Blessings and Other Short Stories

Blessings and Other Short Stories

Blessings and Other Short Stories

By: Bina Shah


Publication Date:
Jan, 03 2007
Binding:
Paper Back
Availability :
In Stock
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Khadija, his wife, always jokes with Bashir that he is now in the prime of his life. But he feels the weight of years stripping away the frivolous parts of his personality, adding extra responsibilities and a new way of looking at the world that he could not have anticipated or even fathomed in his twenties or his thirties. Along with the decades have come a new realization that the spiritual world is calling to him, urging him to give God a place in his life much as he had given a place to his wife, his favorite music and the newspapers he enjoyed on his tea breaks in the hospital. Bashir washes himself carefully and finds his prayer mat, and in a few moments he is standing, bowing, kneeling, touching his head to the floor and whispering the Arabic prayers that he disregarded in his youth. He remembers briefly how he used to run away from his Quranic teacher, who pinched and hit his hands when he mispronounced the words or failed to memorize a kalima. He finds himself oddly grateful for the man’s misguided tenacity now; he remembers the maulvi in his prayers, and asks God to bless the man for teaching him to pray and read the Quran. The sun rises, and with it, so does Khadija. She prepares a cup of tea for him and offers him the newspaper, but today he waves it away. She looks at him quizzically. “The polio drive, remember?” he says, quickly swallowing the last piece of buttered toast. “Oh yes. Where is it today?” “Jinnah Colony.” “Ah.” It is only one word, but it conveys oceans and peaks in its single syllable. Familiar oceans and familiar peaks, as they have been through the arguments and the discord for years, ever since Bashir decided that he wanted to move back to Pakistan. Khadija had always been opposed to the move. “What are we going back for?” she said to him every day, a whisper, a shout, an entreaty, a tearful plea, depending on her mood and the particular anxiety that gripped her on that day. “There’s nothing there, nothing. You’re so well established here. Everyone respects you. You wouldn’t get that respect over there. They’re shooting doctors, you know.” When I first came to America, I followed these conversations with amazement, observing, with a vague sense of wonder, how the weather could make friends out of strangers. The rain back home didn’t seem to have the ability to do that, nor did it make any noise; instead, it informed you of its arrival through other senses than sound. First came the smell of the earth bursting in the heat, the burning, acrid smell of winged insects being born and dying in the sordid summer sun. My nose grew heavy and painful, both with the smell and with the prickling pain of hay fever that I’d never been able to beat. Then followed the overripe scent of heavy clouds, faintly underlaid with cut grass and rotting mangoes. Finally, the rain arrived, smelling sweet and dusty with promise. It’s a small town in upstate Maine that now boasts my name in the telephone book and my records at a downtown registrar’s office – Fairuza Rizvi, right between Rinkmann and Ross; newly arrived from Pakistan to do my residency in this tiny town called Remembrance, an awful name for someone who wants to do nothing but forget. And hay fever plagues me here, too, in this new place I’ve come to call my home. My nose swells and hurts, right beneath the bridge, and sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing and hold it pinched between my thumb and forefinger to relieve the pain. I had thought the change in environment might help, but I’ve only made it worse by coming here.