point I could not go back to my studies). I walked out to the livingroom to see what Shaila Chachi wanted; she ran to me and huggedme, her wails deafening me, her tears soaking through my shalwar.“Chachi, what happened, why are you crying.” No sense of urgency or panic, as I knew my Chachi tended towards drama, and couldburst into tears for almost any number of things, including her usualstrife with her household staff.“Shona, come upstairs. Your Chacha wants to talk to you.” The first hint of something larger than Chachi’s melodrama, a slight taste of dread seeped in. Chacha is Abbu’s eldest brother, andresides in the top floor flat’s regal study, where the children of thehousehold are barred entry unless they are called forth to receivehis instructions, sometimes given with a life affirming slap or two tothe face. Chacha had never called me up before, for I was the star pupil in my family, the child who was used as the role model by allour elders when they scolded their own kids (and, of course, my cousins teased me miserably to counter my larger share of parentalaffection and respect). Chacha only called us up when we didsomething wrong, and as I could not recall doing anything evenresembling imperfection, I felt fear constricting my chest as Irealized that Chacha may be calling me about some other news; my initial taste of dread turned into bitter bile, my sweat glands poredout their anxious tears into my clothes as I walked up the stairs totalk to Chacha.
I shake myself out of my reverie, and stop my painful walk throughthe dug up, cratered lane of the years that came after my talk withChacha. I look up at the clock and note that it was a little pastnoon. Mr. Ehsan’s not altogether unpleasant odor lingered, lettingme know that I am trespassing on the poor man’s domain, hiskingdom of files, clips, pens and towel-draped throne. My rage,frustration, the almost virulent hatred I felt for the man for the lastfew hours dissipated; he did not have the skills, motivation or powerto help me, and his incompetency and inefficiency may have beenexasperated by being faced with a woman of higher education, class(and perceived power and influence) then him. I feel the coolness of reason come back to me, driving out the despair that I felt only afew minutes back. Mr. Ehsan may not be able to help me findChoton; he may be a duffer sent by the Foreign Office to the sandy,madman dominated outpost in Libya, whose lifelong reaction tomost questions may be to respond with a safe “no;” but he was kindenough (or scared enough of me) to have left me in his office to waitout the afternoon heat and plan out my next course of action.When I am in motion, when I feel that I am getting things done, Ifeel less vulnerable to that defeatist’s cloak being thrown over me,that dark self-pity crippling me. When I take action, I rejuvenatemyself. I grab a pen and paper from Mr. Ehsan’s desh and start