Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Ninja meets the Girl with sad eyes, another fight scene

(The Ninja fights to obtain the antidote for his master who has been poisoned by an extract of wolf's bane. The small images are of the poison and its antidote, a variety of bella donna, both highly poisonous. This is another extract from The Ninja and the Diplomat, forthcoming.) 

Again the ninja attempted to attack the Boss and again he was confronted by the woman with sad eyes.

The two champions knew then that they would have to square off against each other; the ninja if he was to obtain the antidote from the Boss, the woman with sad eyes would do whatever she had to to thwart him. Briefly they inspected each other and then bowed before launching into the attack. The ninja faked a high kick and swung a hard jab at the woman. She blocked his jab partially and pivoted as she appeared to absorb the energy from that jab. From her pivot she emerged to kick him viciously in the crotch.
***
Katya, where is that girl?
The boys have surrounded and attacked her.
What has she done now?
She did nothing, but they did not like it when she beat Anton and Vasily. They thought together they could get her and pull her pants down.
What? I know she is fast and strong but they are each twice, three times, as big as she.
Anyway, she is getting a beating now.
We’ll see about that.
Twelve boys stood around kicking a young girl lying on the ground. They were careful not to get too close as she kicked back and already two of them were sitting by the side nursing bruises and perhaps broken bones.
They were young teens in a special school for gymnasts. Katya had begged her coach to let her learn what they boys were doing as well as what the girls had to. The coach had laughed then grudging agreed to let her try to climb the rope.
He was astonished at her strength. She pulled herself up hand over hand as she had seen the boys do. She did not climb all the way to the top on her first attempt or her second. But it took only weeks for her strength to develop so that she climbed and kept a correct form as she had observed the boys perform.
Eventually she learned all their floor exercises, the pommel horse moves, the uneven bars routines and even the rings.
It’s something genetic, pronounced the team doctor.
Male pride provoked many instances of bullying. Attempted bullying would be the more correct term, as no boy was able to defeat her in a boxing match or a brawl. Those who tried to pair up against Katya discovered her natural aptitude for dodging, squirming, kicking, lashing out with elbows, fists, knees and head butts.
She outgrew her preteen grace and appeared less svelte as her body showed more muscle than women gymnasts do. But she became an awesome fighting machine. Her straight blond hair and sad grey eyes were her best disguise.
***
The ninja took the blow on his left thigh as he turned clockwise, spinning swiftly round to lash a leg sweep. He barely connected before the blond began a cartwheel that ended with her trying to stomp on his left leg. Moving more swiftly than the eye could follow, the ninja had recovered and engaged the woman in a furious series of kicks and blocks.

They broke off only to return immediately with arms flailing, slashing and jabbing, blocking and twisting. An opponent might appear to have an arm locked only to kick or twist free. Neither combatant appeared to weaken or tire. Two or three times, the force of the ninja’s strikes or jabs enabled him to hit his target despite a block or deflecting move by the woman. Several times, her quickness and flexibility, bending over backwards to a handspring resulted in her heel reaching the ninja’s crotch or solar plexus just before he could parry the blow or twist away.

The ninja stepped back, appearing to slip and pivoted off his right arm on the floor to lash his legs against his opponent’s hips. Though she certainly felt the blow, she reacted instantly by swiveling her hips away to her left while launching herself into a handspring to her right.

“They are very good,” said Wang, more to his companion than to the Boss or the Yakuza.


“On a good day, I would not be sure of myself against either of them,” replied Li. “But today, the ninja is distracted.”

“Enough of this Boris,” declared Wang. “Would you please give him the antidote?”

“What antidote?” responded the Boss.

“No matter, Mr. Yamato,” offered Wang, addressing the Yakuza directly. “It would appear that your alliance with the Boss has been terminated, but I do have the antidote. I need, however, some information from you.”

“Ha,” coughed the Yakuza. “You want to know where the other eleven nuclear devices are headed. I shall never tell you!” He coughed again but it became a whoop and then he convulsed.


“It is a simple proposition, Mr. Yamato,” related Wang. “You have been poisoned by what is called in your country torikabuto. Wolf’s bane is its common English name. I don’t think it really has the power to ward off vampires as some legends have it, but it does impair the ability of the heart and the lungs to function properly. You will be dead in two hours without the antidote. So tell me, where are those devices?”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Salman Rushdie's SHAME

The phrase "an impertinence to praise" was invented for a book like this. 

