|The salvation of Pir Sahib 2|
"The year was 1975. The year in which Mrs Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency on the country. Political leaders were arrested. So were intellectuals, and I was among them. That was a Friday too, and the date was July 24. I was put behind bars in Delhi’s Tihar Jail and told that I would be released in a few days. I wanted to know who had ordered my arrest. The jailer just said: ‘Madam!’
"A few days passed, with no indication that I would be released. I asked the jailer to have some of my books and notebooks brought there. The good man complied, and even got me a table and a table lamp.
"When the term in jail seemed to extend indefinitely and I started feeling uncertain, I asked him in my heart: When shall I be released?"
Nayar Sahib watched me in silence. Slowly, his statement sank in. I asked: "Who is this ‘him’? Whom did you ask?"
"Pir Sahib," he replied immediately.
"And he came to me in my dreams. He had a flowing white beard and he was dressed in green. This was how Mother had described him to me. I do not remember if he was wearing something on his head..."
"So what did he say?"
"He told me that I would be released the following Thursday."
"Did he say anything else?"
"Yes, he said that he was very cold and that I should give him my chaddar," Nayar Sahib laughed.
"And were you released on Thursday?"
"No! I was very uneasy. I didn’t mind jail, for I was quite comfortable. But I wanted Pir Sahib’s promise to be fulfilled. I wanted his words to come true. As per my routine, I worked late into the night and got up late.
"The next day was Friday, September 11, 1975 and the jailer came and told me that my release orders had arrived. Surprised, I asked him when they were delivered. ‘The orders came last night. But it was late when I came on duty. You were at your table and your standing instructions were that you were not to be disturbed when you were working,’ he said.
"I almost shouted, ‘Yesterday — so the orders came on Thursday!’ ‘Yes!’ said the jailer, a little taken aback. ‘Did you get news of it?’
"Happily, I said, ‘Yes, I did.’"
Nayar Sahib had yet another episode to narrate. His mother told him: "Beta, you must go to Sialkot and place a chaddar on his grave. For he must actually be feeling cold." Her eyes were moist.
"I could not go immediately, for it was not easy to get a visa for Sialkot. But when Mother died in 1980, I felt compelled to go there and place a chaddar on Pir Sahib’s grave. When I got there, I found it was altogether a new place. Sialkot had changed. Strangers lived in our homes. Small shops crowded together in the square and it looked like a full-fledged market. But I simply could not locate the grave. I asked many people, but no one seemed to have seen it. I reached the approximate spot where the peepul tree used to be. But neither the tree nor the grave was there.
"I kept running into this shopkeeper who said that he had never seen a grave there. The day I was to leave, I met him outside the market and he asked whose grave it had been. I told him that it was the grave of a Pir Sahib in whom my mother had believed. After some hesitation, he told me: ‘Yes, there was a grave next to our shop. We were mohajirs (refugees). We had to live in the shop. There was hardly any room, so we removed the grave. The needs of life snatched away yet another grave.’
"I returned to India and one day, I went and placed the chaddar that I had taken to Sialkot at the dargah of Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi."
"Did you ever see Pir Sahib in your dreams again?"
"No. Often, I wished he would come to me when I was troubled. I wanted to ask him something, and I knew that he would have had the answer. But I never saw him again. It seems Pir Sahib found his salvation with Mother."
from the Urdu story ‘Kuldip Nayar aur Pir Sahab’ by Nirupama Dutt
Poet, filmmaker and lyricist, Gulzar is celebrated as much for his contribution to Indian literature as to Indian cinema. He lives in Bombay and writes in Urdu and Hindi