Thank You for the Paper Moon, Rehana

Dear Rehana

I must confess I have never done this earlier. I have been in love with many books and have let them wreak havoc within my little heart. I have written about those books or spoken about them endlessly with friends. I have even wished to hold those authors in a warm, grateful embrace. But, whatever I am about to do is something I have never done before.

Ever since Aakansha wrote about this dramatic reading of your book, Abhishek has been wanting us to meet with you and talk to you. But of course, we wanted to read the book before we could do that. Yet, somehow we kept delaying it, thanks to mundane life. This Sunday morning, I was still waking up, when Abhishek said he wanted to read out something to me. Usually, these requests to read out end up being the latest political controversies from the morning news or half-satirical half-witty statements from a hopeless twitter banter. I mumbled a half-hearted yes and to my surprise, he was reading something about a July afternoon, train, lending library, Kipling, Marlowe, missing a heartbeat and some more. That did wake me up and I was asked to guess the name of the book. Somehow, I knew it was Paper Moon. But everything he read out was just too dreamy and it felt right to listen to it with eyes closed. I guess I was getting myself ported to that monsoon day in Bombay but in reality, I had dozed off. When I woke up, my weekend chores were hanging above my head and Paper Moon had to wait for another day.

 

I didn’t let it wait for too long though. It sounded too good to be left alone. So, I picked it up on Monday after office and began once again from the same July afternoon. That’s when I realized you are this wicked magician who works marvellously with words. Sigh! Trust me when I say, the rest of my Monday evening in an already summer-like Bangalore was feeling like a monsoon night. I couldn’t tell if the breeze under my neck was for real or because of Paper Moon.

During the initial chapters, every time you mentioned an author or a book, or a bookish reference, I tried to keep a note. I tried to keep up with you completely unaware of what a laborious task that was going to be. I remember counting until fifteen such references just in the first chapter. While I was still trying to wrap my head around how you managed to do it, the next realization hit me. Not only did you do this with books, but you also did the same with art, music, food, drinks, eateries and even hangout spots. I could have forgiven you if you did this just with Bombay, but no, you had to talk about Goa, London and even Edinburgh.

 

The next time someone looks for a recommendation for a book, art, music, food, or drink, I’ll give them a copy of Paper Moon.

 

And what’s with the Khan obsession? Generally, I would have complained if the writer didn’t take enough effort to veil the real-life public figures because many times they disrupt the flow of the story. But, you made him blend so well into the narration that I was smiling every time he appeared. I loved almost all the characters you created for this story, even the Australian family and the fact that your characters, their relationships, their emotions- all of it felt very real. Nowhere did I sense a pretence irrespective of how dreamy the whole book was. My only problem with the book was that even though Fiza had her own set of troubles, somewhere it felt like the bookstore just happened too easily for her or even the launch of the new store for that matter. Nevertheless, take it with a pinch of salt, because I guess I might actually be jealous of Fiza Khalid.

After finishing the book, I logged into Goodreads to rate it. I just wanted to be sure if I was the only one who was swept off my feet or if there were others. So, I skimmed through the reviews and I was having a moment of truth. The reviews reminded me of the Tamil movie Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya (or in Telugu, Em Maaya Chesavae). For a long time, I hated the movie solely because every other person (be it a friend, family, or stranger) I met during the time, told me how it was exactly their own story. The reviews for Paper Moon looked the same and finally, I am making my peace with Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaya fanatics because I now know how it feels. I know it sounds silly, but I couldn’t hold my joy when I found out Fiza’s paper moon and I share the same birthday. It felt so personal. Also what bibliophile hasn’t dreamt of owning a bookstore/cafe someday or even experiencing a drool-worthy geeky-romance as Fiza? I so wanted the book to go on, but even when it ended, the excitement stayed. I hope someday you write a second part to Paper Moon. I am aching to know what happens to Fiza, Iqbal, and even Noor.

 

Thank you for the Paper Moon, Rehana. That was a brilliant brilliant debut. I can’t wait to read your next, but until then, I am going to reread Paper Moon, every time I need a refill of refreshment.

 

Love
Jeeva

 

 

The Trial Room

A huge, bulky, and drooping belly characterized the organism’s appearance. His back was bent to overcome the shoulders and the head at any moment. The thighs appeared as though transplanted from an elephant. The organism had the face of a basketball’s size. However, his legs were as thin as a grasshopper’s and it was incredulous to see that the giant whole rested on those fragile legs. His movements were slow, with heavy thuds on earth reminiscent of the times when Tyrannosaurus walked the planet. Flab hanging from every part of the body except the legs gave him the appearance of a cryptic creature worthy only of hatred and despise. When he opened his mouth to speak, it was the most abominable sight. One would wonder why such a creature needed to speak at all. Words were barely audible. Comprehension was impossible. The gigantic jaws distanced themselves from each other with sticky, greenish grime stuck in the passes between the teeth and floating from left to right and then right to left as the organism moved his head to retain them in his mouth. Why would he retain all the filth in his mouth – was beyond anyone’s understanding. The organism had perhaps made a promise to himself to become as loathsome as possible. One was not able to keep eyes on him for more than mere glances to just satiate the curiosity of the mind. Children were less afraid and they stared more consistently. It was the giant dinosaur straight out on the street from every movie they had watched. For them, it was a sight to behold and in their minds, they schemed for the destruction of this organism in case it turned rogue.

