Tuesday 31 July 2012

Step ahead for the real world experience

An Interview with me by Hina Navin

The question of having a summer job, or an Internship as “the experts” call it is not just to fulfill monetary needs, or to kill the time when students are free to do what they like during school breaks, weekends or summer and winter holidays.

According to Suad Alhalwachi, Director, Education Zone, these jobs are important as they teach young adults many skills like punctuality, team work, build in confidence, develop communication skills and leadership skills. In addition, internship opportunity also aid them to enhance their knowledge, acquire practical skills about the industry and most importantly allow them to experience the corporate world to understand if this is what they want to do when they grow up. These jobs can be paid or unpaid and can be in the fields of distribution, entertainment, food outlets, cafes, restaurants, farms, supermarkets and many more.

She added, the decision to have a job is a basic one that every student must make and there should be organizations that facilitate such jobs, the reason for this is to find out if what is out there fits the potential of the students’ mind. Every individual either uses the right side of the brain or the left side of the brain; some can use both sides intermittently.

Each side mean that they are either logical and will be good with mathematical, engineering, problem solving and other hard core sciences or creative that is they excel in artistic, linguistics, sports person, helping others, humanitarian etc. Some people use both sides of brain which means that can study all of these fields and can comfortably work and handle any of these tasks successfully. Most universities had woken up to this fact and are now requesting psychometric testing so students do not drop out or change major, and hence advice them to study and work as per their individualistic skills and interest in order to succeed.

Handy Hints:
Find a job that matches your skill.
Real time experience will build confidence.
Try out online psychometric tests to understand your capabilities.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Brands and labels

Please don't take me wrong, I love brands, they do represent the elite in the society, and the guys became brands because they worked so hard to achieve what they had achieved. And by the way, by brands I mean anything from cloths makers, accessories makers, bags &shoes makers, furniture makers, architicts, artists and so on from those people that made a difference for humanity. 

But my blog today is not on who is wearing or buying those products, my blog is about the label. Yes, that little thing that is stitched at the back of your shirt, teeshirt, nightdress, pants, panties, trucksuit, and anything that is to go on the body.  That label that is considered a must to show the identity, a must to make a statment, a must to tell the world that here is another product of mine, and the person that wears it is also saying look I am wearing this brand!.  This annoying piece of material that changes into a sharp object or a klashincov that hits the part it comes in contact with at a speed of 1000 miles per minute; you suddenly want to itch and itch and slowly want to undress and perform a striptease show.  Don't forget the way you would move, its as if a bee had gone inside you and started to sting you a millimeter at a time and makes you go side by side to touch those infected areas, ultimately your body becomes numb, and all you can think of is that you must cut that clothing item to peices so you get rid of all the insects that had infected it and burn the damn thing.  You would swear that once you reach home you would remove it and when you do, of course the sure thing will happen, you will damage the item, and you can never wear it again.  At that point all you want to do is to make a shirt from the thousands of these contagious labels,  stich them together and make every brand maker wear them for a day, and tie their hands so they cannot etch, lets see how they will feel.

Once I went to a chair manufacturing factory, all they were thinking of is how will a person feel after sitting in the same chair for three or more hours; (well sometimes I dont move from my chair for three hours and of course when I go to the movies I don't move for over three hours) the factory had a team of ergonomic engineering checking how the back, legs, knees and other body parts would behave if stationed for hours in the same place. Of course they came up with the lazy chair, and other types that would make you comfortable and relaxed. ~These guys know how to get your money and make you smile at the same time.  After all who wouldn't want to relax in a chair for a long time? I think every one who is making stuff to be used, worn, touched and handled by human beings should have a team of ergonomic engineers working with them to make our life tolerable, livable and comfortable.

This is a warning to every manufacturer, please look after my neck and other parts of my body that is touched by your labels, you can stick the labels in a little bag and hang it on the item, so we can remove it easily and enjoy your product.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Ramadhan Kareem- contd

I will start my blog with the saying that goes like this: those that are poor they will not beg, and those that beg are not poor! and this other saying: Have mercy on those that were rich once, as they will never ask for food.

 Not sure if you all know that in Ramadhan we give and give and give, but what do we give? food, drinks, dates and money. We become so charitable to the extent that if we add all the money that is spent on these sort of things it can easily be the budget of a small nation. I am not kidding, this is true, and I can back my blog with data from households like mine.  However we give to mosques, and labour camps, but not really to those that are really poor. 

