Write Away: Lata Ji’s Eid Greeting Arrived Today!

Believe me, Good Magic does want to happen. It only needs the right sort of heart, a pure heart, for a match to be struck, a cosmic spark to ignite, and in exceptional cases a warm and enduring friendship vivaciously simmers and prances out of that mixture as if it were the beginning of everything. Not hardship, nor burden, the storybook of our lives is revised accordingly as it becomes an ounce weightier, basking in the glory of a new chapter, personified as so in the face of the friend whose world is waiting to be known by us.

Last year, I went to board a train from Birmingham to Winchester, a particularly long slog made all the more dreary because it turned up on the platform nearly an hour late in which time I was being mercilessly whipped about by icy rain and howling winds, my cheeks and ears transmogrifying their colour a shade closer to a recently-picked radish!

It was a fated journey. I met a stranger on a train, however it was destined not to end there, the story resisted being anything but a fleeting and forgetful wisp. Lata ji was an elderly lady of Asian descent who was sat all by herself by the rain-drenched window, her frail hands nervously crossed and clamped down on her handbag, and her tied-up bun flashing streaks of grey and silver that reminded me of my own Amma. Before I had even opened my mouth to ask her permission to take the seat next to her I already knew deep in my gut that by the time I stepped back onto the familiar Winchester platform neither of us would remain quite the same as when we had first boarded the train.

In this complicated age where the masses are daily letting themselves be hypnotised by the flickering and flicking of images on screens that fit neatly in the palm of their hands, channelling all attention to voraciously scooping up as much information as possible on the lives of other people and their movements, all I wanted to do was to sit and read. It was not to be so. Every force imaginable held me back from finding what I wanted. I struggled to reach for my novel in my bag that was unashamedly squashed by plastic containers of food and presents given to me by my affectionate relatives, and after wriggling and poking my fingers as far deep as I could possibly go, I gave up. I was making an enormous racket, fidgeting in my seat, and carelessly letting my elbow trespass over my seat so that it brushed against the lady next to me. How embarrassing was that?!

And that was when the match was struck! One knock of my elbow tapping on the elbow of the lady next to me, and there it was, a reason sprung in my heart to speak, to reach out to her, I had to, and in hindsight, I am tempted to say that perhaps I did not want to find my book after all. She was too much like my own Amma and I could not let her sit on a tediously dull and long train journey without some company.

She had no smarty pants phone. Neither did I. Already we were on the same platform! While the entire carriage of people were busily glued to their devices, only once breaking off from its spell to return to the outside world when the ticket master floated by, Lataji and I began our banter with that classic and universal British icebreaker, the subject of weather! A miserable grey, wet day, that gave the impression that train windows could weep buckets of tears too, the both of us fiercely condemned its gloomy antics and agreed that warmer and sunnier climes could not come any sooner! We told each other of our families, and since I had my camera I swelled up with excitement at the prospect of bringing my descriptions and anecdotes alive with the pictures I had taken. I frantically dug out my camera to show her all my relatives from Birmingham. I do not think she saw, or was conscious of, how I discreetly watched her eyes light up with the fire of new knowledge as I rolled through the digital reel of my camera. I do believe it was the first time that I had the pleasure of observing directly what wonderment my visual narrative world had on a reader. It was infinitely more rewarding than a million Facebook ‘Likes’. Exuberantly terrific and uplifting, I was inside a magical circumstance that ought to have been honoured, but I did not know how, so I walked deeper into the present, living and loving every moment of the conversation that I shared with this adorable old lady.

Our voices weaved through many subjects that ranged from our hobbies, jobs, famous books and their authors, the maritime history of the south of England, ancient tapestries and the romantic moors of Yorkshire. You see, she came from the north, I from the south, and yet our harmonious conversation was as if we had resumed it from where we left off many years ago. Beautiful evidence that geographic distance was a powerful illusion, we were talking away as if we came from a mapless world altogether.

I like remembering how we laughed together on that journey, we did not have to think about how to do that, they came naturally and freely, at times our chuckles made a big show of just how authentic they were as I became helpless and shed a tear or two of joy, disintegrating my eyeliner with triumph! We had been friends for a long time, in spirit, and it took this one journey on a train to finally satisfy the conventional sensory diet of our everyday eyes.

As I was nearing to Winchester we both knew well what we would ask of each other. I looked at her tiny phone, she looked at mine, and we decidedly grabbed for a pen and paper and exchanged addresses and numbers. I promised that I would write her letters and explained to her that I had a great many pen-pals around the world. At first she was surprised that someone of my more youthful generation still dabbled in epistolary modes of communication. I replied that I was born in the wrong time, and she laughed and patted me on the arm, although I suspect very much that she always knew that. She had decided, somewhere along in the journey, that I was too much of a lovable eccentric, the girl who defiantly chose to walk apart from the crowd, and that is why it was not that difficult for her to see why I still stocked letter-writing stationary on my desk and kept a diligent eye out for the post.

After a farewell tied in warm hugs and good wishes, as authentic as Amma’s, I jumped off the train and onto Winchester platform, waving fondly at Lata ji as her train pulled out of the station and made its way to Southampton. She was visiting a friend. A few days later I gave myself the chance to show Lataji that I was a woman of her word. I kept my promise and wrote her a letter, and at Christmas time she sent one back to me. You can read that story and sample her heartfelt letter in my WordPress blog ‘On The Matter Of A Red Letter Day Because Two Strangers On A Train Became Friends!

Though I am busy these days engaged in preparatory research work for my postgraduate degree for September, as well as, making the most of the summer holidays by trotting off on mini adventures with my mates, I returned home today and before I dumped my bags on the dining room chair I momentarily forgot how to breathe. I had spotted the tell-tale, bright red envelope glowing like a supergiant star from the far end of the table. I tussled with myself about what to do first. Should I freshen up or read the letter? I opted for a compromise. I drank a cup of water and then I sat down and carefully peeled open the rectangular piece of papery ruby.

I shed tear after tear after tear of joy. My dearest Lata ji had sent me an Eid card. Its cover, in delicate and economical strokes, depicted an orange sun peering from between the fronds of sloping palm trees, below two shores flanked still waters while a girl braved a bridge, a yoke across her shoulder, and on each a wide basket of goods hung down. It magnificently summarised the essence of Arundhati’s spirit and the burden of the unknown that she must face on this journey. The beautiful letter that accompanied the card did little to deviate from the theme. Lata ji asks me of the varied challenges of my own life and she makes it clear that she is of the faith that I have the power to overcome them. To this day Lata ji has no access to my WordPress world and therefore she has no clue of what I have been up to of late. In light of that fact, I am awestruck, I am a miniature thunder of applause, I am breathlessly ecstatic and I am more things to which I cannot frame the words to because the computer will go positively bonkers if I keep doing that, but, I am truly satiated to the roof with invincible proof that the truest of friendships are a population of skilled mind readers.

I have yet to write to Lata ji to let her know that I had applied and have been accepted to study a postgraduate degree in Writing for Children, and that when September rolls in the storybook of my life is about to get happily weightier. Should I tell her or should I let her read my mind?

I think I will buy more First Class stamps tomorrow… ♥♥♥

Write Away: Lata Ji’s Eid Greeting Arrived Today!

“… I returned home today and before I dumped my bags on the dining room chair I momentarily forgot how to breathe. I had spotted the tell-tale, bright red envelope glowing like a supergiant star from the far end of the table…”

Write Away: Lata Ji’s Eid Greeting Arrived Today!

“… It magnificently summarised the essence of Arundhati’s spirit and the burden of the unknown that she must face on this journey…”

Write Away: Lata Ji’s Eid Greeting Arrived Today!

“… I am truly satiated to the roof with invincible proof that the truest of friendships are a population of skilled mind readers…

Write Away: Lata Ji’s Eid Greeting Arrived Today!

“… I shed tear after tear after tear of joy...”

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | My Home | Winchester | UK 2016

Advertisements

Jen’s Graduation Day – In Pictures & Words! Yeeehaaaaaa!

