Friday, October 28, 2011

Arsenic


This is a short story from my collection of interlinked short stories. Soon to be published, insha Allah. Request for duas for the editing process which has been a slow, almost painful one. 

                                                                    ******



Farida’s mouth flooded with the metallic taste of fear. Her heart drummed. She held the girls’ hands tightly as her eyes restlessly scoured the Dadaville streets. Where was he?

Why did he do these things? Didn’t he know she needed him? Was he really no better than his bastard father? The man who’d abandoned her when he’d learnt of her pregnancy.

Her fear struggled to keep up with her mounting anger.

What kind of son was he? The ingrate! After everything she’d been though for him! After everything she’d endured to keep a roof over his head and food in his stomach!

Shanawaaz at the Corner Cafe, where his gang, The Kajala Boys, hung out hadn’t seen him. Neither had Ice Man (whose real name was Arshad), the leader of the Kajalas.

She watched the yellowing sun with growing anxiety, barely registering the girls’ protests at her pace. She could delay no longer. Anu would be home. Anu would be waiting. And Anu didn’t like waiting...

Fear won.

As she rounded the corner, she saw him. Standing calmly at the gate. And she knew. She dragged her feet as she approached. There was nowhere to run, she accepted that. But still she could delay the inevitable.

He did not shout. Not that day. He just took her hand and pulled her into the house, locking the bewildered girls outside. There was no smell of liquor on his breath. And somehow, she knew, that today it would be worse.

He pushed her into their bedroom. Shut the door with a bang.

“Strip.” His voice like broken glass.

She stood, looking stupidly at his quivering face.

“Strip, you fucking hoer meit!” He grabbed her cloak, pulled her towards his chest and ripped it.

He threw her onto the bed. She watched his hand slide over the buckle of his belt. His movements sure. Deft.
She cowered, eyes closed, waiting to hear the familiar whistle of the belt. Oblivious to her nakedness. Her blood rushing against her eardrums drowning out the sound of the little girls pummelling the front door with their fists.  

His weight bearing down on her caught her by surprise. And then he was on top of her. Thrusting. Prying her legs apart. She lay very still. Did not struggle. This was not happening. Surely that woman, so small, so fragile, lying spread eagled on a floral bedspread was not her. Surely that man was not Anu. He could never be her Anu.

With each thrust, she was aware of something inside of her breaking. Crumbling. Leaving a gaping abyss that swallowed all her fears. All her anxieties. Everything...

By the time he shuddered, lay still for a moment before rolling off her, she knew...It had to be done.

He stood up, stepped into his pants without even wiping.

“Just remember, bitch. I own you. Don’t go looking for that half caste bastard of yours when I am waiting here to be fed a decent meal. I work damned hard to look after all of you.”

The words did not sting.

She lay there, naked, legs scissored, until she heard him settle in the lounge, switch on the TV. Then she stood up, wrapping the sheet around herself, and went to the bathroom. She did not let the girls in even though she could hear them crying on the stoep. She showered, dressed, straightened the bedroom and then opened up for the girls. Rayhana had fallen asleep, her head cradled on Fatima’s bony lap.

She averted her gaze from Fatima’s questioning eyes. She had no cure for the pain she saw. There was nothing left. She was empty.

That night she pretended to sleep when he sat down beside the bed. She did not stir when he stroked her brow. She did not blink when she felt his tears falling onto her cheeks. Did not answer when she heard him whisper, “Why? Why must you make me so angry? Why do you keep on doing these things? Like a stupid hoer meit! Don’t you know I love you?”

***

His snores resonated off the white walls of their shared bedroom. Sonorous. She studied the planes of his face and listened so long that the sound seemed to vibrate within her. His jowls quivered each time he exhaled. In repose, his mouth was not hateful. It did not spew vitriol. It was soft. She could almost remember their stolen kisses. But not quite. The memory, blunted by years of violent blows to the head.

His neck was no longer as firm; the skin sagged in places. Below the jaw too he was growing a pouch. The years had not only gnawed at their lives, they had eaten away at his hairline too. She was no longer surprised at the insipidity of her emotions when she looked at his face. It had been a slow process. Day by day the love had withered, dying a silently screaming death, taking its last breath on the day Zaahid had left for good.

