Happy Halloween!

The murk of the underworld and I lunged my hand down

Saw her faded orange

Skin scarred, bruised

I picked her

That evening magicked words

Into the crypt of her womb

Words that drew into the deep black

Smiling earth-bound flickers

Of the sun’s maternal flesh:

Light.

Light.

Light.  

 

Words & Pictures: © Mazzy Khatun | 2017

Happy Halloween!Happy Halloween!Happy Halloween!

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Snow, A Christmas Tale

christmazzy-2016

 

Christmas morning whispered into my ear.

I wriggled and turned on my back, and though my eyes were still kissed down tight with delicious sleep, I let myself rise. Sat on my bed, I stretched and grinned, a grin made of home and comfort and Amma’s old hands. I must have been smiling like that for a long time, because soon I felt the edges of my room wanting to come apart, releasing me and everything in it into the air.

My eyes flickered open.

Something had changed.

I glanced around the room. Even in the grey dimness I saw that an immense stillness had entered the heart of objects. My copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the brass figurine of Horus, the bells from Nepal, each and all, now gazed at me in perfect pause. When I picked up the bedside clock and pressed it against my ear its ticks came out muffled, as though it had lived its previous life somewhere on a deep seabed.

With a sharp turn I eyed the chink between the curtains.

And there I saw what my heart had desired all year long. I knew of that rareness that glittered between the drapes.

Overnight, the world had grown a skin forged of starlight.

Leaping up from my bed I rushed to the curtains and opened them wide.

Snow! It was snow!

As far as the eye can see.

It was so thick and fresh and crisp, that I was certain that the whole world was covered in it.

I must have jumped a few times in excitement, then darted out of my bedroom door, and ran down the stairs, missing three steps at a time, before dunking my feet into my Wellington boots and pulling on my duffel coat.

‘Moni, where do you think you are going?’ Amma had one hand on her chubby hip whilst in the other she held an open box of cornflakes.

‘Amma, please –‘

‘You can’t go like that!’ She waddled over to the wooden chair and from under her shawl she grabbed her red woolly scarf and flung it at me. ‘We don’t want you catching a cold now.’

I caught the scarf and swiftly wrapped it round my neck. ‘Thank you, Amma!’ I beamed a smile at her.

She shook her head, chuckled and swung back to prepare breakfast.

Sliding the latch off, which seemed to take forever, I finally pulled the door open.

The air was clarity itself, laced in ice and quiet, as if history had not found it yet. Chimney tops and the tips of the highest branch, and even the sky itself, all sparkled pristine white.

I drew a long breath in and stepped foot onto the garden path, the sharp crunch under my boot the loudest sound for miles. I took another step and this time I dug my boots down further. I was curious to know if my other world still existed, whether it remained in slumber underneath the white.

As I was about to walk on I discovered that I was not alone. A robin redbreast dipped and dived overhead. It finally perched its tubby little body on the snow-cloaked needle of the spruce tree at the bottom of the garden. He looked in my direction and started to chirp, and with each note a few flakes, like chippings of stars, scattered down below.

I giggled and hopped over to the tree, my woolly red scarf bouncing along, and only once did I glance over my shoulder, just so to admire my trail of deep-set footprints.

The robin sang its sweet song.

And the scarf and I twirled underneath him.

Two red voices in a new world.

 

Words & Image by Masufa (‘Mazzy’) Khatun | Winchester | UK 2016

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

Platform Antiques: Mr Ant & I

A verbatim account lifted off from my recent entries in my travel journal:

The modern serpent, a rushing taut declaration of uncatchable steel, sent my gypsy locks into an electrical streak-burst of anarchy. I felt beyond myself. That is when I saw the little chap whizzing towards the vast canyon of my shadow. In my mind I imagined that Mr Ant, who was now scurrying bravely across the baked concrete platform, pausing for breath, and then by chance looking up, discovering that the orb of the sun had mysteriously blacked out. All of it gone. My form elevated to a sheltering eclipse from the heatwave that had for days clinched the English landscape to a halt. To think that a passing train was invested with that level of casual power so as to unleash noble service from my untied hair made me tickle with laughter, and my toes, forever leaning towards the horizon, skipped up and down on the earth. What huge fun this is! I have yet to step foot onto the mat of my destination and already I have offered myself up as an unfathomable adventure for a creature no one else cares to see, likewise he has unknowingly proportioned the same benevolence of magic into the preface of my journey…  ♥♥♥   

Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | In between cities | UK 2016

The Dreaming: Chapter 9 Ali Baba’s Tea Shop

The tiny hut of azure, its long narrow windows bordered in blood scarlet, had a third of its foundation teetering on the edge of the vast cliff face, as if it were flirting with the thought of diving into the gushing valley below. Of rickety build, its bricks were made more of guts and brazen defiance, not of the expected clay and shale.

