The Camel, The Turban, & The Existentialist

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By Roxanne Desgagnés from Unsplash

Jabbar, a visitor to the city, strolled along the Karachi’s Sea View beach on a cool December evening waiting for the ‘majestic’ sunset over the sea, but to his disappointment–due to the smog, aerosols, and what not– the sun vanished as a blob before it reached the horizon. However, as if to appease him,the color orange and red spread out into the sky ,which reminded him of that chromatography experiment performed at school, when he was young.

The beach was crowded as usual and amongst the humans clad in the traditional shalwar kameez, he saw a mixture of old and new school transport: camels, horses, and quad bikes.

Up ahead he decerned a man walking his camel towards him. They stood out among the crowd: the man with the contrast of dark turban and waistcoat over his white salwar kameez and the camel adorned with colorful tassels.

The camel sauntered with pomp– its head swayed from side to side-; the man’s gait, however, was cold and rigid as if on a military march.  An imperial mustache sat atop his lips and accentuated his wide forehead and thick jawline.

“This is a fine camel you got here,” Jabbar complimented as he stopped by them. The camel stopped first, the man followed.

“Thank you! ” the reply came but from the camel!

Flabbergasted, his hand remained frozen mid-air as he was about to pat the camel’s shoulder. He let drop it drop to his side eventually but not before the camel rolled his eyes at him as if saying: “here we go again!”.

Jabbar looked at the owner of the camel, the Turban, for an explanation but his eyes fell upon the stoic and detached countenance, which confused him further.

It was bizarre and felt like a dream, so he counted his fingers and pinched himself. Pain followed the number five–he wasn’t dreaming after all!

After taking a deep breath and recalling his favorite book, The Stranger by Albert Camus, he accepted the new reality–this camel can speak– without making a further fuss about it.

” Nice to meet you! ” he got composed and then asked the camel: “What’s your name big fella?”

The camel seemed to murmur in accent and look at him pleased but did not answer only walked the Turban a bit forward.

“What do you call him sir?” Jabbar asked the turban.

“He only speaks Sindhi,” replied the camel as it moved its head and walked the Turban who was attached to his bridle close to him.

“Oh! Why don’t you yourself tell me your name then? ” Jabbar asked the camel. The camel nodded his head disappointed and stomped his front leg on the wet ground.

‘It clearly has some anger management issues,’ he thought. The camel seem to understand this too as it walked the Turban closer still so that he was an arm’s length apart. Jabbar finally got the system and could now understand the camel’s frustration.

“Awhaan jo na lo chha hai? ” Jabbar asked from the Turban the camel’s name in Sindhi while sneaking a few glances at the camel to see for a sign of approval.

” Khado kithay hai? ” the Tuban responded asking for food to munch on.

‘He can speak!’ he thought surprised and inconsistent with his previous reaction.  The Turban then began to move his jaw sideways, as if he was munching on cud which left him wide-eyed.

‘Accept the reality and move on,’ he told himself gaining composure once again.

” Moonkhe khhabara konhe, kithay hai(I don’t have any idea where the food is),” he replied.

The Turban grunted at his reply! Determined not to disappoint the camel, it took all his effort to not act surprised yet again, for he has never seen a man grunt like an animal.

“Hasn’t he eaten anything?” he asked the camel while he looked at the Turban.

” He just did, a few minutes ago,” the camel replied as a smile beamed across his face.

“You are not as dumb as I thought you to be,” the camel continued, “most people either run away or fail to communicate.”

“I can see why they would,” Jabbar replied.

Then he heard the Turban mumble something and for a brief moment, his expression changed.

“T oo’n varee chava’nd e’n? ” I asked him to repeat.

The mumbling continued on his now torment ridden face, though like before Jabbar could not understand. “Help!” escaped a whisper of a sound.

The camel gave a harsh tug to Turban’s hand attached to the bridle and pulled him back. The tug could not rob the Turban off of his balance but it took away his new found expression and left a blank slate behind.

Jabbar noticed one of the strings of the bridle hung from the camel’s muzzle and reached for it.

Jabbar felt stuck to the bridle string, but to his surprise, instead of wanting to free himself he had the urge to snatch the other from the Turban’s hand; that urge soon left him, though he remained stuck he felt okay to stand there forever!

He felt the camel’s gaze on him but could not see it and he realized that he didn’t care!

All the while ,the familiar inner voice spoke to him,’This is new!’ it said, ‘We cannot do anything about it, everything is inconsequential remember!’

That’s when he let himself go, and became impassive to what was happening to him. ‘I am in a state of free will without any physical manifestation! This is perfect!’ his inner-self proclaimed .

His new found metaphysical reality ,then started to pulsate ; the state that he was ‘stuck’ in started to give way. The source of  it were the harsh tugs on the bridle strap, at the end of which was a frightened camel unable to escape Jabbar’s grasp. The petrified camel became visible first and the Turban next. On the Turban’s countenance was a wide grin which made its way onto Jabbar to. It was at this point that the legs of the camel gave out.

The camel did not utter a word, nor did the Turban. Jabbar had quite the experience; he felt more impassive than ever.

Finally, the bridle straps dropped on to the ground and while Jabbar laughed, the Turban cried.

 

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