f ro m t h e o ffic e
an d d ra g s m e t o b ed . “ O pen y our l e g s, g ir l. H urry u p.” T hen h e m ounts m e l ik e a

dog, a n d a fte r h is b usin ess is f in is h ed h e g oes a n d b ath es a n d s a y s h is a fte rn oon
pra y ers . T hat w as lif e w ith h im f o r te n y ears . T w o c h ild re n I g av e b ir th to , a n d
th en a k in d la d y s a id to m e it’ s b ette r g et y our tu bes tie d . O r th is m an w ill ju st
mak e y ou a m ach in e t o p ro duce s o ns.’
I a sk ed w ho th e la d y w as, a n d N au ghty ’s h ith erto u ntr o uble d fa ce b ecam e
clo uded w ith a n xie ty . ‘ S uch a k in d l a d y. S he s u ggeste d I l e arn s o m e E nglis h a n d
help ed m e d o it. I’m fille d w ith s h am e. S he w as G en era l R afiq ’s w if e . H e fir s t
sa w m e w hen I w as h av in g E nglis h le sso ns w ith B eg um N eela m . O ne d ay h e
se n t h is c ar f o r m e. I th ought th e c ar w ould ta k e m e to B eg um N eela m . I t to ok
me to a s m all h ote l in I s lo o. G en era l S ah ib w as w aitin g f o r m e. H e ta lk ed a lo t,
ask ed m an y q uestio ns a n d t h en t o uch ed m y b re asts a n d s a id t h ey w ere n ic e. S o I
open ed m y le g s f o r h im . L ate ef k new . H e s a id , “ O pen y our le g s f o r th e g en era l,
you p ro stitu te . I t’ s g ood f o r m e.” ’
I a sk ed w heth er h er le g s h ad b een o pen ed f o r o th er g en era ls a n d if s o , h ow
man y.
‘T hre e, in clu din g th e b ig c h ie f, b ut R afiq , m ay h e b e s a fe in h eav en , w as
th e o nly g en era l w ho ta lk ed to m e. A sk ed a fte rw ard s h ow I f e lt. W hat g av e m e
re al p le asu re . R afiq w as re ally a v ery k in d m an . T he o th er g en era ls m ad e m e
betr a y h im . O nce I b etr a y ed h im , m y lif e w as f in is h ed . W hat c o uld I d o? T hat’ s
when I m et t h e F re n ch m an .’
Once a g ain I in te rru pte d h er a n d a sk ed w ith a s m uch d elic acy a s I c o uld
muste r w heth er th e Fre n ch m an , to o, had ask ed her to open her le g s. H er
re sp onse w as a cco m pan ie d b y r a u co us l a u ghte r.
‘N o, n o, s ir . H e l ik ed b oys. H e w ork ed h ard o n t h eir b um s. B ut h e w as v ery
kin d to m e. H is n am e w as G ib ril, lik e th e a n gel. P le ase , s ir , p le ase a sk th e la d y
an d t h e F re n ch m onsie u r t o f o rg et t h e i n te rv ie w . I f i t i s p ublis h ed , m y l if e w ill b e
fin is h ed .’
‘H av e y ou t o ld a n yone a b out t h is i n te rv ie w ?’
‘O nly m y A m eric an p ublic is t, M r Jo nath an . H e sa id if th e in te rv ie w w as
mad e a b ook it w ould b e th e e n d o f m y c are er. H e w as v ery a n gry . T hen I s a id

th ere w as n o c o ntr a ct. I h ad n ot sig ned a n yth in g. T hen h e b ecam e h ap py. H e
wan ts m e to g o to I s ra el, w here m y b ook w ill b e p ublis h ed in s ix m onth s. S ir , is
it g ood i d ea?’
‘V ery b ad i d ea. L is te n t o m e c are fu lly , N au ghty . D on’t d em an d a n yth in g o f
th e F re n ch p ublis h er n ow . T ell th em y ou’ll th in k a b out it a n d d ecid e in a fe w
month s’ t im e.’
She a g re ed . S he h ad s e n t L ate ef a g re at d eal o f m oney fo r th eir tw o s o ns
an d h ad b een i n vite d b ack f o r a f a m ily g et- to geth er l a te r i n t h e m onth , b ut i t w as
to b e a p riv ate v is it. N o p ublic ity a t a ll. B efo re w e r e jo in ed th e o th ers I c o uld n’t
re sis t o ne l a st q uestio n.
‘I s a w a p hoto gra p h o f y ou i n N ew Y ork . D id a n yone i n t h e p hoto gra p h a sk
you t o o pen y our l e g s? ’
‘T he F re n ch te le v is io n g uy tr ie d a g ain . I s a id n o. T he b ald w rite r p urs u ed
me lik e a n a n im al. I f in ally a g re ed b ut h is ta b le ts d id n’t w ork . H e m ad e a ll s o rts
of p ro m is e s to g et h is w ay . H e w ould re v ie w m y b ook in th e N ew Y ork B ook
Rev ie w a n d N ew Y ork er B ook R ev ie w a n d m an y o th er t h in gs.’
Back i n t h e k itc h en , N au ghty d id a s I h ad s u ggeste d a n d f e ig ned i n decis io n.
The r e st o f th e e v en in g p asse d p eacefu lly , e x cep t f o r th e c o nsta n t r in gin g o f h er
cell p hone. F in ally s h e s a id h er p ublic is t w as w aitin g in a w in e b ar f o r h er w ith
oth er p eo ple . S he l e ft.
Zay nab w as n ow th oro ughly d is illu sio ned . ‘Y our c o nvers a tio n w ith h er is
on t a p e. H en ri s u ggeste d w e t a p e e v ery th in g.’
I w as a sto nis h ed a n d r e p rim an ded t h em .
‘I d o u nders ta n d a lo t o f P unja b i’ , Z ay nab v olu nte ere d , ‘ b ut w hat la n guag e
were y ou s p eak in g? M ost o f i t w as i n co m pre h en sib le .’
Ord in ary p eo ple m easu re s a tis fa ctio n i n a v arie ty o f w ay s. A c h ef w ho k now s h e
fo rg ot to in clu de s o m e k ey in gre d ie n ts in th e d is h h e h as ju st s e rv ed w ill n ot b e
ple ase d w ith th e r e su lt, r e g ard le ss o f th e p la u dits r e ceiv ed f ro m e v ery c u sto m er.
A w rite r m ay b e d elig hte d w ith h er o w n w ork , r e g ard le ss o f a n yth in g th e c ritic s

mig ht s a y . F or c ele b ritie s th ere is o nly o ne m easu re . T he a m ount o f e x posu re
th ey r e ceiv e in a n y g iv en w eek in th e m ed ia , th e n um ber o f p ap ara zzi s k ulk in g
in h id den p la ces h opin g fo r a n u nusu al p hoto gra p h, a ll th is fe ed s th e in sa tia b le
desir e fo r p ublic ity th at h as b eco m e, fo r s o m an y, th e tr a n sp la n te d h eart o f a n
em pty w orld .
Cele b dom is th e s u m mit o f a m bitio n to day a n d is p urs u ed a t w hate v er c o st.
It’ s a w orld p eo ple d b y acto rs an d sp orts m en an d a fe w w rite rs an d certa in
politic ia n s w ho a re d ev oid o f a n y p rin cip le e x cep t a n in se n sa te o bse ssio n w ith
multip ly in g th eir w ealth a n d f a m e. T heir m ark etin g a n d p ublic ity a d vis e rs w ork
overtim e to e n su re th at o ur le ad ers g et e n ough e x posu re o n c ele b rity ta lk s h ow s
or i n t h e c o m pan y o f o th er s u ita b le c ele b s. T he a p peal o f r e ality t e le v is io n l ie s i n
its in sis te n ce th at a n yone c an b eco m e A -lis t o vern ig ht. F ellin i’ s b rillia n t p aro dy
of th e je t- s e tte r’s w orld in
La D olc e V ita
h as b een s u pers e d ed , b ut in w ay s th at
would n ot h av e s u rp ris e d h im i n t h e l e ast.
Nau ghty ’s e x am ple w as a s in gle c ase i n p oin t. W ho c an b la m e h er f o r b ein g
se d uced b y t h e g litte r a n d t h e c ash , w hen o th ers a h undre d t im es m ore i n te llig en t
an d a lr e ad y m ultim illio nair e s in th eir o w n rig ht w ere ju st a s d esp era te to b e
know n to a la rg er w orld ? T his , I su ggeste d to H en ri, w as th e b ook h e sh ould
re ally b e c o m mis sio nin g, w ith th e in te rv ie w a s a n a p pen dix p ublis h ed in th e
public i n te re st.
Hen ri w ag ed g uerrilla w ar a g ain st th e s p ir it o f th e a g e. H e h ad p ublis h ed
stin gin g e ssa y s o n th e p olitic al c u ltu re o f h is o w n c o untr y , s o m e o f th em w ritte n
by h im . N ow h e a g re ed th at th is w as th e b est w ay to p ublis h th e b ook, a s a
co m bin atio n o f p ole m ic a n d o ra l h is to ry . B oth p arts s h ould b e e x actly th e s a m e
le n gth to em phasiz e th eir in te rd ep en den ce, an d w hic h cam e fir s t co uld be
decid ed la te r. Z ay nab w as n ot c o nvin ced . T he in te rv ie w h ad to b e th e h eart o f
th e b ook, a n d t h e r e st a n i n tr o ductio n o r a n e p ilo gue. T here w as n o c h an gin g h er
min d o n t h is s tr u ctu re . S he w on t h e a rg um en t. I t h ad t u rn ed o ut t o b e a c o nviv ia l
an d p ro ductiv e e v en in g a fte r a ll.
Once w e w ere alo ne, Z ay nab ’s cu sto m ary cu rio sity to ok ch arg e. She

wan te d e v ery d eta il o f th e R ic h m ond c o nvers a tio ns. T o h er a n noyan ce I w ould
pro vid e o nly a b are s u m mary . B ut N eela m ’s ro le in th e s a g a o f N au ghty ’s ris e
su rp ris e d b oth o f u s, a n d c o nfir m ed m y i m pre ssio n o f h er a s a w arm -h earte d a n d
in te llig en t p ers o n, n ot u nlik e h er m oth er.
Zay nab h ad b eg un to m is s F ath erla n d. T he m em ory o f P la to h ad b eco m e
ble n ded w ith a ll th e o th er e v en ts in h er lif e . S he w an te d to s e e h ow h e h ad le ft
th e p ain tin g th at s h e h ad s e en in its e arly s ta g es a n d d is lik ed . S he h ad f o und a n d
kep t a sc ra p o f P la to ’s w ritin g, a d ia ry e n tr y o r m em o. It w as u nheard o f fo r
Pla to to w rite , so th is m ust h av e b een a b out so m eth in g h e w an te d to p ain t a t
so m e s ta g e.
Wea k S m ile : A s h ort t a lk w ith I . M . M alik , M arc h 2 001.
Malik c a m e w ith p ain tin gs b eca use I r e fu se d to g o to h is n ea t, tid y s tu dio th at
I’v e a lw ays h ate d . T here w e u se d to c ro w d in to th e m id dle o f th e r o om , a nd h e
would l ig ht t h e p la ce w ith f iv e h uge s p otlig hts a nd d is p la y h is p ain tin gs. M ost o f
th em w ere exa m ple s of bad la ndsc a pe art: m ounta in str e a m s w ith a deer
watc h in g fr o m a bove, p in e tr e es a nd h ills w ith m onkeys, p ortr a its o f th e fa m ous
and th e ric h a nd co pie s o f co untle ss o th er p ain tin gs th at a lr e a dy exis te d . I
sto pped g oin g a nd w hen h e r a ng I a sk ed h im t o b rin g h is n ew w are s t o m y p la ce.
He w ante d a n h onest o pin io n. M alik w as a n in te llig en t critic a nd I a lw ays
wondere d h ow s o m eo ne lik e h im w ho u ndersto od o th er p eo ple ’s w ork e xtr e m ely
well h ad s o fe w in sig hts in to h is o w n a rt. H is a dm ir e rs, a nd th ere w ere m any,
cla im ed t h at h is f in est w ork h ad b een d one i n p re -P artitio n L ahore i n t h e 1 940s,
when t h e c ity w as k n ow n a s t h e P aris o f t h e E ast a nd i n te lle ctu al a nd a rtis tic l ife
had p ea ked . W hat u se w as a ll t h at n ow ?
Befo re I le t h im o pen h is c a se I s a id , M alik , if th ey’r e m oney-m akers, le t’ s
not w aste tim e. H e c u rse d m e a nd in sis te d th ey w ere g ood a nd w ante d m e to s e e
one in p artic u la r. I a gre ed , lo oked a t it. R ea lly b ad. P ure ly d eco ra tiv e a nd
would p ro bably g ra ce s o m e w all in a v u lg ar m ansio n in D efe n ce. H e lo oked a t

me. I s m ile d w ea kly . H e s a id , ‘I k n ow y o u th in k it’ s r id ic u lo us.’ H e w aite d fo r
my r e sp onse . I m anaged a noth er w ea k s m ile . ‘ Y ou d on’t lik e it? ’ F in ally I s a id ,
‘N o. It’ s a v ery b ad p ain tin g.’ H e g ot a ngry . ‘T he tr o uble w ith y o u is th at y o u
en jo y b ein g o ut o f h arm ony w ith t h e t im es.’
I r e p lie d : ‘ A n a rtis t s h ould n ever b e in h arm ony w ith th e tim es e ven if th ey
acco rd w ith h is b elie fs . A n a rtis t m ust a lw ays lo ok a hea d, liv e o n th e ed ge.
Oth erw is e a rt w ould b eco m e p re d ic ta ble .’
‘Y ou t h in k a ll m y p ain tin gs a re b ad?’
‘N o. S om e o f t h e e a rlie r o nes w ere g ood. V ery g ood.’
‘Y ou’v e a lw ays s p oken th e tr u th . L ik e a tr u e fr ie n d.’ I d id n ot s a y a nyth in g,
whic h w as a m is ta ke b eca use i t e n co ura ged h im .
‘M y l a st p ain tin g s o ld f o r f ifty t h ousa nd d olla rs in M ia m i. I a m a p ain te r in
re sid en ce in d iffe re n t c o untr ie s e a ch y ea r. I’v e w on s ix p riz e s. M y n ew w ork is
not a s b ad a s y o u t h in k.’
I s m ile d w ea kly .
This w as th e in ner co re of Pla to , an d th e m em ory m ois te n ed m y ey es. I
re m em bere d h is w eak s m ile w ell. H e h ate d p re te n tio usn ess in a n y f o rm . E ven a t
our ta b le in th e c o lle g e c afé in L ah ore a ll th ose y ears a g o, if a n ybody s ta rte d
quotin g c o uple ts f ro m th e p oets to e m phasiz e a p oin t, a h ab it c o m mon to m an y
in th at c ity , P la to w ould s m ile w eak ly , w ait till th ey ’d f in is h ed , a n d h is s a rc astic
one-lin er w ould fo llo w . W hy d id h e h av e to d ie ? Z ay nab c am e a n d s a t o n m y
la p . S he w as m is sin g h im t o o.
‘D on’t g o b ack j u st y et,’ I p le ad ed a s I s tr o ked h er f a ce. ‘ F ath erla n d i s a t i ts
most d an gero us a t t h e m om en t. I n cessa n t t r o uble s a n d u npara lle le d v io le n ce, a n d
your b ro th er i s a s e n io r g overn m en t m in is te r.’
She p ro m is e d to th in k a b out it, b ut I k new s h e w an te d to le av e P aris f o r a
while w ith out m ovin g to L ondon. I w as b eg in nin g to u nders ta n d h er c h an ges o f
mood a n d h er c ap ric io usn ess. S he w as fe elin g re stle ss. W here d id s h e w an t to
go? S he d id n’t k now , b ut I c o uld d ecid e. D id s h e lik e th e s e a? O nly if it w as

wild . N ot to s w im in b ut ju st to w alk a lo ng th e b each w atc h in g th e fu ry o f th e
wav es. I e x pla in ed g en tly t h at t h is w ould b e t o rtu re f o r m e. T o b e n ear a s e a o ne
can not e n te r i s l ik e b ein g m arrie d t o t h e K ora n . S he l a u ghed , s ig nallin g a c h an ge
of m ood.
‘O K. A s e a y ou c an s w im i n a n d I c an w atc h .’
‘Z ay nab , c an y ou s w im ?’
Her f a ce d is a p peare d b eh in d h er h an ds.
‘Y ou c an l e arn .’
‘T oo l a te .’
‘W e’re g oin g w here t h ere ’s a t e ach in g p ool a n d t h e s e a. I ’ll t e ach y ou a n d i t
won’t ta k e lo ng. I t w ould b e o ne th in g if th e K ora n f e ll in th e w ate r, b ut if I g ot
cra m ps I ’d n eed y ou t o s w im .’
A w eek b efo re w e w ere to le av e fo r G re ece, th ere w as a n a g ita te d p hone
call f ro m H en ri.
‘S w itc h o n t h e n ew s. I ’m o n m y w ay .’
Nau ghty w as d ead . H er f a ce w as b ein g d is p la y ed o n e v ery c h an nel. S he h ad
dis a p peare d f ro m h om e tw o d ay s a g o. H er f o rm er h usb an d a n d s o ns h ad a le rte d
th e p olic e, s in ce h er p assp ort a n d b elo ngin gs h ad b een le ft a t h om e. T he b oys,
both in th eir la te te en s, b eard le ss a n d w earin g T -s h ir ts a n d d en im s, w ere s h ow n
weep in g c o pio usly . T heir fa th er, in u nif o rm , lo oked d ra w n a n d str e sse d . H er
body h ad b een f o und th at d ay , h ack ed to p ie ces a n d s to re d in a s a ck . T he p olic e
ch ie f to ld r e p orte rs th at th e k ille rs w ere p ro bab ly s u rp ris e d a t th eir w ork , o r th ey
would h av e b urn ed t h e b ody.
Tears p oure d d ow n Z ay nab ’s c h eek s a s s h e w atc h ed th e n ew s f o ota g e. Y et
an oth er m ed ie v al e p is o de i n F ath erla n d, b ut t h is w as n ot a r e lig io us m urd er. T hat
much w as o bvio us to a n yone w ho k new th e p la ce. H ad it b een c arrie d o ut b y a
hard -c o re Is la m is t n etw ork th ey w ould h av e film ed th e m urd er a n d d is tr ib ute d
th e v id eo a s a w arn in g to o th ers w ho m ig ht b e te m pte d d ow n th e s a m e p ath a s
poor N au ghty . H en ri a rriv ed a n d w as c le arly a g ita te d . F or h im th e re al k ille rs
were th ose w ho h ad r e cru ite d h er to th eir c au se , b ut b efo re h e c o uld e x pan d o n

