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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jen's Graduation

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

Jen's Graduation

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

Jen's Graduation

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

Jen's Graduation

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

Jen's Graduation

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

Jen's Graduation

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

Jen's Graduation

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

Jen's Graduation

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

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

In 400 Words: When I Went To The Toy Maker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dreaming: Chapter 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

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 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    

Old Pictures, New Story: A New Chapter Knock-Knocks!

An A-MAZ-ING Update! 20-05-16

Up and until now, in my 37 years, I have been academically trained in the hard sciences and never once placed my hairy foot in the faculty of the arts. Around 15 years ago I came out top in the student year with the fabulous award of a BSc Psychology, and then, after accruing my own funds from holding down two jobs, I enrolled and earned another distinction for completing my postgraduate studies in MSc Science and Society. I thoroughly enjoyed the pursuit of learning new skills and knowledge in both domains, and furthermore, each proved to be incalculably priceless in my professional capacity for teaching mainstream and special needs students at college.

Over the last few years, after the serendipitous and yet undeniably destined encounter with the artistic language of photography, a formidable murmur of renewed passions began to stir and coil in the uncharted territories of my heart, a real part of me that I had somehow neglected as I was swept up in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. No doubt it was that the photography had aroused the awakening of a new confidence in returning to the wonderment of the pen, to make companionship with the beauty and exploratory power of the written word.

I have worked extremely hard in the last few years, once again holding down two jobs so that I may raise the funds needed for a new venture that I hope will address my unending love story with the arts which I once bore in my heart as a child. It is with the utmost radiance of joy that I am proud to announce to You that I am returning to University once again, as a postgraduate student, to study a MA in Writing. I received my unconditional offer of a place today and You would not be far off the mark if You were to say that right now I could only be jiggling my shoulders with the jollifying wobbles of a jumbo-sized  platter of strawberry jelly! Giggle!

My ‘prospective mentor’ is a new University, a broad and heavy oaken door that has been kept slightly ajar for me and the warm light cast out from the other side shines with the embellishing possibilities of a land that I once knew. Now it awaits my footsteps to softly crunch through its carpet of exquisite snow. By the old Victorian lamp post a new chapter is desperate to be realised into life. 

I was busy celebrating with my mates today and when we made a mad dash for the swings and slides in the children’s park they forced to turn their smarty pants phones on meWhat a shocking conspiracy that was for me, however, since today is indeed a special day for me I will allow for You to catch a rare glimmer of this 158cm fairy in a group shot, taken by my utterly-bubbly friend, Katie! 

And, finally, a very merry berry special dedication I must extend to that one person who, for me, shall always be the third person as referred to in the quote. I respect You with such sincere intensity that perhaps You shall never truly know just how much You mean to me, always… ♥♥♥

Quote: https://www.facebook.com/WomenWhoRunWithTheMoon/photos/a.330772373686457.73119.330491697047858/1015798558517165/?type=3&theater                  

Beyond the infinity of everything,
Mazzy 🌟🌟🌟

Celebration In The Park!

“… I was busy celebrating with my mates today and when we made a mad dash for the swings and slides in the children’s park they forced to turn their smarty pants phones on me…

 

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

******************************************************************

I shall not say much only that today the magical stroke of Destiny led me to a thoroughly vibrant and constructive meeting that oozed with the fireflies of new possibilities. The conversation, animated and bouncy, showed no sign of stopping and the both of us could have potentially babbled on till the end of the day, however my prospective mentor had a train to catch to London and I could see that my paper cup in front of me had devastatingly become denuded of tea. The more I drank, the less there remained and that is how eventually I saw the bottom of the cup. It is one of those mysteries that consistently has the upper hand over me all the time, blunting my powers of logic to an undesirable blockhead! No, I was not giggling there! Alright, perhaps a bit! In light of these terribly subduing conditions, we hesitatingly called it a day and went our separate ways.

Let us just say that the coming year may see a new twist of lime in my quirky catalogue of endeavours! Ah, is that a fatty bombatty bag of Haribos You so cunningly extend out towards me? I do apologise tremendously, but I choose to purse my lips and pray that my eyes shall suffice in telling You that bribery and corruption were never my cup of tea, and thus I still shan’t reveal to You a morsel or crumb or smidgen! Not yet, anyway. Patience, patience, my dear Reader! Giggle! ♥♥♥

My First Book

A book of the heart which even to this day, 30 odd years on, when its pages are flicked against my nose a plethora of memories like colourful circus acts soar out from its centre and embrace me in a warm protective hug. It is the lingering presence of the dream of a man who wished his daughter to be a storyteller of her own someday...”

