One considers oneself a good photographer, and this may not appear to be the best sunrise. But you have to trust me when I say this is the best sunrise — for this is the Malala sunrise.

Lest this be confusing, let me illuminate the matter with who Malala is. Malala is terrier bitch who generally plays on the Miami Beach. Her owner, or rather companion is Qausar Soomro, who has simplified his name to Kaisar for the benefit of the American tongue — which may have benefited anyway only if the name was changed to Casey.

 

Malala

 

There were two Soomros (or Soormas, as you will) of Miami, a tall one and a small one — our protagonist is the latter. The former has gone back to Pakistan — and he had a peculiarity — he used to call JNU — the now much anti-national university of Delhi — as Jayun. Even after the university doing rounds of news for two months, and even with several deshbhakts exhorting all kinds of people to go to Pakistan – it is still Jayun for him — so much so that the writer of this account who has studied for a decade there, has started calling it Jayun. So the two Soomro Pakistanis, an anti-national Jayunite, a nationalist Gujarati girl, a studious Spanish girl, a tormented-by-Greeks Macedonian guy, and Malala used to hang out together. Meanwhile the two Soomros also turned out to be anti-national, always talking about Sindh and Sindhi instead of Pakistan. Hind and Sindh are sisters apparently, but the kind that must not be seen chatting with each other. In between all this we forgot Malala. Malala is tinier than tiny, which is not an achievement by Miami dog standards — some big rats will stand as tall as them. Speaking of curious pets, one has seen a well-dressed, again tiny, monkey, chill out on the shoulders of a svelte lady; or a javelina playing around in a park. Javelina is pronounced with an H, so you could laugh ‘jaja.’ Miami is the unofficial capital of Latin America, therefore the Spanish. Now Javelina is a popular animal in Sedona, which is in Arizona which is where I got to know what the animal is called. A javelina looks like a pig, but is not quite a pig — which is why the owner at the Miami parked had laughed ‘jaja’ at me when I said, “What a cool pig.” That holds for various situations in life.

That is enough digression for now. Now let us get to the heart of the matter. After the first Capoera session yesterday (A Brazilian martial art — where the tutor misconstrued my name as Ahmet instead of Amit as it usually happens west of India), one was in a mood for all things a first time, so one was cooking aloo parval when Mr Soomro called. I invited him to taste the old recipe in my new hands — and he agreed to be the guinea pig. Malala refused the offer though, and just sat in a corner reading a Sanskrit book, barking with joy. Soomro Small or Kaisar is going to meet Soomro Tall in Pakistan. That is one of things he is going to do. He is going to his home country after twenty years. When he came to New York, he did not know how to speak English, which is why he now speaks it with an accent. Others speak with accents for different reasons. He obtained some certificates in computers and tuned in his hardware to the software industry. He reads self-help books like many others do, but unlike them he is bitterly critical of governments that create hatred among people as a cover up to not do their regular day job. He also practices yoga, and yet never manages to get a visa to India. And he has been laid off, which he said almost nonchalantly and almost exuberant. He’s contemplating a career in yoga – but who will tell him that becoming a guru is not about mastering techniques. Having been fired, he has now after a long time desired to go to Pakistan and see if he can combine Sufism and Yoga. Sindh is the land of the Sufis, with 125,000 shrines, for the uninitiated.

So Malala and Mr Soomro came for dinner, and Mr Soomro told me that he’s going to New Jersey the next morning. Pray why. Oh I must drop Malala off to my parents’ before I leave. Malala is obviously not happy with this. Her previous owner, his cousin, had left for Pakistan, and did not return for a long time, and so she became Soomro’s companion. She perfectly filled the void in a lonely estranged expatriate’s life. Malala smells something is wrong, and even though Soomro is going just for a month, neither of them is happy. The dinner not having lifted his spirits exactly, I offer our friend a lift to the airport in his own car, just as a courtesy. ‘It’s alright,” he says, “I will take an Uber (taxi).” However, after a few minutes, he laps up the idea —

“Actually it is a good idea. I will come and pick you up at five in the morning. I have my ticket to New Jersey, but not Malala’s.”

