“We want to tell others that when such and such happened, I was there. As if that would increase our own significance.”~Shuntoo
“Advice is just something one might consider, evaluate and then reject. To save time, I usually skip the first two steps and simply reject it.”~ Shuntoo
“I am a peace loving person. But if you think all weapons should be banned, start with tears and guilt attacks. These weapons don’t kill you; they make your life a living hell. When you succeed then talk to me about nuclear bombs.” Shuntoo
“Perspective is very important bachhay. If someone above you keeps pushing you down, treat him as an enemy. Friends pull you. But then make sure that the friend pulling you is actually above you. A friend pulling you from below will have the same effect as an enemy pushing you from above albeit with different intentions.” Shuntoo
Our friend had been going on and on about the news that there was an imminent threat of terrorism in the F-7 market within the next few days. He made sure that he left no doubt in our minds that the danger was real and that there was little anyone could do about it.
Honestly speaking, I was a little upset by the possibility of a bomb going off near my house and was more than a little disturbed by his insistence that the security agencies had no clue how to prevent the attack. A little less honestly speaking, I was not surprised by the fact that Shuntoo was completely ignoring our friend’s animated warnings and was quietly staring at something in the air, which a mere mortal like me could not even see.
I was also not surprised when our friend couldn’t stand Shuntoo’s lack of reaction and asked him in a pretty unfriendly tone “Don’t you have the least bit of emotion in this arrogant mind of yours. You always think you are so cool and wise. Well? Why don’t you do something about these terrorists in our midst?”
Shuntoo looked at him with the most cynical and at the same time patronizing smile in the history of the world, quietly picked up the phone, dialed a number and when the line was answered, he said “Hello! Is this the police station? Hi, I am a concerned citizen of this wretched country. I just wanted to inform the authorities that there is a terrorist in my house.” Then after a pause, he continued, “Of course I am certain.” To my utter disbelief, he went on to give the address of my house, where we were sitting, and then hung up the phone.
Both of us looked at Shuntoo with our mouths open and neither of us had any clue how to express our feelings.
“There!” Shuntoo said calmly. “I’ve done my bit. You see, my friend, there is a difference between a murderer or a warrior and a terrorist. The primary aim of a terrorist is to spread fear, to terrorize people, to scare them so that they are afraid to get out of their homes, afraid to live their lives freely, afraid to be happy. And it is people like you who are doing this job with the greatest efficiency, people like you and the frigging media. Broadcasting news of imminent threats, of so many terrorists entering the city, of the possibility of a bomb attack, without ascertaining the facts, without being able to do anything about it, without giving a solution, simply scaring people. That’s why I called the police and informed about you.”
Our friend’s face was ashen now as he contemplated the arrival of the police for him, but his anger overcame his fear, and he got up, took a couple of steps towards Shuntoo and said “Are you insane? You think the media or people like me have created this problem, terrorist attacks are a reality, my friend! People are dying.”
Shuntoo looked towards him in the same sarcastic manner and lighting a cigarette, softly said “Far more people die of smoking, road accidents and tension every year than by terrorism. Why don’t you scare people from these menaces? You stick to bombs and suicide attacks helping the terrorists in their job. Anyway, pyaarey!” Shuntoo said and I thanked God, he addressed me as bacchay, since pyaarey was even more disgusting.
“I think my views are the least of your problems right now.” Shuntoo continued. “The police will be here any minute. Better run.” Our friend suddenly realized he was in a fix, and without saying another word, he went out.
As I heard a police siren five minutes later, I looked at Shuntoo in disbelief.
“Relax bacchay!” he said lighting another Marlboro, “I am not that crazy. Must be an ambulance or something.”
“Let’s just say that when you meet a person who knows every detail of Malala’s story and even her day-to-day activities but cannot say with any degree of certainty what his daughter is doing with her life, run from him. Run from him or if you have enough courage and enough time, go to his house and smash his TV to pieces.”~Shuntoo
I was perturbed. Perturbed by everything. Everything that is going on around us. Although, as usual, I did not want to get into a conversation with Shuntoo, I, as usual, ended up sharing my views with him.
As he sat in his customary style with a I-don’t-give-a-shit look, I told him “This country is fast moving towards a hopeless state. I don’t think things are likely to improve in any near future. The government is pathetic and corrupt, people don’t care anymore, nobody is even trying to do anything now. And you, Shuntoo, you are the most pathetic of them all. You don’t care if this country burns to the ground. You just want to keep up this arrogant impression of being above all this. You know what? It is people like you who are the most to blame. People who are educated and aware but still refuse to get off their lazy, insensitive butts.”
Shuntoo smiled and said. “There there bacchay! That is the whole problem. You don’t think. Please review what you have said. Every single sentence in your speech was a judgment, an assumption. Assumptions about where this country is heading, how people feel, what my thoughts are, who is to blame. You did not even mention any intention to start trying to figure out if there is anything you yourself can do. That is the problem. We are in so much of a hurry to draw conclusions that we don’t have any time to see if they have any semblance with reality and absolutely no time to find out what we can do. Hence, nobody does anything.”
His answer annoyed me but I realized that the son of a bitch was right, at least about what I had just said, and that, as usual, annoyed me more.
But, I wonder.
Shuntoo loves animals
“Do you have any love for your fellow humans at all?” I knew I was stepping on dangerous territory asking Shuntoo such a question but I couldn’t help myself. His devil-may-care attitude towards the plight of humanity, especially his countrymen, is unfathomably disdainful. I just couldn’t digest the fact that he did not feel the least bit of discomfort as hundreds of people died in terrorist attacks around him.
His answer converted my disturbance into downright anger. He looked at me, smiled and said “ Of course I love humans bacchay! It’s just that most of the time, I love animals more. I respect animals more. I think they are better beings than us.”
“Now, you only said that to irritate me, didn’t you? I mean, who can disagree with the fact that humans are superior to animals. And I am fed up with your arrogant, crappy logics, so don’t start on some irrelevant, snobbish monologue. You have to admit that we are at least more intelligent than animals.”
Shuntoo put his cigarette out in the ashtray, lit another one (a sign that he was getting serious) and looked at me in a manner which was more fatherly than friendly.
“Listen bacchay! For your benefit, I will limit my arguments to an intellectual comparison. Do you know why humans are generally considered more intelligent than animals?” Without waiting for my response, he continued.
“The thing is that animals have limited brains, which are mainly just capable of generating immediate responses to situations so that the animal can react quickly and survive in this battle for the fittest. Humans, on the other hand, have much more developed brains, which in addition to producing immediate responses like animals, also have the capacity to rationally analyze the situation later and re-evaluate their instant reaction.”
“Excuse me Shuntoo!” I interrupted. “I think that your arguments only prove my point. You have yourself proved that humans are superior to animals.” I couldn’t believe it. For once, Shuntoo had erred and played right into my hands. I was on the verge of proving him wrong. It was a strange feeling of elation, one which I had never experienced before. Alas, it was short lived.