 

Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories |Winchester | UK 2016   Photography & Words: Originally Posted In ‘My First Book: A 30 Year Old Tale’ | © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | My Garden | Winchester | UK 2016  

Old Pictures, New Story: When Mr Robin Roared The Universe On!

A modest tribute from myself to the artistic genius and fellow polymath, Mr Rabindranath ‘Robin’ Tagore, who was born on 7th May 1861…

I find it endlessly fascinating that I should perceive in Mother Nature’s thriving bestiary and botany even those small things, that would ordinarily not arouse quivers into the attentions of most folk, and yet for me they ignite an all-consuming fire to lovingly compose in their name some sort of recognition, an artistic conveyance of the blessedness I feel for their existence.

Either on photographic canvas or in poetical terms – I am at complete ease in both fields – once my perceptual faculties have been brushed by the magical caresses of one of the umpteen characters from her repository there is no drawing me back from writing about it. I wish I had enough time in this world to carve a space of dedication to all my fellow creatures and plants.

Surprisingly, for me, the gratefulness of being alive is always complemented, ornamented and amplified by my knowledge that I am no more than a speck of stardust in this vast unfathomable galaxy. This sounds disconcertingly strange at first, I grant You that, but that is where it begins with me. From a point of colossal tininess. Yet, I feel immensely alive by my smallness, because I am not for one single moment made to feel invalidated from my right to claim a sense of belongingness to the world around me. It all depends on how wise Your depth of magnification is. If we were all obsessed on the long-sighted aspect of our eyes all the time, then in effect, we would fall prey to giving permission for the horizon to hammer itself down and play the role of a fence, and thus never would humankind aspire to learn and connect with things beyond this self-imposed geographic barrier of captivity. The world would stop as far as our eyes would take us. Likewise, to forge recognition of the intimacy between myself and the natural bounty of my garden, I require to fine-tune my vision so that the closer-to-home things are brought into much sharper focus. When You fiddle with Your vision in this way, the scent of the honeysuckle vine generously filling the air in the balmy twilight hours shall race to tinge the tongue as like the essence of a reunion, and watching the ant crawl up the old cast iron drainpipe would seem as though his tireless ascent was on par with the great explorers of the Everest! When I take time to witness and admire the small things in this way, each glowing with the force of life and riding on the crest of this beautifully woven piece of fabric we call Earth, I am gifted sacred proof that my smallness does not equate to insignificance, rather it announces my characterisation in a framing story and without which many other stories would not be told. The Universe, in its totality, is the grand narrative fashioned out of intricate and interconnecting designs and hence it throbs and thrums in ecstasy whenever it can feel itself being known as it really is.

A case in point is Mr Robin.

I hardly need to elaborate upon the happy enchantment that tides over me whenever Mr Robin drops by my garden for a beaky peck of the earth as he plumbs the brown depths in search of squiggly worms, or, his other firm favourite act where he could be seen hopping dexterously along the tightrope of the wooden fence as if to impress upon me that he is the only well-matched suitor that I would ever take into consideration to! Giggle!

As it so happens today we enjoyed glorious sunshine in the garden with Amma, the air warm and glossed by the ambrosia of emperor butterflies and I even spotted the bushy-tailed grey squirrel darting over our gates, and among all the laughter and ice-cream and grapes, I could hear my melodious and humble friend, Mr Robin, singing away on some distant rooftop. He calls out to me and he knows that I have heard him because I know his song like the back of my hand. He is tiny, and so am I. Perhaps herein resides the case for why we are so unflinchingly drawn to one another: Two specks of stardust in a vast whirling Universe, both carriers of redness and both mounted with an equal aching to share it with those beyond the moat of the evening horizon…  ♥♥♥ 

 

My Constant Red

“… And, then, mirroring the profundity of a lion’s roar, A truce of cute redness: He jumps out and turns on the Universe...”

 

Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2016
Original Post & Image: ‘My Constant Red’ © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2016

Old Pictures, New Story: How About I Put The Kettle On For You?

The winters in England can be brutishly cold, the winds serrated as like a dagger’s edge that is poised to slice through the slightest bit of skin it can see, and that is why it becomes extremely important that You ensure that when venturing outside You are wrapped up warm and in many layers so that You do not succumb to a nasty bout of frostbite. It is one of those horrid conditions that sends a pandemonium of panic into the victim affected which is understandable since as the skin changes colour and the sensation of touch diminishes away, one is forced to think of the worst. Limbs, without warning, fated to drop off due to poor or no blood circulation. Yikes!

