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The Faceless Face

Written by Mahmood Shahid in Urdu
Transformed into English by Faheem Jawaid

I have a thought running through my mind. The idea is as to, what picture would appear if we throw black color on a white wall. May be, this idea might have crossed your mind too, before. Obviously, the picture that would appear would not form a vivid feature, at first sight. I want you to join me in this act, and look at it with the eyes of our own.

Please come. Let us toss black color on a white wall and see.

This is the black color and that is the white wall.

One of you, please come forward; take the black color and splash it on the white wall.

No! … You!

Will you please come forward?

You might be thinking, why blacken the white wall with a splash for nothing. I too, think so. However, if, anybody does this, will you not think about it? I believe that you will definitely think over it, as thinking is a sign of being alive.

All right! I myself will come forward.

Look at the white wall where I splashed the black color, some big black spots have appeared. By those spots, more small spots and criss-crossed lines have turned up. You can also see some big and small dots scattered around the lines.

Come and let us think, as to what shape of picture can be formed from these spots, criss-crossed lines and scattered dots.

Has any sketch of a figure appeared in your mind?

Or in your mind...?

What do you think?

Yes. Yes. Tell me!

Look at it carefully!

Tell me!

We all have freedom of expression. Why should we not use our right? Our thoughts may vary from each other. Nevertheless, an exchange of ideas and information help us understand one another. Give expression to your words, but when words fail to communicate; symbols and signs guide us in the right direction. Please come, and try to feel and share each other's sorrow, grief and suffering with the help of these spots, lines and dots.

Yes! Yes! Do tell me!

The small pieces of black clouds float in spotless and sun-like gleaming sky. These small pieces of clouds come together and emerge as big pieces of clouds. Further, the big pieces of clouds convert into thick and bulky clouds within no time, covering the entire sky. The sparkling and luminous sun is buried somewhere under the quagmire of these clouds, and the rays of the sun die down helplessly. The darkness spread over the roads and buildings. The mountains and forests are lost in the darkness. A dark black sheet covers the rivers and the oceans. It is darkness, darkness and darkness, over the limit line of sight.

You built up a good picture of this.

How do you like this picture?

What is your opinion?

Express yourself openly, without seeing what others might think. Every person has his own caliber and level of thinking. You also can speak in your own way and style.

Come and let us think over it further.

Will you!

You think about it.

Any feature of a picture came in your view.

A shining dove flies in the open arms of sky. It reaches to the dizzy new heights. The bird is very happy about flying in the heights. It enjoys by keeping its wings still; and sometimes by putting them in motion, moving up and up again. Suddenly, a flock of crows besieges the dove and attack on it with their sharp claws and beaks. The injured dove falls down the ground fluttering its wings, helplessly. The blood spread over the whole earth.

What do you think about this picture?

This picture seems to have made a strong impression on you.

I can see that you wrinkled your forehead.

Please tell me, if you are looking at it from a different angle.

The importance of the difference-of-opinion is enormous. It opens new doors to thoughts, beliefs, and ideas.

Tell me if you look at it another way.

Yes! Yes! Tell me!

In the middle of wet green leaves of a young plant, a fresh white rose is in bloom. Its sweet smell spread all over the garden. There are stacks of green bush around the flower plant. Then, somebody waters the plant with poison. Due to the affect of poison, the green leaves of the plant, the white petals of the rose die off, and in no time, the whole plant is dead. The stacks of thick bush close to the plant are scattered.

Can you throw light on this picture?

How about you? Or you!

I think we are approaching much closer to the black color spread over the white wall. The black clouds, sun-like shining sky, a flock of crows, shining dove, white rose, poisonous water, etc., Though the way we look at the picture differently our impressions seem to be identical. The features are various, but the similarity of thoughts is evident. The color, the lines, and the dots relate to each other. If you stick these pictures together, some new features of a picture emerge. The black clouds join hands and form a net. The shining dove flies and, is imprisoned in the net. The crows stretch their black wings covering the whole sky, scratch the shiny sun with their razor-sharp beaks, and gulp it down. The poisonous water rains in the form of darkness from black clouds, and reaches the roots of white-rose plant and burns it. Sometimes, the black clouds become black crows, and sometimes the black crows take the shape of poisonous water. The luminous sun, the shining dove, and the white rose look one side of a picture.

In your opinion, what could be the meaning behind these pictures?

Do you think that these pictures can unveil the secrets of something?

Do these pictures resemble the black color and the white wall?

What type of pictures can you make out of these black spots, criss-crossed lines, and scattered dots?

Look! One picture has materialized in my eyes. I see a beautiful woman in black mourning dress.

Do you agree with me?

About Mahmood Shahid:

Mohamood Shahid is a distinctive poet, an incomparable storywriter and marvellous critic of Urdu language. His various eminent contributions in the world of Urdu literature know no bounds. His recent short stories collection "Dhancha," means, "Skeleton," is one of them.

Note: The above story with a unique presentation of thoughts, despite being symbolic, explores an avenue of hard-edged realism. I read this story in December 2004 in a very reputed Urdu literary magazine "Shair" when I did not know Mahmood Shahid, and wondered how a person working in Saudi Arabia could write such a masterpiece.

It was a challenge for me to transform into English this story, protecting the style, mode, technique, and approach of the original.

----- Faheem Jawaid

Special to YaHind

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