About thirty years ago, Salman Rushdie published Shame. It was preceded by Midnight's Children which seemed to address India's Independence and its aftermath and labored under its self-imposed "blockbuster" status. It was followed by The Satanic Verses which bore the tortured burden of explaining Islam to English readers, perhaps to the author himself.

Shame declares itself to be about a country like Pakistan, but not quite Pakistan. But it
is indubitably Pakistan, from Peccavistan to the country that was born of not one, but two, partitions. The first left it "like two wings without a body, joined by nothing but God"; the second produced "the sound of one wing flapping."

It is possible to go further and read the novel as the duel between Bhutto, the charismatic bon vivant, and Zia ul-Haq, the army man beset in this story by a disgraced (he is caught in a necklace of shoes intended by some deliquents for for the main character), demented Maulana. One reviewer has even identified the character Arjuna "Virgin Ironpants" Harappa as Benazir Bhutto.

But to read this book as a political novel takes it neither here nor there. This is the fable of a man named Omar Khayyam Shakil who was conceived by one of three sisters though all three claimed motherhood. The sisters had been brought up by their father, a widower, "with the help of Parsee wet-nurses, Christian ayahs, and an iron morality that was mostly Muslim," foretelling the cosmopolitan and complex nature of the tale. All three sisters "longed for children with the abstract passion of their virginity." They all lived unhappily in a fortress-building called Nishapur, the city of the poet's birth and death. (The image below of his Mausoleum there in Iran is to be credited to "Khayam" by مختاری from fa. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Khayam.jpg#/media/ File:Khayam.jpg). Our hero, though he is hardly this in the story, demands for his twelfth birthday two things, to be allowed out of Nishapur and to know who was his father. In the pandemonium that ensued, one of the sisters/mothers declared that one at least of his demands should be granted. "Whichwhichwhich?" asked Omar, his curiosity and impatience adroitly captured.


He is allowed out to attend school, eventually leaving Nishapur for good and going on to medical school. When he was first allowed out of the fortress, he was told, "Come home without hitting anyone or we will know that they have lowered your pride and made you feel the forbidden emotion of shame." This is the clue to this wonderful, puzzling book. The tapestry is filled with the intrigues and daring-dos of the Razas (4) and Harappas (4), not to mention the seven Shakils, Rodriguez, Hashmat Bibi, Pinkie Aurangzeb, Shahbanou, and almost countless others. They serve as detail on an artfully woven rug. The author's main burden, however, is the 'problem of shame,' the word itself a "wholly inadequate translation" of the Urdu sharam.

A reader could easily be dazzled by the many ways of a man with a woman that Rushdie conjures in this fabulous book. The adolescent Omar Khayyam pursues "with waddling and heated resolution" a girl only two years older but already possessed of a "body with the physical wisdom of a woman." Their schoolteacher urges her to befriend him, you smart ones should stick together; she woodenly complies, while Omar's trigger response was "Ek dum. Fut-a-fut. At once or even sooner." He confesses to having spied on her through a telescope and declares his love. She cuts him off a little higher than his knees: "Voyeur ... I shit on your words. Your balls dropped too soon and you got the hots, no more to it than that."

Or the convulsing, complex socio-political prelude to the marriage of Good News Hyder and Naveed Talvar (more names) after which she "felt like a vegetable patch whose fertile soil had been worn out by an over-zealous gardener," the gardener's clairvoyant mating decisions having begotten an arithmetical progression of litters.

No. It is in the murky connection between Omar Khayyam and Sufiya Zinobia that the truth and consequences of shame unfolds. Much of it is a dark allegory of idiocy, violence, of bestial strength and revenge. It may be explained by the author's breach of the "fourth wall," in his story about a Pakistani honor killing in East London, to assert that fatherhood had shown him "how colossal a force would be required to make a man turn a knife-blade against his own flesh" but that "we who have grown up on a diet of honor and shame can still grasp ... that men will sacrifice their dearest love on the implacable altar of their pride."

Sufiya Zinobia flees from her marital bed, she becomes a creature of the shadows and of legends. She embodies those women who, bullied and violated, retaliate with demonic and fearsome gore and violence against those who trespassed against them in the name of honor and pride. She is the awesome, barely comprehensible, apotheosis of shame, the kind that combusts like a raging fever but leaves one shivering.