Parwak, a long tract of land opposite Sonoghur Village, was once a fertile property irrigated by a canal from the River. Latter the River bed lowered and Parwak became deserted due to lack of water. It was reclaimed centuries later by digging a water channel from the side valley but it could not regain its past glory.
In those old days, three brothers, Sagg, Shapeer and Darbatushali owned all this tract as their private property. They, therefore, lived a life of pleasure and luxuries. Although they had a monopoly on all the natural resources of the area, yet deep down at heart they were very arrogant and materialistic. They didn’t spare a single chance to display their immense wealth. In fact it was their best tool to impress people. Most often they entered into competitions with each other for more power and prestige. Their favourite pastime was to put on lavish spectacles of their wealth and their access to resources for the public.
One day they decided to arrange competitive feasts. In those days such feasts of merit were given away to acquire power in the society. They invited the public to witness such a crude display of such nature to decide who the real boss was among the three. The first one who had a huge inventory of wheat surprised everyone by spreading wheat grain on a mile-long road, on which the guests had to trudge while going to his house. The second one built a room to receive the guest which was plastered with ‘Sanabachi’, a local dish made of wheat flour and butter, which was considered a delicacy that time. He did so by using a tons of ghee and floor at a time when the majority of locals were even deprived of a single loaf of bread. The third one, Darbatushali was one step ahead, he had an abundance of livestock and milk. He poured such huge quantities of milk into the watermill to grind the flour. The last performance was voted the best by the locals so he literally stole the whole show and thus consolidated his position as the local chief.
Despite an abundance of wealth, Darbatushali was notorious for his money- hounding. In fact he was miser to the core. His doors were always shut for the poor and the needy. Not to speak of helping others, he even didn’t spare his own family from strict monetary scrutiny. For this purpose he maintained a record-keeping of his kitchen expenses. In short, the huge pile of wealth was the inseparable part of his being which he didn’t want to share with anyone.
One day he went out for inspection of his livestock while ordering his wife to prepare his favourite mutton stew for lunch. No sooner did he stepped out of the house, his wife went to the wealthy and spacious kitchen to prepare his favourite recipe. She mixed together all the ingredients; mutton, water, some salt, and local spices in a large pot and then put it over the stove to cook. By leaving the recipe to cook, she busied herself in other household chores. The mixture with proportionately large chunks of meat took a few hours to cook. By the time it was ready, the lady raised the lid to check. With the opening of the lid; a tantalizing aroma from the simmered, piping- hot stew arose and spread far attracting a bypassing beggar to the miser man’s doorstep like a magnet attracts a piece of iron.
The aged beggar in tattered clothes and a wrinkled face started to beg for food in his shaky voice. ‘I’m starving to death, please give me some food. I will pray for you’ ’. Although Darbatushali’s wife was a kind person, yet she refused to feed him fearing Darbatushali’s wrath.
With a small pause, she replied in a sarcastic tone, ‘There is nothing in the house to feed you. Go and knock someone’ else door and please don’t disturb us’. ‘ The desperate beggar replied back, ‘Thank you for adding insult to my injury’. May God punish such cruel people who have a huge pile of wealth for lavish display, but don’t have the heart to give away few slices of bread to a starving beggar? May God also punish those who have plenty of food on their table, yet they conceal them by telling white lies to destitute people! His words finally melted away the lady’s heart and she came with a bowl of soup with a pair of goat’s throttles in it. The beggar was so hungry that he gulped the whole bowl of soup in a matter of seconds, blessed the lady from his heart, and then took his way.
After a few hours the miser landlord returned home tired and hungry. He entered the house with suspicious and vigilant looks. In fact, he got a glimpse of departing beggar from a distance. Anyhow, his wife served him with a pot full of hearty mutton broth with freshly baked loaves of bread. Instead of eating, he began inspecting the meal. First, he took a bird’s eye view of the pot afterwards he began stirring a wooden spatula inside it. To his utter surprise, he found out a pair of goat’s throttles missing from the dish. Seething with anger he demanded an immediate explanation from his wife. The lady tried her best to calm him down with her flattery, but his anger reached its peak. Trembling with fear she told him the reality. As soon as he heard the shocking reality, he felt an intense suffocation inside his chest. In an attempt to gasp for breath, he collapsed and lost all signs of life. His family sent for the local Hakeem to come to treat him. Upon arrival, the local medic did his utmost effort to bring him to conscious. He made him smell several local herbs, then pressed certain pressure points of his body, at last put an icy cold water on his face, but alas all efforts met with failure! Finally, with disappointed looks on his face, the local Hakeem pronounced him dead. Soon tears began to flood from his wife’s eyes and she began wiping them away with her Dupatta. The news of his sudden death came as a big shock for his family and the entire neighbourhood. The locals poured in large numbers to the house, to say goodbye to him. The local religious leader was also called to perform his funeral rites.
Amidst the sobbing and tears, Darbatushali felt as if he was transported into another world. What he felt was like a dream-like state. In which he envisioned himself sitting on a chair in a pitch dark torture room, being handcuffed by huge muscular angels. They told him that he was found guilty of avarice, ill-treatment of other humans, and of insulting a needy person. After a long silence, he was sentenced to countless lashes as a punishment for his crimes. After a few moments arrived the angels with horrible faces carrying fiery rods in their hands. He was told to lie face down on an icy cold floor. In a matter of seconds, their red -hot rods were in the air and then came down on his bareback with a full force, but in the whole process he felt no pain. Instead, he felt as if something heavenly shielded his bare skin from the flesh-piercing rods. Out of suspense he looked back and saw a pair of goat’s throttle safeguarding him from the wrath of the angels. At the very moment he felt a sudden jerk transporting himself back to life. When he opened his eyes he saw himself safely tucked in his bed surrounded by a wailing crowd. He was shocked to see the large gathering of people treating him like a dead body while he was still alive. He quickly jumped up from his bed to narrate the whole story of his near-death-experience. Overwhelmed with happiness, both his friends and foes congratulated him on his new life and the group of mourners dispersed in a happy mood.
With one more chance to live and to redeem, Darbatushaali fell to the ground in prostration to thank the Almighty. In the coming days, his old habit of money-hounding faded away and he started arranging free meal stalls for the passengers and the poor at various road- junctures, to the stifled surprise of the villagers.
Fahim Ahmad Khan
Read Original Story with Urdu translation here