Friday, September 22, 2006

Book Meme

Thanks to Susan, I had the opportunity to think really hard. Yes, I know, that's really something. But hey, we all do that (I mean think) once in a while. Just some of us, less once-in-a-while than others.
So here goes. Books that moulded me. I've made mine more contemporary, since I've only really picked up reading again in recent years.


One Book That Changed My Life?

I’d be hard pressed to pin point any one book. But Portraits by Cynthia Freeman, was the one book, in whose pages, I saw myself most clearly. And the protagonist became an author. How was I to know at the time, that I would end up traversing the same path?


For me, at the age of sixteen, it was the ultimate tale of hope, courage and victory.




I know I'm breaking the rules by venturing a second book, but another one that really touched me and gave me hope in the concept of eternal love, love that transcends all boundaries, was Spring Imperial by Evelyn Hart. I must have been no older than fourteen when I lost myself in the pages of that tome (I remember it being really thick).And now, thanks to Susan, I've hunted it down. And I'll probably buy another copy, since the one I bought then - with the earnings from a school holiday job - was borrowed by a friend and never returned. Don't you hate it when that happens?




One Book I Have Read More Then Once:

Easy enough. Khaled Husseini’s Kite Runner. But I have the habit lately of doing this with just about every book. When they arrive, protectively cradled in layers of corrugated board, I tear them open. The nights fade with me lost in the pages of whatever it was that took my fancy. Within a day or two, I’ve devoured every page, with the hunger of someone being fed after an eon. And then I start all over again. Slower, savouring the little nuances, the turns of phrase, delighting in the way the words combine to create a heavenly music. Kite Runner created an incomparable orchestra that spoke of myriad emotions, complex, interwoven. Wondrous.


One Book I Would Want On A Deserted Island:

Hmm, a tough one. Does this mean that I wouldn’t get any more? It would have to be something exciting, something that draws you in totally. I know! The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella. And being on a deserted island would mean that I would yearn for delicious home cooked meals, what with only fruit, berries, and nuts to sustain me.

So yes, The Wedding Officer, with its delicious Fettuccine al Lemone; burrata wrapped in asphodel leaves; gorgeous, passionate Italian woman and ‘bursting-out’ Englishman. I wouldn’t miss human company with Livia and James, their Vesuvian affair played out against the backdrop of the smoldering Mt Vesuvius.



One Book That Made Me Cry:

I can’t remember having a really good tjank over any book, save Kite Runner. But I’ve used him already. So I’ll have to keep reading to fill in this space.

One Book That Made Me Laugh:

I don’t read funny books. There, I said it. And I must remedy that. Susan’s suggestion sounded delicious. I’m going to work on that. But Wedding Officer had some really funny scenes. And I was laughing out loud ever so often.Also Young Wives, by, (I think) Olivia Goldsmith. Powa to the sistas, that one!

One Book I Wish Had Never Been Written:

That would have to be Devil’s Valley by Andre Brink. It was so terrible. But Lord of the Rings could come a close second. I couldn’t bear it.

One Book I Wish I Had Written
:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zaphon. A coming of age tale with turns of phrase that delighted me to no end. Stunning. Leaves lining the streets like silvery scales, nuns dragging their shadows like bridal veils. Gothic. But brilliant.






One Book You Are Currently Reading:

Guess what? I’m not reading anything right now. In preparation for Ramadaan, I have held off on the library, and ordering. I plan on going through the commentary of the Quraan this year, from one end to the other, along with the Arabic recitation. I didn’t want to be distracted by anything.

One Book You Have Been Meaning To Read:

That is one long list. The Food of Love is one. But before that I want to try ‘How to Kill your Husband and other Handy Household Hints’. But don’t tell Imraan I said that (grin).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Who

This was inspired by a real life incident. I'm still shaken. But recovering. Tomorrow I will post the meme (apparently it's pronounced meem!! Go figure!) that Susan tagged me with. And that will be the last for the next month.

The air had congealed in these last hours. It hung dense, cloistering. She sat at the window, her eyes, sightlessly trained on the steady stream of cars that trickled by. The telephone rang. Shrill, insistent, shattering the air, sending the shards flying around her head. The ringing penetrated her skull. She walked gingerly towards the motionless banshee. Stretched her hand towards it, recoiled.

In a single swoop, she then gathered the receiver, pressed it lightly to her ear.

“Hello?”
“Assalaamu alaikum.”
She exhaled slowly. “Wa alaikum salaam.”
“Why’d you answer like that? Like someone who wasn’t really in the mood of a phone call?”
“Because I wasn’t. What if it’s him?”
His tone softened. “Who the hell is he?”
“I don’t know. He wouldn’t say.”
“Don’t worry. Nothing will happen. You’ll be fine. I’ll make sure of that.”

“Oh Wasim, I’m so scared.”
“Don’t be. No one will hurt you.”
“But how did he find me? How does he know me?”
“Lots of people know you. You’re a writer remember?” she could hear the rolling of the eyes.
“Okay, I’ve got to go. Something on the stove.”

She sat down by the window once more, feeling the gelatinous air stifle her. A fresh breeze caught the lacy curtain, and pulled it into a languorous two-step. Her face was burning, and her head throbbed.

The fragments flew at her once more, as the banshee began wailing. She dragged her feet through the gooey air, and reached with difficulty for the receiver.
“Hello?”
“Is that Salma?”
She murmured assent.
“Assalaamu alaikum.”
She did not respond.
“Look, Salma, I’m sorry about earlier. Did I upset you? I didn’t want to upset you. Did you cry?”
“Who the hell are you?” her words, softly spoken, were forceful.
“It doesn’t matter. I won’t be bothering you again. I promise.”
“Fine.” She hung up.

“Someone who thinks the world of you… Just wanted to hear your voice… Set my heart at ease… You have a beautiful voice…”
The words burrowed into her head. She felt them swirl. She felt a tightening around her forehead. And the question that pounded, burnt, hurt, was, “Who?”

© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ramadaan in Actonville

The Holy month of Ramadaan is upon us (which means no new posts as of next week. I'm going to drop off the radar). In honour of the month of fasting, prayer and spiritual strenghtening, I present a bit of non-fiction. This appeared on Islam Online last year. It got hi jacked by a local Islamic paper as well, and did the rounds that way.

I live in Actonville, a suburb that is rich in its diversity. Large numbers of refugees from various African countries, and a steadily proliferating number of immigrants from the Indo-Pak sub continent mingle with the local population on overcrowded sidewalks where dingy looking stores, dark and dusty, vie with one another for prominence. The stores sell everything, from aromatic spices to hardware; from fresh vegetables and fruit to traditional Eastern wear.