Arundhati, a little out of breath from the steep ascent, felt relief soothe over the sores on her feet as she read out loud the words on the rectangle board hung on the hut’s sloping roof of tiles, “Mantola Tea Shop”. Her feet now paced on ahead faster, the words pulling her in like a fish caught in a net. Not quite understanding why or how, but she sensed it so clearly that this place had been waiting for her, that it had held a patient vigil for the day she would delve inside. High above her head, on the currents of the clear alpine breeze, swayed and fluttered hundreds and hundreds of prayer flags, squares of fierce and bright colours, and her interest soon fixed tight on them. She was close to tripping over if she had kept her eyes on them for any longer. Each one seemed to be sewn with its own character, as if it were a person, and together their hushed voices beckoned her to venture ever forth towards the hut, whose walls were painted from dyes harvested from the great Himalayan sky.

Arundhati saw the two wooden saloon doors, ribbed and chipped, motionlessly hang in front of her and nervousness pricked her skin with needle-point sharpness, for she had never entered these premises, because she had overheard at school that the old man who ran the place was a madman. What if he were to use his cunning ways to trap her inside forever? Unlike the Ali Baba of ‘Arabian Nights’, what if this man of the same name had no care or intention for goodwill, and that instead he poured all his malice into the forging of this den of corrupt things, a place cleverly cloaked under by the daytime guise of an unassuming tea house? No, she could not let imaginary horrors, truths stained out of uncertainties, stall her feet now, and with a deep sigh that came from beneath the sheath of her heart, she whispered fearlessly, “Open Sesame!”, and with that she pushed the saloon doors open and stepped inside.

The blazing light of the day suddenly became eclipsed and in its place, there she was, in a room that only suckled on the secrecies of the night, a wide room caressed in the fog of smouldering wisps of frankincense, whose sticks burnt from brass holders made of filigree bodies fixed midway along the teak-panelled walls. A naked bulb hung down from the centre of the ceiling by a single threadbare wire and when its light merged and mingled with the languorous wisps of incense smoke it made everything seem as if it were a memory that had estranged itself from the past of a stranger. Arundhati stood still, her eager eyes panning from one end of the room to the other. Small tables, each adjoined by four chairs, were strewn around the room, some were filled with bantering customers on each side talking over each other, on others pairs of old men whiled the time away as they became engrossed in deep conversations on course for lasting as long as eternity itself. Without a doubt what united them all was their singular and unspoken love for tea, glass cups filled to the rim with luscious thick brews of hot milky nectar, and from each exuded ethereal twists of steam that danced into the accumulating growth of incense smog like phantom dervishes twirling, spinning, and finally losing themselves into the bliss and ecstasy of annihilation.

Soon her searching eyes froze in their tracks. Ahead of her, beyond the counter, stretched out across the entire wall like some vestige of the Milky Way itself, she saw the most beautiful prayer mat she had ever laid eyes on in her life. It depicted the Kaaba, cloaked in black mystery, which stood in the centre, and it was surrounded by two tall minarets of pearl and beyond that lay ragged mountains and valleys that rose out from the earth, their towering presence spoke testimony to the ancientness of the site. The inner border of the rug was intricately woven in geometric patterns of black and white, and the more she peered at it, the more the patterns grew, as if it were something alive and evolving by the passing of each second. She could not take her eyes off it, and taking a step forward, she gazed through it and for a moment or so, she could have sworn a river of peacock eyes swam through the currents of the geometry, perfectly reamed and riddled inside the borders of the rug.

The janamaz you see was handed down to me by my great-great grandfather.

Arundhati snapped to her right where stood an old man, not too short, not too tall, he wore a bushy white beard, his face speckled in countless age spots, and on top of his oil-slicked hair he wore a black cap, it was flamboyantly fashioned with circular mirrors embroidered in to the velvety fabric, affixed with zig-zag threading of yellow and red. He looked at Arundhati thoughtfully. She knew then that this was no madman. She could feel that her presence was awaited by him. She chanced another glimpse of the prayer mat, in case, she feared, it became obscure or melted away without her ever paying a proper compliment to it.

It is extraordinary. Like a storybook, but with no pages.” She turned round to face the old man again and realised that he had not taken his kindly eyes away from her. He had not let loose a single twitch of an expression to tell her of what he thought of her assessment, but that was not necessary. Arundhati smiled at him just the same.

