Roshni apa's advice and praise!
Great and wonderful surprise to find myself in the story in the very good company of our own and much beloved Ijazbhai and our favorite Mahmood--but the story itself needed an editor. I know--because all my works need an editor.
The "critic" and aficionada of Moazzambhai's stories continues--Remember how I continue to be haunted by your story of the man with the transistor radio--and of the man who kissed the Holy Land?! Two other Moazzamnarratives have joined the company--"Jhura and Lali"--absolutely an amazingly moving gem--showing that a narrative/a story will go to the heart of a matter with much more power than any academic essay. Every time I read it, I cry--those sandals and the face struggling to keep intact!
And then the Cafe le Whore--! Absolutely different and yet--As you know, your Ammi was very dear to me--I have always held her blessings close to my heart--and yes, I knew how difficult it was--life with her--and how true a son you always were to her. But even if I didn't know all this--the story is a powerful tribute to a mother-son and to the "lost" (to the "normal" world) people with whom we live every day--and yet we don't live with them. Who are the real phantoms?
Many years ago, as Chuck and I were driving through San Francisco, I saw some people begging (no euphemisms please!) on a road divider--I don't remember where it was. All of a sudden, I saw an older man, tall, emaciated in a pyjama-kameez--the kind of brown/grey that men wear in the North West and I yelled "Abba"--he didn't resemble my father--but he was a man, I would have called "Abba" anywhere in the world --Chuck realized what had happened and that I needed to stop and go to the man and see what I could do--but when I turned back, he had completely disappeared--we couldn't see him/find him. I see your story, "Cafe le Whore" as a sad but sincere honor, a tribute to your Ammi, to the Abba who disappeared and all the human beings so many people wish would disappear.
As I said before--Moazzambhai--thank you.
As soon as you began talking about bringing the street(s) alive (all the locations in all the stories are alive), I knew that that was what has continued to haunt me. The places, the events and the people can't be separated (remember Sara Suleri talking about that in Meatless Days?)--and you bring all three to life--and sorrow-compassion act like a thread that weaves them together. Bravo, Moazzambhai