Tag Archives: Canada

Park Bench Stories

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It’s been a while since I had a story to post. This one’s a sequel. Something I haven’t done before. It was sparked by a Facebook post that popped up thanks to their algorithms that remind you of a post three or five or more years ago. This one was called The Park Bench, based on a prompt given by Shauna Nearing Løj. This story has been particularly popular and has twice been released in Spain, courtesy Gerry Wright.

Fast forward to two days ago when a friend from the Bahrain Writers’ Circle, Veronica Selvarajan, read the story and made the comment, “I am going to be wondering if she ever reciprocates….” Well, of course that possibility wouldn’t leave me alone untilI had written the sequel and decided if she’s ever going to reciprocate. Well, Veronica, Cynthia, Charlotte, Joy, Malini, Gerry, Ajoy, Pam, Aruna… and many others. I’ve become a romantic in my old age.

The Guy at the Park

by Rohini Sunderam

She’d never really forgotten him. The young man at the park bench who always asked her if she’d ‘found a young man’. There had been a marked electricity between them. It was palpable through book after book that she read almost every workday afternoon. All he ever did was chew a fresh blade of grass and look up at the sky. There was a quiet confidence in his cocky voice and silence. He lived in the moment. Enjoyed the breeze, the birds in the sky, the clouds, the trees. Over the years they had developed a silent, comfortable, companionship. It was a quiet hour every workday that she kept for herself, before she took the bus home. They had hardly ever even had a conversation. He had grown strong and grown up since that spring so many years ago when they first shared the park bench. She had never learnt his name, nor what he did for a living.

And yet, all these years later, she remembered the look on his face the day she told him she had ‘found a young man’. He wished her well. But his eyes went dull grey like an autumn sky suddenly robbed of the sun.  And something in his face crumpled. But he didn’t say anything to her when she broke it to him. She wondered, ‘was all that electricity just in my head?’ She’d risen from the bench and had disappeared from his life for twenty years in the big city.

Twenty years, she said to herself. Why did I put up with ‘my young man’ for that long! There’d been that early euphoria of being married, being in the financial centre of the country, of looking after a house. But she and Bill had never really had much in common. He constantly wanted to go to this party and that restaurant, spend a fun time with his friends, anything but come home to an evening of quietude, an hour of  reading or listening to music.

He’d come back from work and it was, ‘Right, where are we going tonight?’

Her responses, ‘but I’ve just cooked this lovely dinner, I thought we could enjoy it together,’ were usually overruled.

Occasionally he’d agree and then it was a sullen silence they shared, nothing calm and companionable like it was with the guy in the park. That was a magical hour; the park was a Tom Thomson painting, the colours fixed and immutable. Instead, the meal she had so carefully prepared was wolfed down without a word of thanks and then he’d want to go out for a nightcap. Being a lawyer meant he could afford all that as well as the house. After a few years he went out on his own. Leaving her to her still pool of solitude that bordered on loneliness and her books that transported her on their magic carpet pages to other possibilities.

The miscarriages hadn’t helped either. Her mother had assured her things would improve once a baby or two arrived. After the first two losses, when she felt her world had been wrenched from inside her, her soul and heart shattered into a myriad shards of glass that cut her every time she saw a couple with a baby in a pram, Bill had grown more distant. The doctors said she wasn’t likely to have any more. Bill’s night-time forays became more frequent. Then there was his affair. Secret and sly, sordid and so typically with his secretary. Sinning is hard only the first time, so it wasn’t long before there was another affair and another.  Finally, the divorce and when her mother died, she decided to move back to the small city. The house was hers and she could easily get a job, perhaps even her old job at the library.

It was a cloudy day in November when she thought of going to the park with her book. ‘For old times’ sake’ she said to herself, he’s probably not even there any more. The years had flown like the clouds overhead. She was as nervous as a teenager as she walked in her high boots and her camel trench coat down the path towards where she remembered the bench used to be. It was four o’clock, her usual time from force of habit.