Come with me, have a better look at it”, and then he paused and she sensed that he had gone as far as reading into her soul. He resumed, “… so that my mat can take a better look at you.” The old man walked round in front of her and gestured with his left hand to follow him. Wedged within his right arm was a silver tray, and together with the single pen clipped inside the top pocket of his grey kurta, she noticed that he did not seem to be as old as she had presumed he would be, it was rather more accurate to say that here was a man who was of the moment, ageless and fantastically unhindered by the arrow of time.

As she paced slowly beside him some of the customers looked up at her from their tables. Brief swivels of the eye that made it apparent to her that she was a novice here in this steamy world of tea and incense and timeless prayer mats inherited down the generations. When they got to the counter, a smooth ledge of teak wood, the old man laid the dish on top of it and then leaned his elbow on it before cupping his head in his hand. “I dream to go there someday.

Awed by the stunning craftsmanship displayed by the weaver behind its creation, it took a while or so before Arundhati noticed that the old man was still speaking to her. “I am sorry, yes, yes, of course, you will go there someday. I hope you do. It is Mecca, right?

Are you not Muslim?

Well, to be honest with you, Ali Baba – …”, Arundhati halted herself, she felt embarrassed, for it struck her that it was foolish to presume with such haste that this man was the owner of the Mantola Tea Shop. “… Erm, you are Ali Baba, right?

The old man let out a hearty chuckle. “Your instincts serve you well, yes, I am Ali Baba”.

Arundhati smiled, happy that she had got it right. “Well….” , and she uttered his name decisively as if she were willing him to become more alive than he really was, “… Ali Baba, I am not really sure what I am. I don’t have a prayer mat – a jana –..” and she had already forgotten what it was called in the man’s native tongue and raised her eyebrows for assistance.

A janamaz”.

Yes, a janamaz. I don’t have a janamaz at home, but I do have on my bedside table a wonderful image of Maa Sarasthwathi, the Goddess of Knowledge and Music. She is like a good friend to me, I look to her for help when I need it.

The old man smiled, a wise smile that told her that he knew of more things than a tea house alone could store within its four walls. “It is important that we all have something to believe in when things turn hopeless and dark”. A glimmer of moonlight drilled a noble stand in the core of his pupils, it immediately inspired Arundhati to treat the man with the utmost respect. The lack of long years of acquaintance between the two of them, that was usually required for such respect to ferment from, was suddenly irrelevant.

Why don’t you take a seat, my dear…” He did not have to scan the room, with blinding spontaneity he pointed at a table, the tiniest of them all, near the wall on the right, it was completely unoccupied, “… and I will make you a fine cup of tea and while I do that you can sit and choose what you wish to ask me of The Shaligram Ammonite.

Arundhati looked at him bewilderingly and followed his movements as he swiftly got down with the business of making her tea behind the counter. With his focus down on the stove, he once more gave his gentle order, “Off you go, my dear, there is a free table over there, and I will come to you soon”.

She pressed through the thick tresses of the fragrant frankincense, a spidery web that brought impenetrable mystery to the place, and when she reached the table, she saw a gleaming hardback book on top of it. It looked like a brick that was birthed by these cliffs and its colour dyed out of the juices of a billion sal leaves. Arundhati sat herself down and put her rucksack by her feet. She glanced back at the counter where the old man quietly whistled to himself as he poured out loose tea leaves into the cast iron pot. She knew he would not mind it if she were to inspect the book on the table, but still felt safer if she were to do it whilst he was preoccupied with his work. She drew the book closer to her and brushed her palm over the large, gold-gilded words embossed deep down into the canvas of emerald green. “The Holy Qu’ran”. The inner border of the cover arrested her senses, it was a design of ornate lattice, arches and paisley shapes, and within its tracery she received that unmistakeable impression that the grace of the peacock, its plumes of elegant feathers, was staring back at her. She felt as if home had followed her to here. As she picked up the book, the gravity of its weight mimicking a miniature earth, a single loose paper stuck out from within its covers. Curious, she carefully opened the book out and discovered that one of the pages, where the inked words floated along the page in strokes that resembled the hull of boats, had been torn from the centre stitching, and not only that, the page itself had a violent rip down one side, a lightning bolt cursed only by the hands of an angry soul. It saddened Arundhati to see this, and she concluded that this could not be the wrongdoing of the old man. She believed in her heart that such behaviour was not in his constitution. Bending down into her rucksack, Arundhati poked about until her fingers hooked onto her pencil case from which she took out a small roll of clear tape. She surveyed the whereabouts of the old man. He was expertly pouring the steaming light brown concoction from a burnt pan down into the glass tumbler, a wide smile adorned his face, a tell-tale sign of a man who considered himself the grandfather of delicious waterfalls with the potency to quench the thirst of the weary.

