Patient 31

Sana had been patient 31. Sana was also wife number 3 of 4, and a mother of six, but perhaps that was secondary. Most importantly, Sana had been the shy housewife, mindfully aware of her religious and social duties and never lifting so much as a rebellious eyebrow.

The news that she had felled her 80-year old husband with common kitchenware had alerted the vigilantes. And just as medical authorities approached, Patient 31 kissed her four daughters, two sons and her husband’s first wife, packed her duffel bag, and then, gave the world’s most super-slick authorities the slip through the back alley.

Epidemiologists would call Sana a super-spreader, and that after her, Tabligishtan had no hope against the novel Nasviya virus. Yes, her husband had slapped her, for singing a happy tune from the irritatingly-unforgettable Hindi melody while stirring the boiling broth. But that had been neither new nor surprising.

Sana had smacked him back, with a soup ladle no less.

This was the single-most indicator to the Jamathi world that the Nasviya Virus was not only here, but fast-spreading a pandemic, and bringing about prophesied end of days: a time when women shall wear their hair loose, and moral decay shall run rampant.

That Sana ran instead of choosing to be treated for her illness, shocked and hurt the nation. She was a mother, a wife, a daughter, and she had chosen to endanger her countrymen and spread the virus.

Newspapers began the accusations: It was not really Sana’s fault but the country’s upper classes and even the Tablighi Royal Family: with their unrestricted and unnecessary movements in the fashionable circles of US and Europe, where the virus was first said to have originated.

But the country’s failed attempts to track patient 31 was terrifying. In the ten days that Sana was on the loose, she had visited restaurants, attended religious gatherings, walked the streets, and spread the virus to over 2300 people. In this time, completely-respectable family women took to the desert, abandoning their homes, their co-wives, their suckling children, and perplexed husbands, in a manic bid to merely let their hairs loose, wear their clothes short, and paint their lips red as the setting sun. And to make matters unhelpful was the comparisons across nations, indicating that the spread of viral feminism was worst in Tablighistan, especially in comparison to morally-inferior nations like Turkey and Lebanon with a large heathen populace.

But the state machinery was still the world’s best, and the crackdown for the affected went into the streets, the city, the villages, and even dance bars deep in the desert, where many of the housewives-turned militant feminists were believed to have taken refuge in their satanic quest for equality. Meanwhile, massive testing was underway. And miscreants were being captured in large numbers, many by their own loved ones, brought in by their husbands and sons, treated with more respect and love than they deserve. But the doctors braving the worst for these quarantined patients were reporting a terrible picture. Complains of misbehaviour, lack of cooperation, patients openly flirting with the male nurses, dropping their hijabs, spitting and even kissing the medical staff in a bid to spread the virus as much as they could.

Finally, on the 24th of March, Tablighistan had cause to cheer. Two of the hospitalized women were returned to the arms of their loving families in full public (but respectably purdah-protected) view. It was a historic moment, and the nation clapped its hands in collective celebration.

Much of the social media was abuzz with requests to Sana and her comrades to return to their loving families. It was all very emotional and charged with national fervour, the clapping infants, the weeping husbands, the desperate pleas and songs begging the virus to Go Nasviya Go, poetic, patriotic, ruined only slightly by the mistimed death of the women, one jumping off the balcony somewhat mid-clap, and the other rapping her head repeatedly with a pot, spoon, bucket, no less in her call for Nasviya to Go even as she succumbed to concussions. Instagram had to report the nation’s first two Nasviya deaths.

A 21-day lockdown was instantly declared. Men were requested to keep a 24-hour watch on their women for their own protection. The economy was shut for business. And in this difficult time of complete lockdown and military control, Sana continued her outrageous streak.

She visited her home in Al-Asl on her motorbike, dressed to the hilt in black and leather, to kiss once again her children and co-wives, and not forgetting to rap once again her husband, this time with a cane on his rump and additionally live on Instagram. In a much-photographed sequence, Sana was chased across the street, as officials attempted to raze down this iconic virus. But once again she managed to escape the authorities.

The Clerical society of Tabliquistan represented by Suhail Badawi issued a heated statement. Enough was enough. Sana and her comrades had to be dealt with toughness, all patients who were refusing cooperation were ‘enemies of humanity’, deserving of punishment meted out to adulterers and prostitutes. Death by stoning.

