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Sarah Shahid

Hakawati (storyteller)

58

1

Essays on dusty roads

First Assignment: A stranger comes to town

With the smell of summer comes the news of fresh new grains, welcoming of the New Year and memories of Rahim. Sipping hot tea on the patio of the tin house, the image of Rahim seems as fleeting to Yasmin as the mirage of water on the sandy court where the kids are running now. Yasmin was in a nostalgic disposition today so she called the kids and decided to tell them how she met their grand-papa:

Our house was a lengthy walk from the main village, connected by a long road of silt that had yellow mustard flowers growing on both sides and was big enough for only one cow to pull a cart at a time. Baba always fruitlessly complained about how the village government would gain more votes by improving this road than by donating biryani to the villagers.

My three sisters and I would travel this trail regularly, to and from the school and the market; even when the fiery sun sucked our brains so we faint into the yellow graveyard and even when it rained all night and the knee-deep, brown puddles swallowed our feeble steps.

But there were the good days when the Baishakhi wind would play with our black braids and the mustard flowers would kiss our tanned skin while a dusty film rested on the ceiling of our mouths. It was one of these days, on way to the village fair for Bengali New Year celebrations, that I met Rahim.

Baba was taking me and my sisters to ride the Ferris wheel and eat some cotton candy at the village fair. We sisters looked fabulous in our colorful frocks; as if a rainbow threw up on us.

We were almost near the big gate which greeted the village centre when Baba started to breathe heavily like he was choking. Our worried faces did not help to stop his vomiting which followed. My youngest sister started shrieking, hoping to draw some attention.

As Baba slowly moved in the motion of a pendulum restoring to fall towards the dusty ground, a lanky young man came hurriedly with his friends to support Baba.

Rahim checked Baba’s temperature and began fanning Baba’s face with a paper fan.

 “Just a heat stroke, arrange a cart to take him home.” Rahim ordered his friends.

Baba was back to normal as the evening breeze settled on the long summer day. Rahim stayed with Baba the entire day, checking on his health in regular intervals and glimpsing at me occasionally with wide, wanting eyes like he later did so often when I travelled that long, dusty road. 

Second Assignment: Let's go on an Adventure

Run. Crash against the grimy earth. Get up, Run.

They say that you haven’t seen the face of desire until you were made haraam to the woman you love. But I have made Yasmin mine since the day I saw her first, swimming like a tacky orange goldfish in a sea of gold mustard flower.

As she went to school along that long winding path that connected Yasmin’s home to the rest of the village, I knew she was mine. When the occasional breeze blew the skirt of her school uniform, she was mine. She was mine still when her Baba fell to the ground panting and I was formally welcomed into her life.

Yasmin is mine now, as we cut through the sleeping mustard flowers that wait for the early summer shower. Her fair countenance strikes guilty in the moonlit night. I’m sorry, my love, but this was the only way we could be together.  Maybe she will feel better knowing that if we did not flee, then she would be making love to the fat headmaster right now.

Hold on, Yasmin, my village is just ahead. We will be home sooner than you know.

The hungry clouds crowd overhead, making it harder to navigate through the moisturized road.  

She trips. “Rahim, I can’t.” she whispers with tired lips.

I sit with her under a sheltered banyan tree. Yasmin, we are lovers to be remembered. The storm sings a gloomy sunrise to our wedding night celebrations as we sleep under the immortalized carving on the bark of the banyan tree.

Y+R= LOVE

Third assignment: Another stranger comes to town (tweet)

Yasmin+Rahim= eternal love, eloped marriage, unhappy village. Sex under banyan tree. #YOLO #MakeOurMark

https://twitter.com/I_Own_The_Sky/status/498761851908284418

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