Abu Khan’s Goat/अबू खाँ की बकरी (Zakir Hussain)

You must have heard of the Himalaya mountains. There are no greater mountains than these anywhere in this world. They range over thousands of miles. The valleys of these ranges have many settlements. Almora is one such town. In this town lived a Bade Mian Abu Khan. He lived alone. He kept just one or two goats, that’s all. All day, he would roam around grazing them.

Abu Khan was poor, and very unfortunate. Each one of his goats would, at some point of time or the other, break free of the rope that tied it and run away at night. Mountain goats get restless if they are captive for long. These goats would run off to the mountains, where a  wolf lived. He would eat them up. But it was a strange thing: neither Abu Khan’s love nor the lure of the evening feed could stop those goats from running away, let alone the fear of the wolf. It could be that it is in mountain animals’ nature to love their freedom above all. They are never ready to put it on the stake. 

After many of his goats had run away like this, Abu Khan was very sad, and said, “I will not keep goats anymore. I just have a few days of life left in me, they will somehow pass by.” But loneliness is a terrible thing. When Abu Khan could no longer bear to live goat-less, he went out and bought one. 

Abu Khan thought that if he were to buy a young one, then she will become attached to him. And if she becomes used to the very finest of fodder and seed from the very beginning, she will have no reason to go to the mountains.

The goat Abu Khan bought was very beautiful. All white in colour, her hair was lovely and long. Her tiny white pointed horns looked as if someone had carved them from of a fine wood. Her eyes were exquisite. She would lick Abu Khan’s hand affectionately. Even a child could milk her. Abbu Khan was completely bowled over. He named her Chandni and spent all day talking to her. 

Thinking that goats perhaps get restless in his small yard, Abu Khan made new arrangements for Chandni. In front of his house was a little field that he owned. He fenced it on all sides with thorns. He would tie Chandni in the middle of it, giving her a very long rope so that she could move about it freely. 

Chandni lived like this at Abu Khan’s for a long time and Abu Khan came to believe that at long last, one goat had developed an affection for him. She wouldn’t run away.

But Abu Khan was deceived. The desire for freedom does not leave the heart so easily. Animals that live free in jungles and mountains cannot breathe easy surrounded by four walls of a house. They cannot find peace  even in a field surrounded with thorns. Each prison is the same after all.

One morning, when the sun was still low behind the mountains, Chandni’s gaze turned towards them. Her mouth, which was chewing cud, stopped moving and she said to herself in her heart, “Those mountain peaks are so beautiful. And there can be no comparison between the air up there and here. And this cursed eight-fold rope around my neck!”

That was it. Once this thought came to Chandni’s mind, she was never the same Chandni ever again. She no longer liked the fresh green grass, the water gave her no pleasure, nor could she find Abu Khan’s long stories enjoyable. Day by day, she became thinner. Her milk dried up. All the time, her face would be turned towards the mountains, and she would constantly pull at her chain, and bleat piteously in a voice laden with pain,  “Baaaa, baaaaa!”

One morning, after Abu Khan had milked her, Chandni turned to him and said in the language that goats speak, “Abu Khan Mian, were I to live with you here I will fall very ill. Let me go to the mountains.”

Abu Khan could understand the language of goats by now. He screamed, ” Ya Allah! Even this one says that she wishes to leave! This one too!”

Sinking sunk down onto grass right next to Chandni, he spoke to her in sorrowful tones. He asked her, “But why, my daughter Chandni? You too want to leave me?”

Chandni replied, “Yes, Abu Khan Mian, that is what I want.”

“Is it because you don’t get fodder, or is it that you don’t like the seeds?”

“No, no Mian, the seeds are not the reason for my discomfort,” Chandni replied.

“Is it then that the rope is too short? I will make it longer”

Chandni said, “And what use would that be?”

“Then what on earth is the matter? What is it that you want?”

Chandni replied, “Nothing at all. Just let me go to the mountains.

Abu Khan said, “Ill-fated creature! Don’t you know that there is a wolf there?”When he comes for you, what will you do?

Chandni replied, “Allah has given me two horns, I will use them.”

“Of course,” Abu Khan said sarcastically, “your horns will definitely work on a wolf!”

Saying this, Abu Khan took Chandni and locked her in a small room in the corner of his house, to save her from the wolf. But he forgot to close the window. As soon as he slid the bolt on the door from outside, Chandni sprang out of the window and ran away.

When Chandni reached the mountains, her joy knew no bounds. She felt as if the trees were standing by congratulating her on her return to them. The tall grass was embracing her. The flowers, in their delight, had burst  into peaks of laughter. It was as if the whole mountainside was overcome with happiness that its long-lost daughter had come back home.

Chandni pranced around all morning. As afternoon set in, she saw a trip of mountain goats, who called her happily to them. In fact, a few younger ones showed her great hospitality and respect. One of these was a young male, whom Chandni also liked, and the two roamed about together for quite some time. What they spoke of, no one can say. Perhaps the brook that ran beside them could say, because it would have heard them. But maybe not — carrying tales isn’t a good thing after all.

The trip left after a while. The young male goat went with them too. But Chandni was so filled with the yearning to be free that she couldn’t tolerate the idea of joining their flock, and set off on her own in another direction. 

It was soon evening. A cold wind started to blow. Soon Abu Khan’s house and the field enclosed by thorns down were hidden by the fog. Chandni stood still. From one side, Abu Khan’s voice came, “Come back, Chandni! Come back!”. From the other side, she heard the sounds of her mortal enemy, the wolf. 

Chandni did think of return, but then she remembered the stake, the rope, the enclosure of thorns, and she thought that death in the mountains was far better than that life. 

She heard a rustling behind her. Looking back, she saw two ears, standing up erect, and two eyes gleaming in the dark. The wolf had come. 

Chandni turned to face him, and he grinned, “ Oh ho, one of Abu Khan’s goats. He has really fed and fattened you up nicely!” Saying this, he ran his red tongue over his blackened chops. 

Chandni’s first thought was, “Why needlessly fight all night long; it will just be better for me to martyr myself right now.” 

But then the thought came to her, No. Bending her head with her horns pointing forward, she charged towards the wolf, because that it the way of the brave. She knew very well that goats can’t ever kill a wolf. All she wanted to do was to confront to the best of her ability. Defeat or victory is not in our control; it is Allah alone who holds them in His hands. 

Chandni aimed her horns and charged, but the effects of her assault can only be spoken to by the wolf. One by one, the stars disappeared from the sky. Chandni doubled the intensity of her attack. 

Morning drew near. A rooster crowed somewhere. The sound of the azaan came from the basti below. As the muezzin called “AllahoAkbar!” for the last time, Chandni fell lifeless to the ground. Her dress of white fur had turned scarlet.

There were birds sitting up in the tree watching what was going on below. The debate amongst them was as to who won. They all say that the wolf won. There is one old bird amongst them however, who says Chandni is the victor. 

The story in Devnagari can be found here

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