For many people life goes on without any extraordinary event to spice an otherwise dull and drudge existence. I have, during my meanderings come across many stories and personal encounters that border on the unbelievable. While experiences, where I happened to be one of the characters, can be vouched for as true, others narrated to me by friends and relatives can only be termed as authentic on the grounds that these individuals have never been known to state anything other than the truth.

Take the odd and hair raising story conveyed to us by a venerable old gentleman from Karachi, who was my late father’s childhood friend and perhaps more than family to all of us. Such was the bond between him and my paternal grandmother, my parents and us that he spent at least one quarter of each year at our home in Lahore. He was witty, well informed and above all embodied old fashioned respect and dignity. It was only when he spotted a ‘gecko’ (the insect eating lizard called ‘chupkali’ that abundantly roams our residences in summer) that he appeared to undergo a change. He would get agitated as if an unseen fear had taken hold of him. This fear became panic, whenever he spotted me or my elder brother aiming our air gun at the reptile on the wall. It was many years later when I became privy to an unbelievable tale, which caused him to behave in this manner.

Kazi Chacha (for this is what we called him), lived in a house very close to my father’s residence in Delhi during the days before Independence. He and my late father had grown up together and the two families were very close friends. The bonds between the two young men had been further cemented by the fact that they were class mates in the famous Anglo – Arabic College. The Kazi’s family home was very old and infested with geckos. These lizards were hunted down with stones that were either thrown or fired from a ‘ghulail’.

This was an exciting activity for the children until one day, the unimaginable occurred. A well-directed missile brought down a rather large-sized creature in the verandah. As the hunters converged on the kill wielding a pair of fire tongs to dispose it across the compound wall, they were met by a terrifying sight - scores of geckos appearing out of every nook and cranny and heading for their lifeless kin. As the entire family watched, the limp body was dragged across the verandah and across the courtyard, by what can best be described as a huge funeral cortege. The sight was so terrifying that the family decided to vacate the house and move. What caused this behavior in a reptilian species is an enigma, which can be catalogued as mysterious or even super natural, but it was enough to instill permanent fear in the heart of an otherwise normal individual.

For someone like me, the gecko incident was not altogether surprising as I had often noticed the collective reaction of crows on spotting an injured or a dead comrade. In a recent incident, one of these highly intelligent birds was electrocuted next to my house. As the ball of dark feathers plummeted to the ground, its cousins and friends began arriving filling the air with their raucous cries. The agitated congregation grew larger by the minute even becoming aggressive towards us, as we watched them from the lawn. It was our neighbor’s cook, who decided to do something about the din. He picked up the bird and pedaled furiously away on his bicycle, followed by the entire flock, who dived on his retreating figure in a bid to exact revenge.

It is often said that if a male cobra is dispatched, the female will not rest until it gets the human that killed its mate. A story concerning my paternal grandfather often did its rounds in the family, where a snake (in all probability – a female) stalked him until it was killed, while attempting to slither up his bedstead. I must add here that to her dying day, my grandmother remained adamant that the tale was true.