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by ozhan
Rated: E · Short Story · Writing · #1645589
A writer learns: he cant write it all.
In midst of a Mumbai slum sits a massive, dark and unsightly structure colored only by the linen, hung to dry, from its balconies. It is a colossal beehive, a mountain of people piled on top of each other, parted and confined by flimsy walls, designed in the most complex way to accommodate as many people as possible; where one person’s bedroom window opens to the sight of another's bathroom, or any other combination you may dare imagine.

Asif Ali, the retired editor from a small local publication lives in one of those cubicles, where it smells of ancient woodwork and old books. Asif fills all of his time with writing. It had been his retirement resolution, to chronicle everything in life, everything he encountered and he believed that to be the true work of a writer. Through the days, Asif strived to write it all, to an extent that when he wished to remind himself of how an experience felt he could read his own account of it and be reminded.

Lately something new had caught his attention more than writing, and that was an echo or a muffled sound of the most soothing song he had heard. It was clearly the voice of a child that, somehow, found its way through the cluster of bricks, cement and steel all the way up to Asif’s bathroom, and he intended to find the source and write down the words to that song.

Asif heard the music at various hours of morning and ran out of the house and into the dark corridors to find the source, but he failed every time. Due to the tricky nature of the structure it was almost impossible to follow sound by its trail and asking around did not help either. Frustrated, Asif armed with paper and pen began to decipher this puzzle and find the source to the sound. He jotted, calculated and drew every opening, every door, window, and every corridor on his side of the building until he had a plan very similar to the blue print of the building itself. Asif then began, bottom to top, to knock on doors or even place his ears on the walls where the occasion called for it.

A week and six floors later Asif had no clue as to the source of the music. Until one day when he was returning to his apartment, after a day of having doors shut on him, he heard the sound again, this time closer and clearer than ever. Asif followed it like a dog following a scent, and his trail ended in front of the door to the apartment adjacent to his.

The door, unlike usual, was wide open and Asif peeped in to see if anybody was home. Suddenly a woman walked out of the bathroom followed by a little girl draped in a towel. The girl immediately noticed Asif. The singing stopped as she paused to stare at him. This got her mother’s attention who in turn began to scream in frenzy.

“Get away from my house,” she said, as she came charging towards him.Before he could say anything Asif was pushed away and the door was bolted on the inside.

“This is a misunderstanding, Behen Ji, I assure you. I had no intention of intruding.”

“You step away from my door, I warn you. My husband is going to be home soon. He will kill you if he finds out… “

“No, no, Behen Ji, there is no need for all that. I am your neighbor, you see, I am a writer. Lately I have heard singing from your house. I thought it was beautiful and followed it to your door steps.”

Asif listened intently to hear a reply from her, but the house was absolutely silent, so he decided to move away before he got into any trouble. As he stepped away, the door opened and the woman popped her head out, now covered with a cloth over her hair. She stood there in silence.

“The voice...it’s your daughter's, isn’t it?”

She nodded.

“It is beautiful. Is there any way I could learn the words to that song.”

The woman frowned.

“Is this a joke?” She stepped beyond the doorway, her hands on her hips.

“Oh, no, not at all, why do you ask?”

“Shirin is Deaf and Dumb. There are no words to her song.”

Asif still sits in his little place every day and writes, but he has devoted a part of his mornings, away from the typewriter, to listen to Shirin’s voice.
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