Tag Archives: India

The Inklings: Chapter 100

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

It was raining when Syafika left Fanta’s place, but Syafika liked being outside in the rain. There was still a little bit of light in the sky when Syafika arrived home so she decided to have a look at how the runoff was flowing through the back garden. As Syafika walked out the back door she discovered that Festus had set up his tools under the back verandah and was making something from pieces of wood.

“What are you making?” Syafika asked.

“I’m making two wheelchair ramps for India so that Penny can get in the front and back doors of her house” said Festus.

“That’s nice of you. I hope Penny and Gina are able to feel comfortable at India’s house” said Syafika. Syafika couldn’t imagine how she would survive living with India and realised that Penny and Gina would have to put up with it for at least a year.

“India will be on her best behaviour. She feels responsible for the fire and car accidents because she’s the one who asked Gina to make sweet potato chips, and it was India’s friends who filled the street with parked cars” said Festus.

Syafika took off her shoes and paddled along the miniature river to the pond. She could hear frogs croaking but it was too dark to see them. Then Syafika heard Rose telling Festus to come inside and reminding him that it was the 15th of March. Syafika had forgotten it was the anniversary of her grandparent’s death. She rushed inside to have a quick shower before 9pm.

Every year at 9pm on 15th March Rose would select something from her parents’ music collection to play and everyone had to sit in silence and listen to it from start to finish. It was not something that Syafika looked forward too, but she endured it without complaint because she knew how important it was to Rose.

When Syafika came into the loungeroom Rose was carefully opening a box that held the CDs, cassettes and records. Ousman was next to Binta and trying to stick his head into the box to see what Rose would choose to play.

“Be careful Ousman. The records are very fragile and precious” said Syafika.

There was a rule about which music was chosen. Each year they would play what was at the front of the box and then put it at the back of the box and Rose would not let anyone change the order. If anyone wanted to play any of the music on any other day of the year Rose would have to supervise and make sure that the order was not changed.

At the front of the box there was a CD and Binta took it out. The cover had a picture of a man sitting at a piano on it. Ousman laughed at the man’s hair because it was parted down the middle and stuck out a bit at the sides.

“This is the pianist who got so carried away that he often played wrong notes” said Binta.

Syafika remembered how when she was a girl her piano teacher had often been cross at her for playing wrong notes and decided that she might enjoy this record.

Syafika looked at Mamadou to see what he thought of this ceremony because it was the first time he’d been there to take part. Mamadou looked happy and Syafika wondered whether all artists were obsessed with music.

Festus turned on the lamp near the CD player and turned off the overhead light. Syafika realised that she sitting in the darkest seat in the room and was glad because it meant she wouldn’t have to worry about her face giving away any of her thoughts.

The first piece of music was slightly familiar to Syafika but not something she’d ever tried to play so she wasn’t able to tell if the pianist made any mistakes. The left hand played the melody and the right hand ran up and down the keyboard making complicated patterns that Syafika suspected were beyond her ability. Syafika enojyed the piece and wondered whether her grandparents had hoped she would be able to play it one day.

The second piece was something Syafika had played, but never as beautifully. The pianist on the record was explaining something using music, as if he wasn’t able to talk but had something very important to say. When Syafika had played the piece she’d been so worried about keeping time and getting the notes right that she’d made it sound robotic.

Syafika looked at Ousman to see if he was getting bored. He had his eyes closed and was leaning against Binta. At first Syafika thought he’d fallen asleep but then he smiled and moved his head to the other side so Syafika realised he was just enjoying the music.

The third piece of music was a trio and something Syafika had heard her grandfather listening to many times. The violin’s cheerful start made tears come to Syafika’s eyes. She remembered her grandfather’s bushy eyebrows and couldn’t help crying. Then Syafika remembered a stream of other things, like the day she’d got stuck at the top of a pear tree and her grandmother had called out helpful instructions to guide her down, and the taste of the dark purple plums her grandparents had grown. Syafika wiped tears from her cheeks and tried not to sniffle too loudly.