th is , Z ay nab in te rru pte d h im . ‘H en ri, I k now th e co untr y w ell. T his is n ot a
politic al m urd er c arrie d o ut b y re lig io us fa n atic s. It fe els lik e s o m eth in g e ls e , I
don’t k now w hat, b ut t h ey w ill f in d o ut. W ith t h re e g en era ls i n t h e p ic tu re a s h er
lo vers , m ilita ry i n te llig en ce w ill w an t a n sw ers .’
Hen ri w as n ow c o nvin ced th at Z ay nab ’s in te rv ie w w ith N au ghty s h ould b e
publis h ed o n its o w n, w ith th e v oic e ta p es m ad e a v aila b le to th e m ed ia . T he
glo bal n etw ork s h ad b een g iv in g th e sto ry o f h er m urd er m assiv e co vera g e,
str o ngly h in tin g t h at i t w as a p unis h m en t k illin g b y s o m e t e rro ris t g ro up a n gere d
by t h e s u ccess o f h er b ook in t h e W est. C olo nel L ate ef, h er f o rm er h usb an d, h ad
ad opte d th is r e fra in o n e v ery n ew s c h an nel. T he b oys, u nab ash ed a t m eetin g th e
gaze o f s o m an y c u rio us jo urn alis ts , to ld F ath erla n di te le v is io n th at if th e p olic e
were u nab le to tr a ck th e k ille rs , th ey , a s h er s o ns, w ould a v en ge th eir m oth er’s
death . N obody th ought it f ittin g to in quir e w hat e x actly th ey m ean t. M ean w hile
poste rs o f th e m arty re d M ad am e A ura tp asa n d a p peare d o n b illb oard s in e v ery
Euro pean c ap ita l, a n d T -s h ir ts w ith h er im ag e m ad e a n a p peara n ce in th e d uty -
fre e s h ops a t F ath erla n di a ir p orts . A ll th at w as m is sin g w as D ete ctiv es w ith out
Bord ers t o e n te r t h e c o untr y a n d n ail t h e k ille rs .
While th is ts u nam i o f e m otio n a n d h yste ria w as d ro w nin g o th er s to rie s in
th e m ed ia sp here , E ditio ns M ontm ore n cy , in a sh arp ly w ord ed p re ss re le ase ,
an nounced th e A ura tp asa n d in te rv ie w b ook. T his u nle ash ed a n ew b arra g e o f
in te re st, b ut H en ri w as n ot p re p are d to s e ll s e ria liz atio n rig hts e v en th ough th e
offe rs c am e in m illio ns. H e w as a n o ld -fa sh io ned p ublis h er a n d w an te d th e b ook
to b e th e o nly p oin t o f re fe re n ce. T he m ark et v in dic ate d h is d ecis io n. A dvan ce
ord ers i n F ra n ce r e ach ed t h e h undre d t h ousa n d m ark .
In th e fa ce o f a ll th is , th e p olic e c h ie f in Is lo o m ain ta in ed a c alm d ig nity ,
an d t h e i m mobility o f h is f a cia l e x pre ssio n b ecam e t h e s u bje ct o f b itte r c o m men t
in m uch o f th e g lo bal m ed ia . G iv en s u ch a f e arfu l tr a g ed y, h ow c o m e th e c h ie f
in vestig ato r sh ow ed n o em otio n? W ere F ath erla n d’s p olic e in dif fe re n t to th e
crim e?
Then , ex actly tw o w eek s afte r th e outr a g e, th e unju stly tr a d uced Is lo o

polic e calle d a pre ss co nfe re n ce at 8.3 0 am th at w as re la y ed liv e on lo cal
netw ork s a n d fe d d ir e ctly to A l Ja zeera , C N N a n d B BC W orld . T here w as a
stu nned sile n ce w hen th e m uch -m alig ned polic em an , in a calm an d still
em otio nle ss v oic e, b eg an t o s p eak .
‘L ad ie s a n d g en tle m en . E arly th is m orn in g w e m ad e th re e a rre sts . C olo nel
Late ef a n d h is tw o s o ns, A hm ed L ate ef a n d A sif L ate ef, h av e b een c h arg ed w ith
fir s t- d eg re e m urd er an d are in polic e cu sto dy. The Fath erla n d A rm y has
au th oriz ed m e to sa y th at C olo nel L ate ef h as b een str ip ped o f h is ra n k an d
cash ie re d . H e is n o lo nger re g ard ed a s a se rv in g o ffic er a n d c an b e tr ie d a s a
civ ilia n . I h av e n oth in g m ore t o a d d a t t h is s ta g e.’
Sin ce th ere w as w orld w id e in te re st in th e a ffa ir , th e im peccab le b eh av io ur
of th e I s lo o p olic e s u rp ris e d a n d p le ase d m ost p eo ple in F ath erla n d. N one o f th e
th re e accu se d w as to rtu re d . The ev id en ce w as cir c u m sta n tia l, but dead ly .
Nau ghty h ad s ig ned t h re e s e p ara te c h eq ues f o r a m illio n d olla rs e ach t o t h e t h re e
men , b ut e v en th ough h er a cco unt w as in h er n ew n am e, Y asm in e A ura tp asa n d,
sh e h ad sig ned th em
Khalid a L ate ef
. A sif L ate ef la te r a d m itte d th at w hen h e
questio ned h is m oth er re g ard in g th e d is c re p an cy , s h e h ad s w orn o n th e K ora n
th at th is w as th e o nly s ig natu re th e b an k w ould a ccep t. T hey b elie v ed h er, b ut
sh e t u rn ed o ut t o b e c le v ere r t h an a ll o f t h em . H ad s h e p erh ap s s u sp ecte d t h e f o ul
pla y th ey h ad p la n ned ? T heir m is ta k e c o st th em th eir liv es. A sif L ate ef to ld th e
co urt th e m urd er h ad b een p la n ned as an h onour k illin g. T heir m oth er h ad
dis g ra ced t h em w ith t o o m an y m en . T hey h ad i n vite d h er b ack p ure ly i n o rd er t o
desp atc h h er.
‘In th at c ase ’, a sk ed a ju dge, ‘w hy w ere y ou s o in te re ste d in th e m oney ?
You w ere h er o nly c h ild re n , s o y ou w ould h av e in herite d it a u to m atic ally . S in ce
your g uilt i s n o l o nger i n d oubt, i t i s i n y our i n te re st t o s p eak t h e t r u th .’
But th e s o ns w ould n ot im plic ate th eir f a th er. H is v ers io n w as th at h e c am e
hom e a n d s a w t h ey h ad k ille d h er, a n d s in ce t h ey w ere h is s o ns h e f e lt o blig ed t o
help th em . P olic e e v id en ce c o ntr a d ic te d th at sto ry . T hre e d if fe re n t k niv es h ad
been u se d . A ll th re e w ere fo und in th e sa ck , a n d th e fin gerp rin ts o f C olo nel

Late ef h ad b een id en tif ie d o n o ne o f th em . W hy h ad th ey k ille d h er s o b ru ta lly ?
The c o lo nel h ad rif le s a n d tw o p is to ls in th e h ouse . A s in gle s h ot w ould h av e
su ffic ed . O nce a g ain , it w as A sif w ho p ro vid ed th e e x pla n atio n. A ll th re e h ad to
kill h er, a n d th is w as th e s im ple st w ay . A b ulle t w as to o q uic k . T hey w an te d to
punis h h er fo r th e sh am e sh e h ad b ro ught o n th e fa m ily . T he ju dgem en t w as
deliv ere d p ro m ptly a n d th e se n te n ce w as c arrie d o ut th e fo llo w in g w eek . A ll
th re e m en w ere h an ged .
The s a tu ra tio n c o vera g e g iv en to th e m urd er, o f c o urs e , c o ntr a d ic te d a ll e arlie r
sp ecu la tio n, b ut m em orie s are sh ort in th e W est. In co nven ie n t tr u th s can b e
bru sh ed o ff a n y fic tio n. W hen E ditio ns M ontm ore n cy p ublis h ed th e in te rv ie w
book w ith a n a cerb ic in tr o ductio n b y H en ri, it w as v ir tu ally ig nore d . D esp ite n ot
bein g r e v ie w ed in th e b ulk o f th e m ed ia , th e f ir s t e d itio n o f b ook s o ld o ver tw o
hundre d th ousa n d c o pie s, a n d f o re ig n r ig hts w ere b ought lik e h ot
gula b ja m uns
at t h e I s ta n bul B ook F air , w here H en ri h ad o rg an iz ed a n a u ctio n.
A fe w ra d io s ta tio ns p la y ed e x tr a cts fro m th e ta p e, a n d th at w as th e s u m
to ta l o f o n-a ir p ublic ity . Je an -P ie rre B ertr a n d w as n ow here to b e se en . T he
cele b ritie s w ho h ad c lu ste re d a ro und N au ghty in P aris a n d N ew Y ork d id n ot
wis h t o b e a sso cia te d w ith h er a fte r h er d eath .
Mad am e Z ay nab S hah w as re fe rre d to in
Maria nne
a s a n o ra l h is to ria n ,
whic h w as n ew s to e v ery one e x cep t m e. T he b ook a p peare d in E nglis h , b ut th e
New Y ork frie n ds o f D id ero t c h ose to ig nore its p re se n ce. It d id n ot re ceiv e a
sin gle re v ie w , b ut, a s in P aris , s a le s w ere b ris k . W hat s u rp ris e d u s a ll w as th at
Nau ghty h ad m ad e a w ill b efo re r e tu rn in g t o F ath erla n d. I n t h e c ase o f h er d eath ,
her so ns w ould in herit her ap artm en t in Paris an d ev ery th in g els e . If, fo r
whate v er re aso n, in clu din g p re d eceasin g h er, th is w as im possib le , h er en tir e
esta te w as b eq ueath ed to E ditio ns M ontm ore n cy , w ith th e s tip ula tio n th at th ey
pro duce t h re e t itle s a y ear t h at w ere t r a n sla tio ns f ro m P unja b i.
I w as s u rp ris e d a n d p le ase d to r e ceiv e a p hone c all f ro m N eela m . ‘ J u st g ot
back fro m B eijin g a n d h eard a b out M rs L ate ef. T hen I g ot a c o py o f th e b ook.

It’ s a v ery g ood in te rv ie w . P le ase c o ngra tu la te Z ay nab
kh ala
f ro m m e. W hat a n
aw fu l e n d t o h er l if e . Y ou k now i t w as I w ho t a u ght h er s o m e b asic E nglis h .’
I to ld N eela m o f m y m eetin g w ith N au ghty a n d h ow s h e h ad to ld m e th e
sa m e th in g a n d h ad su ng N eela m ’s p ra is e s a n d e x pre sse d re m ors e fo r h av in g
help ed t o w re ck h er m arria g e.
‘L et’ s fo rg et th at n ow , U ncle D ara . A lla h ’s w ill m ust b e d one. T he g ood
new s i s t h at M om a n d I a re f rie n ds a g ain a fte r a lm ost f if te en y ears . I t o ld h er y ou
sta y ed a t o ur h ouse a n d p ra is e d th e c o ffe e e v en w hen I h ad a sk ed y ou n ot to . I t
ple ase d h er a g re at d eal. W hen a re y ou v is itin g I s lo o? S oon, I h ope.’
Slo w ly e v ery th in g w as f a llin g in to p la ce, s o m e o f it in th e m ost g ru eso m e
fa sh io n p ossib le a n d s o m e o f it in a w ay th at r e sto re d a d eg re e o f tr a n quillity to
frie n ds a n d t h eir c h ild re n . W hat w ould b eco m e o f Z ay nab ? I h ad f e w d oubts t h at
our lo ve a n d f rie n dsh ip , a s p le asa n t a n d r e sto ra tiv e a s it h ad b een , c o uld n ot la st
to o l o ng. I h ad b ooks t o w rite . S he w an te d t o b uild a n a rt m use u m i n S in d w here
an cie n t an d m odern w ork s m ig ht be sh ow n to geth er. M ohen jo -D aro on th e
gro und f lo or, P la to n ear t h e t o p. S he h ad t a lk ed a b out t h is a g re at d eal, r e ig nitin g
my o ld f a sc in atio n w ith M ohen jo -D aro a n d t h e c iv iliz atio n o f w hic h t h e c ity h ad
been a p art in 3 600 B CE. R ep lic as o f its ste rn -fa ced p rie sts an d ex quis ite ly
sh ap ed d an cin g g ir ls a re lo okin g d ow n a t m e fro m a b ooksh elf a s I w rite th ese
word s. I ’d a lw ay s th ought o f w ritin g a n ovel s e t in th at p erio d in th e r e g io n, b ut
ev en ts h ad in te rv en ed a n d fin ally th e b ack b urn er its e lf h ad c o lla p se d . W as it
tim e t o r e v iv e t h e p ro je ct? P erh ap s, i f o nly t o d em onstr a te t h at s a n ita tio n a n d t h e
dis tr ib utio n o f f o od w as m ore a d van ced t h en t h an i t i s i n F ath erla n d t o day .
Zay nab knew th e sta te m use u m s w ere bad ly fu nded , ru n by co rru pt
bure au cra ts , an d th at as a re su lt m an y arte fa cts w ere alr e ad y in W este rn
muse u m s o r p riv ate c o lle ctio ns. S he w as d ete rm in ed to b uild h er o w n m use u m .
She p re sse d m e r e p eate d ly to b eco m e its d ir e cto r, b ut I c o uld n ot b e p art o f th is
pro je ct. I c o uld n ot re p la ce P la to in h er lif e . I to ld h er s o a n d s h e h ugged m e
tig ht, b ut m ad e n o a tte m pt to c o nvin ce m e o th erw is e . W e b oth k new th at it w as
tim e to m ove o n, a n d a lth ough o ur frie n dsh ip w as se cu re fo r e v er, w hen w e

would nex t m eet an d w hat w e w ould do w ere questio ns th at co uld not be
an sw ere d . O n o ne is su e a lo ne w as s h e in tr a n sig en t. W e h ad to s e e P la to ’s la st
pain tin g t o geth er. O n t h is t h ere w as n o d is p ute .
‘Y our in itia l in stin cts w ere c o rre ct, Z ay nab ,’ H en ri to ld h er a t d in ner th e
ev en in g N au ghty ’s w ill w as m ad e p ublic . ‘ S he w as n ot a c o m ple te m onste r. P art
vic tim , p art m onste r. T hat is w hat th is w orld d oes to p eo ple . D ara , w hat s h ould
we do to th an k her fo r th e beq uest? A Y asm in e A ura tp asa n d P riz e so unds
ex plo ita tiv e a n d f a ls e .’
‘L et m e t h in k.’
Late th at n ig ht I d id th in k, a n d w hile Z ay nab w as sle ep in g p eacefu lly , I
th ought th at a s c h ool f o r g ir ls in th e v illa g e w here s h e w as b orn , a n d in h er r e al
nam e, to a v oid s tu pid p ublic ity , m ig ht b e a p ossib le s o lu tio n, w ith s c h ola rs h ip s
fo r s tu dy a b ro ad g uara n te ed f o r th e to p tw o s tu den ts e ach y ear. B oth H en ri a n d
Zay nab a g re ed . Z ay nab w ould s p eak to h er b ro th er to e x ped ite m atte rs . H en ri
would ta lk to a frie n d o n h ow b est to in vest th e m oney fo r su ch a p urp ose .
Mean w hile a P unja b i l is t h ad t o b e o rg an iz ed f o r H en ri’ s p ublis h in g h ouse , a n d I
pro m is e d t o s u ggest s ix b ooks f o r i t: t h re e c la ssic s a n d t h re e m odern n ovels .
‘I w is h w e c o uld s im ply c all i t N au ghty S ch ool f o r G ir ls ,’ s a id Z ay nab w ith
a g le am in h er e y es a fte r H en ri h ad le ft. ‘ B ut I f e ar th at m ig ht b e m is u nders to od
by s o m e o f o ur b eard ed f rie n ds.’