“I am not finished bacchay!” he continued calmly. “I am just talking about our capacity and what should ideally happen. Now, lets see what actually happens. Our brains do come up with instant responses, perceptions and judgments on all kinds of situations that we encounter. These range from emotional reactions to views about art pieces to judgments about other people. The trouble is that generally, we never reassess these views. Instead we stick to them and take great pains in trying to convince others and ourselves that these perceptions were absolutely correct. Even if we are later presented with contrary evidence, we are rarely ready to change our initial view. Little do we realize that these instant judgments had nothing to do with our intellect and were mere reflections of the lower and simpler part of our brain.
“Animals on the other hand, are not bothered at all about proving their views’ correctness. The moment they face new evidence, they take it as a new situation and come up with new appropriate reactions. Animals are animals and have no problem with it. We are egotistical assholes and don’t even know it. In fact because we have such oversized egos, we seem to be proud of everything our brains come up with it, including the fact that we have oversized egos. That is why I respect animals a bit more.
“I could go on further, but I have had just about enough of you for today.” Saying this, he put his cigarette out, winked at me, got up and left.
I am not completely convinced by the son of a bitch’s argument.
But I wonder.
Now don’t take it as any disrespect for the son of a bitch, but Shuntoo rarely says something that adds to my knowledge. Most of his comments are ridiculously honest opinions of a person whose sanity is, at best, doubtful.
Yesterday was an exception though. For once, I learnt a little from him, albeit about a subject I have never been interested in nor intend to be, at least in this life, that is, Greek Mythology.
My readers might be much more knowledgeable on the subject than me but I did not know about Cassandra. Shuntoo and I were sitting in my lounge and I was telling him of my views on the Kerry-Lugar bill and generally on the implications of US influence on Pakistan. He stayed quiet until I had finished and then simply said “My dear Cassandra! You are not the only one of your kind in this wretched country, but unfortunately you are all cursed.”
Maybe I should have been glad that he had not addressed me as ‘Bacchay!’, but somehow I felt more uncomfortable with this new title. So I asked him what he meant by Cassandra and he told me the myth.
Cassandra was the extremely beautiful daughter of the Queen of Troy. Apollo was so impressed by her beauty that he gave her the gift of prophecy. With the help of this gift Cassandra could foresee future events and could forewarn people about any impending dangers. However, when Cassandra did not return Apollo’s love, he became angry and placed a curse on her so that no one would ever believe whatever she said. As a result, the gift of prophecy became only a source of frustration for the poor girl as she always knew of approaching disasters well before time but could do absolutely nothing to prevent them as nobody listened to her.
Shuntoo said “US influence will destroy our sovereignty, lack of education, health and employment will ruin our future, environmental damage will bring an end to our planet, our attitudes will completely destroy the social fabric, our sins will lead us to hell. I know you are aware of all these things. So am I. But my dear Cassandra! Do not mention these things to me again. I hate being frustrated and I detest useless conversations.”
Shuntoo’s Philosophy- 1
Shuntoo and I were sitting silently in my lounge, when a mutual friend of ours walked in. I could tell from his face that he was extremely anxious to tell us something. I could also tell from his face that he was extremely irritated on seeing Shuntoo, whose presence gave the room an air of discomfort. His inner battle was eventually won by his urge to tell us whatever he knew, and his better sense that must have been screaming at him to wait till Shuntoo left, had to shut up.
“My God! You wouldn’t believe what I just saw.” This was his way of preparing us for the dramatic news he was about to break.
As I pretended to be pretty enthusiastic about whatever he wanted to say, Shuntoo did not even acknowledge his presence.
“I was driving here when I saw a huge mob of people gathered on the side of the road. I was curious so I slowed down my car and my God! It was a horrible scene. A truck had rammed head-on into a Honda and the car was totally crushed…….totally. There were four guys in the car and not one of them survived, died on the spot. And guess what, the truck driver had run away. A few of the people who saw the accident chased him and I am sure would have caught him, but it was a horrible accident, man. Horrible.”
Although I did not, for a single moment, think that this was that unusual an incident, I played along and showed the appropriate reactions to complement the excitement of my friend. All this time, Shuntoo kept smoking and looking into the air as if he were alone in the room. I thought that that was a blessing since it was much better than him saying something utterly obnoxious.
But some people walk around carrying a death wish, and our friend was one of those. So, to my horror, he addressed Shuntoo and said, “Are you even human, Shuntoo? Don’t you find this even remotely disturbing?”
Shuntoo took a long puff of his cigarette, smiled at our friend, and spoke in a patronizing tone “Actually, I find it extremely disturbing.”
“Then say something”. Now this was unbelievable. Talk about Aa bail mujhe maar.
Shuntoo smiled again and I reproduce what he said “Okay! I find it pretty disturbing that although you reached the scene of this accident some minutes after it had happened, you still tell us such vivid details of the whole thing. So, either you have some supernatural power to look into the past, which is disturbingly scary or you just heard these things from those morons who were gathered at the scene or worse still, you made them up yourself and are now telling us as if you saw them in cinema scope, which is disturbingly pathetic.”
Our friend was shocked. “What the hell!” was all he could say.
“Relax bhaee!” Shuntoo continued. “You know bacchay!” he was addressing me now in the familiarly annoying manner.
“It is a mistake to believe that the biggest fear for us humans is the fear of death. No! By far the biggest fear one can have is the fear of insignificance. All of us are afraid of being insignificant. Most of our efforts are for gaining significance. We want to be somebody. We want money, a nice car, a nice job, house, gal, power, status all to get rid of that one nagging complex…. That we are nothing. And that is exactly why we act in the moronic fashion that our friend here did. Whenever we see a group of people gathered anywhere we stop our cars, regardless of whatever we were doing or wherever we were going, which in turn shows how unimportant our lives and our jobs are, and we become a part of the idiotic mob. We just want to be a part of that moment. We want to tell others that when such and such happened, I was there. As if that would increase our own significance.”
He turned towards our friend and said “Don’t be mad yaar. Truth always hurts. But I must say, what makes me sad is not that you are also afflicted with the same insignificance complex that everyone else seems to suffer from. What really brings me down is that you chose an event as stupid as a road accident to satisfy your psychological needs. That’s is sad. You must feel really really small, nahi?”
Our friend got up and left. And we continued our company of silence.
Shuntoo is Sick
I got a weird feeling when I heard that Shuntoo was ill. Maybe the reason was that deep in my heart I never considered him a mere mortal. He always comes across as something else, someone not from this planet, someone from a world far far away where people are very different and much much more irritating.
Anyway, I heard that he was in the hospital, and had this inexplicable urge to visit him but I convinced my humane side that, knowing Shuntoo, that might be a bad idea. So I just waited. But when he did not show up for a week, I got a little worried (Oh! How I regret that!) and decided to go check on him anyway.
