Monday, October 2, 2017

Will You Be My Friend?




Why I write what I write?

"Will you be my friend?"  - That is what a seven-year-old Muslim girl asked her Hindu classmate,  Khukumoni, the protagonist of my book. It is a quote from the book I just finished writing - Shadow Birds - a young girl's story during the Partition of India.


The reader in me asked my writer self why did you write this book?  Why did you write and rewrite this book for the last thirteen years? In this blog post, I tried to explore the reasons.

Before that I'd give you a glimpse, an excerpt  of this part from  the book:



That day on my way back home,  I found that this girl was sitting next to me on the school bus. The bus took a long route. Through the City Bazaar, Gol Pukur, Durga Bari, Kesto Pukur Road, across the riverside, around the  Pocha Pukur - Rotten Lake it would reach Mymensingh Station Road.  Reading the names of the streets with the rocking motion of the vehicle,  I dozed off.

All of a sudden  I heard someone whispering in my ear — “ Ayee,  I am Padma, what’s your name?” — that two-front-teeth-missing girl.

“Khukumoni“.  I replied half asleep.  She grabbed my hand. “ Mine too.  Khuku. But that’s my nickname”. 

That is a very common Bengali nickname,  meaning, precious little girl.

She turned her head and checked around, then with wide eyes whispered again,  “ I must tell you something. There are some naughty girls here. You’ll find out yourself, I don’t need to point. They tie the ribbons of your braids with the back of the seat when you fall asleep and then get off the bus before you do. You would not know…and when it is your time to get down,  you are stuck.  The driver gets cross when you are late and..and…”   Saying that she untied the knots of the ribbon from my braid that was carefully tied with the wooden bar of the back seat.  I felt so thankful. 

At this point the bus stalled.  There was a procession going.  Lots of men with tupi on their heads and red jhandhas were shouting ‘Inquilub Zindabad’!  The placards on their hands read — we want justice.  

I overheard the driver explaining it to a senior student that there was a Muslim athlete who brought a lot of pride to us all, regardless of Hindus or Muslims but he was refused when he went to drink the water from a tube well that the Hindu community only used. The Muslims were angry that the Hindus cheered when he brought the trophy but refused to let him touch their water.  That was what this protest was for. That was why we were in the middle of a traffic jam.

“That’s not nice.  It must be hurtful to the Muslim boxer who won the trophy, ” Commented the older girl. 

My new friend, Padma, asked me, “Are you Muslim Khukumoni? I am.”

“I don’t think so.” I shook my head. 

“Never mind. Now, we’ll  have more time to chat. If I  invite,  will you come to our house to play? Will you be my friend?

Khukumoni and Padma became best friends until it was intercepted because of the partition 

I started to write this book so my children and later grandchildren would know their grand mother's/ great grand mother's story. But as I was writing I saw a larger audience. When I heard the Oral histories of many common people who are eighty or ninety years old today, who had experienced this, I felt there must more people like me who will be interested to hear such stories.

Political pundits of yesteryears thought that the partition would solve the  Hindu-Muslim problem.  Seventy years later, did it? 


NEW DELHI — One April afternoon, a group of men clad in saffron scarves barged into a house in Meerut, 40 miles northeast of here, and dragged out a young Muslim man and a Hindu woman. Their offense: They were an interfaith couple in love.  This happened on August 18, 2017

In Bangladesh, a Hindu nursing lecturer was hacked to death for not wearing hijab. Again happened just a couple of years ago in 2015. 

This is not only limited to  India- Pakistan/Bangladesh problem.  It spilled thousand of miles away in USA also. On Father's Day, 2017 a seventeen-year-old  Muslim girl in Virginia was assaulted and killed after her visit from the mosque. 

I wonder how history repeats itself. And it happens everywhere.

Yet, I am hopeful. I feel emotional when I read stories like in one village in West Bengal Hindus and  Muslims prayed together. They felt :

"We live in the jungles of Sundarban. We face similar natural clamities, share 

same hardships. And when we don't differentiate that time then why would we do now?"

That also happened recently, on Sept 26, 2017.


