Nadav Spiegelman


Gregory David Roberts
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We came upon a stall where a man in a sweat-stained cotton vest stirred battered foods frying in a dish of bubbling oil.
There was an announcement. It might’ve been in English. It was the kind of sound an angry drunk makes, amplified through the unique distortions of many ancient, cone-shaped speakers. As
I clenched my teeth against the stars. I closed my eyes. I surrendered to sleep. One of the reasons why we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you.
Jeetendra was short and plump. He smiled happily and shook my hand, rubbing vigorously at his prominent paunch all the while. His wife, Radha, acknowledged my smile and nod of greeting by drawing her red cotton shawl over her head and holding it across her face with her teeth.
‘A great honour to see you again, Khaderji,’ he said, his face writhing into a grimace that was either a reaction to stomach cramp, or an oily smile.
His fifty-five years sat lightly on his taller-than-average frame.
[Nadav’s note: First mention . Brilliant]
Good doctors have at least three things in common: they know how to observe, they know how to listen, and they’re very tired. Hamid was a good doctor, and when, after an hour of discussion, I looked into his prematurely lined face, the eyes burned and reddened by lack of sleep, I felt shamed by his honest exhaustion.
His most striking feature was his nose, an instrument so huge and magnificently pendulous that is seemed designed for some purpose altogether more grand than merely inhaling air and fragrances.
On the dashboard he’d installed a plastic shrine to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The gold, pink, and green plastic figure of the goddess blazed an alarmingly fierce expression through the bulbs in her red eyes whenever he hit the brakes of the car. From time to time he reached over, with a showman’s flourish, to squeeze a rubber tube at the base of the figure. That action sprayed, through what appeared to be a valve in the navel of the goddess, a potent and disquietingly industrial mix of chemical perfumes onto the shirt and trousers of his passenger. Every squeeze of the spray was followed by a reflexive, polishing rub of his brass taxi driver’s identification badge, which he wore with swaggering pride.
When I made my last round of the jewellers at the Zhaveri bazaar, there was a quivering, agitated restlessness in me. It was the random anger that attaches itself to a sense of futility: the wide-eyed, fist-clenching anxiety that flares up often in a wasted life.
The Enfield of India 350cc Bullet was a single-cylinder, four-stroke motorcycle, constructed to the plans of the original 1950s’ model of the British Royal Enfield. Renowned for its idiosyncratic handling as much as for its reliability and durability, the Bullet was a bike that demanded a relationship with its rider. That relationship involved tolerance, patience, and understanding on the part of the rider. In exchange, the Bullet provided the kind of soaring, celestial, wind-weaving pleasure that birds must know, punctuated by not infrequent near-death experiences.
His dance managed to combine obscenely lewd and suggestive thrusts of his hips with the facial expressions and hand-whirling gestures of a child-like innocence.
‘You’ve got to stop smoking and drinking so much, Didier. And you’ve gotta do a little exercise now and then.’ ‘Oh, please!’ he shuddered, stubbing out a cigarette and fishing another from the pack in front of him as the coughs subsided. ‘There is nothing so depressing as good advice, and I will be pleased if you do not inflict it upon me. Frankly, I am shocked at you. You must know this, surely? Some years ago I suffered such an offensively gratuitous piece of good advice that I was depressed for six months afterward. It was a very close call—I almost never recovered.’
My first knife fight was in prison. Like most prison fights, it started trivially and ended savagely.
At Leopold’s we found Didier drinking himself into the liquid abyss.
At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread, of course, is that we won’t stop loving them, even after they’re dead and gone. For I still love you with the whole of my heart, Prabaker. I still love you. And sometimes, my friend, the love that I have, and can’t give to you, crushes the breath from my chest. Sometimes, even now, my heart is drowning in a sorrow that has no stars without you, and no laughter, and no sleep.
Personality and personal identity are in some ways like co-ordinates on the street map drawn by our intersecting relationships. We know who we are and we define what we are by references to the people we love and our reasons for loving them.
We were lonely, Lisa and I, and at first we talked to one another as lonely people do—in fragments of complaint, and corners clipped from conversations that we’d already had with ourselves, alone.
That was the beginning of Nazeer’s slow, reluctant acceptance of the fact that I would never be anything other than the worst horseman he knew.
NAZEER WOKE ME before dawn, and we left the house as the first yawning rays of light stretched into the fading night.
We could call it a characteristic, which is one of my favourite English words. If you do not speak English as your first language, the word “characteristic” has an amazing sound—like rapping on a drum, or breaking kindling wood for a fire.
I didn’t know then, as I do now, that love’s a one-way street. Love, like respect, isn’t something you get; it’s something you give.
‘I look forward to it,’ she said, holding my eye long enough to make sure I felt it in several places at once.
turned to look at her. The sky in her eyes held tiny storms. Her lips, embossed with secret thoughts, were swollen to the truth she was trying to tell me.
There are few things more discomfiting than a spontaneous outburst of genuine decency from someone you’re determined to dislike for no good reason.
It is always a fool’s mistake, Didier once said to me, to be alone with someone you shouldn’t have loved.