Monday, January 21, 2013

‘The Mountains Came to Mohammad’: My entry for the Get Published contest

The story is set in Hong Kong, where Raghav and Kareena employ an Afghan driver, Mohammad Khan. Mohammad Khan wears a flowing beard, refuses to look women in the eye and prays five times a day. A Nepali maid looks after the two children in the family. Her name is Parbati and she is from Siliguri in India. She is withdrawn, but emanates a calm strength. Parbati and Mohammad have different backgrounds, different beliefs, follow different faiths. Yet something unites them – their love for the young children of the family, and a yearning for the mountain homes they have left behind. As the days pass, they realize that nobody understands them better than the other, but do they have a future?

This story is real because stories like this take place everyday.

The story will unfold through normal events that take place in any family and will include descriptions of the underrated natural beauty of Hong Kong. We will delve into the back-stories of the characters and how that informs the decisions they take. An excerpt from the story-

He drove into the petrol pump, and while getting out, turned back to explain, rather needlessly, “There is no petrol, madam.”

“Why does he look sideways when he talks to me? It’s so creepy!” Kareena had the quick and breathless British diction of a certain kind of Hong Konger. “Like he’s got no eyes, know what I mean? But Raghav went on about how he is being respectful and how their people have ‘tehzeeb’ and all that...”

“Yes it’s a pity,” her friend agreed. “If he ditched the skull cap and shaved his beard, he’d be quite dishy, don’t you think?”

“Puh-leez!” squeaked Kareena, “He’s not old or anything, I grant you; his ID says he’s twenty seven. But his eyes!”

Parbati, sitting in front, was too surprised for words. Maybe it was the beard or the Pathani Suits, or his gentle demeanour; she had thought of Mohammad Khan as an older man. She looked at him as he walked back after paying the petrol bill. He wore a loose shirt over track pants she realized, not a Pathani suit, and he was tall and strapping under those clothes. He got in and turned around as always. “Chocolate for Rishi Baba,” he said, to a chorus of protests. “Mohammad, you cannot give Rishi sweets. I am serious.” Kareena was worked up. “Parbati this is for you too. Don’t let him give any sweets to the children, do you hear me?” Parbati involuntarily looked at Mohammad just as he turned to her, his eyes full of humour and mischief. He had forgotten to look away. Parbati’s breath caught. He had the most beautiful brown eyes, fringed by the darkest thickest lashes she had seen. His eyes…