Passage to Lahore

Julian Samuel excerpts his current work
By Julian Samuel

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Mozambique's leader, Samora Machel, addressing an audience in Zimbabwe, said approximately: "Those of you who were colonized by the British feel you have inherited brilliant parliamentary structures; those among you who were touched by the French flame of civilization know that you have remarkable intellectual traditions to lean on. But I—I was colonized by Portugal, the most backward country of Europe." The Zimbabwean audience burst into laughter.

Green Line bus.The yellowing corn fields pull out into the distance as I move back to London Bridge, back to the safety of Hackney. The trees I used to play under remain unchanged. I remember the touch of the tree bark in 1986. Dogs barking in the cool damp distance, iron nails rusting in the tree, the same nails I put there when I knew England through a tongue that could not quite pronounce V as in vice. Boys at school thought it was funny. Wind in the grass in the sand dunes on Munora Beach, Karachi. My ear close to the hissing.

Years have gone by. Michael is now bedridden in a hospital on a hill somewhere where the 144 bus passes Pierre Elliott Trudeau's house on avenue des Pines. Transparent tubes of this and that with this and that amount of potassium, etc., regulated by an occasionally functional computer flow into his skeletal body He is reluctant to eat. His parents have come to visit him. I sit beside him and beside a box of ridiculously optimistic chocolates. His mom has gone for a stroll down the fifteenth-floor hall to leave us alone for a few minutes. Old friends. A stunning bilingual-biracial Haitian nurse with blue eyes comes to fiddle with the beeping computer which regulates the flow of solutions.

"Sorry, I said I am sorry."

"Ca va, ça va, lentement, continue, continue." He touched her arsehole in a brotherly kind of way. They were sort of standing and with grind sensibility she pulled at his hips and troubled down into him, her other hand on his nuts. No sounds now. Just a cooing immigrant Christian inside a different mode, a different history. A thorn in the side of the French.

Fuel gushes into the engines. Propellers lopping up the lost souls of whatever country He turns to the man with long fingers, nods; reports to the control tower once only, as he leaves the security vector. "Plan B active." Silence for hundreds of miles. Silly wars below dirty clouds. Too much cabin noise, too much cabin hiss— "these are all signs that the engines could have been better designed; imperialism with its faults—you call this modernism —bah! noisy airplanes!"

The Warriors were starved out. Many of these communards, while under detention, had the shit kicked out of them by the Sûreté du Québec. Perhaps the Québec government will exile the Warriors to New Caledonia as the French regime did after 1871. This is my Québec.

"Tu dis Hubert Aquin? Mais oui— he is better than your Rushdie. Mais notre lutte pour l'indépendance, notre lutte, cher Julian, n'a jamais exclu les immigrants comme toi— pourquoi tu te sens en dehors de nos projets?"

Begum Akhtar is slowly turning towards the screen, but I manage to pull her into our conversation. I keep her talking. I don't want to suffer the effects of Pakistani antibiotics alone. "Why do you sing Sufi music?" She could not say zamine but would say jamine, the Urdu word for ground. She replies in Urdu with what I confuse for a Lucknowesque accent. She cannot make the Arabo-Farsi influenced z'ah sound in Urdu. "I don't sing Sufi music, Julian— that is your name, isn't it? You aren't Moslem, are you? You see, I don't sing music,the music sings me, the poets make me."

There are many photographs of her in various stages of pregnancy and judging by the way she dressed, she looks like someone who had adjusted intelligently between two cultures. Here she is in a dark-green sari on a chair with a sloping back. Prize of Lahore. Here she is in a white dress with a V-neck. There she is in a badly composed photograph, in a row-boat on the River Ravi smiling and pretending to be scared of alligators. His arm is around her. Here she is beside the first budding rose of their love on a clear thrilling inexorable winter morning, on the roof. Quite pregnant.

"So rights in the occidental expression of the term appear to be the ethical by-product of imperialism. They are acquired rights which become naturalized in Western culture, and are inextricably glued to imperial expansion which continually overturns the rights of others to produce new rights, ethics, and freedoms. Farmers in India who had the right to grow a wide variety of food in the 1700s had to grow just cotton—cotton which was used to fuel the industrial revolution. 'Freedom of expression' is one of the rights that follows from the industrial epoch.

"Julian, they do an okay buffet here." Some perfumey Chinese beer arrives. John, the refugee-camp boyfriend, is due, joining us after a week in Hanoi. Penny is excited;she whispers,"Julian, I think he is fucking someone else." Moments later John arrives.

"So how do you like it here?" I ask.

"I love it here."

"John, you followed Penny here, didn't you?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact I did."

"What would you like to drink?"

"Same as you, buddy—fuckin' Molson's, eh?"

"How did you get the job?"

"She told me about an opening."

His hand reaches for her. "Hi, sweetie."

"Oh, so you used her again."

"Again and again," he says.

"And now, little hick is no longer a little Canadian of simple working-class origins.Tell me again how you jumped out of your class? McGill your ticket to freedom?"

"Yeah, that and all that Penny did for me. You know, she took me to New York—first time I saw a subway with so many lines. I suppose I am more international because of her. I owe it all to her."

I ask, "John, you had ice-cream before?"

"It's all right, John, you don't have to thank me—he's just playing with you."

I say "She tells me that you were frightened when she first took you to New York."

John is a nice Canadian.

Hockey. Beers. No sodomy.

A Christian relativity to analingus.

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Frieze and handprint design by Sherazad Jamal.
Redux Handprint
Julian Samuel
Julian Samuel is a documentary filmmaker, writer and painter.
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
Britannia Art Gallery
Britannia Art Gallery
Bookhug Press
Bookhug Press
Plantation Memories
Plantation Memories
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