Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Shades oF Grey

If it wasn’t for the silvery misty blanket created by the quarterly disc of the moon, Ruth Street would have been smothered in a bleak darkness. During the day, lavish jacaranda trees lined the avenues of Hyde Park. And on occasion, these would be called upon to decorate the lanes in purple hues. Many a passerby has marveled in the delightful colours of the shaded landscapes, gallant manors and storybook ambience of this peaceful, and stately Johannesburg suburb. Tonight, however, if one were to amble by one of the manors of grace and glory, Englebury Manor, and perchance, if it was possible to venture beyond the security post at the regal cast-iron gateway, the whimper of a six month old baby girl and her distraught mother would forever change the evidence of Hyde Park’s picturesque reputation.

The driveway leading up to the front door of the main house had been carefully laid out in a sandy paving stone at the owner’s behest, as part of the recent renovations to restore some of the manors original glory. Its previous owners had relocated to Australia, and the estate sold to the Noorani family. The new owner, Majid Akram Noorani was born in Durban to Cassim and Habiba Noorani, and had lived in various parts of Southern Africa for most of his thirty seven years, and decided, finally, that Johannesburg would be a central post for his business and from which he could travel, both nationally and internationally. To his colleagues he was known as the ubiquitous Mr. Noorani, famed for the phenomenal share growth of his company on the stock exchange, and to his close friends who were far and few between, he was referred to as Mak. At home he was simply Akram. However, he juggled these multiple identities with little grace, as the turmoil in his personal life revealed. The public façade was perfect. Behind the scenes, an entirely alternate view prevailed, some a reflection of his own inner contempt often projected on the misgivings of his other half. When he first met his wife of eleven years, Zahida, she had been a corporate legal assistant at a prominent Sandton law firm. In the time that they had been married, she had gone from being a feisty goal-driven woman to a recluse. She chose to confine herself to the everyday runnings of her household, and her life revolved around the lives of her three children, and their seemingly mundane everyday needs. She seemed to have lost the sparkle that had first attracted him to her. And he couldn’t understand what had possessed him to marry her in the first place. As far as he could see, they had nothing in common. He tried desperately to remember the last time they shared an intimate moment. A touch, a word, not even the peck on the cheek that she had tried to maintain for a few months as a punctuation to his mumbled greeting as he left for work in the mornings. His thoughts wandered immediately to Casandra Deatly. The woman was a veritable tease. A smirk danced across his face as he remembered their meeting on a flight to Hong Kong a few weeks ago. Cassie, had since been to his office on a number of occasions, and under various rather creative pretenses. And she had been richly rewarded for her efforts. The sound of sirens from the distance broke his reverie, and he walked towards the open balcony. The Johannesburg skyline was speckled with stars struggling against the electric cityscape to make their visual impact evident through the deep purple of the smog. It was just a little after midnight. He felt calmer now, as he puffed the last of his pack of Camels, between sips of lime cordial. He barely remembered the rage that had ensued earlier between himself and Zahida. And now he had no idea where she had gone off to. The childrens rooms also seemed abandoned. He remembered something about them going away to their aunt for the weekend. Nine year old Nadia was the image of her mother, but outspoken and witty like her father. Samir was all of six years old, a clumsy, quiet child. Mak wondered about him, and what he would amount to in life. He thought Zahida spoiled the child far too much. Mommies boy, he would turn out. He felt the contempt fill his being again for a moment. She had a way of bringing that out of him. And sometimes the feeling would overwhelm him so, that he barely recognized himself. Anger would engulf him, some because of the way she looked at him, and how she made him feel. Often the feeling was fueled by the way it all made him feel about himself. He would be riddled with aggression that carried over between his sleeping and waking moments. He remembered a recent dream. He had been painting a seascape, just as he had done when they had first fallen in love. And her face floated in front of his eyes. Not the forlorn Zahida he knew now; but the captivating Zah he had been mesmerized by all those years ago. And then the feeling took over, he felt a rising burning in his chest, like a reflux of bile and struggled hard to swallow, erase, cleanse his soul until all he could do was throw a pot of blackened paint onto the serene canvas in order to restore his troubled mind. The image faded. Hot beads of perspiration crawled down his temples, and he felt a shiver as the night breeze washed over him. Even that night of the dream, he had woken on the couch in his study drenched in a cold sweat. He blamed her. Mostly, for not holding it all together for them. And for not keeping the flame of love lit as he had done in the years that he pursued and courted her. Struggling to survive the climb up the corporate ladder, he had released the reigns of their life’s carriage of happiness into her hands, and quite obviously she had failed miserably. Irritated, he resignedly pulled on the last bit of his cigarette and smashed the remains of the still lit butt onto the edge of the balcony trellis. He exhaled in a huff and went back inside not giving Zahida another thought.

Less than twenty metres away from where he had been reminiscing, on ground level, behind a now familiar row of mulberry hedges, little Iman had finally fallen asleep in her mother’s arms, convinced by her now steadied heartbeats, that her caretaker was safe. Zahida noticed how the infant could sense when she was unavoidably stricken by fear or danger as was the case tonight and many others alike. The warm stream of tears flowed freely now, as she considered her predicament. She had seen her husbands rage, and tasted the fruits of his wrath before, but had managed to veil the effects from her babies. However, the situation had gotten worse as time progressed, and tonight, while nursing little Iman, he had struck her repeatedly. She had finally escaped into the private enclave of her garden while he was distracted by a call on his mobile phone. Later, she would be glad that their children Nadia and Samir were away at her sister’s place for the weekend. But, right now, all she could think of from behind her veil of fear, shock and desperation, was the safety of her baby. It was getting colder. She didn’t have her wrist-watch on, and remembered removing it last when she performed ablution for the Isha, the night prayers. She had little way of knowing that it was close to 2am, Sunday morning. She wondered suddenly, if it was a good idea that they hadn’t yet arranged a night patrol for the gardens. Akram had been talking about it for some time now. It would be difficult to explain her present position in the garden, she thought somewhat irritated. Her reaction had been one of fear. A human being fearing her life; a mother fearing the safety of her baby. These conflicting thoughts derided her, fear, self-ridicule, guilt and desperation caused havoc with her mind and soul. Rational thought would beg the question of how much more the victim is meant to endure. The need to glorify ones presentation as a socially fit individual, a wife in this case, seems to often overpower that rationality.

2 comments:

Ruby :) said...

wow, this abstract is so touching? is this from your book? i wanna know what happens next.. please

kimya said...

lol

hey there..

welll lets wait n see how it turns out.. :)