I’m still moving house. WiFi is less of a struggle, sitting down and thinking up a blog post is much, much more difficult. Instead, here’s some notes on a story I’m super excited to write this year.
Poor Michael just didn’t know what to do when he decided to move bricks to the dangerously Muslim-infested community of Fareir. He armed himself with this journal, which is quite convenient if he gets blown into oblivion by a faulty bomb while he is there. Haha, joking. The only ‘faulty bomb’ about to explode anywhere in Fareir is the one teeming with the gossip and rumours when someone’s mother’s cousin sister’s stepson’s daughter’s boyfriend is caught dealing drugs in the streets. Again.
Mina: the woman who hates waking up in the morning. Middle-aged, obese, she is the main gossiper in town. When Michael visits her and she takes him in to make tea, give him food, and find weird things to gossip about, he finds her husband praying and he was like, ‘Wow, you guys actually bow down to this invisible God of yours?’ He hits a nerve and the flab on her face start twitching, one eyebrow raised, with an incredulous look on her face. Shouting ‘GET OUT!’ she shoves him out of her house, chucking a goody bag of Bangladeshi sweets out for him too. A young girl, covered head to toe in a long black garment with a leopard print scarf goes up to him and explains why Mina did that. She then titters whenever he sees her and always talks to her friends who titter and giggle at him too. Michael is like, ‘Stop tittering at me; it’s scary!’
He is shocked when all the men who overslept on Friday storm past him in a sea of white gowns, and he sees this old man (Gandhi look-alike) with a walking stick struggling to catch up, muttering, ‘Hurry! It’s the Friday prayer!’
Michael just sits on the pavement clutching at his heart. ‘There must be some sort of free money giving out thing going on in there,’ he eyes the mosque with caution, ‘for them to have actually got out of bed and risked getting a heart attack by running with their cholesterol and high blood pressure!’
There is an old man who asks him anything by shouting and saying, ‘Hmm?’ and repeating the question. ‘I SAID,’ pausing to take a deep breath, ‘DO YOU WANT CHAI BROTHER?’ Michael gets apprehensive about how many apparent siblings he has in Fareir.
Tittering girls get fuel from the thousands of ‘chai’ shops.
Boyz in the hood, Muslim ‘thobed’ gangsters who love girls and want to, you guessed it, marry them.
There was a yellow fog that dropped over the village-town of Fareir, masking the place into an impenetrable realm of dangerous poison, biochemical gas, and the faint but bitter-smelling flavour of turmeric. Michael leaned over to ask his driver, an Indian man with a turban on his head and Frederick Wilhelm II’s impressive waxed moustache – in black – just what that fog meant.
“You don’t suppose that the fog is dangerous, do you?”
Wilhelm II’s incarnation, ironically called Bill, chuckled. “No, sir, that’s Fareir, home to the browns in the home of the whites. The inside-out coconut.”
Michael hesitated for a moment. “That’s Fareir?”
“You white people are so endearing. Repeating the obvious all the time. You want to be an exotic parrot, ah? How cute. Here, have a sweet.”
Michael refused the offer. With the council threatening to kick him out of his home (this time indefinitely) if he didn’t find a job or some sort of self-improvement scheme soon, Michael grabbed the first leaflet the one-stop shop offered him and signed himself up. This particular programme, should Michael have read it instead of skimming it for the contact details, aimed to do a wife swap of sorts between two totally different cities. And while swapping London with, say, Devon, would have been a perfectly good swap, because of Michael’s whiteness (and some ancestral blue blood somewhere) Fareir was decided upon as the destination to be at by the super complicated and possibly illegal algorithm that generated such culture-integrating life swaps. Throughout the week it took to prepare for the move, his ex-girlfriend’s mother (the one who worked at the organisation that had offered the scheme) packed his bags and made his dinners and booked the necessary bookings, never stopping her gushing about how wonderful this would be, how much of a learning curve, how he was so privileged to be able to get some insight into what it means to be human.
Forget literature, Michael, she would say while stirring a pot of gumbo in his studio flat, if you want to understand the human condition you simply must get out there, darling. Then she would turn to check that he was attentively listening to her like the ex-son-in-law she had always wanted, and tell him frankly: Fareir, Michael, is exactly the place for that.