So, I wonder is it possible?  Will you be my friend?





If you have similar stories that you have heard from your relatives, I'd love to hear. Please do share them in the comments 














      




Friday, September 22, 2017

Synopsis of the novel

Writing the synopsis of your novel is one of the hardest things.  I did finish my novel Shadow Birds finally, which  I had been writing for more than a decade. Now it is time to learn how to find a publisher, which means writing cover letters, synopsis, and all that.
Stone artwork by Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr. Courtesy of Julietinparis.net blog. 
 Or, choose to self-publish, which again demands a lot of homework assignments.

Caro Clarke made a nice point that writing the synopsis of your novel is like writing the obituary of your novel.  Your story is done, characters are gone and you are in a grieving stage.  Though you feel the void you got to get up and write the obituary, not a long boring one but a short, sweet one that embraces all the important points and plucks the right chord for the reader.

Merissa Meyer makes it easy breaking down in 6 major steps, while Graeme Shimmin cautions that it is not a ' blurb' of the sort you'd find on the back cover of a book. The synopsis must tell it all, no teaser for the reader.

I am confused. I have to write the summary of a 200-page book, which needed 50,835 words to tell what I wanted to say in two or three pages, in just 500  to 800 words?

'Oh no! We don't have that much time for you', I hear. 'Make it shorter. Just an elevator speech.  We have barely six seconds for you.  So say it all in one long sentence.'

That is exactly what had happened when I went to a conference last spring.  I was stuck with an agent in an elevator. The lady put on her glasses that were hanging like a necklace and looked at me right in the eye and asked, "So what do you write?"

I kept an eye on the blinking numbers on top of the door and inhaled " Fiction."

"About what? What kind of fiction?"

"It's a story of a girl during the partition of India in 1947 who became a refugee and joined fourteen million people who lost their homes and families." I breathed.

"Historical fiction. Young adults, I suppose. Could be in Women's fiction genre  too?" She nodded adjusting her huge briefcase.

"Yes. " I gulped trying to be confident that I  understand genres.

"Why did you write it?" She crossed her brows.

How could I explain to her that  I could not help not writing it?  Like Maya Angelou had said, 'There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you'.

 For the last thirteen years, this little girl kept on chasing me to tell her story, I mean my protagonist. I saw her growing up from a missing one-tooth seven-year-old little girl to a teenager of seventeen.  So, for all these years I wrote and rewrote until I felt I had done everything I could.

"The seed of the story came from my mother, all that she had told me in her last four years, while she was stuck in bed as a stroke victim. Her memory was sharp. The nostalgia of her beautiful childhood days kept her going and then she also told me the agony of leaving her home because of the Partition."

from radhikaranjanmarxist.blogspot.com


The elevator stopped. We reached our destination. I knew this was the end of my story. But she stayed with me as we walked out. "Interesting."

" Yes, and as I was writing I found that this is not an isolated story of one single girl of a distant past, in a faraway country. It is happening everywhere.  It is happening now." I added.

I was thinking of my experience in Greece that I had a couple of years ago. I saw the anxiety in a Greek lady whom  I met at a store.

"We are up to here with our own problems here.  We have to work two jobs to meet the two ends meet and see now there are all these refugees."  The Greek lady touched her forehead.

An image flashed in my mind that I had seen on the T.V. screen the night before. A boatful of refugees from Syria, a brother and a sister holding each other's hand, who had just become orphans, a pregnant lady clutching her protruded belly, the blank stare in an elderly woman's eyes with her hands stretched expecting someone would help.



What was their fault?

"See the geography is changing, maps are constantly altering. Cities are bombed, countries are wiped out. They are getting new names or erased and forgotten. But history repeats itself." I said.

" History repeats itself!" She echoed. "Finish your book." With a smile, she disappeared.

Shucks!  Who was she?  Why didn't I care to ask anything about her? Why didn't I get her business card?  I was too wrapped up in my own self, too excited to tell my story and didn't care to listen. That was my BIG mistake.

So, I beg you, please do tell me your story. Who are you that came to visit my blog? Do you know a refugee, or were you one?  Do you write?  Are you struggling with writing synopsis?  Please do leave a comment.  Thank you.