When I reached the hospital, I somehow expected him to be pleased on seeing me (I guess I will never learn). Instead, I was greeted at the reception by one of the most unfriendly looking nurses on the face of the earth. When I asked him where I could find Shuntoo, she eyed me like I was a new species of insect that she had just discovered in her backyard and which she found more disgusting than intriguing. She looked at me like that for about five seconds, then opened a drawer, took out a sheet of paper and pushed it towards me, while she went back to whatever she was doing.
This is what I found written on the sheet. The words within brackets are my own.
Dear Friend, Relative, Colleague or Whoever you are
If you have not come to visit me and have been handed this sheet by mistake, please return it and go ahead with your own business. (Not falling in this category, I read on).
If you have come to ask me what happened, I came down with a serious stomach virus, the result of something I ate from a roadside stall. I kept vomiting and shitting for three days after which I was brought to this hospital suffering from severe dehydration.
If you are interested in my present condition and my future, I feel much better now and the doctors say I will be discharged in the next couple of days.
If you intend to give me some crappy advice, I already know that roadside stalls are a risk and I am not interested in any frigging medicine or desi totka or a better doctor or hospital or Hakim that you know.
If you have come to cheer me up, you can do that best by returning. I am in a pretty cheerful mood and seeing you will probably ruin it.
If you have brought fruit or flowers or something of the sort take it back and give it to someone who gives a shit. Or leave it at the reception and I will make sure it gets to such a person.
If you have just come to fulfill your obligation as a good human being, relax. Your greatness has been noted and will be duly forgotten and ignored as most such actions are.
If you have come for any other purpose, please note that I don’t care and will highly appreciate if you leave me alone.
And finally, if you have some extremely urgent business (which I seriously doubt) you can call me on my cell. In case you don’t have my number, it shows that you are not very close to me and hence should mind your own frigging business. And please remember, if you call me and your business does not turn out to be extremely urgent, I might lose my temper and will not be responsible for the consequences.
I stared at the paper for about five minutes after I had read it. Then I returned it to the nurse, thanked God I hadn’t brought flowers or anything and returned. In case you are wondering, I did not call him. I doubt if anyone did. The sick sick bastard!
Its just Shuntoo
Shuntoo and I were watching the news together last night. I could see the genuine pleasure on his face as the newscaster explained in great detail how our cricket team had made us proud by winning the World Cup and how this had come as a welcome respite from all the tragic reports pouring in from all over the country in the last few years. His smile widened as the celebrations all over the country were shown.
And then came the news about the death of two persons from bullets fired as a part of the celebration in Gujranwala. And Shuntoo started laughing aloud. He laughed so uncontrollably that tears came to his eyes. He doubled up and continued to laugh for so long that I became more than a little annoyed at this ridiculous reaction to a tragic piece of news.
Finally he got himself under control, wiped the tears from his eyes and said “Poor poor rascals! When they are not killing each other on purpose, they kill each other by mistake. That’s unbelievably funny; I wonder how you can stay so serious bacchay! It is hilarious. Reminds me of the elections. When we didn’t get Musharraf or Zia by force, or BB or Mian on purpose, we got Zardari by mistake. Nations that are not sure of what they want or how to go about their business, always end up like this, no? Pakistan might also be shot by a stray bullet one day.”
And he started laughing again. I thought it best not to continue this conversation.
“I think you should take your job more seriously Shuntoo. If you continue like this you will never get anywhere in life. I know you will have a hundred and one weird arguments to prove that your way of life makes sense, but take it as a sincere advice from a friend. Get serious.”
I knew advising Shuntoo on anything was an exercise in futility but I couldn’t help it. It was the third successive day that he had come to my place at around eleven in the morning. I don’t have a regular job but he does. And it was actually perturbing me to watch him take it so lightly.
Instead of a logically senseless rebuttal to my suggestion, Shuntoo simply said “Ok!” without even looking at me. “Does that mean you are gonna get serious about your job now?” was my excited response. “No!” he said in an indifferent and a little surprised tone as if taking one’s work seriously was one of the dumbest things he had ever heard.
“You’re not paying any heed to my advice then?” I was a little annoyed.
“Are you a religious man, bacchay?” I felt as if a train had suddenly started whistling and running in my brain. His arrogant behaviour and this patronizing manner of calling me bacchay always gets on my nerves. I wonder how much longer could I tolerate this. “I mean do you believe in God and the Day of Judgment?” he continued.
“Of course I do. I am a Muslim.”
“Good!” he approved. “Now what do you think would be God’s reaction if he asked me about some action of mine and I responded that I did it because you had told me to? Do you think that would count as a justification and I would be saved from any undesirable consequences of my actions?”
“Of course not” I said. “But that’s no reason to …….”
“What about law?” he continued ignoring me. “Does any court in the world absolve one of a crime if he can prove that he did on someone else’s advice?”
“No”, I said, “but you see…….”
“Even when we were children” the annoying bastard continued, “my parents or teachers never entertained the excuse that some mischief was done on another’s advice.”
“What the hell are you trying to prove?” I shouted.
“No need to lose your calm bacchay!” he continued calmly. “All I am trying to tell you is that advice is just something one might consider, evaluate and then reject. To save time, I usually skip the first two steps and simply reject it. I am the one responsible for my actions. I have to face their consequences, so I should be the one who decides what to do and what not to do. You are never going to suffer if your advice results in disaster, so why should I bother.”
“But your own decisions might be wrong! You have to listen to advice, man.”
“O Bacchay! You are too simple to be talking about right and wrong,” my irritation was hitting new highs now. “I want to make my own mistakes, not yours. I want to face my own shit, and when my own shit hits my own fan, I want to stand on my own legs.”
“I am sorry but that is crap. You are too arrogant.” I screamed.
“I am not sorry but that is your opinion. You are too stupid.” He smiled.
“So you mean that people who ask for others’ advice and then act on it are stupid.”
“I won’t be that judgmental but I feel that they are cowards. They want to make other people’s mistakes. They need to have the consolation that if things go wrong, they would have someone to blame. People are that way, bacchay. They will go through life without doing anything right and will still be happy that whatever wrong they did was someone else’s fault. I am not one of those. I want my own decisions, my own successes, my own failures, my own blunders, my own regrets, my own misery. I love all these because they’re mine.” And he lit a Marlboro, signaling the end of the conversation.
“I don’t understand you.” I began but he waved a hand to stop me and asked simply “So, you think Hamilton will be able to stop Button in Britain?” And I knew the conversation was over.
Shuntoo had an Accident
Shuntoo had an accident the other day. A child suddenly ran in front of his car and he had to step on the brakes and bring his car to a screeching halt. Thanks to Shuntoo’s alertness or his car’s good brakes, the child got away unharmed. The driver behind him, however, was not that alert or his brakes not that efficient. He slammed into the back of Shuntoo’s car so hard that he would have flown out of the windscreen had he not been wearing the seatbelt.
The unknown driver then got out of the car, examined the damage he had caused, and went on to pull Shuntoo out and give him a good six or seven punches in the belly and one on the head.
Shuntoo’s reaction was his typical mix of calmness, sarcasm and irritation. He eventually not only succeeded in convincing the man to apologize but also made him pay for the repair of his car. I will no go into the detail of how he did that. What is worth mentioning, however, is what he had to say about the incident.