The next piece was just for piano and not something Syafika remembered hearing before. It reminded her of running up a hill and her mind drifted to other things. Syafika realised she missed being a kid who had nothing much to worry about apart from music lessons and she realised that she missed her piano teacher too.  Next Syafika remembered the photo of Anthony that D’arby had shown her that evening and the plans they’d made for her to contact Anthony. She realised how much she enjoyed being part of a plan that involved team work. It had been fun to spy on Anthony by herself, but also a bit too scary for comfort. Now that D’arby, Fanta and John were involved Syafika thought she would be able to relax and enjoy the adventure more.

When Syafika realised that instead of listening to the music she’d been thinking about Anthony and she decided that she’d give her full attention to the music for the rest of the CD. So Syafika spent the next half hour thinking only about the music she was listening to and she enjoyed it so much that when it was over she was disappointed.

When Festus turned the light on Syafika realised that Amanda was sitting on the floor near the door and looking really sad. When Amanda noticed that Syafika was looking at her she dashed out of the room and up the stairs so fast that Syafika wasn’t sure she’d really seen her.

Nobody else in the room mentioned Amanda and Syafika wondered whether they’d even noticed her. Ousman asked whether they could listen to music like that more often but Syafika didn’t wait to hear what Rose and Binta would say because she didn’t want anyone to notice that her eyes were red from crying. She said “Goodnight” and went to her room without looking back.

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The Inklings: Chapter 91

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

When Syafika woke up on Saturday morning a shower of rain was just finishing and so she decided she’d have breakfast in the garden to enjoy the freshness in the air.

Syafika walked out into the garden carrying her breakfast on a tray. She had a towel across her shoulders that she was planning to use to dry the outdoor table and chairs with. Syafika sat down and was pouring herself a cup of tea when Rose came out into the garden and sat down at the table with Syafika. Syafika noticed Rose looking at her breakfast with a critical look on her face.

“What?” asked Syafika.

“Would you like me to poach you some eggs to go with that toast?” said Rose. “With all that running you’ve been doing you need to eat more protein”

“Lots of herbivores are really good runners” said Syafika.

Rose wanted to tell Syafika that she was being silly but decided to hold her tongue because she wanted Syafika to be in a good mood for her next question.

“You are coming to India’s birthday party this afternoon aren’t you?” said Rose.

Normally Syafika would have wanted to avoid a party at India’s house, but this time she was interested in going because she thought there might be suitable strangers there that she could test out Celine’s tricks on.

“Ok” said Syafika.

Rose smiled and watched Syafika drinking tea. Syafika was listening to water trickling through Mamadou’s garden.

“Has India asked Mamadou to build her a garden yet?” asked Syafika

“No” said Rose. “Why?”

“I bet that’s her plan. I bet that at the party she will corner Mamadou and organize everything. She’ll make sure he has just started working on her garden when Zikpi’s episode about our place airs on TV, so that whenever anyone talks about how great our garden is she can tell them that she’s getting one too”

“That won’t work” said Rose. “Mamadou’s doing Penny and Gina’s place next and our place is episode number 6 in Zikpi’s so when it airs in another 5 weeks Mamadou will still be working on Gina and Penny’s garden”

“Does India know that?” asked Syafika.

“Probably” said Rose. “She and Penny have afternoon tea together sometimes”.

Syafika thought for a while and then realized something. “Well if it isn’t the garden then India will be asking Dad to do a greywater system or something” said Syafika. “She can’t let an opportunity like this go.”

Rose smiled because it amused her to know what Syafika had been thinking about, then Rose smiled again when she imagined how annoyed Festus would be if India insisted he do some work for her. Then Rose got up and went to do some gardening. She was going to make India a portable herb garden in a basket as a birthday present.

After breakfast Syafika got a book and went back to the garden. This time she sat down near the pond. Before she opened the book she had a look for frogs because Ousman claimed he’d heard some croaking coming from the pond during the night. Syafika didn’t see any frogs but she did see a blue dragon fly.