Islam has been here since the earliest days, with the oldest of the three Masaajid being more than 80 years old. My mother grew up here some 50 years ago, and she fondly recalls the close knit community that peopled the town. Khalas (aunties) visiting one another on hot summer afternoons, long ornis (headscarfs) trailing in the breeze and sitting at one another’s homes helping out with the kids, or the cleaning of the vegetables. Children playing in the streets with stones and sticks, many too poor to afford toys, their immigrant parents working long hours to put food on the table.

They have come a long way since those early days. Most of the children of those uneducated immigrant parents are business owners or professionals today, and with the abolishment of the ‘Group Areas Act’, a good number of them have moved to more up market, formerly ‘whites only’ areas. Those that remain have somehow, retained the spirit of community that epitomized Actonville in the early days.

Although there is a sizeable Hindu and Tamil community, the Muslims are a majority.
From each of the three Masaajid (mosques), the Azaan resonates five times a day and the sight of Musallis (worshippers) entering and leaving the Masaajid is a common one. Come Ramadaan, and the normally vibrant atmosphere at the Masaajid, goes into ‘overdrive’.

Activity begins at around three each morning, when families awaken for sehri - the pre-dawn meal. By the time the Azaan of Fajr - the pre dawn prayer - is called out from the loud speakers, many of the men can be found making their way to the Masjid. I have to rely on my husband reports regarding the activities at the Masjid, because, sadly none of them have facilities for women. He tells me, that it is encouraging to see the sleepy eyed children, some as young as five, join their fathers for Fajr salaat, all of them having made the intention to fast for the day (or half).

The down- side of South Africa not being a Muslim country, is that while we make adjustments to our routine, no one else does. The shops still work 9 to 6, schools still dismiss after 2 and Madrassah (afternoon Islamic lessons) still goes until 5. The real Ramadany feel comes after Asr, the late afternoon prayer. Men, tired from the day at work, stand outside, while the children play in the streets, to pass the time. The smell of food, painstakingly prepared for hungry mouths wafts out of every kitchen. Plates filled with spicy eats make their way from one home to the other. As the time draws closer, savouries are packed into lunchboxes, dates are wrapped and taken to the masjid. The Take-Aways come to life again, as youth buy chips, viennas and russians to share with one another in the masjid.

And then…. the adaan. Oh Allah, for Your pleasure have I fasted, in You have I believed, upon You have I placed my trust, and with sustenance provided by You, do I break my fast, so do accept it from me.

The cold falooda (rose flavoured milk drink) and milkshake disappears as do the savouries, the preparation of which began even before the commencement of the month. And all too soon, it is time for Taraweeh, the additional late night prayer. The men make their way to the Masjid once more and the women pray at home, and a peaceful silence settles over the town.

The tempo changes again during the last ten days of the month, as many men take up residence in the Masjid for the I’tikaaf, seclusion. The women begin spring cleaning in earnest – windows, curtains, walls – everything needs washing. The domestic helpers have their work cut out for them. The shops announce Eid specials and punjabis, gararas and elegant beaded and embroidered cloaks and abayas grace their windows.

Upon completion of the Quraan during the Taraweeh, children are the happiest as boxes of chocolates make their appearance in the Masjid courtesy of a few generous brothers. By this time, I know that my baking must commence. Sweetmeats are prepared, as are biscuits, pastries and cakes. In ‘The Big House’ (grandparents’ homes) preparations for the Eid meal begin. Biryani (traditional Indian rice dish), roast chicken and lamb, badam (almond) milk. This will be where everyone converges for a day of togetherness and celebration and giving thanks to Allah for having allowed us the opportunity of experiencing yet another blessed month of Ramadaan.

On the eve of Eid, I will survey my house, ensure that my work is done and sigh, regretful, that as usual, I allowed my preparations to run away with me. Regretful that I didn’t complete one more Quraan for the month, perform a few extra rakaat of Tahajjud. I like so many others, will have forgotten, that just down the road, across the railway line that divides us, lives thousands of people in the sprawling settlement of Wattville. Many of them live in shacks, many of them sleep on the floor, and when they do sleep, many of them are hungry. Was this really in the spirit of Ramadaan?

© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Farida's Saga - Part II

Anu advanced threateningly upon his wife, shouting all the while, and then he fell upon her. The dull thuds of his fists making contact with her flesh resonated in the street. Farida held her hands up, cradling her head, while the blows continued to rain down. Their three children stood on the stoep, looking on in horror. The two daughters screamed and held onto one another. The son, Zahid, no more than twelve, moved forward and tried to pull his father back. Anu pushed him, and Zahid fell in a heap on the sandy pavement. He staggered to his feet once more and swayed drunkenly.

One by one the lights in the houses began going out. Haroon’s hand too, crept surreptitiously towards the light switch. He turned it off. The lights from the images flickering on the T.V. screen bounced eerily off the while walls. The wails of the children echoed in the silence that had descended on the normally busy street.

Zahid looked up. He caught Haroon’s eye.
“Uncle, uncle, please,” he screeched. “Please,” he begged, “please uncle, help my mummy.” Haroon looked away. Slowly he slipped the curtain back into place. He then went over to his mother’s side, and stood behind her. Watching.

Dark splotches of colour had appeared on the while bonnet of the car. He assumed it to be blood. Farida did not scream, but her sobs carried across to him clearly on the still night air. Her daughters sank to the ground and their brother limped over to them. He put his arms around them, trying in vain to shield them from the scene being played out on the street, now bereft of the patches of golden light that normally adorned it. Haroon’s eyes strayed to a few of the other houses. Here and there heads were visible in the darkened windows, and he could feel the many pairs of eyes that followed the proceedings.

By now Farida was on the ground and still Anu continued to beat her. He pulled at her hair, he kicked, and he kicked. Farida did not move. Her sobbing had ceased. Anu gave her one last prod with his shoe. He then turned on his heel and disappeared into his house, pushing his crying daughters out of the way as he did so.

The children ran to their mother and dropped down beside her. The girls began shaking her.
“Mummy, Mummy, wake up.” Haroon could hear them. Then Zahid got up, ran to Santi Mahi’s door and began banging on it with his little fists.
“Mahi, Mahi, please phone the police. Please help us. My mummy will die,” Zahid yelled. A stony silence greeted his impassioned pleas.