Also we who own blackberries and Iphones receive broadcasts on the availability of charity organisations, complete with names and phone numbers so we call if we need money, food or drinks.  this got me thinking, if I own two blackberry phones, and each of my kids have two phones as well, that straight away puts us in the level of above poverty, and those that send the broadcasts also own smart phones, so they are not poor either, thus we will not call the people who are giving the funds.  To add to this,  not a single poor person will call as they may not have a phone, let alone receive a broadcast!! maybe the poor person doesn't even read, so even if he or she have a phone, and do receive the broadcast they may not know what it says. 

These days we are busy on the phone to the extent that we don't have time to know if our neighbor has lost a job and is needy. Some of us are even shy to say that they need something. Its a dilemma really, I am not sure how to solve it.  Shall we for example have a register for poor people? maybe we must have a squad that roams the city to find the poor people? maybe we should ask the government or those that does the statistics to provide us names and locations of poor people? or shall we just send the money to poor countries like Somalia and other African countries?

I don't like this last option, as we never know if the money actually reaches the poor people as if it did, we wouldn't see poor people any more? someone somewhere is embezzeling the funds, and maybe building nice yachts with the money and never thinking of those poor poeple. 

We are living in a place where there are two teams, one that defends humanity, human rights, provision of basic needs (one of them is Maslow of course), better education,  freedom of speech and other stuff that are required so humanity doesn't become extinct, while the other team is on the receiving side taking the money from us and spending it on their own basic necessities like an extra diamond set, another mansion, a new Armany suit, and an additional LV bag. when are we going to change and we all become one team, that cares about the world.

I wonder!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Ramadhan Kareem

I felt really ashamed today, as I have been living in the UAE since 1981 and had never gone to the area called Bastakiya in old Bur Dubai. although I lived in Bur Dubai when i first came to the UAE, but being a lazy person I never ventured out to see what is available.   So when I got the invitation to attend the Iftar (breaking of the fast) I decided to attend no matter what.

The area is amazing, with all the old style houses being converted into boutique shops, galleries and other interesting places like Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), which is apparently open to the public around the year to introduce everybody to the life and culture of the UAE people. very interesting indeed.

the dinner (Iftar) was held in the courtyard of the SMCCU wind-tower house in the heart of historical Bastakiya, Old Bur Dubai, the evening commenced after the Athan (the call to prayer) at sunset. at least 200 people attended the function and broke their fast with the Emirati hosts by enjoying  Arabic coffee & dates, then took a moment to watch your hosts pray before Iftar is served. 

The nationalities are in accordance with the nationalities that live in the UAE, I think we are the only country that has people from 192 countries, and we are proud to say that we do not distinguish between any of them. Even though we have our separate functions, but those who are inquisitive are welcome to join us in our celebrations. The food that was served consists of our regular staple food that we normally have in Ramadhan, which consists of various types of rice with meat, Therrid (bread soaked with meat and vegetable soup), Harees (veal and wheat cooked over low fire for at least 10 hours). All the types were really nicely cooked, and somehow they all taste like the way my mum cooks our Ramadhan dishes.

After we finished, my friend and I walked around the area, and saw a nice old style cafe (or that is what we thought at least) so we went in, and asked the guy sitting there if they sell tea or coffee.  The guy was very welcoming and the waiter was wearing Arabic style clothing, then he brought us the tea with milk and water, and then we find out that the place is a private place and amazing one too, it was created by some of the people that used to own homes in Bastakiya and had to move out when the government decided to have that area as a heritage area.  we looked around and noticed the pictures of the visitors, imporatant people like Lady Blair, the king of Swedon, Prince Charles and Camilia, and a famous football player are only some that my friend and I knew about, many others that we dont know.  also they have decorated the place with old pictures of Dubai, the family tree of the Maktoom family, and also had the first picture of the united emirates rulers.  We thanks them and left, of course I had to take some pictures to remind me of this amazing experience. 

