“The last thing she had heard was her mother’s low, defiant growl, and then she had waited for hours in the dark, but her mama never came back.”
The cobra had been about to strike in her direction, but he hesitated, weaving back and forth, uncertain of his next move. The Sender calculated her chances. She could make a run for it—a long leap to the balcao below, then a dash across its broken balustrades towards the palm tree. And if she did, the stalking would have to begin again, the long mornings and days of near-sleepless vigil, the nights of hunting as each of them tried to find the other one first. This was a bad place for a fight, but Magnificat had learned as a kitten that you couldn’t choose the battle ground, the time of battle or even the opponent. The speed of your paws, the swiftness of your attack: only that was in the hunter’s control.
The slow accumulation of books in any reader’s life testifies to many things, but chiefly to hope. There is nothing more optimistic than a shelf-ful of books you have not yet read, but that you mean to get down to some day. And yet, too much booklove, and what you have is a disease; the books you do not love and would not normally read or keep or treasure, or tell friends about, accumulate thickly, like fungus, like mold, around the books that you truly love and will come back to, again and again.
“Memories, the kind we all carry, of meals eaten and new tastes, of times of deprivation and moments of sharp, new pleasures.”
“So there you have it: our first bona-fide homegrown, school-of-Indian-writing-in-English literary character was not Indian at all. Decades later, writing in partial homage to Desani, Salman Rushdie’s Saleem Sinai in Midnight’s Children would also be half-caste—Anglo-Indian, in his case. Hatterr belonged to the same no-man’s-land—territory claimed by three of India’s greatest writers, Rushdie, Desani and Saadat Hasan Manto, in works spurred by or written about Independence.”
The bag felt light, almost weightless, in my hands. Such a small container for our hidden histories. I made my mother no promises and she never spoke of it again, but as we walked back to our house that night, emptied of all our ghosts, the familiar and the unknown, there was peace between us. That night, I sank gratefully into the silence of the house and dreamt of golden sugarcane juice, heavy and thick with sweetness, stirred sunlight in a crystal glass.