Read Along: My Son the Fanatic - Hanif Kureishi

(short story appeared in "Love in a Blue Time" and "The Black Album")

"How can you love something which hates you?"

What if you found out that your son's apparently have an erratic habit? If suddenly he stopped listening to his favourite music and wearing the latest fashion items on earth? You'd better ask Parvez, for the change of his son's, Ali, life.

Parvez, an Indian-Pakistani immigrant or Punjabis they might say, had been working for twenty years in England as an accountant and taxi driver at night. Then meet Ali, Parvez's son, a straight-A student who also excelled at cricket, swimming, football and used to be a "normal" person. One day Parvez found out, his son threw away all his possesions: TV, video, soundsystem, guitar and even dumped his English girlfriend. Intrigued by his son's eccentricity, he asked him what happened and he only got a silent treatment. Once he opened his mouth just to say "There are more important things to be done". Parvez seemed a bit nervous with his son's becoming silent and developing a sharp tongue. He told his co-workers and he got some conclusions that his son might me a drug-addict!

Until one night he told Bettina, a local prostitute who took a ride on his taxi, about his son. She had known him for three years, as she went long way home after her "shifts". She usually sat besides him, not at the passenger seat. Bettina is the one, whom he could share anything, even the topics he would hardly discuss with his wife at home. He told her about his suspicion of Ali, as a drug-addict and she said "It's all in the eye". If they looks bloodshot or dilated pupils, it might be true. Then Parvez went on an observation, days and nights he watched his son praying five times without fail. As he saw these, he remembered his old days. Parvez grown up in Lahore where all the boys had been taught the Koran. To stop him falling asleep when he studied, he got his hair tied with a piece of string that attached to the ceiling, so that if his head fell forward, he would instantly awake. After the indignity, he avoided all religions.

All he knows, for the sake of living in England for many years, adapting to the place we live is more important than anything else. "You're not in village now, this is England" he said as he insisted his wife to cook crispy bacon for his breakfast. Ali was quite disagree with his father, he didn't like him to be too implicated with western civilization. As a matter of fact, they're not just implicated but they live there. In Ali's opinion, the western materialists hates them (the immigrants and moslems). "The law of Islam would rule the world," he said, "the skin of infidel would burn off again and again, Jews and Christers would be routed. The west was a sink of hypocrites, adulterers, homosexuals drug takers and prostitues". He also proud of jihad, "I and millions of others will gladly give our lives for the cause...For us the reward will be in paradise."

Parvez couldn't take this any longer, he let his rage out then the essential question came up from the beaten-up son:

"So, who's the fanatic now?"


I really like Parvez for his attitude, especially for adapting to the place we live. Sometimes I believe right or wrong is relative, it depends on how, who, in what circumstance and where we stand at that time. An Indonesian proverb might say "Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung".

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