A mysterious affair


COMMENT: A mysterious affair — I —Munir Attaullah

Even if I were in Lahore, I could not realistically expect the Khadim-e-Aala to attend to my modest needs: is he not busy practicing that delicate new skill — how to wade through flood waters in the presence of TV cameras — that has taken the country by storm?

(Author’s advisory: This is not your regular, solemn, op-ed stuff. I am fed up with a surfeit of bad news and gloomy columns. So, some light-hearted nonsense this week (and next), no matter how out of place, may not be entirely unwelcome. Readers feeling aggrieved should seek suo motu action)

Now who had stolen the blueprint of the latest revolutionary invention I had dreamed up? That was the million dollar vexing question that demanded an urgent answer.

Come to think of it, it may well be a billion dollar question. For, as my friends will readily confirm if need be, a modest and self-effacing nature (and here I must not forget to say Alhamdulillah) makes me naturally err on the conservative side when estimating the full profit potential of my brilliantly inventive ideas.

There were a slew of suspects of course, some obvious and some less so, who nevertheless it would be folly to ignore: is the actual culprit not often the least likely suspect? Much the same could be said, mutatis mutandis, about motives: who knows what dark thoughts lurk in the murky inner recesses of the mind behind a friendly face. So, what obviously was required was a deep and meticulous analysis of the entire situation, ab initio (now where have I heard that word before?).

Long time readers know my proven recipe for dealing with such a tricky situation: retire to bed, turn off the lights, adopt a yoga-like posture of calm and languorous repose and, while aimlessly puffing a cigarette, solemnly ask myself in a thought experiment what my psychologist guru, one Humair Hashmi, would suggest (the alternative, of getting gratuitous advice from my sister, Dr Durre, being quite useless: she is firmly into Jung and would likely first give me a long lecture on synchronicity).

Note the imperative need for solemnity. As in the case of religious discourse, an extra dimensional insight into the truth is all but guaranteed thereby.

But I happen to be in Morocco, and sprawled out in a deckchair by the pool in the garden, on a balmy late afternoon. Having woken up only a while ago it will be some time yet before one can expect to recover from the extravagances of the previous night. The effort involved in getting up and going indoors to bed to conduct the thought experiment is quite beyond me. What should I do?

Confucius says: “Man limp by evening, like spaghetti: need sauce.” Besides, there is no such thing as a wrong time for a glass of champers and a Cohiba. So, as I still at least have the necessary energy — Alhamdulillah — to ring the bell beside me, I do so to summon the Khadim-e-Aala (not our chief minister, silly, but the Sgt-Major at the villa. Anyway, even if I were in Lahore, I could not realistically expect the former to attend to my modest needs: is he not busy practicing that delicate new skill — how to wade through flood waters in the presence of TV cameras — that has taken the country by storm?). Perhaps, I reason, such stimuli will revive me sufficiently to get on with the urgent task of solving this mystery.

Back home, the Punjab Police would have come to my aid, with their super efficient patented methods. But the local Police here are not the same. Besides, it is a delicate and private matter, and a public scandal may possibly open an unwanted can of worms. No. It is all up to me. Partaking of the double-whammy to the senses the Khadim-e-Aala had brought me, soon produces the expected results. “Concentrate now,” I say to myself, as a warm feeling of contentment gradually replaces the previous mind-numbing lethargy. Insha’Allah, I will solve the riddle.

So I start with the inner coterie. After all, had I not casually mentioned to them, at the card table the previous afternoon, my great breakthrough? The fact that they were unanimously dismissive then, and feigned disinterest, proves nothing. Everything I say gets that same treatment.

Starting at the top then, could it be the Godfather? But what could be the motive? Having zillions already, surely the prospect of an additional small fortune would be of no interest. On the other hand, he loves to play games. I would not put it past him to enjoy seeing me anxiously squirm a little. And his organisational resources and skill, in quietly executing through others a deviously hatched plan, were legendary.

Could it be NA, our stubbornly fastidious friend from Karachi, who is an authority on men’s shoes and fashion (and much else)? Maybe his losses at the card table (though he was a winner this time round, I think) were becoming unbearable. And, can he really afford all that lavish expenditure at the local Lacoste boutique?

Or was it IS, the friendly Arab from Dubai? Yes, he must be a strong suspect. Was he not my immediate neighbour in the house? Besides, he is planning to relocate to Morocco and build himself a grand villa there, a move that will obviously need substantial funding, quite beyond his current means. Moreover, he suffers from the Restless Leg Syndrome (yes, there actually is such a thing), which means he is often prowling around the villa very late at night while the world sleeps.

But, to offset that, is he not as upright a Muslim — indeed, as good a human being — as you might meet? Someone whose current preoccupation is to doggedly educate me on the need to say Insha’Allah, Alhamdulillah, etc, on the appropriate occasion (as you can see, I am learning) is unlikely to stoop to such a lowly act.

And then there was FS, whose well-documented operational specialty is eye contact. Odd that he answered my direct question to him last night about a leggy blonde evasively, and while looking elsewhere. One must be fair however. Perhaps the skill is reserved for the opposite sex.

Finally there is KB, a well-known denizen of Lahore. A self-made, supremely practical fellow, he has made good by both orthodox and unorthodox means (who has not?). Always dressed in shalwar-kameez, no matter where, his language is usually laced with the choicest of expletives, in endearingly true Punjabi fashion. Is he not beset with a little local difficulty in Dubai?

I note that I have exhausted my space allocation for today without even considering other suspects (such as the girls nicknamed ‘Double-Decker’ and ‘Housemaid’ in our circle). Nor have I given you details of my brilliant idea. For all that, and the exciting denouement, tune in next week. For the moment, I summon the Khadim-e-Aala to refresh my glass.

(To be continued)

The writer is a businessman. A selection of his columns is now available in book form. Visit munirattaullah.com

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