Book: An American Brat
I have many teachers. My cousin shows me things.
"You want to see my marbles?" he asks, and holds out the prettily coloured glass balls for me to admire and touch -- and if I so wish, to play with. He has just returned from Quetta where he had a hernia operation. "Let me show you my scar," he offers, unbuttoning his fly and exposing me to the glamorous spectacle of a stitched scar and a handful of genitals. He too has clever fingers. "You can touch it," he offers. His expression is disarming, gallant. I touch the fine scar and gingerly hold the genitals he transfers to my palm. We both study them. "I am also having my tonsils removed," he says. I hand back his genitals and look at his neck. I visualize a red, scalloped scar running from ear to ear. It is a premonition.
There is much disturbing talk. India is going to be broken. Can one break a country? And what happens if they break it where our house is? Or crack it further up on Warris Road? How will I ever get to Godmother's then?
I ask Cousin.
"Rubbish," he says, "no one's going to break India. It's not made of glass!"
I ask Ayah.
"They'll dig a canal..." she ventures. "This side for Hindustan and this side for Pakistan. If they want two countries, that's what they'll have to do -- crack India with a long, long canal."
Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, Mountbatten are names I hear.
And I become aware of religious differences.
It is sudden. One day everybody is themselves -- and the next day they are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian. People shrink, dwindling into symbols. Ayah is no longer just my all-encompassing Ayah -- she is also a token. A Hindu. Carried away by a renewed devotional fervour she expends a small fortune in joss-sticks, flowers and sweets on the gods and goddesses in the temples.