One day, the stock exchange of religion opened up in the market of fruits. The price of humanity kept falling lower and lower in proportion to beliefs. Instead of exporting more mangoes, bananas and yeast, exports of ‘jihad’ began to increase.
Even the attitudes of sweet-smelling fruits of the fruit basket became bitter. And after the US captured the Afghan market, the injured and rotten fruits of jihad returned to the fruit basket to take refuge there and no one knows better than the inhabitants of Quetta that one rotten apple in a crate spoils all the other good apples.
THE FRUIT BASKET THAT REEKS OF BLOOD
by Sajjad Hussain Changezi
A CHILDHOOD MEMORY
“Baabi (father), if Karachi is the city of lights and Lahore is the city of the lively, then what’s special about Quetta?”
“Bacheem (son), all these fresh melons, grapes, nectarines, watermelons, and these almonds, walnuts, chilgozas, apricots, peaches and apples, did you forget all those, silly? Quetta is famous for its fruits. Mangoes, bananas and yeast are exported from here to Afghanistan and beyond…”
A JOKE OF ADOLESCENCE
Speaking to a girl from Wazirabad in Punjab, “We are scared of you Wazirabadis.”
“Because you belong to the city of knives and forks and we come from the fruit basket.”
THE FRUIT BASKET
The city of Quetta was truly a fruit basket where people from different social classes, races and languages lived together with semi-tribal, semi-urban fraternal values.
Quetta’s Jinnah Road holds the same level of importance, if not more, as Lahore’s Mall Road. The oldest two-lane road has colourful, lighted shops on both sides and in the centre, plants planted by the municipality. A private bank is situated on the same Jinnah Road where Father, after military duty in Bengal and imprisonment in India, worked as a security guard. Sometimes I used to accompany Father to the bank and watched him water the municipality plants. I can never forget Father’s friend Khaliq Dad Kakar Chacha’s loving face. He affectionately translated my name ‘Sajjad’ to ‘Shehzad Khan’ just for himself. He had an apple orchard in Muslim Bagh and every year we used to receive crates of apples from his orchard.
THE CITY OF TURBULENCE
Then one day, the stock exchange of religion opened up in the market of fruits. The price of humanity kept falling lower and lower in proportion to beliefs. Instead of exporting more mangoes, bananas and yeast, exports of ‘jihad’ began to increase. Even the attitudes of sweet-smelling fruits of the fruit basket became bitter. During those days when the US and the NATO troops were trying to attack the Taliban hundreds of miles away, I remember Father telling me not to get involved in any political discussions in public.
After the US captured the Afghan market, the injured and rotten fruits of jihad returned to the fruit basket to take refuge there and no one knows better than the inhabitants of Quetta that one rotten apple in a crate spoils all the other good apples.
Distances and doubts began to grow between the brotherly people of the city and the mourners of Quetta had to erect sabeels on their own. Then, bomb blasts were introduced to the city.
During those years, a dictator’s personal and institutional arrogance actually killed a leader of a tribe in such way that it still remains a mystery. In the following years, sometimes political leaders were gunned down and sometimes it was comedy drama writer Hussain Ali Yousafi who was shot down or another time, the earth was coloured with the blood of invaluable teachers like Professor Saba Dashtiyari.
Over the years, Quetta received wound after wound. In the completion of the city of sorrow, the phase where buses were constantly stopped on the way and the Hazara vegetable vendors bringing fruits and vegetables from the Hazar Gunji Sabzi Mandi were offloaded from the buses and shot dead one by one.
What has been lost and found on the journey of Quetta from being the city of fruits to becoming the city of turbulence is a long debate. Just consider that the previous generations of Quetta enjoyed fruits and now the orphaned son of the poor vegetable vendor Ali Baksh tells his mother, the widow of Ali Baksh that “Mother, I don’t want to eat fruits. They reek of blood.”
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