Syafika had been in the garden long enough to have read a few chapters of her book when she saw Ousman come out into the garden carrying a cup of tea. He knocked on the door of Mamadou’s shed and waited. Mamadou came outside and squinted in the sunshine. Syafika realized that Mamadou mustn’t have had any breakfast yet. She knew he’d been working on a garden design for Penny and Gina and hoped he would either finish before India’s party started or take a break from his work so he could go to the party. Syafika knew that Ousman was looking forward to going to the party because he’d been talking excitedly about how India was hiring a chocolate fountain.

“Thankyou” said Mamadou to Ousman. “Come in and look at my drawings of Penny and Gina’s garden”

Syafika tried to get back into reading her book but she couldn’t concentrate because she was so curious about what Mamadou and Ousman were talking about inside the garden shed. Then Syafika realized that it was an opportunity for her to improve her spying skills, so she put down her book and crept over to the shed. Then she put her ear to the shed and listened.

“How will that work?” said Ousman.

“I will use the water pressure in the pipe to push the water through this coil of black pipe and then this tap will control the flow to the outdoor shower” said Mamadou.

“Did Penny really ask for an outdoor shower?” asked Ousman.

“It will have a modesty screen all the way around” said Mamadou. So it is perhaps not strictly outdoors, but more without a roof. Penny said that she wants the garden to be full of cheekiness and laughter”

“Where does the used shower water go?” asked Ousman.

“See here” said Mamadou. Syafika imagined he was pointing to his drawing. “This is where it gets funneled into a pipe that goes to water the garden”

Syafika jumped when she heard the back door open and quickly moved her ear away from the shed. Then she dashed over to get her book and was walking inside when she saw Binta coming outside. Aminata was sitting on Binta’s forearm.

“Have you seen Ousman?” Binta asked Syafika.

“He is in the shed” said Syafika.

Aminata flew off and landed on the roof of the shed. Her claws made an awful scratching sound on the roof so Syafika hurried inside, and on the way she noticed that Rose was in the greenhouse.

………………………………..

Syafika was getting changed to go to India’s party when she heard music start playing. Syafika put her head out of her window to try to determine where the music was coming from and wasn’t very surprised when she realized it was coming from the direction of India’s house.

Syafika put on her shoes and waited at the bottom of the stairs for her mum and dad to come down. Ousman and Binta came down first. Aminata was sitting on Ousman’s shoulder.

“Is Aminata invited to the party too?” asked Syafika.

“India put her name on the invitation” said Ousman.

Syafika looked at Binta for confirmation.

“India thinks Aminata is a good conversation starter” said Binta.

Syafika wondered what Aminata thought of India.

Festus, Rose and Mamadou were soon ready to leave and as everyone was walking out the gate they met Penny.

“Isn’t Gina coming to the party?” Rose asked Penny.

“She is, but she hasn’t finished making sweet potato chips. She promised India she’d bring some, but they take so long to make. I hope she gets to the party before it ends” said Penny, and then she gave a little laugh, as if she was trying to make sure that everyone knew she was half joking about how long Gina would take to make the chips.”

Penny couldn’t help noticing the basket Rose was carrying on her arm. She’d planted thyme, oregano and rosemary in it.

“India is going to love that!” commented Penny.

India’s house was five houses down, on the other side of the street. As everyone crossed the road Syafika noticed that there were cars parked along most of both sides of the street that day, and it made the street so narrow that there was only room for one lane of traffic.

There was a sign on the front door of India’s house instructing guests to take the path down the side of the house to the backyard.

Just as Ousman started walking down the side of the house Aminata changed her mind about going to the party and flew off in the direction of home.

“Do you think she will be ok?” asked Ousman

“I’ll just check she has gone home” said Binta. “You go and enjoy yourselves”

As Ousman watched his mum walk off towards home he looked like he wanted to follow her, but then he noticed everyone else was heading towards the backyard and he felt compelled to follow them instead.

