Short story: Mrs Ahmed’s Diamonds by Rakhshanda Jalil


TBASS

There is a restless energy about Mrs Ahmed. She appears to be chewing on something all the time. Her jaws move constantly, distractedly. Her eyes, large and protuberant, are never still. Moving relentlessly, they skim the room, flitting from objects to people, seldom settling on any one for very long. And yet she herself is oddly still, sitting almost motionless for hours in that room filled with walking and talking people.

I have been seeing her for years now. She usually occupies one of the high-backed wingchairs in the Lounge, the one at the far end of the room. Set against large bay windows, it is an excellent vantage point to take in the activities both inside the Lounge and on the gravel path outside going towards the Bar. In winters, she has her chair pulled close to the roaring fire. Set at an incline to the fireplace, once again this position affords her a great view of the goings on in the room. In the warm glow of the fire, the light glinting off the many diamonds on her large, handsome person, she occupies the still centre of that otherwise frenetic room with its constant to-ing and fro-ing of members and bearers.

She is a handsome woman. The angular jut of her chin and the bulging eyes make her stop short of being a beautiful woman, but there’s still a great deal to declaim that she must once have been striking-looking if not a great beauty. Her unnaturally dark hair might owe much to a professional hair colourist but it’s still thick and long, piled up as it is in an artful updo. Her body, stocky and inclined towards stoutness now, shows a trace of its former nimbleness when she stands up to her full height or on the few occasions that I have seen her walking towards the Card Room. What is more, she wears her sari tightly draped across her chest and hips in the way that modern young women do, women young enough to be her granddaughters.

I am no card player and have nothing in common with the gin-drinking ladies who gather everyday without fail to play Rummy and Bridge. I come to the Club to use the Library and Swimming Pool and, increasingly, to pop by for some tea. And so, I have only ever encountered Mrs Ahmed sitting in the Lounge, possibly waiting for her friends to come at noon—or after her game, when the others have gone and she is by herself, alone. Once, I must confess, I even followed her till the Card Room to see who she would meet and, frankly, also to see how she looked when she spoke or interacted with others. For, I had only ever seen her still and silent in the Lounge.

 

Read the complete story in The Best Asian Short Story 2018. Show your support for contemporary Asian voices. Order your copy now:

For Indian buyers: Flipkart & Amazon.in

For all buyers (except India): Kitaabstore 

Advertisements