Masala Mystery Sample Chapter: Foreword

ایکصویر  TASVEER EK

Each painting was enchanted. It was said that his birds were so real that they often flew off the page to peck at the crumbs left from his roti and that if the viewer maintained deep silence, the sweet trills of avian song would uplift any ailing heart. Those who beheld his creations claimed that in the flowered borders, each rose, narcissus, iris and lotus exuded its own distinct attar, its particular perfume. And these sensations were just hints: when the folio was closed, the stories in each painting came to life…

Now Kamal felt split in two: the ethical artist he had always tried to be and the deceiver he had unwillingly become. For decades before the abduction, Kamal knew only too well that when inspiration captured his mind, his own trained hand could create miracles. It was as if Allah breathed through his brush. As Kamal had been taught, so he painted decade after decade. His master, his ustaad, was long gone. Kamal was now the teacher, although most of his pupils had left for different careers. Art was not what it once was. Some had forsaken the Grace to work in other professions; others profaned their gifts with commercial orders. Despite these pressures, the devotion of the old man had remained pure. Every morning he awoke before dawn, prostrated himself in prayer and then sipped his hot chai as he gazed through his window at the opaline sky. When the heaven’s palette melded into blues, he picked up his brush and began where last night’s sleep had demanded his halt. He never lacked for patrons. There was always demand for Kamal Khan’s miniatures. His finest work could take months to execute and usually ended up in the present Rana’s collection or on the walls of some wealthy patron, but Kamal also enjoyed making small sketches and paintings drawn from more complex compositions. These simpler pieces were his rice and dal: they sold well to the tourists.

Through all his long years, Kamal had the patience of a tortoise crossing the desert. He was unflappable. He had loved his life, his family, his art and his God. They were all he needed. He now lived alone and could devote all his time to his creativity. In the past this passion had poured out of him like the rushing torrents in the first days of a summer monsoon. Kamal simply opened his mind and let his art flow from head and heart through his arm to his brush and onto the paper. But over the past two years it was as if the stream was blocked by sticks and stones. The current was inhibited, withheld by a dam. Kamal continued to paint, as to stop would mean the end of life itself, but he was deeply troubled in his soul…