Surrounded by the dark grey valleys

Surrounded By The Dark Grey Valleys – Synopsis

The novel takes place in the dark grey valleys of Baluchistan in the 1990s and early 2000s. Bibi Zoha, a fifteen years old girl is forced to marry Rehmat by her father on the inception of his promise with Rehmat’s father. Zoha gives birth to a girl that dies namelessly after seven months of her birth due to the carelessness of Rehmat. When Zoha gets pregnant for the second time, Rehmat expects a son from her, but it is again a girl. Zoha names her Sitara. Rehmat buries Sitara alive in the backyard and threatens Zoha to give birth to a son.

In despair of never having a son, Rehmat stars smoking hashish. But One day, God blesses him with a son. They name him Ali who is better known as the shepherd, later in the novel. Ali listens to stories from his grandmother. Rehmat loves his son, Ali, but when Ali reaches eleven, he stops loving or caring for Ali anymore. During this period, Rehmat beats Zoha almost daily on every tiny mistake.

After the death of his grandmother, Ali tells his mother to take divorce from Rehmat so that they could escape Rehmat. But his mother rejects this idea due to her reputation in society. That is when Ali escapes his home at the age of eleven.

Somewhere in Quetta city, Zainab, the only daughter of Zahoor gets back home from school to take a tour of the city with her father. Her father, Zahoor is a clerk. He is well concerned with society. He debates with his colleagues and friends on politics and peace of the city.  He defends the rights of the oppressed minorities in Quetta city.

It is 1992 and the Taliban roams openly in the city. On the tea stall of Chacha Rafique with his friends, Zahoor witnesses the final of cricket world cup 1992, played between Pakistan and England.  On the same tea stall, he criticizes the Taliban while sitting with his friends. The society calls him a ‘Jews agent’.

Three years later, Quetta city is swept by terrorism. The robberies take place in the city. When Zahoor takes his family and two neighbors women to a park, his house is robbed. The robberies, target killing, and blasts in the city disturb Zahoor mentally. He tries to teach the society between good and bad, but society mocks him.

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One day, while sitting on the tea stall of Chacha Rafique, Zahoor discovers that a Moulana and his friends preach Islam in the afternoon and go to a brothel in the evening. When Zahoor talks about their hypocrisy, Moulana threatens him and kills him alongside his only son, Danish on a motorcycle. Zainab, with her mother, return back to their village Churmian to live with her uncle, Asmat.

Back to Ali, after escaping his home, Ali works at different places in the town until the bakery of Agha. In the bakery of Agha, he meets a man named Usman who rapes him at the age of fourteen. While his mother keeps searching for him in the village. She sees him in an incomplete dream for three consecutive days. The dream changes a little at last every next time. Without the consent of her husband, she goes to the village’s Imam, MOLVI ABBA to interpret her dreams. Molvi Abba tries to sexually harass her but gets interrupted by his son. Zoha returns back, sobbing on the way. She falls victim to anxiety disorders. Hashish smoking becomes an addiction to Rehmat. After intoxication, he beats Zoha until she gets unconscious.

In the bakery, Ali meets Ain, a Malang who later becomes his good friend and a life guide. The owner of the bakery, Agha takes Ali to his home to herd his flock. He herds the flock in the village and falls in love with a girl named Shah Perai. But Shah Perai gets married against her will in the village Churmian, which Ali does not know about.

Ali leaves village Ragha and stays as a shepherd in fourteen more villages until 2001. He misses Shah Perai. Then one day, Ali receives the letter of Ain, where Ain tells him to meet him at the tomb of Peer Agha in the village Churmian. The mother of Ali daily visits the tomb of Peer Agha. She wants to see her son. She misses him up to an extent that the flesh on her body melts, and her complexion gets darker. After going to Churmian, Ali meets his mother in disguise after eleven long years. Zoha gets back home and after a week, Rehmat dies while smoking. Ain also dies and gets buried in Churmian beside the tomb of Peer Agha.

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Ali becomes the shepherd of the village Churmian. There he meets Zainab and her mother, in the house of Asmat. Asmat becomes a good friend of Ali. Ali lives in the Hujra beside the village’s mosque. One day he sees a Tableeghi Jumaat in the mosque. Usman, the man who raped him is also in that Jumaat. Usman does not recognize him. Ali takes Usman to the mountains with his flock and kills him there. By that time, Ali is twenty-three years old.

In the same village, Ali sees a girl in Dara (Dara is the name of a watercourse-Chashma in the village from where the women of the village fetch water). She is Shah Perai, the girl whom he loves. She is married in the village Churmian to Hanan, the richest man in the village. Ali persuades Shah Perai to escape the village with him. When they try to escape the village, they are caught and are pelted and killed on 8 November, 2002 in front of the mosque on the instructions of Molvi Jabbar, the Imam of the village’s mosque.

Ali and Shah Perai are buried beside the graves of Ain and Peer Agha. A week after the death of Ali, Molvi Jabbar receives a message from Ali and dies in the Hujra of Ali mysteriously. Hanan also dies a few days later after falling in the water well. They are buried and later Asmat sees the flames of fire rising from the graves of Molvi Jabbar and Hanan in the graveyard.

Today, many people from Quetta city and its surroundings visit the tomb of Peer Agha, Ain Malang, Ali, and Shah Perai. The tale of the shepherd Ali is famous in the valleys of Baluchistan.

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