The day she’d died inside and been left with one desire – only one: Revenge. It was this thirst that got her out of bed in the morning. It was what got her through the days. It was what rendered her immune to his barbs. HE could not touch her. Nothing could touch her. He’d sensed the change.

But how? The question had eaten at her. Festered. And then came the call from Zaahid.

He’d slipped the suggestion so casually into the conversation that she’d scarcely noticed. Even told her where she’d find it. That was two days ago.

Early that morning, Farida went down the road to the house with the steel door set into the side wall.  Head aloft. Ignoring the curious stares she attracted. Ignoring the shaking heads. There was a small window sliced into it. A little mouth, which when spoken to by young men with lanky hair and women with glazed eyes, would spew out small parcels. Dagga, cocaine, mandrax. All yours for the asking, provided you had the money.

She was not surprised at her lack of emotion. At the state of soporific calm that filled her to the brim. It had been with her since that day. The day she’d crumbled. Crumpled. Only to emerge taller. Stronger.

“Look, I know you sell regular drugs. But I need something different,” she said. “I want... arsenic.” The word tasted of freedom.

 “Hmm, that can be done,” the window hissed. “For a price. Did you know that they treat cancer with it? Are you trying to cure someone’s cancer?” The window wheezed a discordant laugh.

“When?”

“Come tomorrow afternoon. It’ll cost four hundred.”

She tried to rein in her smile. The money was no problem. Drunken men often forgot what they left in their pockets.

Farida smiled at the memory. She got up and tiptoed out of the bedroom.

When she entered the girls’ room, she stood for a long while, drinking in their features. Listening to their rhythmic breathing.

“It’s going to get better. I promise...” she whispered.

In the back of their cupboard she felt for the little bottle. She cradled it in her hands lovingly then replaced it in its little hidey hole. Tomorrow she’d start. Little by little.

She went to the bed and lay down next to Rayhana. Placed an arm around her.

 “Zaahid is okay.” She murmured.  “I spoke to him today. He’s starting to live again. I can hear it in his voice. We’ll be okay.”

For the first night in two weeks she slept.

Hope is a powerful opiate. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This is going to hurt...


I never knew how intimidating some 800 odd university students could be until I had to share a confined space with them. That was my plight this Saturday night past. Feeling incongruous (I’ve never been to Uni, see). At odds with my surroundings as I navigated the hills and dales that led to the Wits Grand Hall in heels (what was I thinking?!) for the Make Me Maaf Comedy show.

To be very honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I’d seen the likes of Trevor Noah and Nik Rabinowitz a year ago at Bafunny. And those guys were a tough act to top.  

The crowd that had gathered outside probably represented half the slumou population at Wits. And more than 50% of them were male! Eish! Well I was here to enjoy myself and I would do it in spite of feeling like the last Dodo amid a flock of Guinea fowl.

The beginning was inauspicious. A portend, I feared. Some chick in a little red number with impossible stilettos er’ing and uhm’ing as she introduced the evening and told us about the charity we’d just supported. Did anyone get that? Cos I missed it somewhere between her er’s and uhms. Anyone who knows me knows that the one thing that gets to me when it comes to public speaking is someone who searches for words when they’re supposed to have a feast of them prepared and ready for serving.

Yes, I’m anal like that.

And then, like a breath of leather jacket and bow tie clad fresh air,  Deep Fried Man made his first appearance. Doing that signature ten past ten stance, he belted out a few nonsensical songs and got the show on the road.

Hmm, not bad I thought. As the evening progressed, he proved himself to be a worthy MC. 

I got to hear of  Laz Gola for the first time. He was so-so. I had a few good laughs (but my laughing shouldn’t be taken as any kind of measure of success since I laugh. A lot! Always!)

Knowing that he was the real Loyiso Gola’s brother didn’t make him funnier in any way.  I’m thinking with a few more gigs under his belt his act should smooth itself out and become a more seamless affair.

One of the people I was keen to see was my friend Aasia. And she didn’t disappoint. Unflinchingly honest. She was a treat. She fed us a dry sarcastic kind of humour. A brand I’m quite partial to.