There was a man on the bench. Sitting where he used to sit. He looked at her. Her face implacable she looked at him out of the corner of her eye. She made a small harrumphing sound as she settled in her corner of the bench. He turned and looked at her again. Then he looked away. She was sure it was the guy. The same sinewy arms. That firm jawline and clean-shaven face. His nut-brown hair was streaked with silver. A small smile twitched at the corner of her lips. Then she whispered, “Did you never find a young woman, then?”

His voice was hoarse, as he all but whispered back, “Don’t be silly, I don’t want a young woman…” and then almost inaudible but she caught the last few words, “I only ever wanted you.”

She bent down to pull up a blade of grass, then turned to look at him as twenty summers and winters, autumns and springs melted away like snow. “But you never said anything.”

“What could I say? We hardly knew each other. I still don’t even know your name, young lady!” He grinned and the old cocky look came bouncing into his face.

She smiled, a clean, honest, unguarded smile. “We can rectify that, it’s Louise.” The first fat raindrops began to fall, “what’s yours?”

He grabbed his jacket and flung on the hood, “Al, for Alistair. And we’d better find some shelter soon. Before the wind an’ the rain carry you away, eh?”

“We’d need quite a strong wind to carry me away,” She laughed.

“Oh, aye,” he said like an old friend. He put his strong arm around her waist and they hurried out of the park. She realised he was a good bit taller than he appeared when he was seated. She liked the way his pace matched hers. And then they dashed across the street to a café.

“This should be fine for now.” He said as he led her, still clutching her book and bag, to a table near the window.

For the first time, she was sitting across from him. He had grey-green eyes and that unstoppable slightly amused, cocky expression; crow’s-feet eyes probably developed over the years from staring at the sky. His hands were strong and slightly calloused. ‘What did he do for a living?’

The coffee arrived, hot and steaming with a doughnut on the side. She was grateful for the steam that arose between them. It allowed her to look at him more closely.

“So tell me about yourself,” he said after a long deep gulp of coffee and a swipe of his cuff across his mouth.

“But, I want to know about you,” she said fingering the edge of her book.

“We have enough time for that later. What happened to the ‘young man’ then?”

Between sips of coffee and the doughnuts that the café boasted were amongst the best in the country, she sketched a quick outline of her life. “Now, it’s your turn.” She said.

The cocky smile and the amused look in his eyes deepened. “I’m a plumber by day,” he said.

“And what do you do at night?”  A nervous tremor caught at her throat.

By now he was grinning, “I write.”

“What? Books? Articles? Stories?”

“What kind of books do you like to read?” He asked getting up.

“All kinds,” she replied, “but that doesn’t tell me what kind of books you write!”

“Doesn’t it?” He grinned again. “I really do have to rush now. I’ll see you at the park again, tomorrow?” And he was gone. Striding down the street in the opposite direction of her bus ride home.

‘What do you like to read?’ What kind of a mysterious response was that!

When she got home, she was still mulling over it as she opened her book where she’d left her bookmark. It was another tale of lost love and might-have-beens. Her favourite kind. ‘What do you like to read!’ No! It can’t be. A. Hunt. She’d always assumed it was a woman and there was nothing about the author’s life that suggested plumbing.

-end-

La Blue Luncheonette

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By Rohini Sunderam

Louise stepped out of the door of her home and was caught by a blustery wind. She buttoned her coat down to the last button and was glad she’d thought to wear warm stockings. There was a glimmer of sun and a blue sky above. As she entered the path to walk down to her job at the dockyard she saw the first crocus in the flowerbed poke its cheeky lavender head out of the snow. It was going to be a lovely day.

Yesterday she had noticed a handsome young man, a new worker at The Blue Luncheonette standing outside smoking a cigarette. They had locked eyes for a brief moment and Louise had looked away.

Today, there was a lightness in her step as she hurried down to her work and she knew it wasn’t just the crocus that had put it there.