Monday, September 11, 2017


Shiuli phool




I have a nostalgic relationship with the shiuli phool. When I was little, in India I remember this flower was the messenger of autumn. When the scorching summer days bid farewell, when the days started shortening, we could smell shiuli phool in the air.  We knew autumn was coming.  Ma Durga was coming.  Our most favorite festival Durga puja was not far away.

But today I am to talk about the shiuli phool-  the white tiny pinwheel flower with a carnelian tube like stem. And when I crushed the flower my fingers turned beautiful orange filled with a heavenly smell.

This flower is only available in the far east, in Bangladesh and India and part of Thailand.  It is honored as the official flower of the state of West Bengal in India, where I came from.   But then it also has another name, the Night Jasmine ( though scientists would refer it as Nycanthes Arbor- Tritis.)

Why such a name? It has a story. Parijat, the flower fell in love with the Sun. But Sun did not care.  Parijat felt ashamed, hurt. She wilted and committed suicide. She was burned and from the ashes rose a tree- the shiuli flower tree. That is why it is also known as the Tree of Sorrow.  It does not beam in the day time but when night falls, it blooms and falls on Mother Earth.

Hindus and Buddhists offer this flower to their Gods and Goddesses.  Children make garlands picking them up from the ground.  No other flowers that have fallen on the ground are allowed to be offered to the Supreme, except Shiuli.

My story is- I love this flower. It is linked with my childhood. I remember rolling on the dropped blossoms mixed with dew in early cool autumn days when I was a little girl of seven or eight.  I was scolded by elders but I could not help, I could not forget that soft feeling on my skin and that fragrance.

I can show you pictures but how can I share that smell?

Today was a special day. After a muggy afternoon, I heard strange sound on my wooden deck in Walnut Creek, California.  Thunders clapped like it did in India during such muggy hot days, and big drops of rain started falling on the ground.  The branches of tall trees swayed, the clouds gathered and a nostalgic smell of rain mixed with dry earth filled the air. I hurried to pick up the cushions and pillows from the garden.

Something more strange happened.  A pot of shiuli phool came to my door. A dear friend found out an online store that sells this exotic plant and she got one for me.

I am so so happy. It felt as if a dear someone from my past, my childhood days came to visit me here in America and she promised to be with me in my home.
   

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Akash Pradeep

 An excerpt from the novel in progress;

                      


                                                                    



                                                                            Akash Pradeep 

  
Ashmani's  death shook me. Often she rambled in my thoughts. While I tried focusing on Geometry, my mind meandered somewhere else.  I saw Ashmani. She’d dance right in front of my desk,  swirling her canary yellow ghagra with burnt sienna polka dots. The tiny embroidered mirrors from her skirt reflected circles of light, spinning around,  making me dizzy.  Her body oscillated in chakkras and tatkars and stopped at precise beats. She’d  stretch her mehndi painted palm to me,  with a selam, touching her forehead, like a Mughal baiji court dancer, expecting me to applaud 'kya bath, kya bath'.


It was all illusion.
I tried to concentrate again. My tests were not too far away. This Matriculation examination would determine my future, I tried to remind myself.  But my mind drifted.  I could not help eavesdropping Ma and Sati’s conversation from the other room.

“Do you know the grocery store,  that Ma Tara store, is closed now, closed forever?”  Sati announced. 

“Really?  Why?  It was the biggest one in town. He was doing so well....  Just closed the store like that?” Ma was surprised. 

“ What else could he do, Didi? All that scandal with his son and that Muslim girl… after all he is a Hindu, na?  The neighborhood boys will tear him to pieces.  Chhire khabe je! “ Sati explained.

“ That girl messed it all up. What was she thinking?  A marriage between Hindu and  Musselman?  I’d be upset too if I find my son bringing a Muslim bride all of a sudden. See what she did to her family!  Who’ll marry her little sister, now?  She killed herself all right,  but what about the ones who are left?”  