The Tablighi public was outraged at this call. This was their own wives, mothers, daughters that were being discussed in this manner. And when the clerics discussed something, the public knew that it was only a matter of time that law and national order obeyed. Wasn’t this a medical problem that deserved compassionate and humane treatment. In a widely televised live debate between Suhail Badawi and Nasviya’s co-wife Firdause, Suhail argued why this virus was affecting only women. He was the kind of man who liked to answer his own questions, and he declared that it was because women were weak-willed, and this was also why they were mostly sent to hell anyway. Because women would be women and this was nothing more than a panty pandemic. The show ended abruptly, with Firdaus suddenly climbing the wall isolating her from Suhail, and throwing the mike childishly at him. The camera cut at the point that the cleric declared Firdause a virus carrier, with hospital staff in Nasviya protective suits dragging a screaming Firdaus away.

So it was only a matter of time.

The first instance of male infection was noted perhaps by the inimical University of Tablighi Whatsapp whose ‘research’ indicated that forbidding men from driving cars could cause them to think like women.

Nobody took these unscientific claims seriously (besides the idle locked-down masses). But then bored out of his head, competitive surfer and forty-fifth heir to the throne of Tabligistan suddenly started a cookery channel focussed specifically on Labneh fondue. Then it was a professional rugby player who hosted a DIY 5-minute craft channel on how to turn your wives’ old hijabs into N-69 Nasviya masks, a strictly utilitarian channel he explained, with an additional video on how to add a crocheted layer for that added protection, and even cutting and sewing up curtains for a non-woven version. It was always good to try it on your cuddly soft toys first, but since these were forbidden and you probably never had one, there was another video explaining how to knit animal figures, (because these were pandemic times), with a request to the viewers to like and subscribe.

In the meantime, the count of the number of people dying from the Nasriya virus was also increasing drastically.
Women slapping back their abusive husbands slapped in turn to death, militant guerilla feminists targeting and gunning down abusive men and Jamathi clerics, car and bike toting women high on misguided principles razing down, being razed down, killing, being killed,
and even the gentle calls to prayer and peace in mosques drowned by the strains of satan’s fiddle.

The last time Sana appeared to spread her own brand of mischief was on the 1st of April. This time she appeared outside the home of Suhail Badawi, who was leading the afternoon prayers on the terrace with the help of a loudspeaker, thousands of people standing isolated and on their own terraces or listening in from their homes. Sana revved her vehicle and arrived at the gates where she waited for the final salam to be issued, before flipping out her gun and firing three rounds straight into the heart of Suhail.

Sana’s attempted to escape with her gang of Tablighi guerrilla squad, was stopped not by the police, but by the brave men that had prayed with Suhail. They came down like rocks in large numbers, abandoning the safety of their terraces, risking contagion, screaming the name of God, attacking the escaping women. Indeed, they were no match for the valiant men, angry that the affected numbers had touched almost 200,000, taking away not just their wives and daughters but even more. In the skirmish that followed, some of the purdahs were ripped apart, and the revealing facts rocked the nation with shock and consternation: some of the militants were men!

What was the point of it all, the countrymen were asking? When even men begin to lose their moral calibre? Where was the nation heading?

There were many appeasing theories from the Tablighi scientists, claiming that exposing men for such prolonged periods to the inner sanctum of homes had caused this problem by increasing the oestrogen levels in men and perhaps even causing a testosterone rise affecting the otherwise sweet female temper of a Tablighi woman. Sources privy to the highest echelon of the Tablighi royal family were beginning to say that perhaps the lockdown had been counter-productive, not just to the economy, but to the value system and virility of their nation. They had lost face before the world.

The only succour in these difficult times was a chance to appease the spiritual vein and share a communal moment. And for this, the royal family had planned for the nation a beautiful event, the midnight execution of Sana, a first of sorts really, without a single electric light, but only the bursting light of a thousand candles held up by each individual in their respective homes. This would purge the evil of the virus from the blood of Tablighi men and women. With the fall of Sana’s head, the nation would win a silent victory against the devil itself.

It is a televised event, with only the closest of Sana’s family allowed physical attendance. Sitting strictly apart were Sana’s two boys, and four girls, sitting with their hands folded, their tiny masks abound, their eyes wide with the lessons of judgement. Then sat the three wives, the husband, each watching with the nation as Sana was bought in, squirming in the hands of the medical staff as she was pushed to the middle of the empty square.

The order was given to kneel before her executioner.

The collective prayer of the nation echoed for her soul, with hopes that at least in her final moments she regretted her ways and prayed for forgiveness

Her veil is raised for a final look at her remorseful face. It was a reminder to the nation of the sins to avoid. At a signal, the executioner asked her to recite her last prayer. His hand is raised, ready to strike his sword against her body, when in a sweeping motion, Sana raised her head into the sky and into the face of her executioner she launched a giant drooling spit.

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