When he told me what had happened, I laughed (imagining Shuntoo getting beat up gave me a strange satisfaction), then apologized for laughing and in the end went on for about five minutes on how this country was going to the dogs. When I had finished, this is what Shuntoo said.
“What happened was only natural. I am happy for the guy. Don’t you see our problem? We never use our minds. We don’t know what we want. We don’t know what we should do. But we want to get the best of both worlds in return for doing nothing.
“As a result we are always confused but don’t know how to react. We have a lot of potential energy but no way to use it. We are always angry but don’t have a way to give vent to the anger. We are always depressed but don’t find a reason to cry justifiably. We feel useless and unimportant but don’t have any way to make the world think otherwise.
“And this guy! In one moment, destiny solved all his problems, if only for a day or so. Suddenly he was sure how to react, which was to get out and try to beat the hell out of me. His potential energy was suddenly useful and I’m glad he did not have more of it. He got a reason to show his anger, regardless of the fact that he was the one who had failed to apply the brakes. And now, for the next few days, he will have a fair enough justification to cry, after all, he has been in an accident. And most importantly, the story of the accident will give him his five days of fame as everyone will be too eager to listen to the story and will give huge importance to the victim.
“See? How wonderful it was for him? I am happy for him.
“I am happy that he smashed his car in mine. Otherwise, with so much anger, depression, energy, complexes and what not, the only thing someone had to do was provide him with a suicide jacket and instead of beating me up he might have blown up an office.”
He finished with a wink and a smile.
I think Shuntoo exaggerated the whole thing and his views, as always, seem ridiculous in many ways.
Yet, I wonder.
The most prominent trait of Shuntoo’s personality might be his crude straightforwardness and unwarranted honesty at the cost of other people’s feelings but there is one other quality that makes him stand out from your normal populace. His thinking is unbelievably simple. He does not go into elaborate philosophical discussions nor does he formulate impressive theories on how to improve the lot of humanity. Normally, he appears completely indifferent to the state of affairs around him but once in a while, one does succeed in pulling him into a serious discussion and that’s when you get to see the real Shuntoo.
I had such an experience a few weeks ago. Although the conversation was just as annoying and intolerable as any other with Shuntoo, I think it would not be a bad idea to share some of his overly simple views about things that I take to be pretty complicated.
It was a warm evening and I was going on and on about the problems faced by Pakistan and how we are fast becoming a failure as a state and a nation. I was especially emphasizing the point that I could not see any solution to the problems in the near future and that the people of Pakistan would have to realize the gravity of the situation and do something about it.
Eventually he spoke, and his questions and answers were as simple as can get.
“What are you blabbering about? What problems?” He asked taking a sip of the lemonade that was our only respite from the growing heat outside.
“You mean we don’t have any problems?” I asked.
“Don’t answer a question with another question, bacchay. And I didn’t say we didn’t have any problems. I asked what problems you are talking about. There is a difference between asking a question about something and questioning something. No need to be so sensitive.” I don’t know how he manages to piss me off by the simplest of comments, but by God, he does.
“We have all kinds of problems. Poverty, for example.”
“That’s not hard to solve.” He calmly said and took a puff of his best friend.
“Really? How do you intend to solve it, then?” I was a bit intrigued.
“First, I have no intention whatsoever to solve it. Second, how else can you solve the problem of poverty? People should make money.” Now that was too ridiculous to ignore.
“And how do you suppose people should make money?”
“Simple. Get jobs, start businesses, innovate.”
“Are you out of your mind? There are no jobs, there are no business opportunities, and there is no room for innovation.”
“Then create jobs, create business opportunities. And remember bacchay! There is always room for innovation. Put all the work of all the philosophers, intellectuals and thinkers together. And there will always be something they didn’t think of.”
“But we cannot create jobs or create business opportunities. That’s the government’s job.”
“Then ask the government to do it. Or wait for it to do it.”
“But the government sucks man. They don’t do these things.” I realized that my responses were also getting simpler. Shuntoo does have this knack of influencing others to come to his turf.
“Then get a better government, a government that does all these things. After all, this is a democracy. You only get the government you vote for.”
“You think it’s that easy. People want change. But they don’t have any options.”
Shuntoo laughed at this. A sarcastic, arrogant laugh which always makes you feel as if you are the dumbest person in the world and he is some God.
“Bacchay!” he said and I felt the urge to kill him, for the umpteenth time. “There are always options; always. Life would be meaningless without them. People have options, and if they don’t have one that they like, then become one such option. Who stops any of you? Just stop bickering about how big problems are.”
“But the problems are big, Shuntoo.”
“Problems are never big, bacchay. It’s the person or the nation with the problems that is small. Rise to the challenges or shut up.”
“You think it’s that simple?” I was still trying to show him how wrong he was.
“No, its even simpler than that. Look, this nation wants one thing more than anything else. And that is to be slaves. We still want a gora saab or a sir jee or a chaudhry saab or a peer jee or a sayeein or hokum or sardar or begum saab or madam jee or whatever name we can give to someone while we act as if we would be pleased and proud if our master kicked our ass and shoved our destiny. That’s what we want and that’s what we get. That, for me, is the highest form of democracy.”
“All of us want that, including you?”
“Not all of us, but a majority large enough to matter. And who gives a shit what I want. I always get what I want, unless, of course, I don’t.” And he smiled in that irritatingly patronizing way that is his trademark.
“I think you’re wrong. The people of this land know what they want, it’s just that they don’t know how to get it.”
“I don’t care one bit about what you think. But, just for your information, you’re wrong. Conduct a survey. Give the general population a simple choice. Would they prefer the literacy rate in this country to rise to 100 per cent or would they rather have our cricket team win the World Cup. I won’t say anything, just ask them and you’ll know how serious they are about issues that you feel they are acutely aware of but can’t solve since they are victims of circumstances.”
“If you believe that, why don’t you do something to improve the awareness?”
“Why should I bother?” he said getting up to leave.
“So, when Pakistan is burning, you’ll be playing the fiddle like Nero?” I tried to annoy him a little at least; I knew it would make me feel better.
“Of course not bacchay!” was his calm response. “How could you even imagine such a thing?” he said as he went out the door. “You know I don’t know how to play the fiddle.”
Shuntoo’s Sensitive Side
Interpersonal skills have never been Shuntoo’s forte but somehow, every now and then he ends up with a whiner who insists on telling him all his woes and expects him to respond in a manner that will make the whiner feel better. And Shuntoo normally reacts uncharacteristically well on such occasions, something that, I always felt, did not fit in with his personality. He would quietly listen to the other’s troubles, give him a pat (and sometimes, on his really sensitive days, even a squeeze) on the shoulder and nod in an extremely empathetic manner.
When I asked him about this soft side of his, he responded very seriously. “You know man! These people are really sad. Life has not been fair to them. They don’t want solutions. They just want a sympathetic ear, a little support. I give it to them. And you know what? It makes me feel better, it makes me feel human.” I was overwhelmed, I think I almost saw a tear in his eyes.