This is the only life we know, what comes before and after is obviously a debatable topic, but whilst keeping to the present and what I have known of this life thus far, I am happy to let myself be flogged by conservative ridicule while stating with utter joyous boldness, that there are potentially two births to our name. As we depart from the maternal tunnel into this waterless and breathing world of air, no recollection of the journey is allowed to be engraved, our memories simply refuse to reach back that far, and so it is that our most momentous time is also one that is cocooned in rebellious mystery, a giant gravity of vagueness and void, it the one root adventure we cannot remember, as hard as we may try.

The second birth is a rare one and not all will be fortunate enough to have the means or desire to navigate through its convoluted procession of trials and triumphs. A path that demands solid guts of steel, a fearless disposition that rises against and thrusts through the tide of social conformity, to follow one’s dreams is a battle that teases us to the point of agony and tests us to the death. If pursued with integrity, the reward is always great, for every pace achieved and that takes us forward cries out a new growth of aliveness, a vibrant shout of ascension pushing through the old fabric of living. It is this rebirthing that we have the means, the honour, to remember.

It gives me tremendous pleasure to share tonight the second birthing of my little sister, Jen, as she, today, against many thwarting odds and hefty sacrifices, became a shining and proud graduate of Southampton Solent University. I should have taken more tissues with me, her joy forced us all to let open the waterworks of our eyes, our faces reduced to leaky taps with no intention to close!

Of course, I did not just arrive there with a dress and dotty shoes! Beaming and bouncing around Southampton Guildhall with my trusty camera, a task slightly complicated by my dreadfully disobedient shawl which I then stuffed into my bag to my astounding relief, I caught up with Jen and her fabulous troop of mates, together with the rest of the hobbits of my own family, to create a photographic chronicle of an unforgettable day that swelled and swayed in lively celebrations, a roaring dawn chorus blessed with soaring tasselled hats and loud cheers of rebirthing, and hearty smooches on cheeks that have made me seriously wonder whether Jen and I will ever need a blusher brush again! Ah, yes, I suppose they can be rather handy for dusting off loose, unruly crumbs of bread from inside the toaster! Giggle, twiggle!

Your 158cm Dreamer of all hours,
Mazzy ♥♥♥

Jen's Graduation

My sister’s shoes are manufactured out of a clever mixture of Dark Matter and Lord Vader’s helmet! I know, seriously cool, right?!

Jen's Graduation

Ever wondered what a disco for ravens would look like? Check out this conspiracy of flighty hats!

Jen's Graduation

Jen stood on the shoulders of giants to reach her goal. There was no stepladder in the art department and she could not get to the paint tub on top of the wardrobe. In stepped human resources!

Jen's Graduation

Emotions ran high and tears welled out of eyes and ears and nose with an intensity yet unmatched in the natural world. Here, Ab, seeks cover from a pair of trendy shades!

Jen's Graduation

There are some exceptional people in this world, like my Jen, who can make sinister capes and cloaks that seem to belong to a certain Professor Snape appear as though they are the latest hip trend in street fashion! Girl, what gives?

Jen's Graduation

I cannot tell whether my brother, Sam, is restrainig himself from crying or holding down a burp! Any advances?

Jen's Graduation

Mumsy is everyone’s Mumsy. That is an unquestionable fact! ♥

Jen's Graduation

Once again Sam throws conundrums our way: Is his tummy rumbling for food because he has gone without it for so long, or, is he the first man ever to be expecting with child? Oh boy, that is a toughie!

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Southampton Solent University |Southampton | UK 2016

In 400 Words: When I Went To The Toy Maker

A literary response to the unresolved hostage crisis taking place right now in my Motherland’s capital, Dhaka:

There was terrible, terrible gunfire that night. The bullets, angry droplets of metal, shrieked through the air like offending fireworks worked by the clawed hands of Voldemort himself. Outside the building where the hostages were kept, people scrambled for safety, rushing back and forth, gripped by the demon of hurried madness, tripping over trivial objects of the day, like scrapped newspapers, now orphaned on the streets along with the dirt and rotting peels of fruit and vegetables. I saw one man losing a sandal in the panic, he did not return for it, and in another, a woman’s hand was momentarily ripped apart from her child to which she screamed as if it were the end of the world, until an officer dashed in and reunited the child to its mother.

I had no shoes on my feet. Dhaka was stifling hot in July, and it was perfectly acceptable in these parts to walk without putting anything on one’s feet. Now I wished that I had worn something, because where my unacquainted soles touched the ground there it was callously pricked and spiked by sharp splinters of glass. When doused in mortal flesh, as I was that night, the pain became an excruciating torment.

A very still body of an officer was dragged from the frontlines of the firing. I knew he was no more, and another hole punched into my heart, this time it went all the way through to my spine and out the other end. It hurt being disguised as a human. I did not stay long enough to see what happened next, my time was up. The voice of my Creator ordained me to return to Him and tell Him of what I saw.

The main stem of my wings, a blend of lotus and moonlight, shoved out from beneath the skin of my shoulder blades and I rose off from the level of the street. When the country had shrunk as minuscule in size as an ant, my nose stroked against the first watery webs of clouds and everything vanished. An oceanic blackness was my only reality.

Then Light was returned to me. I was stood outside a shop that bore no name. The Great Old Artisan, a Toy Maker, was inside, chiselling away to bring forth a brand new planet.

I had so many questions to ask Him of his great and terrible Creations…   ♥♥♥    

Click on this link to open the door to the Toy Maker’s shop: https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/754163648058478/

Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2016  

The Dreaming: Chapter 8 The SS Mantola

Her mother passed the thermal flask, a stumpy beige canister, to Arundhati and when she smilingly took it in her hands she felt comforted by the fact that she could still feel the heat of the tea inside. It was not blazing hot to the touch, but the pleasant echo of the warmth that had travelled from the inside to the out made easy acquaintance with her palms, the heart of her mother reaching out to her, so it seemed. It was something of home to take away alongside the fear and excitement and uncertainty.

Now, don’t you go drinking my special tea all at once!” Her mother was fumbling with the pots and pans, deciding how much of each dish she ought to stuff into the silver tiffin tower. There was not a chance in the world that she would send her daughter out on this mission without any replenishment in tow.

Would I do such a thing, Amma?” Arundhati pretended she was irreparably hurt by her mother’s commands. The old lady shot a disbelieving look, raising her eyebrows as if her daughter had already broken the rule, that somehow when she was not looking Arundhati’s impatient streak won over, sneakily sloshing down her prized tea behind her back.

Arundhati chuckled and shook her head. She walked over to the eating table where her black rucksack was sprawled out like a shrivelled up mop of algae, and expertly lodged the flask in a corner, she had also packed a miniature notebook the size of her palm in which she planned to record clues and jot down observations, a tremendously handy thing to have with her since her memory was pretty awful for remembering facts.

The Dreaming Chapter 8

“… she had also packed a miniature notebook the size of her palm in which she planned to record clues and jot down observations, a tremendously handy thing to have with her since her memory was pretty awful for remembering facts...”

Here, your tiffin”. The passing of the tiffin marked the final rite in Arundhati’s departure, and her mother tried her best to busy her eyes on random bits of the kitchen, so to not let it sink in her mind that her daughter was actually going away. She was strict in all respects, yet never had she quite mastered the art of saying farewell. It required bravery and this morning she knew she had none left. Arundhati noticed how difficult all this was proving to be for her mother, as it was the same for her, too, and so, to reassure the both of them, she ducked her hand into her rucksack and pulled out the binoculars. The outer rims, where the paint had slightly come off, exposing the grey metal underneath, suddenly caught the morning light that had now shafted through the kitchen window. A bridge of gold.

Amma, I am not alone. Remember that.” With the binoculars firmly held between her fingers, Arundhati gently shook the device like a rattle, trusting that this playful motion would relieve her mother from whatever qualms hounded her peace of mind.

Has it done that thing yet? Did the lights come on this morning?” The desperation in her question endearing, it was becoming more and more apparent that her mother was in the dark depths of worry, scraping for any proof that convinced her that Arundhati was in safe hands.

No, Amma…”, but Arundhati could not leave it untied like that, she added as consolation, “… but, like you said last night, I think the binoculars only work when they need to, when they need to direct me in the right direction.”

