The Louse

Nit, nit, the sound of a louse being squashed between her fingernail and lice comb like an over ripe grape was an odd satisfaction, wiping the red sticky residue on the white cloth she had spread on her lap.

She hated them, these tiny specks of crawling things, invading her space, crawling inside her hair and over her skin. She shuddered with disgust and raked the comb through her hair; stands of hair fell almost weightlessly. To be fair, she was not the kind of person who would be repulsed so easily, for everyday she cleaned other people’s filth, swept their floors, and cleaned their toilets, scraped out smelly contents of leftovers from their pots and plates with natural detachment because she knew they were outside of her. The filth belonged to others so she felt no aversion coming in contact with it, but the very thought of their hair like feet crawling on her hair, mating, laying eggs and forming some tiny colonies on her head made her want to vomit.

“Nasreen. Tea!” shouted her husband for the third time, his eyes on the television, flicking through channels.

Lice of all sizes rained crawling down on the cloth, all scurrying in different directions she felt like a giant monster reigning over them, squashing them with her nails. Nit, nit, nit. When she was younger she was fascinated by them, her mother would smother oil in her hair, and rake the comb painfully through her scalp, ripping shards of hair in the process. She would mumble about bad omen and signs of death. She was partly right, death was all around them, and people dropped off dead often by accidents, diseases, and murder because in the world of over worked, under nourished, and the depressed death’s hands knocked almost every day. She never could tell if the deaths were because of the lice or the lice population happened to grow because of the deaths.

“Nasreen!!!” he shouted again “get your head out of your lap and get me some tea”

Startled, she looks up with a slight frown at her husband who still had not bothered to look away from the television; it takes a while for her to get up. Fastening her hair she goes into the kitchen, the sound of the television grating on her nerves, that’s what he did all day just sitting in front of the television, barking orders when she came home and when she tried to find him a job he would go for a day or week at most before quitting nothing was good enough for him. Her head itched, she could feel their tiny mouths sucking on her blood for their nourishment or just scrambling around her hair like they did before on the cloth when she raked them out.

Putting the pot on the stove with water and tea, the jar of sugar was almost empty and her money was running low and the month had just started. The rent and bills took away most of what she earned by working at 3 houses.

“What’s taking you so long” he shouted “Lazy bum” this was meant to be said to himself maybe, or not. The black water bubbled over.

When she was younger, she fancied herself a seer of death; she knew there was going to be someone knocking their door with the news of death. Was he not like a louse himself? Invading her space, five years gorging on her money, her youth, her blood and then her children, she thought sadly of the children she had to abort. Those unborn, innocent angels put to death because of this louse’s whim. Those little birds who she couldn’t save from this thing, this insect who devoured whole and without remorse.  

Rat kill was just under the stove, she mixed it with the milk before pouring it in the tea. Nit, nit she heard in her head as she poured the tea in a small bowl.

“Nasreen!”

She was there, silently handing him the tea bowl.

“About time” he mumbled, glaring at the television.

She went back to where she was sitting, unbound her hair and spread the white cloth back on her lap, combing her hair to one side she raked the comb through her hair only a few tiny lice fell. Nit, nit, nit, she heard the bowl crash on the floor.

Lice were an omen of death, her mother used to say. His death was simply inevitable. There would be no inquiry; no one would care for the mean, poor wastrel. 

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami- A Book Review

The book was acquired by me along with many others and basically it sat there on my nightstand watching me devour one book after another, truth to be told I did not think of reading it until the positive reviews started pouring in from some of the other fellow readers in a certain online book club.

The story basically revolves around a 15 year old Kafka Tamura, a runaway and apparently “the strongest 15 year old ever” and Nakata, a survivor who has the ability to talk to cats and has a knack for finding them for their owners. Murakami alternates their storylines individually until their lives interlace at a certain point of the novel.

The novel is alive with a few but captivating characters and vivid Japanese manga style imagery, the verbious flows smoothly where the readers are compelled to enjoy the prose despite being curious with what might come next, Murakami uses his devices to full effect with the style and plot in the first half of the novel, until it becomes deary especially the Oedipus tragic curse on Kafka is somehow unexpected that is not positively said especially when the allusions have a point break on Kafka with the clear references to his works and Kafka Tamura’s alter ego “ the boy named Crow” which again is the translation of the name Kafka, the sudden Sophocles allusion is slightly irritating.

One of my personal favorites in the novel is a talking Siamese cat Mimi, one of the few characters that captured my imagination in a short span and conversation given (honestly I think the cat deserves a novel. No joke) and Oshima, a trans-gender librarian. 

The book reminded me of “The Bastards of Istanbul” by Elif Sheikh with its surrealist, mythical devices intermingling with the plot, where we are led to belief of the otherworldly hand in the lives of individuals which leads to the ultimate tragedy.

Overall the book is a must read for literary buffs, and can be enjoyed for its stark imagery. Though the middle does move at a sluggish pace the first half and the ending makes it worth the read. Image

Breaking out of the block

Creative juices flow in and out of my system.

 Sometimes it’s like a burst of enigmatic sensations, where the world seems to be alive, and the colors brighter in palettes of neon and pastels and grey almost too rich and intense to see with the naked eye, the scents are indulgent and sweet every moment has a distinctly sweet scent, the nights emits and soft, silvery scent like the cool waters and night queens, the day is more spicy like cinnamon or nutmeg, then the world is newborn, raw and beautiful, like the first rain of summer or first realizations of love.

And then there are these times that seem barren, leaving you in the depths of mediocrity; one shudders at the word. Mediocre, such an evil word playing like blasphemy ringing in the fears of many especially the artists, the ambitious and the creatively inclined. The fear of being mediocre is a hand on the throat squeezing, choking their desires to create, to give a chance not to greatness but a voice nevertheless.