Saturday 21 July 2012

Entrepreneurship and Arab spring

I am not with what is happening in the middle east, even though some may think that I am against it, of course to begin with we should not be fighting for basic rights, those times had long gone, we do not have French princesses and British queens who want to feed people biscuits because they don't have bread. People should have mechanisms to ask for their rights, and governments should provide the rights to people without them having to fight for them. So Arab spring or not is something that is really outdated and should not be entertained based on the assumption that every single right like freedom of speech is synonym to having electricity, water, Internet and shelter of course.

Thanks for reading the above paragraph and hope that you agree with me. The disruption that happened to businesses and people is so severe, and the stoppages of work is not something that we brush aside and assume that business as usual? Hence my blog about entrepreneurship.

For those that don't know this, entrepreneurship is not just for those with ideas about new products or services that are needed or need will be created for them in society. Entrepreneurship is a concept that involves individuals who take risks, and spend their time and money to benefit themselves as well as everybody else around them. For example take Starbucks or Tim Horton! The inventors did not invent coffee, they invented a way to make good coffee accessible to everybody anywhere, anytime and on top of that at a good price. Both of these organisations are actually minting money to the extent that the venture capitalists that refused to lend them money are kicking themselves for not investing with them. Of course after that many coffee companies sprung up and copying started to mushroom. Would these entrepreneurs made money if they were in the middle east especially during Arab spring? Excuse me???? I don't think so.

What I am trying to say here is that like any plant, entrepreneurship requires cultivation, propagation, irrigation system and even sometimes someone to sing and dance for them! Of course those that started stalls in the highway to sell iced water and tea are still entrepreneurs, but because they started that idea in the middle east where we don't have a system to incubate them and provide them with nourishment, they stayed small and once the inventor of the iced water and hot tea in the desert died no one else replicated that idea. Oh, I forgot to mention that an entrepreneurship idea has to be easy to replicate, just for laughs and just to make the market a competitive one and prevent monopoly or oligopoly! (oops sorry my economics teaching is helpful here), Adam Smith in his book "the wealth of the nation" was the first person to call for competition as its important for the livelihood of everyone concerned, and to makes life healthy.

If I was the government, I will have a hub for entrepreneurs, and will make life easy for them, as they are the future of our country, and the way life should be.

Friday 20 July 2012

A Job for Juton, and other paint companies

I like to be positive at all times, although these days I had waves of negativity depressing me and spreading all over me and my surroundings for many reasons of course; I try to kill it by all means, success happens at times, and it doesnt happen in other times

Today is one of those negativity-bound days;  I went for a drive in bahrain, and couldn't help but notice the graffitti and the anti-graffiti methodologies on the walls, boundries, glass, doors, windows and every plain surface in Bahrain.  I am all for people speaking up and thinking of the best, and also I am for governements trying to erase these spoken up words, as they may not like what the people had said there. but I am not for having ugly sights that kills every pure and simple things that we had in Bahrain.

I also noticed that what was used by the people was colorful paint or spray paint, and what was used by the Anti-graffiti squad was black paint or spray paint, I couldn't help noticing the way the spray paint is used is in a zig zag mode that enables the inquisitive readers to detect what had been written. Also you notice that the graffiti people re-draw on the black spray and the anti-graffiti squad re spray, and so on.  Who is losing and who is benefiting?

Firstly the owners of the walls, doors, windows and boundries are the main losers; also the people in general are losing their sense of beauty, their eyes are now feasting on ugly artistic installations (like the one I saw once when a person had a knife on a bowl, that had a hole and it was dripping blood, and many people's cloths stained with blood, that installation was depicting the way the jews had died in the concentration camps) so invariably every person in the country would have nightmares from the sights around Bahrain. 

Doctors and pharmacists are making a fortune prescribing Prozac and anti depression medications.

Those that are also gaining are the spray paint companies, and hence my entrepreneurial brain came alive here and thought of this idea: why doesnt the country hire the services of the likes of Juton and other paint companies that are in abundance in Bahrain, and ask them to provide a coat of paint to cover the graffitti. Also the governement will allow the graffitti lovers to paint anti governmental slogans only if they do it in an artistic way. So instead of saying death to the goverment for example, the people should drew the postitve side of that, and we should have walls to do murals on.  That way we are going to have pretty pictures depicitng what will happen if the governemtn change, things that are really futuristc will only be allowed, and not dirty or ugly words. 

