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     Volume 4 Issue 25 | December 17, 2004 |

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Love on a Blue Afternoon

Ahmede Hussain

Shormi held him gently from the back while Nasser talked to the reporter on the phone.

"Listen…there are people out there in this country who will kill anyone who does not subscribe to their version of the religion. Who the hell are they to call someone a <>murtad<> or an apostate or whatever it is when the religion itself prohibits it?" he said; anger glinted in his eyes, Shormi came forward, holding out her hands, telling him to cool down.

The sound of another locomotive raging across the rail-line was heard and it started to vibrate in the room when it closed by and passed through.

"Listen, man," the reporter said gingerly, "this would not help your cause. They want you to apologise in public and they said that would do…"

"Oh come on! Why should I make an apology? And for what?" he asked defiantly, shaking with fury.

Shormi put both the hands on her hip; frustrated, like a schoolteacher faced with a transgressing pupil.

Nasser continued, "If I had written anything against Islam, I would have apologised to Allah. Since when have these idiots started playing god?"

"God! Why can't you be reasonable?" the man replied; he sounded disappointed; "I don't know you, Nasser bhai, but I loved your story. And I want you to be alive to write more," he went on.

"I don't see the point," Nasser said, "I didn't write anything wrong. Hindus are being systematically repressed everyday in this country. This is a fact. They are robbed of their freedom only because they belong to the minority, only because they are Hindus. What is wrong if I write it?"

"No one is saying that," Inam replied. "The fanatics have popular support you see and are taking advantage of your callowness," he gave a pause and then asked, "Are you happy with the way the government is handling the crisis?"

"Why are you calling it a crisis?" Nasser shrieked on the phone, "It is not a crisis. It can never be called a crisis. Some faggots want to kill me because I have exposed something in the eyes of the world that they want to hide. And you call it an emergency? Today it's me; tomorrow it can be you. If you want me to feel sorry for writing a book, everyone who believes in free speech should apologise to these faggots."

Inam swore loudly in exasperation.

Shormi sat on the rocking chair and stared at the ceiling fan in a vacant way; she knew what was going to happen. Nasser slouched against the door and stared at the teeming rain through the window. For a flickering moment she thought of Bobby: what had the cat been thinking when they both raised the gun in unison at its decomposing body?

A month ago she was reading Coetzee's Age of Iron, the story of a lonely old woman in apartheid South Africa dying of cancer. In an extended letter to her daughter Mrs Curren expresses her anger, shame and frustration. What do the dying think before they breathe the last?

What goes on in a killer's mind before he raises a blunt machete on a fellow human? When the terrorists lobbed those grenades at that meeting, for a flashing moment, did they look at the people-- all of those who would be killed by those fruit-like bombs? Did any of them want to stop the direction of the objects they had just thrown-- midway in the air, falling smoothly in a line, like the cupid's bow? What did they do after seeing the charred body of their four-year-old victim-- eyes wide open, surprised by the ferocity of pomegranates? Or perhaps at the savagery of elders?


Silence fell as they ate supper; Nasser did not have much, all through the meal he fiddled with the fork and knife like the way a nervous schoolboy would do with his pencil. As she leaped up from the chair and walked into the bedroom, she knew she did not have any word of comfort for him. But she wanted to be by his side till the end and for that she decided not to meet Iftekhar.

A narrow line of light came into the room through the bedroom door. Nasser was still awake. She sat to email Nouman.

"My dear Nam," she wrote and hunched over the table to abandon herself, first to a quiet, decent sobbing, then to long wails without articulation, emptying the lungs, emptying the heart.


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