I’m not a good teller of stories, because I enjoy listening than narrating them. Life as a child was one that had me and my siblings circle around elders and hear bed time stories. Some of the stories were of adventures, some scary and some fun. We didn’t grasp the art in narration but we took the lesson those stories came with. Whether truth or folklore, this particular story is one that I continuously see a replica of it in life. And for this reason, it necessitates that I share too.
There’s a strange feeling in the sky said one of the villagers of the land of Mundaache. It’s too dark than the usual when it’s about to rain. It grumbled as a dog would when about to bite an enemy or a stranger. But we are a land who boasts of good conduct among our inhabitants. Who could have done anything wrong? Or we are just being overly exaggerative. But truth was not far from the villager’s comment. Far in the compound of Abass, a young ill-fated man stood with his blood stained hands. And below his 6 feet tall height was the lifeless body of his beautiful wife Rahma. Rahma was a young lady of a promising future. Endowed with beauty and brains she stood a rare gem among the pearls in the land. She wore a shiny dark skin that glows when the sun rays meet her skin. Her face was relatively small, but her smile was broad. And her perfectly arranged teeth were whiter as a cotton wool. She was so much desired by the king of the land and by many well to-do men in the land. And for those who had little to match the potential of the rich, stand afar and sung her praises.
Among those who had less wherewithal, was a young Salmaan who always finds himself in the wrong place. Some believed he inherited his bad luck from his grandfather who was also fond of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When negative news flies, Salmaan will be the one sitting on its wings. And when negative actions are perpetrated, his name finds a way of becoming the commercial brand of the action. With all the twist and sour fate that smeared the personality of Salmaan, people still wondered how he caught the attention of Rahma. Some whispered that, he helped her with a cure from a snake bite. Some said he used black magic to woo her. And others said… And others said.. Just like it is in every place where people have itchy ears, stories are bound to be cooked.
Mundaache was a land blessed with many and plenty. They lived absent-poverty and penury. The land was so gentle and fertile that they were able to grow just any crop they desire. So traditionally the people of the land were farmers. But they occasionally fish too, which was usually as a form of a game. Abass was an honorable man from a dishonorable father who happens to be the grandfather of Salmaan. It’s easy to be tagged as dishonorable in a village blessed with so much because everyone works for their sustenance. But the father of Abass worked for nothing and so lived in quietude and faded with no impact, just as a dry leaf quietly falls on the ground. His son Abass however, was an industrious man who worked not just for his stomach but managed to raise a roof over his head and for his family. But unfortunately he met his untimely demise just after a year when Salmaan was born. He went fishing, and his name came back with the waves but never was his body. It was really a sad day for the Mundaache as they mourned the death of an industrious son of the land.
Salmaan grew up without his father and was so much pampered by his mother. His father Abass, had left enough to take care of a hundred Salmaan and his mother for a century. So Salmaan never bothered to learn anything. He just roamed about chasing birds and lizards. And sometimes his aimless shots landed on people, which invite some beatings and insults on him. By the time Salmaan reached a decade in age, his mom also mysteriously passed away. Some claimed she was possessed by some evil spirts after all medical attention proved futile. She hardly sleeps prior to her death. She became pail and frail. Her body becomes hot sometimes and you could see vapor coming out it. After the hassle and tussle with her illness, she finally gave in and left the world. A carefree Salmaan was not so much bothered as he went out to chase lizards and bird right after his mom was buried. The villagers began to wonder if he was normal. If he has been pampered beyond the normal? Or it’s that he is callous and has no sympathy for his mother. This was the life of Salmaan and so it remained till he became a man. If trouble doesn’t find him, he somehow finds trouble.
Good name they say is better than riches, and so is bad name worse than curses. While the former maintains your reputation beyond what money can buy, the latter also invites enemies for you beyond what curses may do. While good names may be staged, so can bad names be cosmetically stained on a person than the reality. People create what people easily buy into, feed onto and want to massage their egos with. As the villagers were wondering about the unusual sky, news about the gruesome murder of Rahma by her ill-fated husband Salmaan spread around. The villagers rushed to the house in their numbers, did no prior assessment of what happened and began to beat Salmaan. They dragged him to the chief’s palace so judgment can be passed on him. And quickly they cooked rumors that, the unusual sky was as a result of the despicable and monstrous act committed by Salmaan on his poor wife. They wailed and pleaded with the chief to pass judgment as they feared that, a delay may bring down the wrath the sky harbors and a quick judgment will be their only escape from a seemingly devastating disaster.
Salmaan has been a carefree soul right from his childhood. He wears his smile all the time and tears hardly fall from his eyes. He’s emotional, where people least expect him to be and unaffected about things they worry much about. He spoke less, associates less and careless about what is said about him. But more of what he finds or that which finds him is the trouble of his people. His name became synonymous to bad in the village. Yet of all the problems he faced, none was costlier than what has befallen him today. He has been bruised all over his body. His dark curly hair was browned by the mud that passed through his hair as he was dragged from his home to the palace. He stood wrecked, battered and disturbed in the midst of the villagers who most disliked him and his fate between the lips of what will escape from the mouth of the chief. The chief asked that the people allow him to hear from Salmaan what transpired before he could pass his judgment.
There was a brief dead silence. The villagers murmured and hummed as they await to hear Salmaan’s account of what happened, even though they already had a preconceived thought that he is the one who murdered his wife. Salmaan looked up the sky as tears dropped from his eyes but he managed to project his melancholic voice as far as it could go, so the crowd could hear him. He managed a smile even though the crowd could see the smiles were wrapped in cold emotions of pain. His pain were not just because of the torrential beatings he received from them, but rather from thoughts of why things mostly go wrong with him. He seemed to fall in a trance for once. He doesn’t feel like a carefree person anymore. He cared, he feared, he got scared and he spoke:
Indeed it’s an unusual sky today and as such for the first time I feel unusual. Happiness is a beautiful thing. We cling to it, we nurture it but sometimes we fail to give it its due. And when happiness turns sour, we always want someone to blame. Salmaan this; Salmaan that; and even when your chicks fail to lay eggs, you amplify my name in shame. Because none of you really has been responsible enough to take their own blame. My hands are stained with my wife’s blood. It was because I was trying to help her. Every day you hear noise of her shouting “don’t beat me, don’t beat me” but did anyone ever bothered to know why? We rarely sleep at night, because at night she gets possessed. She screams and yells. All I did since was to hold her down. And you guys wondered why she’s so attached to me. You have been used to the blessings of having things your way so you hardly want to accept it when seasons change. I have been used to your name shaming but today you can’t cry more than the bereaved. I have found troubles and troubles have found me but have any of you done any less? The sky is indeed unusual, because you people never take an atom responsibility of things when they go wrong.
The words of Salmaan pierced deep in the hearts of the villagers. The chief was cold and began to feel so ashamed because they have so much wronged him without doing even an atom weight probing on their own part. Salmaan turned around and took a walk to the north, away from the village. They watched him while they bow their heads in shame. He kept walking through the woods until his image gradually blurred from vision. It was the last they saw and heard of him. And a country once blessed with many and plenty, felt so scanty and empty.
This is the story of not just Salmaan, but of Fareed too, of Aisha and even Margret. We are so much quick to tie blames on people. We are so much quick to join the band wagon in shaming people without knowing anything. And in that we don’t see our lame in refusing to know everything before we speak. We happily shame and forget that, what we do in shaming without knowing it all is the biggest shame on our intellects.
©️Hamza Hajj Ayub