SE V EN TEEN
D EA R D ARA , I ’V E A TTA CH ED
J in dié ’s r e p ort, a s p ro m is e d , o n h er f ir s t t h re e m onth s
i n B eijin g a n d a t r ip t o Y unnan . I ’m n ow q uite h opefu l t h at a ll w ill b e w ell i n t h e
l o ng r u n. R em em ber th at s o ng y ou a n d J in dié w ould p la y a ll th e tim e w hen y ou
v is ite d o ur h ouse : M uddy W ate rs s in gin g ‘E very th in g’s G onna B e A ll R ig ht’ ?
T he m usic o f m y lif e is m ore o rg an iz ed th an th at, b ut I’m s in gin g a g ain . T he
a tta ch m en t acco m pan yin g th is e-m ail I h av e b een co m pelle d to ed it, sin ce it
w ould f ill a b ook o n its o w n, a n d s o I h av e le ft o ut lo ng d esc rip tio ns o f B eijin g,
a s a tir ic al a cco unt— whose f e ro city b oth s u rp ris e d a n d d elig hte d m e— of J in dié ’s
v is it to th e E th nic C ultu re T hem e P ark , e n te re d fro m a d eto ur o ff th e F ourth
R in g R oad , o f w hic h r o ad , to o, s h e h as m uch to s a y . J in dié ’s d aily im pre ssio ns
o f B eijin g a n d h er l y ric al d esc rip tio n o f D ali a n d Y unnan d ese rv e t o b e a n d w ill,
n o d oubt, b e p ublis h ed o n th eir o w n, th ough n ot in th e
Natio nal G eo gra phic
,
s in ce th ere is n ot a tr a ce o f e x otic is m in w hat sh e w rite s. W ith out a lte rin g o r
a d orn in g th e sim ple sty le o f h er p ro se , I h av e m ere ly sh orte n ed th e te x t to
c o ncen tr a te o n th e d ev elo pm en t o f th e ch ara cte rs w e alr e ad y k now an d th e
a p peara n ce o f o th ers n ecessa ry t o o ur s to ry .
All b est,
Your o ld f rie n d C onfu ciu s.
D ear D ara ,
I d id n ot r e tu rn to B eijin g w ith m y b ro th er, b ut s p en t a f e w d ay s in L ondon
f ir s t p re p arin g f o r t h e j o urn ey . Z ah id k new a n um ber o f n eu ro lo gis ts a n d w e m et
t w o o f th em to geth er. T hey p oin te d o ut th at in m em ory la p se s, it is n orm ally o ld
m em orie s t h at h av e b een s u bm erg ed ; w heth er o r n ot t h ey c an b e b ro ught b ack t o
t h e s u rfa ce d ep en ds o n th e p ers o n c o ncern ed : T hey w ere im pre sse d b y H an if ’s
( p le ase a ccep t th e u se o f th is n am e e v en th ough y ou a n d o th er frie n ds a lw ay s

th in k o f h im a s C onfu ciu s) to ta l re call o f P unja b i, a n d o ne o f th e n eu ro lo gis ts
sa id he had not en co unte re d a case of th is so rt befo re . H e ad vis e d us to
co nsta n tly call H an if b y h is n am e w hen sp eak in g P unja b i an d C hin ese . T he
re call o f P unja b i, b oth o f th em s tr e sse d , w as a s ig n o f a s u bm erg ed m em ory . I t
would t a k e t im e a n d p atie n ce.
Han if p ic k ed u s u p a t B eijin g a ir p ort a n d d ro ve u s h om e, p oin tin g a t n ew
build in gs a n d n am in g th eir a rc h ite cts . H e liv es in a h uge, c o m fo rta b le a p artm en t
built a b out f iv e o r s ix y ears a g o, c lo se to th e f in an cia l q uarte r. H is w if e , C hen g
Yu-c h ih , is in h er la te f o rtie s, s h ort h air , v ery w ell d re sse d a n d f lu en t in E nglis h
an d G erm an . S he w ork s a s a n e co nom is t i n s o m e g overn m en t d ep artm en t.
While h e s h ow ed Z ah id t h e a p artm en t a n d t h en t o ok h im t o t h e b ase m en t t o
in sp ect th e h ealth c en tr e a n d s w im min g p ool, I to ld Y u-c h ih o ur s to ry . S he w as
not a s s u rp ris e d a s I t h ought s h e’d b e. H an if h ad t o ld h er t h at w e w ere f rie n ds h e
had m et in P aris , b ut th at w e m ig ht b e r e la te d to h im a s w ell. Y u-c h ih e x pla in ed
th at h e w as s lo w ly tr y in g to b uild a n arra tiv e o f h is lif e b efo re h is c o lla p se , a n d
sin ce h is r e tu rn f ro m P aris h ad to ld a n um ber o f p eo ple th at h e h ad b een b orn in
Lah ore a n d h ad r e cen tly m et h is s is te r.
She a ls o s a id h e ta lk ed in h is s le ep in s tr a n ge la n guag es a n d o ccasio nally
use d s u ch a rc h aic w ord s in C hin ese th at s h e h ad to c o nsu lt a d ic tio nary . N ow
th is b eg an to m ak e s e n se to h er. S he’d w ondere d w ho th e o ld c o uple w ere th at
he h ad i n tr o duced h er t o o nce a s h is p are n ts b ut w ho n ev er c am e h ere a n d w hom
he r a re ly v is ite d . Y u-c h ih h ad t h ought t h at h e w as a sh am ed o f t h em b ecau se t h ey
were re tir e d fa cto ry w ork ers . T his w as a c o m mon p hen om en on in a ll th e b ig
citie s, s o s h e h ad n ot q uestio ned h im to o m uch o n th e s u bje ct. ‘ W hen a c o untr y
has c h an ged its id en tity s o c o m ple te ly , is it s u rp ris in g th at m an y o f its c itiz en s
do t h e s a m e?’
I l ik e h er v ery m uch . S he i s h onest a n d i n te llig en t.
When th e tw o m en re tu rn ed , I sa id ‘H an if , I re ally lik e y our w if e .’ T he
nam e s ta rtle d h im .
Then Z ah id re p eate d it a n d h e tu rn ed o n u s. ‘W hy d o y ou c all m e b y th at

nam e? I n P aris o ne o f y our f rie n ds c alle d m e C onfu ciu s, a n d n ow y ou c all m e,
what d id y ou c all m e?’
‘H an if !’
‘It’ s n ot a C hin ese n am e.’
I nodded , but did not push him an y fu rth er. L ate r Y u-c h ih ask ed m e
wheth er o ur f a m ily w as H ui. I to ld h er w e w ere H ui f ro m Y unnan , b ut w hen w e
se ttle d in In dia s o m e o f o ur c o m munity to ok tr a d itio nal A ra b n am es fro m o ur
an cesto rs a s w ell. M y p are n ts a n d I h ad C hin ese n am es, b ut th ey d ecid ed to c all
my b ro th er H an if . S he s a t d ow n o n t h e b ed w ith h er h ead i n h er h an ds.
‘D ear sis te r, Jin dié , th e re aso n I a sk ed is b ecau se y our b ro th er is a lw ay s
cu rs in g th e H ui in B eijin g, so m etim es usin g very bad la n guag e. I alw ay s
re p rim an d h im , b ut e v en h is b ody la n guag e b eco m es a g gre ssiv e. H e w ill n ev er
accep t h e is H ui. T hat w ill b e th e b ig gest s h ock f o r h im . I h av en ’t d are d te ll h im
th at m y f a m ily in S han ghai a re H ui. W e a re n ot r e lig io us a t a ll, b ut m y f a th er, a
su rg eo n, i s p ro ud o f h is h erita g e. S om etim es I t a k e h im t o O xen S tr e et b ecau se i t
has th e b est n oodle s in to w n. It’ s in th e H ui a re a a n d h e a lw ay s lo oks a t th em
str a n gely . O nce h e ask ed o ffe n siv ely fo r p ork an d g ot an o ffe n siv e re p ly in
re tu rn . “ G o a n d f u ck a p ig ,” h e s a id b efo re I d ro ve th e c ar a w ay . I d id s h out a t
him a fte rw ard s. H e t a lk ed m ore r u bbis h . “ T he f ir s t H ui w ho c am e t o o ur c o untr y
sa id th ey w ould re tu rn to th eir s . T hey ’re s till h ere tw elv e c en tu rie s la te r. T hey
sh ould g o h om e.” I a sk ed w heth er a ll th e m in oritie s s h ould r e tu rn a n d r e m in ded
him t h at t h e T ib eta n s a re d esp era te t o d o s o b ut w e w on’t l e t t h em . H is r e p ly w as
very s tr a n ge. H e s a id : “ T he o th ers c an a ll s ta y . O nly th e H ui. T hey s h ould g o.”
He d oesn ’t m in d th e M uslim s in X in jia n g. T hey c an s ta y a s w ell. J u st th e H ui in
th e s o uth . T he in te rm arria g es in th e s o uth b etw een H ui a n d H an w ere s o s tr o ng
th at f o r c en tu rie s t h e o nly d is tin guis h in g f e atu re w as t h e p ork t a b oo a n d p ra y ers .
‘M an y H an th ought M oham mad w as ju st lik e C onfu ciu s fo r th e H ui.
Perh ap s m y d ear h usb an d h ate s h ybrid ity . I j u st d on’t k now . N one o f o ur f rie n ds
ta lk s t h e w ay h e d oes.’
All th is c am e a s a s h ock a n d I w as v ery d is tr e sse d . S lo w ly , I u npack ed m y

su itc ase s, th in kin g a ll th e tim e o f h ow to u npack H an if ’s m in d. I h ad b ro ught a
lo vely o ld p hoto gra p h o f o ur p are n ts a n d Y ounger a n d E ld er G ra n ny p osin g in
fro nt o f th e Z am Z am g un, w hic h u se d to h an g a b ove th e m an te lp ie ce in o ur
Lah ore a p artm en t. I n ow h ung it o n th e w all in th e liv in g r o om . T hen I p la ced a
photo gra p h o f a ll o f u s ju st a fte r m y w ed din g, w ith H an if d re sse d in a n
ach ka n
,
wearin g a tu rb an a n d g rin nin g, in th e k itc h en . Y u-c h ih n early f a in te d w hen s h e
sa w t h at o ne, b ut s a id n oth in g.
Zah id k new so m e C hin ese p hysic ia n s fro m in te rn atio nal c o nfe re n ces a n d
th ro ugh th em w e f o und a n e x celle n t n eu ro lo gis t. I to ld h er e v ery th in g, in clu din g
th e o utb re ak o f H ui- p hobia . D r W an g a g re ed to s e e h im , b ut o nly a fte r a m onth .
She th ought th at w ith p ro per stim uli h is m em ory c o uld re tu rn . If th e P unja b i
la n guag e h ad b een u nlo ck ed , th en a n yth in g w as p ossib le . S he w an te d to k now if
th ere h ad b een a n a ccid en t, a n d s a id I s h ould g o a n d m eet th e c o uple h e th ought
were h is p are n ts . A ll s h e w ould d o w as p ut h im u nder a s c an ner to s e e if th ere
had b een a n y p hysic al d am ag e. T he r e st w as u p t o u s.
Han if a n d Y u-c h ih w ould b oth le av e f o r w ork e arly , a n d Z ah id h ad g one to
Is lo o to ta k e N eela m a n d th e k id s to L ondon f o r th eir h olid ay s. I w as le ft o n m y
ow n a n d w en t o ut to e x plo re th e c ity . O xen S tr e et w as p ack ed w ith p eo ple . I
walk ed to th e m osq ue a n d lo oked in sid e. N obody c are d . I f o und th e b est n oodle
sta n d in B eijin g. It w as m ark ed
qin g z h en
(h ala l) ; a n oth er s ig n s a id ‘n o p ork ’.
They w ere v ery g ood n oodle s. W hen I to ld th e o w ner, w ho w as a ll o f tw en ty -
fiv e years old , th at I w as a H ui fro m F ath erla n d, he w as very w elc o m in g.
Wan te d t o k now h ow I h ad l a n ded u p t h ere . H is u ncle , a C hin ese n av al e n gin eer,
was c u rre n tly i n G wad ur. H ad I b een t h ere ? I s h ook m y h ead . H e t o ld m e h e w as
a se cu la r M arx is t b ut a ls o H ui a n d o bse rv ed m in ority h olid ay s to h onour h is
Ara b a n cesto rs . H e s a id t h at s in ce G ulf m oney h as b een c o m in g i n t o h elp r e p air
th e m osq ues a n d b uild a fe w n ew o nes, h e h ad n otic ed a n in cre ase in m osq ue
atte n dan ce. H e w in ked . ‘ I t h in k s o m e g o f o r f re e f o od a n d c lo th es.’
Yu-c h ih t o ok a d ay o ff w ork a n d d ro ve m e t o a n o ld p art o f t h e c ity t o m eet
th e c o uple H an if th ought w ere h is p are n ts . T hey l iv e in a c lu ste r o f s m all h ouse s

near th e o uts k ir ts o f p re cap ita lis t B eijin g. T hey m ust b e in th eir la te e ig htie s.
They w elc o m ed u s w arm ly a n d o ffe re d s o m e te a a n d v ery s w eet b is c u its . T hey
to ld t h eir s to ry o pen ly ; t h ere w as n o s u bte rfu ge a t a ll.
Han if h ad b een a v ery c lo se f rie n d o f th eir s o n’s , a n d th e b oys o fte n s ta y ed
with th em in th e la te S ix tie s. T he b oys w ere m em bers o f a g ro up o f R ed G uard s
th at c alle d its e lf F ro m th e P erip hery to th e C en tr e P ro le ta ria n G ro up fo r W orld
Rev olu tio n. O ne d ay t h ere w as a c la sh , e ith er w ith a n oth er g ro up o r w ith t h e L in
Bia o is ts in th eir o w n g ro up. T hey c o uld n ev er g et th e d eta ils , b ut it e n ded w ith
th eir s o n, H su an , b ein g k ille d . H an if p ic k ed u p h is frie n d a n d c arrie d h is b ody
hom e. H is o w n h ead w as b le ed in g an d h e fe ll u nco nsc io us. T he o ld co uple
beg an to w eep a t th e m em ory o f H su an , a n d b oth Y u-c h ih a n d I h ugged a n d
str o ked t h em t ill t h ey g re w c alm a g ain . H e h ad b een t h eir o nly c h ild .
They h ad c alle d a n a m bula n ce a n d H an if w as ta k en to th e h osp ita l, w here
he re co vere d c o nsc io usn ess b ut h ad n o id ea w hat h ad h ap pen ed . H e w as se n t
back to th eir h om e in a n a m bula n ce. A fte r th e p olitic al tu rb ule n ce h ad s u bsid ed
he e n te re d B eijin g U niv ers ity , g ain in g a d m itta n ce a s th e s o n o f a w ork in g-c la ss
co uple . T he u niv ers ity a u th oritie s th em se lv es w ere r e co verin g f ro m th e c h ao s o f
th at p erio d. T hey w ere a w are t h at H an if h ad s u ffe re d a s e v ere m em ory l a p se a n d
did n’t p re ss h im o n d eta ils o f h is p rio r s c h oolin g o r a n yth in g e ls e . H e w as g iv en
new pap ers in his C ultu ra l R ev olu tio n nam e, C hia o -fu . H e w as a brillia n t
stu den t, a lw ay s c o m in g h om e w ith g ood r e p orts . T hen h e w en t to S han ghai a n d
Hong K ong to w ork an d o nly re cen tly h ad h e re tu rn ed to B eijin g. O nce h e
sta rte d work in g he had se n t his ‘p are n ts ’ money ev ery month , ofte n
acco m pan ie d b y c lo th es a n d e x pen siv e f o od p arc els . H e n ev er ta lk ed m uch a fte r
Hsu an ’s d eath , b ut w as alw ay s d utif u l. It w as H an if w ho h ad assu m ed th ey
re ally w ere h is p are n ts . T hey n ev er co rre cte d h im b ecau se in a w ay h e h ad
beco m e th eir so n. O nce h e sa w a p hoto gra p h o f H su an a n d h im se lf w ith re d
ban ds o n th eir h ead s a n d a sk ed th em , ‘Is th at m y b ro th er? W hat h ap pen ed to
him ? W hy d id h e d ie ?’
They ’d h ad n o id ea o f w here h e c am e f ro m o r th ey w ould h av e w ritte n u s.

