There was not a single day Uwais would have wanted to take a break from his dispensary. His whole life had been dedicated for medical science. As a matter of fact, even the local British officials respected him and relied upon his diagnosis. They usually say that a degree of a Hakeem is nothing equivalent to a proper medical degree. Uwais was the exception for them.
Even at his mid Fifties, he still works 16 hours a day. It doesn't matter to him what the patients pay him. If they don't have money, he will even take a roti to eat. It saves his time on the kitchen. He sees about 50-60 patients on an average day. He doesn't work on Fridays. The man only prays on that day. For him, work is as close as you can get to your maker.
The summer in 1924 was hotter than usual. Even at night, the heatwave was just relentless. It was too much for an old man. It was almost midnight. He was calling it a day and about to lock the front door of his house, which was also the entrance to his dispensary.
'Hakeem,' called someone from the road.
'Whose there? Whoever it is come back tomorrow. I don't see patients at their home, either. So leave now!' said Uwais.
'But you don't work on Fridays. Tomorrow is Friday, ' the man approached him. He was wearing a turban and had a long beard. He wore a long white dress. 'I'm Imam Sayyudeen Al Hussein Ali Ash Marwan. I live in the nearby Khanqah (religious centre of Sufis). My son hasn't been able to sleep.'
The man had some sort of an influence on Uwais. He seem to have an aura around him. He felt a bit overwhelmed. 'How many days has he been unwell for?'
'He has not been unwell at all. He just hasn't slept for 18 days,' said the Imam. Uwais was shocked.
'That's not even possible, ' he said on a dismissive tone. The Imam just kept smiling back at him. 'Look, if that is the case take him to the Medical Hospital at Lucknow. I will give you a letter. This is beyond me it seems.' He then turned around to go inside and get the writing done.
'Only the great disciple of Rupa Bai Furdoonji can help my son,' the Imam said with all the calmness in the world. Uwais was somewhat taken aback by what he heard.
'What are you saying?'
'She is the world's first female anesthesiologist, isn't she? What my son needs is someone to help him sleep.' No one knows about anesthesia in the whole of Faziabad. This is not a medical term for a layman, nevertheless a man who's world is constrained to only religion. Besides, chloroform anesthesia is not something that should be done in clinics. The British will put him away forever.
'Whatever it is that you are looking for I'm not the one for the job. You better leave now, Imam.'
'Please, hakeem! Have mercy on us,' hollered a woman who came running towards them in tears. There were dozens of men around trying to console and refrain her. The Imam asked them to get back.
'This is not what I heard about you from Hyderabad, hakeem,' said the Imam. 'Your father was a righteous man who will do anything for the people. The Parsis taught you the secrets of medicine as a mark of respect to your father. Don't you ever forget that,' the Imam said.
'Tell me the truth! What is this all about?' Uwais asked.
'The garden behind the Khanqah, come over there after the prayers tomorrow, ' said the Imam and walked away with the people. Uwais stood their bemused. They knew too much about him. He also had arrangements to get opium illegally so that he can discover new medicines. All such practices were crucial for science , but can be life threatening for someone the British won't recognise as a doctor. He had to ensure his safety. He had to go.
The next day, he went to Khanqah after the prayer in the mosque. The Imam was seated in the middle of the hall all alone. Uwais sat on the ground next to him. The Imam poured him some kahwah.
'Yathrib is no ordinary kid, you see,' he told Uwais. 'Our forefathers are from the city of Madinah. I've being learning their lectures for as long as I can remember. But it seems they have favoured my son over me.'
Uwais took a sip off the cup. Imam smiled at him.
'How religious are you, Uwais?'
'Do you read the Qur'an?' Uwais didn't answer. 'How much you know about the Alam-e-Araf?'
'I don't understand, ' said Uwais.
'Have you heard about the Barzakh world?' Uwais remained silent. 'It is a world where the souls go after death. It is an inbetween place, a place that is between the heaven and the earth, or between the hell and earth.' The Imam stood up and walked around as he was explaining. Then he looked at Uwais to ensure if he was following.
'It is divided into two halves. A good soul can't go to the place were the bad souls gather and vice verse. They will remain their until the whole of mankind wakes up from the dead, which is after the end of days. Then we all shall move to our permanent residence. The good gets rewarded, the bad gets punished.'
'Why are you telling me this?'