Her mother stepped over to where Arundhati was stood. She spoke softly, an emphasis on each word. “I hope you are right, and if it doesn’t then you come home straightaway, you understand?

Of course I will, Amma.”

I mean it, beti.

Oh, Amma…” Arundhati put the binoculars on the table and then put her arms around her mother, and she heard underneath the clothes, against the warm wall of her chest, many gulping trembles, a heart creeping closer to weeping, and for a second the girl had changed her mind and was ready to put everything away and let life just be about the two of them and the white-washed house.

Prising away slowly from the embrace, Arundhati glanced at the sullen face of her mother. She raised her hand and with the tips of her fingers she lifted her mother’s chin and brought her eyes in view with hers. “Amma, just remember, I am going on a real adventure! I am working for The British Secret Service! That’s an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I want… I want to help them. I want to save the world from a dreamless nightmare. Just imagine, no one dreaming at night, isn’t that terrible?

Her mother sighed. “Still, you are my child.” She shook her head and gave out a hollow laugh. “You wouldn’t know, you are not yet a mother.

But, I am your daughter and I care about you. I would never do anything that would take me away from you. I will return, before the day is out, I promise.

You better do, Arundhati, you better do… because I am tired of watching your food get cold!

The both of them laughed out at the same time, embarrassingly, as if they were both villainous accomplices, equal partners responsible for causing much grief at dinnertime!

Massaging her mother’s chubby arms to let her know that she should not worry, Arundhati turned round to the eating table and slung the rucksack on her back, adjusting the straps so that it dropped behind her, but not too much that it dragged her down, and then she reached out for the binoculars. Her mother looked at them with a renewed attentiveness, willing them with her stare to come alive with their blinking lights, but nothing happened of the sort. The mound of scepticism kept growing bigger by the second inside of her, however, she needed her daughter to be strong at this time, and did not wish anything to jeopardise that. Arundhati was about to garland herself with the binocular, but her mother interrupted her.

Here, let me.” And she put over Arundhati’s head the strap of the device, letting it rest at the back of her neck, and then positioning the binoculars so that they hung down at the front, an extra pair of eyes which neither of them knew to whose face they belonged, an anonymous guide who only went by the name of Mr Roald Dahl.

Arundhati took slow steps out of the white-washed house, she wanted to absorb as much of its details before she let herself become plunged head first into a world of secrets and priceless knowledge. Her mother never did leave the threshold of the house to bid farewell, for she did not know whether she would be able to return once she stepped too far out with her daughter. She imagined that to walk out too far meant she would be thoroughly tempted to accompany her daughter, a bad idea, for an old lady like herself would do nothing but slow everything down. She wanted nothing more than to have her child return home as fast as possible, safe and sound, back to the nest.

Beti, just come back to me in the way you left”.

What if I return home…”, and Arundhati looked up to one side, her thinking face on, and suggested, “… cleverer or more beautiful?

Dut!” The old lady slapped her daughter on the arm, a loving attack, and Arundhati beamed a hearty smile back before grabbing her mother one final time and pressing her lips to her cheek. Her mother did not struggle.

Arundhati tore away from her mother and ran down the path to the front gate. Neither of them said ‘goodbye’. It was a horrible word, loaded with the end of things, and they both agreed that it was only the beginning. Arundhati stopped before she crossed the threshold of the gate, she paused, her mother was still stood longingly at the front door, and yet she could feel her mother next to her, stroking her hair and patting her on the back. Arundhati not turning around, her face broke into a thoughtful grin. Her mother could not see this, yet she too smirked from where she stood.

Placing her hand on the binoculars, Arundhati took a deep breath and stepped outside of the gates. She had stood on this spot a million times, today it was not the same. She realised she had already gone so far away from the white-washed house that she believed that if she were to call out her mother’s name now her voice would not be loud enough to reach home.

Arundhati looked left and then right and then left again. Which way to go? Which direction would she find the path that would take her to The Shaligram Ammonite? One of them was the one, one of them gave her a chance to help the world. Which one? She bit her lips as she wrestled with the frustration of not knowing what to do at this critical point, this starting point in her journey. She was close to letting it be decided by the tossing of a copper coin, and fiddling in her trouser pocket she found one. Then, a far-off peculiar screeching sound flew out from somewhere in the nearby sal trees. She thought she heard the sound of four different sniggering and snickering. She became startled and jolted up, gripped by curiosity, her natural knack for investigation drove her hand to lift he binoculars up to her face and she peered through them. She saw nothing. Only pitch black. How odd a pair of binoculars were these, she thought, no lens cap on the front and still to look through them presented the viewer with nothing more than a canvas as impenetrable and dark as the night itself. She let go of the binoculars, rummaged through her bag and found her reading spectacles, she slipped these on and once more gazed out, with every bit of concentration she had in her, over to grove of rustling sal trees. Nothing. She gave up on finding out what it was, there was little time to waste, and once more she tussled with the nagging question of whether to turn left or right.

The Dreaming Chapter 8

“… She let go of the binoculars, rummaged through her bag and found her reading spectacles, she slipped these on and once more gazed out, with every bit of concentration she had in her, over to the rustling sal trees…”

Exasperated, she kicked the mud in front of her and exclaimed, “For goodness sake, which way do I go? Left or right?

In the centre of her chest a red light flashed three times.

She snapped her head down and grabbed the binoculars, shoving the lens into her eyes so hard that had she applied anymore pressure her eyeballs would have sunk into the barrel, ambushed inside the cave of a device controlled by minds whose faces she will never see or know of.

What she saw stole her breath away. A sepia postcard of a large steamer with an imposing black hull, stylish cabins and single proud funnel with flocks of tiny figures stood watching out on deck, appeared before her eyes. It was as if the entire ship had its sights set on her, all its occupants briefed on her mission and that they had arrived on her waters to guide her on, in the right direction. She was going solo, but in the truest sense of the word, she was not. A wave of relief flushed her entire body and she began to read the message, a quote from Mr Roald Dahl. Afterwards, the only word she repeated again and again was the name of the ship.

SS Mantola, SS Mantola, SS Mantola… ah, yes!” It came to her like a flash flood! “Ali Baba’s teashop is called ‘Mantola’! I must see him, I must go there first!

Arundhati turned around and broke out in a run, a run in the right direction. ♥♥♥

The Dreaming Chapter 8

“… A sepia postcard of a large steamer with an imposing black hull, stylish cabins and single proud funnel with flocks of tiny figures stood watching out on deck, appeared before her eyes...”

 

Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Hampshire | UK 2016
Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre |Great Missenden | Buckinghamshire | UK 2016

 

The Dreaming: Chapter 7 Conversations In The Night

The warm and pungent smell of delicious dal curry floating in the night mesmerised the tongues of other creatures other than those of hers and her mother, or so Arundhati observed. It roused, for instance, the silver moths, for they fluttered more keenly now around the golden aura of the kerosene lamp, excitement twined and sang in the movement of their wings. The homely scent of the spiced soup that Arundhati’s mother now carefully brought out in a large pan from the kitchen was set down like a crown on the eating table. Arundhati was sat, her feet jiggling and wriggling, her eyes poised on her mother while she anxiously bit her lips. She was waiting for her mother to be the first one to ask her about the contents of the package.

When will my beti ever learn to make it on time? God help me!” Her mother shot an accusatory glance at her daughter as she placed two plates in front of them before sitting herself down. She dipped the long wooden spoon into the pan and, like she always did, she first gestured Arundhati to hold out her plate so that she could pour out the thick and creamy mixture, it was as bright yellow as dandelion flowers. Arundhati pursed her lips tighter and watched her mother closely, her eyes widening like that of a hawk, desperate to catch her prey, the prey in question was, of course, her mother’s attention. It seemed not to be working. Her mother proceeded to dollop three big spoons of fluffy rice next to the steaming dal, all the while she dismissed every chance to meet her daughter’s pleading gaze. Arundhati pulled her plate back in front of her and laid it down, the heady aroma rising from it was heavenly, and unexpectedly her tummy let out a loud and booming grumble and, though she knew it was of no use, she reached out her hand and pressed it against her stomach, as if doing so would muffle out the culprit responsible for the sound. She was thoroughly embarrassed! Her mother could not contain it any longer and she burst out laughing!