They lo oked in h is c ase a n d fo und o nly a C hin ese p assp ort w ith th e n am e h e
use s t o day . N o a d dre ss b ook, n o o th er i d en tif y in g p ap ers o f a n y t y pe. N oth in g. I t
was lik e th at d urin g th e C ultu ra l R ev olu tio n. G ettin g rid o f id en tity c ard s w as
re g ard ed a s a n a ct o f lib era tio n. W e n ow h av e a s c o m ple te a p ic tu re a s w e a re
lik ely t o g et t ill h is m em ory r e tu rn s.
At h om e h e lo oked a t th e p hoto in th e k itc h en , th e o ne o f m y w ed din g, a n d
did n’t re co gniz e h im se lf . N eith er Y u-c h ih n or I s a id a n yth in g, b ut I’v e n otic ed
him s ta rin g h ard a t t h e o th er p ic tu re , o f o ur p are n ts a n d g ra n nie s.
When I ’m a lo ne I o fte n s p eak P unja b i to h im a n d h e r e p lie s, u su ally w ith a
sm ile in h is fa ce. O nce h e s a id , ‘T his is a v ery fu nny la n guag e. I re m em ber a
jo ke w e u se d to r e p eat.’ H e h ad u se d th e w ord s ‘ I r e m em ber’, a n d th is m ad e m e
sh iv er w ith jo y, b ut I k ep t c alm a n d a sk ed h im to te ll m e th e jo ke. ‘It’ s q uite
stu pid , b ut f u nny. S om eo ne s a y s to th e b ic h u b ooti ( th e s tin gin g n ettle -lik e p la n t
th at y ou m ust r e m em ber f ro m o ur N ath ia g ali o utin gs), “ H ow is it I o nly s e e y ou
in th e su m mer? W hy d o y ou d is a p pear in w in te r? ” T he b ic h u b ooti re p lie s,
“G iv en h ow y ou tr e at m e in th e s u m mer, w hy a re y ou s u rp ris e d I p re fe r to s ta y
aw ay i n th e w in te r? ”’ I d id n’t f in d th is a m usin g, b ut H an if la u ghed s o m uch t h at
I jo in ed h im . H e a lte rn ate s b etw een th is m ood a n d o ne w here h e se em s v ery
te n se , a s i f d ra g ons w ere f ig htin g i n h is h ead .
My b oy, S ule im an , h as arriv ed fro m Y unnan . H e is liv in g in D ali b ut
tr a v els a ll o ver th e p ro vin ce. M y c h ild , w hom I th ought w e h ad lo st fo re v er to
th e fin an cia l w orld o f fu tu re s a n d d eriv ativ es, h as re tu rn ed h om e. H an if w as
to uch ed b y h is p re se n ce a n d h eard th e s to rie s o f h is a d ven tu re s in Y unnan w ith
so m e d elig ht.
But i t w as S ule im an ’s e arlie r l if e a s a s to ck bro ker i n H ong K ong t h at r e ally
in te re ste d h is u ncle . W here h e h ad w ork ed , h ow m uch m oney h e’d m ad e a n d
what h ad m ad e h im le av e th at w orld . B oth H an if a n d Y u-c h ih n odded a g re at
deal a s S ule im an d esc rib ed h ow h ard h e h ad w ork ed , h ow h e h ad n o tim e to
th in k o f a n yth in g e ls e e x cep t ru sh in g to a c lu b a fte r w ork e ach d ay , d rin kin g
with h is f rie n ds, w atc h in g te le v is io n a n d g oin g to b ed e arly s o h e c o uld w ak e u p

at f iv e a n d b e a t w ork a n h our l a te r.
Alo ne w ith m e, S ule im an c o nfe sse d th at h e w as in lo ve a n d s h ow ed m e h is
gir lf rie n d’s p hoto gra p h. S he w as a p ostg ra d uate s tu den t a t th e u niv ers ity , a f e w
years y ounger a n d, lik e h im , stu dyin g h is to ry . W hic h m oth er is e v er sa tis fie d
with h er s o n’s c h oic e? M y fir s t re actio n w as th at s h e w as fa r to o p re tty a n d I
co uld n ot m ak e a ju dgem en t till I m et h er. T here w as a p hoto gra p h o f b oth o f
th em o n a b oat in th e la k e in w hic h s h e w as la u ghin g. I lik ed th at m ore th an h er
pin -u p pose . A nd I had alw ay s th ought th at S ule im an w ould m arry a nic e
Punja b i g ir l. W hen I sa id th at, h e re sp onded , ‘Y es, ju st lik e th e n ic e P unja b i
gen era l w ho m ad e N eela m s o h ap py’ I a sk ed h im s o m an y q uestio ns a b out h er
th at h e lo st h is p atie n ce. S he w as in B eijin g w ith h er fa m ily fo r th e n ex t w eek
an d I c o uld m eet h er. S o, I th ought, a ll th is h as b een w ell p la n ned b y th e y oung
co uple . B ut b efo re I m et Y ou-s h i, th ere w as a tin y e arth quak e in o ur liv es. T he
tr e m ors h ad b een t h ere f o r w eek s.
One m orn in g w hen S ule im an a n d H an if w ere in th e k itc h en to geth er, m y
so n s a w th e o ld w ed din g p hoto gra p h a n d b urs t o ut la u ghin g. ‘U ncle , y ou lo ok
good in P unja b i clo th es. Ju st lo ok at you.’ H an if pale d . H e lo oked at th e
photo gra p h c are fu lly . H e l e ft t h e k itc h en a n d k nock ed a t m y d oor.
‘J in dié , a re b oth o ur p are n ts d ead ?’
I n odded , a n d w e b oth s a t o n m y b ed a n d w ep t. W e ta lk ed th at w hole d ay .
He w ould n’t le t m e te ll h im h is lif e s to ry , b ut in ste ad a sk ed q uestio ns. I w ould
an sw er t h em a n d h e w ould a sk m ore . H e w as p ie cin g i t a ll t o geth er f o r h im se lf .
‘W e a re a H ui f a m ily ?’
‘Y es,’ I s a id f ir m ly .
‘F ro m Y unnan ?’
‘Y es.’
‘O ur g re at fo re b ear w as D ù W én xiù ?’ H e b eg an to s m ile . ‘I th in k it w as
Pla to w ho n am ed m e C onfu ciu s, o r w as i t D ara ?’
‘P la to d ie d a fe w m onth s a g o, H an if . A nd D ara y ou m et in P aris a fe w
week s a g o. I t w as h e w ho r a n g u s.’

‘I w ill rin g h im la te r. N ow I h av e to c h oose b etw een th re e n am es. H an if
would be best, I th in k, but all m y offic ia l docu m en ts sa y C hia o -fu . A nd
Confu ciu s r e m in ds m e o f o ur y oung d ay s i n L ah ore .’
The s ilt i n h is h ead w as b ein g d is lo dged . T oo m an y m em orie s w ere c o m in g
back a t th e s a m e tim e. S udden ly h e b eg an to w eep a g ain a n d s a id w e h ad to g o
to th e h om e o f h is a d optiv e p are n ts . H e d ro ve fa st, c u rs in g th e B eijin g tr a ffic
ev en th ough h is c ar w as to o b ig a n d p art o f th e p ro ble m . T he o ld c o uple w ere
ple asa n tly s u rp ris e d . H an if b urs t i n a n d h ugged t h em .
‘I r e m em ber e v ery th in g: M y f rie n d H su an , y our s o n, d ie d s a v in g m y l if e .’
And th e s to ry p oure d o ut. T hey h ad b een a tta ck ed b y a r iv al f a ctio n o f R ed
Guard s, w ho h ad d en ounced th em a s lic k sp ittle s a n d ru nnin g d ogs o f S ovie t
re v is io nis m , s u pporte rs o f th e tr a ito r L in B ia o a n d U S im peria lis m . T hen th ey
had ta u nte d H an if . Y ou a re n o R ed G uard . Y ou a re a H ui p ig . P ig s c an ’t b e R ed
Guard s. R ep eat a fte r u s: I a m a H ui p ig , n ot a R ed G uard . H an if h ad r e fu se d to
re p eat th is , a n d th ey h ad c h arg ed a t h im w ith s ta v es a n d k niv es. H e h ad b een h it
se v era l tim es o n th e h ead , b ut a s th ey c h arg ed h im o nce a g ain , y oung H su an p ut
him se lf i n t h e w ay a n d d ie d f ro m a s in gle h am mer b lo w t o h is h ead . S eein g w hat
th ey h ad d one, th e riv al fa ctio n d is a p peare d . A ll H an if co uld re m em ber w as
lif tin g H su an o n h is b ack a n d w alk in g a n d w alk in g a n d w alk in g. T he o ld c o uple
wep t. S o m an y te ars d urin g th ese d ay s. T hen H an if s a id to th em : ‘ W hy a re y ou
liv in g h ere ? I h av e a la rg e a p artm en t. C om e a n d liv e w ith u s. O r I w ill fin d
an oth er a p artm en t n ear u s f o r y ou.’
They re fu se d to le av e. T hey w ere p ro ud o f h av in g b een w ork ers a t a tim e
when it w as a g ood th in g to b e, a n d b esid es, th ey s a id , it w as h ere th at H su an
had b een b orn a n d d ie d . T hey d id n ot w is h to m ove a w ay fro m h im . W e h ad
bought fo od a lo ng fro m a re sta u ra n t o n O xen S tr e et. H an if d esc rib ed th e a re a.
‘O ur p eo ple l iv ed h ere f o r c en tu rie s.’ H ad h is r e v uls io n f o r t h em b een c au se d b y
th e ta u nts h eard ju st b efo re H su an d ie d ? W ho k now s? N ow w e a ll s a t d ow n a n d
ate to geth er. I c o uld n’t h elp a sk in g th e o ld p eo ple w hat th ey th ought o f M ao .
The o ld m an s p oke fir s t: ‘H e fo rg ot w here h e c am e fro m a n d h ead ed o ff fo r a

dif fe re n t past.’ H is w if e w as le ss obje ctiv e: ‘I th in k back now . H su an w as
alw ay s sa y in g th at C hair m an M ao w as fig htin g th e c ap ita lis t- ro ad ers . H e w as
rig ht a b out th em if n oth in g e ls e .’ I lo oked a t H an if . H e w as s m ilin g. ‘B oth o f
you a re r ig ht, m y p are n ts . H e w as a ls o r ig ht a b out f ig htin g th e J a p an ese b an dits
as w ell a s th e K M T. O ur p re se n t le ad ers h ip p re fe rs C hia n g K ai- s h ek to M ao ,
with out re aliz in g th at th ey w ould n’t b e w here th ey a re w ith out th e R ev olu tio n.
But I c an s e e w hy t h ey ’re n osta lg ic a b out C hia n g.’
As h e d ro ve b ack , h e ta lk ed a b out H su an a g re at d eal a n d w as f u ll o f s e lf -
re p ro ach f o r n ot h av in g d one m ore f o r h is p are n ts . I to ld h im th at th ey c erta in ly
did n’t b elie v e h e h ad b een in atte n tiv e. T he n ex t f e w m onth s w ere tr u ly jo yous. I
had n ot f e lt s o h ap py f o r a l o ng t im e, i n f a ct, n ot s in ce t h e s ta rt o f t h e e v en in g i n
th e Shalim ar G ard en s in L ah ore fo rty -s ix years ag o. Y u-c h ih is th e m ost
ad ora b le sis te r-in -la w o ne co uld ev er h ope to h av e. S he ad ju ste d to H an if ’s
id en tity w ith out a n y p ro ble m s a n d e v en s h am ed H an if b y r e m in din g h im , to h is
mortif ic atio n, o f t h e H ui- p hobia t h at h is a m nesia h ad b ro ught t o t h e s u rfa ce.
I d is c u sse d S ule im an ’s lif e w ith th em , a n d w e in vite d Y ou-s h i to d in ner.
They c am e to geth er. S he s till s e em ed to o p re tty a n d a b it to o a w are o f it f o r m y
lik in g, b ut a s h er s h yness w ore o ff a n d s h e b eg an t o s p eak I m elte d . I w as h ap py
fo r th em , a n d S ule im an , n otic in g th e s o ftn ess th at h ad s u dden ly c o m e o ver h is
moth er, s m ile d t h e w hole e v en in g. H an if a sk ed w heth er s h e h ad t o ld h er p are n ts .
Both th e y oung p eo ple sta rte d la u ghin g. B efo re I a rriv ed , S ule im an h ad o fte n
sp en t th e n ig ht a t h er p la ce a n d c le arly in h er b ed . Y ou-s h i’ s p are n ts w ere b oth
univ ers ity p ro fe sso rs a n d w ere h ap py t o g o a lo ng w ith w hate v er t h e t w o o f t h em
decid ed .
‘W e’ll get m arrie d w hen w e w an t, M om ,’ sa id Sule im an . T here ’s no
pre ssu re o n u s h ere . T his i s n ’t L ah ore o r L ondon.’
There w as n oth in g m ore to s a y . S oon N eela m a rriv ed w ith th e c h ild re n a n d
sta y ed a w eek . S he, to o, it w ould a p pear, lo ved Y ou-s h i a t fir s t s ig ht, a n d th ey
becam e in se p ara b le . Y ou-s h i to ok c h arg e o f th e c h ild re n a n d w en t w ith th em to
horrib le , u gly th em e p ark s b ut a ls o to th e F orb id den C ity , w hic h w ill, I ’m s u re ,

so on b e s o ld o ff t o s o m e b illio nair e a s p riv ate p ro perty o nce t h e c ris is s u bsid es a
little . P erh ap s Z han g Y im ou c an b uy it a n d m ak e it th e c en tr e o f a p ulp film
in dustr y . T here a re th in gs th at s till m ak e m e a n gry , w hic h s u rp ris e s H an if , w ho
alw ay s r e g ard ed m e a s a p olitic al.
I d ecid ed to le av e m y b ro th er a n d sis te r-in -la w a lo ne fo r a w hile . T heir
house h ad b eco m e a h ote l. S ule im an an d Y ou-s h i to ok m e to D ali an d th en
Kunm in g. O n th e w ay to D ali th ey to ld m e th at th ey liv ed to geth er in a n o ld
ap artm en t o verlo okin g th e la k e. T he ‘o ld a p artm en t’ is ta ste fu lly fu rn is h ed a n d
very c o m fo rta b le . T hey liv e a n d b eh av e a s if th ey w ere a lr e ad y m arrie d , b ut I
nev er d is c u ss t h ese m atte rs w ith t h em .
I w alk ed b y t h e la k e o fte n , th in kin g a b out th e p ast. O ne d ay , e v en t h ough it
was s u nny a n d w arm , I f o und m yse lf s h iv erin g. I w as o verw helm ed b y e m otio n,
re m em berin g E ld er G ra n ny’s s to rie s a b out th is p la ce. I w alk ed a g re at d eal th at
day , t r y in g t o i m ag in e w hat D ali m ust h av e b een l ik e w hen S ulta n S ule im an w as
aliv e. I lo oked a t th e p eo ple a n d w ondere d w heth er th eir fo re b ears h ad b een
am ong th ose w ho h ad s to od in th e s tr e ets a n d w ep t o n th e d ay o f th e s u rre n der.
My th oughts w ere c o nsta n tly in te rru pte d b y th e n ois e o f tr a ffic a n d c ar h orn s.
Man y to uris ts v is it th is c ity w ith out b ein g a w are o f w hat to ok p la ce h ere o nly
re cen tly .
Afte r a w eek , w e w en t to K unm in g a n d v is ite d th e m use u m . H ere a n oth er
su rp ris e a w aite d m e— so m eth in g t h at I h ad n ev er e v en t h ought o f s in ce I w ro te a
brie f a cco unt o f t h e h is to ric al e v en ts i n t h is r e g io n f o r y ou. N atu ra lly t h e s to ry o f
th e r e b ellio n i s a ll h ere , b ut p re se n te d i n n eu tr a l t e rm s. V ery f a ctu al, e v en t h ough
I c o uld n’t h elp b ut f e el t h at t h e m assa cre s i n D ali t h at t o ok p la ce a fte r o ur d efe at
were u nderp la y ed . P erh ap s tim e a n d a ll th e d eath s C hin a h as s u ffe re d s in ce th en
hav e b lu nte d t h eir s e n sitiv itie s a b out t h e e arlie r p ast. I t s e em s d if fe re n t w hen y ou
vie w h is to ry fa r a w ay fro m th e c o untr y w here it is ta k in g p la ce. O fte n y ou c an
se e s o m e t h in gs m uch m ore c le arly , b ut a ls o l o se s ig ht o f o th ers , f ro m a d is ta n ce.
When I v ie w th e la k e in D ali fro m th e w in dow o f th e ‘o ld a p artm en t’ , I s e e it
glim merin g i n t h e s u n o r its c o lo ur c h an gin g w hen it’ s c lo udy, b ut t ill y ou g o o n

th e la k e y ou c an ’t s e e th at it h as b eco m e p ollu te d , o r s p ot th e o ccasio nal d ead
fis h t h at f lo ats t o t h e s u rfa ce.
As w e w ere le av in g th e m use u m I h ap pen ed to m en tio n to th e c u ra to r th at
we w ere dir e ct desc en dan ts of D ù W én xiù . T he old m an ’s fa ce lit up. H e
dra g ged a ll t h re e o f u s t o h is o ffic e. H e w as l ite ra lly t r e m blin g w ith e x cite m en t. I
co uld n’t fu lly u nders ta n d th e re aso n fo r th is till h e o pen ed th e v is ito rs ’ b ook.
This w as n orm ally th e p re se rv e o f v is itin g d ig nita rie s, a n d A ra b n am es litte re d
th e p ag es. W hat h e w an te d m e t o r e ad w as t h e f o llo w in g m essa g e:
‘W e a re th e d esc en dan ts o f D ù W én xiù . O ur g re at- g re at- g ra n dm oth er w as
se n t b y S ulta n S ule im an to C och in C hin a. S he s e ttle d th ere a s a tr a d er, w ith h er
ch ild b y h im , a n d w as p re g nan t w ith a n oth er. T hey a ll su rv iv ed . If a n y o th er
desc en dan ts e v er v is it t h is m use u m a n d r e ad t h ese l in es, p le ase g et i n t o uch w ith
us in H o C hi M in h C ity w here w e h av e a lw ay s liv ed . T here is a n oth er b ra n ch o f
th e f a m ily t h at m oved t o C alif o rn ia a fte r A pril 1 975, b ut w e d o n ot m ain ta in a n y
co nta ct w ith th em . T hese are all our phone num bers an d m y nam e is a
Vie tn am ese o ne: T hu V an .’
Now I w as tr e m blin g. T he c u ra to r o rd ere d s o m e te a. I e x pla in ed o ur ro ots
to h im a n d h e a sk ed f o r a ll th e f a m ily p hoto gra p hs to b e c o pie d a n d s e n t to h im
as w ell a s th e le tte r th e s u lta n ’s sis te r in B urm a h ad w ritte n to E ld er G ra n ny.
They w an te d to d is p la y th em in th e m use u m . T he n ew s o f th is u nex pecte d
dis c o very c au se d a b ig s tir in B eijin g a n d in I s lo o. E very one’s f ir s t im puls e w as
to h op o n a p la n e t o H o C hi M in h C ity , b ut b efo re a n y o f t h at c o uld h ap pen I h ad
to m ak e th e p hone c all. W ould T hu V an s p eak E nglis h o r F re n ch ? T hey m ust
hav e s to pped s p eak in g C hin ese a l o ng t im e a g o. I w an te d H an if n ex t t o m e w hen
I m ad e th e c all. I d on’t k now w hy, b ut I w an te d h im to h elp u s d ecid e w hat to
do. S ule im an w as a b it u pse t a n d s u ggeste d w is e ly th at I w ait a w hile a n d le t th e
new s s in k in p ro perly . A fte r a ll, th ere w as n o re aso n to h urry . W e k new w here
th ey w ere . I t h in k h e w as a ls o c o ncern ed t h at t o o m an y s h ock s w ere n ot g ood f o r
his m oth er.
Zah id , w hen I ra n g h im , u nders to od m y n eed s b ette r. I sh ould d is c u ss it