India had positioned herself close to the entrance to the backyard so she could welcome everyone as they arrived. Syafika felt a bit intimidated when she saw how many guests were there, and realized that the extra cars parked in the street were probably all owned by people at India’s party.

As Penny predicted, India was delighted by the herb basket. “Thank you! So beautiful! So clever! So useful!” said India and she put the basket on her arm. As Rose watched India’s response she realised how much she appreciated a person who was able to be genuinely thrilled by being given a present. Rose realised that it was not really about what was being given (although the right present would make it easier!) but about being touched that a person had thought about you and wanted to make you feel happy.

India insisted everyone get themselves something to eat and drink and gestured towards one side of the yard where, presumably, tables of food and drink were what a crowd of people had huddled around. When Ousman asked Syafika to help him find the chocolate fountain she realized that the thought of a chocolate fountain excited her just as much as Ousman so they took off together, weaving their way through the crowd of guests.

When Syafika and Ousman saw people carrying skewers with chocolate coated strawberries on the ends of them they new they were close to the chocolate fountain and it was finally revealed when a couple of large men moved off in the direction of drinks table. The fountain had three tiers, with the size decreasing as they went up. The melted chocolate overflowed from the top layer and ran into the second, then over the edge of the second layer into the bottom layer, where it must have been pumped back up to the top again. A couple of small children were hanging around the fountain and both had chocolate smeared on their faces and clothes. Syafika noticed that Ousman seemed pretty grown-up in comparison. Ousman smiled as he skewered a strawberry and then let the waterfall of melted chocolate stream over the strawberry. He enjoyed the process so much that he gave his strawberry to Syafika so he could do another one for himself. Syafika was about to protest that she’d like to do her own, but changed her mind when she looked at Ousman’s expression because it reminded her of herself when she was a child.

Syafika and Ousman were enjoying their chocolate coated strawberries when Rose came over. Rose looked worried and insisted that Syafika and Ousman come with her immediately. They were soon rushing down the street in the direction of home and Syafika didn’t know what was going on but could see Festus and Mamadou infront of them, and Penny infront of them.

A car sped down the street and Syafika wondered whether it was rushing for the same reason that they were, but it wasn’t. Up ahead Penny was so distracted that she didn’t notice the car and it hit her as she crossed the street. Syafika sprinted towards the accident, hoping that Ousman hadn’t seen it. Festus stood in the middle of the road and put his hands up to stop traffic. The driver of the car got out and vomited in the gutter.

Syafika knelt down beside Penny and saw that she was breathing but she was bleeding from her forehead and arm. Suddenly Rose was there next to Syafika. She took Penny’s hand and told Syafika to call an ambulance and make sure the firebrigade was on its way.  Syafika stood up and saw Binta rushing towards her while talking on their cordless phone. Binta had already called 000 and was coming over to pass instructions on to Rose. Syafika was wondering why Rose had mentioned the firebrigade, but then she glanced towards Penny’s house and noticed a large plume of black smoke rising from the back of it.

Syafika stood up as tall as she could and watched the smoke. She guessed it was coming from the kitchen. Penny and Gina’s house was really half a house. When Rose and Festus chose their house they thought they’d enjoy living next to the grand house on the corner block, and for many years they did. But then a couple of years ago the corner house had sold to a developer who decided the quickest way to make some money from it was to divide it into two smaller homes and build a fence down the middle of the yard. Penny and Gina’s half of the yard contained much less than half the house – their section was single story but the part of the house on the corner had two stories and a lovely upstairs verandah.

Syafika looked around for Gina but couldn’t see her and was worried. She ran and knocked on the door of Penny and Gina’s house and yelled out to Gina but there was no response. Then Syafika realised she could access Gina’s backyard from their backyard so she ran home and was just opening the front door when she heard a loud smashing sound. Syafika turned and saw that there had been another accident in the street – a car had turned into the street and crashed into the back of the queue of cars that were stuck because the road was still blocked by the car that had hit Penny.

