Dear Friends, Just started my second novel. Need your honest feedback to know if it is working. (Anonymous comments are also welcome)
MR. ORWELL’S HOUSE
The whiskey tastes awfully bitter but its after-effect is just wonderful. My worries melt way the moment I finish my first peg.
A gorgeous girl is sitting in front of me, smoking. ‘Mr. Khan, you have hired me for two hours. One hour is already gone.’ The girl says while stubbing out her cigarette in an ash-tray. ‘Should I start undressing?’ She adds matter of factly.
‘Yes!’ I nod as I fill my glass.
Underneath her red top and knee-length indigo skirt she has a perfect figure. She unstraps her brasserie exposing her pink-tipped breasts which are perfectly round as if two upturned soup bowls are placed on her chest. Silicon implants, I suspect and feel excited anticipating her next move. She takes off her black panties too, and slips into my bed. For next half an hour, she works with her hands, mouth, lips, tongues and other delicious parts of her body and I become a splotch of wax on a hotplate, ready to melt, evaporate and vanish into the thin air.
She is gone but her perfume clings to my senses, and her presence lingers on, like a bad hangover, reminding me of my sins. I bolt the door and lie on my bed with the guilt crawling all over my conscience. I have broken two religious taboos: I have consumed alcohol, and I have slept with a woman other than my wife. I try to dismiss these uncomfortable thoughts- don’t I consider myself as an agnostic, someone who doesn’t believe in the strict religious definitions of vices and virtues? But, I can’t… Just, I can’t.
Slumber catches up with me soon. In my dream, my wife, Heba -dressed in an immaculate white salwar suit- is looking at me with her tear filled accusing eyes.
Just about the time dawn is peeping into my room, a ringing telephone cuts through my sleep, startling me. I rub my eyes again and again, trying to organize my thoughts through the surreal, multi-hued haze around me. The hangover is thick and persistent and not going to vanish so quickly. The phone falls silent.
Anxiety returns to haunt me when I think of my father. I am not even sure if Abbu is alive. I look around for the comfort of the bottle when suddenly there is knocking on the door.
Who has come so early? Wondering, I drag myself out of bed. As I pull the door open, a huge punch lands on my face. Ouch! I stagger but manage to keep myself on my feet. They barge into the room. One of them shuts the door. They are four men, all dressed in trousers and t-shirts, their faces covered with handkerchiefs and their eyes have embers of fury. They start thrashing me: punches on my face, chest and tummy, kicks on my legs and back. In between, they inundate me with the questions.
‘What is your real name?’
‘Are you an Indian or a Pakistani?’
‘Are you part of Indian Holy Warriors Terrorist Group?’
Who are you? And why are you beating me? What wrong I have done? I yell while stepping back when one of them hits my head with the butt of his gun. I collapse on the ground and begin to lose consciousness. The last three words I hear are ‘Search the room.’
Returning to my senses and I find myself lying near the door of the toilet. The stench rising from the unflushed commode fills my nostrils. There is excruciating pain in my left leg and in my ribcage. My head is heavy like cotton bales in the rain. My eyes are bloody and blurry. Mustering all the strengths, I try to stand up but as my left foot touches the ground, a sudden searing pain makes me scream as if somebody had stabbed a red-hot iron rod into my left calf. Swirling like a rhythmic gymnast, I fall on the mosaicked floor, my head hitting the leg of a wooden chair. My eyes get shut and I am in a dark tunnel. Images, moving in fast cuts like a trailer of a movie, flood my mind.
I see a milestone with ‘Motihari 0.5 Km’ engraved on it. Then, a bullock cart comes into the view. It is trudging along a muddy road negotiating the potholes of different shapes and sizes. A dark and stout fellow sits on the driving seat, prodding the oxen between their hind legs with a stick. Just behind him is a tall, lanky young man with reddish white skin, deep brown eyes and meagre beard on his chin. In the canopied part of the bullock cart is an elderly woman in a white sari, holding a beautiful and hugely pregnant young woman who is bellowing with pain.
Is it a dream? Am I hallucinating? Or are these some old memories? How can I have memories of an event which happened before I was born? But, there are inherited memories. We also borrow memories. The memories can be fake too—something you have never seen or experienced but in course of time you start believing that you have. I have read these lines in a Booker winning novel by a British writer. I don’t remember the name of the author.
The man with the beard is my father, Abbu, the pregnant woman my mother, Ammi, and the old lady my grand ma, Dadi, my father’s mother. This scene was played out on the evening of June 1970, just before I was to arrive in this world.