on a Blue Afternoon
held him gently from the back while Nasser talked to the reporter
on the phone.
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.
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.
man," the reporter said gingerly, "this would not
help your cause. They want you to apologise in public and
they said that would do…"
come on! Why should I make an apology? And for what?"
he asked defiantly, shaking with fury.
put both the hands on her hip; frustrated, like a schoolteacher
faced with a transgressing pupil.
continued, "If I had written anything against Islam,
I would have apologised to Allah. Since when have these idiots
started playing 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.
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?"
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?"
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."
swore loudly in exasperation.
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?
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?
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?
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
narrow line of light came into the room through the bedroom
door. Nasser was still awake. She sat to email Nouman.
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.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004