'Each and evey one of us have been to the Barzakh world, Uwais. We have all seen glimpses of it in our dreams. You have seen the ghosts of your loved ones in your dreams, haven't you?'
'I don't pay attention to the details of my dreams, sorry.'
'Fine. You see, even if you do you won't be able to float according to your will over there. Very few can actually remember when their soul goes to this world. You really don't have control over your soul. Even if you do, no one can go to both parts.' The Imam pour some more kahwah to Uwais' cup. 'We believe that there was a prophet called Khalid. He was able to do that. He was able to communicate with the souls. He was determined to bring a message back to his grave from the Barzakh. So before his death he told his sons to open his grave and get the message after a certain number of days. But the children didn't do that. They were scared about what the people will say.'
'Can you please come to the point.'
'My son, like some of my forefathers have the ability to go to the Barzakh world. He has the extraordinary capability to go to both halves without any of the soul able to touch him. He brings messages to people of this village. These messages help them in ways that you can't even imagine. '
'Happy to hear that. So what you want from me?'
'I told you. He has not been able to sleep. The husband of the lady you met yesterday is no where to be seen. She has five small children. We need to know what happened to him. Yathrib can help her if you can help him to sleep.'
'What is this nonsense? I'm leaving. ' Uwais got up and stormed out. The villagers were all waiting outside. They begged him to help. The lady offered him her land as a reward if he could help. They were willing to fall on his feet. So he got back in.
'Uwais, I've never been to Hyderabad,' said the Imam. 'Your father was the one who told about you to Yathrib. He also told to remind you that the man who doesn't hear the cry of a begging person is the one who is really poor.'
This is something his father used to say. There is no way the Imam could have known of this. Uwais still had his doubts. But he found himself on a position that he had to give in. Besides, how will he stay here after turning the whole villagers against him?
Uwais agreed. He wanted to meet the boy. The Imam said the boy is on the garden behind the Khanqah. Uwais went alone to meet him.
Yathrib was sitting on a branch of a neem tree. He saw the hakeem approaching him. Uwais noticed the boy had big dark eyes, and curly long hair. Even from atop, the boy's eyes pierced you. He got down as Uwais came near.
'Its not like I don't sleep. I sleep for four to five minutes every hour. I can't tell for sure when I'll sleep or for sure that I have fallen asleep. For all I know, that is not enough time for me to enter their world,' said the boy. Uwais didn't know what to say. He just stood there. 'Can we do this today, please? They need me. The spiris don't want me to help so they have taken away my ability to sleep.'
Uwais nodded. He lifted up the boy to see how heavy he was. He checked his pulse. Then he asked him to run around the garden a bit. He watched him doing that. Then he asked him to stop and took his pulse again.
Uwais went to his home and took his bag of medicines. That evening he went to the Khanqah to perform the anesthesia. No one was to know of this procedure. Yathrib lay on a bed made of straw. Uwais took a mask with a small whole in its middle. He took a lengthy gauze and folded it into eight. He then put it inside the mask. Then he made another ring with the gauze and put it around the edges of the mask. The mask shouldn't touch the patient's face. He put it on Yathrib and asked him to close his eyes.
He took a bottle of chloroform and for every 20 seconds of the first minute he dropped a minim. The boy slept instantly. He increased the dosage and varied it with time. The boy slept for 42 minutes and that's when the Imam said that will be sufficient. He slept for two more hours. Uwais was excused to go home. He was required to leave.
Two days later, the villagers had found the missing man. The wheel of his bullock cart had fallen off and that broke his leg. He was getting nursed at a home some 140 miles away. He was located with the instructions of the boy.
Over the next two months, Uwais was asked to give anesthesia to the boy 11 times. He solved the mystery of the missing utensils. A naughty jinn was stealing the utensils of all the villagers and hiding it deep under a banyan tree. Finding lost gold, a message from the departed on how to equally divide the wealth, finding the killer of the healthy bull, the revelation of the secret second wife, choosing the right groom for the daughter, and digging at the right place to build the well were few of the mysteries they have solved.
Uwais was still not entirely convinced by all this. But he went on with it. Something he enjoyed was the company of the boy. They had formed a bond. He was understanding what it really feels to have a son or a grandson. Eventually, he was looking for every opportunity to meet the boy.
