Journeying through dreams

October 29, 2023

AR Dad’s new anthology of short stories is surreal and full of magic

Journeying through dreams


n most of his stories, AR Dad seems to be looking for a mysterious world. The world he builds in his stories differs from the one he breathes in. It is a world of dreams which most of his short stories arise from. In other words, dreams are the essential ingredients of his short stories. Though many of his short stories resonate with social and political undertones, their fountainheads lie in dreams.

In Sajid Hussain’s words, “AR Dad looks at the world through the prism of his dreams.” For Dad, each dream is a story and each story has a world full of unexpected turns and twists.

Er Maanen Shahr (The Relieved City) is the third collection of Dad’s short stories. Published earlier this month, it contains fifteen stories touching on various themes and utilising several techniques.

Dabb Morg óházít (A Cage in Quest of Birds) is a story of two men striving for spiritual perfection who take two different paths. One of them seeks it through knowledge and intellect, while the other seeks it through worship. The character who seeks it through worship tries to convince his friend that he has seen God in the middle of the clock hanging in a mosque but fails to persuade him.

Here, the clock symbolises the stipulated prayer timings. The author seems to suggest that for spiritual perfection, one has to think beyond a clock. Only a thin line separates a clock and a cage. Once the line is blurred, the clock can become a cage.

Shahr Gappa Int (The City Talks) is a story about a man and his dog. Some people believe that he brings them bad luck. Thus, they try to run away from him wherever he goes or seek to evade his gaze. Everyone in the city is convinced that there would be no rain as long as he lives there. One day, to the great relief of them all, he vanishes. However, his disappearance is not followed by rain. One by one, more people leave the city. As they leave, everybody looks back to see if the unlucky man and his dog are following them.

Kamalan and his dog are not two separate creatures. They are a part of every human being. Evil lies hidden in everyone’s persona. In other words, every man has a dog, visible or invisible.

The story is reminiscent of another story by the author titled Ma Cher Aten (We Have Gone into Hiding), which is included in his first anthology, Dareeg Ey Pach Bit (A Window Opens). In that story, the protagonist smells the stench of a dead rat about himself. He locks himself in and avoids going outside lest other people should find out about his condition. Eventually, one of his friends approaches him and reveals that he, too, is undergoing the same agony. At the end of the story, they find that the entire city has been deserted because having smelled the same dead rat, all its residents are hiding from one another. The dead rat here symbolises the sense of collective guilt.

The author believes that the rise of even one defiant voice will beget many, eventually leading to the collapse of unjust social and political authority. 

Aazman Che Ranga Bit (What will be the Color of the Sky?) depicts the conflict surrounding a mysterious wall. The story’s narrator wants to see what lies beyond the wall, but is told that the wall is beautiful and that there is nothing beyond the wall. As he remains curious, he insists on looking at the other side of the wall. To appease him, at last, the Master agrees to open a door in the wall. The next day, when he draws close to the door, he discovers that there is yet another wall beyond the door. He feels betrayed.

Kaur a Aap Maan Nest (The River Has Gone Dry) has a theme Dad generally avoids touching upon, not because it’s tabooed but because he is least inclined towards it. The protagonist of the story is drawn towards a female colleague, who happens to be his wife’s friend. He tries to court her, but she always seeks to dissuade him on a new pretext. At one point, she says:

“Love doesn’t go well with me. Why don’t you understand”?

At another moment, she says:

“I don’t know why, but I always dream that whenever I come close to you, a fire gets going between us. And as you try to extinguish it, it reduces your face into ashes.”

In the end, he finds out that she is an asexual woman.

The mode of narration the author has employed in Professor Seka is different from his usual style. Its diction is unusually lucid and unembellished. While several themes overlap here, the story can be categorised autobiographical fiction. It reveals some of the author’s views about life and art. He laments that art and literature have no significance in or society and that everyone is pursuing wealth and riches.

In some of his stories, Dad has tried to revive the folk tale narration. Yak Chammi Badisáh (The One-Eyed King) is one such story. It is about a one-eyed king who is blindly followed by a group of minions and sycophants because he provides them with enough to eat. Gazzen, the protagonist, an introvert by nature, one day delivers a speech on the city square censuring the public for their material wealth. He says that they should think beyond the bread and butter. He is first dismissed as a lunatic and then summoned to the court where instead of submitting to the king’s authority, he calls certain conventions into question. Even in the face of danger, he shows his resolve to express the voice of his conscience. He is banished to the forest for defying the king’s authority. However, upon reaching there, he discovers a crowd following them. They reveal that the king has decreed that those who want to live under his protection must blind one of their eyes.

The author seems to propose that the rise of even one defiant voice will beget many, eventually leading to the collapse of unjust social and political authority.

The anthology is a wonderful addition to modern Balochi fiction.

Er Maanen Shahr

Author: AR Dad

Publisher: Saach Dar Labzanki Gall Makkuran

Pages: 124

The reviewer, a Balochi author and translator, is an assistant professor at Atta Shad Degree College, Turbat. He tweets @FazalBaloch

Journeying through dreams