And then, the performance ended in the most insensitive and utterly inhuman way that is Shuntoo’s trademark. Just when I was about to give him a pat on his hand to show my appreciation for his sensitive side, he suddenly burst into a howling laughter. I was a little scared.
“You actually fell for that crap, didn’t you? You pathetic moron!” He just couldn’t stop laughing, despite my embarrassment (or knowing Shuntoo, maybe because of it).
“You didn’t mean it?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“Are you crazy? Don’t you know me at all. I am emotionally constipated, man. I mean I do not do this tear-jerking crap. Never, I cannot do it. I just cannot sink that low.”
“But what you said made sense, man. These people need support in such times. And don’t kid around, your attitude shows that you care.” I wanted to break through his mask and get to the real Shuntoo (my mistake).
“My attitude? Gimme a break. What attitude! I nod my head to make sure they think I am listening. That gives me the freedom to let my mind wander wherever it wants. You’ll be surprised how seriously I can nod my head for long periods of time without giving the slightest hint that I am actually thinking of a spicy sizzler steak.” He actually seemed proud of this monstrosity.
“But of course, there is a limit,” he explained. “And when I just cannot take the whining anymore, I gently tap the shoulder of whoever he or she is. This gesture normally makes them stop. If it doesn’t, I give them a squeeze, node my head while blinking my eyes at the same time, in an understanding manner and believe me, the worst of them shut up, probably thinking they’ve said enough and I completely understand their imaginary troubles.”
“Imaginary?” I was getting a little pissed off. “How do you know they are imaginary? You are too insensitive even for yourself.”
“Oh! Put a sock in it. We are always complaining. We don’t have enough money, our job is not good enough, our spouse treats us badly, the recession, the country, the terrorism, the heat, the new generation, the old generation, the institutions, the lack of institutions, the things we are forced to do, the things nobody would let us do. Bull s#!%! You know what we actually want, bachhay?”
I hate it when he calls me Bacchay. “What?” I knew I would regret asking but we had come too far to stop now.
“We want the consolation that we are doing enough with our lives. And since we know damn well that we are not doing even close to anything that can be mistaken by a blind man to be enough, we want others to reassure us. We want to exaggerate every hardship, anything that remotely resembles a difficulty when viewed from the most pessimistic angle possible. We want to go on and on about how the world is unfair to us. What a crappy thing to say, as if the world or nature or God owes us anything at all. As if we deserved a single thing we actually got.”
I was scared to realize that some of what this mad dog was saying actually made sense. I did not have the courage to interrupt though.
“And by proving that we have been dealt a bad hand, we want our audience to tell us that under the conditions that we live in, our mere existence is enough. That whatever shit we are doing in the world is an act of supreme courage. That we are heroes, we do not need to do anything else. Donkeys! If you can’t get off your asses, if you can’t face the world for whatever little stupid reason, at least admit that you are not great and live happily. If we are too meek to attempt greatness, why can’t we find solace in our meekness. Why insist that for us the rules change, and meekness becomes greatness.
“And then to be pathetic enough to feel that if a few other people assure us of this, the thing will be final. Vying for second hand greatness through weak and crying arguments. What can be more miserable, man!”
“Okay, maybe some people are like what you said. But instead of ignoring them, shouldn’t you listen and help them. And what if some of them are actually in trouble and not ……….” he cut me short in the middle of my sentence.
“I am not here to help or teach. Those who want to learn find teachers. And what you always forget is …… I don’t give a damn about other people.”
That argument, as always, ends the chance of any further discussion.
But, I wonder.
Shuntoo on Praise
I would love to believe that Shuntoo is the most negative minded person on the face if this planet, but no matter how hard I try, this assumption seems to be uncomfortably false. I would love to believe it because it would save me from taking a lot of the ridiculous things he says seriously. But I cannot bring myself to actually believe it because he is also one of the most satisfied people I know. And I just cannot understand how he can be so content when, supposedly, he does not consider anyone, including himself, reasonable or intelligent to any mentionable degree.
And despite knowing him for such a long time, I often commit the blunder of treating him as a normal human being.
This is exactly what I did when I decided to tell him that I had written a couple of short pieces about him and that a few readers really liked him. I expected him to be pleased by the praise received from some of the people who read the articles. Alas, I was wrong. I cannot say that he was not pleased, but I think amused would be a much better word.
“You pseudo-frigging-intellectuals!” he said after he had recovered from an extremely annoying fit of laughter. “Who are these people anyway? Why should I even take what they say seriously? For all I know, they might be bigger wanna-bes than you, if that is possible.”
I was a little disappointed by his reaction and was having a hard time figuring out who I hate more, him for acting like a damn idiot, or myself for expecting anything else from him. “You are hopeless, Shuntoo!” I retorted. “These people are, at least, doing something. They’re not sitting back and criticizing everything around them, like you. They are the silent majority that has decided to do whatever little they can to help bring about a change. If writing and reading each other’s views is all they can do right now, then that’s what they do. They have had enough of the lethargic and utterly useless existence that you seem to be so proud of.”
“You’re right!” his expression feigned some understanding, though when he continued, that mirage vanished. “You know what! You should call these people up and form an organization. What’s that name, now?” he thought and then suddenly remembered. “Ah! Yes, Anjuman-e-sataish-e-bahmi wa bughz-e-deegaran! Yes, that’s it. Make a proper institution where all you guys can assure each other that you are doing great.”
“What’s the matter with you, man?” I was perilously close to losing it. “I simply told you that I wrote about you and people read it and they liked it. Shouldn’t you be a little happy? And what in the world is wrong with us doing the least that we can instead of just crying about how bad things are?”
“Ok, listen, bacchay!” And I prepared myself for another doze of this maniac’s twisted opinions. “First of all, these people are not praising me. Some of them are praising you for whatever they think you’re doing, just because they want to pretend to be enlightened people and want to prove, mostly to themselves, and to anyone else who has the time to notice, that although they didn’t come up with any real ideas themselves, they still are intellectual powers to be reckoned with, since they agree with you. Some others are people who, rather than saying what they think, or admitting that they don’t think, would prefer to jump at anything which remotely resembles thinking, and say ‘Yes, I feel exactly the same’ thus including themselves into the intelligentsia by implication.”
I opened my mouth to respond, but he waved my effort away and continued, “Second of all, bacchay!” Oooh how I hate that word, “what do you think you’re doing? Writing all this BS and trying to pass as someone who is really making an effort for whatever higher purpose you freaks think exists. Tell me, why is it that when we count what gifts we have received in life, we always want more, more of what we have and more of what we could have. Always going for the most blessed life. But when it comes to doing something in return we have these sissy phrases like ‘the least we could do’ or ‘the least in our power’. Wanting the most from life and satisfying our retarded egos by doing the least. You should be ashamed of even trying to be content with such a bargain.”
“And last of all, every Tom, Dick and Harry does this. I am not absolutely sure about Tom and Harry, but every Dick surely does.”
