By now, the policemen were panting. Tired and fed up with the chase, one of them took out a gun anf fired. The bullet hit the man in his back. The sack slipped and rolled down. The man turned, and looked at the still-running policemen with frightened eyes. He also saw the blood seeping down his calf. But with a quick jerk, he bent bent, picked up the sack and began to limp away hurriedly. The policemen thought,"Let him go to hell."
The Kashmiri coolie was limping badly when he staggered and fell heavily - the sack fell on top of him.
The policemen swooped down on him and took him away to the police station. The man kept pleading all the way,"Gentlemen, why are you arresting me? I am a poor man...I was only taking a sack of rice...to eat at home...why have you shot me..." But no one paid him any heed.
The Kashmiri coolie went on with his explanations at the police station, pleading and crying,"Sir, there were others in the bazaar...they were carrying away many big things...I have only taken one sack of rice...I am a poor man...I can only afford to eat plain rice."
Till, finally, he gre tired and desperate. he took off his skull-cap, wiped the sweat streaming from his forehead, cast one last, lingering look at the sack of tempting rice, then stretched his palm before the Thanedar abd said,"All right, sir, you keep the sack with you...but pay me my labour charges - four annas."
Extract from cameo titled 'Payment' from 'Black Borders: A collection of 32 cameos', Rakhshanda Jalil's translation of Saadat Hasan Manto's Siyah Hashiye (1947).
Image: Kralkhod, Srinagar, 2008
Previously: Pundit Manto’s First Letter to Pundit Nehru