"Life Will Be Better" by Farah Ahamed
A Very Interesting Interview with Farah Ahamed
"Dr Patel" by Farah Ahamed
"Thin Air" - a poem by Farah Ahamed occasied by the kidnapping of Nigerian School Girls by Boko Haram
Five Hundred Years Ago London was home to the world's greatest writers, in the 19th century to writers who will live on as long as people read, the daily bombing for years in World War Two only strengthened the spirit of Londoners, Virginia Woolf and an immigrant, Katherine Mansfield opened up new ways of writing still shaping literature. Five hundred years from now London will still be the city of the world's greatest writers. I dedicate this post to the people of London
"Life Will Be Better" is the second short story by Farah Ahamed I have had the pleasure of reading. As the story opens a husband and wife are stuck in the heavy traffic of Nairobi. The air is heavy with exhaust fumes and street hawkers push knockoff dark glasses, flags of Kenya and pictures of the president aggressively on them. The husband gives one money for a cold drink and the wife buys a pair of dark glasses. The husband is reading the newspaper as she drives. She asks him "what is the
news?" He tells her women activists are upset over proposed changes in the new marriage bill just voted into law. The wife worries that if her husband divorces her, evidently made easier by new laws, she will be responsible to pay the car note and house mortgage. In just a few lines Ahamed lets us see things were once better between the couple.
A policemen has stopped a black Toyota. They see the officer take the driver's
license and then get in the passenger side of the car. The woman asks the woman in the car if she needs help. She says the policeman wants a tip for Christmas shopping. Her husband tells her to drive on, don't get involved.
They arrive at their destination, a trendy boutique built to resemble an African hut. They are there to buy a dress for the wife for a special occasion. Ahamed lets us see the man is there to decide what dress his wife will wear as his accessory at the big event. She tries on a little black dress (as I said in a post long ago the influence of Coco Chanel knows no boundaries) which makes the husbanwhistle but he says the dress is not what he wants her to wear, "not right for us". As she is looking at other dresses, the woman in the black Toyota and her husband enter the boutique. The wife says "Nairobi is a small world". Back in the dressing room she peeks out and sees her husband admiring the woman in the little black dress he said she could not have. (It takes either a brave, maybe no too bright married man or one who just no longer cares to admire another woman in front of his wife.)
I will leave the very interesting and unexpected close untold. I will say the other woman ends up
leaving with the dress the wife wanted.
I found of interest that in the wife was the driver. In both cases the husband has to give his approval for the dress and give his wife money for it. The wife is as steamed as tropical heavily polluted Nairobi at noon as she leaves the store with the dress she did not want.
In just a few pages Ahamed gives us a look at the life of an at least upper middle class woman, she does not seem mistreated but she is frustrated by a life and society that makes her opinions of secondary importance. You feel like you are there in the car, inside the high end boutique and you wonder what will happen when she gets dressed for the big occasion in the dress her husband imposed on her. My guess is it will be a revenge by silence night.
"Life Will Be Better" first appeared on DNA/Out of Print-Daily News and Analysis, a very interesting Mumbai based webpage, November 22, 2015. You can read it on the link above. I greatly enjoyed this story, which I read four times, to all lovers of the form.
Like "Dr. Patel" it is partially about the traps we fall into trying to impress others. Ahamed is very skilled at developing character, opening up the people in her stories.
Farah Ahamed is a short fiction writer. Her stories have been published in The Massachusetts Review, Thresholds, Kwani?, The Missing Slate and Out of Print among others. She has been nominated for The Caine and The Pushcart prizes and shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize, DNA/Out of Print Award, Sunderland Waterstones Award, Asian Writer Award. She was highly commended in the London Short Story Award and joint winner of the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award.