Just as the old man came over to her, Arundhati slipped the clear tape back into her rucksack with a satisfied grin. The old man picked up the book, he discreetly brushed his thumb over the title, and Arundhati was just quick enough to catch the ghost of a tear drop swell in the old man’s eyes. He had lost someone that was close to him, someone who had walked out on him. Arundhati was certain about this, more certain than anything she had ever been certain about, and that, like the way the Mantola Tea Shop tip-toed on the edge of uncertainty, gambling each moment with the irregularities of the land, so did this old man appear to her as if he were waiting out for the return of someone who meant the world to him, and that he still did. She wished she could ask him more about why his copy of the holy book kept within its folds the pieces of a broken heart, but alas time was not on her side, and she shuffling her back straight, thanked and smiled at the old man for his generous hospitality.

The old man sat opposite her before passing over to her a delicious cup of golden tea, its flowery steam trails coiling towards the ceiling and staying up there, feeding into the already convoluted clouds of water and scent. “So, do you have a name?

It felt right to tell him of her name after her first sip, an initiation of trust fulfilled. “Arundhati Mehta. I always walk past your tea shop on my way to school, but never got a chance to come inside.” She saw that the old man had not prepared a cup for himself.

Why would a schoolgirl be so interested in The Shaligram Ammonite?” He leaned in closer, his arms crossed over the silver tray.

I think you know the answer already, Ali Baba. You must know of a treasure, the one I seek, just like your namesake once did in the ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’.

A faint smile passed by his face. He admired her precocious acuity.

She took another sip, as the warm liquid cascaded in between the valleys of her lungs an overwhelming power forced her eyes to anchor down on the beautiful janamaz on the wall. Not taking her eyes from it, she spoke to the old man, “We are both seekers of treasures, Ali Baba, and I trust you will be able to help me find mine.” She returned to meet his gaze. “Please, help me…

He was reading her soul, she could sense it with magnificent lucidity, as palpable as if it were the sun kissing her cool moist skin after bathing in rivers all day. He let out a long exhale. “There is magic everywhere, my dear Arundhati, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikeliest of places”.

Arundhati was clueless as to where to begin. The old man had spoken, word for word, the very same passage that was shown to her through her binoculars the night before. She came in a little closer, darting a look in every direction to ensure that no one was listening in, and she whispered hesitatingly, “Are you working for The British Secret Service, too?

I’ve never heard of them….”, he replied it so matter-of-fact that Arundhati’s growing crescendo of adventure and drama fell flat on its face, she reprimanded herself for being too ambitious and was about to slump back into her chair when, quick as a flash, the old man firmly gripped her arm and forced her to freeze, “… though I suspect you will ask me about Mr Roald Dahl now”. Slowly, he broke into a conspiratorial smile. With a huge wave of relief, she did, too.

The Dreaming Chapter 9

“… Slowly, he broke into a conspiratorial smile. With a huge wave of relief, she did, too…”

See that table over there, young Arundhati Mehta?” He nodded his head to his left and she followed it, and lo and behold, there was a long table scattered with a miscellany of objects comprising of old and dusty things, as if they were long ago collected up from the raining of a rare breed of meteor shower. “On that table, one of those objects is the hip bone of Mr Roald Dahl. He had it removed after a near-fatal plane crash into the desert.

Ali Baba, I don’t understand. How will identifying the hip bone of a dead writer help me to find The Shaligram Ammonite?” She was normally extraordinarily inquisitive and would have, under other circumstances, ran to the table, on the contrary now a thick sludge of confusion had set in, she could not see how the dots joined up and that mildly terrified her.

The old man folded his arms and leant back in his chair, he knew very well that she would ask him this question, a reasonable poser, if ever there was one. “All of us have been entrusted with a part of the puzzle, no one individual can see the whole picture.” He turned around his chair slightly and looked endearingly over at the table, “And my part is this. Take what you will from it.

Arundhati did not know what to do now, and secretly she was hoping her binoculars would perform that handy trick of the light show again, however, it was resiliently mute on the matter. She was on her own for the time being.

Do not waste time, Arundhati Mehta. Get up and seek your treasure.

Arundhati slowly rose up from her chair and made her way to the table, and from afar, given that the giant janamaz posed itself as a natural canvas, one would have said that the girl seemed as though she were walking against the backdrop of the desert dunes, towards the Kaaba, in the direction of treasures that did not glint like the coveted sheen of gold or silver, for these treasures in question beheld forms grained out of dust and humility.

