Cat by Tale

Ibrahim Waheed “Kalaavehi”

NOTE:
My humble apologies to my regular fans and readers, without whom I become meaningless, for having withheld this story from you, temporarily. This is the final, edited-for-“ldive” version.

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Inside the car it was cold. Almost icy cold. The air-conditioner had to be kept running or the windscreen would mist up on the outside like a very cold gin and tonic. It always happened that way in the muggy tropical rain which ran down the outside of the tempered glass like thrashing crystal snakes. The windscreen wipers beat a fast dub-dub in a futile attempt to clear the way for a couple of human eyes to bridge the sensory gap between the relatively dry and safe cage of the automobile and the syrupy mess of brightly-colored plastic scooters teeming outside. A song by Deep Purple added to the wisdom by belting out solid ribbons of overdriven guitars high on flangers.

Overdriven emotions beat like dark blue streaks of mist at the twin coats of gray sun film on the off-side windows of the Toyota. Inside, she tried to convince him of the virtues of the minimum requirement of fidelity. She did not ask for the care, the love and the respect she had fantasized about three years ago when she had first met him. Three turbulent years ago, he had come dashing out of misty clouds of romance and intrigue right at her. He had gallantly swept her off her delicate feet with caring courtship in the best of hotels, sweet romance on the best of beaches, and an exhilarating prenuptial honeymoon accordioned into a star-spangled garland of nights in Singapore.

“Can’t you at least keep her where I can’t see her?” Hamid heard it as a thin screech. She heard it as a passionate plea. She had no poor beggar’s idea how many times that question had been asked, not only of him but of others like him, by so many women like her. Ever since time decided to punctuate human lives with its drip-drip, tick-tock; he had heard it too many times in one lifetime, “You owe me at least that much!”

“What I do with her, or where I do it, is my business, you whore!” He did not even try to look where he had misplaced his temper. It would have probably distracted him. It would have given him a fresh dent and two new scratches on his year-old Toyota. His eyes were on the plastic scooters which screamed around him in rivers of rain-soaked urgency, “What right do you have over me? You are lucky I even looked at you when I did. Look at yourself first if you ever want to compare yourself with her. That is why I bring her to you!”

A gentle hint of a swerve was all it took for a speeding Yamaha overtaking on the wrong side to leave some harmless linear graffiti on the front near-side door. It went past, screaming obscenities with its horn, its rider pointing innocently to the gray wet sky with a vaguely indistinct finger. Hamid knew that the temper he had lost had gone through the roof to keep company with its friend the devil himself. His right foot left the accelerator and came down hard on the brake, “Keep your paw off the steering wheel, you damn c—! If you can’t behave, then get the h— out of my car and my life and stay out!”

One angry left foot got out of the car. It quickly cooled itself down in the soaking rain that gurgled past the brimming drains on the side. A heel sank into a hole in the concrete grating and decided to hold onto something solid and sane. Soon, the other foot, its unwilling life partner came to its assistance as the Toyota raced away into the rain, soon to be lost in its own envelope of brightly colored plastic scooters. And she just stood there, ever so quiet…..

As if the skies were not doing enough to hide the tears pouring out of her eyes, every scooter that went past folded a wing of white water over her and made her day even more miserable. She was at that point in life where she wanted to crawl into a hole, curl into a fetal ball, and go hopelessly silent!

A screech of brakes on wet concrete woke her up and made her look up. She wished in her anguish and mental agony that the source of the noise would not have enough road grip to avoid sending her to the comparatively more blissful afterlife she knew nothing about. But such was not meant to be. The shiny metal animal she saw in front of her came to a stop just in front of her and just stood there silently. It did not crunch her aching cranium for late lunch. Soon, when she regained quick partial composure and injected some logic into her surroundings, she saw a man coming out of the aging Jaguar. He had a calm bearing, deliberately slow moments, and just a hint of a smile on his face.

“Not the best of days for a good, cleansing soak, is it?” Was it sarcasm? Or was it just his way of taking the sting off a particularly prickly situation? She just could not figure it out. All she knew was that that deep, well-modulated voice somehow comforted her in a way she had never felt before. It gripped her heart and held it in a firm, yet flexible grip and made her want to abandon all control to its owner. Half-forgotten, heart-wrenching words of a ghazal floated into her numbed brain, making her forget that she could not pine for a love she never understood and would not ever understand.

“Sometimes ….. any day is good for the cleansing I need.” She started saying, her voice nothing more than a broken whisper. It merged well with the ceaseless splash-hiss of the rain on the heartless concrete blocks surfacing the road. Then, before she knew what her mind had been screaming at her, the words to it came out in a torrent, “Please help me! Take me into your world which is so full of smiles. Make me into a happy person.”