But the savage sting and gnash of the freezing air did hardly made any headway in arresting our playful ways on that memorable day at the humble German markets, set up specifically in Winchester as part of the glittering festivities for Christmas time. Now, You must note that I cannot tolerate hours of shopping like my friend can, it bores and tires me out within minutes, unless of course the map to be navigated includes a few charming bookshops on route wherein I can indulge my ever voluptuous imagination to be drawn to scintillating synopses of new books! That sort of shopping is, as we Brits say, right up my street!

On the other hand, I have always found a cute charm in the little wooden cabins that pop up round by the Cathedral grounds at Christmas, they are a pleasure to explore on foot and I can spend a whole day gazing admiringly at the numerous splendidly handcrafted goods on offer. Typically, the enchanting array includes such wondrous things as like heavily aromatic wreathes of dried satsuma the colour of rustic autumnal leaves, beeswax candles that tempt the mind to eat them, and glass lanterns bejewelled in a mosaic of glass and mirror pieces. The whole place, once only grassy and watched on by the hushful walls of the Cathedral, suddenly transforms itself into an Aladdin’s cave, only that there is no canopy of a roof, and thus the many markets nestled with their intriguing trinkets are laid bare as much to eager-eyed collectors as to the swarming breath of icy winds. To shop here is not a luxury, it is an brave expedition to the Arctic and You were bound to return with something much more than You bargained for!

Now imagine how madly excited I must have seemed when out of all the many things that were seductively competing for our attentions my eyes should magnetically lock onto a bulky wooden barrel and atop rested two glass jars filled with teabags, sugar  and tiny sachets of milk. Though no map accompanied us, I could have sworn the exhilaration of my discovery was on par to that monumental moment when the bearer of the map finds themselves precisely on top of the point marked X! I had not set off to accrue treasure, but yet before us lay the basic molecules of tea preparation and hence, quite rightly, I went bonkers and, though I am no gymnast, my shoulders felt like initiating into a series wonky somersaults, a wobbly roly-poly, and a shaky cartwheel, just to top it off! Ask any friend of mine and they will quite heartily submit a testimony on Your request that tea really does do it for me! Giggle, giggle! If I could I would stash every variety of loose leaf tea in my buccaneering satchel before gallivanting off to the ice-clad North Pole, or trekking through the moist jungles of Peru, just so that I could enjoy that peace of mind that irrespective of where my shrivelled-up shoes cared to careen me, there would always be by my side that most beautiful reminder of the warm and cosy world of my home, that will indeed always be my home, wherever I trot and whoever I become.

Samka, let us imagine that we had the power to share out this delicious tea to the world!” Cheery and bright-eyed, I elegantly gestured to my friend to take the helm of the stall and pretend that she was indeed an all-benevolent dispenser of warm and sweet cups of tea. From the corner of my eye I glimpsed at the soothing hiss of steam that rose from the cups held tightly by people who had purchased one earlier, and I could interpret in their faces that it made the world a livelier place, manageable and simple and slow, when in possession of such a fine milky molten concoction of leaves!

Let’s do it!” She did not think twice about it, only that like a happy kangaroo she jumped behind the barrel and the next minute I know there she was, impersonating to be the most kindly tea lady in the world! Without my cue, she unclipped the levers of the glass jars and lifted them as if to say to the cold and weary traveller that he or she had come to the right place and that here we may not make You rich or guarantee You safe passage, however, we have something else and it will help You because when we make this tea we make it with all the Love that we have glowing inside the warm glove of our hearts.

Naturally, members of the public giggled at our little stunt but we are so used to pulling theatrical displays wherever we go that it became a pleasing sight to witness that nothing of ours goes to waste! Our antics will be remembered because they made people smile and, I do hope most of all, that whoever did smile will have remembered that worries can be made to go away and a fat smile can come to stay, if there is someone who will put the kettle on and ask, “How many sugars did You say?” ♥♥♥

To Sweeten The Deal

“… for a few moments the both of us were busy dishing out our favourite beverage in the world – tea of course – with complimentary sachets of sugar and milk, to help soften the bitter brew of life into runny maple syrup,  melting the worries of the big world into a cup of milky molten goodness...”

 

Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2016
Photography: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2014