Snatching the cigarette from between Hanif’s lips and taking a long puff seemed to open up Salauddin’s voice. “Do you hear, get rid of that Dr. Matin fellow. Didn’t your father see something again yesterday?”
Hanif looked away and gave an embarrassed smile. “Yeah, saw a djinn or peri or something and hollered all night.”
Ibrahim the bricklayer’s ability to have visions of djinns and peris was nothing new. Everyone in the locality knew about it. Hanif’s tongue itched to narrate the stories of his father’s extraordinary powers, but his speech was inhibited by his slight stutter, so all he could do was laugh a little with his eyes on the ground.
Salauddin threw away the cigarette and straightened up. Swivelling his neck he ogled a couple of girls in a passing rickshaw, then squirted a thin stream of spittle between his teeth.
“That bugger Matin’s medicines will make the whole tribe of supernatural creeps come running. That doctor fellow used to live in Zindabahar, and no one in the whole place ever called him.”
“How do you know all this?” . . .
“On my honour, Ustad!On my honour!”Salauddin’s expression became animated as he answered Ahsanullah. “You know, as you enter Zindabahar, after just four or five houses there’s a narrow alley. Remember? The doctor’s chamber was near that alley, right next to my uncle’s tehari shop. I’ve been there loads of times. On the other side of the main road is the Badamtali brothel, where that jerk Matin used to treat the whores and those guys – you know, their pimps. As soon as someone in the brothel fell ill, that lanky fellow would be sent for. His nickname in Zindabahar was Whore Doctor.”
Salauddin coughed a couple of times and squirted spittle between discoloured teeth.
“Hasn’t that brothel disappeared?”