I was shocked that my mother said all that.  Then I heard Sati’s response:

“ Yes, Didi, it is sad. Such a beautiful girl, so young and she had to commit a suicide? Such a sinful act! Then, on the other hand, what choice did she  have, Didi?”

I felt like screaming.  There was a choice.  There are choices, only if you respected their love. You all messed up things for no reason.  Hindus and Muslims lived together for a long time. It is possible. But I kept quiet. The nine-point-circle theorem revolved in front of me until I shoved the book away. Meaningless geometry.  I closed my eyes resting my head on my arms. 
***


Ayee Khuku!.”  Ashmani stood in front of my desk. 

“ You don’t feel scared that I come, do you?” She gave me a side glance. 

“ No. Of course not, Ashmani.”  I assured. “ At times I feel I have become you, we have merged. Believe me, I feel so sorry for you.  So sorry that you couldn’t dance that night for petty politics and I stole your show. I had never had a chance to tell you that. You inspired me.  You taught me dancing, kindled the love for dancing in me.  And now,  all that had happened to you, makes me  feel so so sad for you!” I tried to reach her arm. 

“I know that Khukumoni, I know.  And that is why I come to you.  Some people, even my loved ones, my own family, are scared.  They are scared of me,  but you are not.  You invite me in your thoughts. You are strong.  You are different.” She replied. 

“Ashmani, what strength you see in me, I don’t know. I feel frustrated that I cannot speak up. I cannot stand  up for all the injustice I see.  I cannot protest all these nonsenses.  It hurts me to hear the things they talk about you, that you have no room in heaven. I feel like screaming.  But in reality, I do nothing.”  I sniffled. 

“ Don’t worry for me, Khuku.  It’s over. I don’t know about heaven or hell, I just dance around, in nothingness, in the vast abundance of nothing. I don’t know how to explain it to you. But it is peaceful. “  Then with a pause, she continued:

“ And who said I have nowhere to go?  I go to those who cares for me. Who makes room in their heart for me, who are not scared of me, Khuku, That’s why I come to you. I will always be in your memory. I will never die, as long as you keep me alive.”

“ I know you are not an evil spirit,  Ashmani, There is nothing to be scared of you. I only wish that I were stronger.  I wish I could stand up to protest what is wrong”  I confided. 

“ I’ll help you, Khuku. I will.  I will stand beside you when you need me, I promise.  But don’t you forget to dance.  Promise?”  She glanced with a smile. 

“ Promise!” I nodded.
 
Ashmani disappeared.  I could hear the sound of ghungur from her ankles fading away.
I woke up.  It startled me.
*** 


That night I had a strange dream that  I had gone to a place up in the Himalayas. There, the river Ganga, young, swift,  ran fast. Tthe currents were strong. It was twilight time. The sun had gone down, a few stars were twinkling in the vast turquoise light. 

Tiny boats were floating  in the river.  They were made of leaves. Some had tiny lamps inside. The lighted little boats sailed with the current, dancing on the water.  Some drowned, some went further floating until they were out of my sight. 

A woman was preparing her lamp. She was muttering something with folded hands, like a prayer; then she gently stooped down  to float it on the river. Her head was covered in a shawl. 

I knelt down, asked her what was she doing, what was this all about. 

Akash pradeep ( lamp to the sky) “ She answered. 

“It is a way to connect with the souls that are gone, who left for the other world. This is a way to remember them, honor them, thank them for what they have done for you. This is a way to pray for them so that they are peaceful in heaven. It is a Hindu ritual, don’t you know that, girl?” She looked at me. Her veil dropped.  It was Ashmani!

A rooster cackled. I jerked at that harsh call, threw away my cover and jumped out of bed. I remembered that I had my Math test today. 


                                                            ***

That day after school I took the shortcut path through the woods, behind the broken mashjit. This was the path that Ashmini used to take, and I had never known.  This was my first time. 

Strange insects and bats made eerie sounds. There was a constant susurrus, a hissing sh sh, probably the wind through the bushes and leaves made it.  A gray bodied lizard with warty skin blocked my path, lunging,  its front arms stretched,  its huge head raised,  it stared with bulging eyes.  Then it started croaking tuck -too tuck- too ballooning its throat.  I thought this must be a takkhok, which I had never seen before.  