She saw him, leaning against the doorpost, the restaurant sign hung above his head, silhouetted against the early morning light. She wanted to see him again but she didn’t want him to catch her doing so. She thought she’d walk quickly past him, check him out through the corner of her eyes, and see if he was really as handsome as she recalled.

“Bon jour!” he said, stepping in front of her, bowing low, and doffing his cap.

French! Louise thought and blushed, “Good morning!” she replied, “I don’t speak French!”

“Oui, I..I..know.” He hesitated fumbling with the words, as he continued.

“Tu et jolie,” he said, his hazel brown eyes crinkled at the corners and his light brown hair fluttered in the wind as he straightened up replacing the cap on his head.

She knew enough school French to know he thought she was pretty. She couldn’t contain her amused delight and laughed. It was a clear bell laugh accompanied by a bright open smile that lit up her face and eyes.

That laugh and that smile were like rays of warm sunshine to Jacque. They were the first expressions of warmth and frank friendship that had greeted him in this cold grey outpost of the place they called Haaalifax. He’d practiced that ‘Ha’ till his breath steamed in the cold air. His natural tendency to say ‘Alifax had finally been tamed.

This place was to be his new home at least until the war was over. He had wanted no part in that and certainly didn’t want to be conscripted into a battle against an enemy he didn’t know. He promised his parents that he’d return or send for them from across the ocean when the time was right. And then he took that arduous winter journey across the choppy Atlantic, paying his way by working as a cook in the ship’s galley. He’d arrived barely two months ago at the pier in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He had never experienced such bitter cold as he had on the journey across. Then he’d arrived in the middle of February to a city covered in ice and snow. Thanks to his knowledge of cooking and his experience on the ship he had found work at The Blue Luncheonette along with board and lodgings in the attic.

Now, here was this beautiful vision laughing and smiling at him, spreading her wholehearted affection to him, a stranger, inviting him with that beautiful smile to be part of it all.

He continued, “Je m’appelle Jacque,” he said, holding out his hand.

Louise shook his hand, smiled and nodded, she could feel a deep warm blush as it crept up from her neck, coloured her cheeks and suffused her face, “I have to rush to work,” she said abruptly, adding ‘work’ again as she quickly released his hand and hurried on without looking back.

What had happened to her! She was behaving like a giddy schoolgirl. The electricity that had passed between them was so intense it had taken her aback. She rushed on, her face gradually cooling down.

“Votre nom s’il vous plait!” He called after her. Please, he thought, I can’t have this vision of beauty disappear from my existence like dew in the morning sun. I must see her again! I must know her name.

Louise stopped, turned around and called out, “I’ll tell you tomorrow!”

“Ah!” He somehow understood that. Tomorrow was always a time of hope. So she would come this way again. He watched her as she walked down the street.

Louise was a tall, well-built girl with dark, wavy brown hair that tumbled down to the middle of her back and was held in place against the flirtatious breeze with a barrette and a simple beret. Her tan swing-back coat was both practical and smart. It swung saucily with each stride accentuating her waist and hips. She was acutely aware of his eyes on her.

Jacque was transfixed. “Tres belle!” he said to himself. Those eyes, “Mon dieu!” They were as dark as just-roasted coffee beans. Her smile, just thinking of it made him smile again. It was sunshine and warmth, it was love and hope, it was the scent of summer in a field and warm fresh bread. It would take almost too long for tomorrow. But, she had said, she had promised… tomorrow. He could live until then.

The next morning there was a row of crocuses all winking at Louise. This time she picked up her pace. She’d added a dainty brooch to the lapel of her coat and a small touch of lavender perfume to her wrists.

I have barely said hello to him! She admonished herself. But there was no denying that her heart was beating faster as she walked to work.

He was there!

Leaning against the doorpost of The Blue Luncheonette a casual stance that belied his own thundering heart. Would she come, the beautiful lady with a smile that would send him to paradise? He heard her footsteps. He had been dreaming of those footsteps all night long. They came to him and left as suddenly. A dream, a nightmare, a dream.

