Friday, June 17, 2005

Icecandyman: creative rewrite

Warning! This piece should only be read if you have read the novel "Ice candy man" by Bapsi Sidhwa. Watching the movie Earth (aka 1947 Earth) is not sufficient.

Creative Interrogation
Creative Piece

(This rewritten ending takes place after Hamida is hired, and after Lenny has seen Ayah in the taxi.)

The creak of the gate signaled Hamida’s arrival. As she came in I ran to her and asked, “Well, did you see her?”
Hamida looked at me a long while as I stared at her expectantly. Then with a sigh she sat down on the floor. I threw myself into her lap and she massaged my legs, for the moment ignoring my demanding, “Well?”
At last she said, “Yes, I met your Ayah.”
Yesterday the Ice-candy man had come to our house searching for Ayah, and had then tried to enter the fallen women’s camp, but the Sikh guard had beaten him up. Today he sat outside the camp, waiting for her.
“So how is she? Where was she? How did she get here?” I shot off the questions.
“She is well… now. When I saw her, she looked tired, but happy.” Hamida fell silent again. She seemed to be thinking of something that she could not quite understand.
“And? Did she become an actress? And who were those two poets I saw her with?” I prompted her.
Hamida looked at me slightly shocked. Then it seemed she made up her mind about something, and told me,
“When I saw her, I thought I would just sit with her and let her cry. But she wanted to speak. She wanted to tell me her story… I have never seen a woman yet who wished to speak of… but she talked. When the ice-candy wallah took your Ayah, he took her to… Hira Mandi, where she was mistreated… by several men… her honour shamed. She was a dancing girl… and then when Baiji tried to get her out, your ice-candy wallah married her.”
“She’s a bride!” I said, pleasantly surprised. I was still slightly bewildered at having heard so many sentences all at once from Hamida. Usually you had to push her into conversation. Hamida continued inspite of the interruption.
“But though she was his wife now, though she had become a Muslim – Mumtaz,” – I liked the name, and tested it on my lips – “she could not love him, she could not forgive him for what he had done to her, what he had taken from her, no matter how well he treated her now. So a few nights ago, she ran from his house, and came here and met Baiji.”
“She met Mother?! But Mother never told me!” I was dismayed – they all knew how long I had been waiting and searching for Ayah, why wouldn’t they tell me when she came?
“Lenny baby, it was a secret. He might have come and taken her again. She had to be kept safe, so Baiji sent her to the camp.”
Of course, I though bitterly, how could they trust a secret to my treacherous tongue? I sighed - would I never escape that curse? Would I have to cut it out?
I left these vexing questions for later, and asked,
“Is Ayah a fallen woman?”
Hamida was silent, and then said with a surprising strength of voice which I had never heard before – “If she was fallen, she has risen again. All the women like her, like myself, that I have seen till now, they all moaned their fate - but accepted it. She talked of it, but did not simply accept it. She said that if she had accepted fate as it came, then she would have stayed in his house. But she would not – so she ran by herself, rather than wait for someone to come.” Hamida smiled slightly at some remembrance, and continued, “So I asked her, do you believe then, like Lenny baby, that you can change the lines on your palm?”
“And? What did she say?” I asked excitedly. “Did she remember me?”
“Yes, she did. And then we talked of you for a long time. She misses you.”
“Then they have to let me go and see her!”
“No, Lenny baby. Not yet,” said Mother, who had been standing in the doorway silently listening to Hamida. “Soon, but not yet.”
That evening I climbed onto the rafters to look down on the camp. I thought I saw a familiar figure… “Ayah!” I called. Several faces looked up, but the one I had called to looked long and smiled, then turned and moved away. It must have been her! But in the dim light she had looked changed.
The Ice-candy man came everyday, waiting till night, for a glimpse of Ayah. That was all he got. Ayah came out rarely. The first few times she never looked at him, but eventually she looked past him as if he wasn’t there. He sat there, declaiming couplets and Urdu poetry. He sometimes sold ice candies, but most he gave away free.
I continued to ask to see Ayah, protesting to Mother and Godmother, “She’ll want to see me!” They were uneasy but unwilling. I suspected that she visited our home while I was out with Hamida, and I always hurried Hamida back to try and catch Ayah at our house. I think they kept me from her because they were afraid, either of what Ayah felt for me because of my accidental betrayal of her, or of my doing her some harm again with my tongue. But I knew they were wrong. Things would be the same between us.
Then finally one night I saw her. She was at the door of our house, talking in the moonlight to Mother as the Sikh kept watch near the gate. I listened, desperate to catch her voice, their words. She was thanking Mother, and also Godmother, for their help with the authorities. Now she was leaving for Amritsar.
“What if they will not take you back?” asked Mother, worried.
“They will have to. If not, I will manage by myself.”
There was a pause.
“Goodbye, Baiji.”
“Goodbye, Shanta.”
She turned and started walking away. Halfway to the gate she stopped, looked back and saw me. She held my gaze, and then opened her arms. I ran to them and she hugged me. After a long moment, I disentangled myself and looked at her. Something had changed. She was no longer the roly-poly bouncing teasing Ayah. Some of the Ice-candy man’s iciness had trickled into her. We gazed at each other and then I turned and ran.
The next day instead of watching from a window, I walked up to the Ice-candy Man. He was reciting poetry to himself and looking through the basket of flower petals he had brought to throw over the wall of the camp.
“Ice-candy wallah,” I called.
He looked up, seeing me. There was a moment when he looked at me vaguely, and then –
“Lenny baby! Come, I’ve got ice candy for you.” But the look remained, as if I was only half there. Absentmindedly he held them out to me.
My heart was thumping. Was I making a mistake? Was this another truth I should not tell? But a feeling of both pity and wanting him to be gone came over me, and I said it:
“Ice-candy wallah, she’s gone.”
I waited to make sure it had sunk in, and then ran back into the house.

The Ice-candy man never came back.

A week later, Hamida asked to see my mother. This was a little unusual – what followed was even more surprising.
“Baiji, I would like to have a few days to go somewhere.”
This was very surprising – meek Hamida asking for something, and wanting to go somewhere on top of that. Mother raised her eyebrows inquisitively.
“But where to, Hamida?”
“To my house… I want to see my children,” said Hamida, with a faint smile at her lips.


Blogger random thoughts from a random person said...

this is a really good rewrite...and leaves a powerful message...very nicely done!! I really liked the novel, though I was a little disappointed with the original ending, for it suddenly got sidetracked from serious issues and became about the ice candy man and his romance, which was frankly ending with Hamida or even Ayah would have doubtless been love your idea!!! :)

9:25 am, February 23, 2009  

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