I don’t remember which exact day or date it was but I found my body, dead, lying in a funeral parlour. My soul was sitting on an armchair (invisible from the crowd), and busy, smoking a Cuban cigar and driving pleasure from the scene. Friends were gathered around the coffin; some were really sorry and shocked, while others were shocked and sorry because they knew the guy who owed them money and who was no longer alive. Now their debts were unrecoverable, which represented great and collective loss.
Few were there because they felt it’s my first right and their last duty, others joined them thinking it would be a good get-together. It was a reasonable crowd of believers and atheists, bidding farewell to their mate, a friend who was for some a poet and author, albeit a second class one. For the rest he was just an idiot.
My old friends Ali and Binu, both well aware of the evolution of my thoughts, were silent and stood there silently praying in their hearts. My death taught me one interesting thing: now I was able to read people’s mind and listen to their whispers. Ali was saying in his heart “Allah should forgive Kaleem’s sins, especially those of his apostate era. After all, he was a born Muslim, and there was time when he used to pray and never missed Ramadan fasting.” And there was one more argument which he presented before God’s virtual court: “He was the progeny of practicing Muslim parents”. While he saw devotion in his appeal, even I felt sorry – of course not for my sins, but for Ali.
Binu was praying for my salvation as well, with all the devotion of a good Christian to his God. I was wondering, which God, even if there were one, was going to grant salvation: the God of the Muslims or Christians? Both men were still praying when Ali’s mobile rang, breaking the sequel of this occasion. The phone call distracted him, and now he was busy trying to convince the party at the other end that he was the best lawyer to deal with their personal injury claims.
My old drinking companion, Mr Butt, a gentleman with a golden heart, a booze lover but still a believer, and the book keeper of my debauched episodes, was crying intermittently like a new born baby. Meanwhile my mate, Comrade Warraich, was trying to console him with logical talk. This time I felt sorry for my death.
The mourning was still going on when someone from the staff of the parlour carefully said to his colleague “these Asians mourn a lot”. No one could hear this, but I most certainly did. Why? I just told you! I got this divine strength right after my death, which alive human beings are deprived of, and I can still remember what John Keats had said more than a century ago: “Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter, so go on”. I think I have started listing the unheard ones. This was obviously not sweeter.
When the news of my departure reached the current residents of No.4 Dunedin Road, I assumed that people would rush towards that funeral parlour, but that turned out to be an intellectual error. “Doctor” got the news, but attending a funeral was for him loss of time, and time was always money for bourgeoisie. Another bearded man read a Quranic verse aloud and then went to his job. He worked as a security guard, and the death of an agnostic was no reason to deprive Her Majesty’s subjects of their safety. That was simply not a logical choice at all.
Ammad, a good friend whom I had always cared for as an elder brother, couldn’t come because of a genuine reason. Of course, a date with a pretty bird cannot be canceled for any brother’s funeral.
My lawyer, the custodian of my will, finally arrived and instructed the parlour staff according to my will, that I should be “cremated with all my books and papers and with strictly no religious rituals”. The parlour staff was getting ready for this when word reached the crowd and caused an uproar. Immediately, my will divided the attendants into two camps: one believer and other nonbeliever.
The believers were insisting on my burial with full religious rituals; meanwhile the people from other camp were arguing that we should respect the will of the deceased – after all, that was his last wish on earth. But the faithful were not ready to accept any argument of infidels; they started threatening them with the fire of hell after their respective deaths. I laughed. Gradually voices were raised and arguments were transformed into abusive debate, causing much nuisance all around. The manager of the parlour appeared on the scene because of this noise pollution.
Suddenly the fight stopped, not because the manager was carrying a machine gun but because she was hot enough to throw a crowd into silence. Once again, John Keats was whispering in my ear “a thing of a beauty is a joy…” It was a nail-biting moment. First I merely caught a glimpse of her; then I started to see her body in detail, inch by inch, like reading a holy book word by word, I imagined. (You see, I might have been dead but my habit of imagining things was still with me . With those vital statistics, she could seduce not only the faithful but a holy angel as well, if there were any.
Then, I turned to the crowd again. Believers, as always hungry for virgins from heaven were standing with their mouths stark naked – sorry, I mean ‘open’. It was forbidden for them to see a woman in this fashion, but Satan was definitely blessed with exclusive powers. It was allegedly satanic wisdom which caused Adam’s and Eve’s deportation from the heaven… alright, alright, only IF there is any personality called the devil.
Humans, all too human, were fighting, and the manager of the parlour was stunned. Perhaps it was her first experience of this sort of behaviour. Among my friends I caused this division posthumously. After all, I didn’t mean to upset anyone: my wish for cremation was just a wish. And when it became too unbearable for me to see people fighting over my dead body about this trivial issue, I wanted to end this embarrassing situation immediately. Suddenly I shouted at the top of my voice “Stop it please”. But to my wonder, no one looked at me. I thought they were ignoring me for some reason. I shouted again, this time louder than before, but no one could notice my yelling. Then it dawned upon me: death had made me silent forever. I had lost my voice.
By K S Sial