Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Confession

Adam stared out the window. Through the grimy glass and the heavy iron bars, he saw the sky. How glorious the sky was, Adam missed it. He missed lifting his face up to the sunlight. He had not seen the outside world for a month. He was not allowed to leave his maximum security cell, with its claustrophobic walls, naked light bulb and the pungent stench of urine.

He heard Mr. Dawood clear his throat behind him, and Adam knew that the lawyer was impatient to begin, but he didn't care. He was still drinking in the sight of the rust-coloured sky.
"Adam, you only have an hour, if you don't talk to me now, you'll have to wait till next week." Dawood spoke softly, his tone was that of a man trying to be stern, but failing miserably.
"All I do is wait, Mr. Lawyer. A week more can't make it any worse than it already is." Adam responded calmly. So calmly, in fact, that Dawood broke into a nervous sweat.
"Adam, please. We're running out of time," he croaked.

Adam whirled around, his eyes flashing the way a knife does, in the sunlight.
"You wanna talk? Alright, let's talk, but you won't like what I've got to say, lawyer-man.," with this said, he grew visibly calmer.

"It was her birthday. We had gone to the theatre, her favourite musical was playing, see. We had been returning when it happened. She said to me, 'it was so nice of you to take me out, Adam,' and I couldn't say anything. Not one word, because all I do was stare at her. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Aphrodite herself. And the way the moonlight fell on her, my God! So, I stopped at the side of the road, near that abandoned restaurant, and asked if she wanted to go inside.
'It's locked, Adi. how will we get in?' she asked me. See, she consented to go in, and everyone knows what happens when a man takes a woman to an abandoned building. Consented. It wasn't rape. I'm an honest man.

"So anyway, we went in, and after we were done, I placed my hands around her fragile white neck, and crushed it. She couldn't scream, I was gripping her windpipe, see. And I watched her struggle, and waited for that peace to grip her face and body. That's all I wanted, peace for her. It helps me see that I'll find peace someday. I watched her.

"And I had continued watching, until she had gone limp in my arms. I left then, and turned myself in. I'm an honest man."

Adam finished his story, and earnestly looked into Dawood's wide eyes.
"Adam... I can't lie on the stand in court." Dawood said slowly.

"I know, lawyer, I know. And that's why I said you won't like it. I'm gonna plead 'guilty', see? And then I'm gonna ask for the death penalty. So you, Mr. Bigshot Lawyer Man, won't be able to keep your pristine reputation. But me? I'll get my peace."

Adam's eyes were perfectly calm as he said this, his passive face contrasting sharply with the lawyer's profusely sweating form. Adam smiled, a smile so beautifully composed, so charming that it raised the hair on Dawood's neck and arms.

"Yes, peace. And judging by your eyes, my friend, you could do with some peace too. I could help, after all, I helped her, didn't I?" Adam returned to the window and looked at the sky. How glorious the sky was.
- Zoha Jabbar

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Taste of Home.

During the Partition of the Subcontinent, my mother's parents migrated from Jetpur and Dhoraji, while my father's parents emigrated from Bantva and Kutiyana. Upon first hearing this, I asked my grandfather what I was, and where my roots lay. He thought for a long time, trying to simplify Pakistan's ethnic history for an eight year old. Finally, he led me to the kitchen and handed me a plate of steaming Nihari. "This," he said, "this is what you are!" He looked proud of himself as I eyed him skeptically.

Since then, I have associated Nihari with the taste of Pakistan.  A rich stew, with smooth curry and shanks of beef. This one dish is a delicious blend of all the spices which smell of home. A single bite of naan-bread soaked in Nihari can transport one to the royal kitchens of the Nawab of Lucknow.

The zesty stew sings of monsoon skies and mango trees as it boasts an impressive mix of piquant garlic, fiery chillies and prickly cloves. It speaks of Winter dawns, with the feel of chapped lips and warm socks, on a rooftop with plates of Nihari served in metal trays of boiling water to keep it warm. The hot fragrance of cinnamon and ginger enveloped us as it hovered in the dense Winter fog.

It reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen, redolent with the refreshing aromas of cumin and aniseed. She would smile at me from behind the stove, covered in flour.

It is the hands of generations of subcontinental women as they sprinkled coriander leaves. It is the dupattas they used to wipe flour off their arms.It is the ardent prayers said over a spread dastarkhwan. It is the kites flown by boys in Basant. It is the brightness of glass bangles on Eid. It is the henna that meant the boys had to feed the girls on the night of the moon-sighting.
It is home.

-Zoha Jabbar