A doel swung by, low enough scaring the creature to run away.  The indigo bird with her eggshell white belly sat on a branch nearby and started to chirp. Doyel- her English name is the Oriental magpie. Babu had taught me from his book, I remembered.  

While I was preoccupied with these thoughts of birds, a thin slate colored snake zigzagged right in front of my toes and crossed the path hiding inside a hole.  I shrieked.  

 With wider strides I started marching faster and found that the wood thinned gradually,  I could see the light better, now.  The path had gone up to a hillock and there stood a lonely bokul tree at the top. No other trees were around. 

 I stood under it, panting, thinking this was where Ashmani had her first kiss that morning. This was where she was tied and whipped at the end of the day.  This was the tree that had witnessed it all in silence. 

Further down,  a set of steps descended and merged to the river bank. It was high tide time. Water splashed and thrust on the steps, whirling and swirling, drowning the steps with bubbles and gushes. 

I opened my school bag, took out my journal and snatched a page out. I folded the paper and made a paper boat.  Then I lit a candle striking a match and crouched down to float it  in the river with a prayer:

Ashmini, we never met while you were alive, but I meet you every day after you are dead. I feel guilty, very guilty that I stole your show and was happy with the glory and admiration I got. You gave me a lot, you inspired me.  But I never gave you anything.  And  I am sorry for what you had to pay for this Hindu-Musselman clash.  You were innocent, you didn’t deserve it. You shouldn’t have died.  But it happened. Now, my friend, I am here to wish you peace, so that you find a place in heaven.

I stood up.  Wiping my tears with the back of my hand I started to climb. 

I lost balance and missed a step on that slippery stone and found myself bobbing in the water, pulled by the current. 

“What are you doing here, in this dangerous place? “ A voice shrilled.  A hand pulled me up. 

“ It’s not needed.  I am fine, I can do it myself”  I shrugged him off.

It was Mahim, that monda maker. He looked so different with a beard and a musselman tupi,  I couldn't recognize him.  Rahamat, his friend came forward, and the lathial Aziz. 

Abhisar (tryst) eh!”  Aziz simpered.“ Tell your father to go back to your country.  Go to India.”  He scoffed. 

“Now your Gandhi is gone too. And he was not killed by any Musselman, mind you.  Your own people murdered him, that nanga fakir ( naked poor ). Did you hear what his killer, that Hindu murderer say?  What was his name? Nathuram or whatever!” He added.

“Arre thikachhey (Oh let go). Ayee meye ( hey girl), don’t you ever come here.  Understand! And yes, tell your brahmin father to clutch his paita (sacred thread) and go to your own land, not here.” Mahim shouted mocking my father clutching his thread. 

I couldn’t believe my ears that it was Mahim who was telling all these. Just a few years ago he was a Hindu himself, he told us the story how his father named him  Aswini!

I turned and started to run as fast as I could until I reached home. I thought I should tell this to Babu.  But I didn’t.  At the end of the day, at mealtime when he asked how my day went, inside I was churning, but  I pretended it was just a normal day. I kept it all to myself. 




                                           



                                       



















Sunday, April 23, 2017

Nakshi kantha


Nakshi kantha, a type of embroidered quilt, is a centuries-old Bengali art tradition in Bangladesh.[1][2][3] The basic material used is thread and old cloth.[4] Kanthas are made throughout Bangladesh, but the greater MymensinghRajshahiFaridpur and Jessore areas are most famous for this craft.[5]











The Embroidered Quilt 

The small village still gazes at the faraway village
Whispering in silence, tears in eyes. 
Dried fields lie in between
Cracked, baked in the hot sun.
Ruthless peasants cut the paddies that cloaked the earth
And take them to some far between land
That we do not know. 
(Poet Jasimuddin 1920 - 1976)
  Translated from Nakshi Kanthar Math    


I was an only child. No siblings, no playmates to fool around with.  My only companion was my blanket. My security blanket.  I called it, my nakshi kantha.  Elderly relatives used to tell stories that when I was a child I carried that quilt everywhere, sweeping the whole universe. It was catastrophic to part  with it.   My parents had hard time washing or cleaning it. I don’t remember that.  All I remember is,  what a sense of security it gave me — that little piece of rag. 

