A play in reversal.
The last tea.
Sunshine dripping through the windows.
Clinking of spoons and tea cups.
Jacket hugging the chair–picked up,
Footsteps on the wooden floor.
Footsteps following the footsteps.
Last day, last night.
Last dance in a quick time lapse,
Violins – bringing back the last 10 years.
Dropped tea cups
Screams and cries
on the thirtieth floor
at 12 am,
blinded by the lights of the skyline.
Violins, hugs and sobs.
embraces, trembling waves, goodbyes.
Flights late at night.
and never ending sighs.
Footsteps in another land.
Nostalgia, pain and frights.
It happened yet again.
How many times
after you really understand?
Manipulated, exploited–excruciating pain,
for you they all turned out to be games.
In a land with no beaches,
Mountains I heard and yes, trees with leeches.
‘It’s just a statement’–but times changed.
And so did the seasons.
When temperatures dropped below
I only had cold dry winds that blew,
taking me away from us, from me and you.
The city no longer existed – the memories, laughs or the trees,
Nor did the bling that connected it with you.
And then the chains, the winters came-
the new year that brought you.
You blame me for knowing.
But how would I know?
Oh yes, the hints. The cues,
The needles kept pricking,
and the time kept ticking
Until one day
I lost my friend–I lost you.
Only the climax was,
I was this close to changing you.
The stories in Their Language of Love are rich and languid, told in a fashion that is engulfed in an affluent and graceful historic aura. Bapsi Sidhwa’s work is not new to me but I fall in love with her writing even more every time I read her. Her short stories are as much witty and sarcastic, vivid yet baffling as her novels. She portrays her characters as people you would meet in your everyday life, and yet they are powerful and inspiring, offering an unpretentious exuberance.
The most attractive part of her work which keeps bringing me back to her is the realistic portrayal of the sub-continental history, before partition and the 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s, and the depiction of ease with which the local diverse communities would mix. Similarly, Sidhwa’s reminiscence of the roads and streets of Lahore, its nooks and corners, old gates and shrines, with a colorful paint of historical pallor makes one want to go back to the old city and see it with the author’s keen eyes time and again—it never tires you out.
Bapsi Sidhwa’s short stories are based on the theme of reconnection to roots—of culture, background, language and the commonality that brings the sub-continent together—whether it’s Feroza the spoilt American-turned kid, Roshni, the dark Parsi bride on the American soil or Sikander and his family who are trying to adopt the American ways.
The Language of Love (Short Stories) by Bapsi Sidhwa
Author’s note: This piece of writing is more of a catharsis process and in no way compares myself to any of the esteemed artists—current, from the past or those who are yet to come. Everyone has a right to disagree and this piece does not represent the point of view of all artists. This model of writing is just a way of expression. Artists are the most romantic of all people. And by ‘romantic’ I don’t mean the lovey-dovey romantic. The best definition I’ve read of ‘a romantic’ so far is in Tell The Wolves I’m Coming Home, where Uncle Finn explains the same to his niece June, “A romantic, you barnacle, not the lovey-dovey romantic. Being a romantic means you see what’s beautiful. What’s good. You don’t want to see the gritty truth of things. You believe everything will turn out right.” And perhaps that’s what is wrong with us. The ultimate flaw. We believe that everything will turn out right in the end. We beautify the simplest of things. We see beauty in the ugly. We glorify the dead. We exaggerate the darkest of nights and brightest of days—the ones that may be blinding other people. While others may just be having a cup of coffee, we portray the scene as ‘sitting by the unclean window on a cloudless dark night, stirring the cup of foamy coffee thinking about a thousand things that he might have said, but instead having remained silent and regretting later as always.’ Artists observe a little more, ponder a little more and regret a little more—perhaps. And perhaps that is why their final pieces, their works of art are usually great pieces of fiction and fiction only—little to do with reality. For them when two young people are in love they have to enjoy a cup of coffee each, sitting by the fireplace and watching a movie, or having an intense conversation when they can totally sit in the same room, work on their own while silently communicating—there is nothing better that explains love between two people who could tolerate each other’s silence. We complicate things, simple doesn’t work. We have to make farewells painful, sunsets excruciatingly beautiful and sunrises underrated. Our writings and paintings try to capture the originality of the seasons and various times of the day according to the moods of the characters we are in. But we forget how the Creator has made it rain the same way for the one who has gotten his heart broken and the one who has just fallen in love. Artists try to shade every piece of their art with their romantic mood they are in—filling their own colors in sadness and in mourning, brightening the mood of happiness and celebration—but maybe people don’t need colors to express themselves of how they feel. Maybe they only need to say it, sing a song that relates, dance it out or even store that memory in a corner of their heart. Artists like to express themselves in their originality—there lies the real problem. Also we think in retrospect. That is our favorite tense—when things have been said, steps have been taken, regret has come over and everything has passed, we reflect. Things look more beautiful in retrospect—harmless, painless, black and white. Clear as crystal. Only we couldn’t see those things as clearly back then. And building on this phenomenon, we leave it up to fate that things would turn out right. They always have. They always will. We question, ‘how bad could it be?’ Certainly if it’s not as bad, it has to be beautiful.