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 13: I, River

Mr Penton sat back in his leatherback black chair. His calm, scrutinising eyes were trained on his team of agents who were all busily punching away at their complicated keyboards, their faces lit up by the twitching graffiti of ghostly lights emanating from their screens in front. Mr Penton was present, and yet was not present in the room, for his mind, a vast cave-like realm as secret as the museum itself, toiled and twisted in thoughts that he had not spoken of to anyone. So lost was he in a wisp of memories that it took him away from the room, to somewhere else, a place peacefully absent from the raging kaleidoscope of blinking lights and clattering twirls of recording reels of tape.

A part of him must have somehow latched back onto the present, and he realised again where he was. Closing his eyes shut so that he may open them again and renew his focus on the task that lay before him, Mr Penton slowly, but deeply, rubbed his neck down with his hand, a discreet effort to keep haunting worries buried beneath him where no one would find them. Then he opened his eyes again with a sigh that sounded as if it were a breeze that had escaped from the centre of the earth. He tried to conceal his surprise at finding that he was not alone in his space. The assistant was stood facing him, expressionless, his hands behind his back. Mr Penton sat himself up straighter.

I am deeply sorry to disturb you, Sir.

Mr Penton found it highly amusing that his assistant should say that. “And what do you think you had disturbed?

The assistant did not bargain on having such an awkward question thrown at him and he stammered for an answer. “Erm, well, I th-thought, erm, you were, you….. 

Mr Penton shook his head in feigned exhaustion and smiled. “At ease, for goodness sake, man!” To that the assistant jolted his back straight and he became as straight as a ruler. “At ease does not mean tensing yourself up more than you were before.” Mr Penton gave up and leaned back on his chair again. The assistant loosened up, but only slightly. “So, what of the mission so far?

Agent King Kong –

Ah, yes, always was a fan of his work!” Suddenly Mr Penton remembered the time he trained the little monkey how to securely operate headset technology whilst swinging through trees of extraordinary height.

Yes, well, erm, Agent King Kong has been successful in diverting The Froggies away from the girl, however, based on the latest satellite imagery it appears that the enemy quartet has not only encountered a violent fall down a vertical terrain of significant gradient, but that they are now closer to two branches of the Krishna Gandaki River. This does not look good, Sir.

Mr Penton did not seem to be irritated or unnerved by the news. Instead, a slight curl rose at the end of his lips, an embryonic smile tinged with joy that was as elusive and untouchable as the floating mesh of fresh dawn fog. “At least the girl is safe”.

But, Sir – and I do beg your pardon if I seem to be talking out of turns here – but our priority is The Shaligram Ammonite!” Although the assistant had plenty more to add to his bubbling protest, he was stopped short by Mr Penton’s immediate change of expression, the old man’s eyes now chiselled into a piercing and questioning stare. The assistant frowned and briskly backed off. He was not sure what he had said and something told him that he would not be receiving a straightforward answer either. “I am, erm, I am sor-sorry, Sir.

Remembering where he was again, Mr Penton relaxed his eyes and face, and flexing his hands and fingers before interlocking them, the two index fingers like pillars pointing into his chin, he spoke with a measured authority that was spectacularly effective. “Let me be the one to worry about our priorities. You may return to your workstation, and keep me informed.

The assistant could not tell whether the old man was cross with him, or was he being reassuring. Either way, no words would come to him and he simply nodded before turning around and quietly gliding back to his seat.

For the next few minutes Mr Penton watched his crew attentively. He had to get up from his seat and wished not to distract anyone or arouse unhelpful interest in his movements. Relieved that all eyes were glued to the screens, Mr Penton carefully slid away from his seat and stood up. Once again he scanned around. No one was onto him. He crept towards the back of the room where the towering columns of mainframe computers whirred away, the huge rotating wheels gaped at him as if they were the eyes of mechanical spies, and a faint quiver shuddered across his shoulders. Undeterred, he remained to walk over to the back corner of the room. A mundane intersection of two walls, the heat of the machines had accumulated here to form an eerie micro-climate, an ignored and muggy and shadowy spot haired by thick, snaky wires trailing around, keen to trip anyone over. Peering out from behind the mainframe tower, taking care not to topple the ominous structure, he checked to see if everyone was working. All was well. He turned away and stepped backwards until his back was against the wall. He sighed, and then put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small, white envelope. He turned it in his fingers, over and over again. He debated with himself whether he should open it here or not. At last his indecisiveness came to a stop, not out of will, but out of the tiredness from overthinking. The envelope hung expectantly in the charged air, its sides firmly clipped between the fingers of each hand, and in his head he read the typed words on the front, his silent voice as crisp as when walking on thick snow. It read “The Shaligram Ammonite”. Mr Penton flipped the envelope over, opened the unsealed flap and gently pulled out a glossy, monochrome photograph. The cool surface reminded him of hopeful mornings. He could not tell how many times he had looked at her, and of how many times she had smiled back at him.

Under the photograph was a caption strung in tiny, neat typewritten letters.

Her name in full read, ‘Arundhati Mehta Penton’.

