Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Growing Accustomed to a Face

"Omar wished, not for the first time, that he was someone else. Someone like [his brother] Sharif, who was confident enough to be himself, and was loved and liked for being who he was. Omar felt he, by comparison, was a faker, a dissembler. He had carved out a niche for himself, created an identity for himself in reaction to Sharif. If Sharif cared nothing for books or academia, then Omar could care for nothing else. If Sharif was to be the rebel, then Omar could be the model student. Omar found it relatively easy to be a model student, in that he found it easy to be quiet, clean, attentive, punctual and rigorous in handing in well-prepared work. He discovered that being a model student meant that everybody, including his teachers, mistook him for a bright student. And yet Omar sincerely believed that he was blessed with neither superior intelligence nor original thought; he had only two abilities, the ability to read quickly, and an excellent memory that allowed him to memorize and repeat all he read.

He looked this face reflected back at him [in the mirror], blank, expressionless, pale. Even his colour was indistinct; he was neither brown nor white. It could be anyone's face, he thought to himself. It was a blank canvas. He looked at the family photos on his shelf, and imitated his mother's articulate, thoughtful expression, and then his father's handsome laugh, and then his brother's sexy smoulder. He blinked and looked at himself again. If it could be anyone's face, that meant he could become anyone, he could mould it into the face he wanted. The face of a someone, rather than an anyone; someone who was intelligent and academic."
- from Bitter Sweets, by Roopa Farooki