Shandar Misttry’s First Misadventure (in Karachi)
Take 4 parts physics, 2 parts marketing, 16 parts music, 11 parts writing, and what do you get? A whole lot of parts would be one answer. Omer Wahaj is an amalgamation of all these and more: an independent journalist/writer and a part-time musician currently living in Toronto. He has written several short stories and is currently working on a few humorous/satirical novels. Omer occasionally DJs and has produced an eclectic mix of music in various genres of electronica. He also enjoys being an illeist.
The book has its origins in a Twitter thread that I started a few years ago where I came up with a character called Shandar Misttry, a generalist. The idea was that Shandar was going to be a detective/superhero who fights aliens, banshees, chupacabras, demons, elves, fauns, gollums, harpies, imps, jinns, krakens, Loki, Magog, nymphs, ogres, pixies, qliphots, rakhshas, satyrs, trolls, undeads, vampires, werewolves, xhindis, yetis, and zombies. However, I wanted to start at the beginning and give him a backstory. I decided that I was going to write a kind-of-a-children’s book that my 10-year-old son would enjoy. This is what I came up with. This book is the story of a strange little 10-year-old boy living in Karachi who encounters some trouble brewing in his neighborhood. The boy loves mysteries and he sees it as an opportunity to become a detective and solve the case of the missing kid in his class. He teams up with his uncle, who is a film buff and is always living in some kind of fantasy or another, and at the end of the day, they both save the day, and impress their respective girls. The book is meant to be humorous and sometimes horror but mostly fun and entertaining. It is set in my home town of Karachi and I would think of it as being a bit whacky and eccentric. Both Shandar and his uncle – Azmat Mamoo – have love interests in this book. The uncle is a big Bollywood fan so he tries his best to imitate Bollywood actors and characters to try and woo the love of his life – Ms. Farah – who is also Shandar’s teacher, which makes things awkward for Shandar. Nevertheless, the two are able to work together – even turning into superheroes when Farah gets kidnapped so that they can go save her. The main idea behind the book is that there are monsters that live amongst us all but in some cases, all that needs to be done is to understand them and to acknowledge that they exist and what their nature is rather than trying to destroy them.
1. CHAPTER ONE When he stepped into his classroom that very strange morning, Shandar had no idea that by the end of the day he would be embarrassed like never before in front of his school, be involved in a peculiar kidnapping investigation, have spinach again for dinner and fall hopelessly in love, but not necessarily in that order. Some might say that boys usually don’t fall hopelessly in love when they are twelve, but Shandar was no usual boy. Most mothers might tell you that their sons are no usual boys either and that they are all unique. Shandar, though, was truly one of a kind. Not because he was some kind of a mathematical genius or a gifted athlete, but because his body had a tendency to react oddly to all sorts of things. Simply put, Shandar was allergic to everything. Almost everything anyway. The first time his mother became concerned for his health was just a few seconds after he was born. The world had just begun to slowly focus on reality after her surreal, painful, blurry ordeal and the first thing she saw was the doctor, his brows burrowed deep in a furious frown, quite determinedly slapping away on Shandar’s buttocks. Before the birthing, she had seen a video where the doctor had gently given the newborn a customary thwack to encourage the baby to cry. What she saw her doctor do looked more like something out of a Three Stooges movie. “Wha… whaat are you doing doctor?” she managed to blurt out. “Oh, Mrs. Misttry,” the doctor stopped, his sheepish grin visible even through his surgical mask. “Just giving that good old wallop to the baby’s bottom. Helps them cry to get out the fluids…” “I know what the slap is for, but you seem to be beating the crap out of my little boy. Literally.” “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.” The doctor looked genuinely confused. He wiped the baby with some wet wipes and handed him over to Mrs. Misttry. “Oh look at you, how shaandar you are,” she said, looking at the red puffy ball in her arms. “Such a healthy baby, isn’t he? Nice and fat. Ready to face the world. I think I know what I want to name you. Your name shall be Shandar.” A few minutes later, Shandar was in the ICU, as it was soon discovered that the reason he looked like a red puffy ball was because he had an allergic reaction to his mother. More specifically, his mother’s voice. From that day on, Shandar was to suffer many more allergic reactions to almost everything he touched, tasted, smelled, and sometimes heard. He learned the hard way how it felt to have that first sip of milk, to be bitten by a mosquito, to hear an ambulance’s sirens and how anti-rash cream could cause a rash that if left unchecked would cover a whole neighborhood.
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