That way we all save money, I am sure that the governemnt is spending heaps of money on both spray black paint, and on paying salaries to anti-graffitti squad.  That money will be used to pay the paint companies who will be in charge of the walls, the murals, and beautification of Bahrain. The money that is left, as I am sure there will be a lot of it, can be paid to the graffiti artists to make a living, maybe everyone will shut the hell up and we can all go home happy.

Is anyone actually reading my blogs?????

Thursday 19 July 2012

Global phone

This morning I woke up without an alarm, it's a first of course, even the alarm will not wake me up! I actually have two phones, I set the alarm on both with a five minutes difference between them; the sound of the first one is a startling siren, and the other is a recitation of a Quraan article. I will wake up probably and switch them off and go back to sleep, or someone will wake up and turn them off, or at times I will wake up, intermittently an hour or so after the set time. I can never recall the number of times I missed appointments, and even exams, but I never lost a flight! Why?

Ever since I was little I sleep well, no one can wake me up, and to add to this, I can sleep during storms, hurricanes, crying kids, people fighting or speaking loud in one room, on planes, in taxis, in ordinary cars, and even when driving at times. Once I was returning from London, luckily  I was given a seat with plenty of leg room, and I was utterly knackered from the two conferences I had attended one after the other, so I took the blanket out of it's pack, borrowed another pillow from the guy sitting next to me, and went to sleep even before the flight took off! I was waken up with a nudge by the same passenger saying that we arrived to Dubai! Fantastic that was, and I tell you guys this was my best ever seven hours in a stretch sleep. Once I went to another city, and this air hostess made her mission to wake me up every 5 minutes. She doesn't only put the food or drink on the table, she actually shake me up, until I suspected that she was hired by my family just to annoy me, so I pressed that button to call the hostess, and when the same annoying one came, I asked her to send the bursar instead, and complained to her that she keeps on waking me up. Afterwards I went to sleep,  guess what, she woke me up again, oh my god, I almost threw myself from that small window, luckily I am too large to fit in it, otherwise I will not be living to write this blog!!!!

Anyway, what I wanted to share with you today is the thought that I had about having a global phone number. Like your blood type, ID card, date of birth, driving license number, these do not change when you travel or change location, they stay with you until you die, and then of course your date of death, are your own set of statistics that you carry around with you where ever you go. A phone is a necessity, and for a traveler like me, I don't want to have to buy a number everywhere I go to, nor do I want to pay roaming charges (9 dirhams per minute from India to Dubai) unnecessarily (once i thought of an idea to store the phone chip in with a place to write the number too, couldn't sell the idea, so instead i bought myself a key chain with a wee album type charm where I store my phone chips).

Like when we reach a place and there is free WIFI we don't have to have a number from that country? And our location changes by itself, so everyone will know that we are in this new location (mentioning locations, don't allow this functionality if you don't know how to handle stalkers, a friend of mine had her twitter location on, and one of her followers went to the same place she was in and sent her a tweet describing her laptop and phone and the colour of her abaya, nasty son of a B excuse my french).

What am I trying to say here is that phone companies need to have a traveling pacts, we pay too much for phones and Internet, it should be like the electricity, a cheap necessity, not something giant conglomerates savour on, and rent out jets to take their lovers on short trips or brag about having large penthouses and what not.

Also I just thought of something else, I never met a rich person, a famous actor, a President, a famous politician, etcetera on any of my trips, how do they travel? Do they have different airports? or do they only use helicopters? Just a thought.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Animation and Art

If we look from the window of an airplane we will see the wonders created by God Almighty; pretty terrains, colourful trees, wonderous lakes, gorgoeus waters, high mountains, and many more of those beautiful scenaries that we often go on holiday just to admire, and of course relax. We also watch birds as they come in very colourful feathers, enjoy looking at human beings, and other species because some individuals do look so stunning that we cannot but turn our heads to look again! Who created all of this? and why was it all made taking into account the artistic side of our brain? why do some people draw? is it a gift like the gift of inventions, writing, teaching, healing, and all other gifts given to humans so we do things that people need.  And since God created all of these beautiful things, then it comes naturally that we can also create beautiful art, and fascinating sculptures. 

