Love Across the Salt Desert
K N Daruwla
The story "Love Across the Salt Desert" is set in the village of Khavda, located in the Desert of Kutch, Gujarat, India. The author has used this backdrop to effectively symbolize the thirst that the two protagonists feel for one another--so the scorching sun of the desert becomes a metaphor for their parched lives which were looking for satiation. He also extends the drought prevailing in the land to be an expression of the same deprivation and with the fulfillment of love in their lives, come raindrops to end the three-year old drought. The protagonists were ordinary people –the kind one would expect to meet living in the places that have been described—on the two sides of the India-Pakistan border. She was Fatimah, the daughter of a spice seller, and smelt of “cloves and cinnamon”; her laughter “had the timbre of ankle bells”; her eyebrows were “like the black wisps of the night”; and her hair “was the night itself” He was Najab Hussain, known for his “diffidence”, “strangely introverted” with “dreamy eyes” and with whom no one could ever associate any “act of bravado”. His father Aftab Hussain worried about his son and thought he would never be able to “charge money for what he sells” in the future. Najab would often cross the desert and go to the other side of the border to sell tobacco leaves, sometimes accompanied by the smuggler Zaman Shah. Once across the border, they stayed with Kaley Shah, the clove-seller, an “absolute rogue”, known for his hard bargaining. It was here that she met his daughter, Fatimah, and though she was quite “taken up by this quiet, pleasant young man” she couldn’t “elicit a word out of him”. She was herself going through pressure from her family to marry a man from the village known for his “slurred speech and grotesque stammer”. But love took its natural course and before long “he had flung his arms around her in a reckless, dizzy moment” To her unasked question, he told her that he...
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