“Does what?” My curiosity always gets the better of me.
“What you are doing, bacchay! I mean you do something without putting much thought into it whatsoever, and your standard for whether you are doing good or bad, is the comments of other people. I have read some things that you write. Their bottom line seems to be that people don’t think. You don’t mention what people, but it seems that you are talking about the majority. And then you are so happy, and damn you, want me to be happy too, when some of these people like what you write. What arrogance to assume that the people reading your crap or liking it, or you yourself, are part of the so-called intelligent and thinking minority. That’s too conceited for me.
“Like all those people that you feel so good criticizing,” he continued, “you yourself also look for praise from others and try to convince yourself that if others like it, it must be good. Every damn illiterate businessman, every feudal lord, every uneducated politician and every one of your moronic common men please themselves by believing others’ praise and fret over others’ criticism. If the others are so great, what change are you trying to bring and why?”
“You mean, I should stop whatever I am trying to do?”
“Oh! No. You are doing so great, sir!” he said sarcastically. “Continue doing it, seriously. You won’t be able to survive if you stop. Until you grow up and make your own standards, keep kidding yourself, because that’s what kids should do.” He smiled, “and if and when you do grow up, and that is a huge if, you’ll know yourself. In fact, write more about me, who knows, maybe one of all these people, you say, like me, will think about turning into me or at least start thinking like me.
“That would be wonderful na! I would have a friend, I do feel alone, sometimes.”
I don’t believe a word he says, the sick b@$t^*d.
But, I wonder.
Despite having known Shuntoo for many years now, I hardly know him at all. For instance, I have never really figured out his views on religion. His actions have always confused me. Some days he makes sure that he prays on time regardless of where he is. On others, he keeps sitting idly while prayer times fly by. When I had the misfortune of asking him why he wasn’t praying, I got the simple and beautiful reply, “None of your frigging business!”
A couple of months ago, some members of the Tableeghi Jamaat found him walking on a street and decided, may God bless them, to try and put some hidayat into him. I am sure they had no idea what they were getting themselves into but they surely got a taste of what jihad actually means.
Here is a part of the conversation between the head of the Jamaat and my dear obnoxious Shuntoo.
Head: Son can we talk to you for a minute?
Shuntoo: I don’t believe I am your son, sir. And I am even surer of the fact that if I say yes, you’ll talk for much more than a minute. You seem like a nice man, why lie twice in such a small sentence, less than ten words. Doesn’t it bother you?
H (taken aback): I am sorry. Mister, can I talk to you for a while?
S: Sure. How can I help you?
H: Our success lies in following the path of God. That is our aim in this life.
S: Sorry, but why are you telling me your aim in life. What makes you think I’ll be interested in knowing?
H: By our, I meant yours and ours. It is your aim too.
S (smiling): And what makes you think you know what my aim is? You hardly know me.
H (a little irritated): Don’t make fun of religion, son! God has said that that is the aim of all humans.
S: So God talks to you? Wow!
H (very irritated now): Do you even believe in God, son?
S (smiling even more): Okay, for the last time, I am not your son, sir. Anyway, what is God? Tell me and I can respond to your question.
H: God created the universe and all of us.
S: I didn’t ask what He did and did not do. I asked who He was.
H: He is the sustainer of all the worlds, son! The ever living.
S: You’re still telling me what He does, Dad! At least have an idea who you are asking people to believe in.
H(extremely annoyed now): Forget it. I just wanted to invite you to the mosque for evening prayers. We’ll have a talk on how to get to the straight path.
S: Straight path to where?
H: To Jannah.
S: You mean you have found that path. A path on which, all the different sects can agree. Hurray!
H: I don’t care about all sects. We talk about fundamentals of Islam and try to convince brothers like you to join us in spreading the message.
S: So you’re a fundamentalist then?
S: Strange! Anyway, why would you want me to spread the message when I don’t know the message myself?
H: You’ll learn too.
S: So I’ll learn the message and even before I have learnt, I’ll be spreading it. Ok I get it. I’ll be roaming around with you, convincing my brothers to join us in spreading the message.
S: So what is your target? You felt that the Muslims had strayed from the path. So you decided to gather all the strayed Muslims and ask them to guide the other strayed Muslims. Wonderful! And do you aim to achieve a state of affairs where all the Muslims of the world are spreading the message and hardly any of them knows the message. Sounds twisted to me!
H: May Allah guide you son! You under the influence of the Devil.
S: Some cool strategy for guiding me huh? If I don’t agree in five minutes, start giving pathetic excuses. Ok I have a few questions. Answer and I’ll come to the evening prayers. One, why do we end our fast with the Maghrib prayers when the Quran clearly asks us to fast till night?
H: Stop. Allah save the world from people like you. You misguide people from the Quran.
S: So no point in convincing me to join you, right?
H: Bye son! Allah bless you.
S: Amen! And you too, Dad!
When Shuntoo told me about this incident, I was shocked. I had always thought he had a religious bone in him and when I asked him why he was so opposed to tableegh, he simply said,
“Opposed? Not at all, they are really sincere people. I just wish they spent some energy in learning what they want to propagate. But they are great people, God must like them. Such simple beliefs.”
And then he started laughing.
Shuntoo on Smoking
As soon as Shuntoo lit his sixth Marlboro of the hour, I knew I was in trouble. I don’t mind smoking (hell, I am a heavy smoker myself) but what he was doing was different. He was smoking like a chimney inside my house and in the presence of a family friend who (and this is the most important piece of information) was about fifty years old and a non-smoker.
Shuntoo had been getting deadly looks from him since he lit his first one and my guest’s irritation was growing with every puff. I could see that from his look that he had barely stopped himself from strangling Shuntoo when he was smoking his fifth. And to top it all, Shuntoo had not spoken a word to him this whole time. He was acting as if he was alone in his study, smoking his brains out.
As I had expected, my dear uncle could not resist and he spoke before Shuntoo had put the lighter back in his pocket.
“Those cigarettes will kill you son.” The tone of his voice was like a father on the verge of killing his son and trying desperately to hold on to the last bits of fatherly affection.
“Ok!” was all Shuntoo said in response. OK. I couldn’t believe it. Ok. He could have slapped him and it would have seemed less taunting.
“I said they will kill you and all you have to say is okay?” Uncle was reaching his limits.
“Well, that is a piece of information sir. And by okay, I mean that I have heard it and will consider it very seriously, though I doubt you have any evidence that could actually convince me that my death is bound to be caused by my little friend here.” The dog was acting like some sort of Dirty Harry only not half as cool and twice as annoying.
“Son, if you don’t care for yourself, at least think about us. I hate this smoke you’re blowing in my face and the passive smoking could kill me.” He was genuinely angry now.
To my utter surprise, Shuntoo smiled and put the cigarette out. Still smiling, he said “Why didn’t you say so before? You have all the right to hate smoking. But I have just the same kind of right to smoke. You being so much older than me, I have stopped smoking as a mark of respect. But I suggest that you leave before I decide to light my next one. Because unless the master of the house clearly asks me to leave, I will stay here and smoke. And since this is not your house, you have no obligation to stay and can leave to the fresh air of your own house.” And Shuntoo smiled again.