She was there! Despite the overcast skies, she was there and all at once the world was beautiful. He could hear the birds singing of the promise of spring. He could see the leaves pushing their way through the branches. He could smell the earth as it slowly nudged winter away. She was there!

He stepped into her path. Today he would not let her go until he had her name. It would be something to whisper to himself in the lonely bed in the attic. It would be a word to caress his mind and his fevered forehead. Her name.

“Good morning!” He said deliberately. He’d been practicing it in his head for a few minutes.

“Good morning!” She beamed back at him. “You learn quickly.”

He grinned, his eyes lighting up. “I practice,” he confessed. “But…please your name?”

“It’s important?” She teased him, her eyes twinkling.

“Oui. Trés important, for me.” He smiled again looking into her eyes this time.

“Louise,” she said lowering her eyes not able to hold the frank look of admiration in his.

“Louise!” He exclaimed, “Ai! C’est Français! You are not French?”

“No! Canadian!” Louise replied.

He was confused. “How? Louise?”

“Calm down,” She laughed, that laugh that sent him to heaven and back in a second, “My grandparents are from Italy.”

“Ahhhh!” He flung his hands up and shrugged in Gallic comprehension. “Louise,” he said again, this time it was a hoarse whisper. He held out his hand.

And she held out hers, with the glove removed.

He raised it to his lips, “Louise.” He said, inhaling the perfume of her, drawing her into his being, his life.

Louise it was the most enchanting name in the world. It was the name for him. He could take that name and this girl and hold her in his arms till eternity.

Their eyes met.

“Jacque,” She said, his name a burr of honey on her lips, “Jacque.”

They could say no more. Their names hung in the air and slow as the mist of their breaths they met, came together, and became one.

 

– end –

Forty two years they were married, their home was a place of laughter and stories, of never learning French and fumbling with English. It was a home of Italian dishes and French flair a truly Canadian home… A home where the first word of the day was always love and the last word, je t’aime.

(Note: This is based on a friend’s story about how her parents met. It is not entirely factual and names have been changed, but I thank her for the inspiration.)

Extract from a work in progress

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I am at last working on a story I had started way back in 1994! It’s also my first novella set in Halifax. I have written one short story set in Lunenburg County in Nova Scotia, and you can read that here, it’s titled A Rhyme and a Reason, the first thriller I have ever attempted.

And now, here’s a peek into a tale to be…

As she approached Scotia Square, Meera looked around seeing everything afresh. She marvelled at the old buildings standing amiably next to newer glass and concrete structures. The red brick and the sombre grey, articulated doorways with raised eyebrows looking forever down their noses at the large plate glass of some upstart new high-rise. Thankfully, there weren’t too many high-rise buildings here. There was an olde-worlde charm she hadn’t noticed before. It’s quite a beautiful old street, she thought. I’ve never really looked at it properly. A bit like Calcutta. Almost straight out of Dickens! Then she smiled, trust me to think of Dickens. I used to think it was a dreary grey English sort of street, which it is, but now I have a job and it takes on a romantic air. I am so, so, lucky. It’s been less than three months since we arrived and I have a job. Part time too, the most wonderful part of all. I can fix dinner, do the housework, make lunch… the plans started to fall into place. I’ll tell Ajoy that now we must do the laundry just once a week. Oh, God! A number two. My bus!

She almost shouted out aloud. Then lifting her sari slightly, displaying silver anklets worn over skin-tone knee-high nylon stockings, she ran to catch her bus. ‘I have a job’ the chorus in her head came to a crashing crescendo as she clambered up the steps and tossed the coins into the receptacle with a flourish. I’m an expert at doing that already. How Canadian will I get? She wondered. Will I ever wear pants? I may have to when it gets really cold. A dress? Never! It must be so strange to have all that cold air going up your legs, oof! She shuddered at the thought of it.

