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5

One night from my Arabian Nights thus ended abruptly in this fashion, but 1000 more nights were yet to be encountered.

There was a severe conflict between my days and nights after that. I went to work during the day-time with a tired body, and cursed the arrival of nightfall. But, when night fell, it seemed to me that my day-time existence was a huge lie and ludicrous.

When evening came it would sort of trap me in a net of intoxication; I would be transformed into a person from an unwritten history hundreds of years ago. At such times, the Western attire did not appeal to me; I would, then, wear a red-coloured velvet fez cap, loose pajamas, and a long silk choga with a colourful handkerchief dabbed with perfume. Throwing away my cigarette I would pick up a rosewater-filled tall hookah, and sit on a high cushion-topped seat as if waiting for an endearing meeting.

As night progressed, such extraordinary things would happen that I cannot describe them in words. It was as if a sudden gust of breeze on a spring day would cause some fragments of a wonderful story to float around in the rooms of this large palace. I could follow them to some distance but then they would be lost. I followed those fragments as they floated from room to room the entire night.

In the vortex of this dream, and amidst the scent of henna and the melodious tunes of the sitar, I usually caught a fleeting glimpse of one particular fair damsel. It was she who donned the saffron-colored pajama and laced slippers. She wore a red cap that was fringed with golden frills.

She had driven me mad. It was for her that I have spent the nights wandering from room to room. There have been many evenings when I spent my time before a large mirror, with a lamp on either side, carefully attiring myself in the style of a shahzada(prince) when I would see her reflection in the mirror for a brief moment.

Turning her neck, looking at me through her large dark sorrowful eyes, her lips quivering to suggest the utterance of some indistinct speech; she would glide in a youthful and graceful dance and melt away in the mirror itself. A sudden gust of breeze, laden with all the fragrance from the hills, would blow away the lamps and I would abandon my preening midway and lie down on the bed. In the breeze, along with the fragrance from the Arali Hills, would float many affectionate moments, many kisses and tender touches. I could hear her gentle murmur and feel her sweet breath. Gradually an enchantress serpent would bind me in her spell, and heaving deep sighs I would be lulled into a profound slumber.

One afternoon I decided to go out on horseback - someone tried to dissuade me, I don't know who - but I did not listen. I picked up my hat and kurta to wear when a whirlwind, carrying sand from the Shusta River and dry leaves from the Arali Hills, blew away the kurta and hat, and they rose higher and higher. A sweet laughter accompanied them, getting louder and louder, and melted away into the sun.

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