—-

Shareef took her into his car. It was an older model jaguar, not as opulent and flashy as the car she had just left. However, it gave her a sense of security she had never experienced before in her sad, sad existence. Growing up with parents whose marriage was broken hell on the inside, but kept enviously polished on the outside, she had never felt the comfort the worn leather seats of the Jaguar gave her that day. She thanked God for her good fortune and whispered, “Please don’t ever change these beautiful seats. Keep them as they are forever and ever.”

Shareef took her into his home. It was not as modern as the ultra-modern apartment she had just left that day. No Italian furniture imported at great expense. Just the ordinary, locally-acquired couch and assorted cane ware she would have scoffed at had she been in her vacuous friends’ company. For no reason, she found great solace sitting on one particular rattan chair on his terrace. Smiling at Shareef, she told her heart, “Let this last…!”

He took her into his life. He took her into his heart. He gave her time. He gave her trust. He gave her respect. They did the simplest of things together. They bought coconuts at the carts on the beachfront and enjoyed them sitting on the cold concrete breakwater. They looked at the stars that came out every night, but she found wondrous novelty in their twinkle. She looked at him with her eyes filled with love. He treated with the utmost courtesy. Then , almost in a trance she whispered to him, “Please make me… Make me into Shareef…. You!”

Later on, sitting at a nameless restaurant on road nobody would care to name, she shared with Shareef the sad story of her life: the lack of faith in almost all human bonds, the quiet dark place within her soul into which she retreated to cry her heart out every night, the abuse she had suffered in body and spirit, the endless string of a score and three could-have-beens, the cold logic of psychoses well disguised as elan, and more. At one point in just their verbal exchange that night, she reached out for his hands and told him, this time aloud, “I love you so, so deeply. I can’t explain it and won’t try to. But I love you so deeply, God help me!”

It is a well-known phenomenon in certain parts of the world where no sane attempted to make purses out of unclean bits of leather. It is well known that when a mind is imprisoned within a world of lies, abuse, selfishness and jealousies, combined with the desire to subjugate that which is superior, the good forces of decency, love, care and respect do not have the slightest chance of survival. Nothing lasted in a world where dark forces beyond one’s control writhed and wove like deranged snakes through one’s brain. Nothing remained safe, or even happy, where desires that could never be fulfilled pulsed like sin unleashed into one’s psyche, where supportive friends turned into exploiting devils without notice, where blackmail and fear merged into a confusing whole.

And that was why she was at Hamid’s door in two weeks, begging to be let back in. Begging and crying to be let into his Italian-furnished apartment. Screaming to be let into the dark, dark, life once again….! Heart and soul yearning for the calumny she knew to be abuse but had no alternative for since she would never ever understand the calm solace of true love and care. For her life had long gone past the redemption of prayer at sunset into the twilight zone of all-fruit-flavored madness! Way before that strange rainy day, way before she met Shareef, way before her unrecognized Maseeha tried to save her soul. Long before she herself would eventually know and regret….

Inside Hamid’s car it was cold. Almost icy cold as usual. The air-conditioner had to be kept running. It always happened that way in the muggy tropical rain which ran like thrashing crystal snakes down the outside of the tempered glass. But now, the sweet memory of a week spent in another world lay deep in her heart. A song by Deep Purple running on overdriven guitars boomed inside. An old song from a movie long forgotten floated into her mind:

Taarruf rog ho jaaye to usko bhoolnaa behtar
Taalluk bojh ban jaaye to usko todnaa achchha
Voh afsaana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin
Use ek khoobsoorat mod dekar chhodna achchha
Chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabi ban jaye ham dono

But then, old Chinese wisdom has it that once you grab a tiger by the tail, you just can’t let go! And Time, that fickle old tool of Fate is best left to decide how this tale ends………

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The note that accompanied the original posting on the 3rd November 2010:
Deleted!

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Comments

  • mysterystar  On November 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Love you work always and keep writing! beautiful story : ) Bless you.

  • anarkali  On November 23, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Once again, you have touched the very dark core of an issue that haunts and bedevils society.

    “It is well known that when a mind is imprisoned within a world of lies, abuse, selfishness and jealousies, combined with the desire to subjugate that which is superior, the good forces of decency, love, care and respect do not have the slightest chance of survival.” Love and respect do not come cheaply and certainly do not come to those who are held in the golden cages so treacherously made by others.

    “Chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabi ban jaye ham dono” I used to listen to this song without much interest because it was too common, too much old bollywood tamasha, too too dramatic.Now I listen to it with greater meaning playing inside some deep chambers in my heart.

    How many people today are held in the cruel clutches of those that first control with sympathy, then with treachery, then with money, then with iron fists on the very soul?

    But why, oh why, a wonderful, sympathetic, gentlemanly person like you have to dive into these murky waters all the time? Why don’t you write of sunshine, joy and music instead of the silent recesses of hurt psyches? May I ask you a question? Is someone close to you suffering from a stranglehold like this, Mr.Waheed? Can’t you help?

    • ldive  On November 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      Perhaps I should reply via private email. But then, should I ? I am no longer sure…

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