Of course I have not been as good in drawing the way I am in cooking for example, however I love going to art galleries and enjoy seeing work of arts that my many artist friends do; in actual fact I can sometimes read what they drew, or sculpt! I can be called a curator, which is one of my talents, and also I can value art pieces and often the difference is only in one digit. Whenever I see artists I get mesmerised, same as seeing a new book, or looking at a newly born baby. These are my weaknesses, and these are great weaknesses to have I bet  So why am I telling you all of this? lets take it from the start.

Today at the Giftedness conference, one of the boys who is exhibiting his graduation project came to talk to me, I always make people feel at ease, so they pump out their secrets and stories, he opened up to me and told me about his creative writing, and the comic book that he was working on.  Listen to this: first time a bunch of his friends and him wanted to publish one of the chapters of the comic book, the magazine stole the idea and published it without their names.  Then the kids saved money and bought the software and the screen so the artist amongst them will have a good time converting the characters from paper to screen.  They created many characters, and wrote a lot of stories, and wanted to have someone who would help them publish the book, and make the cartoon movies.  No luck.

To make matters worst, the family of the artist found out that he is into drawing, so they prevented him from going to school, confiscated all the equipments, took the phone and removed the internet, and last but not least the boy doesn't see his friends nor can he talk to them.  When I heard this, my eyes started to tear, but I didn't want the young boy to know my soft side. I asked him why did they do this? he said that they think drawing is against religion. What? that is totally not true! who is going to protect this boy? who is going to incubate this group, and nourish their talent? we are at the heart of the conference that is supposed to be for helping talented kids? and we hear a story so dangerous like this one? totally beyond belief.

Of course I am in a dilemma now, I don't know what to do, my professionalism tells me that I should do something about it? but at the same time, his parents will say that I am interfering with their son's future? parents hate me, as I often ignore them when they accompany the son or daughter to my office, and turn to the boy or girl and ask them: what do you want to do with your life? we do have a say as parents, but at the end of the day, the kid is going to live that life, the life of a doctor, dentist, accountant or engineer, and be misrable for the rest of his/her life. We must expose their tallents and suggest to them ways in which they can actually do more with their studies with the same amount of money.  We help re-engineer their life. However to go to a family and say to them that they are mistaken, and that they have to let the son go to school and draw, then I am really interfering.  If it was my sister or brother I wouldnt fear anything, but total strangers? well, I must think hard to find a way to help the boy out of his home imprisonment.

To cut the story to a real short one, we agreed with the writer that we will help in publishing the first comic book, probably also will help in making the first video, then we can take our cost from the price.  Everybody is happy but the boy imprisoned in his own home. 

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Communication skills

I never thought I will say this, but I have a communication breakdown between my family and I! Am I growing old and having a drift between reality and fiction? Or did the family change while I was sleeping? Or maybe I am living in a searching world and they are living in the world. Not sure what it is, however I feel that it's time that I relieve my stress, smile, think positively and wish that I get into the middle of the road where my kids and I can meet to discuss, worried that a car will come and crush us??!! (metaphorically of course), I hope not. Or maybe I should take a course on communication skills?

Well let me start from the beginning, I woke them up early as we had to go to Abu Dhabi for some chores, they shouted saying that I am not too kind in waking them up, then on the way I was talking on the phone and they shouted Saying am speaking too load, then I called one of the staff to ask for certain jobs as nicely as I can, they shouted saying that I should just ask for the job to be done without being nice. Then when we reached our destination, I found a dying plant so I started to remove the dead leaves, the eyes of the kid popped out! Then while doing that I took a cutting, by this time they almost melted on their chair. So I told them that this act will take me a step closer to heaven, and taking a cutting will put me two steps closer to the same heaven! They didn't believe me of course. On the way back I queried about the car that has been in the garage for over a month, and that I should call them, they screamed that I should not interfere as they are capable of solving this issue themselves.

Then I meet another one of my kids at the expo, and now he says that I should breath, and read some verses of Quraan to relax. At the end if the day I went to the Entrepreneur workshop, and bingo! I realized the problem!!!!

Us the Entrepreneurs have problems or risks, these can be financial, relational and psychological. Well, I think I am reaching the third risk, the kids realized it too so they are giving me a holiday, and taking over the work. Yaay, success at last.

Thursday 12 July 2012


I am a person from the past, I have a feeling that I was born when Adam and Eve were made, and brought down to earth, I can close my eyes and imagine that I was with them, or like a fly on the wall, just watching what they are doing. I was looking at the cupboards and drawers since my return from India, to make room for the new things that I acquired during my trip, I found a scarf that I was given by a friend in 1973, some necklaces from 1968? vintage?? I bet.