He ran across the road, to Haroon’s door and began banging once more, wailing, as he repeated his request.
Haroon moved towards the door. “Ma, must I open. Farida looks really bad.”
“No, Bhai, you know how it is with married couples. Tomorrow they will sleep in the same bed again and Anu won’t want to speak to you,” she whispered.
“But, Ma, let’s at least phone the police or the ambulance.”
“Just phone the ambulance. Police don’t know how to deal with these things.” Mrs Patel went to her bedroom and got into bed.

Haroon did not open the door, and the banging stopped. As he called up the hospital, he peeked out once more. Zahid had lifted his mother’s head onto his lap, and his little sisters were still begging her to wake up.

The ambulance arrived rather quickly. Strange, Haroon thought as he watched them lift Farida onto a stretcher. A police vehicle arrived shortly thereafter. The street was aglow with red and blue flashing lights.

One by one, the lights within the houses were switched on once more. The golden designs spilled onto the dirty street anew. People ventured out of their houses to watch the paramedics at work, as did Haroon.

Anu wouldn’t be going anywhere, he learnt, because Farida wouldn’t be pressing charges. She had come to long enough to say this. She would however be spending a good long time in hospital. Haroon looked at the children. Zahid’s t-shirt was streaked with blood. The little girls’ hands were bloody. They were being tended to by the paramedics. They were unnaturally silent.

Somewhere inside of him he felt stirrings of an emotion. Was that sympathy?


© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

Farida's Saga - Part I

Since the Patels seem to have found quite an army of admirers, I thought I'd give you all more of them. Another tale featuring them. Enjoy the meal


Haroon was just home from Isha, the last prayer of the day. He settled down on the couch and put his legs up on a small stool. Having all that space to himself made him feel guilty -but only a little. His sister, Munira had refused to return home even though he had been to see her after the incident. She was living on the other end of Dadaville in a dingy flat with that Farouk. He had married her and his wife had agreed to accept Munira, so even though the adjoining house had not emptied itself of occupants, Munira’s couch was blissfully empty. Secretly Haroon felt it was generous of Samiha - Farouk’s wife -to do so; accepting a second wife must be hard for a South African woman, but he daren’t say that to anyone, least of all his mother.

Sure, the first week after the scandal, it had been very difficult to go to the mosque, but since her incident, there had been so many hijackings, armed robberies, and affairs uncovered, that Munira’s saga was soon forgotten in the rush to get the most up to date reports on the newest happenings in Dadaville, and since Haroon’s reputation preceded him, people were extremely forgiving. He was still at the top of his trade – the Dadaville Gazette was selling as well as ever

His mother, Mrs Patel, wasn’t as forgiving of Munira though. Munira had tried to come and see her three times already in the last two months, but she would not allow her through the door. She had screamed that the entire neighbourhood might hear, that the only day that Munira should ever enter the door should be the day of her funeral, adding that after what Munira had done, that day wouldn’t be very far off. Haroon knew better than to argue with his mother, so he maintained his silence and enjoyed the additional space.

Mrs Patel seemed to be suffering more from all this than Munira though. He knew full well that she made a point of walking past Munira ‘s flat every Saturday during her afternoon news foraging sessions, a punitive measure on her part, but seeing her only daughter radiant, and glowing as she sat on the balcony brushing her long tresses seemed to turn the punishment on the one dishing it out. As a result, her health was deteriorating. While she had never before complained of arthritic pain, she did so now, and this meant that there were days when her ritual afternoon walk was missed. On those days Haroon exerted himself even more to get all the juicy details to report to her. It always seemed to brighten her mood when he retold the tales.

The situation with Munira worried Haroon, but he knew that he’d never be able to change anything. His mother could be very obstinate when she chose to, and in matters on her honour, well Eugene Terreblanche would sooner join the ANC than his mother recanting. Munira knew that too, because she hadn’t tried again to come and see her mother.

Mrs Patel hobbled into the bedroom cum lounge and settled down on Haroon’s brick-bolstered bed. She had just performed her evening prayer.
“Haroon,” she began, “Santi Mahi was telling me today that Anu and Farida are having problems. Santi Mahi says she heard them arguing yesterday. Anu was screaming. I think he even broke some dishes.” She nodded knowingly.
“But Ma, we all know Anu’s got a terrible temper. He doesn’t even come to down-mosque anymore. He goes to top-mosque. He reckons Moulana Abed doesn’t know what he is talking about because he doesn’t have a sunnah beard. And the guys from top-mosque were telling me that he nearly hit Babu’s son in the mosque for playing yesterday.”
“Ya, well, the children are out of hand these days, look at this lot next door.” She grunted.
Haroon fell silent. He didn’t like the direction that this discussion was taking, because any mention of Samiha invariably led to Munira. And Mrs Patel would probably start cursing Munira again. He turned his attention to the television.

The news reporter had just started on the story of the government official who had accepted a staggering bribe for pushing through a dicey arms deal, when commotion on the street outside claimed their attention. In a flash, Haroon was up from the couch. Knowing the size of his boep, which had blossomed in the two months since Munira’s departure, thanks to him not having to share the huge packets of potato crisps with her anymore, this was quite an athletic feat.

He drew back the curtain a fraction and peeked out from the little gap. Farida and Anu were standing in their driveway. Anu was screaming, while Farida cowered against the car, shrinking beneath the force of his shouts. Haroon was in two minds. Should he go out? No, he’d stay indoors this time, but he continued to watch from the gap. Mrs Patel shuffled over to the other side of the window and stationed herself there to watch the drama.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Meet the Patels - Part II

The rest of the tale. Enjoy!!

The family that lived in the other half of the house had five. Now who in their right mind would be so irrational as to have five children? He found it especially aggravating when the children’s friends came to visit, which was too often for his tastes, because then, the normally rowdy bunch became positively savage. Thankfully the graveyard was far, or they would have woken the dead from their graves with all that noise. Secretly Haroon hoped that they would move, because he never would. Mr. Dadoo, the landlord was over 80 and since he found current rental structures to be obscene, he was more than happy with the R200-00 that the Patels paid every month for their half of the house.