As if she were hidden in between the letters, Mr Penton smiled down tenderly. A grandfather’s smile.

*

Leaving the dense, forested worlds of the hills behind her, Arundhati trudged down the slope towards the village. The roar of the great rivers growing louder with her every step it was, however, when she was about half-way down the slope that she realised that the sound of the waters churning and lapping and breaking against the banks rang out not from the world outside. Power beyond power, more earthly than earth itself, the watery drum was beating against her own flesh, it came from inside her, from deep within the spiral canals of her ears. ♥♥♥  

The Dreaming Chapter 13

“… Mr Penton flipped the envelope over, opened the unsealed flap and gently pulled out a glossy, monochrome photograph. The cool surface reminded him of hopeful mornings. He could not tell how many times he had looked at her, and of how many times she had smiled back at him…”

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

 

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

The Dreaming Chapter 12: When A Picture Spoke & Smelled Louder Than Words!

Arundhati spun her head round to face the monkey. She had figured she had no other way out, and therefore rested all her hopes of a swift and safe escape on the little creature, hoping that he would help her out in some way unknown to her. Her raised spirits were, unfortunately, quickly dashed as she saw before her was an empty spot, a dreary nothingness that made her gulp hard, and she suddenly became aware that she was horribly alone, a solitary seeker of a profound treasure limply canvassed against the whispering and watchful green leaves of the sal tree. Meanwhile, a sinister gathering assembled directly beneath her now unsteady feet. Arundhati bent down a little to hear better of their feverish banter.

I am so, so sure that I saw that weakling walk this way, she has to be here, somewhere! I’ll be damned if she gets her wormy fingers on what is rightfully ours!” grunted Tall Froggy.

I second to that!” cheered maliciously the youngest of the devilish clan, Baby Froggy.

She can’t outsmart us, four against one, c’,mon!” Papa Froggy spoke and yet he was far more concerned about the structural stability of his newly oiled quiff, smoothing it upwards as if he were negotiating with the terms of gravity itself.

Mama Froggy let out a disciplinary cough to hush everyone up and then stepped in front and locked eyes with her accomplices with a stern and steely stare before pacing up and down, her hands authoritatively locked behind her, which signalled that all ears were to come up on deck. She made it perfectly known that if anyone were to so as much fidget she would gladly release a whack to the nape of the neck of the culprit. A strict regime of silence descended and everyone, Arundhati included, waited with bated breath. She was sure the birds in the sky had frozen up there, too, wings half way between opening and closing.

Mama Froggy had hardly opened her mouth to speak when, by one of the bushes, a monkey jumped out in front at awesome ninja speed! It wore a headset around his head.

WHAT THE – ?!” cried out Mama Froggy and she stumbled and staggered backwards, falling hard on her massive, padded bottom. Dust flew out from all sides of the crash, causing the remaining Froggies to choke and their eyes immediately began to sting.

Aaarghhhh!!! My eyes, I can’t see a bloody thing!” screamed Baby Froggy.

My hair, my hair, how will I live now?!” Papa Froggy was frantically running on the spot, scrubbing his hair up repeatedly to save it from a premature collapse, although it would have been wise to sort his eyes out first, they were completely enveloped in sandy dust.

Arundhati’s heart leapt to her mouth and she smiled and giggled and even brought her hands out to clap, but thought the better of it, she did not wish to give away her location.

Tall Froggy was tall enough to have been spared the dust attack. She was the first one to notice that things were about to get worse for them. “Hey guys, it’s doing something and I don’t like it…

Though it was painful to see anything with their faces and eyes smothered to the rafters in grime of irritating dust, it was obvious to even the dullest of minds that what the monkey had up his sleeves next would be a formidable challenge to any nose of standard biology. The monkey bent his knees and assumed the position of one who was about to sit on the toilet. There was no doubt about it, his face was gleaming in the most marvellous mischievous grin ever observed in the animal kingdom. Very quickly, without The Froggies ever noticing it, the monkey shot a conspiratorial wink at Arundhati to which she flinched, and then it dawned on her of what he had deviously concocted in his tiny little genius brain. She carefully raised her right hand and pinched her nose and confirmed her understanding with a gentle nod.

Stand back…”, said Mama Froggy, her hands shaking. The others obeyed and took a step back.

It was nothing less than a monumental explosion of pure smelliness! The universe was introduced to the second Big Bang, and it came in the form of an ejective bubble of gas comprising of 1% Sulphur, straight out from a monkey’s hairless bottom! A superior module of farting glory! The monkey let out a yawn followed by a smirk of satisfaction, relieved that he had at last disengaged from his system this most annoying baggage of deadweight.

AAAARGGGGHHHHHH!!!!” screamed all four Froggies and they all fell to making the most contorted and screwed-up faces they had ever been forced to express as the odious odour unleashed its terror deep inside the delicate olfactory centres of their brain. Arundhati, on the other hand, was nearly knocked off from her perch, saved only by her fast reflexes.

The Dreaming Chapter 12

“… Arundhati, on the other hand, was nearly knocked off from her perch, saved only by her fast reflexes...”