When she reached her stop, Meera almost ran up to the strip mall on at Lacewood and Vimy, where Ajoy had recently established their video rental store. She pushed through the door, he had a couple of older customers and was deep in conversation. so she wandered to the side and looked at the list of videos on offer. Through the corner of her eyes, she watched him speaking with animated gestures to his enchanted audience. Her heart skipped a beat, he had grown old so suddenly. The hair at his temples had begun to grey and there was a thinning patch at the crown of his head. His large soulful eyes, usually edged by laugh lines, had begun to droop in the three months since they had come to Halifax.

The Cactus Blooms

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My publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing has a brand new website, from which you can now purchase directly. However, if you prefer to purchase your books on Amazon, there is a link on the page to take you there too.

Here’s an extract from Desert Flower… perhaps it will tempt those who haven’t read it yet to do so.

This time I entered the majlis quietly, slipping through the archway, less than a shadow, less than a breath. My face was properly covered with the niqab drawn across it. I had pinned it in place to make sure my face would not be exposed. After all, this was a foreigner who had come to the house, not another person from the Arabian Gulf, a Khaleeji, which if it were, of course, I wouldn’t have been called. This time my black abaya shrouded my entire body. All that was exposed were my eyes. I could see that the stranger was drinking a small cup of gahwa, our thick, rich coffee, and a small piece of baklawa. The fine pastry stuffed with pistachio nuts that I had the cook make that very day lay untouched on his plate. Eihab’s mother had seen that the servant had provided that.

And now that my frantically beating heart was somewhat stilled I had my voice under control too. I inclined my head slightly in a silent salaam and raised my right hand just a little.

“Have you got your wits about you?” Father asked gruffly.

Read the rest of this entry

Shenanigans gone awry

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When I chose to work in advertising so many years ago I had no idea at the time that it would prove to be so much utter, unmitigated, idiotic fun. Someone, somewhere looked down on me and decided that I needed to come out of the shy shell (yes, those of you who know me now mayn’t believe it but I was once painfully shy) in which I enclosed myself. It was a self that smiled and giggled internally. The giggling I must confess sometimes burst out of control. And then I laughed with such abandon that those around me joined in even when they didn’t know what I was laughing about.

School friends, classmates… you remember. don’t you? In fact recently I met an old friend who asked me, “What happened? When did this personality change take place?”

Blame it on advertising. Blame it on the Creative Department. Read the rest of this entry

Memories

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In search of material from the past one comes across a mood that suddenly finds resonance in the present. It’s not prophetic but it stirs an old emotion and I wrote it when I first knew we were going to Canada. I was apprehensive at the time, not knowing then, what I know now, that I was embarking on one of the best times of my life.

Having said that, I feel that those of us who come to the Middle East, even if we put down roots here, imbibe something from the shifting sands that enters our spirits and stirs a restlessness within us that eventually makes nomads of us all. Where, beneath this great dome of sky, will I eventually pitch that tent that never needs to be unpegged again? I have sand in my toes.

A Farewell

Goodbye people of this clime

It’s time to leave you

My watch is over

The grains of rice

Destined for me, are eaten.

No more grains on these plates

Come with my name written on them.

 

I have drunk deep

Of your waters, and long.

A thirst in my heart

Has been quenched.

And now a gnawing hunger

For other pastures

Feeds at my soul.

 

I must leave

The writ has been sent

Am I manumitted now?

Or do I go to another master

Another slavery?

 

The only freedom I yearn for

Is the final escape from life

When I will hunger no more,

Nor thirst.

 

I see your trees your wastelands

Your messy beaches, your prim hotels

I know your petty interests

Your magnanimous natures

I’ve grown to love them all

And I’ve grown to love them well.

 

But I must leave now

For I can hear the sirens calling

Midnight beckons

With its own sweet, soft music

Which I must follow

Towards the harsh light

The unforgiving break of day.

Of Woods & A Woodpecker

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E-mail exchanges give rise to some goofing around for me. Here’s a little joke that is perhaps doing the rounds,

Two Woodpeckers

Mail Attachment10This Mexican woodpecker and a Canadian woodpecker were in Mexico arguing about which country had the toughest trees.
The Mexican woodpecker claimed Mexico had a tree that no woodpecker could peck.