He carried the basket into the house. Munira had laid the table and warmed the food. His mother hobbled into the kitchen and took up her place. Haroon washed up and settled in his.
“Did you hear what happened to Salloo?” Mrs. Patel asked as she dished some rice into her plate.
“Gee Maa. It’s a shame. His son and daughter-in-law were happy together, but Salloo couldn’t keep his hands off her, and now the son’s home is broken. Tarek, his brother, says that he is very depressed,” Haroon’s eyes lit up as he spoke.
“Really? I wonder what Salloo’s wife had to say,” Munira now, as she ate her kachoomerless rice dish.
“I hear she asked for a divorce. But he won’t give it to her. Who will make sutherfeni for him if he does? And they held Mr. Kaloo up at his Fish and Chips yesterday. Lunch time,” his head bobbed up and down. “Six guys with guns, but they didn’t get much, because Kaloo gambles all his money away at Emperors,” this remark was accompanied by a self-satisfied smirk. No doubt information that his mother hadn’t gleaned as yet.
“Haai, Kaloo, gambling? I can’t believe it. And his father was a Molvi. What is this world coming to?” Munira very nearly stood up.
“It’s akhar jamaano, I’m telling you. Last Days. I went to see Sadia’s baby today. That poor child, half a scalp on her head. But still that Sadia is so stuck up. Her mother didn’t even offer me anything to drink,” Mrs. Patel sniffed.

Supper passed in this vein, until the Adaan of Maghrib, the prayer at sunset, brought an end to all the discussion. Haroon got up and went to the mosque. With Munira around, he wouldn’t dare performing ablution for prayers at home. Mrs. Patel and Munira performed their prayers in their cramped bedroom. Being punctual on their prayers was something that the Patels prided themselves in. They had after all, been lucky enough to perform the Hajj 10 years ago, and being punctual in prayers was a sign of a sincere Hajji.

When Haroon returned, he found his mother and sister huddled around the TV. Munira sat on the shabby couch, while her mother rested on Haroon’s bed again. It was time for news. How could any self-respecting man of the world, who prided himself in informing others who didn’t really know too much (by this he meant most of the men at the mosque), be really good at what he did without the assistance from the various News reports that peppered the programme line-up on all the television stations?

The family finally retired to bed at 10 o’ clock, after they had caught up on the day’s events in Dadaville as reported by Haroon after the Isha prayer, the last prayer of the day.

This was their routine every day, and would probably have remained that way until they all left the world had something very dramatic not occurred one Friday night.

Haroon came into the house on that fateful Friday after the Maghrib prayer. Munira was not home as yet. She had been invited to a friend for supper. Salima, her old school buddy was finally getting married at the ripe age of forty three and since the Nikaah, the rites to solemnise the marriage, had already been performed that afternoon, she had invited a few friends for supper that night.

Haroon’s face was flushed with excitement. He had news, but not just any news. It was the kind of news that would prove to be his coup d'état for the day. Surely it was more exciting than anything his mother could have gathered during her afternoon walk.
“Maa,” he said loudly, to ensure that the neighbours would also hear, “you’ll never believe what has just happened. Farouk, next door, he’s just run away with a woman ten years older than himself. He’s left his wife and his five children. Terrible, terrible,” he enthused. The look on his face showed though, that he though that he thought the turn of events was anything but terrible. Maybe now the wretched woman and her five brats would move.
“Hachoo? I can’t believe it. And he was such a quiet chap, so respectful, always so nice to me and Munira whenever we went to the market. He always gave us a lift. I always said that cheeky wife of his would chase him away. She’s another one, she. Always walking with her nose in the air, thinking she’s better than us. Holy poly, with her big dupatta.” Mrs. Patel looked inordinately pleased by this bit of news.

By 10 o’ clock Munira still hadn’t come home. Mrs. Patel grew worried.
“Bhai,” she called, “phone Salima’s house. See where’s Munira.”
Haroon stood up, went over to the telephone, checked in his ancient telephone book for Salima’s number, and called her up. The telephone rang twice. Salima’s aging mother answered. She was a little hard of hearing.
“Who,” she screamed into the receiver, “who’s that?”
Haroon held the phone a few centimetres away from his ear. “It’s me, Haroon. I’m looking for Munira. Is she there?”
“Who? Oh, Munira. No she didn’t come. Salima says she couldn’t come. I haven’t seen her.”
The phone went dead as Salima’s mother hung up. Haroon stood holding the receiver, momentarily immobile. He then went into his mother and sister’s room and began rummaging in Munira’s cupboard.
“Bhai,” Mrs. Patel called. “What are you doing? Where’s Munira?”
Haroon emerged from his fumbling, his round face red as a swollen tomato. In his hands he clutched a stack of letters bound by a lavender ribbon. He gingerly opened the first one. His legs felt weak. He went to the lounge and sank into the couch.
“What’s that Bhai?” his mother asked. “Where’s Munira?”
“My Beloved Munira?” he began reading. “When I see your face, it is like a fresh sea breeze, a breath of fresh sweet air after the stifling, stale air that is my home, with my wife who doesn’t understand me and my five children, who are so demanding.”


© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Meet the Patels - Part I

Note: Dear readers, today I introduce you to the Patels. You have heard mention of them in 'A Life Less Grey'. Here they are in all their glory.


Mrs. Patel settled herself more comfortably on her wobbly three quarter bed. The bed creaked appreciably. It was a high bed, thanks to the two bricks that supported each of the four legs. She pulled her pants up a little higher, so that half of her hairy calves became exposed. She undid the knot of her scarf from beneath her chin and threw it on the bed. She was just in from her afternoon stroll, which entailed a stop at her many acquaintances, for she had few friends. She’d make polite conversation with them and gather scraps of information to share with her two children at supper time. This was a daily practice.

“Haroon,” she called. “Bhai, bring me my paan.” This she said in Gujerati to her 50 year old bachelor son. In their home Gujerati was the language of choice.
Haroon was outside on their stoep. “Gee, Maa,” he called. He waddled into the small two rooms and a kitchen annexure that was their home, went to the TV cabinet which was in his bedroom, took the tin containing betel leaves and the various stuffings and handed it to his mother. He returned to the stoep. Four o’ clock was an interesting time. He didn’t want to miss anything.

He was a short, portly man with a boep that would make any beer-drinking rugby fan justifiably proud. His eyes were small and round, hidden behind thick spectacles. These eyes were a marvel, for they missed nothing that happened on Lambat Street, where they had been living since he was a little boy. In fact, they missed nothing at all. He could always be relied upon for having the most updated news, the most comprehensive news, complete with all the wild speculations, tempered with liberal doses of gossip. Yes, he was well known – by some as the internet, not that he had ever used it though; while others preferred to call him the Dadaville Gazette.