The monkey knew this was the golden mean of moments, it had to be archived for posterity, so from his side pouch he whipped out his 19th Century foldout camera and, like a gunslinger from the Wild West, he pointed it with precision at the four wobbling figures before him. Pressing down the shutter button was second nature to him, he did it before anyone had realised what had just happened. Arundhati could not resist, she drew her hands together, and quietly clapped from above the branches of the tree. She did get a quick whiff of the smell in that brief moment and knew instantly that she would never be able to articulate to anyone the magnitude of its toxic scent. She speedily clasped onto her nose again.

The Dreaming Chapter 12

“… he whipped out his 19th Century foldout camera and, like a gunslinger from the Wild West, he pointed it with precision at the four wobbling figures before him. Pressing down the shutter button was second nature to him...”

Frogmarched out of the way by the worst sort of bad luck ever befallen on them, The Froggies ran down the hill, or so they tried, for the sting in their eyes had only just settled that their faces now itched terribly, and huge sore lumps began to bulge out like burnt cheese on pizza. Papa Froggy began to sob when he discovered that he had lost a patch of hair from the back of his head. In all this pain they could no longer see where they were going and they tumbled against each other before all four violently rolled down the hill, collecting dust and grass along the way, so that by the time they reached the base each one resembled a Chinese spring roll made out of messy tufts of hairy seaweed!

As if the camera was a juggling ball, the monkey casually threw up his box of light magic into the air, its lens joyfully caught the warm beam of afternoon sunshine, and then it fell down and he caught it in one hand. He turned to face Arundhati and she, in turn, took away her fingers from her nose. The air was clear again. The monkey slipped the foldout camera back into its inconspicuous pouch and stood up to its full height. He was ready to leave. She did not wish to forget his face, never, and without thinking, brought her binoculars up to her eyes to see his face properly. It showed her nothing, only the monotony of black discs. A little saddened, she slowly slid the camera away from her face and as she did so, she raised her right hand to her forehead and sent her little hero the proudest salute she had ever done to anyone. The monkey bowed down, with grace and humility and saluted back at her. It made her feel like a hero for something that she had yet to do. A boat-shaped dimple stretched and shone out from inside the trees to which a white cloud of whiskers fanned outwards from below ground. He skipped backwards and made a short wave before he vanished behind the bushes. Arundhati caught herself wishing that she saw him again, perhaps in another story.

If an ancient scribe of Nepal were to cross oceans of time and had sat and watched the spectacle that had just passed, he or she would have taken note that today was the day that saw four beastly frogs be blown way off course, and all thanks to the joining of two forces, two unlikeliest of friends, Hanuman and Saraswathi…  ♥♥♥     

 

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

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 11 An Unexpected Trunk Call!

Hello, Arundhati, do you know who I am?

An entire cluster of pink lantern flowers stirred, sifted by a breeze spun out of memories too faded for her to catch the face to whom the voice belonged. Arundhati held her breath and quietly moved the phone away from her ear, only slightly, for she did not want the person on the other side to listen in on her mind frantically working things out.

And do you know who I am?

There was a second person on the other side! It was odd enough to deal with the very confusing prospect of taking a phone call in the middle of nowhere. Arundhati had honestly believed things could not turn any more mystifying than they were already. She was, of course, extremely wrong about that! Now, the resolve in her buckled in. A gnawing vulnerability seethed in its place, because to have two voices poke out at her from the unknown, she reasoned, did a pretty good job at creating the impression that a nasty conspiracy was at foot and that she was alone in her corner. Everyone else, it seemed, had the pleasure of working side-by-side, in pairs or teams, conferring and confiding in each other as they pleased, apart from her, she was the exception.

She could not delay answering any longer, although that did not mean that she was ready to speak either. An incomprehensible mumble escaped her mouth and dribbled into the receiver with flimsiness that resembled lukewarm water. “Erm…

Come on, we haven’t all day! Chop, chop!” The first voice reminded her of the smile of farmers at autumn. The time when they wheel-barrowed into the store house their first golden crop of the harvest. It was a voice that leapt out of the phone and embraced her with unconditional affection and love. Arundhati flicked through her mind as fast as she could. The owner of the voice remained elusive.

Oh my, you do sound familiar! I can’t picture you, though…” Arundhati bit her lower lip and squeezed her eyes down, whilst her thumb and index finger clipped themselves onto the top part of her nose, for she was in deep thought. Not realising it, the toes of both her feet were also tapping against the ground. Every part of her physical being was doing something besides standing still in the hope that it would hurry along the right memory.

It will come to you. Think…Arundhati…” When the second voice, a considered and soft and gently-spoken voice, addressed her by name, Arundhati felt a hundred-fold more unsettled and ashamed. She was sure that these two were most probably exchanging incredulous eye-rolls between them, a perfectly acceptable way to behave, she argued, especially since her tedious dithering was causing her to dislike her own self!

Erm, I’m not having much luck here…”, and then, out of the blue, she was struck by the thought that it had to be at school that she had met these two, for, if there was any place after home that she spent much of her time in, it was there, at school. “Do you know me from school?

