Maps For Lost Lovers

Monday, March 7, 2022 7:54:09 PM

Maps For Lost Lovers



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Maps For Lost Lovers

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The snow falls and, yes, the hand stretched into the flakes' path is a hand asking back a season now lost. The person on the hill is indeed a woman and, whoever she is, she has left the high shelf of the road and is coming down the side-street towards him, one arm carrying an umbrella, the other steadying her descent by holding on to the field maples growing at regular intervals along the edges of the inclining street.

With that umbrella she is a riddle personified: the solution being a foetus attached to a placenta by the umbilical cord. She would soon be near and would no doubt consider him lacking good judgement: a man of almost sixty-five years standing here with his hand thrust into the path of the snow-and so he withdraws into the house. The front door opens directly into the kitchen. One blue, one strawberry pink, one the yellow of certain Leningrad exteriors: these were the colours of the three rooms in the olive-green house in Sohni Dharti-the small place in Pakistan where he was born and had lived permanently until his mid-twenties-and a few years ago, by mixing ground-up chalk and rabbit-skin glue with the appropriate pigments, he had painted the rooms in this house with those three colours, surprising himself by reproducing the three shades precisely.

It's almost as though when he stood facing a corner as a child during a game of hide-and-seek, it was for the sole purpose of committing its colour to memory, to be able to conjure it up in the years of exile and banishment. During the school holidays he would approach the bookcase in the pink room and stand before it, his hand alighting on this or that volume with the arbitrariness of a moth, half deciding on something before sliding it back in place and moving on, as though experimenting with the keys of a piano, all briefly opened books eager to engage his eye, each flickeringly glimpsed paragraph enticing him hurriedly with its secret, and having made his choice he would drift through the house in search of the coolest spot to read through the long summer afternoons that had a touch of eternity to them, altering the arrangement of his limbs as much for comfort as for the fear that his undisturbed shadow would leave a stain on the wall.

There is someone at the door. Three informal taps are given on the glass panel instead of the doorbell being pressed, the bell that has a little amber light burning in it, the moths dancing around it all through the summer nights. As though he has sucked too hard through a paper straw and flattened it shut, he inhales but cannot find his breath, his chest solidifying into heavy stone, in terror. Who could it be? However enriched with light this hour is-this pause between night and day-it is still too early for a call not to be out of the ordinary. But he is aware that he would have reacted similarly had it been the middle of the day, imprisoned as he has been in a shadowy area between sleep and waking for almost five months-ever since his younger brother, Jugnu, and his girlfriend, Chanda, vanished from their house next door.

Almost five months of not knowing when time would stir again and in which direction it would move, tip him into darkness or deliver him into light. There it is again, the knock, the sound of finger-bone on glass, louder this time, but he is in a paralysed trance, his skull full of moths. Garden Tiger. Early Thorn. Nail Mark. He loves the names of moths that Jugnu taught him. Ghost Moth. The sound of the doorbell runs through him like an electric current, jolting him out of his funk. The English town of Dasht-e-Tanhaii? It sounds more like something out of a fairytale than a place off the M4.

But no, it is a town with a large community of Pakistani migrants who have renamed their new home Dasht-e-Tanhaii: The Wilderness of Loneliness or The Desert of Solitude. Aslam has populated this place with a remarkable cast: Jugnu's brother, Shamas, a gentle, liberal man with no time for the orthodox form of Islam to which so many in his community cling; Shamas's sons and daughter, part of the generation that must attempt to forge a link between the Pakistani and British parts of their lives without being consumed by anger or pulled apart by conflicting demands; Suraya, who was "mistakenly" divorced by her husband in Pakistan while he was in a drunken rage, and now by the precepts of the Islamic sect she follows must find someone else to marry and divorce her before she can return to her former husband and their son.

But the most extraordinary of the characters is Shamas's wife, Kaukub. A woman brought up to believe in an unforgiving, narrow-minded version of Islam, she could, in the hands of a lesser novelist, have become a monster. But in Aslam's hands she is transformed into a woman entirely human, entirely heartbreaking. Shamas further strays from Islam in his occasional indulgence of alcohol.

He drinks whisky several times a month, and at one point, enjoys red wine with Jugnu and his former white girlfriend at dinner. Shamas also falls prey to his natural, sensual desires; he has an affair with beautiful and young Suraya. The community centers all aspects of their culture and customs, such as finding husbands and wives for their children, on Islam. Jugnu and his brother-in-law, Shamas, have complicated religious backgrounds, in that they are not fully Muslim.

Shamas works for the Community Relations Council and the Commission for Racial Equality, placing his job over the stipulations and restraints of Muslim culture. His multifaceted religious heritage, occupational affiliations and political views alienate him from his extremely religious wife, Kaukab, who is his only real tie to Islam. His logic and humanity lead him to develop a moral code that extends beyond religion.

He takes a more secular path that allows him to focus his energy on what he finds to be more important in life. Welcome to the world of case studies that can bring you high grades! Here, at ACaseStudy.

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