The British had imprisoned one of the men from the village over the suspicion of attacking an officer of the law. This is a serious offence. The villagers have tried their best to prove his innocence. Nothing seemed to help. So they ought to look for an advice from the good souls. Uwais was to help the boy sleep again. He wondered if doing it on a regular basis was healthy for the child. Since the Imam was away travelling for the quest of knowledge and wisdom, it was left to the two of them.
Uwais prepared the mask and the boy lay on the straw bed. 'Why did you do it?' asked the boy.
'Do what? Are you okay?'
'I'm not asking,' the boy responded. 'She asked. '
'Umayyah.' Uwais dropped the mask when he heard the name. He was shocked to hear this name. The boy looked at him sternly. He didn't blink his eyes. Those eyes no longer had black pupils. It seemed like brown.
Uwais quickly collected himself. He picked up the mask. Then he folded the gauze and put it inside it. He didn't make the ring gauze. The boy kept on looking at him the whole time. Uwais then put the mask on him. He then dropped one minim of chloroform. After 20 seconds he dropped another. The boy slept. He continued the process.
Many years ago, Umayyah was his assistant at a dispensary in Hyderabad. A very beautiful girl, but an orphan. Those days Uwais didn't have any volunteers to test his chloroform anesthesia. He had successfully tested it on fishes and other animals. He desperately needed a human.
Umayyah always had feelings for this young doctor. So she risked her life and allowed it to be tested on her. The problem with smelling chloroform is it could arouse a person. Umayyah was aroused on one of her experiments. The doctor and the assistant got a bit too personal. They were young. She was in love with him. He was educated, rich, and handsome. He cared for people. Before they knew it, they were making love. With time, they became intimate more than once. It didn't take chloroform no more.
One day Umayyah asked Uwais to marry her. But Uwais let her know that his father will never allow this relationship. Moreover, he said he couldn't afford to get married at this juncture of his career. Umayyah was heartbroken. Neither did she have anywhere else to go, nor anyone else to call her own. She needed the job so she couldn't leave him either. She felt used. Eventually, she started hating him. Although soon after she said yes to Majid when he asked her hand for marriage. Majid was Uwais' classmate, and was a regular at their clinic. He didn't care about her family. This was Umayyah's way of getting revenge on the man who betrayed her.
After marriage, she quit working for him. Soon, Majid told Uwais that she was pregnant. This made him jealous. For the first time, he wanted her back.
Majid loved his wife very much. As her date of delivery neared he became more anxious. So Uwais suggested the use of chloroform to ease her suffering while giving birth. Even Queen Victoria had done this. Being a doctor, Majid eventually agreed. Umayyah hated this idea. She couldn't stand Uwais, but couldn't tell her husband that. Uwais was after all a renowned practitioner in Hyderabad.
At the day of delivery, she and Uwais was alone for a brief time. This was the first time they were together in a room after her marriage. For some reason she said this could very well be his child, but Uwais doesn't deserve to be a father as Majid is more the ideal man. Uwais' jealousy grew hearing this. Her words angered him. She was jeering him on.
He went to Majid and told her that she had a pelvic problem and that's not good. He asked him how come he didn't get that checked earlier. Majid was petrified. It was too late now. He just asked Uwais to do his best.
There was actually no problem with her. Jealousy had consumed Uwais. He stood at her house with the responsibility of taking care of her birth, and here she was mocking her. He even felt that it could be a threat. Evil had overtaken his thoughts. Before even realising what he has done, Uwais killed her and the baby by overdosing. No one ever suspected him. He cried harder than Majid that day.
After few months, Majid left to London. Uwais was too scared to continue in Hyderabad. He moved to Faziabad. He never married. He never kept an assistant.
Everyday he remembered Umayyah. But everytime he thought about her, hatred consumed his heart. He thought had she persuaded he would have married her. She had to make a mockery out of his life instead. He blamed it all on her.
At old age, he thought he finally found some solace. He thought he had found a son in Yathrib. But she wouldn't allow that. She wants to tarnish his reputation, and he couldn't allow that. Not in this lifetime.
Uwais opened the kid's eyelids. His pupils were pointing downwards. He took another bottle and overdosed the kid. He held the mask tightly to his face. The kid hardly moved. When that was over he took another bottle with pills and had it all. He looked at the bed and saw the boy's soul leaving him to a large source of illumination. It was getting bigger and bigger. Uwais couldn't keep up with it.