What followed was an eerie silence that threatened to fill up eternity. No one spoke.

Erm, hello? Hello? Anyone there?” Once again Arundhati took the phone away from her ear and looked into its screen to see if it was still working. There was no time or date displayed on it, as one would expect on a normal phone. What she saw instead was a counter going up. To her, though, that was a tremendous relief as it meant most likely that the phone was still operational, however, on a more important note, it also suggested that the device was not a ticking bomb! She had seen plenty of movies to be wary of what they looked like. Cautiously nearing the phone to her ear again, she tried one last time and spoke into it. The distinct tremble in her voice made it apparent that she was shaken up. “Hello….?

Oh Pooja, cut it out! Can’t you see our poor friend is miserably stuck?! I can’t do this anymore!

Deflated and a tad bitter, the first voice playfully chided her partner in crime. “Well, now you’ve gone and done it, Pushpa! I was really enjoying the suspense! Duh!

Arundhati suddenly realised that the situation could not be as sinister as she had feared. There was genuine humour in the air between the two callers, a clear signal that from now on in she could carry on more comfortably and lightly. On the other hand, it did little to calm her tempers to learn that she had been made, literally, the butt of their jokes. Her courage restored, she demanded, “Ok, what is this all about?! I am busy with something and you two are holding me back!

You still can’t remember us?! I can’t believe this!” Pooja huffed.

You are right about school, that is where we used to hang out, many years ago…” Pushpa, it seemed, was always more than ready to give away the lion’s share of hints to help out Arundhati.

Arundhati sighed in half-defeat and half-boredom by the dreariness of what was fast becoming the longest guessing game she had ever played. She strained and uttered repeatedly the two new names under her breath. “Pooja… Pushpa… Pooja… Pushpa… Pooja…. Pushpa…”.

You’re thinking about secondary school. Go back to your primary years – Mr Patel’s class…” Pushpa was firmly decided that she would get Arundhati to remember.

Pooja… Pushpa… Mr Patel’s class…”, and suddenly the lightning of the memory flooded back and it shot through Arundhati as though a bullet had pierced her awake from a hundred year slumber, “POOJA, PUSHPA!! Yes, yes, I remember, only barely, that is! Oh my goodness, that was so long ago, many years ago, no wonder I was having all this trouble!” Inside she felt immensely buoyed by the fact that it was perfectly forgivable to forget people from the distant past. She no longer felt like an idiot, after all, it was understandable to have jaded memories of one’s kindergarten years.

The Dreaming Chapter 11

“… A roar of laughter and giggles stormed through the phone from the other side and blared out so loud that a few lantern flowers wobbled mid-air...”

A roar of laughter and giggles stormed through the phone from the other side and blared out so loud that a few lantern flowers wobbled mid-air. Arundhati smiled as she brushed her hand down her face, relieved that she had entered a circle of old friends. What plagued her now was the outbreak of questions bubbling on the tip of her tongue. “How is this possible? Why are you calling me and how did you get this phone number and who was the chap who handed me the phone and does this mean that you are working for The – “ Breathless, Arundhati was cut off. In her head she was still asking them a million more questions.

Ariundhati, Arundhati, stop, stop. Let us explain”. Pooja cleared her throat.

Alright. I’m listening... ”

We’re happy for you, Arundhati. Honestly, we are. We couldn’t think of anyone better to carry out this important mission”. Pooja’s each word seemed as though it had a cut-out hole in it from which she was able to peer through and check up on how Arundhati was taking it all in.

Pushpa seconded her sentiment. “Agreed!” As if she would burst into flames if she kept the next part to herself, Pushpa gleefully added, “And by the way, the ‘Street Vendor’ idea was mine!

Arundhati was at a loss for words. It was like as if she were a little dot floating in an ocean of overwhelming secrets, and the ocean was growing, exponentially, as the clock ticked past the division of each second, piling mystery upon mystery from which she thought at any moment she would be inescapably lost within its depths forever.

After a while, miraculously, Arundhati found her voice. “Your idea?!

We don’t have much time, not on these airwaves”, Pooja spoke hurriedly now, “… and Pushpa, dearie, can you stop gloating about your ideas, there is a time and place for showing off!

You are right, sorry!” Pushpa’s apology was tinged with a smile which beamed out of the excitable skip that could be heard in her voice.

I feel so left out, everybody seems to be two paces ahead of me, having knowledge of things that I don’t.” Arundhati did not mean to come across as a moaner, and soon afterwards was eager to apologise for her impulsive outburst. She tried to say this, but was halted before she could begin. Pooja spoke authoritatively.

It’s important it stays that way, Arundhati. No one in the organisation knows everything. That would be too risky. We are all like you, in that respect, each holding a piece of the answer. But, you have a special relationship with this land, that makes you the binder, gluing all the pieces together, which will eventually lead us to The Shaligram Ammonite.” Pooja purposefully paused, she was well aware that her words were solemn and heavy, and that Arundhati would need a moment or so to pull them in and accept them for what they were.

