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TitleA Case of Exploding Mangoes
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line. I don't promise anything. It's not the time to make rash commitments but if You can save

one person on that plane let it be Obaid. Please God, let it be Obaid. If there is a parachute on

that plane, give it to him. If there are any miracles left in Your power let them happen now. And

then we'll talk. I'll always talk to You. I'll always listen to You.

I open my eyes and see Pak's One's tail whiplashing out of a giant ball of orange fire.

First, there is the thunder of seventy-eight tonnes of metal and fuel and cargo propelled

by four 4300 horsepower engines colliding, skidding, against the hot desert sand, titanium joints

pulling at each other, resisting and then letting go; fuel tanks, full to capacity, boil over at impact

and then burst. The desert receives a shower of metal and flesh and sundry objects. It lasts no

more than four minutes. Medals go flying like a handful of gold coins flung from the sky,

military boots shining on the outside and blood dripping from severed feet, peaked caps hurled

through the air like Frisbees. The plane coughs out its secrets: wallets with children's smiling

pictures, half-finished letters to mistresses, flight manuals with emergency procedures marked in

red, golden uniform buttons with crossed swords insignias, a red sash with the army, navy and

air force logos sails through the air, a hand clenched into a fist, bottles of mineral water still

intact, fine china crockery with presidential crests, titanium plates still bubbling away at the

edges, dead altimeters, gyroscopes still pointing towards Islamabad, a pair of Peshawari slippers,

an oil-stained overall with its name-plate still intact; a part of the landing gear rolls and comes to

halt against a headless torso in a navy-blue blazer.

Three minutes later the desert receives another shower: twenty thousand litres of A-grade

aviation fuel splashes in the air, combusts itself and comes back to the desert. It's a monsoon

from hell.

And the flesh; all kinds of flesh: brown melting into white, ligaments, cartilages, flesh

ripped from bones, parched flesh, charred flesh; body parts strewn around like discarded dishes

at a cannibals' feast.

The charred pages of a slim book, a hand gripping the spine, a thumb with a half-grown

nail inserted firmly into the last page.

When Pakistan National Television abruptly interrupts an early-evening soap opera and

starts to play a recitation from the Quran, the First Lady waits for a few minutes. This is usually

a preamble to breaking news. But the mullah doing the recitation has chosen the longest surah

from the Quran and the First Lady knows that he will go on for a couple of hours. The First Lady

curses the Information Minister and decides to do some house chores. Her first stop is her

husband's bedroom. She picks up the glass of milk from the side table, then puts it back when

she notices a black spot on the bed sheet. She looks at it closely and curls her nose at the spot of

blood. "Poor man is sick." The First Lady feels a pang of guilt which turns into anger and then

utter hopelessness. "He is getting old. He should retire on health grounds if nothing else." But

she has known him for too long to harbour any hopes of a serene retirement life. The First Lady

picks up the new issue of Reader's Digest from the side table. There is a cover story about how to

put your life back together after your husband has cheated on you. Marriage therapy? she


Not for me, she thinks, throwing the bloodstained sheet into the laundry basket.

Our Cessna circles the ball of orange fire. My eyes scan the horizon for a parachute, then

the desert for a lonely figure walking away from the fire and smoke. The sky is clear blue and the

desert around the ball of fire and flying debris is empty and indifferent; no one is walking out of

this inferno. The pilot doesn't have to wait long for his instructions. "It doesn't look good. There

is no point landing here." General Beg has made up his mind. "We need to get back to

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