He was punctual for all his prayers at the mosque that was just around the corner. These trips were especially delightful, for the prayer complete, he would stand outside listening, gathering information that he too would share with his mother and spinster sister who worked as a secretary in a law firm, at the supper table. As a family, they relished these discussions a lot more than the food that their mother prepared, which always smelt strongly of garlic. But the children made up for the shortfall in nutrition by consuming endless packets of potato chips when they sat in front of their TV.

The TV was another of the Patel’s pleasures in life. It remained on all day for Haroon and Mrs. Patel and late into the night for Munira. Weekends were a 48 hour movie marathon. Munira, clad in a pair of tights and a T-Shirt, would hire Hindi movies on Saturday mornings, enough to see them through to Sunday night.

At 5:30, Munira arrived. By this time Mrs. Patel had stretched herself out on Haroon’s bed and was watching the soap operas as per ritual.
“Oh Maa,” she whined, as she entered the house and made her way through their bedroom towards the bathroom, “how many times did I tell you not to throw your scarf on the bed?” Her voice was a high pitched nasal squeak, which threatened to shatter the windows whenever she shouted.
She stomped into the small bathroom. “And you Haroon, you’re always wetting the floor. I tell you everyday, make wuzu at the mosque for namaaz,” she shouted as she washed her hands.
“What did you cook today, Maa?” she asked, her mood lightening at the prospect of a hot, albeit garlicky meal.
“Daar chaawal.” Mrs Patel gathered up her scarf and placed it on the stool in the corner of the bedroom.
“No kachoomar?” she asked, referring to the tomato and onion sambal that is normally eaten with Dhall and rice.
Mrs. Patel snorted. She said softly to Haroon, who had now entered the house and was locking the gate, “She can make it herself, if she wants kachoomar. Lazy!”
“Haroon, how come you didn’t take off the washing yet. I’m tired, and now you wait for me to take it off. You do it every day. How many times must I tell you? You don’t work and Maa walks around whole afternoon.”
“I’ll get it, I’ll get it.” He came into the kitchen, went out the backdoor, and into the back yard, which was nothing more than a narrow passage. It was summer. There was still plenty of daylight left, yet Munira saw fit for a tantrum. She threw far too many of those lately. And the fact that she still worked while he didn’t seemed to gall her.

He had taken an early retirement from his job at a clothing factory the year before. He had received a generous package from his boss Mr. Varachia, who he knew had secretly been glad to be rid of him. He’d said that it was kind of Haroon to be helping the company by making room for new blood. But it didn’t really bother him that he was unemployed. During his thirty years at the company he had saved up a substantial sum. He had few expenses. He was rather thankful that he had never married. He didn’t think that he’d be able to handle another woman in his life. His sister was enough of a pain in the you-know-what. And marriage would have meant children, something that he didn’t really have that stomach for – although his stomach looked like it could accommodate a three year old or two.

to be continued...

© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006



Wednesday, September 13, 2006

South Africa my Land

Some poetry today

While I’ve left the waves far behind
the currents are there
churning around my legs
thrusting gently from behind
and then chasing me out again

I look to where the ocean and
the sky slip through the tear
and disappear into oblivion
cerulean upon sapphire
mirrors one to the other

I feel the sun on my shoulders
the warmth of its embrace
the water rocks me
holding me close, to it’s bosom
my eyes remain trained upon the distant tear
a straight line, measured, equal
just

Like the here and now?

South Africa my Land
yet you are not
from your womb was I expelled
yet your child was I not
illicit, perhaps
or an orphan unloved

so I look at the tear
and nurse the tear in my heart
from whence the blood of rebellion drips
and dream of the firmaments
fallen through the tear
where children from the womb
are loved and wanted
and nurtured

I look to the shore
an emerald on the breast of a darkened skin
like mine
yet you hate me so
or fear me perhaps
for you know me not
and your indifference sears

© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

Being - contd

The days melted into one another. The week was drawing to an inexorable end. She filled the time between Dawn and his family with dips in the pool. She walked on the dewy grass barefoot, feeling the blades between her toes. It rained one afternoon. She twirled, arms outstretched, spinning in the rain. She laid on the grass, under a Flame Tree, the lawn beneath her, swathed in orange flowers. She looked at the sky through the branches. She identified shapes in the clouds, felt an ant crawl up her arm. She caught a butterfly then set it free. She booked an afternoon at the spa. She still hadn’t decided whether she would take up the job in far away England, where the clouds were glued to the sky, but she needed a bit of pampering. Rather, she deserved it.

When she got to the reception area, she found the place in a state of turmoil. Assistants running about; gardeners, ropes in hand, dashing to the Olympic sized swimming pool. She followed them.

A crowd had gathered around the pool. A game warden attempted unsuccessfully to disperse them.

“People, please go. You’re frightening the animal.” He waved his arms, as though to ‘shoo’ them away. They took a few steps backward and when he turned towards the pool once more, they inched their way forward.

She edged her way through the crowd. She could see the pool. And she could see the baby. Her baby. Dawn.

“It was a group of children. They chased the poor thing,” a woman in a colourful sarong tut-tutted. Her freckled face, a star spangled expanse of tanned hide.


A game warden stood in the swimming pool. Dawn struggled out of his grasp, struggled to stand. He kept slipping. The tiles too smooth. He slipped further towards the deep end; the warden struggled to get near him.

She fled.

*********************************

They fed him to the crocodiles. The cleaner told her this.

She saw the family. Four now. The mother wandered further and further across the golf course. Trying to call him perhaps? But she was mute. Calling in her soundless way then? But she knew, as she sat there watching, tears wetting her lashes, that he would never hear.

© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Being

Note: Inspired by a stay at exactly such a place a year ago, and a day in the sun, I wrote this piece. It is a rough first draft, and it is incomplete. I will complete it tomorrow, God willing. For now, enjoy...


The gently sloping plains of the golf course stretched out before her. A manicured oasis in a sea of ecru grass, and acacia bush. Golfers in carts appeared, did their thing and disappeared. She sat, staring unseeing out at the veld. At the course. Her mind drifted between her failed marriage and the new job opportunity that had presented itself. The day plodded on. When the sun grew weak and weary, yellow; the shadows stretched to breaking-point, animals emerged from the bush, and wandered onto the now-deserted golf course.

Golf in the Wild – the brochure had claimed. The impala, skittish, in little herds of about ten, nibbled daintily on the too-green grass. A few zebra, with their donkey-like yap chased one another around the fourteenth hole. And then a giraffe family. Silhouetted against a mauve sky, rolling sinewy limbed, long tongues curling around acacia leaves. Mute. Not even a grunt.