And right now, we are here to protect you. Danger lurks four paces behind you.” Pushpa could not have said it any more bluntly.

Stop scaring her like that!” Pooja sliced in.

Arundhati snapped round and deliberately scanned the pathway and the trees. She did not want to admit it to her two old friends that her heart was secretly hammering against her chest, that she was scared of what could materialise from the overlapping greenery. What if another shadowy figure were to step out from the whispering leaves? What if this time behind the mask of silence lay a creature of hideous intentions, one who truly wished to bring harm to her?

The phone made a strange cackling sound and Arundhati brought her attention back to her two friends. Her instincts told her that whatever it was that made it possible to make this call was about to be used up. Time was running out, yet she knew exactly what to ask them. “Is someone following me? Please tell me the truth.

The line grew scratchy and the voice faint, and Arundhati could not tell who spoke, but one of them managed to tell her just in the nick of time, “We will help you… now…”, and then the line went dead.

Hello?! Hello?” Pooja? Pushpa? Hello?!

There was no reply.

Arundhati’s heart sank deep down into her stomach and she flung another glance behind her. As far as she could see or hear there was not another person about. Silence descended down, ruthlessly hard and unsparing, onto her nimble shoulders. All at once she could have sworn that she was the only living person on the planet. It was too quiet. Her lips ravaged and parched by the slow-burning panic building up in her belly, Arundhati was about to slide the phone away from her ear and tear down the hill when out of the leafy mass of the sal tree next to her a long furry arm shot down like a brown lightning bolt and rudely scooped the phone out of her hand! She staggered back and nearly fell, yet she somehow managed to catch sight of the five wrinkled digits of a hairy hand, balled into a fist, and the phone glistening from inside its clutches. Before she could make heads or tails of who or what the thief was, it had vanished into the covert thicket of the sal tree.

She sprang back up on her feet and edged closer, on tip-toes, towards the tree, all the while her eyes were wide alert. Something had uncivilly filched her phone and one way or another she was going to find out what it was. She cast a sideways glance at the lantern flowers who were now, it appeared, had taken to a dance of little wriggles from the fixtures of their stems. It was a daft thought, however, one that she could not shake off, and that was, that these flowers, absorbers of secrets, did look much fatter than when she had inspected them previously. Had they already feasted on the knowledge about the culprit responsible for the disappearance of her phone?

A clump of leaves and branches in the centre of the tree shuffled, as if whatever was inside was telling the tree in as explicit a way as possible that there was not enough room for it. A sharp screeching sound came next and then there was nothing, only the now all too familiar silence.

Arundhati was stood under the tree. She choked down her fear and as quietly as possible raised both her arms up and grasped the nearest two branches that were thick and sturdy enough to take up her weight. She pulled herself up and as soon as her feet came off the ground she made sure that they were quick to lift with her and then pressed them against the bark of the tree for support. Resembling a koala on its way up for a nap, Arundhati hovered this way for a few seconds, for she was painfully at two minds about what to do next. She could simply jump down and leg it. The next village was not far. Yet, it was undeniable, she was actually liking all of this. Somewhere along the line she had started to grow attracted to the uncertainty and adventure, and at whatever cost it was, she had now decided that she would expose the identity of the uncouth rascal who was toying with her phone. She pulled herself up further and this time her head scraped through the thick foliage, the odd crooked twig jabbing into her cheeks and a leaf or two tickling the crescent of her ears, until finally she was waist-high inside the green, luminous heart of the tree. It was a cool and dappled world, where everything was tuned to speak in whispers so that even the few patches of sunlight, which had struggled to reach this far, appeared more like shadows of a lighter pigmentation.

The Dreaming Chapter 11

“… She choked down her fear and as quietly as possible raised both her arms up and grasped the nearest two branches that were thick and sturdy enough to take up her weight…”

At first, Arundhati saw no one. Bemused, she held firmly on the branch and swivelled her torso around to look the other way, causing the tree to judder and a few leaves to fall, and that is when she received the shock of her life.

Staring back at her was a small monkey!

The Dreaming Chapter 11

“… Staring back at her was a small monkey...”

An aged chap, his two round eyes shone like fresh amber sap that had been mixed in with copious swirls of honey, and pencilled within their centres a perfect black dot, and all this was set within a greyish-pink pointy face. His lipless mouth was a fine rug of white hairs only just visible, but the rest of his body was a different matter altogether, it was abundantly layered in brown, pink and white hairs, even the tips of his ears, whose overall shape reminded Arundhati of the betel leaves that her Amma could never live a day without. Monkeys trooped everywhere in this part of the world. Arundhati was no stranger to them and to their interrupting and opportunistic ways. What threw her off completely was that this particular monkey had one thing about it that set it apart from every other monkey on the planet, or so she believed so.

