Wednesday, July 1, 2009

As a young man he had shared a room with a painter whose paintings had grown larger and larger as he tried to get the whole of life into his art. “Look at me,” he said before he killed himself, “I wanted to be a miniaturist and I’ve got elephantiasis instead!” The swollen events of the night of the crescent knives reminded Nadi Khan of his room-mate, because life had once again, perversely, refused to remain lifesized. It had turned melodramatic: and that embarrassed him.
How did Nadir Khan run across the night town without being noticed? I put it down to his being a bad poet, and as such, a born survivor. As he ran, there was a self-consciousness about him, his body appearing to apologize for behaving as if it were in a cheap thriller, of the sort hawkers sell on railway stations, or give away free with bottles of green medicine that can cure colds, typhoid, impotence, homesickness and poverty…On Cornwallis Road, it was a warm night. A coal-brazier stood empty by the deserted rickshaw rank. The paan-shop was closed and the old men were asleep on the roof, dreaming of tomorrow’s game. An insomniac cow, idly chewing a Red and White cigarette packet, strolled by a bundled street-sleeper, which meant he would wake in the morning, because a cow will ignore a sleeping man unless he’s about to die. Then it nuzzles at him thoughtfully. Sacred cows eat anything.

--Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie (1981)



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