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"A rose is a rose... A rose with any other name will smell as sweet!"

-Shakespeare in 'Romeo and Juliet'

the perfect rose...

-by gasper crasto (07/06/2003)

"Quick...let's get going... I don't want to disappoint her." I said as we walked to the parking area.

Anthrax insisted on taking his car. "Should I play your favorite song?" He asked as he pulled the car on the Expressway. He switched on the stereo and tested some cassettes. "Oh yeah...here it is...Tears in Heaven..."

"Forget the music... you should service this junk...it's making more noise than the American fighter planes." The car appeared to have got angry at my comments cause just as I said so, the engine spluttered and the noise dowsed down dead. Just the music played. Anthrax somehow managed to get the vehicle across on the break-down lane.

"Hey!....what's wrong?" I asked.

"Cool down...nothing to worry...it needs some warming up like football players." He frantically tried to restart but failed every time. "Yaar... do you know anything about the engine?" He asked.

"Not a sausage...come-on, let's open the bonnet like everybody does when they have an engine failure..."

All our engineering efforts failed to re-start the car. Finally Anthrax decided we should tow it to a garage and then pick up my vehicle. 

"Hurry...we are already late...she'll be waiting...I got to buy a bouquet of flowers on the way as well..." I screamed.

By the time we reached the flower shops it was nearing noon. "Let's be quick...I want roses...nothing but roses..." I told him.

 "Roses...hmmm....now...why don't you tell me who she is!"

"Yaar, today is her birthday !" I said. "What better gift for a female than a bouquet of flowers..."

The rates on the price tags of some of the bouquets displayed were exorbitant. But we were sure the prices were not 'fixed'. 

"Anthrax...can you use your Arabic tongue to bargain a bit?" I asked.

"Sure!...why not?...just show me the ones you like and I'll buy you a load for the price of matchsticks..."

I had confidence in Anthrax. Be it any language he spoke, he had a flair of conversing which I always envied. I always thought he could make a great salesman. I even told him so several times. He had a tongue of a salesman who could sell a refrigerator in Antarctica.

"How about this basket?" I pointed out.

"Alright... just stand aside...let me deal..." He turned to the Iranian man in-charge sitting behind a counter at the far end of the shop. "Salam malekum ya Haji..." He said, "How much for this small bouquet...."

"Hatha moh zageer...(It is not a small one)." The Iranian replied back in a Persian accent. "It's very huge...and the roses are from Holland....Dinar khamsat ashar (KD Fifteen)"

"Hatha katheeran jiddan (This is too much)" Anthrax spoke in typical Arabic. "I will give you two Dinars...not even five fils more....pack it...quick !"

The Iranian continued with what he was doing.   

"Anthraxxx..." I whispered and poked at him. "Two Dinars!...Are you crazy?...Be reasonable...you can't be that low...Are you asking for just one rose...or only the basket ?"

"Shhh!...Keep quiet...I know these crooks...they are big cheats." He turned to the Iranian again. "Quick....we are getting late...here's two Dinars...."

The Iranian looked up at Anthrax. He gave him a long look, then jumped out from his chair, banged one hand on the counter, pointed the other to the entrance door and shouted. "Barrah! (Out)."

Anthrax backed off for a moment but then quickly gathered his pride and started an argument in Arabic. I stealthily slipped out of the shop, walked to the adjoining shop and bought a similar bouquet without a basket for ten Dinars.

"Why did you pay so much?" Anthrax asked, "These people are rascals...you don't know the market...I could have bargained it for..."

"Enough...thanks!" I cut him short.  "Come-on...hold this!" I gave him the bouquet bag as I sat at the wheel.

We knocked on the special quarters at the back of a Kuwaiti villa where she stayed. The door opened. "Come...come..." She said cheerfully.

"Happy birthday auntie!" I said as I stepped in. "This is my friend..."

She smiled at Anthrax. "Muito prazer...como vai?" She said in Portuguese and shook hands with him. "Come...come...what's your name?" She asked and beckoned him to come in.

