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Oct 05 2013

Saturday Storytime: Sheesha Ghat

Strange Horizons is two and a half days and about $2,000 from the end of the annual funding drive that allows them to make stories like those I share here free to you. They’re ending their drive by featuring two stories of Indian speculative fiction, as well as a long discussion about the genre. If you don’t know the name Naiyer Masud, it is only because you don’t read in Urdu.

If he ever scolded me, it was over this. But my problem was that I couldn’t begin my account from the middle. Sometimes he would listen to me patiently and at others he would lift his hand and say, “All right, you may stop.”

But if I couldn’t begin my account from the middle, I couldn’t leave it unfinished, either. I would grow agitated. Finally he would walk away, leaving me still stuttering, talking to myself. If anyone had seen me, I’d have been thought insane.

I was also fond of wandering through the bazaars, and enjoyed sitting there among the groups of people. Though I could not utter what I had to say comprehensibly, I made up for this by listening closely to what others said and repeating it in my mind. Sometimes I felt uncomfortable, yet I was happy enough, because the people there didn’t dislike me, and above all my foster father held me dear and looked after my every need.

For the last few days, though, he had seemed worried. He had begun talking to me for long stretches of time, a new development. He would come up with questions to ask me that required a long answer, and then listen attentively without interrupting me. When I’d tire and begin to pant, he would wait for me to finish what I was saying , and when I resumed my account he would listen with the same concentration. I’d think he was about to scold me, and my tongue would start to tie itself in knots, but he would just gaze at me, saying nothing.

After only three days my tongue began to feel as if it were unknotting a bit. It was as if a weight were being lifted from my chest, and I began to dream of the day when I would be able to speak as others did, with ease and clarity. I began collecting in my heart all the things I had wanted to share with others. But on the fourth day, father called me over and had me sit very close to him. For a long time his talk rambled aimlessly, then he fell silent. I waited for him to pose one of his questions, but he suddenly said, “Your new mother is arriving the day after tomorrow.”

Seeing the joy begin to dawn on my face, he grew troubled, then said slowly, “She’ll go crazy if she hears you speak. She’ll die.” The next day my luggage was all packed. Before I could ask any questions, my father took my hand and said, “Let’s go.”

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