The old man did not move from his chair, though his watchful presence walked beside her. When Arundhati found herself stood in front of the table, everything on it fiercely vied for her attention, each mothballed artefact competing to be adopted and given sanctuary inside the protection of her rucksack. Her eyes soared all over the surface of the table, possessed by the flitting motions of a butterfly. Here there were glass vials, over there old postcards, pens, metal balls, a vase of yellow pencils, rusty scissors, framed photographs, slabs of stone, the list just seemed endless the more she peered and rummaged into the sea of trinkets below her. “Mr Roald Dahl’s hip bone… where are you….?”, she muttered under her breath. She tried to spread eagle her hands over the objects, crossing above them, waiting for her palms to frizzle with a sensation that would tell her that she had located it. It did not help. She turned round to face the old man, he had not budged the slightest bit, he was still wearing an expression that said louder than words that he had an immense faith in her and in her skill of detection. She gulped and pursed her lips and tentatively turned back to face the table. The smog of tea and frankincense swirled around her, a phantasmagoria of allies caving into her ears, ushering her sight to look deeper into the odd spread of objects. “How am I supposed to know what a hip bone looks like?

The Dreaming Chapter 9

“… a long table scattered with a miscellany of objects comprising of old and dusty things, as if they were long ago collected up from the raining of a rare breed of meteor shower…”

A gust of cooling breeze whooshed through the shutters and tickled her neck, she swerved round. The room descended into a new quietness, the tables of customers no more, and the janamaz hung on the wall, fluttered a little, wanting to pull itself off so that it may float down to her. A light ripple, a gravitational wave, travelled across the woven scene of the Kaaba. Arundhati was startled as she observed a thousand million peacock eyes rustle inside its geometric borders, and the next moment each peacock eye transformed itself into a dark ribbed shell, rotating on its axis. In the centre of the rug shimmered a river as jet black as a starless night. The music of a flute player trilled out from under its surface. What sweet music it was, it penetrated deep into the fibres of her skin, and she heard it say to her that it had chosen to stay there forever.

That ought to help you, Arundhati Mehta”. The old man spoke and the world of home and Amma and school all came rushing back to her. The janamaz went back to how it was and the din of idle chattering and clinks of tumblers once again filled the room. Her mind unable to comprehend what she had just witnessed – or had she dreamt it? – she could not tell, but in her gut she was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that the old man was somehow right. She had received help. She discreetly nodded at the old man and this time, determinedly, she turned on her heels, and trained her vision on the contents of the table with renewed vigour. She mumbled to herself, stressing the syllable in each word to a tight pulp, hoping by doing so would unlock the appearance of the preserved piece, an ammonite of human bone kindly donated by the great author himself! “We are all made of ammonites just waiting to happen, that is what bone is”.

The old man, from his seat, stretched his neck out a little further, he wanted a better view, something told him that she was getting closer and closer and he, for one, did not wish to miss that moment of her discovery, the moment when she would grab it from the table, as if it were the sole solution to ending all the world’s woes. He waited patiently and he did not let his neck hurt either.

So, Mr Roald Dahl’s hip bone must look like an ammonite too, something once joined, belonging to the waters of the body, now lying here, somewhere on this table, washed up, dry and smooth and well preserved.” Just as she was sweeping her hands over the splayed items for the fifth time, her hand abruptly came to a stop. It hovered above a dome of a smooth and hard material, the faded beige colour giving away that it once had lived in a different manner, inside of living matter. “Ah-ha, are you it?” Arundhati reached for the ball of rock, and held it in the palm of her hand before turning it over. An orb on the top, but with jagged slots underneath it, she shook her left hand in a victorious fist and concluded this was the bone of Mr Roald Dahl. “It must be this!” The old man’s eyes held a proud glow of approval. Now that she had the object in her hand it hit her that she had no idea of its significance in guiding her to the location of The Shaligram Ammonite. She gasped in dismay and was too ready to roll her head back in defeat.

Remember, we all have a part of the piece. Your part is yet to be seen.” The old man was forcing his cryptic words into her soul. She edged away from the table, tirelessly scrutinising the hip bone, inspecting its every surface feature as she held it between her index finger and thumb. She stepped directly under the naked light bulb and stayed there. She pondered hard. What she did not know was that she was stood exactly where she ought to be, for the light emanating from the naked bulb bounced off the rounded top of the bone and immediately sent a faint, but distinguishable beam of straight light, towards the janamaz where it concentrated onto a single spot, directly over the Kaaba.