with C onfu ciu s. S tr a n ge h ow Z ah id w on’t c all h im H an if a t a ll, a n d, s e cre tly ,
Chia o -fu w ould r a th er b e c alle d C onfu ciu s. I h ad a lr e ad y n otic ed th at w hen ev er
th ere w as a ca ll fro m Zah id an d once fro m you, Y u-c h ih w ould sh out,
‘C onfu ciu s! P hone.’ A nd he w ould co m e ru nnin g w ith th e big grin th at I
re m em bere d s o w ell.
So I fle w b ack to B eijin g, a n d Y u-c h ih c o lle cte d m e fro m th e a ir p ort. S he
had n ev er k now n C hia o -fu /H an if /C onfu ciu s s o r e la x ed a n d h ap py. T hey w an te d
to a d opt a c h ild a n d h ad b eg un to m ak e in quir ie s. T he o ld c o uple w ere f in e a n d
th ey s a w th em e v ery w eek en d. M ore th an th at s h e d id n’t s a y . S he le t H an if te ll
me th at h e w as f e d u p w ith h is jo b. H e d id n’t lik e b ein g a n e co nom is t a n d w as
goin g to s u ggest to H en ri th at in ste ad o f w ritin g a s h arp a cad em ic -s ty le c ritiq ue
of th e pitf a lls in here n t in th e C hin ese eco nom y or a so cio lo gic al stu dy of
fe stiv als , h e n ow w an te d to , r e co nstr u ct th e p ath fro m 1 949 to 2 009. H e w ould
call it ‘C ap ita lis t R oad ers a n d th e R oad ’. W hen I lo oked a t h im c ritic ally h e
grin ned . ‘ D on’t r in g y our h usb an d a n d th e o ne y ou w an te d a s y our h usb an d ju st
yet. I’m n ot re v ertin g to an y cra zy M ao is m . I k now w hat all th at co st th is
co untr y , a n d u nnecessa rily . T hey d estr o yed o ur h opes. I k now th at b ette r th an
most. S o it w ill b e v ery c ritic al o f th e G re at H elm sm an , b ut a ls o o f th ose w ho
cam e a fte r h im . T hose w ho o rd ere d o ur s o ld ie rs to f ir e o n th e s tu den ts in 1 989,
th ose w ho c ru sh p easa n t u pris in gs to day ju st lik e th e c am paig n to rid C hin a o f
fle as d urin g th e C om munis t p erio d. A nd th ose w ho b uy r a d ic al in te lle ctu als lik e
we d o n oodle s in O xen S tr e et.’ I w as r e lie v ed to h ear a ll th is , a n d I th in k h e w ill
write a g ood b ook. H e certa in ly k now s b oth sid es. P erh ap s H en ri sh ould b e
ale rte d t o t h e c h an ge o f p la n .
I d id a sk w heth er if H an if g av e u p h is jo b th ey w ould b e a b le to a ffo rd th e
lif e th ey w ere u se d to n ow , ju st o n Y u-c h ih ’s s a la ry , a q uestio n th at p ro voked
only m ir th . L ik e S ule im an , his uncle had pla y ed th e fin an cia l m ark et an d
accu m ula te d if n ot v ast a t le ast s u ffic ie n t w ealth to liv e c o m fo rta b ly f o r th e r e st
of h is lif e . I a sk ed w heth er h e w ould h av e g one in th is d ir e ctio n h ad th ere b een
no m em ory l a p se . H e d id n ot k now . P erh ap s h e w ould h av e c o m e b ack t o L ah ore

an d r e tu rn ed t o p hysic s. H ow c o uld h e s a y ?
I a m still o ld -fa sh io ned en ough to b e slig htly re p elle d b y th is , b ut b oth
Sule im an a n d H an if in sis t (fu nny h ow sim ila r th ey a re in so m an y w ay s. M y
moth er u se d to s e e it, to o) th at th ey e x plo ite d th e s y ste m m ore th an it d id th em
an d n ow th ey w ill p ay it all b ack in p ro je cts th at h elp p eo ple . S ule im an , in
partic u la r, is in a s ta te o f p erm an en t s h ock a t w hat h e is s e ein g in Y unnan a n d
els e w here in th e c o untr y , th e e ffe cts o f b ela te d in dustr ia liz atio n o n th e e co lo gy
of th is c o untr y . ‘A nim als a re d yin g, M om , a n d p eo ple a re b ein g tr e ate d lik e
an im als , ex cep t in th em e park s.’ This passio nate m an ner of fe elin g an d
ex pre ssin g f e elin gs i s c o m mon t o b oth u ncle a n d n ep hew .
With H an if s e ate d n ex t to m e a n d lis te n in g o n th e o th er p hone, I m ad e th e
call to H o C hi M in h C ity . T hu V an a n sw ere d . I a sk ed w hat la n guag e w ould b e
easie st fo r h er. S he re p eate d th e q uestio n to m e. S he sp oke fiv e la n guag es,
in clu din g C hin ese , a n d w ork ed a s a n o ffic ia l in te rp re te r. I e x pla in ed w ho I w as
an d t h at I w as r in gin g i n r e sp onse t o h er m essa g e. H er s c re am s c o uld b e h eard i n
our k itc h en . T hen s h e s h oute d th e n ew s to h er m oth er. S he w an te d to g et o n a
pla n e a n d c o m e o ver im med ia te ly w ith h er m oth er to s e e u s. W e c o uld c o m e to
th em th e fo llo w in g y ear. T here w as n o sto ppin g h er, an d so I g av e H an if ’s
deta ils a n d s a id w e w ould p ic k th em u p a t th e a ir p ort, b ut r e m in ded h er to b rin g
as m an y o ld p hoto gra p hs a s p ossib le o f th e fa m ily . T hey d id n ot p ut u s to th e
tr o uble o f e ith er p ic k in g o r p uttin g th em u p. T hey a rriv ed w ith in th re e d ay s a n d
sta y ed i n a h ote l t h ey h ad a lw ay s u se d b efo re . T hey b ru sh ed a sid e a ll f o rm alitie s.
We lo oked a t e ach o th er, b ut th ere w as n o re se m bla n ce. T hu V an ’s m oth er d id
re m in d m e s lig htly o f E ld er G ra n ny, b ut t h is c o uld j u st b e m y o verly s e n tim en ta l
an d c h arg ed i m ag in atio n.
I h ad b ro ught m y fa m ily alb um to h elp H an if . E ach sid e o f th e fa m ily
dev oure d t h e p hoto gra p hs o f t h e o th er. O n s e ein g o ne o f m y m oth er a t t h e a g e o f
tw en ty -fo ur, b oth o f o ur V ie tn am ese re la tio ns la u ghed w ith d elig ht. S he w as
very s im ila r to T hu V an ’s g ra n dm oth er. W e c o m pare d th e tw o s id e b y s id e. It
was th e s a m e fa m ily . O f th is th ere c o uld b e n o d oubt. T hen th ey u nw ra p ped a

la rg e fra m ed s e p ia p hoto gra p h o f ‘o ur h onoure d m atr ia rc h ’, in T hong’s w ord s.
So th is w as w hat L i W an h ad lo oked lik e. S he w as o ld b y th en . T he p hoto gra p h
had been ta k en in 1898. T he lo catio n w as th e S aig on stu dio of a F re n ch
photo gra p her, G uilla u m e B ois sie r, w hose n am e w as p ro m in en tly s ta m ped o n t h e
photo gra p h i ts e lf . S he w as a p pro ach in g f if ty , b ut t h e b eau ty a n d t h e a u th ority o n
her f a ce w ere o nly to o v is ib le . T his w as a c o py m ad e f o r u s, a n d I w ill b rin g it
back w ith m e. I lo ve h er f a ce. S ulta n S ule im an h ad m et h er w hen s h e w as o nly
eig hte en . H ow l o vely s h e m ust h av e l o oked t h en , a n d h ow m atu re s h e m ust h av e
been to p la y th e ro le sh e d id a t th e tim e. T here w as n oth in g lik e th is in o ur
fa m ily . W e h ad n o p hoto gra p hs o f E ld er G ra n ny’s m oth er. M y m oth er s a id s o m e
had been ta k en by an Englis h photo gra p her in Calc u tta , but th ey had
dis a p peare d .
Han if ask ed w heth er th ere w ere an y o th er d ocu m en ts , b ut b oth w om en
sh ook th eir h ead a n d T hu V an ’s a n d h er m oth er’s e y es b ecam e s a d . I t e m erg ed
th at th ere h ad b een p ap ers , in clu din g a m an usc rip t w ritte n b y th e h onoure d
matr ia rc h h ers e lf , a n a cco unt o f th e D ali s u lta n ate a n d th e u pris in gs in Y unnan ,
to geth er w ith her jo urn ey to C och in C hin a an d w hat sh e had su bse q uen tly
ach ie v ed . T his e x is te d b ut w as o w ned b y t h e f a m ily i n C alif o rn ia . A s I i m ag in ed ,
th ey h ad sp lit d urin g th e lo ng w ar in V ie tn am . O ne b ra n ch , th e o ne w ith th e
arc h iv e, h ad c o lla b ora te d f ir s t w ith th e F re n ch a n d la te r th e A m eric an s. A nd n ot
ju st co lla b ora te d but pro vid ed nam es of th e re sis ta n ce an d betr a y ed th e
where ab outs o f T hu V an ’s u ncle a fe w m onth s b efo re S aig on w as lib era te d in
th e s p rin g o f 1 975. T he u ncle w as a le ad er o f th e r e sis ta n ce in C holo n, a S aig on
su burb . H e k new th e d ate o f th e f in al a ssa u lt a n d a g re at d eal e ls e , b ut r e v eale d
noth in g. H e w as t o rtu re d t o d eath .
This co nclu des th e m em ora n dum fro m B eijin g. The posts c rip t belo w
co ncern s o nly u s.
Posts c rip t
Neela m to ld m e h ow m uch s h e lik ed y ou, a n d th at w as p le asin g. S he a ls o

sa id th at y ou a n d Z ah id w ere b ondin g a g ain a n d th at sh e h eard y ou la u ghin g
to geth er i n t h e m an ner o f P unja b i s c h oolb oys. H an if w ill n ow , n o d oubt, b eco m e
part o f a ll t h at. S in ce h e m ust h av e t o ld y ou t h at t h e b ig p ro ble m i n o ur l iv es w as
my la ck of passio n— th is w as a re g ula r co m pla in t— le t m e now co nfe ss
so m eth in g to y ou, a n d d on’t b e sh ock ed if it c h alle n ges y our im ag e o f m e a s
Dai- y u, w hic h w as a ls o r e p orte d b y N eela m , w ho to ld m e s h e a g re ed w ith y ou.
Ju st to s to p y ou th an kin g y our s ta rs f o r s p arin g y ou a n e th ere al, s p ir itu al b eau ty
who f e lt n oth in g p hysic al a n d liv ed in h er d re am s, le t m e te ll y ou th at I h ad tw o
lo vers a t d if fe re n t t im es i n m y l if e . O ne d id n’t l a st t o o l o ng a n d i t’ s h ard ly w orth
men tio nin g h im . T he o th er I e n jo yed p hysic ally a g re at d eal a n d a ls o lik ed a s a
pers o n, b ut n ot e n ough t o b re ak u p m y f a m ily f o r h im . T hat a ffa ir l a ste d m ost o f
th e tim e w e w ere in D C. I tr u st th at y ou w ill n ot im part th is in fo rm atio n to
an yone, n eith er m y h usb an d n or m y b ro th er n or e ith er o f m y c h ild re n . T he s e cre t
must d ie w ith y ou, a s i t w ill w ith m e.
You’re w onderin g w ho th is p ers o n w as, an d I w ill te ll y ou. H e w as a
Tan zan ia n a g ro nom is t I m et in th e lib ra ry a t G eo rg eto w n. W e b ecam e frie n ds
an d I le arn t a g re at d eal a b out A fric a f ro m h im . O ne d ay it h ap pen ed . A nd, d ear
frie n d, w ere I to d esc rib e th e h eig hts th at m y p assio n r e ach ed y ou w ould b e th e
one s h outin g, ‘H si- m en , H si- m en .’ T he o th ers I c an e x cu se , b ut y ou k new th at
th e
Dre a m o f t h e R ed C ham ber
w as n ot t h e o nly n ovel t h at I h ad r e ad . Y ou k new
th at I w as b usy r e ad in g th e C hin P in g M ei a t a y oung a g e. S o w hy a m I D ai- y u?
Why n ot M en g Y u-lo o r a n oth er c h ara cte r lik e h er f ro m
Red C ham ber
? I o fte n
to ld y ou th at Z ah id w as a n ic e m an , b ut I n ev er fe lt p assio nate ly a b out h im .
What’ s s o u nusu al a b out th at in a m arria g e? I t’ s th e s to ry o f th e in stitu tio n; is it
not? H e p le asu re d y oung n urs e s. I w as p le asu re d b y a m id dle -a g ed A fric an
pro fe sso r, b ut I p la y ed th e r o le o f H si- m en . Z ah id , a s w e C hin ese -P unja b is s a y ,
co uld se e a b ee d efe catin g fo rty m ile s o uts id e th e city , b ut tr ip ped o ver an
ele p han t o n h is o w n d oors te p . I h ope y ou d id n’t b elie v e h im , b ut k now in g h ow
male c am ara d erie o pera te s in a P unja b i m ilie u , I fe ar y ou d id . Y ou m ig ht h av e
dis c o vere d th e tr u th fo r y ours e lf h ad y ou n ot in sis te d o n c o ffe e fo r b re ak fa st.

That o pportu nity , a la s, w ill n ev er c o m e o ur w ay a g ain .

EIG HTEEN
I
SE N T JIN DIÉ AN
ap pre cia tiv e e-m ail pra is in g her pro se to th e sk ie s an d
s u ggestin g a p ublis h er fo r h er m usin gs o n B eijin g an d Y unnan . ‘A s fo r th e
p osts c rip t’ , I w ro te , ‘I’m d elig hte d to h ear y ou h av e e n jo yed lif e to th e fu ll,
t h ough I h ope n ot a s fu lly a s H si- m en C h’in g, d esp ite y our in vocatio n o f h is
n am e m ore th an o nce. A s fo r th e re st, all I can sa y is b ette r a m id dle -a g ed
T an zan ia n a g ro nom is t th an a r a p id ly a g in g P unja b i w rite r w ho la ck s th e v ig our
o f y outh .’
Zay nab h ad r e tu rn ed t o F ath erla n d a n d w as a sk in g m e e ach d ay t o s e t a d ate
s o th at Pla to ’s pain tin g co uld be bro ught to th e house an d unveile d . She
p ro m is e d th is w ould n ot b e d one till I a rriv ed . D id I th in k w e sh ould in vite
s o m eo ne e ls e a s w ell? F or Z ay nab to a sk th at m ean t s h e a lr e ad y h ad s o m eo ne in
m in d, a n d e v en a s I w as w onderin g w ho t h is c o uld b e a n d f ro m w hic h c o ntin en t,
t h e p hone r a n g.
‘A lic e S te p fo rd h ere . I s t h at y ou, D ara ?’
‘H as Z ay nab i n vite d y ou t o h er c o untr y m an sio n?’
‘H av e y ou d ecid ed a d ate ?’
‘T hin k c are fu lly , A lic e. F ath erla n d i s a m ess. A m eric an s a re n ot s a fe t h ere .’
‘L et m e k now t h e d ate , w hen y ou’v e d ecid ed i t, a n d t h e f lig ht f ro m L ondon
s o th at w e c an s y nch ro niz e w atc h es. S peak s o on.’ A friv olo us e -m ail e x ch an ge
w ith Z ay nab f o llo w ed t h is c all:
Good id ea to in vite a fe w oth er peo ple . W hat ab out Z ah id an d
Confu ciu s, w ho w ere clo se to h im in h is L ah ore d ay s, as w ell as A lly
Ste p fo rd ? z .
Will y ou p ro vid e s e cu rity f o r t h e S te p fo rd m is tr e ss? D .

