When the boys came and said to the old woman, “Grandma, your grandson Saleem was lynched by some people,” she didn’t quite understand.
Her darkened, wrinkled face and her pinched, clouded eyes showed no feeling. She just covered her head with her poorly patched chador.
“Lynched” was a new word for her. But she could guess it was an English word. She had heard a few English words previously and by now knew what they meant.
The first was “pass”; she had heard it when Saleem had passed his first school exam. The second word she had heard was “job”, and she knew it meant getting employed.
“Salary” was the third English word she had heard and understood; it always brought to her nostrils the smell of gently roasting bread.
She believed that all English words were good, and that this new word too must have brought some happy news about Saleem. And so she said, “May God bless those people.”
The boys stared at her in disbelief. “Should we say what lynching means?”— they thought, but none could find in himself the courage to explain the word to her.
Just then, it occurred to the old woman that she ought to at least bless the bearers of the good news. “Sons,” she said to the boys, “May God grant you a good lynching too. Now, if you’ll wait a moment, I shall bring you something sweet to eat.”
Asghar Wajahat is a Hindi writer. Translated from the original Hindi by C.M. Naim.