TSAR has published the book.
Echoes from the Other Land’s launch was at Beit Zatoun, a meeting place with a Palestine heart and a global soul. It was my second visit to this fascinating place, with a pronouncedly political milieu.
Homa read an excerpt from a story in her collection – A River of Milk and Honey.
It’s a story of Sharmin, a teenager with Down’s syndrome (although this is never explicitly stated) and her muted pain of growing up into a lonely woman without any hope of getting Azad, the boy she silently loves.
|Launch event; Ava (author) in blue jacket|
Sharmin is homebound and fantasises about a perfect world where she is without a blemish and emerges from a river of milk and honey.
“I close my eyes. It’s not hard to imagine myself emerging from the River of Milk and Honey, luminous wings open. Azad passes by and stares. Gathering my wings behind me, I walk elegantly in a white dress towards a garden of red roses, pretending not to see him. A breeze blows through my hair. When I get to the garden, I turn and beckon to him; he has a look of adoration in his eyes. He runs to me. We walk together through the garden, hand in hand.”
Azad loves Kazhal, Sharimn’s beautiful neighbour, who everyone desires – from teenagers like Azad, to grown men such as neighbour Shilan’s father.
Kazhal has “Rhythmical step, appealing makeup, large breasts, flat belly, big lips.” She’s everything that Sharmin wants to be but isn’t and can’t be. Sharmin’s aunt tells her that beauty is misery, but she’s unconvinced.
When Kazhal tells her that she has no friends with whom she can converse, Sharmin realises that a beautiful young woman can be as lonely as one with Down’s syndrome. They become friends. Later Kazhal gets married to someone who claims to be rich, but before the marriage is consummated, her family discovers that he isn't.
“Kazhal does not know what to do. She tells me that she actually hates him, and hates her mother for making all the decisions on her behalf and then blaming her. Sometimes she even hates herself for being so wretched and sometimes she hates all women for being such miserable creatures. I hold her hands in mine.”