By now a crowd had started to gather so Syafika assumed someone else would check on the people who’d just been in a car crash and she ran through the house and out into the backyard to see if she could find Gina.

“Gina! Gina!” yelled Syafika.

“She’s here” replied Mamadou.

Gina was sitting on the grass in her backyard and Mamadou was hosing her down. Syafika could see a large burn on Gina’s leg.

“I was going to try to put out the fire and then I found Gina needed the water more” said Mamadou.

“Good” said Syafika. “Keep doing that until the ambulance arrives”

Syafika ran back to the front of the house and announced to Rose and Binta that Gina was in her backyard and that she had a bad burn and probably needed to go in the ambulance too. Syafika noticed that Festus was telling cars who’d come down the street from the direction of India’s house to reverse back-up the street and go another way. Then Syafika saw Ousman standing nearby looking terrified so she led him inside tried to get him to sit down, but Ousman didn’t want to sit down.

“There’s a fire that needs putting out” said Ousman and he ran out to the backyard. Syafika followed and they found another hose and started spraying water at the flames that were coming out of Gina’s kitchen window.

Syafika thought she could hear sirens in the distance and it comforted her to think that help was on its way.

A few minutes later two paramedics came into the backyard and assessed Gina. Then they took her to an ambulance on a stretcher. Syafika left Mamadou and Ousman to fight the fire and followed Gina’s stretcher. There were two ambulances and they’d been forced to park a little way down the street because there was still some traffic blocking their way. Festus looked very frustrated.

Fortunately nobody had been seriously injured in the second car accident but the drivers were having trouble manoeuvring their cars out of the way. Some quick-thinking neighbours had used outdoor furniture to barricade off the end of the street so no more cars would try to turn into it.

Syafika wondered where the fire engine was. She couldn’t hear one coming.

“Is the firebrigade on the way?” Syafika asked Binta.

“Yes” said Binta. “I checked and they are but they keep getting stuck in traffic”

Syafika looked up at Penny and Gina’s house and could see flames coming from the roof. She realized that the house would probably be ruined. The people who lived on the other side of Gina and Penny had come out of their house and were very distressed because they knew that their side of the house would probably also be damaged by the fire.

It was a relief when the ambulances turned on their sirens and drove off, but now Syafika was starting to worry that the fire was going to destroy two houses and possibly spread further.

“I’m going to the backyard to help Mamadou and Ousman with the hosing” Syafika told Binta.

Binta didn’t like the idea of Ousman firefighting and so she followed Syafika to the backyard and insisted that Ousman let Syafika take his hose.

“Is Penny going to be ok” Ousman asked Binta.

“I hope so” said Binta. “I think Rose and India are going to the hospital to comfort Penny and Gina”

Binta and Ousman watched as Rose and India walked up the street and got into India’s car. Festus was watching too.

Then Ousman heard a siren, so he ran up the street to tell India to stay where she was until the fire engine had made it into the street.

When Ousman saw a police car coming down the street he was very disappointed, until he realised that there was a fire engine behind it.


The Inklings: Chapter 48

To read the story from the beginning go here.

The smell of Turkish delight tempted Syafika out of her room, where she’d been lying in bed reading. As Syafika wandered towards the living room she expected to find something nice to eat and hoped there would also be some interesting visitors, but she was disappointed with what she found. Rose was sitting cross-legged on the floor along with Ousman, Binta and India (from up the street). They all had their hands in a silly pose and eyes closed. On the coffee table was a tray with a pretty tea set. When Syafika walked over and lifted the lid of the teapot nobody acknowledged her. Syafika was disappointed that she’d only smelled tea, not cakes and she might have made a rude comment except that India being there made her think twice about it. Instead Syafika went to the kitchen to look for something sweet to eat.

While waiting for three mince pies to heat up, Syafika went and got her book and sat down at the kitchen table to read, while listening out for signs of life in the living room. She half expected to hear some chanting soon.