One day I had Tarro card reading,  the woman said that in my previous life I was a french witch, this explains mon Français parfait! and the way I read the coffee cup, of course I don't believe in reincarnation, but my soul must have wondered around during my deep sleep and went to the past (is this even possible).  I also love sci fi movies especially the ones about setting the time back or forward, like the movie of Meg Ryan when her boy friend found a crack and he was able to go to another time and then she went through it too and found her mate! or the one where Michael J Fox travels to the past in the car his grandpa invented and then creates the future of his parents! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uwuLxrv8jY and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkyLnWm1iCs.  But the one that I really loved is Blast from the Past by Brendan Fraser http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx07uWsdpnQ&feature=related

This movie shows the ingenuity of the American mind! also it shows the gullibility of the scientists as they used to believe in the cold war and the power of the communism. Imagine if you have to live in a bomb shelter for 35 years? wouldn't that be a killer, and makes one feel very lonely? in this movie though the father had engineered the life of his son, and made sure that he knows every thing in life, including dancing, skating, singing, manners and most importantly the bonding that the threesom had found amidst that loneliness. I am not sure what I or my children would have done if we had to stay in a bomb shelter on our own, day in day out, and what we would have learnt from that experience. Having said that, I feel that one should be on ones own for a while, like for example a month, and just try to be with the family, just for laughs of course, to gauge the tolerance level also the love level.  

Why do I always quote movies in my blog? because that is what I do when I am not working. I noticed these days that I am not very sociable, and prefer to be on my own, as I feel that every time someone says something interesting I want to write it, and if I did the person wouldn't be happy, as what happened to my when I blogged about my friends sad demise of her mum, she was upset to an unbelievable extent, I thought that I will lose her forever, luckily I didn't. That was a near-mess though, next time I do something like this I may lose a friend, which is not funny at all.  we take pains in choosing our friends, and we don't want to lose them easily, so rather than just blabber about what they say, and quote them, I would rather do my work, set at home, and write about my own experiences. 

Talking about the past is something that I would do again and again, stuff about what my dad used to tell us, and the way he made us real human beings, but I am tired now, and half MIB III is running and still didn't follow what was happening, so enjoy your weekend and have a good sleep after a long hot week in Dubai. 

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Pedagogical Project “The Joy of Reading”- Désirée’s Baby

I am sharing this so others can read too, not only me
Pedagogical Project
“The Joy of Reading”

