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Excerpt from Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Temporary People

by Deepak Unnikrishnan

Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan X
Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan
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  • Paperback:
    Mar 2017, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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Print Excerpt

As the men bid adieu, joined by his chauffeur Rahmat, Mo-Mo thought about the future. He recalled with glee Able Ali's face when he walked into the greenhouse a few days ago, almost a month after the trio's visit. Maturing laborers hung from plant stalks like napping bats. Two weeks prior the sultan had watched larvae poke little bodies out of the soil, before inching up fifteen-foot plant stalks like pudgy worms, a two-day climb only the fittest could complete. Mo-Mo told Able Ali how he would wait for every seed to mature and then have his men smuggle the MALLUS in batches to the heart of Dubai, where they would set them free. To roam undetected. Fester. "Mallu Landoo," His Excellency purred, "let's help them get it."

Now if only Rahmat would hurry up with the special stuff he got from his Pashtun dealer, hash smuggled through the Afghan-Iran border on stoned donkeys. But he had requested Rahmat to take the new highway that had just been built, the one that bisected the desert, then make a detour. Towards Rub' al Khali, The Empty Quarter. Rahmat had special instructions and would be late. Mo-Mo would wait. No longer would any of the palaces stink of petrol.

6:00 p.m.

Rahmat drives the happy trio over the new highway. Balkan music turned up high. Goran Bregovic in total command over his orchestra. Trumpets, accordion, two-headed drums, Bulgarian chorus. Rahmat, singing along, channeling Roma blood. His passengers join in. Turning into an impromptu quartet, singing:

"Gas, gas

gas, gas, GAS

Allo allo eh

ritam ritam

allo allo eh sexi ritam!"

Windows rolled down, voices bounced off dunes. As the rum-gold Toyota Land Cruiser headed towards the Rub' al Khali, The Empty Quarter, the greatest of the sand deserts. Rahmat's driving kept time to the orchestra's manic pace, until he detoured, driving into the desert itself at top speed, startling the men. Rum-gold Land Cruiser trampolines! Like off-roaders at Dakar.

The men protest, but Rahmat drives on. By now Bregovic's Balkans have gone bonkers. The stereo explodes. Rahmat goes ballistic. "Ka-lash-nee-kov, Ka-lash-nee-kov, Ka-lash..." he sings. Driving a further fifteen minutes, before he brakes, turning the ignition off. Then stepping outside he begins releasing air from the tires. In order to climb and descend dunes safely, he explains. In the men's presence, Land Cruiser mutates into Off-Road beast.

He then turned towards the nervy trio, "Seen the sun set over dunes?"

July 18, 2006

Tinto and Vimto have hours left to live. They walk aimlessly. Past terrain British explorer Wilfred Thesiger discovered during his crossing of the Empty Quarter. Twice. Umbarak, the Bedu christened the tall Brit. Timto and Vimto could use a bit of help from the Bedu. Any of Umbarak's trusted companions, young Salim bin Ghabaisha or Salim bin Kabina, would do. Both handsome, long maned, worthy travelers. Guides. Tinto and Vimto need guides.

Rahmat had spiked their refreshments. When they woke, the 4x4 was gone. He didn't take all the money. He left half, in case they survived. He also left behind a roast chicken, which a fox would steal, a watermelon now populated by flies, and two liters of water. By twilight the water was gone. Pinto couldn't help it. He was thirsty; he finished the water as his friends slept. A fight ensued, and Pinto separated from the duo.

Pinto was nearing death when he spotted a herd of grazing camels. Milk, he knew, milk! Desperate to drink/feed, he tried approaching a nursing she-camel. She refused. Frustrated, he kicked the resting mother. The animal bit his knee cap off, then kicked him in the head. For a day or two, Pinto had money to his name. He had danced the hora atop a Land Cruiser with a stoned Rahmat. Bregovic 's orchestra blaring proud and loud. Friends Vimto and Tinto drinking beer, singing along:

Excerpted from Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan. Copyright © 2017 by Deepak Unnikrishnan. Excerpted by permission of Restless Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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