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Karna's Wheel

Michael Tobert

Top 10 Best Quotes

“The street outside is empty, lit only by a half moon; yet factory engines beat in the background and the working day is about to begin. Maggie steps out of the tenement and suddenly the street begins to fill with women, some running, some pulling their jackets around them, some lighting pipes, some, like Maggie herself, taking a pinch of snuff. From other tenements come other women, and soon all merge into one, like a herd of cattle off to market, clopping over the stone pavements and the cobbles, lowing with last night’s news.”

“Secrets,’ she replied, casting my trousers aside, ‘are difficult things. Not precise. Not always the same for the one who tells as for the one who receives. They make demands. They may cause you to ask yourself, “Am I worthy?”’ At which, as if to illustrate the point, she removed her bra and watched me follow the lines of her magnificent form with my eyes.”

“Séamus’s eyebrows, like the antennae of the potato beetle but with a greater sense of grievance, poke forward as he delivers his first utterance of the morning.”

“Ranjana finds Stephen lying on an old string bed staring up at the ceiling and seeing in its myriad cracks the soothing drift of clouds. She puts what she’s brought to his lips, brushes them with her fingertips, and watches as he works the sweet onto his teeth. She feels a light touch on her arm encouraging her to lie next to him. She rests on her back, the pair of them laid out like two corpses waiting for the first shower of moist earth. After a while, she rolls over, nuzzles into his shoulder, and lets her hand fall limp and sweet across his chest. She drifts off to sleep, sweating in the arms of her lover.”

“When the bell of my flat rings at four o’clock in the afternoon, I don’t expect a policeman to be standing outside. “Sorry to disturb you sir,” he says. “Detective sergeant McCorquodale. It’s about your mother.” Detective sergeant McCorquodale is an enormous lighthouse of a man with the untroubled skin of a baby and not a trace of facial hair; a sort of man-boy who’s overdosed on growth hormones.”

“The coolies pull them across Howrah bridge, which they share with cars, trucks, bullock carts, a party of young women in saris strolling in no hurry wearing bangles on their ankles, an elephant also in no hurry, and a cow that is lying down in the middle of the road chewing lazily a booklet entitled Dr W C Roy’s SPECIFIC FOR INSANITY. The camera pauses on a portion of the half-eaten text: “Dr Roy’s insanity medicine acted a charm. I am completely cured,” says Srinath Ghosh of Bundelkund. 5 rupees per phial.”

“Thatched huts of mud sit humped in rows. Between the rows, a stagnant stream of sewage stews like thick soup bubbling in the clotted heat. Mosquitoes swarm. Garbage rots. Parvati gathers her sari about her and steps as lightly as she can down this gutter of filth. The boy stops outside one of the huts. Parvati and Sunil push aside the sacking that is over the doorway, stoop and step down onto a mud floor. Inside, there is no window, no light and no air. Only heat. Parvati puts her hand to her long elegant throat. Above her, one end of the roof is sagging as if about to collapse. ‘Bustee, very good,’ says the boy smiling.”

“Karṇa walks, his back is straight, he is lit up by his divine earings; yet his feet drag. He turns into an alley. His head droops and falls to his chest. He stops. Mist swirls around him, becomes motionless, parts. From between his ribs steps a young woman. Her eyes and face and tongue are brown like old blood and she is decked in old things and she wears upon her wrists two burnt black bracelets. She places the point of a knife under Karṇa’s chest plate and cuts, a gentle sawing motion, the blade moving beneath the skin, a slicing of the quick: nerves, blood vessels, sinews. I feel his pain; not a stab; it is insistent, enduring, but sharp nonetheless, as with any loss.”

“Julia, hanging back, says, ‘How have you been, Stephen?’ I want to tell her everything. I want to find out what she’s been doing, what she plans to do but, at this fated moment, a vision of my stomach floats before me. It is a soggy marsh, green rushes growing round the edges, gas bubbles surfacing all over and bursting. The bubbling of the marsh is set to the music of creation, the percussive glottal stops of the Big Bang. I realize I have, at best, one complete sentence left in me. ‘Julia,’ I begin, composing in my head a deranged paean of love that I can never utter. ‘I regret that I am not myself today. Terry has poisoned me.’ ‘You should go home,’ she says.”

“His world closes in. The sky is endless no longer but pieced into squares of brick and bright cloths hanging down to dry. Underfoot, no longer stone but rubble, earth, the peelings and rotted scraps of the inedible. He smells the smoke of cooking fires, he hears men arguing and babies screaming like seagulls, he sees young women looking shyly down from high windows, exchanging glances. Now, he is no longer the watcher. Watched. Shouts echo in the dark between twisted walls and back alleys. A twisted smile in a doorway. A stranger’s voice. A stranger’s language.”

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Book Keywords:

dundee, secrets, fiction-writing, heritage, understanding, lovers, historical-fiction, survival, past, cultural-heritage, period-drama, women-empowerment, romance, human-history, future, insight, fiction, india, family, history, calcutta, women-s-saga, struggles, omance, fiction-novel, historical, love, multi-layered, culture, cultural, family-life, herritage, scandals

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