I had that sinking feeling you get when you are pulled into such an unreasonable argument and I hated it. Now, I would have to either ask Shuntoo to leave or annoy my Bazurg.
“You are an arrogant son of a B!(t@.” Uncle continued. “I am telling you that these things are bound to kill you and if you continue like this, they’ll kill those around you too. You should just quit and prove to be a sensible young man.”
“Look, unlce,” Shuntoo said and my heart sank further, “I am in no mood to have an argument with you, so why don’t you just leave me to my fate and go back to your healthy little world where you will eventually be killed by something other than cigarettes, unless of course you have drunk some potion for immortality, which I doubt. Good Luck and may you die of something healthy.”
“What an intolerable son of a bitch you are. I pity your parents who had to tolerate you for such a long time. I am giving you advice for your own benefit, and you are giving these damn cigarettes more important than my concern for you. Unbelievable!” He looked as if he was moments away from blowing his own head from anger.
Shuntoo sat back and made himself more comfortable. Crossing his right leg over his left, he began “Uncle! I don’t usually talk a lot without a cigarette in my hand, but in your case, I’ll make an exception.”
Another long speech on the way, and uncle at the receiving end. I will be honest here. Being a smoker myself, I was kind of excited and looking forward to it. And I had also decided to kick Shuntoo out after the speech, a decision which made me relax a little more. Uncle though seemed to be in a state of shock at the utter calm Shuntoo was showing.
“Firstly, please acknowledge sir, that I have not said anything that could be termed as indecent or out of place here, whereas you have called me a b@$^ar& and a son of a bitch, both of which, you must admit, were pretty uncalled for.” Uncle tried not to show it but I could see he was a little embarrassed.
“Secondly,” Shuntoo continued, “I respect your right to avoid smoking, and you should respect my right to smoke in the same way. I know we don’t live in a free country but I, at least, am free, that’s how God made me. As for your insistence that smoking will kill me, I agree. It will kill me if something else doesn’t kill me first. And I would prefer to die at the hands of something I love.
“As for quitting, that’s an impossibility. The cigarette is my best friend. It keeps me company in all kinds of moods, never leaves me, never judges me, never questions me. Your suggestion of leaving it is like asking someone to leave his best friend. So, I am sorry.”
The old man seemed to be dumbstruck. He was clearly searching for words but couldn’t find any.
“I don’t know why you are so shocked sir.” Shuntoo continued. “So now, again out of the greatest respect for you, I am gonna smoke my next one outside. But the one after than will be smoked here. So make sure that either you leave or you convince our host to ask me to leave before that.”
On his way out he said “By the way, sir, don’t pity my parents. They didn’t have to tolerate me much. In fact they had much lesser tolerance than you. They gave up on me and left a long long time ago.”
Before Shuntoo returned, uncle had left. He left despite my insistence that I would ask Shuntoo to leave. He just waved my objections aside and went out. Shuntoo didn’t even ask about him when he came back. He simply sat down and lit a Marlboro.
Shuntoo-the son of a bitch
Shuntoo might be the most selfish, rude, obnoxious and unreasonable son of a bitch you’ll ever set your eyes on, but you’ve got to hand him one thing. He is an honest son of a bitch. He does not lie. Once I asked him about this, because a person who does not lie is a miracle of Nature and I was always confused why he felt this silly urge to always tell the truth. Imagine, he doesn’t even lie about his whereabouts on the telephone and never asks anyone to tell a visitor that he is not home.
His reply was again a lesson in truthfulness. “Its simple man,” he said, “the trick is not to give a shit about other people. If they can’t handle the truth, it’s their problem. If I have a visitor I don’t want to meet, I simply tell him that I am home but I am in no mood to watch his frigging face or listen to his absurd crap. If he has an issue with it, so be it. I won’t worry myself over how a sissy would react to my honest opinion.”
I was, naturally, amazed. “That’s too much even for you, Shuntoo,” I said. “How can you be so rude? How can you hurt someone’s feelings like that.”
“Feelings schmeelings,” he explained. “The law gives me the freedom to choose the shit I want to listen to and the bullshit I want to see. There is no legislation that forces one to entertain any moron that comes knocking at his door. And doesn’t the religion also say that knock on a door thrice and if there’s no answer, just go back? Now, doesn’t that, by implication, allow you to refuse to see someone if you don’t feel like it? Of course, in this age of doorbells, you can’t simply not answer. So I tell them frankly. When the law and the religion are fine with something, I don’t fret about that moron’s personal views. I have enough on my mind as it is.”
Then he smiled and left, but not before elaborating his reasons for leaving, “I am not leaving because I have to be somewhere or I’m not feeling well or any of that pansy logic. I just don’t want to sit with you anymore and at this moment, I have had so much of you that I feel anything would be better. So bye friend. See you later.”
Eid Greetings for Shuntoo
I made the stupid mistake of sending Shuntoo an Eid Mubarak text and got this in return. Just to make sure that I am not the only one whose day is ruined, I am sharing this, despite the urge to prove point no.9 wrong.
“Eid-ul-Azha Mubarak to you too bacchay! Have a great day. And remember, just because you1. Have no idea what ‘Azha’ means; and
2. Have no clue why this Eid is called the bigger or baree Eid and the other one smaller or chhoti Eid; and
3. Are not even sure whether this is a celebration of Hazrat Ibrahim and Ismail’s great sacrifice or it has something to do with Hajj or both or neither; and
4. Are not clear whether the qurbaani of an animal is an obligation (farz) or a Sunnah or something else; and
5. Have no better source than your local Maulvi or a worse one on some TV channel to explain how to divide the meat among poor people, neighbors, relatives and all; and
6. Don’t know the exact way the Eid Namaz goes and feel unsure on what to do after every Takbeer; and
7. Are now feeling embarrassed because all of the above and much more is true and are likely to counter that embarrassment by thinking that ‘Shuntoo is a son of a bit@#’; and
8. Will still not try to learn most of these things and will prefer to continue your miserable life in ignorance; and
9. Will probably write something about this on your bloody blog or facebook where all your friends, who are having Eid days so boring that they are on social networking sites would throw likes and comments to boost your ego;It doesn’t mean that you should not enjoy the day and wish a happy eid to everyone around you. So Eid Mubarak bacchay, enjoy the day.”~Shuntoo
In Conversation with Shuntoo
Here’s a small part of a conversation I had with Shuntoo the other day. I don’t feel I have the energy to write the full conversation, but I just have to share a part of it.
Me: If you are hungry, I have a delicious cake in my fridge.
Shuntoo: And what if I am not hungry?
M: Well, then don’t eat it.
S: But would you still have the cake in your fridge?
M: Of course, what kind of a silly question is that?
S: Well, you said that IF I am hungry, you have a delicious cake in your fridge. I think that logically means that if I am not hungry, you don’t have it.
