a shortish story by kinkminos
Hashim leaned back against the slimegreen wall of the Government hospital, straring blankly at the fluids flowing through the various IV-lines hooked up to his brother’s battered body, and this one line kept looping inside his head: “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”
He’d been trying and trying to remember where he’d heard that line. A childhood memory? For sure. A good memory, too. A happy one. And it sounded so… familiar. If his brother could speak right now, this may well be the first thing he would say to Hashim.
“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into, bhai jaan!”
And Hashim had to admit that he would have a point. After all, whatever the state of the cause-and-effect cycle in the broader scheme of things, it was, sensu stricto, Hashim’s fault that Khadim had been present, wrongtime-wrongplace, at the site of the blast. “Hashim bachha, we’re out of Marmite,” Ammi-ji had said. “Meri jaan, zara run down to Agha’s na, and get me small pot. Your father will be back from office soon.”
Hashim’s father had, post-Ramzan, taken to munching slices of buttered and Marmited bread with his post-office pre-dinner tea. Before that it had been buttered-scones-ooh-la-la, lathered with homemade raspberry jam and – before that – any one of Ammi-ji’s world-famous mixed-fruit chutneys with roghni roti. Ammi-ji was an enthusiastic preserver. Of jams and pickles and unhappy memories. And of the fragile sanity of a family loosely bound together by the tightest of lips.
Abba’s most notorious evening snack, the one they all remembered with wrinkled noses and wry smiles, had been sevruga caviar on melba toast. That menu item had lasted just three days (thank God). That is, for as long as the solitary tin presented to him with much fanfare by Basit Uncle on his return from Baku had lasted. Abba had offered to share it with them, but all had politely declined. “Heh, so much more for me then,” he had smiled, before gingerly taking a bite.
Ammi-ji later told Hashim and Khadim that Abba couldn’t really stand the stuff, and only ate it cos that’s what sophisticated English pipples ate, y’know, y’know. And so he could brag about it at the Marine Club, or whenever he met Basit Uncle and his cronies at some high-funty shaadi or other. “I’m telling you,” she had smiled, “your Abba heaved a sigh of relief when that foul stuff finally finished.”