 

"Auntie, we call him Anthrax..." I said, "He speaks fluent Arabic. You know something?...he is very good at bargaining in Arabic..."

I took out the bouquet of flowers from the plastic carry bag and handed it over to her. "Auntie, these roses are for you..."

She was simply speechless as if she had not seen such a beautiful bouquet in a long time, perhaps never in her life. "Espirito santo... roses!...thanks baba..." She managed to mutter, still staring at the bouquet in disbelief. "You need not have done this. I am sure this bouquet would have cost you quite a bit."

"Nothing...just two Dinars!" I said and looked at Anthrax. He looked back gingerly.

"Thank you all the same."  She kept the bouquet in a makeshift vase on the table ever so gently and touched some petals with feather fingers. She still couldn't get over the wave upon wave of her joy. "Thank you." She whispered one more time, not even taking her eyes off the flowers to look at us. There was a glow of bliss on her face which made her look younger than the 65 year old Goan lady working in a Kuwaiti house. 

Ever since I landed in Kuwait, I had been helping her to read or write letters occasionally. She was quite fond of writing. "I write to a number of people, just about anyone I know..." She once told me. "I receive many answers too. Believe it or not, I still have some of the friends I made years ago. That in itself says a lot about my letters... This simple practice of writing is lost in many people today..."

 "So why do you need my help to write now?" I had asked her.

"Over the years, I have been writing in Portuguese, and in Konkani but this new generation is just illiterate in our own languages. My grandchildren and relations today, all write mostly in English. Though this age group of today understand everything of Konkani, they have let this English become their way...but don't you think they mostly use this language for only love making, talking to their infant children and even scolding their pet dogs?... They say they don't understand my language...! In the next few years I am sure we will be able to claim that we are among the distinguished few people of the world who are illiterate in our own mother tongue!"

She served us a concoction of juices, cake and some delicious snacks followed by appetizing dishes of Arabic and Goan cuisine. 

"I took the day off today." She said as she served. "My madam is quite generous." 

Some Kuwaiti kids dashed in the room as we ate. "Ah...auntie...your son is here..." They chirped in unison looking at me.

"Yeah...and today, he has Anthrax with him! ..." She said, "Come...have this..." She pulled a box of chocolates and offered them.

"Auntie...be careful how you utter my friend's name..." I told her. "We pronounce it as 'A-N-T-R-A-X'...They might get the CIA or FBI here if they think we are having anthrax..."

She pulled some roses from the vase and gave each child a rose and patted them as they ran off. "Tell me baba...how do you know that I love roses?..."

"Well...auntie, every time I visit you, I see a fresh rose in that vase on your table...there it is!...always a single rose... It's always at the back of my mind...wanted to ask you about it..."

"Baba....there is quite a sacred saga behind it..." She said as she sat down in a chair and took off her specs. "We were living in Bombay that time and we were married for three years.... Every morning, he would get up early and go out across the street to fetch fresh milk and bread while I prepared him break-fast. Just when he was about to leave for work, he would come and kiss me, produce a fresh chaste rose from nowhere and say, ".....I love you so much today...You are my perfect rose..." I always used to reply back teasingly, 'No, I don't love you...' One day it was quite late and raining...I thought he would not bother to go out and get me a rose in that weather.....But no...he never failed.......He was crossing the street back home when he was hit by a speeding car...He died instantly.....A fresh rose was lying in his hand..."

Tears rolled down from her eyes. "Tears can never really wash away the love and memories I hold...the rose reminds me of how much he loved me..." She paused and looked at us. "Do you think he will be waiting for me with a rose in his hand when I go up to join him there?"

I was choked for words. I looked at Anthrax. His voice was angelic as he said, "I certainly do think so, auntie..."

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tears in heaven
- by eric clapton and will jennings

(put 'on' speakers to listen to the song)

would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?
would it be the same if I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on,
'Cause I know there won't be no
tears in heaven.

would you hold my hand if I saw you in heaven?
would you help me stand if I saw you in heaven?
I'll find my way through night and day,
'Cause I know there'll be no more
tears in heaven.

and I know there'll be no more
tears in heaven.