“Such a smart girl my daughter!” Haldee Raam exclaimed as we headed out of Baseerah, “Must have inherited from her mother, didn’t even occur to me to call her! Imagine, here we’ve come all the way to Baseerah to look for her, but she’d gone to visit the qabristaan! Continue reading
A short while after Khizzr had told me Zuljabeenah’s story, I stopped in the market for naan and noticed the upstairs windows to Haldee Raam’s shop had the shutters drawn. He was outside with a bundle by his feet, clicking locks closed on the metal pull down doors to his store. To my surprise his eyes lit up when he saw me, and picking up his bundle he came bustling over to the car.
“Behen, I have a favor to ask of you! It’s my daughter, she’s run off, came down early morning still dark saying something about her grandmothers having told her something in her dreams a few nights before, and then she flew out the door and into a rickshaw, gone before I could say a word. She’s gone to Baseerah, I’m sure of it!” The words came tumbling out of his mouth, “Please, you have a car, will you drive me there? It will be much faster than the bus, I must get there jhat phat!” Continue reading
The camel kneeled and backed up before settling down under a date tree where Rizzaq climbed off from the space behind her hump. His rump was slightly sore from sitting on the camels back for weeks, travelling into the desert where Ilaalat, The Lady of Flowers, tended to her grove. He stretched out and removed his pack from the camels back, then handed the rope tied around her long neck to her handler, a boy by the name of Ammar, who led her away.
He looked around him and saw a busy place. There were low buildings, big and small, erected around the trunks of trees, with walls made of woven leaves, and roofs from bent branches laced together, thatched with trimmings. Outside on mats were groups of people, mostly women and young children, weaving baskets with leaves soaking in large tubs of water. Some were crushing seeds and there was the sound of chattering voices that carried on a slight breeze through the feathery fronds. As far as he could see were date trees growing from irrigated rows out of the scrubby sandy earth. Their scaly golden trunks bending with long leaf tops fanning out, touching their brothers and sisters over the pathways, formed a shady archway to walk through. Ladders were leaning against the trunks and he saw young boys up in the trees, picking clusters of fruit and passing them to the men below. The sight filled him with a sense of serenity, far removed from the electric bustle of Baseerah. Continue reading
The market was a maze of alleys with bumpy roads, pockmarked with ditches. Narrow streets intersected in a big open space in the middle, the heart where beggars, balloon shapers, and cotton candy vendors convened amongst the cars lucky enough to find parking spots.
Haldee Raam’s shop was the third one in the middle of the third alley way. To the right was a used bookstore, a tiny place with walls of Mills and Boons, Georgette Heyer’s, Agatha Christies, Enid Blytons, and in the towering stacks Byron, Keats, Coleridge, a dictionary or two, Gulliver’s Travels, Treasure Island, the odd Ghaalib or Iqbaal to be found, Shakespeare mixed with Borges, Rumi, Haafez, Saadi, the random Purple Fairy Book, Peter and Jane, Burda magazines. To the right of the bookstore, on the corner by the open center, presided the naan wallah with his platform built above and around the wood fired pit, in and out of which moved fresh bread, hot fluffy moons that cooked in a minute. The two stores to Haldee Raam’s left were always shut, the ridged metal grates pulled down and locked as long as memory serves. Continue reading
Three women work side by side
The first, dimpled cheeks dusted with freckles
Red hair streaked with gray, pours liquid
From one brown bottle to another while the second
Moves from behind mountains
Of paper tearing scraps with stubby fingers,
Sticks them onto shining curves then,
Wielding a black pen,
Slashes and stabs words,
Inking labels with identification:
Coltsfoot Cleavers Codnopsis Mullein;
The third dances between counters
Knee high combat boots daintily pirouette
Shuffle and twist over the tiled floor
While she flicks her wrists and rolls
Avocado and cucumber