Page 30

Like Malati, who lived in their neighbourhood, and whom she admired from a distance; the relative prosperity of Malati’s family meant that she was not allowed to play with Raya.    For days now, Raya had woken up asking the same question, “Is it Eid today?” Hashem could not bring himself to crush his sister’s hopes, despite his conviction that this was all wishful thinking. He confined his own expectations to the more humble desire for a replacement for his tattered khaki shorts. The inner seam of the garment revealed how a patchwork of cloth scraps had been welded together to create the outward illusion of a single garment. It attested to his mother’s skill with the needle as eloquently as it reflected the story of making do for most of his young life.    Much as he wanted things to be different, it was his own despair that Hashem saw mirrored in his father’s bloodshot eyes on the occasions when he returned home early enough to see his son awake. His mother was protected by the invisible, invincible armour of her faith, his sister still young enough to believe things could be different.    Hashem adored Raya – the age gap between them made him feel older, wiser, and infinitely protective. It was mostly for his sister’s sake that the otherwise solemn eleven-year-old tried making light of their privations. At mealtimes, he would stretch out the rice on her plate by making bite-size morsels that became imaginary birds which “flew” into her mouth – rainbow-shaded kingfishers and bright green parrots.    It was a similar attempt to bring a little colour into their lives that had inspired Hashem to plaster the one tin wall of their cramped shelter with images foraged from discarded magazines - everything from Alpine vistas to the more familiar Bangladeshi celebrities, like Hashem’s favourite, the action man Ananta Jalil, who invariably prevailed against impossible odds.    Those hints of a distant, distinctly more glamorous existence made it easier to shut out the realities of life in a cramped shelter consisting of scrap metal, cardboard, and hessian sacking held up by bamboo poles. Their “tin wall” didn’t actually belong to them; it was there by virtue of the fact that the shack had been built against the neighbouring wall of a tin structure - perhaps in an attempt to make their fragile home a little more durable.    Now, as he endeavoured to keep his restless hands off his stubbornly itching head, Hashem did a double-take as he realised that his little sister was not - as expressly instructed – glued to his side. A strand of terror uncoiled itself at the pit of his stomach and slithered malevolently towards his throat. “Raya!” he cried, ignoring the way his voice cracked in a sudden rush of panic.    His fear subsided just as quickly when he spotted a small figure standing on one of the broken paving stones by the side of the road. Raya was staring intently into a nearby provisions store. Relief washed over Hashem, quickly dispatched in its turn to make room for anger 30

LIJLA Vol.2, No.1 February 2014

Profile for Sacred Heart College

LIJLA Vol. 2 No. 1 Feb. 2014  

Short Fiction/Poetry/Visual Arts/Tanka by James Wall, Shanta Acharya, Billy O'Callaghan, Henry Stindt, George Szirtes, Kala Ramesh, Catheri...

LIJLA Vol. 2 No. 1 Feb. 2014  

Short Fiction/Poetry/Visual Arts/Tanka by James Wall, Shanta Acharya, Billy O'Callaghan, Henry Stindt, George Szirtes, Kala Ramesh, Catheri...

Profile for lijla
Advertisement