Désirée’s Baby
by Kate Chopin
As the day was pleasant, Madame Valmondé drove over to L’Abri to see Désirée and the baby. It made her laugh to think of Désirée with a baby. Why, it seemed but yesterday that Désirée was little more than a baby herself; when Monsieur in riding through the gateway of Valmondé had found her lying asleep in the shadow of the big stone pillar.
The little one awoke in his arms and began to cry for “Dada.” That was as much as she could do or say. Some people thought she might have strayed there of her own accord, for she was of the toddling age. The prevailing belief was that she had been purposely left by a party of Texans, whose canvas-covered wagon, late in the day, had crossed the ferry that Coton Mai’s kept, just below the plantation. In time Madame Valmondé abandoned every speculation but the one that Désirée had been sent to her by a beneficent Providence to be the child of her affection, seeing that she was without child of the flesh. For the girl grew to be beautiful and gentle, affectionate and sincere, – the idol of Valmondé.
It was no wonder, when she stood one day against the stone pillar in whose shadow she had lain asleep, eighteen years before, that Armand Aubigny riding by and seeing her there, had fallen in love with her. That was the way all the Aubignys fell in love, as if struck by a pistol shot. The wonder was that he had not loved her before; for he had known her since his father brought him home from Paris, a boy of eight, after his mother died there. The passion that awoke in him that day, when he saw her at the gate, swept along like an avalanche, or like a prairie fire, or like anything that drives headlong over all obstacles.
Monsieur Valmondé grew practical and wanted things well considered: that is, the girl’s obscure origin. Armand looked into her eyes and did not care. He was reminded that she was nameless. What did it matter about a name when he could give her one of the oldest and proudest in Louisiana? He ordered the corbeille from Paris, and contained himself with what patience he could until it arrived; then they were married.
Madame Valmondé had not seen Désirée and the baby for four weeks. When she reached L’Abri she shuddered at the first sight of it, as she always did. It was a sad looking place, which for many years had not known the gentle presence of a mistress, old Monsieur Aubigny having married and buried his wife in France, and she having loved her own land too well ever to leave it. The roof came down steep and black like a cowl, reaching out beyond the wide galleries that encircled the yellow stuccoed house. Big, solemn oaks grew close to it, and their thick-leaved, far-reaching branches shadowed it like a pall. Young Aubigny’s rule was a strict one, too, and under it his negroes had forgotten how to be gay, as they had been during the old master’s easy-going and indulgent lifetime.
The young mother was recovering slowly, and lay full length, in her soft white muslins and laces, upon a couch. The baby was beside her, upon her arm, where he had fallen asleep, at her breast. The yellow nurse woman sat beside a window fanning herself.
Madame Valmondé bent her portly figure over Désirée and kissed her, holding her an instant tenderly in her arms. Then she turned to the child.
“This is not the baby!” she exclaimed, in startled tones. French was the language spoken at Valmondé in those days.
“I knew you would be astonished,” laughed Désirée, “at the way he has grown. The little cochon de lait! Look at his legs, mamma, and his hands and finger-nails, – real finger-nails. Zandrine had to cut them this morning. Isn’t it true, Zandrine?”
The woman bowed her turbaned head majestically, “Mais si, Madame.”
“And the way he cries,” went on Désirée, “is deafening. Armand heard him the other day as far away as La Blanche’s cabin.”
Madame Valmondé had never removed her eyes from the child. She lifted it and walked with it over to the window that was lightest. She scanned the baby narrowly, then looked as searchingly at Zandrine, whose face was turned to gaze across the fields.
“Yes, the child has grown, has changed,” said Madame Valmondé, slowly, as she replaced it beside its mother. “What does Armand say?”
Désirée’s face became suffused with a glow that was happiness itself.
“Oh, Armand is the proudest father in the parish, I believe, chiefly because it is a boy, to bear his name; though he says not, – that he would have loved a girl as well. But I know it isn’t true. I know he says that to please me. And mamma,” she added, drawing Madame Valmondé’s head down to her and speaking in a whisper, “he hasn’t punished one of them – not one of them – since baby is born. Even Negrillon, who pretended to have burnt his leg that he might rest from work – he only laughed, and said Negrillon was a great scamp. Oh, mamma, I’m so happy; it frightens me.”
What Désirée said was true. Marriage, and later the birth of his son had softened Armand Aubigny’s imperious and exacting nature greatly. This was what made the gentle Désirée so happy for she loved him desperately. When he frowned, she trembled, but loved him. When he smiled, she asked no greater blessing of God. But Armand’s dark, handsome face had not often been disfigured by frowns since the day he fell in love with her.
When the baby was about three months old, Désirée awoke one day to the conviction that there was something in the air menacing her peace. It was at first too subtle to grasp. It had only been a disquieting suggestion; an air of mystery among the blacks; unexpected visits from far-off neighbours who could hardly account for their coming. Then a strange, an awful change in her husband’s manner, which she dared not ask him to explain. When he spoke to her, it was with averted eyes, from which the old love-light seemed to have gone out. He absented himself from home; and when there, avoided her presence and that of her child, without excuse. And the very spirit of Satan seemed suddenly to take hold of him in his dealings with the slaves. Désirée was miserable enough to die.
