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The Great Nothingness or Punjabi Days

Chris Cork

You wait for days for nothing to happen, nothing happens and then it happens a bit more. Nothing happens in the Punjab in the spring for stretches of time in which star-voyaging might be easily accomplished. Look into the eyes of a buffalo and the sheer grandeur of nothing happening is laid bare. The unmapped vastness of terra-incognita that is the inside of the mind of a buffalo reaches out and surrounds you in an instant, and the milky iris widens into stellar distance, and tells of fathomless mysteries. Of cud yet unchewed. Of wallows yet unvisited. Of days yet to come where emptiness stretches dawn to dusk and the spheres turn a silent dance between the morning watering and the evening foddering. Beside the half-a-ton of black and sparsely-haired vacuum that is the buffalo, the goats are a hive of intellectual activity. Frenetic creatures who jerk and twist and dance on the end of their tethers, desperately busy to get down the office, crank up the PC and tear into a days trading in pork-belly futures at the Fatimapur Stock Exchange…

Outside of the great nothingness of the courtyard there is the great nothingness of the fields. Ancient men with long scythes and hourglasses stand at every corner, beards tangled in their dhoti, looking puzzled at the burst of activity that is the onset of another season, troubled that another tick on the seasonal clock has apparently tocked without their noticing. Today, there are things to be done in the nothingness, as the nothingness has to get busy with itself and turn out a wheat crop, a cotton crop, mangos, sugar cane, onions and carrots and all the other comestibles that ensure that there will be active nothingness for generations to come. Nothingness has to be tended and nurtured, brought to flower and fruit, harvested and cooked and eaten.

Excerpted from a piece originally published in The Aleph Review, Vol. 3 (2019).

Photograph: 'The Tangay Wala' by Naheed Rafi


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