 Conrad Koch is another comedian who deserves mention. He was easily the best act of the evening. Between his adopted alien of a child and Chester Missing he really brought the show to life. I’d definitely pay (not for a charity, mind) just to see him in action again.

Simmi Areff surprised me. I follow him on Twitter. And I wasn’t expected to laugh until I had tears in my eyes. But hey, guess what? I did. He was really good. Kudos.


The grand  Kaloo made his debut on the evening. It was a brave (read insane) effort . I hand him that. He got a few good laughs.  But he exceeded his allotted time, which inspired a few snide remarks from some quarters.

His detractors will be pleased to know that he remained within his allotted time when he got back into the saddle at Parkers – Monte Casino – last night You go Fareed!

Two acts that the show would have been better off without were Omer and 2Dogs. The latter was painful to watch. And no, I don’t think he’s a comedic genius. Just some gormless guy who’s delusional regarding his abilities. Yes, I know that’s harsh. I had a sense that the poor guy was being patronised in some way. And really just being made a g@t of. I could be wrong. There’s a first time for everything, after all.

As for Omer, I’m not being nasty, but I think he was redundant. One less Omer would have given us more time with the fantastic
Rasdien.

It was my first time seeing Joey in action. And I was impressed. Laugh a minute, he was brilliant! He’s headed for great places.

To the organisers, Minhaj Jeenah (who came decked out like a small time producer – haha) et al, nice effort.

Next time warn us when an event is not going to be a mainstream one. I know of a few grandparents who felt even more awkward than I did.

Would I do it again? Probably not. But hey, at least when one of these guys makes it big I’ll be able to say: Ek was daar. Ek het hom gesien toe hy nog a laaitie was.


p.s. If I've pissed anyone off with this post, do Make Me Maaf!




Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let's Talk About Sex *blush*


At the age of 9 my sister first allowed me a glimpse into the world of human reproduction. I’d always suspected that my parents’ version - involving planes and storks- to be on par with the Tooth Fairy stories. So I was not completely blown away to discover that babies came out from vaginas.

 But I knew my friends would be -insert wicked grin- so I chose, rather unwisely, I might add (but, hey, I was only 9) to share this nugget in whispered exchanges with a few rapt madrassah classmates. Girls, naturally! What do you take me for?

All hell broke loose! One of my girlfriends ran off to her sister. An argument broke out. My sister was sucked in. Threats were made. And gasp! There was talk of that horror of horrors! Calling in the PARENTS!

I felt awful. Still do, in fact, whenever I think of it. Felt the shame of what I’d done most acutely. Felt in some way dirty.

That was the beginning of my understanding that all matters sexual were never to be spoken of in my little slice of Chaardom. They were the worst of all the deadly sins.

Growing up, the word ‘sex’ was considered vile. Ugly. That was one of the most important lessons that my mum made a point of driving home. Along with:
 ‘Thou shalt have immaculate cupboards”
“Thou shalt learn how to cook a decent curry.”
“Thou shalt NEVER walk over anything lying on the floor. (Don’t you have eyes?! Are you blind?!)”
“Thou shalt never be lazy!”

 Even when Muslim aunties around me were popping babies every so often. Immaculate conceptions? I think not.

Fast-forward to the ‘91 and the release of Salt-n-Pepa’s hit single ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’, me being all of 14 at the time. Even as we covertly listened to the song, sang it, no one was doing the talking. Certainly not our parents.

It was understood that at some point we’d all marry decent (non-virgin) guys, our own virginity intact and that our husbands would teach us all there is to know.

So prior to marriage we all tried to get our hands on a copy of Kitaabun Nikaah, read it on the sly, certainly not in front of our parents (even though we’d long been reading Mills and Boon romances in their presence. Contradiction? This is Chaardom we’re talking about.)

And we entered adulthood, secure in the knowledge that should we look at out husbands naked (and they at us) our children would be born blind. And should we dare speak during intercourse, well, they’d be deaf and dumb.

But we took our chances. And when the first kid was neither blind nor deaf nor dumb, we took a few more.




And then we finally grew up and realized that all the blind, deaf, dumb stories were just a lot of hogwash. And that sex was an important part of every healthy marriage. And that giving pleasure and receiving it was really the ideal in Islam. Or did we?