Syafika’s mince pies were long eaten by the time Ousman finally came into the kitchen. “That was so cool!” he said.

“What was so cool?” asked Syafika, putting her book down.

“We were meditating, where you try to think about nothing. I kept seeing colours and strange pictures and all these thoughts kept trying to sneak into my head like someone else was coming along to make trouble and I had to keep pushing the ideas away again, but it all made me feel so happy!” explained Ousman and Syafika could see the happiness in his face. She couldn’t help feeling she’d missed out on something, but would never admit it. Her first impulse was to roll her eyes and say “Boring!” but for some reason Syafika didn’t find Ousman so annoying anymore and didn’t want to deliberately hurt his feelings. Instead she asked “What has brought all this meditation on?”

“India just turned up with her pot of rose and apple tea and asked us if we wanted to help her end the year on a good note and sort out our thoughts so we are ready for the new year.” said Ousman. Syafika couldn’t say what she was thinking because she saw that India was coming into the kitchen, along with Rose and Binta. India was carrying the tray with the teaset on it. India said something about it being time to feed the chickens and asked Rose to open the front door for her.

“Does India have chickens” Syafika asked when India had gone.

“Does she ever!” replied Rose. “Next thing we know, she’ll have a goat”

“No, not a goat, an alpaca” said Binta and she and Rose started giggling. Syafika thought it might have made her laugh too, if she’d known what an aplaca was.

“Can we get a goat?” Ousman asked Binta.

“I don’t know” said Binta and she looked from Rose to Syafika as she asked “Would I be allowed to keep a goat?”

“Why would you want a goat?” asked Syafika. “Not for goats milk, surely”.

“Yes, and what about one of those fluffy goats for the wool? I could spin it and knit it into jumpers and beanies” said Binta and she and Rose started giggling again.

Syafika was getting annoyed now. “What was in that tea?” she asked. But that just made Rose and Binta giggle more.

“I think they are just making fun of India” said Ousman.

But when Festus came home a couple of hours later, Syafika saw the influence that India was having when Rose started asking Festus if he’d ever had to install a composting toilet and whether it would be a lot of work to put in a greywater system. Festus shrugged and asked whether you even needed a plumber to install a composting toilet if it wasn’t connected to water or the sewer. “Is this for India?” he asked.

“No, at least not yet” answered Rose. “I was hoping to beat her to it”

“Does she have a greywater system?” asked Festus.

“She’s looking into one” said Rose. “How quickly could you put one in?”

“You could tell India you’d forgotten you had a greywater system” commented Binta and she and Rose were about to start giggling again when Festus gave an annoyed sigh.

“Where do you want to collect the greywater from and what do you want to use it for?” he asked.

Rose shrugged and said “Whatever is easiest for you”.

Festus went out to his van to get a catalogue and then sat down at the kitchen table to draw a piping design and decide the pieces he needed to order.


The Inklings: Chapter 46

To read the story from the beginning go here.

Syafika was almost back home when she noticed that her mum was walking up the street towards her. Rose looked very cross.

“What’s wrong?” asked Syafika when she and Rose both arrived at the front gate.

“I’ve had to spend the last two hours listening to India talk about permaculture and aquaponics!” said Rose. She spat out the words “permaculture” and “aquaponics” in such disgust that Syafika guessed they must be awful things (but had no idea what they were). India was one of their neighbours. She had a worm farm in the front yard, wore sandals made from recycled tires and liked to tell people about all the poor people she’d met while on exotic holidays. She also annoyed Festus by parking her large car across their driveway. When Festus complained to India she complained back that it wasn’t fair that not all houses in the street had off-street parking spaces. That attempt at a barb only made Festus laugh though. He did enjoy parking his low class plumber’s van in their expansive driveway while the neighbours were forced to park their expensive lumps of cars on the street, where they were vulnerable to being vandalized by the gangs of small children that often roamed the streets.

Syafika started walking to the front door but Rose stayed in the front yard. She was looking at the driveway and front yard and muttering something about nutrient cycling.


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