Acha, acha, I think I have caused you enough tension for one night, and look, now your tummy is giving in too!” Her mother had not yet seen to her own plate, she was far too engrossed in teasing her daughter. All this time she had told herself that she would for once keep Arundhati in suspense, and that is why she had purposefully withheld herself from asking any questions about the package. Arundhati was outwitted.

Oh Amma!

Beti, now you know what it feels like to wait for something – you are waiting for me to ask you the question, the question about what that thing is round your neck, na?” Arundhati instantly reached up and fingered the narrow brown strap, she had only moments ago discovered the true identity of her package, yet it felt like she had always known about it, that it was an heirloom of sorts, returned to her at  last.

Arundhati quietly moved her plate to one side and then lifted the strap up and off her shoulders and as she did, her mother, for the first time saw the black device, a pair of binoculars. The glass of the lens, very briefly, caught the light of the kerosene lamp and spikes of rainbow shards reflected diagonally across the wall, stalagmite towers made of shadows and diamonds. The whole room sparkled. Arundhati put the binoculars on the eating table and her mother edged her chair closer, her expression confused and eyebrows coiled in contemplation.

Beti, is that it?

No, Amma. It is the beginning. They are binoculars, a very special pair, and…”, she paused, searching for the right words, but she knew that whatever she would say would cause her mother confusion and disbelief, “… and they talk to you – they  – talk to you.

Binoculars don’t talk, beti”.

These ones do, believe me, Amma!

Her mother’s mouth was agape. “How?

I am not sure how, but they do. You ask it questions and a red light, see this one in the middle, well, that lights up three times and then a message appears inside the binoculars. You have to read it by looking into it”. Arudhati picked up the binoculars. She wanted to present her mother with a demonstration. Like a circus master armed with his out-of-this-world feats all stashed in his bag, Arundhati felt grand as she prepared to show-off the amazing skill and knowledge she had already gleaned from her new-found gadget. She cleared her throat and asked into it, “Where is the Shaligram Ammonite?” She looked back up at her mother with a satisfied smile, she was absolutely certain the lights would start to flash at any time now and her mother would be wowed beyond recognition.

Nothing happened.

She repeated the same question again.

Nothing happened.

Arundhati began to shake the binoculars in mid-air while her mother looked on with a worried expression. “Beti, if you keep doing that you will break it!

But, Amma, I swear it worked before! Why is it doing nothing now?” She turned the binoculars in her hand and checked to see if all the parts were in place, concern had ignited in her mind that perhaps when she came down the stairs she may have, without realising it, thumped it against the wall. The staircase was an extremely narrow passageway after all. After a thorough examination, flipping the device this way and that, while her weary mother looked on with a mixture of endearment and pity, Arundhati snapped out of it, the too many failed attempts had tired her out and with a long exhale she placed the binoculars back on the table. “Why is it not working…?” Her voice trailed off, embittered and hollow, the stone of disappointment weighing down into her gut. She felt cheated out that she could not show her mother the extraordinary things she had seen, to prove to her that this was no ordinary pair of binoculars.

Her mother put her soft hand on Arundhati’s arm and rubbed it. “I believe you, beti. I really do. You may be rubbish at being punctual, but I know, I really do know, that you would never lie to me. Leave it for now, your food is getting cold again.” Her mother craned her head down, peered at her daughter’s sullen face, her eyes dancing about as they took in all the beautiful features of her girl, and then, like the way dawn oozes out of night, she broke into a thoughtful smile. Arundhati put her hand over her mother’s and patted it. It was time to eat.

Anyway, maybe they send you messages when they want, not when you want it. You can’t make it happen.” Placing all her foods on her plate, and tucking into her dal curry, her mother did not seem all that troubled if it surfaced that the binoculars worked only one way. For Arundhati it took a great chunk of the magic away if this were the case, she liked the idea that someone on the other side could hear her voice as she sent in reports of her findings. What a treasure this secret dialogue would be, but to not have it, dulled the whole arrangement a shade lower. She strained a smile and pretended that she was so painfully famished that the binoculars did not bear thinking about. Her mother cheered up and the both of them ate their meal, vibrantly chatting away about family events that were due to happen in the coming weeks. Occasionally, Arundhati would look out from the corner of her eyes, just in case the little black device chose to surprise her once again.

The kettle whistled sharply in the background. It was the sound that signalled that bedtime was approaching near, indeed, it was Arundhati’s most favourite sound in the house, and more importantly this time, the prospect of a cup of sweet milky tea was truly the most likely antidote she needed to hold herself back from pondering anymore about why the binoculars had fallen silent on her.

Both mother and daughter washed, dried, and put away all the dishes, making sure that the shutters downstairs were shut tight and the front door was closed. It was very late now. Arundhati had never felt so worn out, she could not wait to pull the blankets over her head and melt into her soft pillow. Her mother put her arm around her daughter as they made their way upstairs and before they parted into the separate rooms they exchanged a hug, as they always did, but this time a string of tender words trickled into her ears. Her mother spoke, “It will be fine, my dear darling, tomorrow the binoculars will definitely work, they will do what they were meant to do, and you will help them. Believe me. You believe me, na?

I always believe you, Amma. I am your daughter.” And she squeezed her mother tighter before tearing herself away towards the last flight of steps that led to the attic.

That night Arundhati slept a deep sleep. Her dreams came at her like the ebbing and flow of tides. She saw herself sat on a wooden bench in a peaceful garden that lay at the bottom of the sea, here the sunshine streamed through the waters and made everything look like day. Sometimes constellations of plankton would appear and disappear like breath, giant creatures with long bodies and fins and jagged teeth that were set within a smiling grimace swam gracefully above her, haunting echoes of whales travelled through her flesh and out the other side, and in the centre of all these things a black-ribbed sun spun and spun, thrashing and threshing the water around it to create bubbles of froth. The Shaligram Ammonite.

Eyes closed and unaware, Arundhati muttered gentle words as she dreamt. “Goodnight, Mr Roald Dahl.” The binoculars, now lying unattended on the low, yellow-wood table at the foot of her bed, did what it had done earlier. It flashed its little light precisely three times before switching over to sleep mode.  ♥♥♥

The Dreaming Chapter 7

“… She saw herself sat on a wooden bench in a peaceful garden that lay at the bottom of the sea, here the sunshine streamed through the waters and made everything look like day...”

 

Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Hampshire | UK 2016

The Dreaming: Chapter 5 The Froggies

They were possibly the most cutest and adorable children in the neighbourhood, never one of them had ever come under the fire of suspicion from their parents or the locals who lived in the area, they shone as four perfectly taintless cherubs blessed with pink cheeks sumptuous enough to entice any grown up to pinch and squiggle them, and to follow on up by indulging their appetites with liquorice strings and cola-flavoured gums.

Irresistibly well-behaved, there were many instances where childless couples had pleaded on hand and foot to take all four of them in, raising them as their own offspring. The parents of these four, obviously, treated these urgent requests as an exemplary compliment, and it only went on to inflate their doting and mollycoddling tendencies, making it highly impossible for there to be anything in the world that might ever serve to betray the sparkling regard they held for their little bundles of giggling joy. Even if it were that someone were to bolt in the through the door and accuse the children of beating the neighbour’s cat with a stick the parent would turn the other way and ignore the voice, as if it did not exist.

But the moon is said to have a dark side. So did these four, not-so-better-known as The Froggies.

There was the super chubby Mama Froggy who was the ringleader, the cold and calculating engineer of nasty plans. Papa Froggy was, in comparison, a categorical midget in size, his manicured hairstyle took central precedence in his life and he always had an air of aristocracy about him. Tall Froggy was an expert in gymnastics and in the art of the ninja, she could take down anyone in two breaths flat. Baby Froggy was not as naive as she seemed, she was admired by her peers for her fabulous academic know-how in chemistry, ancient myths and beetle anatomy.

