Friday, April 24, 2020

A new short story

Here's a new short story, recently published in The Charles River Journal.

The story is called 'Jhimmi'. It was written after I began reading reports about young lovers in India, barely out of college, and the outcome of their loves. I was struck by the strength of their love, their courage, their big hearts. Above all, that: their sheer heart. Their circumstances or fates are secondary after all.

Remember how I was giggling? Giggled non-stop until people turned around to stare. You kept asking, what’s so funny? It was the guide, going on about the emperor having hundreds of wives and concubines. In my head, I was seeing the Red Fort filled with crawling babies. A hundred white diapers. Little red brocade caps for the boys. In my head, a hundred babies were in the Diwan-e-khaas, on hands and knees. Hanging onto the knees of their father, the Emperor.

Can you see it, Bitoo? Badshah Salaamat has three babies perched on his lap. One of them has a leaky diaper, so His Highness gets miffed and he calls out to someone to take this prince away and change his diaper. What’s Urdu for a soggy diaper? The throne will need to be washed. And all those courtiers, their spines erect. Fancy turbans. Keeping a straight face. Bowing to the babies who tug at their belts. I was imagining the Prime Minister, holding out one heavy beringed finger, and the crown prince trying to chew on it with toothless gums.

Why didn’t I tell you right then, when you asked what’s funny? I thought I’d tell you later, at night, when we would be alone in our hotel room. But there was no room...

Read the full story here: Jhimmi - a short story by Annie Zaidi
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