Arundhati flicked her eyes between the bulb and the rug back and forth in fast succession, she was desperate for someone to tell her that this was indeed real magic, and if it were a trick then that too she welcomed, for she delighted in knowing the secret workings of illusions. When she disentangled herself from the flurry of excitement, she remembered of her mission and the importance of investigative reasoning. “There is no such no landmark in Nepal. I don’t understand.” She shifted her foot from right to left to watch whether the aim of the beam changed. It did not. The trajectory of the light was a promise made of pure adamant. A few customers began to take notice of the girl’s unusual behaviour in front of the prayer mat, though they paid little heed in the end, comforting their suspicions with the fact that childhood made everyone do ridiculous things from time to time.

You saw something else earlier.” The old man finally creaked out of his chair and backed up to the janamaz. He stood by it, solemnly, as if he were the chosen ambassador for giving voice to the wishes hidden in the rug’s compact castle of threads. “Think, Arundhati Mehta, think of what you saw.

Burrowing her eyebrows, she concentrated hard. She wanted to shove it out of her mind because she feared she had fallen foul of a hallucination, and yet, it was too taxing on her when she attempted to deny the vision she had of the black swathe of the Kaaba giving way to a mighty river, as pitch black as coal, as bright as day. “A river, I saw a river inked in black”.

That may be a start, little one”. The old man had already guessed that she had more to say and casually crossed his arms, waiting keenly for what else she would dare to interpret.

Arundhati stared up at the naked light bulb. “The light showed the way… before arriving at the river there will be a sign of light”.

The old man looked impressed, an unrehearsed joy sprung in him. “Good, keep going.

The names of many rivers swam and thrashed into her mind. She could not tell which one bore The Shaligram Ammonite, for all the rivers, large and small, wore a coat of black sheen in this part of the land. Dazed by the knotted possibilities she rigorously rubbed her eyes up and down until they burned. When she opened them again and rolled her head back to relieve the tension in her neck, the stream of light emitted from the naked bulb slammed into her eyes like a speeding bullet. She flinched and quickly dropped her head down. “Ouch, I should not have looked straight into it!

And, then, it occurred to her, like a fire sparked out of emptiness, the link, it was suddenly there, right inside her eyes, the second clue that would lead her onto the The Shaligram Ammonite. She ran over to her rucksack and pulled out her notebook, flicked her pen into action, and scribbled the words across the page, ‘The Lantern Tree Grove’. It was located at the crossroads between two gigantic rivers bodied by black waters. In her small triumph, she fought back the doubts, redoubling her trust in herself, she could at last accept that she had it in her to crack this puzzle down to its knees. She swung everything in her rucksack, replaced the bone back on the table, and approached the old man with a new confidence in her stride. “I think I know where to go next, but I would not have been able to do it without your help, thank you!” She was not sure why the incense smelt more fragrant now, and the tea fresher than ever before.

That is quite alright, Arundhati Mehta. I am glad you found another piece in your journey”. He extended out his hand, old and wrinkled, coarse like a layer of tree bark that had witnessed the complex undulations of living history. She shook it and they both smirked. “All the best, my little one”.

Thank you, Ali Baba!” She lowered her voice to a mousey whisper, “And when I am done with this mission I will make you a cup of tea, at my home. That is a promise!

As you wish, my dear Arundhati Mehta…

She let go of his hand and stomped off towards the table where they were sat at first, took a quick swig of the remaining tea in the tumbler, brushed the liquid residue from her face, and then swooshed out of the saloon doors, unintentionally blowing the locks and hats of many of the customers sat nearby. Before they could say a word or raise a finger against her, she was gone.

The old man pulled up a seat by the table and fondly looked at the thick compress of the holy book. At first he stared at it like he always did. Gradually, however, he become frightened and then he was gripped with panic. The loose page that so often protruded from it was missing. His first instinct was to look under the table, in case it slipped out onto the ground. There was nothing there. He sat back up and picked up the book and hurriedly flicked the pages across, and where there had been the ugly duckling of that loose page, the one torn into two, the old man, now with huge awestruck eyes, discovered that not only was the page fixed back in it original place in the book, but that the page had come together again. The pieces were sown up with the magical remedy of clear tape. The old man lovingly gazed at the saloon doors, and his heart rejoiced until it flew higher than the top of the Kaaba itself.

Ali Baba, we’ve been waiting a while, can we have another round of your fine house tea!” A family of four, all of different heights and with beady eyes, sat on one of the tables. They were fidgeting a lot. It was obvious from their attire that they were not from these parts.