When the adults left them to their own devices, they did not stay the same, they became other people, stepping into their true and macabre personalities. But all breeds of villainy had a weak spot. These four had one thing in common, one enfeebling trait that haunted them and drove them to insane criminal ruses. You see, they slept, but not like the rest of us. They slept for excruciatingly long hours, like the fuzzy grey koala bear of eastern Australia, up to 15 hours at a time and no less than 10. Many people, especially grown-ups would, upon hearing this peculiar fact, revolt and put up a kick in protest, arguing that letting the days pass by in comfortable slumber in bed was not such a bad thing at all! To The Froggies, however, those hours were intolerable, a prison of dreamless sleep in which they were trapped, writhing in hours of agonising monotony.

All that empty space of sleep with not a single, cinematically cool dream to remember for the next day, The Froggies had reached the end of their tether and were now stood on a precipice and to go forward was to jump off into the extreme unknown. They were daring to try anything just so that they could fill that enormous nightly sea of grey with an incredible spray of dreams.

They reasoned that there was one cure, an unconventional sort of remedy. They decided they would steal dreams. They planned to filch the dreams of other children and their parents, in fact, to be totally honest, they chose not to be shy on the matter and agreed to rake in the dreams of the whole world if they had to!

A few days ago, The Froggies held an urgent meeting in the garden of a sort-of-grownup lady, and while the lady was on her adventures and oblivious to what was brewing in her absence, the four vile and naughty minds got together on the bench and discussed the progress of their devilish plot.

Well done fellow Froggies! No one suspected a thing, our parents fell for it! A school trip to Lyme Regis, huh?!” Mama Froggy exploded in deranged laughter and then flicked her head, she could not resist herself from loving the aura of the limelight in which she found herself in right now.

It was cool and I want to go there again! But, lets book a five-star accommodation next time, the guest house mirror was way too high for me to look into. I could not comb my hair properly in the time we were down there!” Papa Froggy suddenly realised that the other three girls were staring at him, tediously unimpressed. He quickly shut up to avoid further embarrassment.

Three down and one to go!” Tall Froggy had a formidable knack to getting down to the facts. It proved to be a wretchedly muddy and soggy venture for the others but not for her, out there on the shallows and beaches of Lyme Regis she loved every bit of it, and one occasion laughed her socks off when a mentally unbalanced cormorant had swooped down and nearly picked up Papa Froggy to be taken away for food! In the end, they did it, they finally found what they were determined to find. Three specific ammonites, each measuring across in diameter of 1cm, 5 cm and 8cm, were identified and collected, and brought back to the school laboratory.

And it was super pleasurable to grind down those three ammonites, the powder was as fine as baking flour, and I can’t wait – just cannot wait – to see what happens when I spoon the mixture inside the fourth ammonite!” Baby Froggy leapt about the place, crazed and dizzied as she began to imagine in her maniacal imagination her greatest chemistry experiment whirling away, one that was so close to becoming reality.

Mama Froggy gently raised her hands in the air and the other three became quiet. She smiled, a strange smile it was because it appeared motherly, and she spoke, her eyes decidedly boring into her accomplices like the thrust of a menacing scimitar. “The Sudarshana Chakra…” She let out a long sigh and shifted her gaze up, towards the wide blue sky, “… the spinning celestial energy that contains the power to influence the waters of oceans and of people, once a weapon of the gods, now to be brought back to life.

A hushed silence fell on them, each Froggy knew what it would mean to them if the Sudarshana Chakra were to be recreated once more on earth using the mythic formula of three parts of ammonites – of specific dimensions – mined from the west, and one special ammonite of the east.

With the spinning disk in our hands we can at last dream in our long sleep. It will suck in the tidal forces that live inside all humans, the force that fuels the dreams to come alive. Yes, to feed ourselves of dreams we must snatch it from others. However, it must be said, that is their problem, obviously, not ours!” Mama Froggy said this in an airily manner, there was no sign on her face that she felt any regret for the actions she and her gang were conspiring to commit.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t wait, I can’t wait to dissect the The Shaligram Ammonite into two and pour in its inside chambers our powdery mixture and then put it back together again, and watch it spin and spin and spin into motion!” Baby Froggy was as jumpy and as fast of speech as a box of fireworks gone out of control, spitting and shooting off sparks in every direction. The others could not believe how accelerated her words came out, yet they somehow managed to get the gist!

But what of The Shaligram? Heck, who knows where it is!” Papa Froggy was troubled, they had come this far and now here was a stumbling block that could put a beastly blockade on all their hard work.

Yeah, Papa is right on that one. The last piece is in the east, you told us that, but whereabouts in the east of England?” Tall Froggy, her forehead crinkled in worry lines thanks to her frowning eyes, beckoned Mama Froggy to provide them all with an answer.

A chubby professional with an astounding set of skills, including that of how to allay the fears and tensions of her associates, Mama Froggy smiled smugly, she was as conceited as she was expert in her methods of research.

East means the east, my dear comrades.” She knew perfectly well that none of the other three quite caught sense of her cryptic response.

Well, duh! Of course, east is east, what else could it be? Which means we will have to tell our parents we’re off to a new school trip to – I don’t know…”  Baby Froggy leant her head to one side as she re-created the map in the school corridor, that big colourful poster of a funny looking island floating on a sea of light blue, and as she did so, she tried hard to remember the famous beaches along the eastern coast of England, “….Eastbourne, Hastings, Folkestone, Dover…” As she blurted out names she was hoping that Mama Froggy would stop her to point out that she had guessed correctly, that would be a most marvellous way to show off her intellectual finesse, she thought. But, it so happened that none of her answers satisfied Mama Froggy, who, as it so happened, was patiently waiting for the little one to stop her racket!

Mama Froggy stood up and extended out her arms and then clasped her hands together and cracked her knuckles. The others knew that she knew something that they did not.

We are going to have to come with a pukka school trip form this time, the mission ahead demands it.” Mama Froggy was pacing up and down in front of her juniors like a drill sergeant who had seen the war and was about to enter another one.

What do you mean, Mama?” Tall Froggy screwed her face and then peered at the others in case they were willing to shed some light on the matter. The others were as befuddled as she!

Mama Froggy stepped closer towards the gang and pulled out from her hoody a folded piece of paper. She held it up and stared at it with devotion and then smiled. She placed it on the table. “Go on, open it.” Papa Froggy took a long breath in and then proceeded to unfold the paper. It was a single page, a photocopied page, but absolutely incomprehensible to him, for it was written in ancient hieroglyphic script.

What is THAT?!” They all shouted.

Let’s just say that it is always good to have connections in high places.” Mama Froggy beamed a smile brimming with pure and evil self-satisfaction. “Prepare to pack your bags and your passport. We are going to Nepal, my dear children…”  ♥♥♥ 

The Dreaming Chapter 5

“… But the moon is said to have a dark side. So did these four, not-so-better-known as The Froggies....”

 

Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2016

The Dreaming: Chapter 3 Loos, Poos & Trapdoors

Exactly a week before and many, many miles away from where the white-washed house stood, some rather unexpected events took place deep in the chalky Chiltern Hills of southeast England.

There lay there a quiet village called Great Missenden. So sparsely populated was this place that when one stepped onto its two-platform train station, though it was clean and prettily decorated with flowers, it was never occupied more than five people at a time, and this often convinced the weary traveller that somehow the population who lived there had been evacuated and moved on to elsewhere, leaving behind in the air the trace of a discomforting vagueness. It was an eeriness that did not cause fear, on the contrary, it cajoled the mind to form curious questions. It aroused the feet to investigate more.

The Dreaming Chapter 3

“… its two-platform train station, though it was clean and prettily decorated with flowers, it was never occupied more than five people at a time...”

The silence would occasionally be punctuated, to the delight of the visitor, by the sweet ringing of the bells rung from the Church Of The Immaculate Heart Of Mary. It was difficult to explain, but to hear the peal of the bells, music made by many unseen hands, was always sincere and comforting, persuading the listener to seek the nearest tiny teahouse and take rest, while all the trials of life that plagued the mind was allowed to dissolve away.

Leafy lanes, dense beech woods, streets that coiled and circled with a life of their own, to those who had visited it Great Missenden was undoubtedly an unnoticed gem in the great map of things.

It felt forgotten, when clearly it ought not to be.

Ah, but, things were about to change.

The British Secret Service, MI5, were about to earmark it!

