"Well," says I, pretending to consider it. "No."
"Listen, you can string it out. Make ten tapes. Why ten? Twenty. I will treat you to free kebabs at my place as long as it lasts."
Wah Jarnalis, big money you must have offered him, his kebabs are famous throughout Khaufpur, well, at least in the Nutcracker, which is our part of Khaufpur, but one more look at his greedy face convinces me.
"Salty fucks to you, I won't do it."
So Chunaram's shouting again, I am giggling, you're meanwhile wanting to know what's going on. Chunaram does some Inglis guftagoo, then he's back to me. "Jarnalis says it's a big chance for you. He will write what you say in his book. Thousands will read it. Maybe you will become famous. Look at him, see his eyes. He says thousands of other people are looking through his eyes. Think of that."
I think of this awful idea. Your eyes full of eyes. Thousands staring at me through the holes in your head. Their curiosity feels like acid on my skin.
"What am I to tell these eyes?" I demand of Chunaram. "What can I say that they will understand? Have these thousands of eyes slept even one night in a place like this? Do these eyes shit on railway tracks? When was the last time these eyes had nothing to eat? These cuntish eyes, what do they know of our lives?"
"Don't talk that way," says Chunaram, casting a fearful glance at you. "Think of kebabs. Plus," he says with a nod at my rags, "you can buy a good shirt and pant, go to the cinema every night, take the best seat, kulfi eat."
With Chunaram everything is a question of money, I'm about to tell him to stick it up his cul when a notion occurs.
Chunaram falls into a rage. "You idiot," he cries. "This deal is nestling in my palm. Why ruin it with stupid demands?"
"It's my story. If he doesn't agree, I will not tell it."
"Have some sense," says he, "how can I ask such a thing?"
"Je m'en fous you nine-fingered cunt."
I know Chunaram won't give up, he lives for money, but as he speaks to you every word is a stone in his mouth. I catch his thoughts, badmaash boy, too much cunt, fucking boy, francispeaking, got too grand, bastard. Mixed in with this is allwhat he's saying to you. I know most of the Inglis words, those I don't know spit their meanings into my ear. C'est normal. Since I was small I could hear people's thoughts even when their lips were shut, plus I'd get en passant comments from all types of things, animals, birds, trees, rocks giving the time of day. What are these voices, no good asking me. When at last I told Ma Franci about them, she got worried, soit un fléau soit une bénédiction, curse or blessing, that's what she said. Well, she should know whose own brain's full of warring angels and demons. She took me to a doctor, it's how I met the Khã-in-the-Jar, which I'll tell about later, but the voices, some are like fireworks cracking the nearby air, others are inside me, if I listen carefully I'll hear them arguing, or talking nonsense. Once I was looking at Nisha, this voice says, the hair pours off her head like history. What the fuck does that mean? I don't know. Some voices are slow like honey melting in the sun, Elli and I saw a locust spread scarlet wings in the Nutcracker, it was crooning "I'm so gorgeous." I said aloud, "Yeah, till a bird sees you." Such a look I got from Elli. She was interested in my voices, being a doctor with a mission to save, even shits like me. I will get to Elli soon, too the Khã-in-the-Jar, but right now I'm telling how Chunaram's thoughts were giving him a headache. Poor bugger was rambling like a lost soul, he did not want to put my demand to you, at one point he grew so confused he forgot to speak Inglis, whinged in Hindi, "Don't get offended by what this idiot is asking." Then I knew greed had him by the ear.
Copyright © 2007 by Indra Sinha
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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