Of course, of course!” The old man walked over to their table, but in his haste he had forgotten to close the holy book, leaving it wide open at the part where the loose, wounded page had once belonged. Now, clear as water, the healing hallmarks of tape ran across it, left by the girl who could fix things. Under the naked bulb, the tape shone like the fine tributaries of rivers, threads of desires winding their way down along the mountain of the page. The hull of holy words knew what it felt like to float again.  ♥♥♥

 

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 Old Man And The Jigsaw

An old man of eighty five was he, that spine-curved hunchback Mr Jones
He lived his lonely years inside a tower block slewed of sluggish tones
Four ugly damp walls watched him as he grappled with his mouldy food of mash
No pension to speak of so he’d beg neighbours for some petty cash
His eyes smite by fogs of cataracts and cancer bludgeoned blossoms in his lung
Ears teased in rude bells of tinnitus and blisters blazed on his tongue
And ghastly gashes screamed all over the lining fabric of his chair
In spite of this he sat down and gazed at the box with the sincerest of care

The night outside filled with revellers who revolted in a drunken spree
Mr Jones, in his darken den, sought a moth-eaten jigsaw for company
Stroking the cover like an old acquaintance, or tune plucked out of memory
A chore it was to lift the lid, his struggle oil-slicked in drudgery

Inside scattered dormant the crumbed chaos of many a chipped part
He reached out shakily and yet did not know where to start
And so the world around him vanished as part by part the picture grew:
A tall lighthouse striped of ivory and red, a sea of sapphire blue
And three o’clock, four o’clock the night spun on and on
His rickety fingers trudged ahead, this old man of anon
Ah! A sandy shore and a harbour and swooping seagulls hunt for bread
Chuckling children laze with sweet treats, the smell of sea-salt is widespread

Only a few pieces to go, but the old man is stabbed by deafening pain
His wrinkled palm clutches up to his chest, his both eyes bulge out insane
Life seethes out its finality on the old man’s fingers cold
Wills the last piece into place and lets the whole scene unfold
A long sigh mingles with the room and crashing down came the chair
The neighbour hears from the floor below but he does not give the slightest care

A week had passed and the paper boy knows that something is terribly amiss
Calls the bobbies first but they send him away with an incredulous hiss
So the paper boy braves on alone, prises door open wide with a paperclip
Stomps in through to find a room, on floor an empty chair with rip
And over on the wooden table the boy caught sight of something – a jigsaw of an Arabian sea
And bobbing along waters sapphire blue, a celestial dhow carrying I and he…  ♥♥♥  

The Old Man And The Jigsaw

“… And over on the wooden table the boy caught sight of something – a jigsaw of an Arabian sea…”

 

Poetry: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2016
Photography: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Guernsey | Channel Islands | 2014 

Lay All Your Love On Me!

The Tree Man, his weighed down scabbard of upright rule and forged of cragged bark
Stout were his swaying boughs, gladiatorial, now none to give him mark
His fate he thought was loneliness, a perpetual ink hatched by wings of raven fiend
And when midnight mined its darkest jewels, he wished upon his trunk She leaned…

She is I, the desert Nile dream at dawn, a nubile dhow filled of seedling heaps
My physique distils spheres of honey onto shadows vined of matted creeps
And where my bare element of feet raze the skyline of grass to flat
Souls beneath the kiln of earth, I hear, beg me to be sat

The big barren Tree Man fell into his last wilting well of woe
Plagues of screaming malice slithered through his rotting toe
Stop!” whispered I and crept under his hard bough, my gazelle kohl poised to tame
Laid down my complex flesh, a Nubian basilica, shuddered his roots into fuchsia flame

On the scorch of his sword green sea, he breathed my sensuality with pinkish offerings
A gift of himself, too long unshared, the corpus of his sufferings
And when new morn came at last and the lively limbs of urchins rushed out to play
None saw the shining shrine of the hollow spot where the dusk owls had seen us lay… ♥♥♥

Lay All Your Love On Me!

Laid down my complex flesh, a Nubian basilica, shuddered his roots into fuchsia flame…

Lay All Your Love On Me!

On the scorch of his sword green sea, he breathed my sensuality with pinkish offerings...”