A specialised taskforce of MI5 sought new premises for the expansion of their operational directives. After a rigorous debate, that saw a few of its personnel blow horrendous raspberries at each other so much so that their parents would be ashamed if they had witnessed them at it, a majority vote was achieved. It was decided that the new base of operations should be located in the most inconspicuous and low-profile area in the south of England.

The British Secret Service, by definition, had to do their things in secret. Village or no village, if they had carried out their affairs in open daylight just imagine how, in a swift jiffy, nasty and horrible villains would be able to get their foul minds and dirty hands on precious information and then, quite possibly, go on to destroy the safety of the country and the world beyond. In short, for this project to work, MI5 needed a disguise.

They pondered for weeks and weeks of a shrewd plan that would do the trick, that would let them get away with the building of a large-scale, intelligence-gathering facility, existing right under people’s noses, never detected by civilian eye nor detected by the more seasoned spy of a rival organisation.

Well, a lightbulb moment did arrive, eventually! In every walk of life there is always a genius waiting to happen. On that fateful day in the boardroom, one of the bright young sparks put their hands up and shouted two words, “ROALD DAHL!” His colleagues, dumbfounded by the sheer randomness of his outrageously oddball answer, paused and held their breath for a few seconds before they burst out in laughter, some cried so hard that huge tears squirted out of their eyes, somewhat resembling a leaky tap that had gone berserk!

Oh do shut up, Travers!

Drunk a few too many last night, did you, mate?

Who hired this idiot?

Still reading children’s books, are we?! For God’s sake, grow up!

Suddenly the door opened. A tall and dignified man breezed in. Silence fell on the room like a massive meteor that singed all noises out into irreversible extinction. A long pale face with a roman nose, this man had hardly any hair on his head, only that the long feathery white locks from one side had been pitifully combed and flipped over to the other side to give the illusion that he still possessed something up there. To any child of school age that might have been present in that hushed room, he or she would have quickly pointed out the tall man’s shirt and declared that he was wearing graph paper, for it was checked with black lines. The resulting formation of small boxes made it irresistible for anyone with a creative eye to want to go ahead and conjure up ways the boxes might be filled if one only had a marker pen on them! Tick or colour or join them up?!

Incidentally, this man was called Mr Penton. He had recently been appointed to act as the head of operations for the proposed new MI5 site, his confident and graceful movement indeed confirmed this very well. He coolly strolled over to his chair, sat down and laid his thick files on the table before taking out his wooden pipe, filling it with his special herbs and lighting it. Puffing away while staring questioningly at each member of his team he spoke. “And what might be so incredibly amusing about Mr Roald Dahl? I should like to know.

No one dared to speak. Or, perhaps they had lost their tongue forever. Someone at the back spluttered a bit, but that was it.

Travers…” Mr Penton left the word hanging in the air for a second or two, he loved to fry people with tension, “… has a point.”

Travers gulped and as for everyone else, well, they were still absent of speech, only now a great confusion had set in.

Mr Penton leaned back on his chair and took the pipe out of his mouth. He began to address his team, his voice was calm, laced with a hidden thunderclap of authority.

Mr Roald Dahl – the inimitable Mr Roald Dahl – lived in Great Missenden for 36 years of his life, where he wrote the best examples of children’s fiction ever to be engineered in the history of literature. He is a genius. A masterpiece of an artist. He cannot be replaced. One of a kind. But is it not unusual and grossly unfair that this man – this beacon of inventiveness – had no museum built in his honour?

Some of the team had begun to understand where Mr Penton was going with this.

A great man should be remembered. And greater and nobler still is the effort to action this into reality.” Mr Penton sent a smile of comradery to Travers. A little spooked by the surprising outcome of watching his idea rising to higher places, Travers strained a nervous smile back at the man.

To children and families, both here and across the world, this museum of wonders, a tribute to a fine writer, will be a dream come true. They will flock by their thousands. BUT, oh yes, but, all eyes and all ears, even noses, will be too distracted by the animated pell-mell of the masses to notice our secret operations whirring away behind the scenes, discreetly and safely.

That is a brilliant idea, sir!

You are seriously amazing!

Splendid, just splendid!

Mr Penton did not smile when he leaned forward on the table, resting his elbows in front of him, his pipe clamped in between his thumb and index finger. “Let us begin the construction of The Roald Dahl Museum And Story Centre at once! It is the centenary year of his birth – 2016, a marvellous year to open the gates for them…. AND for us.

Indeed, not three days had passed that The Roald Dahl Museum And Story Centre, with a stroke of magical suddenness, appeared on the main street in Great Missenden. A building had popped out from nowhere! Many of the local residents swore they could not remember any part of its construction. Did a truck come down the road in the middle of the night and unpack the house out from the back of the vehicle and place it on the street? Who knows!

Chapter 3 The Dreaming

“… A kind of white-washed building, its front was endearingly signed with typical Dahlian phrases accompanied with a lovable sketchy illustration of the man himself…”

A kind of white-washed building, its front was endearingly signed with typical Dahlian phrases accompanied with a lovable sketchy illustration of the man himself. As soon as the gates opened the screaming children and their sleepy parents poured in by the bucket loads. Upon entry a team of very lively faces, the ever ebullient front-of-house staff, presented each family with a guide of the venue, and after payment of the entrance fee, everyone received a blue wristband made of thin paper. The children often squealed in excitement at having this tied around their little wrists, whereas the adults could not wait to take it off! There was so much cheering and laughing and giggling that the walls of the building shuddered and shook.

The Dreaming Chapter 3

But is it not unusual and grossly unfair that this man – this beacon of inventiveness – had no museum built in his honour?

After emerging from the ticket booth a colourful map of the grounds sparkled from the wall and this was often the point in the trail where parents received their first bombardment of inquisitive questions from their chubby-cheeked offspring!

Mummy! Mummy! I want to see the hut! Can we go to the hut first, Mummy?!

Dad, I need food! Please, please, can we go to Café Twit now? Please! Pretty please!

Grandpa, are we really going to see a flying plane in that room?

Grandma, what shall we do when we see the crocodile? I’ve never dodged a crocodile before!

Aunty, it says ‘loos’ but there is only toilet paper in there! How do I keep it in if I am desperate?

Uncle, why does ‘Wonka’ look like a big earthworm with a gap in its tummy? Wasn’t he a funny man in the book?

The Dreaming Chapter 3

“… After emerging from the ticket booth a colourful map of the grounds sparkled from the wall...”

And so the questions came and came, and they were endless and awfully funny to hear. It would have nudged even the most depressed person to light up with a smile just by standing there and eavesdropping on these little comedies that were being inadvertently played out by the children and their grownups. It was delightful.

The map was a dazzling preface for whetting the appetites of visitors, fuelling their intrigue, making them wonder as to what scrumptious things laid in wait, however, it was not a complete map. It had a very important part missing from it. Purposefully left out.

The ‘Solo Gallery’ was not completely solo, to speak. It was here that Mr Roald Dahl’s famous writing chair could be found from which he penned his masterpieces, so it was arguably the highlight of the tour, but what none of the children, and nor did their grownups catch a whiff off was that under the chair there was more.

There was a secret trapdoor!

Of course, the trapdoor was not visible, the chair had done a spiffing job in masking it completely from view. If, by chance, the chair was moved a little, any onlooker most certainly would frown and bend down for a closer inspection. You see, the trapdoor was not a plain white door. It had a bright poster stuck on it depicting an old book whose cover was painted of vivid tones of red and yellow, and on it showed a figure of a man with a pipe donned in the strangest looking attire. This book was not written by Mr Roald Dahl! ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’, a classic in its own right, was a peculiar choice and even more peculiar was why it had been glued onto the trapdoor. Whatever could it mean?

When the museum came to close in the evening, and the clamour of voices and rushed feet were no more, and when the lights were all switched off, that is when it would happen. That is when the lights underneath the trapdoor would blink and come on. ♥♥♥  

The Dreaming Chapter 3

“… the trapdoor was not a plain white door. It had a bright poster stuck on it depicting an old book whose cover was painted of vivid tones of red and yellow, and on it showed a figure of a man with a pipe donned in the strangest looking attire...”

Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre |Great Missenden | Buckinghamshire | UK 2016

The Dreaming: Chapter 2 The Oat String

Breathless and red-faced, Arundhati felt a rush of triumphant joy as her square, white-washed home finally came into view. All else in the world, apart from the nervous throbbing in her own ears of course, was beginning to grow quiet, yawning back into sleep, and even her house, now safely blanketed under the hushed curtain of dusk, ushered her to do the same.

There was no sign of Amma outside the house. Arundhati felt a faint stab of disappointment. She had hoped that she would rush by Amma and collect the letter at the same time, reading its contents while on her feet as she made her way up the stairs so that by the time she reached her study, located in the high attic of the house, she would be in the right place already to think and ponder over what she had just read. If the letter was sent from who she thought it was, every second was priceless, it counted, and could not therefore be wasted.

Arundhati stopped running. She reasoned that there was no point in rushing anymore. Her mother was in the house somewhere and most probably stuck in deep with the job of heating the food yet again. There was little chance of getting anything out from her when she was busy in the kitchen. She could not and would not allow herself to be distracted. It was her sacred garden in which she grew warm foods, nourished by her need to give and feed. Sometimes, Arundhati imagined that it was the kitchen that had birthed her mother into being.

As Arundhati came closer to the house she was grateful that she lived here, at least because she knew that dusk time could make anyone believe in magic. Dusk did beautiful things to Arundhati’s house, so beautiful that for a moment she forgot about the prospect of the letter. She could still make out the white-washed house. The eggplant hues of evening had not taken away its striking presence, and nor had it made its walls dimmer or indistinct so to let it melt away with the other houses on the street. Her house had an inexplicable solidarity about it, forever rising out of any sort of obscurity.

The three rectangle windows, evenly spaced out across the front façade, had their shutters wide open to let the cool evening air pass through the inside of the house, and in one of them, the one doused in rich honey light shed out by a flaming stove and a few shabby kerosene lamps, Arundhati saw the glad working figure of her Amma. She was wearing her favourite bright red cardigan over a straight-cut dress printed all over with giant cobalt flowers floating on a canvas of poppy pink. The sight of her mother spurred Arundhati to break into a sprint once more and within seconds she was over the threshold. Her mother spun round.

Arundhati, what time do you call this?” In her hand was a long wooden spatula and she was playfully jabbing it in the air, reprimanding her daughter like a strict schoolmistress would do to a naughty class of children. Arundhati paid no attention to her mother’s words because the old lady’s eyes told a different story. They were incredibly wide and dark and expressive. She wished she could embrace them.

Amma, not now! Where is my letter?!” Arundhati looked at her mother searchingly.

There is no letter.” Her mother casually turned around and strolled back over to the clay stove. A great silver pan was on it and it could be heard bubbling away, sending into the air snaky plumes of aromatic scents, a welcoming and friendly infusion of cinnamon and cardamom soon filled the room. The wall above was grandly replete with hanging pots and pans, some silver and some brass and others plain wooden. At receiving the news that there was no letter, Arundhati noticed that all the draping utensils of the kitchen appeared to be tickling in relish and sneering at her. It may have just been the breeze, but she concluded that it was not. The kitchen and her Amma had joined forces to give her a good telling off!

Arundhati stepped away and took a seat beside the eating table. Her shoulders were slumped in defeat and dismay.

Beti…

Arundhati did not look up. She felt taken down for having had her hopes raised and then only too soon, for it to be dropped to the ground, shattering into shards whose numbers were too many to count.

Beti, Arundhati. Look at me…” She did not know how her mother had suddenly come so close to her, for she felt her chin being lifted by those safe and warm and tubby fingers. Arundhati looked up. Her mother tenderly lifted a stray lock of a hair from her daughter’s forehead and carefully slid it behind her ear. Arundhati smiled and put her arms around her Amma’s bouncy belly, her head resting on the old lady’s navel, the centre of the earth. Her mother enveloped her two sturdy arms around her daughter. Together, both of them became silently locked. The letter did not matter.

There was no letter, beti…

I don’t care, Amma. Let us eat.” Arundhati did not want to let go. She could have slept quite easily on that round pillow that heaved as if it were related to the voice of the ocean.

Arre beti, what I want to tell you is that there is no letter. There is, actually…”, and she paused a bit before continuing on to see if her daughter was listening.

What, Amma?” Arundhati spoke but she was clearly uninterested. The sweet peace of hugging tight her Amma’s bulbous belly erased all other worries and concerns from her mind.

There is no letter. But there is a package for you.

At first Arundhati did not move, as if she had not heard the word ‘package’ at all. She carried on hugging her mother, eyes closed, so near to nodding off completely.

And then her eyes opened like a flash of lightning. A jolt of awakening forced her to stand up on her feet.

What did you say, Amma? A package?” She could not quite catch her breath.

Her mother smiled knowingly and then walked over to the rickety cabinet opposite the stove where she kept her famous jars of homemade lime pickles and mango chutneys, and took out from its depths a brown package tied up in oat string. Arundhati’s heart was racing.

It came for you this morning but you, being you, were out as usual. I think it is from them – from him”. She passed the package over to Arundhati. There was a pool of tranquil pride in her mother’s eyes, they twinkled and glistened and danced under the humble light of the kerosene lamp.

Arundhati was wracked by a wave of pleasurable nerves as she weighed the package. Her fingers sizzled like rippling electricity when she brushed her hand over the white sticker on the front that had her name and address printed on, and oh what to tell of when she came to scrutinise the official stamp of the British flag in the top right-hand corner. Her heart galloped and flew and she, in that tiny room and in those tiny moments, had turned into a treasure seeker, on the brink of opening a new find!

Her mother saw how different her girl had become, how happy and excited she was. Arundhati had a way of showing joy that was exactly like her late father’s, it was an irrepressible burst of life above life, the stuff that made things float and stay in the air.

Beti, I still have a few more things to heat up, but while I do that, why don’t you go upstairs and freshen up…

Arundhati beamed a bright, thankful smile at her mother before hugging her once again. And this time it was even tighter than before.

Acha, acha, let me go now otherwise we’ll never eat tonight!

Amma…” Arundhati whispered and slowly edged closer to her mother’s droopy crimson cheeks.

What is it? Is there a mosquito on my face, again? Those silly critters, we will never be rid of them!

Stay very still, Amma. Don’t move.” Arundhati’s eyes were now piercingly trained on something which her mother could not see.

Beti, get it off me and give it to me so that I can squelch it with my flip-flops!

Suddenly, with the prowess of a theatrical actress, Arundhati pressed her lips deep and hard into her mother’s cheeks. The kiss shocked the poor lady and nearly knocked her over to the floor. Before her mother could open her eyes fully Arundhati had darted out of the room and sped up the narrow stone stairs towards her den of knowledge – the attic – which was so high up in the house that she believed it touched the sky and whose window peered out to face the ancient stone giants who lived behind her village, or at least by night, for in the day they disguised themselves rather well as vast and jagged mountains tipped with snow.

As Arundhati strode up the stairs, she knew that the first thing she would do upon stepping into her attic would be to untie the oat string. ♥♥♥  

The Dreaming Chapter 2

“… She felt taken down for having had her hopes raised and then only too soon, for it to be dropped to the ground, shattering into shards whose numbers were too many to count…”

The Dreaming Chapter 2

“… She did not know how her mother had suddenly come so close to her, for she felt her chin being lifted by those safe and warm and tubby fingers. Arundhati looked up…”

The Dreaming Chapter 2

“… Arundhati beamed a bright, thankful smile at her mother before hugging her once again. And this time it was even tighter than before…”

Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Hampshire | UK 2016

Country Roads, Take Me Home, To A Place Where I Belong…

Once upon a recent time there lived an ever so petite hobbit lady whose vertical axis spanned 158cm, which was probably the best explanation for why microscopes were invented in the first place, however what was imperative to remember in her case was that the top part of that axis – her head – was devotedly and splendidly in communion with all things imaginative. She loved to bide her days by conjuring up stories whose contents pulled a clean punch at the rules of order and logic, favouring instead to toy with the possibilities that only in dreams we allow ourselves to mingle with.