What is mediocrity and greatness to be honest, what difference does it make in the end?  How can one decide the difference between the two? Is one voice or vision any less important than the other the varying degree of popularity and so called critically acclaimed? I think not, then again we live in the era of polarities on one end we have pseudo intellectuals with their sheltered air conditioned rebellion through abstract thought and on the other hand we have masses who indulge in books like twilight or 50 shades of grey. So the humbles ones that thread in the middle, those voices often get lost, those visions are flooded down with criticisms of mediocrity until the very flow of creative juices and the fabled bursts of sensations are lost, barren, the colors still bright, the scent still alive but the words once given to apply them, to help impose them on the minds of others, lie dormant…..until..

Purple Ring

Noor Muhammad sped past another customer, who was desperately signaling him to stop, something he didn’t usually do but today he couldn’t afford being late, the future of his younger sister Gul Banu depended on what happened today.
The red of the traffic light glared back at him as he stopped the engine of his rickshaw, he tried to ignore the loud beats that flooded out of the car next to him as his own mind wandered to the past week from now.
Gul Banu was his only sister, he was quite happy that she was wedded at the right age and in a respectable family and her husband actually did have a job. He was sure that Gul Banu would live a contented life, which was until she knocked his door in the middle of the night with her son Sheriyal on her hip and a battered bag in her hand. Her bloodshot eyes and pale face were enough to make his blood run cold. In her depressed state she hardly told anyone why she had left her home. If it weren’t for the constant nagging of his irritated wife he would have kept her in his home, his sister wasn’t a burden to him after all, but the cruel devices of his wife led him to think otherwise and called his sister’s in-laws to set up a meeting.
He came back to the present when someone nudged his shoulder; the rearview mirror reflected a distorted image of a bespectacled man with grey in his beard and a bald head over his black beady eyes. “Are you planning to go tomorrow then, brother” he says in a surprisingly gentle voice.
He considered politely removing the strange man but thought better when the cacophony of horns and curses were flung at him for stopping the traffic, he stated the engine pulling roughly at the lever “where to?” he asks the man, ignoring the angry horns and taunts coming from the traffic behind him
“Napier Road”
Noor Muhammad frowns, some places he strictly kept away from and the immoral red light areas that was Napier Road was one of them.
“That would be Rs.120” he raises the price hoping the man would opt to take another rickshaw, but to his surprise the man nodded his thick fingers pressing viciously on his cell phone
“Just get me there as fast as you can, brother”
Noor Muhammad has no choice but to oblige.
Napier Road, was just as he had imagined; a place of sins but somehow protected by Allah’s wrath. The man got out quickly and handed him the money and quickly got lost in the illicit crowd of pimps, whores and customers of all ages. Disgusted he started his rickshaw; somehow though he didn’t know why his gaze fell on a eunuch, his tall frame leaned next to a door, his fingers nestled a cigarette. A small thin man opens the door and pays him, in the darkness of the alley all Noor Mohammed could make out was a sharp jaw and a purple ring that flashed on the eunuch’s finger as the light from the room hit it.
“You need something, brother” A hard eyed man asks, bringing him back from his distraction. “Lots of pretty young things to choose from” he adds.
“Get away from me” he pushes the man and quickly starts the engine, to escape the filth of the place. As he drives to his destination, his heart speeds up for he didn’t know what would become of this meeting; her in-laws were not easy people to deal with.
Asghar, Gul Banu’s father-in-law was a sorry sight as he sat on the floor a shriveled creature that lived on alcohol as a remedy for his life failures and his wife Hamida was tall with her dupatta wrapped around her thin face with a beaklike nose and stern lips, she was the one who spoke up while her husband sat beside her half asleep, his drool dropping on his shirt.
Allah help me, please for the love of your Prophet Muhammad make this easy for me and my sister .he prays silently as he waited, for his brother-in-law to come back from work, but during the half hour he was there, nothing seemed to make sense it seemed that it was his sister’s fault and she left home on whim because of some insignificant reason. It was doubtful that Gul Banu would leave her beloved home because of a little family feud; Allah had gifted her with patience that rivaled their late mother, but he couldn’t really explain that to them, so again the best gift was silence.
There was a hard rap on the door that woke Asghar immediately as he wipes off the drool with the back of his hand, and pushes himself to sit in a steady position. Hamida opened the door, Mazhar’s tall frame ducks through the door.
Mazhar resembles his mother in looks, but his sharp jaw is his father’s gift; he smiles coldly and embraces Noor Muhammad more out of courtesy than affection.
“How’s work Bhaijaan?” he asks, seating himself next to Noor Muhammad
“Alhamdulillah”
“What brings you here?”
“Gul Banu, has she done anything to offend you Mazhar” Noor Muhammad asks, emphasizing Mazhar’s name.
“Well” he starts and then pauses for a second considering something, Hamida nods her head slightly, a gesture that only Mazhar seems to grasp
“Bhaijaan, I respect you immensely and only for you I’m willing to forget everything else” Mazhar smiles, but his eyes relied another feeling.
Noor Muhammad looked around to all the people in the room, no one seemed to care. He felt strangely like an outsider.
“That’s all I want Mazhar” he says, but somehow that felt like losing a battle. He stood up, Mazhar and Hamida followed
“I should be getting home now, Sana must be worried”
“Give my Salaams to Sana” Hamida intones.
He nods and just when he is out of the house, Mazhar reaches up and scratches his chin, a purple ring flashes momentarily in the dim light.