“Khwabnagar? Where is Khwabnagar.” He then searched the map frantically. “Is this it?” He asked as he pointed to a point on the map.
“We’re going to Khwabnagr?” The Preacher’s voice was shrill with excitement.
“Khwabnagar? Is it anything like the Urals? I miss them sometimes.” The Russian weighed in.
Trauer kept quiet.
“Trauer I appreciate your diving into your past. I am sorry for prying into it.” I apologized.
“Twice in one day. You did it once at Sabir’s office, that I understood, but in the truck again and you had to wake me up for it? Don’t you see? You’re my friend. All of this will come to you gradually when the times OK.” He shot at me.
“Sorry.” I mumbled.
“Don’t you see?” he was not letting down, “someday you will have to know all this. You will be the heir to all of my stories. You will propagate my life’s work and mistakes so no one makes them in the future.” On finishing his sentence, he inhaled deeply and held his breath. After a few seconds he exhaled and repeated the cycle; Trauer was busy in relaxation exercises.
“Don’t worry Comrade!” shrieked The Russian. “It’s not you. He is upset that you had pressed him so hard for something he was already willing to give to you. I mean he would have told you all of this eventually.”
The awkwardness in the Jeep lingered on for more than an hour. The country side around us was teeming with life. The blue of the sky had returned. It was almost sinful having all of the guys shut up because of me.
“I don’t believe the Doc did anything wrong.” Amir whispered into Trauer’s ear. “Cut him some slack, he is not even arguing when he should be protesting for his good intentions. He was curious that’s all. He also needs an apology Trauer, give it to him.”
Amir’s arbitration was assuring.
“Sorry.” Trauer said carefully as he made a sharp turn.
“Well done Amir, by the way, shouldn’t we be debating where we are going right now and why?” Sabir said as he turned the map around once again.
“Well its the most beautiful place in the New Republic. We might relax for a few days.” Trauer replied.
“A few days?” Rakh asked gradually.
“It could be a few weeks.” The Russian almost jumped with joy.
“What man?” I felt too weak to protest. “ I haven’t packed that sort of money.”
“Don’t worry, we will think of something Doc.” Sabir turned from the front passengers seat.
“All of us high earning bachelors can spare some money for a good time, can’t we?” Amir insisted. Every one in the Jeep agreed. It was as if Trauer had been waiting for an opportunity to leave town at the earliest. He couldn’t rely entirely on national holidays for long trips into the mountains. Maybe his panic attacks were a genuine issue. Maybe it was a bit of both. The important thing was that as enjoyable as the things were turning out to be, the resentment and self loathing was growing inside me. The reason was that I felt being pushed around and I was not being trusted with the facts. I wanted to push back, I wanted to bargain a bit, show some stubbornness in other words.
“I always wanted to go to Khwabnagar. I even wrote a poem about it, its called well what do you know, ‘Khwabnagar’. Care to listen?” Rakh was excited.
“No, not now.” insisted Sabir.
“Its really good, you’ve got to listen.” Rakh was clearly upset.
“We will when we get there.”Sabir shot back.
“Whats wrong? This is a long journey. Someone has to say something.” Rakh’s face was growing redder.
“Come to think of it,” Sabir ignored Rakh, “How far is this Khwabnagar of yours? Eh Trauer?”
“About 4 hours to Tarnuba. 4 hours after that to Pinha, and 10 hours beyond that to Khwabnagar. 17-18 hours I think.” Trauer answered.
“Ahm ahm, my poem?” Rakh asked again.
“OK, lets here it.” Sabir resigned.
The poem was well written. The troubling thing was that his comedy contrasted his serious stuff. Sure, a lot of famous poets had a fling with humor but Rakh’s humor was different. It was cheesy,cliched and often very harsh. I could understand Sabir’s trouble with taking such a guy’s poem seriously.
“OK, I am stopping for fuel. Washroom and eatables, now. Don’t cram too many snacks though, we can shop in Tarnuba all we want and Khwabnagar is not a wasteland either so keep that in mind.” Trauer signaled us all to get going.
The filling station was all empty. There was only worker, as it turned out, he was a personal guard to the filling station’s owner. The owner was running the shop himself. The workers’ revolt was spreading out of FarAwayDowns. We were about 130 KM from where we had started. The good news was that the commotions was limited. The bad news was that if this would be the state up in the mountains then we would rather stay home.
I sat at the restaurant sipping tea when Sabir came and sat in front me.
The Preacher went to the mosque. I smiled and turned to Sabir.
“Quite a man, The Russian told me about the time he was duped on the internet.” I tried to start the conversation.
“He told you everything?” Sabir’s forehead was terribly furrowed.
“What was there to tell, it happens all the time.” I sipped tea casually.
“How casual can you be? Are you for real?” now the squint appeared in his right eye. It usually meant that he was Sabir was not “processing” this. I didn’t know why.
“Did he tell you who sent those emails to Amir?” he asked, apparently the guessing game was too much.
“You mean you know who was doing all this? You could have told him, a bit of revenge could have eased his pain. He would’ve hurt himself, did that ever occur to you?” This was unbelievable.
“We couldn’t tell him so we did the next best thing, we became friends with him. Surprising to see how you’re his best friend all of a sudden. Don’t blame you, he has this ability to make allies almost immediately.” Sabir was apologetic, to the wrong guy in my opinion.
“Wait wait, how did you know who was pestering Amir? I know you know a lot about computing, but there is no simple way to know who it was back then. ” What he was saying was making less and less sense.
“Well I know because we did it, The Russian and me.” by now all of his facial muscles had tensed. His lips curled, both of his eyes were squinting, he was about to blow up.
I stood up and ran towards the jeep. Sabir couldn’t run after me, he called my name.
“What?” I yelled back at him.
“Stop! It’s not as bad as you think.” he pleaded.
“Are you people crazy? You are as mad as The Russian himself.” I yelled back.
He stumbled out of the chair.
“We were having a bit of fun when I started feeling bad for the guy. He was sweet and sincere. I didn’t sleep for days trying to figure out what to do for him. The Russian had all sort of dirty tricks up his sleeves but I refused all of them. There is a bit of irony in this but The Russian came up with the plan of befriending him.” He was almost pleading.
“Now you are going to ask me not to tell Amir anything.” I said.
“What do you mean by telling him?” his facial muscles relaxed all of a sudden. “He knows everything, we told him a few months after we became friends.”
I was starting to get a headache. The Preacher was returning from the Masjid. He waved at us. I waved back at him. Sabir was tensed up not because he thought I was going to tell Amir everything. He was troubled by my opinion for him. In a very twisted way, I thought it was very nice of him.
“Amir is a Saint compared to us guys.” I turned and informed Sabir what I made of all of this.
“A saint indeed.” he said smiling.