“Well and how do you propose to deal with the security?”

“Oh the security loves dogs. Don’t you know that? It is the airlines that I need to beat. And you will help me do that.”

“I have never beat up any air or any line in my life, man.”

“Well while I get the boarding pass, you will hold Malala, and then I get into the security queue.”

“Alright, done, see you at five,” he says and walks out the door before I know.

It is already two, and there’s just three hours. Tired of a trip to Little Haiti to do some research on voodoo, Capoeira and cooking, I should be snoring away to glory – but I find myself reading about dogs, which is how I find out that Malala is a terrier. That done, anxiety takes over. American cars are no easy game. You have to be insured along with the car, you just can’t drive a friend’s car. Everyone and everything is insured. Or you’re out of the system, peddling stolen sunglasses at the beach.

Other compatriot fellow fellowship friends will vouch for the fact that one is a veteran — after Barstow definitely. We were on a Trippy Amrika Trip in a snowy West Coast December when Miami was still hot, and we stopped by the woods of a tavern on a snowy evening in Barstow. A karaoke night was on, and brown boys singing white songs was a treat for the cowboys who gifted me a cowboy hat. It is birthday boy Bubba who gave me the gift instead of the other way round. That done, I was the driver of a black car which had a tendency to wobble to the right irrespective of the driver’s state or intentions. And so California cops stopped us, and one passed several fun tests — like closing one’s eyes and telling when it was thirty seconds (on that frozen godforsaken night even the most sophisticated wrist watch would sound like bells of a church in its ticks and tocks), or placing one’s right foot parallel to the ground and counting from one thousand one up. Those tests were easy. A Barstow Bond, however, is insipid and in for sure trouble without insurance.

Also, I would have to drive alone listening to the position locator app or GPS on the smartphone and not seeing the actual map. If one knows Miami and its nervous labyrinth of flyovers and exits, one knows verbal instructions of an irritating robotic voice is not enough.

The moment, however, came, and no soul was awake to be my navigator on my uninsured return trip. We reached the airport and the colossal parking also made me doubt if I would ever find the car again in its ubiquitous gray colour and standard design. While Soomro executed his plan of getting the boarding pass without Malala, she whimpered from inside her blue bag. The whimper turned into barks in a few minutes and I was the centre of attraction suddenly. Kaisar came back only to tell this was the wrong counter and the other one is far away. At the other counter, there was more whimpering and barking – till finally our protagonist had succeeded in getting a boarding pass without Malala getting into their sight. The curious creature stopped barking now, and everyone was quite sure of my evil soul.

We parted ways, Malala to the security and me to the parking – hunting for the gray car whose number I did not know by the way. After my combing operations had lasted half an hour, Soomro calls – I missed my flight. “Thank god,” I said, “now please come and find the car.” By the time he came, I found the car. However, he did not come, and called again, “they put me on another flight, though I missed it. They love Malala I think.”

I was surprised that I followed the robotic voice quite well through the serpentine flyovers, till I lost the internet on my phone, and therefore the map. With no idea of where I was — because all the malls and the houses in Miami are clones of each other, and the rest is numbers which I as a passenger have never bothered much about — I drove on straight. It was then that I saw the sun rising in my side mirror. This is exactly where sun rises in front of my house, and the opposite is exactly where the sun sets. I had found my way and drove into a rising west.

That was the most beautiful sunrise, the Malala sunrise.

 

Amit Ranjan

Amit Ranjan

Amit Ranjan is a Fulbright scholar for 2015-16 at Florida International University. He has also been a recipient of Endeavour and Inlaks scholarships. He has held the honorary position of Australia Awards Ambassador in India, and teaches English literature at New Delhi. His research on John Lang, a 19th century Australian writer, lawyer and journalist, is going to be published soon as a book. His other non-fiction book about shared histories of Australia and India, Who the Duck is Alice, is to be released next year. He has a deep and abiding interest in Sufi music and literature.

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