“Tofuuuuu” was what Basheer heard before he blanked out. He woke up groggily. He looked around and realized he was lying on the footpath of an alley. He stood up slowly and made his way out. He saw a faint light glimmering down the street in the pitch blackness of the evening. He slowly made his way to the light. It was a Chinese takeout restaurant. He heard the chimes jingle as he opened the door. “Hello?” he called out.

A middle-aged Chinese lady peeked out of the kitchen. She entered the reception area and greeted Basheer with a gentle smile and a “How may I assist you?”. Basheer smiled and replied, “I’m actually quite hungry, and I haven’t eaten in a while. Is it possible for me to get something to eat?”. “Certainly! What would you like to have, sir?” asked the lady. Basheer looked up at the menu and replied, “I’ll have a kung pao chicken sauteed with vegetables and a side of rice.” The lady smiled and went back into the kitchen without acknowledging Basheer. Strange, he thought. Basheer made his way to the cramped dining area and took a seat.

Television was broadcasting news. Basheer happened to catch a glimpse of the news flash. “NEW VIRUS IS IN THE AIR. MAKES PEOPLE ZOMBIES”. “Aaan? Zombie-aan? (Huh? Zombies?)” thought Basheer and laughed. He continued to watch the news in amusement. “SYMPTOMS: NONE”. “TRIGGERED ZOMBIES BITE AND ATTACK. “ONCE INFECTED, THE VICTIM TURNS VEGAN.”

Basheer chuckled, thinking that the news channel was playing a prank on the public. He turned around when he heard a loud thud and saw the lady staring him down. Her eyes were glassed, and she had a knife in her hand. “Tofuuu,” she groaned in a low voice. Basheer wasn’t able to comprehend what was going on. Was this really happening? Was the virus real? He thought to himself, “A CHINESE vegan? You gotta be kidding me”. Basheer felt his adrenaline kick in. He pushed the lady out of his way and bolted out of the restaurant. He ran for at least half a mile without looking back. He stopped by a gas station, huffing. As he tried to catch his breath, he heard it again. “Tofuuu,” came a low growl.

Basheer turned around to look at another zombie headed toward him. He ran into the convenience store at the gas station and shut the door. “Soch re Basheer soch. Kaise hakalta inn zombie-oo ko tu”(Think, Basheer, think. How are you going to drive these zombies away?). He then had a brainwave. “If these zombies are vegan, don’t they hate meat?” thought Basheer.

He immediately ran to the cold storage and grabbed a huge chunk of meat. He hesitated at first about whether this was a good idea or not. But he decided to take a leap of faith and barged out of the store, holding the piece of meat like a sword. The zombie ran towards Basheer. He stood his ground and swung the goat leg at the zombie. Bam! The meat hit the zombie’s face.

It shrieked in pain and started to run away from Basheer. Basheer chased after the zombie only to watch it get hit and run over by a truck. Basheer now knew that anything to do with meat kept the zombies away. This meant that the antidote could be something to do with meat or meat-based food.

Basheer ran to the nearest restaurant that he could find and grabbed some goat meat. He started to add the meat to some hot water to make maragh (a spicy mutton soup popular in Hyderabad) when he heard a thud at the kitchen entrance. He saw a Z lifelessly banging its head against the door. Basheer knew that he could test his “antidote” on this Z. He had to. He had no other choice. He took a tenderloin cut and slowly made his way to the door. He swung open the door and knocked the zombie unconscious with one whack on its head. The zombie collapsed to the floor, groaning. Basheer tied the zombie up against a pole and surrounded it with pieces of meat, like a boundary.

Basheer grabbed a syringe that he found earlier and filled it up with the maragh. The zombie saw Basheer and growled at him, but he immediately injected the maragh into it. The Z squealed and squirmed as it felt the maragh enter its bloodstream. Eventually, it passed out. Basheer waited for a few minutes. The zombie started to open its eyes slowly. Basheer kept the tenderloin handy, just in case the zombie attacked again.

“Where am I?” asked the zombie in a human voice. “You’re safe,” said Basheer. It worked. The maragh, or rather, any sort of soup made with meat, was the antidote.


Fast forward 3 months:

Basheer is back home, in Hyderabad. Basheer’s rather unexpected antidote helped save the lives of millions who had been affected by the virus. Famous Hyderabadi restaurants that made dishes like paya, nihari, and maragh (all of them soups) were now antidote warehouses. The government had immobilized defense units like the “Maragh Marauders”, and “Paya Platoon” to aid the people affected by the virus.
“Basheeeer ” called out a voice. Just as Basheer turned around to see where the voice came from-Thud! Basheer woke up rubbing his forehead. He heard his mum yell from across the hall, “Har waqt sote rehta ye ladka. Jab dekho tab baigan ke kaama karta (All that this boy does is sleep. He is always up to some sort of nonsense). “Jaao ji ammi, itta accha sapna dekh raha tha ji mai. Faltu mai utha diye merku(Oh come on, mom. I was having such an amazing dream. You woke me up for nothing) said Basheer and went back to sleep.

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