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Friday, October 21, 2005

Heading Home Healthy

The medical tests are over. The results are in. Thanks to the giant strides made in the world of medical sciences, we now know, without an iota of doubt, that I have been 'unwell'!

Honest; that is the unanimous verdict!!!

OK. So this is what happened: I stopped taking my daily dose of Dapsone and gorged myself on gluten-rich food. The dermatologist had expected me to break out in a rash, within 3-4 days, either confirming the earlier Dermatitis Herpetoformis diagnosis or, through yet another biopsy (aaarghhh!), delving deeper into understanding the mysterious revolution raging in my innards.

A fortnight later, things are still fine. My body has not turned into what, until only a month ago, had looked like something Pixar could use for modelling the terrain in its animated version of Verne's From the Earth to the Moon.

In the Dermatologist's opinion, "Whatever it was, has gone away."

Barring the nagging fear that the ailment could have Vesuvian tendencies or, worse still, that The Creatures from Under the Skin may be lying in wait, like Saqi's Tadpoles (for those not familiar with the poem this refers to, I am reproducing it at the end of this post), I couldn't be happier. Bundu Khan, the family's favourite Karachi spot for Seekh Kabab and Paraatha has been denied me for too long. And I can also indulge in the occasional sheermaal from Burns Road (named after the Scottish poet and not for the effect its Nihaari has on one's sitting end).

So, with mixed feelings, I am heading home today. The joy of being with Nuzhat, and others close to me, as well as being surrounded by my books and music, cannot be denied. But the sadness of leaving behind unbelievably warm friends and relations - and hosts, about whom I could only write with justice if I had TT's way with words - is overwhelming. It's almost like 1947 all over again. Kal ajab see voh gha∂ee thee … phir rahaa tha dar bah dar; Aaj ajab saa yeh samaañ hae, jaa rahaa hooñ 'ghar' se 'ghar'.

If visa restrictions went away, and travel between the two countries became possible with the same ease one encounters when traversing the 'soft borders' within Europe, making it possible to spend most weekends here by driving down from across the border, I might even be tempted to take the plunge into my version of a life of hell: Living in Lahore and Driving. By the way, the return airfare, for the 2-hour journey between Karachi & Delhi, is a ridiculously high Rs. 21,000 … which is 70% of the return airfare between Karachi & London! Can anyone explain the logic behind this to me?

On to the poem I promised.

Sher Imdad Ali's Tadpole 
but there was in that murky dim pond such an air on the half-blossomed lotus
that it filled his eyes with rainbow colours
then of course there was the inviting, seductive water
giving in to its magical pull throwing off his clothes he plunged
into the stagnant water and got entangled in weeds.

millions of tadpoles
like soft raw headed foetuses
rushed in all directions
frightened by the clamour of shark waves
Sher Imdad Ali was in the water up to his chin
the lotus of his desire still far away

lightning flashed
and a tadpole
with the speed of a deflating balloon slipping out of someone's hand
like the dagger tongue of a lizard
whizzed into the tunnel of his gaping mouth

days passed
seasons changed
years went by

a voice keeps hounding him
dozens of doctors surgeons X-rays were to no avail
he changed homes cities countries
all without relief
in his blood the same voice ripples and tosses

Sher Imdad Ali
his stolen property taken from the water
hides in his house in fear

outside the water lurks
and in it
like yellow pipal leaves
yellow frogs
angry bastards
lie in wait
This is Mahmood Jamal's English translation, taken from his published selection: The Penguin Book of Modern Urdu Poetry. BUY THIS BOOK! This plug is as much to interest you in our poetry, through this fairly representative volume, as it is to prevent Penguin, or the author, from screaming "copyright infringement".

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Blogger the olive ream said...

A superb post (as per usual). Glad to know that 'all is clear' and hopefully things shall remain that way.

My prayers and best wishes that you remain healthy and (spotless) in the future.

Oh the nihari at Burns (prounounced by Karachites as BUNS or BUNCE) road. How I miss it so. The only other nihari that matches its lethal configurations is the one I have in an Indian Restaurant here in Sharjah. Sure fire way of causing your scrotum to prolapse. I call it "Gandhi's revenge". Not for Amateurs, faint of heart and soft of stomachs.

25 October, 2005 15:17


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