Glasgow Writer: Samina Chaudry
Samina Chaudry was born in Manchester and then moved to Lahore as a child. After completing a Masters degree in English Literature from Punjab University she became a lecturer at Bahria College, Karachi. In 1999 she moved to Glasgow, where she worked part time for Breast Cancer Relief as well as Scottish Power. Recently she has been self employed, overlooking finances in her husbands construction company as well as caring for her three children.
Most of Samina’s spare time is spent writing short stories and she is also working on a novella. Her work has been published by Scottish PEN, thi wurd, and in the book, Tales From A Cancelled Country. She has also had some poems anthologised in Poetry Forward Press.
Samina is taking part in the Ten Writers Telling Lies Project – where ten of Glasgow’s most talented writers have got together with the musician Jim Byrne, to produce a book and CD. The product will be launched in 2017. You can catch a preview at the West End Festival 2016.
(An extract from Shumali by Samina Chaudry)
I can’t sit here a long time; the sun will start burning me. I move the chair a little to the other side. I’m beginning to have suspicions about the wife’s uncle who I thought was my uncle also. How could he have opened a new takeaway so quickly after the first one. I’m beginning to wonder where he got the money. Three months back when I asked him for my rent he said he’d been collecting it regularly. Ten days later he said it was in the bank. Another ten days and he said it got used up. But then if I complain the wife says these things happen. These people have their needs. But then she doesn’t think about our expenditures. Rajoo’s father has been in three near death accidents since he has been working for us. Eight times he’s taken a lump sum amount from me saying he’ll return it. When I say I’ll deduct the money from his salary he starts begging. He starts saying I look like his mum’s brother. Maybe I should also start putting on these faces and start asking for money. Might be people will feel sorry for me also.
I pick a magazine and flick through it. Outside a rickshaw putters and stops outside our gate. Chanda comes in, takes some money from the wife and goes back out to pay the rickshaw driver. The wife looks a little surprised to see Chanda. She’s not smiling like she normally does when she see’s her. Might be the trip to her uncles will have to be postponed now that Chanda’s here. Chanda comes back in. She tells the wife that the medicine she gave for her son has done wonders. Thank goodness, she says. It’s good to come out and leave every thing behind. She also says that their TV’s not working and that she wont be able to concentrate on her work if she doesn’t watch the new episode of a drama serial she’s been following. She hurries inside.
One of these days our television’s not going to come on, I say
The wife shakes her head. Now don’t you say anything to her because it’s hard to find someone reliable these days.
I finish my tea handing her the empty cup.
Are you listening? She says.
I tell her I wont say anything today.
I look over hearing the sound of Rajoo shout at someone. Two children run in holding a banner followed by Rajoo. He follows them up the stairs but they’re too fast for him. He sees me and says they jumped over the wall because he wouldn’t let them in. The one in the front shouts down that they slipped through the open gate.
Hey children, I shout.
Uncle the local councillor has chosen your house to put this banner on, the boy in front says.
I call them down and ask them to show it to me. They open the banner, holding it up.
It’s our Hamid, the wife says.
Hamid Baldy standing for councillor? I say.
I look at the picture of a tiger on the banner that looks more like a dog.
But he hasn’t done anything from the past twelve or fifteen years, I say.
The wife frowns. That’s why he wants to go into politics because he wants to do something now.
Chanda puts her head out of the kitchen door.
Uncle, you don’t want to mess around with the other party? They could bang you up.
She nods and then disappears.
I remember reading somewhere of a Lal Bagh loaning a rifle or a gun just for ten rupees. If they’re that easy to loan, then Chanda’s right I could be shot for supporting Hamid. Anything can happen here especially when the other group are not the kind of people to mess around with.
I look closely at the banner. The letter l is missing from the word elections. When I tell the boys to get a new one made they chuckle saying it’s in English and not many people would bother reading it.
I rather you not put it on, I say.
The wife gives them the thumbs up. The boys run up with the banner. Once they’re on the top of the roof one shouts down:
Uncle once the banner goes on it can’t be taken down.
I go and sit down. The intensity of the sun has gone away and the sunlight feels warm on my hands and feet. I close my eyes. I must have fallen asleep because when I open them Rajoo’s standing there. He hands me the newspaper. He stands there by my side.
Do you need something? I ask.
Ehm I was thinking…
If it’s days off your looking for then you need to ask the wife.
It’s about my future I needed some advice. Rajoo sniffs.
I follow his gaze into the blue sky dotted with a kite. Just then the wife comes to say that the councillor’s outside.
Tell him to come inside?
He says he hasn’t time. The wife says.
I go over to the front side. The gates already open.
Hamid sahib come in, I say.
You’re the good folks here. I didn’t expect this from you, Hamid shakes his head.
I frown. What’s the matter?
My banner’s lying on the ground. The children are saying that that the girl who works here took it off.
Come in for a cup of tea.
I don’t have the time but biscuits and tea sound good.
I smile. Some spirit outside for these elections.
Hamid stares at me.
There should be some spirit in the hearts also.
The wife takes the banner from Hamid and hands it to the little boy who had put it up earlier on. She thinks it could be the children upstairs and not Chanda that’s taken the banner off. She calls me over. Remember we’re on his side because we’re his neighbours, she whispers. I shake my head. Freakin politics can’t even say whom I support.
Hamid says he’s spent the night writing and practicing a speech. Why waste time on stupid speeches, he says when you can be out there winning voters over. When he says he’s a suitable candidate and is likely to win the elections I tell him he should have become a councillor ages ago. He shakes his head and says the time has to be right to do things. He looks Chanda up and own as she puts two cups of tea and a plate of biscuits on the table. She then drags a chair over, places it in the middle of the room and sits down smiling.
Hamid takes a sip of his tea. He dips a biscuit. It crumbles into the tea. He pops the rest of it into his mouth and dips another one quickly in and out of the tea. He pours the rest of the tea into the saucer and blows on it as he drinks it. The little boy comes down the stairs. Jobs been done, he says. Hamid takes out some change from his pocket and tells him to treat himself to a bottle of coke.
He takes his spectacles out of his pocket and puts them on. Categorically speaking, he says. There are a lot of people out there that want to see me down. He lifts his finger up. But if I win I’ll tell them who Hamid F Ghauri is.
Don’t forget us little people, Chanda says.
Hamid nods his head.
What is it you’d want done? You want a gas pipe on your side of the road?
Why would I want gas if there’s none coming to the houses that have it.
See all this negativity makes me want the elections to come quickly, Hamid says.
Hamid’s talking like he’s already the councillor. But when I tell him he should be thinking about a school or a community centre he says he won’t have a magic wand to do all these things.
He looks at Chanda.
Girl you tell me something I could do for you.
Chanda moves her chair closer to him.
If you’d get my son a permanent job somewhere?
How many classes has he done?
He’s matric fail.
Tell him we’re in the same club. I also failed my matriculation exam.
Hamid takes out a white hanky, wets the side of it with his spit and cleans his mouth.
He continues talking: When I sat the matriculation exam I failed the English paper. I was allowed to cheat but ended up writing the answers that weren’t meant to be written and had been crossed out. But next time when I sat the exam I did things the right way.
Hamid looks at his watch and stands up.
Well let’s get that son of yours started. Tomorrow I need some leaflets distributed, he says.
Chanda tells Hamid she’ll do the job quicker than her son who has a bad leg. She also tells him that she could also help him in writing his speeches as she used to get top marks in language. Hamid scratches his moustache and looks at her.
Feature created by Pat Byrne, 7 May, 2017
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