I felt like throwing the cake at his face. But he went on to explain why I, and not he, was being silly. And as I said earlier, I don’t feel I have the energy to write the whole conversation.
Shuntoo on Politics
Shuntoo and I were in a coffee shop discussing politics. Well, not really discussing, since I was the one doing all the talking while Shuntoo seemed to be enjoying his coffee so much that he probably thought that talking would reduce the pleasure somewhat. Meanwhile I was trying to explain to him how democracy was the only viable system of government for a modern country. When he had finished his coffee, he calmly lit a Marlboro and asked
“Ever studied Greek philosophy?”
“Not really,” I said. “Not in detail anyway.”
“I have a headache,” he said and before I could protest the complete lack of relevance of his comment or suggest a pill, he continued, “please call a waiter and ask him what I should do.”
“What? About the headache?” I asked
“Yes.” He replied.
“Why ask the waiter?”
“What does he know of headaches?” I persisted.
“Well, then maybe you can ask him to gather all the people in this coffee shop and have them vote on what I should do.”
“Shuntoo!” I tried to explain. “You should ask a doctor.”
“Hmm!” he said calmly. “Then ask the people to vote and decide which doctor is the best.”
“And let them send you to a quack?” I asked. “Are you out of your mind?”
“Well, you just said democracy was the best solution. If you can entrust the affairs of a whole country to majority vote, why not a simple headache.” He smiled
“I still think democracy is the best solution,” I said, “but now I have a headache too.”
“Mine is gone,” Shuntoo smiled.
Another one from Shuntoo
Shuntoo had a huge grin on his face as he entered.
“What happened?” I asked
“Well, from what I have heard, in the last twenty-four hours, rockets were fired at the Quaid-e-Azam residency in Ziarat that killed a policeman and burnt the building down, around 23 people including fourteen students of the only all-girls university in Quetta were killed in terrorist attacks, blasts were heard in Karachi, around four died in a road accident in Hub, two children died as the roof of their house collapsed due to rains, and Pakistan lost to India in cricket.”
“Hmmm! And you see a reason to smile in all this.” I couldn’t help asking.
“Yes, I find a number of things that are really amusing. But most of all is the fact that almost all the people I met in the past hour or so were only bothered about one of the above incidents. The defeat of the Pakistan cricket team.” And he started laughing. “They are discussing it everywhere, cursing the management, the players, the strategies, giving ideas on how such a defeat could be avoided in the future, what steps the government should take, who should be the new Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board,” he said, laughing all the time, “Believe me, no mention of any of the other incidents.”
“What are you Shuntoo? They might be idiots, but are you one too? Don’t you feel sad at the other incidents? Quaid-e-Azam’s residency burnt down, for God’s sake. Isn’t that tragic?”
“What? No. Not tragic at all. In fact I am pleased that it happened.”
“Now that’s too much!” I was getting really annoyed. “Even for you Shuntoo, that is just too much. What about such an incident could please you?” I had to ask.
“Well, you know, when the rocket attack resulted in fire in the residency, they had to call the fire brigade all the way from Quetta,” he wasn’t laughing now but had an irritating smirk on his face. “That’s nearly a two-hour drive.”
“So in 2013, Ziarat does not have a fire brigade of its own. You can well imagine the state of all the other facilities in the small town. And we sent our Great Leader to that place almost as soon as he had helped us get this country. And when his condition got really bad, he had to be brought to Karachi, not even Quetta had the required medical facilities, and as you know, the Quaid died on the way.” Now he was a little glum.
“Whenever I saw that residency,” he continued, “it reminded me of how this nation treated its savior. So I am pleased someone burnt it down. Why treat a building any better than how we treat our great men. Anyway, bacchay,” he said with a serious expression, “lets change the topic. What’s on TV?”
I turned the TV on and there were four guys discussing the reasons for Pakistan cricket team’s defeat.
Shuntoo doubled up laughing really hard and almost fell off his chair. Despite knowing how inappropriate and sad it was, I couldn’t help smiling myself. It was so sad that we laughed for a good five minutes. This Shuntoo is ruining me too.
Shuntoo on Justice
“What’s wrong with a man who wants to make the society just? Isn’t justice good?” He asked frustrated.
“Maybe!” Shuntoo replied.
“Maybe? You doubt that justice is good?”
“I doubt that you have any clue what justice is.”
“Shuntoo! Don’t be ridiculous!” he said, but then he thought a little before continuing. “Justice means everyone gets equal.”
“So in a just society a person who works really hard would get the same as one who sits idle.”
“Of course not! I mean justice is when everyone gets what he deserves.”
“And who decides what anyone deserves?”
“And what about the people in the government? Who decides what they deserve?”
“And what makes you think people are not already getting what they deserve?”
“Don’t try to make a fool of me, Shuntoo!”
“I have no intention to. No use wasting time on something that has already been accomplished.” He said and went back to staring at air.
Shuntoo; Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth
I want to appreciate Shuntoo for his truthfulness but sometimes I am not sure if it is such a good idea to tell the truth, especially the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I want to blame him and curse him for such an attitude but sometimes I realize that he never tells it on his own. He only gives a dose of truth to those who ask for it. I want to exonerate him on this ground but sometimes I feel that the people who ask for it have absolutely no idea what they are asking for. So in the end I mostly decide to reserve my judgment until I can get at least a faint idea of what this son of a bitch is all about.
At a small gathering the other day, another innocent common man faced the wrath of Shuntoo’s inexplicably unreactive and straightforward attitude. This young man was giving his views about the current political crisis and, visibly impressed by Shuntoo’s nonchalance, was keen to get his reaction on thoughts that he considered original and ingenious.
When Shuntoo did not appear to even acknowledge the presence of the young man, and seemed too engrossed in studying the patterns smoke from his Marlboro was making in the air, the boy stopped and addressed him directly.
“What do you think?” He asked, desperate to get a positive reaction from Shuntoo.
“About what?” Shuntoo asked in the least interested manner ever observed in the history of the world.
“About my opinions?”
“Ha!” Shuntoo exclaimed. “What makes you believe I think about your opinions?”
“But weren’t you listening? I……”
“No, I wasn’t.” Shuntoo tried to end the conversation. But the young man was adamant at getting an opinion from him.
“But I just analyzed….”
“I don’t give a shit what you analyzed.” Shuntoo said in a calm voice not suited at all for such an indifferently rude comment.
“No reason. I guess I don’t like your face.”
“Wha….” The boy couldn’t believe what he had just heard. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my face.”
“Ha!” he said again. “Might be. I just think you look too dumb for any reasonable analysis of anything. I might be wrong, but that’s what I think.”
“Look mister, you cannot say …….”
“I don’t care about your views on what I can or cannot say. You look too dumb for me to take any of your views seriously.”
“You are the most unbelievably arrogant and …….”
“Sorry kakay. No use; I won’t take anything you say seriously.”
“But why?” the boy was now almost screaming.
“Your face kakay, your face.”
And he continued smoking as I felt my cheeks turn red.