I scrolled through the list of contacts on my cellphone. Tried first name, last name, middle name, nickname. Nothing. I could not find him. He was gone. Did he disappear or was he deleted? A gentle soul, I recall. He had shown me his city, taken me home, made me feel at home. Put up with my whims. We had sat in the muddy lanes on rickety charpoys and he took pictures of me with a bunch of kids. I saw the child in him, the man in him.
Salim was not there in my contacts. I wanted to get in touch. Call him up.
After days and days of feeling frustrated, I realised that I had forgotten his name. His name was not Salim. I had to change it to protect him. My guide in Peshawar had become a character in my book. And we don’t have real details of characters, do we? Often, we don’t have real details of people, too.
Sometimes, details give us too much meat and make us forget the bones, the stuff that flesh clings to.