For the first time, her eyes gained focus. She sat up straighter, leaned forward in the canvas chair. She counted them. One, two … five in all. A baby, like an enlarged fluffy toy, walked in their midst. They seemed not to notice her. They stepped over the logs that formed a fence around her chalet and spread their legs awkwardly on the paving. They drank deeply from the little plunge pool.

She sat - immobile, afraid to disturb them, afraid to lose them. Their coats gleamed under the glow of the garden lamps. Sated, they straightened, slipping a little on the smooth surface, then rolled off towards the course once more. And she sat. Mosquitoes buzzed around her legs; crickets chirped; a frog blobbed its way to the swimming pool. Time for a twilight dip. In the distance a lion roared. The hair on her arms stood on end. She got up, moving stealthily, afraid to startle them, those giraffes, and let herself into the air-conditioned lounge.

She’d see them in the morning. She had to.

**************************

The sky, a grey seamless canvas upon which an artist spilled pinks, yellows, and violets. White in places. The moon, cold now, forlorn, fading into oblivion. The grass cried dewy tears and the honeysuckle, heavy against the trellis, greeted the first of the bees. She sat on the chair once more. A cup of coffee sighed wisps of steam into the morning air. They were on the course. All five of them. The male with his darker markings sat on the grass, watching, chewing, silent. The mother, slightly more pale, hovered protectively around the baby.

She inhaled deeply, feeling the scent of honeysuckle, chlorine, coffee and a myriad of other fragrances the defied identification, fill her lungs. She felt the kiss of the morning breeze against her bare arms. She saw the first rays of the sun peep shyly and then stretch tentatively towards the treetops, greeting them with the mornings foremost caress. She’d call him Dawn. The baby, her baby. She couldn’t really tell that he was a ‘him’, but he felt like one. Her ‘him’.

He ran about, tail rigid, kicking out his hind legs, and then returned to his mother, nudging her, none too gently, for a drink of milk.

Watching him suckle, she became aware of a pulse in her own neck, her fingertips. She felt her heart pump out litres of blood, she felt her skin stretch. The sun crept higher, emboldened by the welcome from its many admirers, it sent a messenger to her face. She felt the warmth, and inside she felt a sun rising too.

They faded into the bush once more. She could see the adults’ heads alone. Dawn was swallowed by the dense acacia.

She stood up, stretched languorously, threw her shoulders back, straightened her back. She walked to the honeysuckle. Picked a few flowers, removed the green leaves from the base and drank the nectar. Sweet, fragrant drops melted into her mouth. She was a child once more, in her grandmother’s garden; at the river; standing on a rock feeling the wind tug at her hair. She was glad just to be…


© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

An Eternity too Late

Note : Okay guys, you asked for it. Another one with South Africanisms. Malay ones this time. It is one of the first stories I ever wrote, after deciding that I wanted to spend my life doing the one job that offered most job satisfaction with least remuneration:

I’ve never really enjoyed sitting through long, drawn-out lectures at the mosque. In fact as a religiously respected rule, I avoid them. Somehow, for me, they always seem to say so much, yet accomplish so little. Who takes them seriously anyway? Sort of like my relationship with the wife.

Anyway, before we go down that slippery path, let’s stick to that particular Jumu’ah, when everything changed. Strangely enough, I was early at the mosque that day because my usually sour boss, in one of his rare good moods closed the shop at 12 o' clock instead of the usual 12h20. Maybe his wife cooked Breyani that day.

In spite of my being early, the mosque was rather full, with scores of men smelling heavily of sweet itrs and dressed for the most part in long white Kurtas, which swept the ground. See what I mean about no one listening to the lectures?*

I tried to find a comfortable spot near the wall, because should the lecture turn out to be very boring, I’d have the wall to lean on and catch a lekker snooze. Al least that way, I wouldn’t end up falling over or end up on someone’s shoulder. You know how the okes can be. They give you a pretty dirty look when that happens.

The khateeb mounted the mimbar immediately after the adhaan, and with carefully considered solemnity began the lecture, but when he got to the end of his introduction, and completed the carefully chosen aayaat (verses) from the mushaf - the Quraan, and the severely worded warnings from Mughammed (peace be upon him), I began to cringe. With all my heart, I wished that ou Bitterbullah’s wife hadn’t cooked her famous breyani. Maybe then I would have missed this lecture on Family Ties – Silah Raghm - all together.

Because Family Ties is a topic that always makes me feel very uncomfortable – and that is exactly what it would do to you too, if you had 14 years of not speaking to your only brother on your conscience.

I decided that this topic was just not my type of souskluitjie, so I discreetly leaned back and tried to sommer catch those forty winks. But when the Khateeb began to speak about Jaghannum - the Hellfire, his descriptions were so frightening that I sommer sat penregop and forgot my forty winks.

I was tempted to ask him what exactly Jaghannum and Family Ties have in common, but I figured that it would just cause a scene, so I sat quietly and just listened.

Then he spoke about how the deeds of two Muslims who have differences between them just remain suspended and aren’t accepted by Allah. By now, I was positively squirming.

All this, he proved from Quraan and Ghadith - the Prophetic Traditions, so I could have no doubt about it. Did this then mean that all my Salaat- my prayers, and saum - the fasting, had been for nothing?

What about my Ghadj two years ago? For most of my life I had saved every spare cent for the tickets, and my wife had turned her flair for creating bridal midoras -headgear, into a business that had paid for the accommodation for the six weeks. Was that also not Ghadj Mabroer - an accepted Hajj?

It all fell into place now. So maybe that’s why I struggled lately to concentrate in Salaat. My brother was probably the reason that I struggled to feel completely at ease on Arafaat when we made wuqoof - the standing in supplication.

Why exactly had I stopped speaking to Taariq in the first place? Ja, now I remember – didn’t he call me a skelm and accuse me of trying to steal my father’s money? Now how can one brother (bloedbroer, mind you) say such a thing about another?

Hmph, and his wife? Daai ou grootbek! She certainly did her best and made sure that she added so much spice to the whole problem, until it became as unappetizing as an overspiced koeksuster.

But if I went to him first, what would the people say? Mrs. Davids would have plenty to keep her tongue wagging for a long time to come, no doubt. Ugh, but who cares? Mrs Davids’ gossip would surely be more bearable than having to spend an eternity in Jaghannum and having feet the size of mount Ughud.

Bosmont would, no doubt forget the praaitjie before long anyway. So there and then I decided to make the trip out to Benoni and make peace.

All that afternoon butterflies were break dancing in my stomach. What if ou Grootbek opened her mouth? What if he chased me away? What if…?