 

The organism was visibly naked but his genitals weren’t visible. A colony of bees swarmed on them and a grisly mix of honey and rotten blood dripped from the swarm. There were dogs pursuing the organism to get a drop on their tongue and were occasionally successful in laying a tongue or two on his genitals only to be attacked and stung by the bees that puffed their faces to double their size. The dogs never gave up and kept following the organism on the streets. Realizing he needed to get away from them, the incredible organism wanted to hire a cab and rush away.

Who would offer a cab to this monster though? Tired of signaling at the cabs, he resumed his slow, earth-pounding walk and climbed a few steps to a nearby clothing store. Before anyone could say anything, he picked up three t-shirts and entered the trial room.

It was a sham. He knew none of the t-shirts would fit him. However, he had to keep away from the dogs on the street and a few minutes in the trial room would perhaps bore the dogs and they would go away. The trial room had a mirror. He looked at himself and sat down with his head in his feeble hands. He wasn’t this monster always. The t-shirts he had picked were random but there is an order in randomness too. He had picked an XS, an S, and an M sized t-shirt.  All these three sizes fit him once when he was a kid, a teenager, and then when he entered his twenties. He entered his 30s becoming this monster and since then, he had to be naked all the time. There was nothing on the stores he could fit inside.

He looked at his loathsome appearance with disgust. However, with some kind of careless momentary zeal, he picked up the XS t-shirt to try. His hands occupied all the space inside it. A similar fate awaited the S and M sized t-shirts. He looked up in the mirror again and saw a man looking at him. The man wore a black coat and wielded a gavel in his right hand. There was a desk in front of him on which he rested his left hand. He looked into the organism’s eyes and hit the gavel on the desk. It sounded exactly like the organism’s loud thuds on the streets when he walked. There were two other people who stood in the mirror. Both of them wore black coats and were debating vigorously. One stood close to the organism and the other close to the one with the gavel. The organism stood in the witness-box and was being interrogated by the one who stood closer to him.

“Do you know what the charge against you is?”

“I do not know!”

“I do not understand. Can you speak with some clarity?”

 

The organism swallowed some of the grime in his mouth and answered.

 

“I do not know!”

“That’s better. You have broken into an outlet where they sell only XS, S, and M sized clothes. You know that’s illegal, don’t you?”

“I did not know.”

“That is illegal Mr. Monster. That’s a crime. You have barged into an out-of-bounds shop without permission and that’s why you were straightaway dispatched to the Trial Room.”

“But, I wasn’t dispatched away. I just ran in here to save myself.”

“Save yourself, from whom?”

“The dogs, the dogs were eating my genitals. I had to save myself.”

“Dogs, very well…”

At that moment, all the people in the trial room – the Judge, the two lawyers, and the audience transformed into rabid dogs and all pounced upon the genitals of the monster. Writhing in pain and wanting to yell for help, the monster couldn’t raise a sound till there remained nothing but balls of brown blood in place of genitals on his body. As the dogs licked the last drop of blood on the floor, they caught a sight of the organism standing in the trial room, charged towards him, and leaped out of the mirror. Stupefied in horror, the organism sunk his eyes into his tiny arms.  

 

A dull silence ensued. The dogs had turned back into Judge, lawyers, and audience. The organism found a witness box around him. The Judge scribbled on his desk and pronounced – “The trial room finds the accused guilty of gluttony and forbids him to enter any regular and healthy society. The trial room also awards the convict with a house arrest till such time as the convict makes himself fit for the XS, S, or M society or dies while trying, whichever is earlier.” The sentence was brought into force. At home, he was put on a running treadmill by his family members and his fragile hands were tied behind him. He began to lose his breath within a minute. His pet dog stood by his side, salivating and waiting for his end.

 

 

उलझते बंधन – Rakshabandhan Special

करीब १२-१३ बरस का था। नए पड़ोसी आये थे उस दिन। माँ ने मुझे उनकी मदद करने के लिए भेजा। एक ट्रक भर कर सामान था। काफी चीज़ें थीं। घर में उनके बस सिन्हा अंकल खुद, उनकी पत्नी और उनकी बेटी थी। आंटी और बेटी तो अंदर बैठ गए, सो मैंने और अंकल ने मिलकर सारा सामान उतारा और अंदर रखा। थालियाँ, चम्मच, मिक्सर ग्राइंडर – मुझसे तो यही उठ रहे थे। करीब तीन से चार घंटों में ये काम पूरा हुआ। अंकल ने अंदर आकर बैठने को कहा। यही सोचकर कि कुछ खाने पीने को मिलेगा, मैं अंदर बैठ गया।

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