Qasim is an unlikely hero. He can barely look people in the eye, can hardly speak to anyone without stuttering and sweating, is unassertive, has difficulty saying no …
Why do we expect our heroes to posses mythical qualities? If we are not extra-ordinary then why can’t they be just as ordinary? Why can’t they be from us, like us? Ordinary, everyday people with the ability to rise up to face challenges were there to be such a need.
Set aside the burden of expectations and Qasim stands out. He may flounder and flail but is yet to fail. Yes, he was sweating bullets and quivering in his shoes when Khayyam pulled him aside, and yes, he was deliberate in looking away from Mammo pleading eyes, but once he had made up his mind he refused to let his courage falter. It took almost superhuman strength but he did it. And for that moment in time Qasim surprised everyone, including himself. Yes, the man does possess a spine of steel.
For Sassi brought up in a world where heroes are not from among us mere mortals, this was a strange thing to comprehend. Not only had Qasim shocked her – she thought she knew him inside out – but he had also presented before a very different explanation of mardangi. She who had grown up idealizing her father as the epitome of manliness was now faced with a whole other understanding of a true mard and his mardangi. And damn if this new definition wasn’t just that much more appealing!?! But if only for a fleeting moment.
Both of them, Sassi and Qasim, do not realize it now but they have turned a corner in their relationship. Here they are equal – as friends. Love has not yet entered the equation as far as Sassi understands it, but that’s her. She is a person who learns with experience. She appreciates Qasim’s gesture but hasn’t quite absorbed and understood the real depth and meaning of his actions. They might have made a chink in her image of a hero but not really hit home as yet.
After being disappointed big time by her father, Sassi has turned to Wajih. Yet another cruel manipulative man she sees as an embodiment of mardangi. Raised on a steady diet of desi digests, Bollywood films she is still holding out for the quintessential take-charge man, a kind of man she thinks will treat her like a cherished posession. What she does not realize is that cherished or not she would be still a posession to him. Such subtleties are still lost on Sassi. Had she been older, less protectd and and more versed in the ways of the world she would have understood better the dynamics that shaped Khayyam’s very different relationships with the two women in life – Mammo and Sonya.
With the spotlight squarely trained on Sassi and Qasim it is easy to forget the long-suffering Mammo. There is so much to be read in the way Mammo finally breaks down. She tried so hard to keep everybody around her happy that somewhere along the way this woman lost her sense of self. What were her dreams? What did she want out of life? Did she have ambitions? All left by the way side as she effaced herself to please her less than grateful family. Were she ever to take stock I wonder how she would apportion blame?
Whether he takes responsibility for the fiasco that was Sassi’s shaadi is a moot point. Now it is about how he feels now that the shoe is on the other foot. For someone so used to dictating others’ lives it is hard to take dictation, and that too from a mere woman! Yes, Sonya is be the love of his life, but at the end of the day isn’t she just another woman, no? Shouldn’t shaadi, and that too to him, be the be-all and end-all of her existence? That she actually says no, or puts her career before him is a shock. Spoiled for years on end by a pandering Mammo he is gradually waking up to the realization that not all women are his wife, and I don’t think he likes what he’s seeing. I fervently hope that Sonya teaches him a thing or two about what is that women really want.
Wajih is an unexpected thorn in Khayyam’s side. And what a thorn he is turning out to be! Unlike any of the other equations that we have seen here so far, Wajih and Khayyam are a pair made in heaven. Both men blessed with killer good looks, oodles of charm and the ability to make women swoon. Disappointed in her father, Sassi found a subconscious replacement in Wajih. She is pushing for his attention but does not know what she is asking for. One can sense that the carefree times of her youth are coming to an end, and all the joy she derived out of pushing people around is now thing of the past – gone are those days when she was the apple of her father’s eyes. But then isn’t that what she wants? Whether what she wants is what is good for her depends on perspective – and from Sassi’s perspection they are both the same.
Tipu’s entry is sure to stir things up, but will that be for the good and if so whose purpose will it serve – all are questions I look forward to seeing answered in the weeks to come. For now I’m a happy camper, enjoying this sumptious feast that is O Rungreza, a treat for both, my dil and dimagh.
What about you all?
Written by SZ~