“Your mother made it even before you were born. With the thread of her colorful saris she embroidered the designs, these vines of hope designs.” Baroma pointed the vines, sliding  her fingers through the leaves of the pattern. 

I picked it up and brushed it against my cheek, “Soft! How come it is so soft?” I’d ask.

“The quilt is made with your father’s old cotton dhoti that are washed and washed, and became so soft.”  She replied.  

No wonder it was so special;  it had the smell of  Babu and the vines-of-hope designs of Ma’s hands.  My life started wrapped in that special blanket.

When I was little, I vividly remember playing with the designs on the quilt. My fingers would hop with the seams of the embroidery  designs where the blue stitches ran up to get lost in  the green field, passing the orange french knot flowers.  Run, run, run, way up to the indigo  tiny triangle appliqu├ęs. They were like the hillocks  of  the Sushong Hills which I could see from my window. Then  I’d find tiny maroon squares and rectangles just  like the red tile roof-tops of the huts beneath the hills. Hop  with the orange  lazy daisy chain stitches that spiraled in the center  like the sun, and then  escape behind  the green vines. Oh, how it  found its way to the tan border at the end. It was the  same  ginger hue of  the color of  the Brahmaputra River. Does the orange spiral want to take a dip in that ginger-tan  water? I wondered.

I felt like a free white breasted kite bird  flying in the wide open sky and then  dropping on the soft plushness of the nakshi kantha.


The blanket hugged me. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Journal





Today is my birthday.  I thought I should start my journal today, fresh again.  Like most New Year's  resolution this is another one I make each year.  With a new notebook.

The part I like is,  buying the new journal.  I have so many of them, some so  beautiful that I feel shy to blemish them.  I brush fingers on them, sniff to  smell the opened blank pages. Then I  leave them untouched, bare. I consider myself a minimalist, at least a wanna-be-minimalist, but in this journal  buying thing,  I am confused.  My need and want areas are blurry, and I never feel I have enough.

 I did find a new journal on my shelf.  A pretty one in matted black with a tiny photograph of a blooming gardenia.  As I untied the scarlet satin ribbon attached to it,  the diary opened and a card fell. A blank card.  It read -

"Be patient toward all that unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." by Rainer Maria Rilke.

I must have bought it for someone and forgot .  Well, today it is mine.

I was thinking of my parents.  While they were alive each year a card came from my father with interesting messages and uplifting thoughts.  I wanted to believe that it was from Ma and Baba for my birthday today, and they were blessing me from heaven.  I felt tearful, thanking someone because they were my parents.

I thought of all the people around me today, all the love they have given me, unconditionally, unaware. Most of the time I take them for granted, but today it touched me in a different way.  I decided I should put this in writing today, this emotion, gratitude,  in my new journal.

I will capture all the fleeting moments of sweetness and spread it out here: the dazzle of the dew drop on the meticulous cobweb,  the humming bird's halted mid flight, all those  will be snapshots on  the page. And I'll  post the funny stories  that my little grand kids say.

It will not be a book for to do lists. It will  be a friend whom I can confide to, it'll be the mentor who'll transcend my spirit from the mundane.

I looked at the picture of the gardenia:

"And now in age I bud again
After so many deaths I live and write
I once more smell the dew and rain
And relish versing..... "  

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Protagonist

How I found my protagonist

My mother was stuck in bed for the last four years of her life as a stroke victim. Though her motor skill was gone her memory was intact, especially the long term one.  She loved telling stories of her childhood days in Mymensingh, before they became a refugee,  after the Partition.  And I loved to listen to those stories.

Living twelve thousand miles away with a window of two weeks vacation time with her, every other year or so did not give me much time, but it gave me a ton of guilt feeling. One day I admitted that to her and she replied, " Even when I am not there any more, memories will.  And the stories.  You may come and visit them as often as you wish, for as long as you want."