You m ean y our e x -m is tr e ss. W hy h av e y ou g one o ff h er? z .
Could Y u-c h ih c o m e a s w ell, s in ce s h e h as t o b e s h ow n L ah ore ? D .
The p arty w as g ro w in g b y t h e m in ute . Z ay nab r a n g a n h our l a te r.
‘M aste r o f t h e U niv ers e , h av e y ou d ecid ed o n a d ate ?’
‘M is tr e ss o f a ll y ou s u rv ey , w hat’ s th e w eath er lik e in S in d? A ny s to rm s in
th e o ffin g?’
‘D ara , s to p fo olin g. I’v e g ot e -m ails fro m a ll y our g uests th an kin g m e fo r
th e in vita tio n a n d g la d th at y ou in vite d M rs C onfu ciu s a lo ng a s w ell. A lly , m y
only g uest, s a id y ou w ere d is tin ctly h ars h a n d r u de t o h er.’
‘Is th ere a h elic o pte r s e rv ic e f ro m K ara ch i A ir p ort to T han da G osh t Y ar, o r
is i t c alle d
Sain
ville n ow ?’
She s u ppre sse d a g ig gle . ‘ B eh av e. U nle ss y ou s e n d m e d ate s b y to m orro w
morn in g I ’ll u nveil i t o n m y o w n.’
And th en one day w e all arriv ed in K ara ch i. Zay nab ’s bro th er had
th oughtf u lly org an iz ed a helic o pte r, an d w e w ere m et off th e gan gw ay by
flu nkey s. T he C onfu ciu se s h ad a lr e ad y a rriv ed . T he f lu nkey s to ok o ur p assp orts
an d e sc o rte d u s t o t h e h ote l’ s V IP s u ite .
‘W hy n ot V VIP ?’ I a sk ed o ne o f t h em .
‘P erm is sio n o nly f o r V IP t o day , s ir .’
‘W as t h e V VVIP f u ll? ’
He t r ie d n ot t o s m ile .
In th e V IP r o om th e B rid e o f th e K ora n h ers e lf , lo okin g r a v is h ab le , g re ete d
us. I h ad m is se d h er. T he s u n h ad d one h er g ood; s h e w as a f e w d eg re es d ark er.
She e m bra ced A lic e w ith a s h ow o f r e al w arm th . T hen s h e g av e Z ah id a s a la am
fro m afa r an d co m ple te ly ig nore d m e. I em bra ced C onfu ciu s w ith gen uin e
delig ht a n d w as in tr o duced to Y u-c h ih , s o w ell d esc rib ed b y J in dié . B re ak fa st
aw aite d u s. It co nsis te d o f tin ned an d slig htly m ould y o ra n g e ju ic e, w hic h I
warn ed th e o th ers to ig nore , b ut A lly ig nore d m e a n d d ow ned a tu m ble r o f th e

fo ul stu ff. A n hour la te r sh e w as lo okin g dis tin ctly peak y. T he ju ic e w as
fo llo w ed by so m e delic io usly sta le ch ic k en sa n dw ic h es, w ith ere d by th e
overn ig ht h eat a n d n ot re sto re d to lif e b y th e e arly m orn in g h um id ity o r b ein g
sp rin kle d w ith w ate r. O ne s n if f a n d i t w as o bvio us th at tu rp en tin e h ad b een u se d
as a b utte r s u bstitu te . W hen I p oin te d t h is o ut, Z ay nab c o lla p se d i n l a u ghte r. S he
ask ed i f w e c o uld h av e a w ord a lo ne i n t h e n eig hbourin g p ra y er r o om .
‘A re y ou s u re y our h usb an d i s n ’t i n t h ere ?’
In sid e s h e l o st c o ntr o l a n d j u st r o are d .
‘W ill y ou p le ase b eh av e y ours e lf ? I k now y ou’re in o ne o f y our stu pid
moods, b ut p re se rv e s o m e d eco ru m . P le ase t r y .’
I k is se d h er o n th e lip s f o r a v ery lo ng tim e. S he b ro ke lo ose ; w e a d ju ste d
ours e lv es a n d jo in ed o ur f rie n ds. B y th e tim e th e h elic o pte r w as r e ad y w e w ere
in n orm al F ath erla n d m ode. Z ay nab h ad h er h ead w ell co vere d , an d, I w as
ple ase d to s e e, s o h ad A lic e. S he lo oked v ery f e tc h in g in a m aro on S in dhi s c arf
em bro id ere d w ith s ilv er s ta rs . I p ut o n m y d ark g la sse s. ‘T o h id e h is m ock in g
ey es,’ I h eard Z ay nab w his p er t o A lic e. T he h elic o pte r w as w ell p re p are d a n d w e
were h an ded a b ottle o f w ate r e ach fo r th e fo rty -m in ute h op to P ir S ik an dar
Shah ’s h elip ad .
‘In c ase y ou’re w onderin g w hy th ere a re n o p ara ch ute s, it’ s b ecau se y ou
can ’t j u m p f ro m a h elic o pte r,’ I s a id t o n obody i n p artic u la r. A s t h e b la d es b eg an
to w hir r, I n otic ed a m om en ta ry lo ok o f c o ncern o n A lic e’s fa ce. A t th is p oin t
Zay nab p ut o n h er d ark g la sse s. C onvers a tio n is a lw ay s d if fic u lt o n h elic o pte rs ,
but w as m ore s o i n t h is o ne b ecau se t h e g uard a cco m pan yin g u s h ad f o rg otte n t o
brin g th e n ois e -c an cellin g e arp hones o n b oard . I to ok o ut m in e fro m m y h an d
lu ggag e an d lis te n ed to a vio lin co ncerto th at cam e to an en d ju st as th e
helic o pte r l a n ded o n t h e b aro nia l e sta te s o f t h e S hah f a m ily .
Pir S ik an dar w as a t a n e m erg en cy c ab in et m eetin g in Is lo o. H is p ers o nal
assis ta n t a n d su ndry re ta in ers g re ete d u s o n la n din g. Z ay nab w as su rro unded
im med ia te ly b y fo ur m aid s, an d sh e, Y u-c h ih an d p oor A lic e re tir e d to th e
wom en ’s q uarte r, n o d oubt f o r m assa g e a n d b ath r e sp ectiv ely . L uck y t h in gs. W e

were ta k en to o ur g uest co tta g es, w ith m in e th e clo se st to th e h ouse . I w as
gre ete d b y a r e frig era to r o verlo ad ed w ith M urre e b eer b ut d em an ded f re sh lim e
ju ic e w ith out su gar a n d a ju g o f ta m arin d ju ic e w ith ic e a n d h oney . W e m en
sh ow ere d , a n d th en Z ah id a n d C onfu ciu s k nock ed o n m y d oor. I o ffe re d th em
beer. B oth pre fe rre d th e ta m arin d co nco ctio n. C onfu ciu s ap peare d slig htly
bew ild ere d .
‘I h ope t h ey h av en ’t k id nap ped Y u-c h ih f o r t o o l o ng.’
Zah id a sk ed w heth er I h ad b een h ere b efo re , to w hic h th e a n sw er w as n o.
Neith er o f h er b ro th ers w as k now n to m e. M ost o f m y S in dhi frie n ds w ere
write rs a n d p oets a n d p ain te rs , a n d I re m in ded th em th at it w as to s e e th e la st
work o f o ne o f t h ese t h at w e w ere h ere .
‘P la to w as a m oth erfu ck in g P unja b i,’ m utte re d C onfu ciu s, in th e la n guag e
he h ad j u st m en tio ned .
‘G la d y ou’re b ack o n s id e.’
He g rin ned . ‘ I w an t m y w if e b ack .’
Lunch w as e ag erly a w aite d b y a ll, e sp ecia lly th ose w ho h ad tr a v elle d o n
Fath erla n d A ir lin es, b ut e v en t h e B eijin g T w o w ere s ta rv in g. I t w as s e rv ed i n t h e
pir
s a h ib ’s d in in g ro om . H is w if e a n d k id s w ere in E uro pe, a n d Z ay nab h ad to
pla y o ffic ia l h oste ss. A v ery e ld erly g en tle m an h ad jo in ed u s, a g re at- u ncle w ho
had h elp ed to c re ate F ath erla n d b ut w hom n obody re m em bere d w as s till a liv e.
We h ad n o d oubt o n th at s c o re . H e d ra n k a c o uple o f b eers a n d a te a h ealth y
portio n o f e ach o f th e s e v en o r e ig ht w ell- p re p are d d is h es th at h ad b een p la ced
befo re u s. W hen I a sk ed h is a g e h e s a id ‘ n in ety -tw o’ in a liv ely v oic e. N obody
was d is a p poin te d w ith th e fo od, b ut th e p re se n ce o f th is e ld er h ad a slig htly
in hib itin g e ffe ct o n t h e c o nvers a tio n.
Every e v en in g, h e w ould le ad th e p ra y ers in th e tin y m osq ue o n th e e sta te ,
fo r a c o ngre g atio n o f tw o d ozen s e rv an ts a n d a b out f if ty s e rfs w ho w ere r u stle d
up to k eep th e o ld m an h ap py. T he p ra y er w as fo llo w ed b y an im pro vis e d
ex horta tio n to th e asse m ble d to be good M uslim s an d sa y th eir pra y ers ;
occasio nally h e w ould te ll th em n ot to in te rfe re s e x ually w ith a n im als . S uch a cts

had n ot b een s a n ctio ned , a n d th ey c o nfu se d th e le sse r s p ecie s. W hen th e s e rv ic e
was o ver h is je ep w ould b rin g h im str a ig ht to th e h ouse fo r a P atia la p eg o f
whis k y befo re su pper. This daily dis ju nctiv e betw een th eo ry an d pra ctic e
ap peare d to hav e kep t him aliv e. N or w as he ungen ero us. O ne re aso n th e
se rv an ts a n d s e rfs d id n’t m in d h im a ll th at m uch w as th at h e w as to o o ld n ow to
dem an d o ne o f th eir w iv es f o r th e n ig ht a n d b esid es h e w as d olin g o ut m oney to
whoev er s a id t h ey w ere i n w an t.
He w as, o f c o urs e , a d re ad fu l b ore , b ut th is c o uld b e s a id o f m ost p eo ple
who r e ach s u ch a n a g e.
Durin g s u pper th at n ig ht h e r e m ark ed , ‘ U nle ss o ur p olitic ia n s a re le d b ack
to decen t prin cip le s w ith in te n years , w e w ill hav e a blo ody C om munis t
re v olu tio n, an d all th ese esta te s w ill be dis tr ib ute d to th ese donkey fu ck in g
peasa n ts .’
Confu ciu s c o uld n ot r e m ain s ile n t. ‘ T he s a m e w ill h ap pen in C hin a, e x cep t
th ey f u ck p ig s, n ot d onkey s.’
The o ld m an ro are d w ith d elig ht. U su ally n obody sp oke to h im ; Z ay nab
sig nalle d m e w ith h er e y es, b ut I h ad n o i d ea w hat s h e w an te d . L ate r s h e t o ld m e
th at it w as a ru le a t th e ta b le th at n obody sh ould e v er a n sw er G re at- U ncle . I
th ought th is ex cessiv ely m ean , b ut sh e h ad th at d on’t- a rg ue-th is -o ne-w ith -m e
lo ok in h er e y es. I to ld h er th at h er in ju nctio n w ould g en uin ely s h ock M r a n d
Mrs C onfu ciu s, b ecau se th ey c am e f ro m a c u ltu re w here a n cesto rs w ere lite ra lly
wors h ip ped , i n clu din g b y m an y H ui. S he w as n ot i m pre sse d .
‘Y oung m an ’, h e sa id n ow to C onfu ciu s, w ho w as in h is m id -s ix tie s, ‘I
th ought C hin a
was
b lo ody C om munis t.’
‘N o, sir . T hey ’re cap ita lis ts now an d co nquerin g th e w orld w ith th eir
co m moditie s.’
‘B lo ody g ood s h ow . D id t h ey b um p t h e C om munis ts o ff? ’
‘O h n o, s ir . T he C om munis t l e ad ers b ecam e c ap ita lis ts .’
This p uzzle d th e g re at- u ncle , a n d, a w are t h at h is p re se n ce a n noyed Z ay nab ,
he d id n ot s p eak a g ain till th e d esse rt w as s e rv ed . T his w as a s e n sa tio nal ric e

puddin g, e x actly t h e c o rre ct c o nsis te n cy . G re at- U ncle p ose d a q uestio n t h at n one
of u s h ad y et a sk ed .
‘I w as t o ld t h ere w as a n E nglis h l a d y w ith y our p arty . W here i s s h e?’
Zay nab w as fo rc ed to a n nounce th at A lic e w as in dis p ose d a n d h ad re tir e d
early . I w as su re th at th e ru sty o ra n ge ju ic e th at n one o f u s h ad to uch ed h ad
ro tte d h er in sid es, a n d th e d ead ly d ese rt d ia rrh oea g erm , p erm an en tly in s e arc h
of a n o pen in g, h ad s c o re d a m aje stic t r iu m ph.
The o ld m an m um ble d s o m eth in g s y m path etic . ‘I h ad n o id ea s h e w as ill.
Oth erw is e I w ould n ot h av e w orn m y d in ner j a ck et.’
None o f th e re st o f u s h ad d re sse d fo r d in ner, b ut w e h ad n ot p ack ed a n y
sm art c lo th es. A s w e w ere l e av in g, I w as h an ded a n ote b y a r e ta in er. I t g av e m e
in str u ctio ns f o r th e r e st o f th e e v en in g. W hen e v ery one h ad r e tir e d a t a b out te n
p.m . a n d th e g uard s w ere p re te n din g to p atr o l th e p erim ete rs , tw o o f Z ay nab ’s
maid s c am e t o m y r o om a n d w ord le ssly e sc o rte d m e t o t h eir l a d y’s b ed ch am ber.
‘I a m a ru in ed m an , Z iz i. If w e’re d is c o vere d I’ll b e k ille d a n d y ou’ll b e
marrie d o ff to tw elv e v olu m es o f th e h ad ith a s a p unis h m en t. P aris is o ne th in g,
but in th is h olie st o f h olie s w here y ou w ere m arrie d to th e H olie st o f H oly
Books, t h ere c an b e o nly o ne p unis h m en t.’
‘S tu pid m an . T ak e o ff y our c lo th es a n d g et i n to b ed .’
‘A re y ou n ot g oin g t o d is m is s t h e m aid s? ’
‘T hey ’v e s e en b ette r t h in gs h an gin g i n t h eir t im e.’
‘I t h ought w e w ere b re ak in g u p.’
‘I’v e to ld A lic e s h e h as n o c au se fo r a n xie ty . I’m s u re s h e’ll b e fin e. A nd
ple ase sto p w in din g h er u p. D id y ou k now sh e w as a d is ta n t re la tio n o f th e
Nap ie rs ? ’
‘I’m t a k in g m y c lo th es o ff.’
‘I’m w aitin g.’
‘T he N ap ie rs o f N ap ie r R oad i n K ara ch i? I t s h ould b e c alle d P eccav i R oad .’
‘It’ s n ic e y ou’re i n t h is b ed .’
‘I f e el a p oem c o m in g in m y h ead . W here o nce a c an dle s to od to lig ht th e

Kora n , a p easa n t e n te re d a n d r e p la ced t h e c an dle w ith h is o w n ...’
The m aid s t u rn ed o ut t h e l ig hts a n d r e tir e d t o t h e a d jo in in g r o om .
‘H as A lic e g ot d ia rrh oea?’
‘I c an ’t f in d y our c an dle .’
‘I’m p erfe ctly h ap py.’
‘I’m r e tu rn in g to P aris s o on. I t’ s ir rita tin g n ev er to le av e th e h ouse w ith out
a m aid . T hese t w o a re w ell t r a in ed . O ne w as m arrie d t o t h e p easa n t w ho r e p la ced
th e c an dle , b ut h e d ie d a f e w w eek s a g o.’
I fe lt k een ly aw are th at o ur re la tio nsh ip w as ab out to u nderg o an oth er
ch an ge.
At f iv e i n t h e m orn in g, t h e m aid s w oke u s u p, h elp ed m e d re ss a n d r e tu rn ed
me to m y o ffic ia l q uarte rs . F if te en m in ute s la te r th e m uezzin c alle d th e f a ith fu l
to p ra y er, b ut o ld G re at- U ncle d id n’t s tir a m usc le . T w o h ours la te r w e w ere a ll
hav in g b re ak fa st.

NIN ETEEN
A T N IN E F O RTY -F IV E W E
m oved to th e b ig h all, a n u nusu al s tr u ctu re th at s to od o n
i ts o w n, a t a slig ht d is ta n ce fro m th e o ld h ouse a n d th e n ew a d ditio ns. It h ad
o rig in ally b een b uilt a s a c o vere d m ark et s o th at th e h ors e d ealin g to ok p la ce in
t h e s h ad e a n d th e a n im als c o uld b e th oro ughly in sp ecte d b efo re b ein g b ought o r
s o ld . Im pro vem en ts in k eep in g w ith its la te r fu nctio n h ad b een m ad e in th e
n in ete en th cen tu ry . B easts of a dif fe re n t so rt asse m ble d here now . Local
l a n dlo rd s, u su ally m en o f h ars h a n d v io le n t te m pera m en t, m et h ere r e g ula rly to
d is c u ss c o m mon p re o ccu patio ns, m ain ly b rig an dag e o f v ario us so rts th at w as
s u ppose d ly p la g uin g th e c o untr y sid e. F or m an y c en tu rie s p easa n t b rig an ds h ad
c o nstitu te d th e o nly s e rio us o ppositio n to th e v ile r u le o f th eir m aste rs , w ho h ad
l o ng fo rg otte n th at th e o rig in s o f th eir o w n fo rtu nes, a s is th e c ase w ith g re at
f a m ilie s e v ery w here , l a y i n t h eft a n d p illa g e o n a g ra n d s c ale .
When th ese o utla w s w ere c au ght a n d p unis h ed , o rd in ary p eo ple fe lt g re at
s y m path y fo r th em ; s o ngs a n d b alla d s a b out th eir d eed s re m ain p art o f S in dhi
f o lk lo re . T hey h ad d efie d a u th ority , a n d fo r th at th ey w ere h onoure d . It w as
r u m oure d th at th is hall had brie fly been use d as an ex ecu tio n, or ra th er a
s tr a n gula tio n, c h am ber: th ose c au ght s te alin g w ere b ro ught h ere a n d th e lif e w as
c h oked o ut o f t h em . N ot a ll o f t h em w ere m en .
This w as a ls o th e h all w here th e la n ded g en tr y o f th e r e g io n h ad m et in th e
n in ete en th c en tu ry a n d d ecid ed th at s in ce th e B ritis h c o nquero rs h ad o ccu pie d
S in d w ith s u ch s u perio r f o rc e, a n y r e sis ta n ce w ould a m ount t o c o lle ctiv e s u ic id e,
a n d th eir h eir s w ould b e p unis h ed b y b ein g d ep riv ed o f th eir p ro perty . T hus, it
w as u nan im ously a g re ed , c o lla b ora tio n w as t h e o nly w ay f o rw ard . G re at- U ncle ’s
g ra n dfa th er had been th e m ovin g fo rc e beh in d th e decis io n. The la n ded
c o lla b ora to rs h ad p ro sp ere d . A s th e B ritis h p re p are d to le av e I n dia , th ey a d vis e d
t h eir o ld frie n ds to tr a n sfe r th eir lo yaltie s to th e M uslim L eag ue a n d th e n ew

