Anita walked into the room with a spring in her step and a song on her lips. Today though, she wasn’t going to belt it out diva style – she was saving her rich alto for the karaoke evening tonight. She stole these evenings of song and meter with the panache of Victorian highway men; effortlessly, cleanly and with a swashbuckling bow.
Her father was sitting in his easy chair poring over the paper. He was tut-tutting quietly in full conversation with his news-fretting self. ‘Another elopement that has ended badly. When will they learn to be content on their own sides of the fence … the scandal … the violence. Tsk! So needless. God protect us …’
‘Daddy, who are we trying to protect ourselves from?’ chirped Anita cheekily.
‘Our foolishness. Our madness’ her father responded with a sigh. He looked at his daughter thoughtfully trying to glance into her future; read her heart. She was such an exuberant girl. He worried about her sometimes surrounded as she was with all her Muslim friends … girls and boys. She tended to be trusting, unrestrained and had been in a roaring affair with life since she was born. If anyone took the bull by the horns and danced with it too, it was his Annie. Where did she get it from … her zest for life; her tenacious survival instinct. It was an enigma both he and his wife had pondered over with sometimes apprehension and at others, elation. How he loved his little girl! And how he agonized too … These were not good times. There were too many inter faith love stories that had gone wrong. Wild hearts and racing hormones that had headed straight for family guillotines; brazed together as they were from the bottomless patriarchal pits of honor, ego and vanity. Eustace Shergill aka Yousuf Shergill with his diminutive form and distrust of even the neighborhood feline’s seasonal caterwauling, was a perennially worried man.
Anita looked at her father fondly. The furrows in his brow had deepened over the last few years, giving this lamb of a man the look of a tyrant. His fleet-footed movements further belied his fragility of form and spirit. Irony was indeed rife with this dear man; her beloved father.
She kissed him on the cheek and took away his newspaper.
‘Daddy, come to the market with me. I need to get some snacks for this evening. The gang is coming over’ she said brightly knowing how he loved these little jaunts with her.
He grinned at her from behind his glasses and rose nimbly to his feet.
‘Let me get the shopping bag’ he said, walking purposefully out of the room.
‘Did I switch the fan off …?’ He wondered aloud when they were on the road. His expression was thoughtful, strained.
‘Daddy, relax. We’ll be back in 20 minutes’ Anita piped up knowing full well he would stew over the fact until they got back home. Unless – she created a magnificent enough diversion! Usually one of her punny jokes, that she had a bizarre flair for creating, got him to ease up, if only fleetingly.
‘Ok, what’s an Optimistic Wise Man called?’ She asked emphasizing the three words and grinning to herself. This was a good one.
‘Hmm … a Sage-o-glass-full? said her father, momentarily distracted and in the spirit of the drollery.
‘Nope. You won’t get this one. It’s one of my better ones’ she said sassily laughing with the combined pleasure of the joke and her father’s smiling face.
‘A Kan-garoo!’ she said with the flourish of a stand up comic at the end of a particularly successful segment.
‘You know – Kangaroo … “Can-guru”, she grinned at her father.
He laughed out loudly with a mixture of pleasure and pride in his bright, vivacious daughter. Anita followed with a bow such as she could manage on the road, from the driver’s seat.
They drove on in silence for a while, Anita still warm in the glow of her recent comedy, while Yousaf Shergill despite himself was back in the living room, fretting about the ominously spinning fan.
Seeing her father’s worried expression, Anita persevered with her enterprise of distraction and diversion, now bringing up a nugget of new information about her work.
‘We’re moving our office to Clifton next month’ she said non chalantly, waiting for the endearingly familiar change of gears in her father’s mind as he temporarily relieved himself of one burden and picked up another. Although these initial sound bites of news were yet out of his immediate capacity to worry about; still too new in their tendencies and their implications. He looked at her questioningly, the fan forgotten in as much as it could be, given that it was only moments ago in his mind, whirling to a calamitous descent onto the lounge table.
“You’re moving office? Is Maham moving too?’ He asked referring to her boss, now full of curious inquiry.
The rest of the 15 minute drive was spent with Anita waxing eloquent on the newly refurbished office, which was also luckily, quite a lot closer to home. Annie would be only a 10 minute drive away! He smiled toothfully, delightedly – a burden laid to rest; a serendipitous blessing received.
Yousuf Shergill was a partner in a company that provided Visa, Citizenship and Residency Services to off shore journeying hopefuls. It had been a flourishing little enterprise. Years of reading immigration laws from across the world, solely for the fascinating study they provided in social and ideological behaviour, had made him a natural at his chosen profession. He could tell through just a brief conversation with the candidate and a cusrsory glance through his brimming, reverently clutched folder of documents whether in fact he would have the pleasure of kissing the motherland a gracious farewell, or whether he had embarked on an ill fated (blessed!) enterprise. Mr. Shergill, despite and imaginably because of his many anxieties and misgivings, was a firm believer of staying put where the roots were. If their own homeland was a maze of dichotomies and confusion, he believed the rest of the world was as labyrinthine and befuddling as the tangled jungles of the Amazon. So while he happily gave advice and facilitated a few flights of fancy and more of the traditional metallic, tangible variety, he was himself happy to be living in his cacophonous but familiar city of Karachi.
* EUSTACE: A word of Greek origin meaning “steadfast” and “fruitful/ productive”.
Read Part Two here: https://theroamingdesi.org/2021/05/14/eustace-shergill-part-two/