Not only was the monkey jerking the phone in its nimble fingers while beaming a proud smile at her, exposing all its pristine white teeth, as if to say that he was far more intelligent than her and that he would always be one step ahead in the game, but that this cheeky imposter was equipped with backup. He wore a headset! A black, plastic headband arced around his tiny head like a rainbow and a padded speaker, a cup dotted with many holes, cushioned against the monkey’s left ear, all of it perfectly adjusted for his comfort. From the base of the speaker a thin black tube extended out so that it curved in line with the jaw, and on its tip was a microphone that looked like a bumblebee without wings.

Oh my goodness! What are you!?” She wondered out loud.

Immediately the monkey brought its index finger to its lipless mouth. “Sssshhhh!

Arundhati’s mouth dropped.

The monkey nodded its head towards something behind her. She rubbed her eyes hard and made them sore, and then looked up again. The monkey and his impressive headset was still watching her intently. He was real! The monkey repeated his nod in the direction behind her and this time she obeyed. She quietly turned around and searched below. What was it that this strange monkey was telling her?

A few seconds later it became clear to her that he was not telling her anything. He was warning her.

Directly beneath the bulbous sal tree in which she and the monkey now hid were stood four people all of different heights. Three words she heard over and over again. The Shaligram Ammonite. For the first time ever Arundhati saw what she, alone, was up against. ♥♥♥

The Dreaming Chapter 11

“… Directly beneath the bulbous sal tree in which she and the monkey now hid were four people all of different heights…”

 

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

The Dreaming: Chapter 10 The Return Of The King – Sorry – Ring, Ring!

Day blazed into brighter day, and Arundhati came to the Lantern Tree Grove, where the sharp luminosity of the noon sun overhead was proudly companioned and lit up by the presence of numerous and magnificent pendants of delicate pink drops. Lantern flowers. Each flower slanted its head towards the ground, as if addressing something that lay directly below it. It was why the people of these parts agreed that their shape resembled the papery canopy of a night-time lantern, the ones held up by the watchman as he went about making his rounds along the border of his village whilst people slept.

Unsure still of what bridge these lantern flowers served in her finding The Shaligram Ammonite, Arundhati could not escape from her delight in being surrounded by these fine specimens of Mother Nature. She was convinced that she had been born loving flowers from the moment she took her first breath, that she had the power to partition her inhalations so that half of it fed her lungs and the other was shielded from that duty so that it may be kept like a carpet of breeze reserved for carrying the scents of roses and jasmine to her nose. Of course the elders in the village, and her own Amma, on occasion, had laughed out hysterically upon hearing these strange ideas, for, they argued, how could anyone ever possibly remember if they shared a close bond with the floral world from the time of their birth? For Arundhati, these taunts never dealt her any serious blow, and she quite easily dismissed the scoffing ways of the world. As plucky as a bumblebee was to a rose, she, too, stuck to her beliefs in all weathers.

The Dreaming Chapter 10

“… She was convinced that she had been born loving flowers from the moment she took her first breath…”

She crept up slowly to the long wall of leafy shrub before coming to a standstill just inches away from the tinkling audience of lantern flowers. A strange and precautionary urge came over her to be weary and to look all about her. As far as she could tell, she was alone. But it was still hard for her to shake off that unsettling impression that she had been led here, and she soon imagined – which did little to ease her discomfort – that someone was out there, nearby, watching, spying and ticking her name off from their appointment’s diary with a sliver of smugness elasticated across their face. Just to be sure, she peered back up the path from which she had trudged down from. The tea house was firmly out of view now, and turning to face below, she saw the familiar dirt track leading a raggedy course down to the neighbouring village whose edge brushed against a mighty serpent of gushing water. Except it was not one singular vein of water. A short way along the bank and the river divided into two, the larger one running its course straight and out of view as it became engulfed under the over-arching branches of giant bristly conifers, whilst the smaller one, like an arm splintering off in rebellious defiance, wound its way north towards villages that Arundhati had never ventured into. The enormity of the task ahead of her suddenly turning to leaden weight and her feet seeming to grow heavy, Arundhati distracted herself and hurriedly turned round to face the lantern flowers again.

She came in closer to examine their form and realised that they were not enslaved by the whims of the winds. They moved as they pleased. Some of the lantern flowers nodded up and down, others shook their heads, and a few, let their heads touch the one next to it, as if they were talking about a pact or enthralling themselves in the latest schoolyard gossip. A flash of a fond memory trickled into Arundhati’s mind, the time of when she and a few friends of hers had met here after school, and how they had giggled and chuckled as they rushed to share out multi-coloured threads from an old pouch so that each would have the colours they wanted to string out their friendship bracelets. Arundhati’s shoulders jiggled as she smiled to herself, reaching out with the gentlest of touch, stroking the tips of the lantern flowers, half-hoping that they would chime as her fingers tapped and drifted through them, they telling her in unison that they had all indeed watched silently that day when she and her friends had gathered her for the marvellous swapping of threads. “You flowers soak in other people’s secrets, don’t you?” she whispered to one lantern flower. “Look how plump your pretty belly is, fattened up just like the yummy pickle jars in Amma’s cabinet!” She sighed and stepped back and scoured her eyes at all of them, daring to hold onto the chance that perhaps one of the lantern flowers would relent and prise open its fleshy petal body and shed light that would show her the way to the river that she saw in her vision back at the tea house, that vein of black water shown to flow close to the location of The Shaligram Ammonite.