I’ve never had a Friday afternoon pass so slowly before. At 5 o’ clock when Mr. Asmal tried to squeeze more value out of the day by giving me extra work without extra pay – as usual – I just said, “Jammer Meneer, but I have an important meeting to get to.”

He just stood there, his chin dropping to his chest, his mouth so wide open, that I could see every one of his silver fillings, and there were plenty, mind you. Before he could say a word, I hopped into my ou jalopy. Besides, had I stood there any longer, he might have had a stroke. I hit the highway, straight to Benoni.

At the Atlas Road turn-off there was this mother-of-all traffic jams. From the policecars, ambulances and tow trucks (who sometimes get there even before the police, like an army of red ants on a dead gogga) I could tell that it must have been a big one – accident, I mean.

I waited impatiently in the line of traffic that moved along slowly like a trail of garden snails of Ma Mahomed’s giant cabbages. All the while, my stomach knotted tighter and tighter still.

And then I saw it! A huge pile up – five cars in all. This mangled mess of twisted metal, smoking engines and battered bodies being attended to be important-looking paramedics at the roadside.

A metallic green Toyota Camry stood on its roof. Bodies were being pulled from the wreckage. The driver was a smallish man with graying hair and a dark goatee. I felt a sudden chill go down my spine when I realized that he looked a lot like me. Then I took a second look. Horrified, I realized that it was Tariq, my brother. My heart racing like the drums played at the Coon Carnival, I tried to get out of the slow-moving queue of cars.

I finally managed to pull of about 100m away. On jelly legs, I ran to the car. I got there just in time to see this burly paramedic spreading a white sheet on the bloodied body. With a sinking feeling, I realized that I was too late, when he took it up all the way over that familiar face, A face that I had last truly looked at with love, some 14 years ago.

As I stood there in the eerie glow of the red and blue flashing lights, a bright orange son setting behind my back, I couldn’t help but ask myself – why? Why was I an eternity too late?

Glossary

Jumu'ah - Friday

Breyani - A rice dish

* According to Islamic teachings men's kurtas long shirts, should not hang below the ankles.

lekker - good, nice, tasty, any positive meaning. Used by everyone here, including my two year old

okes - guys

khateeb - scholar delivering the lecture

Adaan - call to prayer

souskluitjie - sweet dumpling served in syrup

penregop - upright

skelm - crook

bloedbroer - blood brother

Daai our grootbek - that big mouth

praaitjie - story

gogga - insect




Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Gelukskoot

Note: From the outset, I should apologise to my foreign readers for this little tale. It is loaded with South Africanisms. I'm going to put a little glossary at the end to explain it all. The title, Gelukskoot, is an Afrikaans word, meaning, 'A Stroke of Luck'. And I must thank Nicky for inspiring it.

Skint writer's competition was going to close within 24 hours. She was busy with her entry. I told her I'd never manage it on such short notice. I also mentioned a story that I had about Mma Mary, but I told her that it was too long. She dared me to get it done in time, do the necessary pruning.

I ended up writing it all over again using Mma Mary's voice, and this is what I came up with:

Eish, but these streets. No matter how many times I clean them during the day, by the time I come in the morning, they are filthy again. And this stupid council. The least they could do is put more dustbins. But then again, the bins would probably get stolen. This new South Africa, everything gets stolen. Even my bra got stolen from the washing line yesterday. Size 44DD. Haai, these crooks. And bras are so ‘spensis, I mean expensive, right now. Lucky for my Edgars card or I would have to let these big tieties hang loose.

Look there. A Pick n Pay trolley. And the hawkers are using it for their tamaties and bananas. And these hawkers, they’re another problem. This government, they just cause shit. Masipa, I tell you. All these foreigners. Stealing our jobs. Sitting on our streets and giving me more work. Ma gwerre gwerre.

Haaibo, and the rats that are coming for these things. Like small cats. You don’t believe me? Come with me tomorrow. Early - when my shift starts. You’ll see them.

You see that block there? It’s the bank block. Yesterday you should have seen it. Police cars, ambulances. It was the tsotsis. They held up the bank. That’s another thing that this government with all its lazy ministers are messing up. The tsotsis. Eish, we have to live under lock and key here. Mkhulu, he put another Yale lock on our front door yesterday. He searches the whole house before we sleep every night. Checks under the beds, in the cupboards.


Sometimes I just want to laugh. You should see him, man. He is fat, Mkhulu. Fatter than me. He even has tieties. But no bra for him. So his really hang. He goes on his hands and knees, and sticks his bum up high in the air. Now you know, us Africans, we’re famous for our bums, but Mkhulu, his bum…Yo, yo his bum, it could be a famous exhibit in the Apartheid Museum. Ya, hey I know about the museum. The lady that teaches us night ‘literacy classes’, she took us there two weeks ago. She said we needed to know about our history. But it’s bums like Mkhulu’s that the whiteys wanted to keep off the park benches. And that’s why I said it could be a famous exhibit.

But I was telling you about the tsotsis in the bank. You know, for once the police caught them. But the funny thing is that the bank says that they took more than two million rand. Two million. Hey, what I would do with two million. Yo, yo, my house, it would be smart. And I wouldn’t need to sweep these filthy streets anymore.

But the tsotsis didn’t have the money. So what happened, I ask you? You know what I think? The police stole it, and now they tell us that they didn’t find it. It happens all the time. It even happened with the money that they stole at the airport.

But at least the bank area is clean. There are lots of dustbins, but they can’t be stolen. They’re cement. Heavy like Mkhulu, I tell you. Everyday I have to empty them into this one here. My big one on wheels. It is such a messy job. And the black bags, sometimes they tear while I am doing it then I have to pick up the dirt that falls.

Mmph, grunt. Yo, yo, this one is heavy. Heita, it’s out. But why is it so heavy? Let me see, maybe something that I can take home to the children.

******************************

Epilogue

Mma Mary and Mkhulu sit on their sundeck. The ocean, cerulean, shimmering, ebbs and flows before them. Their children play on the beach. This is their home. Mma Mary owns an authentic African Restaurant. She calls it Gelukskoot.


© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Glossary

tamaties : tomatoes

Ma Gwerre Gwerre : a derogatory term used for foreigners from up Africa

tsotsis : thieves

and I didn't enter Skint's competition, because I found the local flavour of the end result a bit too strong.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Defining Moment

The defining moments in our lives are not as many as we would like to believe they are. I learnt this the other day. It was the kind of day when I felt that the bottom of my world had dropped out and that I was falling into a darkness, a vacuum that smothered my voice, because my insides were screaming you see, and I could not hear them.