What a haunting statement!

After I returned to California to my normal life, and even after she  had passed away for several years, often a little girl visits me.  She catches me in my quiet hours, while I am driving, when I am washing dishes absent mindedly.

"Who are you?"  I ask.

"Khukumoni."

"Where are you from?

"From the past. " She replies.

A lanky little girl of seven or eight years of age, with a missing front tooth, fair as snow, delicate as a fairy calls me waving her tiny fingers.

" Come, I'll show."  She takes me by my hand through a lush garden of overgrown bushes where the smell of  kul overwhelms the air.  She picks one up and puts in my mouth.  The jelly like jujube melts under my tongue.

Blossoms of shiuli phool underneath our feet feel soft.  She picks up a handful and lets them rain.  She smashes them between her fingers.  The orange stems burst into carnelian hues. She smiles.
 " Magic!"


Shiuli Phool



I open my journal and write:


                                                                            ***
                                                               

                                      Mymensingh
    
                                             1940

It was a peaceful morning  otherwise, until the news paper came.
I was busy discovering all kinds of magic in our garden that early spring day.  Flower pots on the entry steps  were brimming with bursts of red hibiscus and the white star jasmine crept up the columns and entangled my swing on the porch.  New leaves, as large as elephant’s ears, with the darkest bottle green shade and  tiny dots shot up from the planter box.  I thought the garden fairy must have visited at night and painted those red and white dots on the leaves with sandal wood paste. 
Our ivory color brick house had curved doorways with dark green wooden shutters and through the arched stained glass windows yellow, orange and red lights flooded and  reflected on the floor.  I was playing hop-scotch with the patterns  on the floor and then chasing a tiny white butterfly entered the garden.  Babu, my father, was weeding kneeled down close to the ground with his back facing me. Sweat drops glistened on his almost bald head.  I tip-toed and quickly covered his eyes from behind with my little hands. His glasses flung.  He turned.
“You! Aren’t you cold, little one?” He wrapped me with his soft woolen shawl and picked me up.  I put my head on his shoulder.  Soap, soil, sweat made up my daddy-smell. No one in the whole world smelled the same. 
“What are you doing?”  I asked him.  He got me down. 
        “ Look, these are the  new growth of the seeds we  had planted the other day, but these are no good, just weeds.”  He tried to give me a lesson in gardening. But I turned away, I heard the garden latch clank. 
It was Jasimuddin, our gardener, helper, care taker,  a person whom I saw as my older brother and addressed as Jasim da (brother Jasim).  He was a tall, scrawny person with black beard, and always with a smile on his face.

Jasim da, in a grey, long kurta and his usual  black musselman tupi (cap) was coming with the morning paper in his hand like  he did every day.  I ran to him. “ Jasim da, where is the thing you promised to bring?” 
“Wait a bit more, little sister.” He smiled and handed the news paper to my father. 

I knew Babu would ask for his morning cup of tea now  and go inside.  This would be the end of the garden session for this morning.  But today it was different.  Babu took the morning paper and stretched it out.  And his brows got knitted.  His face looked disturbed.   “What?” he murmured to himself and sat down on the step. He did not get inside, nor did he ask for his tea. I understood something was wrong. 
“ What is it Babu?” I asked.  He glimpsed, not sure how to explain it to a seven year old child and  turned to Jasimuddin.
“ The Lahore Resolution is passed. Passed on March 24th.” 
“ What does that mean, sir?”  Jasim da gazed at his face.
“ It means that the Muslim majority areas are asking for a separate place.  Areas in  the west of India like Lahore, Karachi, and in the east, Bengal do not want to be part of Hindustan,  India,  even when  the British give us freedom.”
“Then what will happen sir?” Jasimuddin asked. 
“ I don’t know. I don’t know how it could be solved, Jasim”  Babu studied his face. 

Jasimuddim lowered his eyes looking at the ground,  his hands folded,  not sure how to respond. 
I went to him and whispered in his ears, “ Jasim da, aren’t you going to ask permission for the puppy now, please?”
“ It’s not a good day, little sister” he mumbled back with a sad face.             
***