The Man Who Sold the Car

Zulfiqar Haiderali

First appeared in Dawn

Poster: The Man Who Sold the CarI wanted to sell my car. And I wasn't getting a good offer. So, undecided, I decided to put an ad in the Dawn Classifieds on Sunday - a day I will long remember.

Now, like every normal human being, I retired a bit late on Saturday night. Little did I know the joys of putting an ad in the Classifieds, a loud and cruel telephone bell jolted me awake at 6.30 am.

“Hello,” I said, half asleep.

“Hello, Zulfiqar sahib?” came an ear-piercing shriek.

“Yes, that's me.” I said, yawning.

“Oh, ji, I just wanted to know if you're registered in Karachi, and the colour.”

“I beg your pardon?” What on earth was the man talking about?

“Your car, ji! I saw the ad this morning.”

‘Tonight’ would've been more appropriate, I thought. Anyway, I answered eagerly: “Oh yeah, you're interested?”

“But of course I am, ji! As you can see.”

Of course he was damned interested. Who else could sacrifice a weekend’s sleep over a silly classified ad?

“So what is your offer?" I asked with a little interest now.

“Oh no, ji, first I’ll have to see it, you know.”

“Yes, of course, so why don't you drop by at, let's say around 11 o'clock?”

“Oh no, ji! I’ll come tomorrow only!”

“What! Then what’s the big idea calling me at this goddamned hour?” I exploded.

“Oh, ji, just wanted to know if it's not been sold yet!”

Man! I slammed the phone without any other word.

By noon, I had received about 35 calls. And nearly all of them wanted to see the car before buying.

And just as I was preparing to have lunch, the doorbell rang and I was informed that somebody was there to see the car.

Excited, I went out.

Outside, it must've been at least 35 degrees, but the gentleman, or rather, the grandpa was wearing a dilapidated, yet very well-creased, three-piece suit. He was staring at the car with such fervour that I hated to break his attention.

“Is this the thing you want to sell?” He sort of commanded without turning back or even looking at me.

“Yes sir, it is and I do.” I said as if in a court pledged to tell nothing but the truth.

“And you are the person whose advertisement appeared in today's Dawn newspaper?” the cross examination continued, as he still stared at the car.

“That's right.” I testified.

“Would you tell me why you're selling this thing?” this ‘this thing’ bit made me a little uncomfortable.

“To buy a new one.” I said.

“Oh no, you are not. Isn't it true that you're selling this car because you've had enough of it, and isn't it true that you're selling this piece of junk becau...”

“Objection, your honour!” I protested.

“Sustained. Please refrain from categorizing the exhibit Mr Mustafa.” A loud voice came from behind. I turned around to find his honour -- also a suit -- sitting inside an old car.

“I’ll rephrase my question. Aren’t you selling this car because it needs so much work that you cannot afford to get it repaired?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, that’s true.” I threw my hands up in defeat.

“Thank you. I have no further questions at this moment, your honour. Your witness,” he said and walked over to the old car, got in next to the other old codger and I watched them flee with my mouth open in disbelief.

Shrugging, I started towards the stairs to my house.

“Excuse me, is this the car which is to be sold?” I turned around.

Ah! At last, a respectable looking gentleman. What they call a ‘genuine buyer’.

“Yes, it is indeed.” I smiled and shook his hand.

“Hassan is my name. Actually, I’ve been looking for a car for two years now. I just look for one thing in a car. Alas, couldn’t find any with that to my satisfaction.”

Yippee! I bet he’s talking about the engine, I thought. If there was anything truly ‘immaculate’ in my car, it was the engine. Looks like I’ve got a deal already... Ads in Dawn really pay off... but I should play it cool... don’t want to imply I’m too interested, you know.

So, I said: “Well, Hassan sahib, I think your uncompromising endeavour is about to bear fruit. Here’s the car you've been aspiring for!” I claimed boastfully and smiled admiringly.

“I’m sure it is. Can I have the keys, please.”

“But of course, here”, I handed him the keys. He walked towards the car, saying:

“I don’t go for the colour, I don’t go for the interior...,” he opened the door, while I was nodding and smiling appreciatively.

“... And tyres, gears, no problem...,” he sat inside, “... in fact, the car doesn’t even have to have an engine...”

Huh? I snapped out of my day-dream as he continued:

“...because the only thing I look for in a car is -- the handbrake...” He pulled up the handbrake lever, then pushed it down again. A really disappointed look crossed his face.

“No, sir, it doesn’t have the ‘feel’ I’m looking for. Thank you for your time. I have 50 more cars to see today.” he gave the keys back to me and walked away.

Another psycho! I had had enough. I stormed into the house, threw away the car keys and instructed my parents not to entertain any more car inquiries.