The Canadian woodpecker accepted his challenge and promptly pecked a hole in the tree with no problem.

The Mexican woodpecker was amazed.

The Canadian woodpecker then challenged the Mexican woodpecker to peck a tree in Canada that was absolutely ‘impeccable’ (a term frequently used by woodpeckers).

The Mexican woodpecker expressed confidence that he could do it and accepted the challenge.

The two of them flew to Canada where the Mexican woodpecker successfully pecked
the so-called ‘impeccable’ tree almost without breaking a sweat…

Both woodpeckers were now terribly confused.

How is it that the Canadian woodpecker was able to peck the Mexican tree, and the Mexican woodpecker was able to peck the Canadian tree, yet neither was able to peck the tree in their own country?

After much woodpecker pondering, they both came to the same conclusion:
Apparently, Tiger Woods and Shane Warne were right, when they said,
“your pecker gets harder when you’re away from home”.

This resulted in the following rhyme from yours truly:

Mail Attachment9How much wood, would a woodpecker peck
When a woodpecker pecks a tree?
As much wood as Tiger Woods would
When Tiger Woods drives off from a tee!
And the ball, as happens to many a ball,
Goes whizzing into a tree.
And knocks out a piece as big as yer fist
While Woods, of course is pissed!
So is our woodpecker pecking the tree
For he’s been struck in the head like a tee
And his pecker’s been put out of joint
So he screams at the top of his voice and says
“Yer s’posed to get to the pin ya git!
Don’t you know that that’s the point?”
“I know,” says Woods who’s in a bit of a dither
“But my iron’s not as hard as my pecker.”

Corporate Dance

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It happens in every office. You notice it especially when the first half of the year draws closer to its end. The little dance. The schmooze sessions. The “let’s do lunch!”

These little scenes prompted a poem called Corporate Dance in my collection Corpoetry. See how the ‘chaps’ fall in step with the boss. Watch the ladies sashay along. They’re so in sync that it’s like a choreographed performance. Not Bollywood dancing. This is more subtle. Like a tango. The challenge. The turn your face the other way, but exchange a look. It has all the verve of old-fashioned ballroom dancing and a lot of very clever footwork – both literal and metaphorical.

Putting together the collection of poems that grew into  Corpoetry was so much fun. Once the poems began to flow I couldn’t turn a corner in the offices that I worked in when I didn’t find yet another situation that prompted a poem. Sometimes reading the news – especially during that financial crisis – brought on a poem like Big Cheeses which prompted Bob Cubitt’s wonderful review. I still keep thinking that if you, as a reader, have a situation, do please send it to me and I’ll create a poem for you. Who knows, we might end up with Corpoetry Two!

corp dance

 

The swinging 60’s

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Before I crossed that threshold – 60 years – I thought I’d be dead by then. In fact I remember as a teenager wondering if I’d ever reach the ‘ripe old age’ of forty. Now, here I am just a few years short of completing the end of yet another decade and I find that life, people and the world at large are still fascinating. One learns something new all the time; it’s so true that I cease to think of it as a cliché.

Then my mind wanders to the semantics of the differences or similarities between a cliché and a truism and I look in the mirror and say ‘focus, woman, focus’. The reality of the additional years land a sharp whack to my solar plexus and dictionary.com comes handily to my assistance. Even so, the topic I wish to write about is life after sixty. Believe me friends, it happens.

Check out the wonderful worldwide uncle or aunty Google and there are stories about people making new beginnings at fifty, sixty, seventy and even older. There’s a tale of a lady who was a chemist who turned to stand-up comedy at 74. Another is a woman who turned to modelling – catwalk no less – in her eighties. Other news items hand out advice on what to do in order to enjoy your ‘sunset’ years.