She sat in her room, one hot afternoon, in her peignoir, listlessly drawing through her fingers the strand of her long, silky brown hair that hung about her shoulders. The baby, half naked, lay asleep upon her own great mahogany bed, that was like a sumptuous throne, with its satin-lined half-canopy. One of La Blanche’s little quadroon boys – half naked too – stood fanning the child slowly with a fan of peacock feathers. Désirée’s eyes had been fixed absently and sadly upon the baby, while she was striving to penetrate the threatening mist that she felt closing about her. She looked from her child to the boy who stood beside him, and back again; over and over. “Ah!” It was a cry that she could not help; which she was not conscious of having uttered. The blood turned like ice in her veins , and a clammy moisture gathered upon her face.
She tried to speak to the little quadroon boy; but no sound would come, at first. When he heard his name uttered, he looked up, and his mistress was pointing to the door. He laid aside the great, soft fan, and obediently stole away, over the polished floor, on his bare tiptoes.
She stayed motionless, with gaze riveted upon her child, and her face the picture of fright.
Presently her husband entered the room, and without noticing her, went to a table and began to search among some papers which covered it.
“Armand,” she called to him, in a voice which must have stabbed him, if he was human. But he did not notice. “Armand,” she said again. Then she rose and tottered towards him. “Armand,” she panted once more, clutching his arm, “look at our child. What does it mean? Tell me.”
He coldly but gently loosened her fingers from about his arm and thrust the hand away from him. “Tell me what it means!” she cried despairingly.
“It means,” he answered lightly, “that the child is not white; it means that you are not white.”
A quick conception of all that this accusation meant for her nerved her with unwonted courage to deny it.
“It is a lie; it is not true, I am white! Look at my hair, it is brown; and my eyes are gray, Armand, you know they are gray. And my skin is fair,” seizing his wrist. “Look at my hand; whiter than yours, Armand,” she laughed hysterically.
“As white as La Blanche’s,” he returned cruelly; and went away leaving her alone with their child.
When she could hold a pen in her hand, she sent a despairing letter to Madame Valmondé.
“My mother, they tell me I am not white. Armand has told me I am not white. For God’s sake tell them it is not true. You must know it is not true. I shall die. I must die. I cannot be so unhappy, and live.”
The answer that came was as brief:
“My own Désirée: Come home to Valmondé; back to your mother who loves you. Come with your child.”
When the letter reached Désirée she went with it to her husband’s study, and laid it open upon the desk before which he sat. She was like a stone image: silent, white, motionless after she placed it there.
In silence he ran his cold eyes over the written words. He said nothing. “Shall I go, Armand?” she asked in tones sharp with agonized suspense.
“Yes, go.”
“Do you want me to go?”
“Yes, I want you to go.”
He thought Almighty God had dealt cruelly and unjustly with him; and felt, somehow, that he was paying Him back in kind when he stabbed thus into his wife’s soul. Moreover he no longer loved her, because of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name.
She turned away like one stunned by a blow, and walked slowly towards the door, hoping he would call her back.
“Good-by, Armand,” she moaned.
He did not answer her. That was his last blow at fate.
Désirée went in search of her child. Zandrine was pacing the somber gallery with it. She took the little one from the nurse’s arms with no word of explanation, and descending the steps, walked away, under the live-oak branches.
It was an October afternoon; the sun was just sinking. Out in the still fields the negroes were picking cotton.
Désirée had not changed the thin white garment nor the slippers which she wore. Her hair was uncovered and the sun’s rays brought a golden gleam from its brown meshes. She did not take the broad, beaten road which led to the far-off plantation of Valmondé. She walked across a deserted field, where the stubble bruised her tender feet, so delicately shod, and tore her thin gown to shreds.
She disappeared among the reeds and willows that grew thick along the banks of the deep, sluggish bayou; and she did not come back again.
Some weeks later there was a curious scene enacted at L’Abri. In the centre of the smoothly swept back yard was a great bonfire. Armand Aubigny sat in the wide hallway that commanded a view of the spectacle; and it was he who dealt out to a half dozen negroes the material which kept this fire ablaze.
A graceful cradle of willow, with all its dainty furbishings, was laid upon the pyre, which had already been fed with the richness of a priceless layette. Then there were silk gowns, and velvet and satin ones added to these; laces, too, and embroideries; bonnets and gloves; for the corbeille had been of rare quality.
The last thing to go was a tiny bundle of letters; innocent little scribblings that Désirée had sent to him during the days of their espousal. There was the remnant of one back in the drawer from which he took them. But it was not Désirée’s; it was part of an old letter from his mother to his father. He read it. She was thanking God for the blessing of her husband’s love:
“But, above all,” she wrote, “night and day, I thank the good God for having so arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery.”
corbeille: (French) presents from a fiancée to his betrothed.
cochon de lait: (French) young piglet
peignoir: (French) dressing gown
layette: (French) set of clothes and other articles for a new-born baby
Gabrielle Bonavoglia
A World of Difference
Genoa, Black Cat Publishing, 1996
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