P. 1


|Views: 21|Likes:
Published by Amin Ahmad

More info:

Published by: Amin Ahmad on Sep 22, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less






1/30/11 11:19 AM


turned ten and lived with my parents in an apartment, high on Malabar Hill in Mumbai, with shining marble floors and an open veranda that looked out across the windswept bay. We should have been happy there, but my mother stayed miserably in bed all day. My father left early for work and returned late to sit alone and drink Scotch. The silent war between my parents permeated the apartment. My escape was the veranda. Lying on my stomach, I peered through an old pair of binoculars and watched the gray-blue waves of the Arabian Ocean as they crashed along Marine Drive, soaking young lovers on the seawall. I watched crowds walk along the dirty gray sand of Chowpatty Beach, the women lifting their saris before wading into the ocean. When I turned my binoculars on the high-rise buildings, I saw housewives hanging wet clothes on their balconies, bare-chested men smoking at open windows, children flying kites from rooftops. Being surrounded by thousands of other lives soothed me. One day I overheard my mother tell a friend that her wedding anniversary was approaching, and she didn’t expect my father to remember it. “That,” she said, “will be the last straw.” I was not exactly sure what Ma meant, but I felt I must do something.

I opened the newspaper, where I saw an ad for the flower shop at the Taj Hotel. Best in Town, read the ad, Number-One Choice for Romantic Couples. I emptied out my moneybox, took a deep breath, walked out onto the road, and hailed a Fiat taxi. The city, so familiar through binoculars, was all the more exciting up close. The walls were painted with political slogans. The strong smell of petrol fumes and roasting peanuts mixed not unpleasantly in the air. We crossed the city till the sea was visible once again, and there, luxurious as a wedding cake, was the Taj Hotel. A giant Sikh doorman ushered me into the vast marble lobby of
http://www.narrativemagazine.com/print/54115 Page 1 of 2


1/30/11 11:19 AM

the Taj, where the air was crisp and cool and scented with perfume. In the florist’s shop, I clutched my money, dazzled by bouquets of orchids, carnations, and lilies. The pretty woman at the counter smiled at me. “I need to buy some flowers for my mother,” I blurted out. “I had to take a taxi here and I need to take a taxi back and I don’t have that much money left but I need to buy some roses or else she’ll keep crying and it’s her anniversary tomorrow.” The woman never stopped smiling as she removed four red roses from a chilled glass case, tied the stems with a red ribbon, and wrapped them in crisp cellophane. Transaction completed, she walked me to a taxi and made sure I was safely inside. At home, my absence had not been noticed, and I was able to hide the flowers without being seen. Whenever I thought about them, my heart leapt with joy. When my father left for work without a word the next morning, I entered my mother’s darkened bedroom and handed her the roses. She wept, not with sadness, she said, but with happiness. She got out of bed, and that day she wore a crisp cotton sari and lipstick. In the evening, my father returned home looking sheepish, but even so, my mother sat with him. From where I lay on the balcony, looking out at the darkened city through my binoculars, I could hear my father and mother talking once again, and relief flooded me. Mumbai had been good to me that day. In November 2008 I watched the terrorist attacks on my city not from my balcony, but from a television set in America. When the horror ended, the Taj Hotel was burnt and scarred. Crowds gathered to mourn the dead. The mourners lit candles and left piles of flowers. In my mind, I added red roses to the pile. —Amin Ahmad


Page 2 of 2

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->