The Dancer

He knows

He dances maida maida, like a butterfly around the candle. His feet strike the ground gently in harmony with the beat of the drum. There are wave-like motions in his hands. His eyes move to and fro, mimicking Bollywood women dancers, hypnotising the audience. When he bends his body backward and forward a thunder of applause resounds.

 The big room is packed. Very little space is left for dancing – for him to run to the end of the earth, to fly above the cloud, to navigate in vast oceans. A roar of praise fills the night. The crowd’s frenzy almost smothers the music. It is he who has generated this madness. He can only hear. His vision is blurred through smoking Afghan black and drinking vodka. He doesn’t need to see too clearly, just to hear the music and the words “Your boy is the best, Akram.” He knows that he has learned the art of dancing and he is the best in the province of Farkhar. The room is darkened by the cloud of hashish smoke

Ever since he learned which of his hands was the right one and which was the left, he was out on the street begging for food. Sometimes he noticed children playing football, topdanda, running after one another, playing hide-and-seek. The only things that he wanted to hide from were poverty and hunger and here in Akram’s fortress he was hiding, hiding from himself.

Akram is more than a father to him. His own father left him in poverty and the torture of hunger. Akram loves him.

“I want you to be mine forever.”

“I am yours.”

“Tell me that you are my wife.”

“Wife?”

And Akram marries him one day. A mullah comes for the marriage ceremony. The mullah is wearing a big blue turban. His upper teeth always bite his lower lip and his eyes are crossed. Two witnesses also come with the mullah. In the wedding photograph, Akram, the tall commander who has fought the Russians in the name of jihad, has a shiny charcoal beard trimmed by the barber. His cheeks are smooth, tanned and a little greasy but he has washed just before the marriage. His white traditional clothes are ironed to perfection. He is wearing a holster around his waist and only part of it can be seen on his right, under the waistcoat. On his left the boy is standing with long hair, red lipstick, his face is made white with powder and his cheeks have too much red make-up on them. He is wearing female clothes. His eyes are smiling.

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