Fath erla n d. T hey d id s o a n d c o ntin ued t o p ro sp er.
Such w as th e h is to ric lo catio n w here P la to ’s la st w ork w as g oin g to b e
re v eale d to a h an dfu l o f h is frie n ds. W e a rriv ed s o on a fte r b re ak fa st a n d b eg an
lo okin g a t th e o ld p hoto gra p hs th at a d orn ed th e w alls , in clu din g a v ery f e tc h in g
one o f th e th en -y oung g re at- u ncle o n h ors e b ack a n d a ttir e d in p olo g ear. W e
were in te rru pte d b y th e slo w m arc h in to th e sp ace o f a te am o fte n b ra w ny
peasa n ts , f iv e o n e ach s id e o f th e h uge p ain tin g. T hey c arrie d it in a n d p la ced it
ag ain st th e w all. M ore re ta in ers ru sh ed in to h elp u nco ver it. P la to w ould h av e
fo und th is b oth a m usin g a n d r e p uls iv e, b ut h om ilie s w ere r e d undan t, f o r h ad h e
been aliv e w e w ould n’t b e h ere an d th e w ork w ould n ot h av e ex is te d in its
pre se n t f o rm . I t w as t h e a rtis tic e q uiv ale n t o f h is l a st w ill a n d t e sta m en t.
Zay nab w as b eco m in g im patie n t. ‘G et th e p ap er an d card board o ff an d
open , o pen . H urry u p.’
Alic e h ad r e co vere d s u ffic ie n tly to b e p re se n t, a n d in c ase o f a n e m erg en cy
th ere w ere s ix to ile ts a tta ch ed to th e h all— one f o r e ach o f th e b ig f a m ilie s w ho
co nven ed h ere in th e o ld d ay s. Z ay nab d esp era te ly w an te d M oM A in N ew Y ork
to h ost th e fir s t e x hib itio n: h en ce h er d ete rm in atio n to b rin g A lic e o ver to J a m
Than da G osh t a n d h er i r rita tio n w ith m e f o r ‘ ra g gin g A lic e’.
Yu-c h ih , n o d oubt w onderin g w hy C onfu ciu s h ad d ra g ged h er to th is p la ce
when s h e c o uld h av e b een s ig hts e ein g e ls e w here , w as tr y in g n ot to lo ok b ore d ,
an d fa ilin g. T he re st o f u s w ere im patie n tly aw aitin g P la to ’s m essa g e to th e
world . O nce th e c ard board a n d b ro w n p ap er h ad b een re m oved , w e s a w th at it
was n ot o ne p ain tin g at all, b ut a h uge tr ip ty ch . E ach p an el w as p ain te d in
dif fe re n t c o lo urs . I in sis te d th at w e s h ould s e e e ach in tu rn , w ith th e o th er tw o
tu rn ed t e m pora rily t o f a ce t h e a n cesto rs o n t h e w alls .
The f ir s t p an el w as w hat Z ay nab h ad s e en a t a n e arly s ta g e. ‘ T he h orro r, t h e
horro r’ h ad b een h er f ir s t r e actio n, a n d s h e h ad f le d t o E uro pe t h in kin g t h at P la to
was o n th e v erg e o f in sa n ity . T he ‘h orro r’ w as u ndoubte d ly p re se n t a s th e c o re
of th e p ain tin g, b ut it w as m uch c h an ged s in ce th ose e arly d ra fts . T his w as th e
Fath erla n d p an el, th e o ne h e h ad to ld m e m ig ht tr ig ger an u pheav al in th e

co untr y . T he can cers destr o yin g it w ere pain te d as liv in g org an is m s w ith
te n ta cle -lik e atta ch m en ts th at w ere co m petin g w ith each o th er to o ccu py th e
whole b ody. I h ad n ev er se en a n yth in g lik e th is b efo re , fro m P la to o r a n yone
els e . I t w as c erta in ly o rig in al. T he c o lo urs u se d t o p ain t t h e c an cers w ere s tr a n ge
co m bin atio ns of blo od re d an d pus yello w , but each w as giv en in div id ual
fe atu re s.
Zay nab w an te d m e to e x pla in e ach s e ctio n in tu rn , th ough P la to ’s m essa g e
was c le ar e n ough. ‘It m ay b e te d io us b ut it’ s n ecessa ry ’, sh e h ad in sis te d th e
nig ht befo re , ‘in ord er fo r A lic e to fu lly unders ta n d th e co m ple x ity of th e
pain tin g.’
Ally only knew th e young Pla to ’s w ork , w hic h w as not dif fic u lt to
unders ta n d, n ot e v en t h e f o lio o f 1 964 e tc h in gs. S o, I c o m plie d — as I u su ally d id
with Z ay nab ’s d em an ds. T he f ir s t p an el, I s a id , c o uld s im ply b e title d ‘ T he F our
Can cers o f F ath erla n d’. T hese w ere lu rid a n d s u rre al d ep ic tio ns. N o s u btle tie s,
no m yste rie s to e x pla in h ere . P la to lo ved le av in g c lu es in h is o bsc u re r w ork , b ut
had n ot b oth ere d w ith a n y in th is p an el. T he m alig nan t c an cer th at h ad s p ro ute d
th re e s ib lin gs w as s h ap ed lik e a n e ag le . S ta rs a n d s tr ip es in a s ta te o f c an cero us
decay w ere ta tto oed o n th e b ack o f a n U ncle S am , lik e s o m an y w elts . T he f a ce
of U ncle , w atc h in g th e e ag le w ith a n a p pro vin g s m ile , w as u nm is ta k ab le . I t w as
Bara ck H usse in O bam a, th e fir s t d ark -s k in ned le ad er o f th e G re at S ocie ty . T he
new est im peria l c h ie fta in w as w earin g a b utto n: ‘Y es w e c an ... still d estr o y
co untr ie s’. Pla to ’s im ag e w as desig ned to be cru de, I th ought, but w as it
accu ra te ? A lic e h ad b eco m e n erv ous a n d f id gety a s s h e s c rib ble d f u rio usly i n h er
note p ad , a c le ar i n dic atio n t h at t h e a rro w h ad h it t h e m ark .
Was t h is t h e f ir s t c ritic al e n tr y b y t h e a rt w orld ? I c o uld h ear t h e s y co phan ts
hard a t w ork re assu rin g lib era l o pin io n th at P la to c o uld b e s a fe ly ig nore d . H e
was a m arg in al p ain te r, n ot a c ele b rity w ith o ver t w en ty p riz es t o h is n am e. I . M .
Malik w as a m uch g re ate r a n d m ore im porta n t a rtis t f ro m th at c o untr y a n d w as
alr e ad y w ork in g o n a p ortr a it d ep ic tin g t h e p re sid en t a s S ain t G eo rg e f ig htin g a n
Is la m is t dra g on bre ath in g m ush ro om clo uds. Com mis sio ned by a priv ate

co lle cto r, it h ad a lr e ad y b een b ooked in to s e v en m use u m s o n th e s tr e n gth o f th e
id ea a n d M alik ’s f o rm id ab le r e p uta tio n. B ut w hic h p ain tin g w ould l a st? T his i s a
questio n u su ally a v oid ed b y to ad ie s, w ho c an o nly liv e in a n d f o r th e p re se n t s o
as n ev er to b e o n th e w ro ng s id e o f h is to ry . A dep t a t s n if fin g p ow er in e v ery
sp here , w hic h is p art o f th eir tr a d e, th ey s h if t e ffo rtle ssly fro m o ne p oste rio r to
an oth er. P la to h ad n oth in g t o f e ar f ro m t h eir j u dgem en t.
The s e co nd c an cer, p ain te d in b lo od r e d a n d k hak i, a p peare d to b e s a lu tin g
th e f ir s t. O r w as th at s im ply m y im ag in atio n? I m oved b ack . I w as r ig ht. H e h ad
not w aste d m uch tim e o n F ath erla n d’s a rm y a n d h ad p ain te d th e d ic ta to rs it h ad
giv en th e co untr y in g aris h co lo urs . T hey w ere d ev ourin g b its o f th e d yin g
co untr y a s if k eep in g th e c h em oth era p y a t b ay . T hat m ust h av e b een in P la to ’s
min d, th ough n ot e v ery one p re se n t a ccep te d m y in te rp re ta tio n. Z ah id th ought it
was f a r-fe tc h ed , b ut A lic e a n d Z ay nab a g re ed w ith m e. O ne o f th e d esp ots w as
cru m blin g a n d d if fe re n t b its o f m eta sta siz in g m ate ria l w ere flo atin g in th e a ir .
The c h em o h ad d is in te g ra te d a t l e ast o ne t u m our. I t w as a ll a b it t o o m uch .
The g re en b om b-s h ap ed b lo bs w ith b eard s w ere th e jih ad is , s h ow n in s lo w
se p ara tio n fro m th e p re v io us tw o a n d d ev elo pin g a lif e o f th eir o w n. B ut w ho
were th ese fiv e b lo ate d fig ure s w ith lin ked a rm s, a ll o f th em d efe catin g g old
co in s, w ith each fig ure ’s outs tr e tc h ed han d cu pped under his neig hbour’s
butto ck s, m ak in g s u re th at th e e n ric h ed d ro ppin gs f e ll o n it, u ntil y ou g ot to th e
la st f ig ure , w ho w as e atin g th e g old -s h it w ith s u ch v ulg ar a b an don th at h is f a ce
was la th ere d w ith it? A n o dd n ose , a ty pic al d is p la y o f te eth , a p opulis t w av e
id en tif ie d t h is g an g a s p oor F ath erla n d’s m uch -d esp is e d p olitic ia n s.
The c o lo urs u se d i n th is p an el m atc h ed th e i n te n sity o f th e w ork . L ooked a t
fro m a d is ta n ce it w as s tu nnin g, b ut th e c lo se r o ne g ot to th e p ain tin g th e m ore
horrif ic it b ecam e. W hat g av e th is s e ctio n r e al d ep th , h ow ev er, w as n ot s o m uch
th e s a tir e , w hic h w as o bvio usly s tr o ng, b ut th e w all o f h um an ity w ith w hic h th e
pain te r h ad e n cir c le d t h e c an vas. Z ay nab h ad n ot s e en t h is i n t h e f ir s t d ra ft. P la to
must h av e fin is h ed it n ot lo ng b efo re h e w as ta k en to th e h osp ita l to d ie . T he
peo ple o n th e e d ge w ere p art- h ed ge, p art- fe n ce, m en a n d w om en n ot u nlik e th e

te n w ho h ad c arrie d th e p ain tin g in to th is h all a n h our a g o a n d w ere w aitin g
patie n tly i n t h e h ot s u n o uts id e t o t a k e i t a w ay a g ain .
The p eo ple in th e p ain tin g a re a ls o w aitin g. W hy a re th ey w aitin g? W hat
are th ey th in kin g? P ortr a y in g th em a s a w all, P la to is s tr e ssin g th eir c o lle ctiv e
str e n gth . T hey a re m an y, t h e c an cers a re f e w . W hat a re t h ey w aitin g f o r? F or t h e
in te rlin ked c an cers to re ach th em ? E ach fa ce re fle cts a d if fe re n t fo rm o f p ain ,
re sig natio n, a n ger, d esp air . I’m re m in ded o f h is v ery fir s t w ork , th e P artitio n
etc h in gs, b ut th is is d if fe re n t, fo r th ese p eo ple are n ot sim ply v ic tim s. T heir
passiv ity m ask s th eir s tr e n gth . W e m ay b e p oor, th eir fa ces a p pear s e em to b e
sa y in g, b ut o ur d re am s a re p ure . T here is n o b lo od o n o ur c o nsc ie n ces. P erh ap s
th ere s h ould b e s o m e. D id P la to f e el th at to o, d urin g h is la st d ay s, a s h e f o ught
ag ain st tim e to fin is h th is p ain tin g? S om e fig ure s h av e o ne h an d b eh in d th eir
back s. Is th e a rtis t im ply in g th e e x is te n ce o f c o nceale d w eap o ns? W ill th e la st
atte m pt to sa v e F ath erla n d co m e fro m belo w an d sw eep ev ery m alig nan cy
aw ay ? I d on’t k now , b ut t h at i s w hat I w ould l ik e t o t h in k w as i n h is m in d, a l a st
Uto pia n s h out. W as i t, P la to ?
There a re a fe w sm ilin g fa ces o n th e c an vas, re p re se n tin g in nocen ce a n d
hope. I n fa n ts b ein g s u ck le d b y p easa n t M ad onnas, o ne o f th em w ith a tin y m ole
belo w h er b re ast, in te n ded to re m in d u s, o r p erh ap s m e, o f Z ay nab . T he b ab ie s
are u naw are o f w hat lie s a h ead , lik e s o m an y w ho o nce th ought th at F ath erla n d
was th e fu tu re . T his is P la to ’s stu nnin g fa re w ell to th e la n d to w hic h h e w as
fo rc ed t o f le e a s a r e fu gee m ore t h an h alf a c en tu ry a g o.
We sa t in sile n ce fo r a w hile , c o nte m pla tin g th e w ork . A lic e sp oke fir s t.
‘V ery b rillia n t. N o d oubt a b out it. H is b est w ork . V ery b rillia n t in deed . S om e
atr o phy a s t h ey a g e. H e i m pro ved w ith e v ery y ear. P ro ble m s: M oM A w on’t t a k e
Obam a-a s-c an cer. T hey w ould if th e p ic tu re w ere b y a v ery fa m ous a rtis t, b ut
Pla to h as o nly r e cen tly b eco m e k now n i n t h e S ta te s.’
‘D on’t t e ll t h em ,’ s a id Z ay nab . ‘ L et t h em i n te rp re t i t a s t h ey w is h .’
‘T here is n o o th er in te rp re ta tio n. T hat’ s w here th e p ow er o f th e p ain tin g
lie s, Z ay nab .’

Yu-c h ih , w ho h ad b are ly sa id a w ord sin ce arriv in g in th is b ack w ate r,
en te re d th e fra y . ‘It’ s u niv ers a l. A ny g alle ry w ith a c u ra to r w ho k now s w hat
co nstitu te s a rtis tic m erit w ill n ot tu rn th is p ain tin g d ow n. T he H ors e T hie f is a
very la rg e n ew g alle ry in B eijin g. T hey w ould e x hib it th is to m orro w . I h ope
slid es a re b ein g p re p are d .’
‘W estw ard o r e astw ard , Z ay nab ?’ T ask ed in a w his p er. S he lo oked a t m e
ple ad in gly . I t u rn ed t h e F ath erla n d p an el t o t h e w all a n d d is p la y ed t h e n ex t. T his
was in c la ssic P la to c o lo urs . T he e n tir e c an vas w as c o vere d in w av es o f b lu e,
tu rq uois e a n d d ark g re en . W e w ere c o nfro nte d w ith a tu rb ule n t o cean . P le ase , I
th ought, n o m erm aid s. D on’t d o it, P la to . In th e c en tr e o f th e p ain tin g w as a
la rg e s h ell- s h ap ed is la n d w ith s ix m en s u rro undin g a s in gle w om an . P la to h ad
cle arly h ad t o r e str a in h im se lf f ro m p ain tin g h er a s a m erm aid . T he p ain t u se d t o
co ver u p th e ta il w as in a s lig htly d if fe re n t s h ad e, a n d h is d eath h ad p re v en te d
an y f u rth er r e to uch in g. F iv e o f th e f ig ure s, s u rp ris in gly , w ere p ain te d a lm ost in
Socia lis t R ealis t sty le . O nly o ne, lik e th e se a, w as su rre al. I m oved clo se to
ex am in e th e s u bje cts a n d re co gniz ed e ach o ne. T he o th ers fo ll o w ed s u it, a n d a
guessin g g am e b eg an . E very one k new K em al A ta tu rk , th ough h is p ortr a it w as
th e o nly s u rre al o ne. T he fa m ous h at, th e c ry ptic s m ile , th e c ig are tte , th e tilte d
fa ce w ere a ll h is , b ut w hat l a y b elo w ? H e w as d re sse d i n t ig hts a n d h is l e g s w ere
pose d i n a f a n ta stic p ir o uette . R udolf N ure y ev o r a w hir lin g d erv is h ? T he c h oic e
was o urs . I h ad n o i d ea t h at P la to h ad e v er b een i n te re ste d i n A ta tu rk , s o t h is w as
a su rp ris e — or w as he tr y in g to im ply so m eth in g th at is ofte n dis c u sse d in
Is ta n bul b ut n ev er w ritte n o r p ain te d ?
The o th er f ig ure s w ere a ls o f ro m th e w orld o f I s la m , b ut o f a v ery d if fe re n t
tim e. In te lle ctu al d is sid en ts , lik e th e m an w ho h ad p ain te d th em , a n d fo r th at
re aso n h ero es w ho h ad th rille d h is a rtis t’ s b lo od. A b lin d p oet is s e ate d a t th e
fe et o f th e o th ers . O n h is la p lie s a fa m ous w ork th at w as, in fa ct, th e o nly
paro dy e v er d one o f Z ay nab ’s h usb an d, a n d th at, to o, in th e tw elf th c en tu ry .
How w e h av e p ro gre sse d . T he p oet, A bu A la a l- M aari, is c o nvers in g w ith fis h
an d b ir d s. W atc h in g h im w ith k in dly , a m use d a n d p ro te ctiv e e x pre ssio ns a re