The Dreaming Chapter 10

“… She came in closer to examine their form and realised that they were not enslaved by the whims of the winds…”

She was lost in thought when it dawned on her that she was not alone. The dried leaves on the ground behind her sent out a muffled sound, a rustling of laborious footsteps accompanied by the creaking of mechanical parts. She shot round, just catching her breath in time, to find that a street vendor was stood in front of her. He was not a particularly old man, his face was angular, blackened by the unforgiving sun, his black hair was stuck to his skin by sweat, and he wore a holed vest mucked by dirt and splotches of grease and food, while his blue and white sarong was tied above his navel in a tight bun so that his extraordinarily dark, bony legs and protruding ankles helplessly peered from below, his feet finished off with a pair of stringy flip-flops. His hands were fastened to a cart draped in green cloth and arranged neatly on it, row by row, glittered a handsome crop of antique-tinged wood apple, spiky jackfruit, pomegranates whose cracked ends reminded her of lips prepared to kiss, and yellow persimmons secreted forth by the frothy laughter of the summer sunshine. The cart was held up by four large rubbery wheels positioned on each corner. Patches of brownish-red rust had attacked the axis and spokes, presumably accounting for the screeching sound earlier.

Oh, I am so sorry. I will move out your way, Uncle.” It was a very narrow point on the slope, and she felt terribly oafish that she was obstructing his right of way. Arundhati leaned as far back as she could against the lantern flowers, taking care not to squash any of them in the process, and then gestured the street vendor that he could now pass.

But, he did not.

A fly buzzed down and took the opportunity to forage on one of the jackfruits whose tough outer skin had somehow received a gash, exposing a glimmer of its sticky and sickly sweet interior flesh. Arundhati swore she could hear the fly siphoning the juicy blood of the fruit into its thorax and down into it abdomen. “Excuse me, Uncle, but there is a fly on your jackfruit. Look, over there, can you see it?” The man did not move, yet he had heard her, she knew that. Arundhati felt the hundred scrawling legs of cold fear shuffle up her arms and slither across the sides of her neck. She reached up for her binoculars, slowly and tactfully, all the while slanting her eyes to her right to better understand her escape route. Her feet were already trembling, obeying the desire to flee, and she prayed to herself that he had not caught her in the act of thinking through these thoughts.

Whatever it was that prompted him to snap out of his statue was anyone’s guess, for he abruptly let go of the cart handle and lazily walked round it so that he now was only a few paces in front of her. His eyes were as black and viscous as bat wings, she could not see their pupils. She shuddered. “Is anything the matter, Uncle?” A whip of anger scorched down her throat and into her stomach. She had not meant to speak to him, she was meant to have dashed for it.

A deathly silence, a staunch standoff of crackling electricity, ensued between the two of them. If only his face could break out with a recognisable expression then at least she would derive some relief that whatever it was that she faced now could be bargained with. Alas, the man’s face remained agonisingly wooden, indeed as wooden as the table of his cart. She forced her body now to loosen, the final preparation in its readiness for scrambling down the hill. She was going to run, run away from this phantom figure, this sinister man who seemed to not belong to anywhere.

But he took one step forward.

She had planned to run, instead she maintained her sight on the man and heard herself whisper with concentration, “Help me, Mr Roald Dahl…”.

The street vendor must have heard her whisper, and not only that, he knew exactly what those anomalous words meant, for he nodded decisively towards her binoculars. Quick as a flash, Arundhati tipped her head down and managed to just catch the last of the three red flashes. She gulped and when she looked back up at the man he was wearing a smile that was fantastically camouflaged. Fine flecks of crinkled skin had collected at the edge of his eyes. He was smiling with his eyes. He approved. Arundhati lifted the binoculars and expectantly brought them to rest against her own eyes.

A brief message had been sent to her. It was about the art of disguise, and as a way of example, Mr Roald Dahl was more than happy to oblige and share his own instance of rustling up a pukka disguise from his youthful days, one that prevented him from being caught red-handed by those who wanted nothing more than to see him in the principal’s office!

The Dreaming Chapter 10

“… A brief message had been sent to her. It was about the art of disguise…”

The message disappeared after a short while, and Arundhati taking the binoculars away from her face, crinkled her eyebrows into a knot and searched the ground below, as if the significance of the message would miraculously appear from the undergrowth and dissolve all her confusions and take them away far from here. Slowly her voice found her again and she croaked out the best she could, “Uncle, do you happen to work for The –

Before she could finish anymore of her sentence the man shoved his hand under the row of lighter fruits at the top of the cart and pulled out a block neatly wrapped in shiny paper with bold words lavishly penned across it. He offered it to Arundhati. Her mother had strictly forbidden her to accept goods from strangers, she had warned that it could land her in very serious trouble, the consequences fatal, even. Arundhati momentarily closed her eyes and asked for her mother’s forgiveness as she reluctantly opened her palms for the man to place the block in it. It was light and cool to the touch. It certainly was not fruit. When Arundhati drew her hand away from the man and peered at the item she was hit by more puzzlement than she could possibly take in one day!

