Cairo’s coolest cosmopolitan hotel. General Manager: Youssef Rakha.
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كان على كل اثنين أن يمشيا بحيث يتقدم أحدهما الآخر بخطوة مغمضًا عينيه، بينما يضع الثاني كفه على ظهر مغمض العينين بدرجة تحذره قبل أن يرتطم بشيء ولا تدفعه إلى اتجاه معين. أسميتها وصفة الوجود والخفة. يمشيان هكذا لبعض الوقت ثم ينفصلان. ينتظر صاحب الكف في مكانه ويتحرك مغمض العينين وحده إلى أن يكتفي، وهنا عليه أن يجد طريق العودة نحو الكف، دون أن يختلس النظر، ليستأنفا مشيهما.
My upbringing in Madras in the late 1980s and 90s led me to picnics in the beautiful country that dotted Enid Blyton’s books – just as it did many children of my generation and the generations before me. The Famous Five and The Secret Seven offered a generous serving of scones, marmalade, pears, fresh cream, crumpets and whatnot… And like any self-respecting EB-reading child, I nurtured a not-so-secret yearning to eat scones at tea one day.
When I finally tried them, surprisingly later in life, at a charming café in Madras, I was utterly disappointed. Perhaps it was the weight of all that expectation, perhaps I wasn’t a scone person, I could never figure out which.
Scones disappointed me, but I kept looking for food in my books. As I grew up and my taste took a turn towards writers closer to home, and to cultures similar to mine, I not only enjoyed local tastes in my mouth as I savoured the words that leapt out of the pages, but also actual dishes. That’s when it hit me: food, just like books, was political; perhaps that’s why we vacillate from wanting books banned to foods banned, once every few months here.
It was a rainy day in April.
Noonie stepped out of her school bus and looked across the lake. The naked bulbs on a line of houseboats stared back at her. “Now what?’ they seemed to ask.
The clouds swathed the mountains. The wind punched, pushed, bent the trees across the road.”
She had to row half a kilometre to reach her home: a houseboat. Hers was at the farther edge of the lake near the marshy land. Every day she rowed the small shikara to and fro across the lake. Sometimes, Gul kak, a neighbour, rowed her in case it rained. But that day, no one was in sight.
My sister screamed in the night
Take me to my brother’s house
And there she screamed that same night
No no! Take me back to the house of my father
They took her back
And when she made to scream again
The night had passed
And the men had gone to work.
لعبتُ كثيراً في بيت صديقتي ذات الخمس سنوات
على أرضية ترابية أسفل سرير نحاسي
كانت تفضل الغميضة، وكنت أفضل الاكتشاف.
There is no way for me to measure how much time this day was coming, but it seems to have been destined to arrive to me since always. There are no means left to escape it, and I recognise that even if I had them, I would only be postponing what will never go away, and I accept the need to face it. There is nothing but my conscience and my self now left to live with. It is time to take account – this once and always. However as I start to take account I find it difficult to know where to begin, if not the fact of my forgetting what it was that I would like to come to terms with. For perhaps it is this very lack of memory that I need to take account of. Not the memory of my deeds – although those deeds may be remembered in the course of my account to cause me many hours of shame and wishful thinking – but the memory of the reason I was given this existence, my forgetting of which cause has been the cause of my regrettable behaviours.