Mr Nathwani’s Haiku
Mr Nathwani’s Haiku was originally written for the 2007 Verulam Writers' Circle Crystal Decanter Competition, judged by Oscar Windsor-Smith. The subject of the competition was Freedom, and it was awarded first place.
Mr Nathwani’s Haiku won third prize at the 2008 Winchester Writers Conference shorter short story competition.
I'm still quite proud of the fact that I fooled Oscar into thinking this piece was by one of the members of the circle who is of Asian origin, even though I'm equally sure she would pick loads of holes in it (I've never dared ask). I'm acutely aware that I've gone for a bit of a cliché in making the central character into a shopkeeper, although I hope I've at least fleshed that out a bit by exploring his East African heritage. I used to work with someone whose parents had indeed gone out to Kenya (I think) to work on the railways there, and the idea of the wife yearning for African skies came from a chap at a client of mine who came out with a story of surprising a cheetah on his morning walk when he was a kid out there. I realised there was a rich background to work with there.
My original intention was to write a three-part story about different characters' experiences of freedom, but I got so engrossed in Mr Nathwani that I decided to devote the entire story to him. I wrote it very quickly, with the wonderful Asha Bhosle as my soundtrack, and I ended up giving her a namecheck. When I got to the end, I panicked and wondered if I'd gone off topic, and then I realised that every line of the story was about freedom. From a conventional creative writing perspective, Mr Nathwani’s Haiku breaks all the rules about showing and telling, but I think it just about gets away with it. It's one of my favourites anyway.