It was on an ordinary day, just another number staring out of the calendar, on which she discovered to her skipping delight that she had been accepted into University to study the art of writing. She had always wished in her heart to do something like this, and now, as a consequence of a succession of astonishing and fated encounters and correspondences, she was about to embark on a new journey and this time her footfalls would be made across the white expanses of papery lands.

That 158cm girl that never grew is me, but You knew that way before I even got started!

Ladies, I AM IN!!!” I shouted my lungs out and if only I could have had a rooftop and a violin I swear I would not have hesitated, for I would have gone on to burst into a musical, leaping from roof to roof to sing the rhapsody of my joy out to all four corners of, ahem ahem, Winchester! Oh do cut out that insufferable and theatrical bit of whimpering! You know as well as I do that if I am to bellow any louder just for the sole purpose of making certain that You hear me, from wherever You might be chomping down Your mouldy lettuce leaves, then it would have obviously required Your exceptional co-operation insofar You would have to import to my house an old brass gramophone horn from which I could roar out my message! All that fuss, You say?! Exactly!

Mazzy!!!! I am so happy for you!!! I knew you could do it!” Agnes flung her arms around me and squeezed me tight. I now know fully well what it must feel like to be in the unclasping embrace of a hungry boa constrictor! What strange fun to think that one’s joy could lead to instantaneous epiphanies worthy of any respectable wildlife documentary!

One second there I was hesitatingly accepting that I was in the strangulating grip of a mighty predator, and my strained bleats of happiness the mimicry of a tiny marsupial clinging to dear life, and then, the next moment I was suddenly shoved into the rather rough and tumble scenario of the poor spectator in whose hands the ball had somehow fallen and now half a dozen giant rugby players were storming in to get it! Why do I refer to this blustery analogy? A simple enough reason if only You knew her. You see, Katie was there too!

WOOOOOHOOOOOOOO! Go Mazzy!!!!” Katie caved her entire arms around my neck so that I no longer could see the sky and my vision went blurry as the last remaining globules of oxygen in my pint-sized lungs lurched out of me! I was all hot-wired to be blacked-out!

Oh blimin’ heck, I can’t breathe!” I went from being a round dough ball to a flat pastry sheet and all courtesy of the rolling pin effect of my fabulous friends!

And then I remembered about the odd workings underlying the multiverse of happiness and to my enormous relief I soon realised that though both my mates had me clenched in a squishy embrace, I was more alive than ever! Pay attention that the heavenly strawberry sticky jam found in between two slices of Victorian sponge cake is never ever seen complaining about its restrained predicament, precisely for the reason that it is in between the companionship of those two essential and contrasting slices that it derives its enjoyment of being a substance of purpose. I was in a sticky situation too, fidgeting in between the wrestling hugs of my two good mates, but it was the most nicest sort of unbreathable jollity and, if the truth be known, I was incredibly ecstatic with my news that I forgot to inhale and exhale as normally one would, and I suppose that is what the purest of joys does to us. We become so wrapped up in the moment that we are more than willing to dismiss the necessities associated with survival off the pitch and to the backbench!

I do not know how I finally found myself cut loose from their chain of arms but eventually I did and a terrific idea whooshed out of my brains that if I did not share it I would be on course for internal implosion. Highly disgusting bit of trouble!

I don’t know about you ladies, but I feel like partying!” I wriggled my nostrils, a trademark indication that we had to anoint the occasion of my good news with something recklessly inappropriate!

Swinging in the children’s park!” Katie hit jackpot!

Let’s do it!” Agnes must have carefully observed in the past that I suffered from the uncurbed tendency to wriggle my shoulders when the excitement got the better of me, for she was giving hers a thorough workout as she mouthed the auspicious words!

An unanimous agreement reached, the three of us wasted not a second more and broke through the red gates of Abbey Gardens! The ducks on the banks by the river went into shock at the approach of us harridans wearing wicked smiles, fearfully diving back into the water, some even capsizing their heads to leave their feathery bottoms bobbing about in the dire hope that we would not see them! We meant them no harm, of course!

We raced to the swings, alas, they were already in use by legitimate occupants whose ages were around three decades younger than ours!

We’ll wait it out! Let’s head out to the bench over there!” I may not be the most mature of people however when the resource of patience is required I am on the case! We sat ourselves down and admired the spray of pink blossoms on the trees when all of a sudden a little girl of 16 months came up to me. Snot trickling down her nose as if they were two unclosed taps, this adorable child was called Evie and she brought me gifts that she had lovingly picked up from the grass. They included a teeny piece of granite stone that seemed as if it had once been embedded in a great wall, a piece of twig and a curled leaf. We spoke to their parents for a long time and all the while I was pleasantly surprised to see that here was a little angel who somehow knew I was the bearer of good news. I have safely kept little Evie’s gifts in my bag, adamantly believing them to be a sign of good and promising wishes handed down to me from Destiny itself.

Wasn’t she so cute!?” Katie hugged herself.

Oh my god Mazzy, she likes you!” Agnes could see that I had turned awfully broody.

I frowned with a dreamy smile on my face as Evie and her parents waved goodbye to us and strolled out of the park. It did not matter that I had no daughter of my own, what was infinitely more significant for me was that the Universe had its own unfathomable way of ensuring that the part of my heart that was a maternal womb would always be filled with tokens of pure love from little people, wherever I was in the world. Love was not biology, it was a constant.

She is an angel. I know it...” I tenderly gazed at my friends and smiled assuredly.

Mazzy, get your camera out!” When Katie discharges orders I am convinced that even the Prime Minster in Downing Street jolts out his leather chair with a start!

With pleasure, my darling, but may I ask what brought this sudden desire to be photographed?” I plundered my bag whilst my curious poser hung in the air like an over-sized question mark.

Agnes exchanged conspiratorial glances with Katie. I tensed up a little.

Mazzy….” Katie began to lean slowly on her back and one of her legs began to rise.

The camera now poised to shoot, I was muddled by what I saw and yet in equal parts I was sure that the two of them were up to something that would seal this day as the beginning of a new and fabulously adventurous chapter!

Katie’s right leg now raised above the bench, stretched and pointed, I distractedly twiddled with my camera and remarked, “Yes, I know hobbits have hairy legs, Katie! I vow that I will wax my legs more often!” I grunted in feigned indignation. Before I could slice in edgeways with another word, Agnes determinedly grabbed Katie’s uplifted leg, and both imagining it to be an acoustic guitar, my two friends burst out singing the simple and nostalgic lyrics to a song that has always been embossed in my dreams ever since I was as small a girl as our bearer of good tidings, Princess Evie:

Country roads, take me home, to a place, where I belong…♥♥♥

Celebration In The Park!

“… Agnes determinedly grabbed Katie’s uplifted leg, and imagining it to be an acoustic guitar, both my friends burst out singing the simple and nostalgic lyrics to a song that has always been embossed in my dreams ever since I was as small a girl as our bearer of good tidings, Princess Evie…”

Celebration In The Park!

We’ll wait it out! Let’s head out to the bench over there!

Celebration In The Park!

“… I soon realised that though both my mates had me clenched in a squishy embrace, I was more alive than ever...”

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Abbey Gardens | Winchester | UK 2016

 

“We Meet Again! Mooowahahaha!!”

At a writer’s discussion today we launched into a chat about our most silliest and funniest poems. I particularly liked this one of mine and have amended the last sentence for an improved flow of rhythm…

MI6 have just confirmed that the short stripy one You see
Is in fact an employee of the British Intelligence Agency!
Oh my goodness gracious me, he had us all fooled yesterday
Stubby hands known to have detained criminals, as far as India’s Bombay
But like all our Brit Bobbies, he captured his witless prey with a smile
Hence his older offending brother gives in to this unique arresting style
Do not become complacent for there is one more thief around – a plump plum on the loose
Approach her with caution or risk falling for Amma Goose…!! ♥♥♥

Undercover Bobby Captures Mastermind! Mumsy Still On Loose!

“… MI6 have just confirmed that the short stripy one you see, Is in fact an employee of the British Intelligence Agency...”

Photography & Poetry: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | International Amma Day | Spring Re-Union Series | Winchester | UK 2015