SO what prompted this post?
This:



It was an image that went out on FB, BBM, Twitter, you name it! And not with the face obscured!

It made we wonder. 

  • Would it have been ‘okay’ for a muslim uncle, duri and all to be at Sexpo if he wasn’t wearing a kurta?
  • Are we trying to say that Muslims don’t have the need for sex?
  • Why are all matters around sexuality, especially female sexuality, still frowned upon?
  • Why do we like to go around pretending that sex is not fun?
  • And why should people feel guilty about having healthy sex lives within the confines of marriage?

I’m not condoning Kurta Chachas ogling the boude, see. But he just made me wonder.

From growing up in a world where balanced information around sex and sexuality was unheard of, we’re rearing kids in a world where licentiousness is paraded as the ideal.

Just last night I watched a BOLLYWOOD (for crying out loud!) movie where a 21 yr old said about her friend (to her boss nogal)
“That was my friend Priya on the phone. She just lost a V. Isn’t that cute?”

Er…I think not.

But what are our kids to make of all this?

And if they cannot come to us with their questions – even the ones around that dreaded ‘M’ word  - yep, masturbation – who will they turn to for answers?

Bollywood, much like Hollywood preaches a message that contradicts Islamic teaching. It propagates the message that sex before marriage is the norm. Not just the norm, but healthy, in fact.

We need to be prepared to offer the Islamic alternative. And engage them in a constructive manner. 
We need to be able to answer their questions, albeit with a lot of stammering and a crimson blush.

I found this to be a fantastic balanced article on the subject and may just direct my kids there when they’re old enough. Because as a mother, I would have difficulty discussing it with my boys. And I know their father would never feel comfortable. Clearly we’re not far enough along the evolutionary (make that sexual revolutionary) path.

But with my girls, well…we may just have lengthy discussions. Wish me luck!


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Seven Links


There's this project called 7 Links, initiated by Tripbase, that fabulous Azra, the The Glittering Sapphire One and  Fareed of  The Kaloo Report invited me to participate in. The idea intrigued me, seeing as I love going back in time and following the progress of my words. Over time, I've come to see them as a reliable barometer of self-growth.

So what is 7 Links all about?

In the words of the originator:
The idea is simple: bloggers publish 7 links from their blog to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.

So I went into the archives (thanked Blogger for having stats available at the click of a mouse) and compiled this list :



1) My Most Beautiful Post

This heading has had me stumped for the last hour! Probably because I happen to be my own worst critic. 

Perhaps I should base this on the post that touched the most number of people? That would help. 
After intense deliberation (this is sounding like the judging of the bloody Booker, for crying out loud!) and much profanity hurled at The Grand Kaloo Himself, I've settled on A New Day.

Although these brought many responses too.

2) My Most Popular Post 

My most popular post ever remains Candles. My thoughts on the passing of Moulana Yunus Patel Sahib. It surprises me, but is perhaps a reflection of the barakah of Moulana, even after his passing.


3) My Most Controversial Post

Hands down, The Muslimness Measure. It pissed people off, big time. Eventually I tired of responding to comments. Though the The Story of Maha reviews did much the same.


4) My Most Helpful Post

I wouldn't have known what to select here. But when I went through the archives, a post that helped me anew was Thirty. Am hoping it will help you too...


5) A Post Whose Success Surprised me

Once more, that would be Candles. At more than double the page views of my second most popular, The Story of Maha.


6) A Post I Feel Didn't Get the Attention it Deserved

Twas a toss-up between Facebook Did It and Her Hands. The latter was like a punch in the gut when I read it now. It was penned and posted years ago.


7) The Post That I am Most Proud Of

I'm so unsure of this one. Was going to go with the  Muslim Feminist  post, but I've settled on Writing instead. The only piece of fiction to make this list. Speaks volumes...

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

Phew! I'm knackered. Compiling this list has been painful. But rewarding. I'm not going to select anyone to do this here task. Only because I know how much I swore Kaloo :p And I really don't want to choke on my tea.

Hope you've enjoyed this meandering journey with me.

Until next time...