Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cherished comments by Roshni Rustomji-Kerns


Roshni apa's advice and praise!

This means a lot to me as I consider her my mentor-sister. Her kindness and encouragement not just towards me but many writers of South Asian diaspora who came after her needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. In her words:

    Your stories--First of all, thank you for the collection--the voices, the landscapes--physical and beyond. Remember what Leslie M. Silko said about stories?  Thank you--for proving her correct.
Secondly--the "critic speaks"--I found the spacing/pacing of how the stories appear in the collection disturbing--short, short and then longer and longer--Maybe that is my own inner ear--with all my musical training--my rhythm is always my own!  Drove some of my music teachers cray--especially dance teachers!

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.

Added comment:
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