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This is who i am he often told alice when she started

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This is who I am,” he often told Alice when she started nursing school. He didsave up for Alice, he did send her to school, but he never dreamed of an old agewhere he would sit at home and live off her income. And he definitely neverdreamed of sitting in a court hearing his daughter being charged with attemptedmurder. Mostly he has been an absentee father, almost embarrassed to comehome to a daughter who tries to behave like a son and – like all sons – fallsshort.The court clerk announces the State vs Alice Bhatti: Alice Bhattibazirbo. Alice walks into the dock with her head held high, handcuffs clinking,staring purposefully at the judge as if saying: you?There, Joseph Bhatti tells himself with a certain pride. That’s mydaughter. “Your daughter is very pretty,” whispers the lawyer in his ear. Andthen Joseph feels sad: that’s all his daughter is good at, looking pretty andbashing up octogenarian professionals. As if being beautiful gives her the rightto behave badly. What kind of father feels pride at his daughter strutting aroundin a law court facing charges of disorderly behaviour and causing grievousbodily harm with intent to murder?Joseph Bhatti has himself faced such accusations most of his life. Whatkind of sweeper goes out and cleans the city on his days off? What kind ofChristian never turns up for Sunday service? What kind of Bhatti goes aroundhealing stomach ulcers by lighting candles and reciting Musla verses? When hisback was straight and his opium intake regular and pure, he would thump hischest and say: “This kind of man. Joseph Bhatti Choohra. We were here beforethe Christians came, before the Muslas came. Even before the Hindus came. Iam not just the son of this soil. I am the soil. Yes, I am Joseph Bhatti Choohra.”It’s only when Alice Bhatti is about to be led away and S.M. Qadriwhispers a long-winded explanation in his ear and proclaims that the law is the
whispers a long-winded explanation in his ear and proclaims that the law is theeternal whore for those who can pay for its upkeep that Joseph Bhatti realisesthat Alice has been found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months in prison.When the judge leaves his chair and everyone present in the court rises,Joseph Bhatti keeps sitting in petty defiance, keeps looking at Alice, hoping thatshe’ll look towards him, maybe wave a hand, acknowledge the fact that he came,that he brought a lawyer with him. Alice does turn around, but only to stare atthe judge, then she spits on the floor of the court and rushes out, two fatpolicewomen trying to keep pace with her.Alice comes home four months early, not because of Reverend Philip’sintervention as people assumed, but because all women prisoners get their termreduced by four months when someone important dies. Joseph makes her anomelette and puts it in front of her as if she had gone for a sleepover at a friend’shouse and has come back complaining of the bad food she was fed there.

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Sacred Heart, Miss Alice Joseph Bhatti

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