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Can Love Conquer It All? Find Out in Aisha Sarwari’s ‘Heart Tantrums’

Come along on a deeply personal journey as we delve into the pages of Aisha Sarwari‘s Heart Tantrums. In this touching story, explore the complexities of forgiveness and love all in the shadow of a cancer diagnosis. Aisha’s words will prompt you to reflect on the profound depths of our own relationships and the strength of the human spirit.

Don’t miss this emotional excerpt – scroll to read and be moved by the power of love and forgiveness.

Heart Tantrums
Heart Tantrums || Aisha Sarwari

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Is it possible to forgive someone who has cancer? To permit yourself anger against a brain tumour cancer patient in the first place.

It is ghastly the way ugly and messy parts of life happened to us when we should have still been in the rainbows-and-butterflies phase of our youth.

Then again, why should we be exempt from the games nature and fate play by interchanging wrath and gifts?

It was a winter’s day and we were on our way home from a dinner at a journalist friend’s place where an ex-PM and three former ministers were also present. We had been sitting around the fire, talking about how messed up their political party is.

 

It was almost midnight and the moon was missing. This was Yasser’s chemo week and his anti-seizure meds were three hours late. I noticed he started behaving oddly. On our car window, the flower sellers’ roses and jasmine bracelets were wilted. They were imploring us to buy the last of their stock for the night, in exchange for a prayer, of course. They said, May your marriage last a million years. We didn’t buy anything from them, but they stood there pressing their faces against our car window, beseechingly.

 

Distracted, I stopped the car a bit too close to the one ahead  of me at the traffic light.

 

Yasser looked like he was trying to not say something. Then he said it: ‘There should be a distance of one car between us and the car ahead of ours,’ said Yasser, looking apprehensive and also half-ready for my mood. I hate that he still doesn’t trust me behind the wheel. Just the other day, we had had another fight about teaching Zoe to drive an old car rather than a new car. He obviously wanted her to learn in an older car and I felt she should have an automatic gear car with power steering.

 

‘I’ve been driving for twenty-five years, I think I’m okay,’ I rolled my eyes.

‘But look, it’s dangerously close to that car’s bumper,’ Yasser replied.

‘That’s because neither car is moving,’ I countered. ‘Can you please just drive carefully?’

‘Is the car all you care about?’ I snapped, my heart already heavy with dread and anger.

‘The car is at risk this way,’ he said.

‘The car is at risk. You are such an amazing husband, to the car!’ I half-accused, half-vindicated.

‘You can do whatever you want to the car when I’m gone,’ he said flatly.

‘Can you not?’ I pleaded. (Pause)

I wanted to kick myself for always fighting about the car.

Things got real very fast. I wanted to retract my anger.

The lights turned green and I drove on, slower than usual, a wide berth between our vehicle and the car ahead.

‘You have to be prepared, Aishi,’ he said quietly.

I wanted to say so much, but instead I held his hand. There was cold sweat on it. Yasser has cold sweat on his hands when he’s unwell or when he has an emotional seizure.

His hand got colder and he refused to open it for mine.

‘Can you please drive with both hands, thank you?’ he said finally.

I felt a cocktail of anger and fear shooting up inside me again—almost grief. Yet I held my peace.

He moved his hand away from mine—clammy fingers peeling away from my soft, warm ones, trying to convey a meaning.

My hand lay unreciprocated on his lap, like a damp squib—a letter in a bottle smashed against the cliffs. I put my hand where it belonged, gripping the steering wheel with both hands.

‘I forgive you, Yasser, and I hope you forgive me too. I really thought love would be enough,’ I said to the road ahead of me.

***

Get your copy of Heart Tantrums by Aisha Sarwari wherever books are sold.

‘Writing is almost biological’: Ashok Ferrey on writing fiction

Having lost his mother at a young age, Sanjay de Silva lives in Colombo, under the thumb of a controlling Sri Lankan father. When his father is diagnosed with cancer, he feels the ground shifting under his feet, the balance of power realigning. Though it is something he has dreamed of all his life, he is uneasy when it happens. Learning that he is entitled to live in England, thanks to his half-English mother, he moves to London.

This is the story of an Asian builder in south London. But at its heart, The Unmarriageable Man is about grief; how each of us copes in our inimitable way with the hidden mysteries of family and the loss of loved ones. Because, as Sanjay is about to find out, grief is only the transmutation of love, of the very same chemical composition – liquid, undistilled – the one inevitably turning to the other like ice to water.

Today, we have with us the author of the book, Ashok Ferrey talking about how the book was born from his own personal experience of dealing with his father’s death.

By Ashok Ferrey 

 

Recently, I said somewhere that the most difficult part of writing a book is to reach inside your soul,  extract the truth, squeeze it out, then hang it on the line to dry – for all the world to see. By this measure, my latest book, The Unmarriageable Man, was the most difficult one I ever wrote. Twenty years ago my father died – of various complications following cancer – and it was a hugely traumatic time for me. It was precisely this trauma that made me a writer: I remember taking him to the cancer hospital in a tuk-tuk, forcing a banana down his throat on the way there (bitter experience had taught me that after the chemo, he wasn’t going to be able to eat anything for the next 24 hours), and bringing him back home where he collapsed on the bed. I went into the next room, and in an exercise book lying around I wrote (with a pencil) my very first story. It took me half an hour. When I finished I remember looking around the room thinking What have I done? Oh, what have I done? It was almost as if I’d committed a murder, it was so unexpected!

front cover of The Unmarriageable Man
The Unmarriageable Man || Ashok Ferrey

 

That story, The Perfect House (in Colpetty People) remains today one of the funniest things I ever wrote. It taught me that this process of writing is almost biological – there are unseen forces inside you that begin to operate when you let yourself go. In my case, weirdly, the more stressed I am, the funnier the writing. (This is what I tell young writers who attend my workshops. Stress is Good. Generally, they look at me in dumb incomprehension. Sometimes fear. As if at this point I’ll bring out a large stick.)

Fast forward twenty years. It has taken this long for me to feel confident enough to deal with what happened back then, with my father. Fictionalising it has helped – it allows you to put a certain distance between you and your subject. So this story has been cooking in my brain all this while, which only goes to show that you can’t force your writing: it will come out when it has to; and only when it has to.

So I hope you enjoy this book. I hope it has been worth the twenty year wait.

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