Whether it’s a conscious decision or something that circumstances or age force upon you, it seems, that come 60, a number of folk out there are doing new and different things. Some of us feel that we’re not needed by the kids quite as much as before. Let’s learn a new language. Others continue to work at their jobs while enjoying their sports. Yet others decide to get back onto that hobbyhorse and start rocking it.

Like my friend David. He’s taken his singing and music to another level. David was always that great party guest who could be relied upon to bring along his guitar and really get a party going. Foot stamping sing-alongs would ensue well into the night.

As often happens to many a hobby that becomes a passion, once it’s offered to the world at large, it can really strike a chord when it finds an audience. And, as anyone who gives in to a passion knows, when you connect with a complete stranger across a crowded room…it’s magic.

Well done David! I’m a fan.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhGmE4ESkrdi0p4CaAjrTEy7VKTmGSKB-

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhGmE4ESkrdjscfxIgvOAyRW36kXrqM23

and if you want to find out more about him you can click the link below

http://www.troubador.ca/Welcome.html

Desert Flower blooms!

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As with so much of my writing, a chance remark, a question, a comment, often sets me off and before I know it, usually out comes a poem, sometimes a rant, sometimes a story.

And that’s how I came to write Desert Flower.

I had just started working at the Chronicle Herald, we were based in Dartmouth at the time, when I was surrounded by some colleagues all mildly intrigued by me. I guess I was something of a curiosity. The fact that I was “from away” in itself was strange. India, they had all heard of. But, Bahrain! “Where on earth was that?”

Some colleagues told me they couldn’t comprehend the heat I was talking about. And there I was, in the throes of trying to wrap my mind, my arms and my shawl (worn over my sweater, further fortified by stockings on my feet) around how cold it was and that was the middle of May.

“So, how hot does it really get?” One colleague asked me.

I started to explain it to him and then I thought. ‘I’m a writer. Why don’t I write it down for him.’ So that day over lunch, I started to write. And before I knew it, this romance story, jumped on me, like a devil on my back and every lunch hour for the next two weeks I simply had to bash out this story. Until it was done.

By then it was June. The story had gone galloping off in its own direction, so of course the colleague who’d asked the question never saw this. But I did share it with some of my other colleagues who thoroughly enjoyed it. It was too long to be a short story and too short to be a novella so it lay with me until I returned to Bahrain and shared it with some of my young Bahraini colleagues.

“You have to publish it”, they insisted.

“How do you know about so many of our old traditions? Like the ‘mashata, the dallal…”

“These are being forgotten…”

Finally, I was able to publish it. But that’s why, the opening lines are…

How can I explain that sort of heat to you?

Dry. The air so hot you can hardly breathe. The sun: a high, burning, intense fire in the heavens. You can’t look up to see it. It is shrouded in a heat haze, so that although one is aware of a single heat source, the entire dome above seems like a pulsating radiator reflecting that relentless heat back to the baking earth below.

In such a land nothing lives, save a few daring palms that would cheat the heat, and not let it extract their moisture by thickening their trunks and shredding their leaves, or scrub trees, those tenacious acacias – gnarled and thorny, husbanding their water and sap, even their chlorophyll into the tiniest imaginable leaflets – extracting from the unforgiving environment more cleverly than Shylock, life. In this inexorably cruel environment, is it any wonder that trust is a precious commodity, almost as valuable as water?

And love? It is a rare jewel. It lives as the cactus flower, bright, showy and flamboyant, but only for a brief while. It is a thumbing of the nose, from that plump succulent stem with its spiny leaves, at the heat and wasteland around it.

Such was the love that I had found so very long ago on a tiny island, just east of Saudi Arabia, called Bahr’ein, because of its two seas, the salty one that flowed around it and the sweet water sea that lay hidden both underground and beneath the seabed. So much like us, we who call ourselves Bahraini, with our salty and crusty exteriors hiding the sweet softness beneath.”

You can read the rest at any of the links provided at my publisher’s page here: http://www.ex-l-ence.com/Desert-Flower.php

As for the pen name? Ah, that’s another story.

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