Sohail Abid

Writer exploring tradition, art, and music of the people of Punjab

A surreal affair

“When are you going back to Pakpattan?” she asked as we were sitting outside the Lok Virsa building where we had gone to find a book she thought I should read before venturing into Sindh. It’s been places like these where we had been meeting for the past few months: in a garden, at a festival, in a bookshop, in another garden, and at a library.

But before I could answer, she said, “Wait, what am I asking, you don’t plan your trips, you just leave, just like that.” She had started talking to herself. Maybe it was her fears talking. “But still, when are you going back?”

There was a story I had been following in Pakpattan that only she knew about. It started with a surreal meeting with someone at Baba Farid’s shrine and turned into something out of a book. Pretty much like herself, now that I think about it. I had to go back to find more. It couldn’t just be her fears, there was that story too that she didn’t want me to leave in the middle.

“I don’t know really,” I said, “I am waiting for a sign.”

“A sign?”

“Yes, like it says in the article that we read the other week about the malangs of Punjab.”

“Like how they wait for a saint to tell them where to go next in a dream?” she smiled.

“Yes, something like that.”

She looked into my eyes to see if I was just saying that. I don’t know what she saw.

That’s how it has been for us.

Surreal.

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