Wonka Chocolate Bar?! But, how will this help me find The –

The Dreaming Chapter 10

Wonka Chocolate Bar?! But, how will this help me find The –

Once again her sentences, her questions, were left mid-way, unfinished, drifting on the air. The man was retracing his steps back round the cart. He took hold of the handle, issued a subtle bow of the head, before trundling past her and then vanishing down below, the voiceless man and the screech of his mechanical accomplice both gone.

She had never heard of this brand of chocolate and had no desire to test it out on her palate, who knows what peculiar things were contained within it. She turned on her heels to face the watchful curtain of lantern flowers. “There, one more secret you are going to have to keep which I’m sure will fatten you all nicely!” She examined the bar and concluded that the neatness of its packaging and the sophistication of its printing could only mean that this came from another country, but her speculation only drilled more questions into her brain. Her ears picked up the distinct murmur and rumble of the two rivers down below. “Chocolate bars and rivers, what is the link?” A chiming rang out, sweet and high-pitched, like the twitter of a bird mixed in with the tinkle of a metal xylophone. She dismissively muttered, “Ah, so you lantern flowers do know how to make music!” The chime rang again. She raised her head and awkwardly poked at the lantern flowers, as expected they made no sound of such sort. When the chime rang again she realised that it vibrated her palm. The noise was coming from the chocolate bar!

Whether it was the right thing to do or not did not even cross her mind, and so her fingers scurried across to where the paper was joined together and proceeded to rip apart the layers, and there was so much of that to get through that she imagined that the final article buried deep inside it was most likely a fraction of the overall size of the package itself!

She could not believe her eyes when the last shred of wrapping swayed and fell like a feather down to the ground.

In her hand was a wafer-thin device. It was a phone.

It had a pretty cover depicting pinkish vines of flowers and for a second she thought she felt all the lantern flowers around her crane their necks in for a closer view.

The phone chimed again.

Arundhati licked her lips in anticipation and held her breath, before bringing the device to her ear and answering it.

It was the voice of a long-lost friend and the pink lantern flowers knew that before she did. ♥♥♥

The Dreaming Chapter 10

“… It was the voice of a long-lost friend and the lantern flowers knew that before she did…”

 

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 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 Harriet Fogg Adventures: Congratulations To The Illustrator In My Family, Jen!

Tonight let us put to one side the Arundhati Chronicles. There is a very good reason for this, for there is, unequivocally, a more pressing story that needs to be shared and celebrated. A story about my wonderfully talented baby sister, Jen. She spent most of her youth, like mine, working away long hours and did not have a chance to go to University. After the passing away of our beloved Abba, Jen set out to accomplish her childhood dream. She wanted to become an artist, an illustrator of dazzling worlds that floated in her imagination but forever sought the sanctuary of a canvas. After three years of dedicated study she has finally got her foot through the door! I am sure You will put Your hands together and clap away with fierce joy, loud enough to send tremors rippling into all the neighbouring planets, as I announce to You that my beautiful sister has achieved the remarkable feat of completing her degree in Illustration with a sparkling First Class honours degree, as well as that, she has magnetised towards her way a string of fantastic high-profile awards and secured impressive commissions from members of the public and external institutions. She will showcase her collection in London galleries next month alongside with those of her student peers. I shall, of course, be trotting to the capital to capture the event in all its glory, and who knows, a wildly eccentric story may come out from it! We shall see!

I dedicate this WordPress story to my baby sister, and to that phenomenon of the human condition whereby, above all the raging shell fire of the odds, a person can still most definitely achieve the unreachable of dreams. To grow from the humble earth is never an inhibitor, but an invitation, it is the reason for why it feels sacred and right to brush shoulders with the stars.

Pursue Your dreams, pursue them with rigorous, passionate intensity in symmetry with noble integrity, do that and it will appear as though it is not You, but the dream itself that is wanting to reach You.
Your Mazzy ♥♥♥

The Harriet Fogg Adventures

Jen and her fabulous children’s picture book, The Harriet Fog Adventures!

 

The Harriet Fogg Adventures!

A train ride through India slithers through the open land like a snake!

The Harriet Fogg Adventures!

Travelling the world is in our blood, the inks of maps sing out our pulse.

The Harriet Fogg Adventures!

In Harriet’s world, no animal is seen wicked or foul. Every living creature is connected to You in the great web of life.

The Adventures Of Harriet Fogg!

Dreaming is good, dreaming is the birth of a great commitment, which when followed through can make a beautiful difference, it can change the world.

The Harriet Fogg Adventures!

The song of the whale is the song of the ocean, the very same song is also tuned into the waters that surround the unborn baby when it is growing inside its mother’s womb.

The Harriet Fogg Adventures!

Tell me when, and I will see to it that You and I float to the top of the world!

 

Jen’s Website: http://www.jenkhatun.com/ 

Photography & Words:  Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Southampton University | Southampton 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