It was 10:30. And it was a freezing night. Nasty things always happen on freezing nights, don’t they? Well, I sat huddled close to the heater, waiting for my husband and son to return from a gathering at the mosque. Why weren’t they home yet?

Images of men in balaclavas, guns glinting in the nebulous glow of the street lights clamoured for attention in my head. Suddenly the heater didn’t feel very warm and I felt as though I was walking in a pit of quicksand. I phoned the Imam. The gathering had dispersed some 45 minutes ago. The quicksand began to suck, and pull.The vacuum was slowly being sealed.

I phoned around, while I uttered empty words of comfort to my four year old whose eyes shone with the tears that evaded my own eyes.
The imam again: No they were not in the mosque.

My father in law, my father, my mother, the telephone numbers dripped from my fingertips and brought me their distant voices.
My father in law: must we come? Wake up the neighbour. Call the cops.
My mother: I’ll pray for you. Keep me updated.
Pity they live so far away.
My father: What’s happening? Let me know the minute you hear anything.

My neighbour, a sleepy man in mismatched pyjamas: Come to me after half an hour. Then we’ll see what we can do.
My uncle. My husband always helps him out: Oh, what are you telling me? So what are you going to do now? Silence – scratchy silence.

I don’t know, I’ll think of something. The quicksand is around my waist now.
Who next? Yes. A single mother, ANC activist and aunt. They discarded her when she married a non-muslim. Pity. But she’s a person again - the non-muslim is dead.

I’ll come over right now. Wait for me.

She arrives in a car - squashed, an angel too big for her celestial carriage. The neighbour is awake now. Has half an hour passed? He’ll come with to the police station. The air bites while the quicksand sucks. One man of the law plays solitaire on an ancient PC. The other reads the Sun, tabloid queen. He doesn’t look up from the paper while the solitaire guy takes the details.

Red and black pyjamas on a nine year old. Jeans and a sweater, with a long blue jacket on the 36 year old. A black Jetta. He radios the patrol van. No one replies. Come in the morning.
What, after my son has frozen to death? And my husband has bled himself empty on the brown winter grass?

A few more stops and a few more people drawn into the cold, luckily not into the quicksand because it is around my neck now. Check at the house. It’s nearly midnight. The car is parked where it always stands. The quicksand recedes, while the vacuum compresses, drawing the breath out of my aching lungs.

My in-laws are there. A dark cloud on Dad’s face.
My mother in law : Don’t be angry.
She’s always the peacemaker.
Smiling faces disappear out the door. The vacuum threatens to suck me into a Black Hole. Not a word of explanation greets my diatribe.

Two days later. Not a word has been exchanged - at least not one that means anything. The vacuum is weakened by the relief that bleeds in from gaps that have now opened. But still I can barely hear my insides scream. I know they’re screaming, because my throat hurts with unspoken word and stifled tears.

On the bright side? It’s been a defining moment. I see my friends now, more clearly than before and I know that cowardice has a beard and wears a Kurta and calls itself family. I know that maintaining images gets people out of bed at crazy hours, in mismatched pyjamas and woollen hats. I know that even angels sometimes marry non-muslims.

© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Honest Friend

It had curvy edges, sandblasted, a fine spray of grey on shiny silver. It was an honest friend. She stood before it after her shower each day. She studied the contours of her face, rosy after the hot water; she studied the amber depths of her eyes; she smiled secretly to herself, at him; she tossed her wet tresses behind her back, brown ringlets that reached her waist.

There was a radiance to her face that she was certain had not been there before. Her thighs, which she had recently begun to feel, were turning to jelly, looked firmer. Her hair had greater body, her cheekbones looked more pronounced. Why even her breasts which had, until a few months ago, been doing a tortoise crawl towards her waist, had perked up. Yes, she looked good. She felt good.

When she smiled at her naked form in the mirror, she imagined herself smiling at him, seeing the appreciation in his eyes. She would – soon.

She planned on telling him tonight. She loved him. It was like a bubble growing inside her, something she cherished. The warmth, the need to hear his voice every day. To hear him laugh. It sent shivers trough her body when her laughed, an almost physical vibration that reached her across the hundreds of miles that separated them.

She squeezed body lotion into her cupped palm and began smoothing it onto her body, slowly, languorously, the stretching of a sleek cat. She inhaled the fresh fragrance. Her nerve ends tingled with heightened awareness. The steam swirled around her. She looked into the mirror once more, smiled, then began slipping on her garments one by one.

******************************

She stood before the trusted friend, the silver, curvy, shapely one. She looked at her face. She noticed patches of pigmentation around her mouth, dark circles around her eyes. He skin wasn’t pink and delicate looking after the steamy cascade of water, but blotchy, like a badly died piece of pasty cloth. And puffy - cheekbones non-existent.

Her thighs, ugh, the looked positively fat. Flabby, shapeless appendages stuck to her torso, which was sagging in all the wrong places. Her breasts looked worst of all, drooping, like two water-filled plastic bags stuck on a barbed wire fence.

She sighed, made a face at herself in the mirror, at him. She hadn’t heard his voice since that day, the day she had burst her much cherished bubble.

He didn’t love her. She knew this. He hadn’t needed to say a word. His silence was more voluble than words could ever have been.

She sighed, squeezed some body lotion into her cupped palm, and slapped it onto her body, not bothering to rub it in. She tugged on her clothes. She needed to get away from her honest friend. She hated its honesty.


© Saaleha Bhamjee - 2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

Time Out

Sorry friends, but this weekend, I’m taking some time out. My books have arrived. The Wedding Officer and Da Vinci Code. I was a bit uncertain about the latter but I figured that if a book generates this much love/hate/interest/debate, then it is definitely worth reading.

Next on my acquisition list is something by Zadie Smith and Herzog. Anyone read Herzog? Any thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know.

Actually my book wishlist is pretty long: Brick Lane
Get a Life
Inheritance of Loss
How to Kill your Husband and Other Handy
Household Hints (love this title)
The Counterfeiters
The Plague
The Master of Petersburg
Lolita

On the topic of Lolita, any thoughts? Anyone? Or comments on any of the others? Or recommendations?

Ah, Kite Runner, now that was one of the best books I have read in a long time. I read it twice, and should I have a very skint month and be unable to get my literary fix, I’d probably read it a third time.

Coldsleep Lullabye, this year’s Alan Paton Fiction award winner was great too.

Enjoy the weekend friends. Until Monday!