Hazara Town can be reached after crossing the whole city. Its Isolation from the provincial capital, reminds one of a distant poor relative, who exists but is largely neglected. The Hazaras in Quetta are putting up at two places. A portion lives here, while the other is settled near the garrison on Alamdar Road. By all standards, Hazara Town is a tale of wreckage and desolation. Crumbled roads lead to dumpy houses where worn out curtains veil many realities. Behind these curtains, the residents live a transitory life; mark their time living like passengers with few clothes and fewer utilities.
The quest for Hazaras had brought us here. The resilient lot fights for their life each and every day and despite heavy losses, they manage to claim a bit of happiness. A struggle which is animated in the form of a grass blade that picks up its head on the bricked pathway. Despite the unchecked killings, abductions and bomb blasts, Hazaras manage to live happily. Someone informed us about Fareedon and his exceptional talent of playing the key board.
We reached his house and realised that besides music, the hospitality of his family was equally enriching. This was the last house in the entire township, painting a picture of abject destitution. The simple lay out extended to the clean veranda. A few buckets with water fetched from elsewhere and a cage with a partridge, a signature of the Hazara civilization, filled in the spaces. The drawing room was on the left side of the house.
In a short time, around 10 people filled in the room, mostly friends and family and of course the fans. The serving of food was a scene right out of folklores. White sheets were spread and the crockery was laid out. Subsequently, a large kettle with hot water was brought in for washing hands, followed by hand towels. The delicacy of the Iranian culture was mesmerising. Qehwa was served after the food, while Fareedon set up his keyboard.
The gap between the loud curtains of the room and the artificial flowers in the vase was filled in by family photos and the portrait of Najeeb. There was also a Persian quotation demanding perseverance. The family left Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. The ban on haircuts meant little life for the thinking mind and being an artist meant a torturous death. They sold everything and moved to Pakistan. In Quetta, his father opened a cassette and CD shop to make a living. The ambience in the room was an epilogue to their once prosperous past.
When Fareedon started singing, time stood still. His expert fingers seem to flow over the keyboard and the Persian lyrics cast a spell. The song was about preserving what little happiness was left over.
Friends value each other For death is a stone and man is like a glass Separation is a lasting sorrow
We sealed everything within our camera and returned. The day-to-day firefighting at the office managed to replace Fareedon. However, the last scene at his house persisted. While walking us out, his uncle stood at the gate, at the cost of being seen, and requested "Saheb, Fareedon’s father is not working. The shop has been forcibly shut down. They have threatened to blow it up if opened. Please do see if there is any show where he can perform. He is very fond of going to school but he cannot."
When snow fell in Quetta for the first time this fall, Fareedon’s uncle called me. He was frantic; the Sepah of Sehaba had attacked Fareedon … the assailants might have been up for reliving the glory of the battle of Qadsia, but the Hazaras were the first to convert when invited by a single letter by Ali ibn e Abi Talib. Another variant could be a Lashkar from Jhang that had taken it on them to punish Fareedon for his irreligious conduct. They failed to notice any such conduct in the 761 kilometer-long distance that parted Jhang and Quetta.
When I reached his house, his eye had swollen to a dangerous extreme. Someone had stopped him while he was heading to the local shop, confirmed his name and while he denied, hit him with the pistol. Throughout the night, while snow covered everything, Fareedon’s mother had cold sponged his eye. When I called his uncle again, I heard a different ring tone, a Punjabi pro sunni naat. Anil Kumar, a chemist from Mithi, Nagar Parker, who would use Alhamdo lillah and Inshallah every now and then in his conversation, flickered in my mind and so did the janitor of my building who, just for the sake of survival, had named his sons, Aslam and Akram.