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

The Fairy Poetess Of St Catherine’s Hill

Stilling quietness of eventide hushes the day’s din and its sinewy spine silks down
Atop stone forts of yesteryears, now grass-glossed away from town
And creaking rampart of wood pushed, her hand springwater of peony moon
Fairy poetess of the Shire and whose full coral lips faithfully adorned in tune
She plucks at white starry clematis, ponders are they kin to cream tufts of snow
Her blouse quavers in the breeze and clings to yellow limbs of yarrow
And kissed her cheeks the wing blade of the brown argus of a thousand orange eyes
She squeals in giggling joy and ascends feet towards the shrine of skies
Bulk bodies of white cows and a few sheep lumber back down the gorge of grassy mound
She waves them good evening before arriving at summit’s ground
Rolling the whale mass of her night hair in a ballerina’s bun
She lays herself down flat and gazes longingly at the fainting sun
And from carob leather satchel takes out her wand of pen and hand-stitched writing book
On spice souk of her chest she rests them and then her imagination shook
Her face a burst birth of blossom, a molten origami of imperial will
Above a meteor monsoon flesh-flashed as she wrote a poem about St Catherine’s Hill… ♥♥♥

The Fairy Poetess Of St Catherine’s Hill

… She plucks at white starry clematis, ponders are they kin to cream tufts of snow…

The Fairy Poetess Of St Catherine’s Hill

“… Her blouse quavers in the breeze and clings to yellow limbs of yarrow...”

The Fairy Poetess Of St Catherine’s Hill

“… She squeals in giggling joy and ascends feet towards the shrine of skies…”

Photography & Poem: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | St Catherine’s Hill | Winchester | UK 2016   

The Song Of The Fairy Folk

Should evening lure Your feet to woodland’s juniper green cave
Tawny eyes in fiendish watch, though You dare to brave
And push through brambles and twiglets under sea of lunar silvering
If heart is pure and mind is clean catch the nettle shivering
The petite sun of dandelion bounced upon, then left to shimmer back and forth
On bulbous toadstools a flash of pink, like lightning forged from lands of north
And should the scent that rhymes the air is a flowery brew of rose and dusk
Dragonflies on pilgrim’s route to lake homes lined in mists of musk
The path a dim muddy tendril and the world of the village a murmuring dream
You shall see a dock-leaf hull sailing soothingly along the dim mulberry stream
Lean Your ears against the breast of wind and tinkling laughter shall peal away
And figures of porcelain dazzle so bright, wreathed in lilac’s luscious spray
Little fingers grip pale pink lanterns, lit by starlight bellies of the fireflies
Stood at bow and head held high the Fairy Queen tweeds song most wise:
We dance on the milk of secret time and hide our days beneath unyielding oak
To poets and children we hum all night, the olden song of the fairy folk…♥♥♥

The Song Of The Fairy Folk

“… And figures of porcelain dazzle so bright, wreathed in lilac’s luscious spray…”

The Song Of The Fairy Folk

We dance on the milk of secret time and hide our days beneath unyielding oak...”

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

Somewhere On Some Road, We Shall Meet…

Sir J.M. Barrie, the author of one of the most enduring stories ever penned for children, Peter Pan, could be said to be my earliest literary hero whom I had the good fortune to meet through the words he had penned and that I had read as a little girl. He had no children of his own and his estranged wife caused quite the scandal in society when it was revealed that she had slipped into an extramarital affair. His mood exacerbated further downhill by the erosive criticisms he faced from the arts and cultural critics of his time, Sir Barrie believed he had finally sunken himself in a scowling pit from which he would never return and the more he questioned his vocation as an author the more deeper he fell into that lonely, dark abyss.

It was in Kensington Gardens, London, a meridian of growth and soothing foliage located in the heart of the city, where he would come to meet the bold bohemian, Sylvia, and her little impish boys, and from their togetherness they would go on to form an unconventional but authentic sense of family, all the while the seeds were being sown in Sir Barrie’s imagination of a tale of a boy who simply never grew up…           

 

The Sun was a heat lord, and Lazarus the dark valleys of my black hair
As I strolled under the kingdom of fresh greens, tricklets of Magic in the air
Here I stand in the great Kensington Gardens, horticultural royalty of London park
Where Peter Pan’s author first penned his tale, spied by hawkish towering bark
Bewitchment superior this aliveness of where he once stood and silently sat
To imagine his oaring pen and gold-gild evenings, next to him his stick and hat
But that day as I walked I saw something small, head down, on a bench on the right
A man cloaked of unspoken worlds, in waiting for destined sight
And so I pray to myself in every waking breath that I shall soon enough exchange
That God does away this barbarous distance, banishes stakes of beastly range
O my Love, my hidden pulse, born again You and I of one crimson cardinal beat
My soul strung in alpine notes sings to you: “Somewhere on some road, we shall meet… ♥♥♥

Somewhere On Some Road, We Shall Meet - Love Mazzy x

“… But that day as I walked I saw something small, head down, on a bench on the right, A man cloaked of unspoken worlds, In waiting for destined sight.…”

Photography & Poem: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Kensington Gardens | May Half-Term Getaway | London | UK 2015/16