th re e m en in r o bes a n d tu rb an s, e ach c lin gin g to h is o w n b est- k now n w ork a s if
so m eo ne w ere th re ate n in g to sn atc h it a w ay fro m h im . T hese th re e w ere o ld
frie n ds I h ad in tr o duced to P la to th ir ty y ears ag o, w hen h e w as in h is m ost
nih ilis t phase re g ard in g th e fa ith of his fo re b ears : th e gre at sc h ola rs of al-
Andalu s a n d th e M uslim w orld , Ib n H azm , Ib n S in a a n d Ib n R ush d. T he la st
man , a n d I c h uck le d w ith d elig ht, w as t h e S ic ilia n g eo gra p her M uham mad I d ris i,
sh ow in g th em a ll h is m ap o f th e w orld . I in tr o duced th ese f ig ure s to th e o th ers ,
with Z ay nab n oddin g a b it to o v ig oro usly , a s if s h e a lr e ad y k new — one o f h er
fe w ir rita tin g h ab its , b ecau se s h e o nly d id it w hen s h e w as s u rp ris e d b ut d id n ot
wis h t o a d m it t o h er l a ck o f k now le d ge.
At fir s t th e s in gle w om an p uzzle d m e. W hom h ad P la to in te n ded ? T hen I
notic ed t h at t h e u plif te d a rm h ad a s le ev e w ith a n A ra b ic i n sc rip tio n:
Alla h, I a m
fit f o r g re a tn ess a nd s tr id e w ith g re a t p rid e / I a llo w m y l o ver t o r e a ch m y c h eek,
and I g ra nt m y k is s to h e w ho c ra ves it.
B ut it w as th e h an d th at s e em ed o dd. I t
had six fin gers . S ix er. It w as W alla d a! A te n th -c en tu ry p oet in C ord oba w ho
main ta in ed a s a lo n, n ot fa r fro m th e G re at M osq ue, th at w as th e s ite o f m an y
heate d d eb ate s o n a rt a n d lite ra tu re a n d w here g ossip -c arrie rs r e p orte d e ach d ay
on t h e l a te st g oin gs-o n i n t h e c ity . S ix er w as t h e i n su lt s h e h ad p ublic ly h urle d a t
her lo ver, a tr u ly g re at p oet, I b n Z ay dun, w hose lo ve p oetr y is ta u ght to th is d ay
in A ra b sc h ools an d univ ers itie s. Z ay dun had betr a y ed W alla d a’s lo ve by
se d ucin g h er m aid , a n d su bse q uen tly m oved o n to y oung m en . T he p oem sh e
re cite d a g ain st h im in p ublic la ck ed lite ra ry m erit— unlik e h er e p ic in d efe n ce o f
gossip , w hic h o nly su rv iv es in fra g m en ts — but w as re p eate d en dle ssly at th e
tim e f o r its s h ock v alu e, a n d p oor I b n Z ay dun b ecam e k now n in th e c ity , in deed
as f a r a fie ld a s P ale rm o a n d B ag hdad , a s t h e S ix er:
They c a ll y o u t h e S ix er,
Your l ife w ill l e a ve y o u b efo re t h is n am e d oes;
Sodom ite a nd b uggere d y o u a re , l e t’ s a dd
Adulte re r, p im p, c u cko ld a nd t h ie f.

There w ere r u der e p ith ets a s w ell, b ut ‘ S ix er’ r e m ain ed s tu ck to th e p oet till h is
en sh ro uded c o rp se w as lo w ere d in to th e m ud. T his p an el w as o bvio usly ‘T he
Good M uslim ’. I h ad r e aliz ed m y a tte n tio n h ad b een s o c o ncen tr a te d o n t h e m ain
ch ara cte rs t h at I h ad m is se d a f e w i m porta n t d eta ils . J u st b elo w t h e s u rfa ce o f t h e
se a, d eath w as lu rk in g in th e sh ap e o f sh ark -lik e cre atio ns, a fe w w ith lo ng
beard s. B ut it w as A lic e w ho m ad e th e d is c o very o f th e a fte rn oon. W hat I h ad
assu m ed w as ju st a c lo ud tu rn ed o ut to b e a m an ’s f a ce. A lic e s w ore lo udly th at
it w as Ja m es Jo yce a n d re p eate d th e n am e w ith in cre d ulity . W e in sp ecte d th e
clo ud f ro m e v ery d is ta n ce, a n d s e en f ro m w here s h e w as s ta n din g, j u st a f e w f e et
fro m th e p ain tin g, it w as o bvio us s h e w as rig ht. T here w as a ls o a n um ber, a n d
Zay nab i m med ia te ly u nders to od.
‘H is fir s t a n d la st p re se n t to m e w as a w ell- w orn e d itio n o f
Uly sse s
. T he
Ara b ic n um era ls o bvio usly r e fe r t o t h e p ag e n um ber.’
She h ad to g o h ers e lf to f e tc h th e b ook, s in ce th e m aid s c o uld n ot d ecip her
Englis h title s. A ll p re se n t in sis te d th ey h ad re ad it, th ough I k new Z ah id a n d
Confu ciu s w ere defin ite ly ly in g, unle ss C onfu ciu s had re ad it durin g th e
mem ory -la p se p erio d. It tu rn ed o ut h e h ad , a n d Y u-c h ih in fo rm ed u s th at th ere
were t w o C hin ese t r a n sla tio ns, t h e o ld er o f w hic h w as m ore l o yal t o t h e o rig in al.
Giv en th at s o m e p eo ple fin d J o yce’s la te r w ork in co m pre h en sib le , I w ondere d
what th e C hin ese tr a n sla tio n m ig ht b e lik e. H ow c o uld J J p ossib ly b e m ad e to
work i n a n oth er l a n guag e?
An e x cite d Z ay nab h ad fo und th e p ag e a n d w as g oin g th ro ugh e ach lin e.
Then s h e f o und i t a n d s c re am ed . ‘ It’ s S te p hen D ed alu s. H e’s j u st b een r e fle ctin g
on th e m ath em atic al d is c ip lin e o f th e m ed ie v al A ra b s, a n d in p artic u la r a lg eb ra
—al- ja b ra — an d its s y m bols . H e s e es th em a s “ w earin g q uain t c ap s o f s q uare s
an d c u bes” , b ut l is te n to th is : “ ... im ps o f f a n cy o f t h e M oors . G one t o o f ro m th e
world , A verro es [ Ib n R ush d] a n d M ose s M aim onid es [ Ib n M ay m un], d ark m en
in m ie n a n d m ovem en t, f la sh in g i n t h eir m ock in g m ir ro rs t h e o bsc u re s o ul o f t h e
world , a dark ness sh in in g in brig htn ess whic h brig htn ess co uld not
co m pre h en d.” ’

How had I m is se d th at? W as he in T rie ste alr e ad y w hen th e th ought
occu rre d ? T hin kin g o f th e to rtu re d h is to ry o f h is c o untr y , h is c o ntin en t a n d h is
re lig io n, h e h ad r e m em bere d a n oth er w orld . C le v er, c le v er P la to . T he p an el w as
unan im ously a w ard ed a n ew title , ‘ T he O bsc u re S oul o f th e W orld ’. J J’s tr ib ute
to a n e x te rm in ate d c iv iliz atio n a s re co vere d b y M oham med A fla tu n, d ecease d .
He h ad n ev er m en tio ned i t t o m e o r t o a n yone e ls e .
What c o uld th e la st s e ctio n o f th e tr ip ty ch c o nta in ? T here w as a s e n se o f
ex pecta tio n a s w e c ro w ded c lo se t o e x am in e t h e w ork . I t w as v ery d if fe re n t f ro m
th e p re v io us tw o. T his w as p ers o nal. It c o nsis te d o f fo ur la rg e a n d six sm all
pan els . E ach co nta in ed a portr a it or a m in ia tu re . T hese w ere pain te d sh ort
sto rie s. T w o s m all s e lf -p ortr a its o f P la to , o ne s h ow in g h im a s a y oung m an , h is
fa ce fille d w ith p ain , an d th e o th er as an o ld o ne, w ith th e can cer-ra v ag ed
fe atu re s o f th e la st p erio d. T here w as th e ta b le in th e c o lle g e c afé in L ah ore ,
aro und w hic h w e w ere a ll g ro uped i n t h e s h ad ow s o f a p ip al t r e e, w ith C onfu ciu s
th e m ost obvio usly re co gniz ab le . Satir e had cre p t in here , w ith th e m ore
re fle ctiv e ty pes w earin g sp ecta cle s, th e ta lk ativ e tr iu m vir a te w ith to ngues
han gin g out, an d m e, lic k in g m y sp ecta cle s cle an . T he m ost str a ig ht- la ced
portr a it, a n d y et fu nnie st fo r th ose o f u s in th e k now , s h ow ed Z ay nab c o vere d
fro m h ead to to e, a p io us lo ok o n h er fa ce, s ittin g c ro ss-le g ged o n a
ta kh tp osh
.
Lyin g n ex t to h er w as th e H oly B ook. S he w as h old in g a n u nlit c an dle . T he f a ct
th at i t w as u nlit w as r e m ark ed o n b y e v ery one. Z ay nab a n d I d id n ot d are l o ok a t
each o th er.
‘It m ust m ean so m eth in g, D ara ,’ sa id Y u-c h ih . ‘Y ou m ust hav e so m e
ex pla n atio n.’
‘O f c o urs e th ere is ,’ I s a id , r a ck in g m y b ra in s a n d tr y in g n ot to la u gh. ‘ It’ s
obvio us. E ven th ough P la to w as n ot r e lig io us, h e w as u nders ta n din g o f o ur f a ith
in h is la st d ay s. Y ou c an not s h ow a lit c an dle n ex t to th e H onoure d C la ssic . T he
lig ht e m an atin g f ro m t h e B ook i s a ll y ou n eed .’
Zay nab s ig hed w ith re lie f. T he re st a p pla u ded . T here w ere a fe w v in ta g e
Pla to p ain tin gs. I n o ne, a d w arf w ith u pra is e d s w ord w as g uard in g t h e p uden dum

of a c ro w ned la d y w hile a c ro w ned m ale w as h ap pily h elp in g h im se lf to h er
beh in d. T he P unja b is p re se n t ro are d w ith d elig ht. P la to w as re m in din g h im se lf
an d u s o f th e f a m ous im pro m ptu r e m ark th at h ad o nce r e d uced a n e n tir e th eatr e
to h elp le ss la u ghte r a n d p ro je cte d its a u th or o nto a la rg er fra m e. A lic e h ad n ot
heard th e sto ry an d— by n ow fu lly re co vere d fro m h er sto m ach p ro ble m s—
la u ghed w ith out r e str a in t.
A s a tir ic al m in ia tu re d ep ic te d J in dié a n d m e s p ortin g in M ughal c o stu m e in
th e S halim ar G ard en s, b elo w th e m arb le c an opy, th ough I h ad b een g iv en a f e w
Chin ese f e atu re s. I ’m ly in g w ith m y h ead o n J in dié ’s la p p la y in g w ith a f lo w er.
Sw eet b ir d s fly a b ove. A d ro ppin g fro m o ne o f th em is h ead ed s tr a ig ht fo r m y
fa ce. A s ita r p la y er, w ho l o oks s u sp ic io usly l ik e P la to , i s s tr u m min g a w ay b elo w
us. O ne o f J in dié ’s b re asts , s o m eth in g I h av e y et t o s e e, w as d elic ate ly d is p la y ed ,
cau sin g a b it o f e m barra ssm en t t o h er b ro th er a n d h usb an d. T hen I n otic ed t h at i t
wasn ’t sim ply th at. A tin y p ortio n o f m y a n ato m y w as p eep in g o ut in h ope.
Zay nab g av e m e a q uic k g la n ce, p re te n din g sh e w as co ughin g to co ver h er
gig gle , a n d s a id , ‘ I t h in k t h is i s m y f a v ourite o ne i n t h e l a st p an el.’
‘O h, n o,’ s a id Y u-c h ih . ‘ It’ s t o o o bvio us. T he u nlit c an dle i s t h e o ne I r e ally
lik e. I t’ s s o s u btle .’
I a g re ed a b it t o o l o udly .
Pla to ’s fa v ourite p oets w ere re p re se n te d , to o, a n d u nlik e h is frie n ds, th ey
had b een tr e ate d w ith p ossib ly to o m uch re v ere n ce. H ere th ey a ll w ere . F aiz ,
cig are tte f ir m ly h eld in th e s a m e h an d th at is c lo se to h is m outh , s u ppre ssin g th e
co ugh th at ofte n in te rru pte d his re ad in gs. T he oth er han d is re sis tin g th e
overtu re s o f a s o cie ty b eau ty , w hile in th e b ack gro und P la to ’s w all o f h um an ity
has b een m in ia tu riz ed f ro m t h e f ir s t p ain tin g; t h eir f a ces, f ille d w ith a g ony, p le ad
fo r s o m eth in g. A h om ag e to F aiz ’s m ost f a m ous p oem , w hose f ir s t lin e, ‘ L over,
do n ot a sk f o r th at o ld lo ve a g ain ’, is th e p ro lo gue to v ers e s th at e x pla in w hy h e
sh ould n ot. N ot b ecau se th e p oet h as f o und a n oth er lo ver, lik e p oor I b n Z ay dun,
but b ecau se ‘ th ere a re o th er a ilm en ts i n t h is w orld o uts id e t h e p ain o f l o ve’. L ik e
th e p ain o f o ppre ssio n, f e lt b y t h e p oor.

And h ere is S ah ir L udhia n vi, f ro m P la to ’s o ld c ity in p re -P artitio ned I n dia .
He w as n ot re co gniz ed b y a n y o f th e o th ers , a n d I o nly k new h im b ecau se w e
use d to re cite h is p oetr y a ll th e tim e a s y oung m en . It w as e asie r to g ra sp th an
Faiz ’s , d id actic , a n d h ad a B re ch tia n rin g to it th ough it h as s u rv iv ed le ss w ell
th an th e w ork o f th e g re at G erm an p oet. A n e x pla n atio n is u nav oid ab le . W hy is
Sah ir s ta n din g w ith h is tr o use rs a t h is f e et? H e is f a cin g u s w ith a m is c h ie v ous
lo ok o n h is fa ce a n d a d ro opin g little p en is . W e c an ’t se e h is n ak ed b ack sid e
becau se h e’s b usy s h ow in g it to th e T aj M ah al, w hic h is b ein g p hoto gra p hed b y
th e to uris t h ord es. O ne o f S ah ir ’s s h arp est p oem s is a re sp onse to h is b elo ved ,
who s u ggests a r e n dezv ous in th e m oonlig ht o uts id e th e T aj. T he p oet’ s r e p ly is
at o nce m ovin g a n d b ru ta l, d en ouncin g th e m onum en t a s th e in dulg en ce o f a n
em pero r w ho u se d h is w ealth a s a c ru tc h ‘to m ak e fu n o f th e lo ve th at w e, th e
poor, fe el’ . H ow m an y d ie d b uild in g th is a b su rd ity , a sk s th e p oet o f h is lo ver.
Ever th in k o f th em ? W ere th ey n ev er in lo ve? W ere th eir e m otio ns le ss p ure ? I n
Pla to ’s portr a it, th e T aj is cra ck ed fro m sid e to sid e, an d th e cra ck s, tin y
im pre ssio nis t b lo bs, a re p ain te d in s im ila r c o lo urs to th e c an cers d ep ic te d in th e
fir s t p ain tin g. A s f o r th e p en is , h ere P la to is s u ggestin g, a ccu ra te ly , th at th e p oet
su ffe re d f ro m a n a ilm en t l ik e t h at o f t h e m an w ho p ain te d h im . I d id n ot m en tio n
th is , t h ough A lly a n d Z ay nab e x ch an ged a q uic k l o ok.
The la st th re e fig ure s a re m uch -lo ved P unja b i p oets fro m th e s e v en te en th
an d e ig hte en th c en tu rie s, p re se n te d a s t r ib unes o f t h e p eo ple . I t i s t h e t r iu m vir a te
of W aris S hah , B ulle h S hah a n d S hah H ussa in , m ore h oly fo r m an y P unja b is
th an th e m ost d ev out p re ach ers o f a n y re lig io n. N o p ortr a its o f th em w ere e v er
mad e. P la to p ain ts th em a s a n gelic P unja b i p easa n ts : W aris S hah is re sc u in g
Heer fro m th e w ed din g p ala n quin ; B ulle h S hah is fro w nin g at m osq ue an d
te m ple an d re p rim an din g m ulla h an d B ra h m in , d one in m in ia tu re . A nd S hah
Hussa in , w ho p ublic ly f la u nte d h is m ale H in du l o ver M ad ho L ai i n t h e s tr e ets o f
Lah ore a n d w ro te l o ve s o ngs f o r h im , i s s h ow n n ak ed i n h is a rm s, b ut n ot i n b ed .
They e m bra ce in th e s tr e ets o f L ah ore a s a n a d m ir in g p ublic , s im ila r to th e f a ces
in th e w all of hum an ity in th e pre v io us pan el, w atc h es th e pair . Pla to ’s

im ag in atio n h ere re ste d o n fa ct. W hen S hah H ussa in d ie d , th e m ulla h s o rd ere d
th at h is b ody b e l e ft t o r o t i n t h e s u n, s in ce h e h ad b re ach ed K ora n ic i n ju nctio ns.
It is w ritte n th at te n s o f th ousa n ds o f th e p oet’ s a d m ir e rs d efie d th e m ulla h s. H is
body w as p ublic ly b ath ed a n d s h ro uded in th e re d c o lo ur h e lo ved a n d b urie d
with g re at f a n fa re a n d s in gin g.
The t itle f o r t h is p an el d id n ot r e q uir e t o o m uch t h ought: ‘ M y L if e ’.
It w as o ver.
Lahore — Pelio n— Sard in ia —
London,
2006–2009

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