Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sudah Garratti from Hyphema

Hi, and welcome to my blog. My guest today is Sudah Garratti, the heroine of Hyphema, by Chelle Cordero. Before we start the interview, it might help to learn a little bit about the book.

Hyphema: Bleeding in the eye caused by trauma

Matt Garratti, a paramedic from New York, moves his wife and son to North Carolina to work at his dream job as a flight medic. Pakistani born Sudah, his wife, receives frosty stares and insensitive comments from their new neighbors.

Before long, Matt wonders if he is pursuing his dream or bringing his family into a nightmare from which they may never wake.

Now—Let’s meet Matt’s wife, Sudah.

How old are you?

I am in my early twenties.

What do you look like? If you had to describe yourself as though you were talking about someone else, what would you say?

I am petite with dark olive skin, dark eyes and I am very modest.

What are your speech patterns like? Can you think of someone on TV or on radio who speaks in a similar way?

I try very hard to speak English like Americans do, but I sometimes get confused with strange phrases.

What is your usual facial expression? Are people drawn to your warmth and cheerfulness, or are you seen as quiet / dour / grim / humorless / reserved / etc? Does your face reflect the 'inner you' or are looks deceiving?

I try to be quiet as I do not like to draw too much attention to myself.

How do you handle anger? Are you slow to anger or easy to annoy? Are people afraid of you, and if so is this justified?

A few times I have lost my temper and raised my voice, but this is something I should not do. I do not believe I give people any reason to be afraid of me.

How do you react to confrontation? Would you give anything for a quiet life or do you enjoy winning an argument or a fight?

Usually when a person wishes to argue, they are not willing to listen to the way another person sees things so I prefer not to argue.

How much power do you wield at home, in the workplace, and in social situations? Are you the quiet "power behind the throne" type or do you wield obvious power? Or do you feel powerless? If so, why—and what might be the catalyst to make you change?

I try to let the outside world see that my husband is in charge – but at home I know how much it means to matt that I am happy, so in truth, I feel very powerful.

What (in your opinion) would be the first impression most people get when they meet you?

People see a small woman who wears a scarf to be modest, they see a woman who comes from “over there,” and sometimes they worry that I am there to do harm. People are very suspicious of dark skinned Muslims. They do not understand that most of us are just like everybody else.

In your case, is “what you see is what you get,” or do people sometimes make the wrong judgment about you? If so, why would this be?

I was schooled in Pakistan. I guess it would be equivalent to high school. I came to America to study business in college but the college course ended because the school lost funding.

Are you happy with what you have achieved since you left school?

I do not study business right now, but I still go to college to learn about American history, I wish to become an American citizen and this is something I must know.

Where do you live?

We recently moved from New York to North Carolina.

Do you live alone, share a house, or¼?

I live in a house with my husband and young son. Matt says the house is small but to me it is very nice size. My cousin Raja comes to live in America and stays with us.

If yes, are you happy or discontented in the relationship / this family? Tell us about it.

I am very happy being married to matt and mother to Aden. My family in Pakistan is not happy that I am married to an American non-Muslim. It makes me sad that they do not accept my marriage.

Who is your best friend? When did this relationship start? What makes you friends?

My real best friend is my husband, matt. I have a very nice friendship with his former paramedic partner, Julie – I met her after matt and I were married. I am making good friends with some of the wives of matt’s coworkers here in north Carolina.

Who else is in your circle of acquaintances? Who would you turn to in times of trouble?

I like to go shopping with the wives of matt’s coworkers; I get along nicely with most of them. If I need to turn to someone it would be Laurie or Trish. Their husbands have worked with the EMS response agency for a while and they have welcomed matt and me nicely.

If there is anyone in your circle who might betray you, who would it be?

There is one of the wives—her name is donna. She does not like the fact that I am Pakistani or Muslim. She says many mean things and she embarrasses her husband with her insults.

How would you describe your personality? What are your best points and assets? What are your flaws or weaknesses?

I believe in my faith very much and I know that makes Allah happy. At the same time I worry that I am expecting my husband to blindly accept my ways; this was not the way he was raised.

If there was one thing about your looks that you could change, what would it be?

I would like to look more like an American woman so that my husband would not have to see people look at me with such distrust.

If there was one thing about your personality that you could change, what would it be?

I do not think that matt sees me as very strong. I would like to show him he can lean on me.

What makes you likeable? Are you likeable enough for people to want to spend extended periods of time with you?

I always try to see good in everyone. I think that is likeable.

What makes you unlikeable? Is this a chronic problem or can you change?

I need to learn more about American activities and things so that I can talk about interesting things.

What type of people would like you, and who might not like you?

People who have true faith in any religion, will love all of humanity and will give a person a chance to show who they are. Sometimes people are not comfortable with someone who is different because they do not know many different people. They are scared.

Would you describe your life to this point as being generally happy, pretty average, or generally unhappy? Can you briefly explain why?

I am very happy. I married a man who loves me and is a good man. I am very proud of him—he cares about people. My son brings me much joy. I like the home we live in and the land around us is very pretty. I have a good life.

What is the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to you?

There are very traumatic things that happen in this story, but before the story begins—on September 11, 2001, I was just a little girl in Pakistan, my father’s very good friend was killed in nice when he tried to help people get out of the world trade center. His friend, Jamaal, was wishing to be an American citizen and bring his family to America. I was very sad when my mother held Jamaal’s wife while she cried.

What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?

The best thing that ever happened to me was meeting Matt in the college hallway.

Is there anything else you can tell me about yourself that has a bearing on what you might do or say in any given situation?

In Pakistan woman are taught to obey their husbands, take care of the home and children. They work, usually in a family business, when their husbands say they should. America is different. Women have rights to make their own decisions. I want to be a good wife and mother, not because I am expected to be, but because I want to be. America also allows me to choose my faith and I love my Muslim faith so I can keep praying to Allah even though my husband is a different religion, and we are free to raise our son how we choose to.

Finally, here’s a brief excerpt from Hypehma:

The diner waitress put their meals down in front of them. She smiled at Matt. “So are y’all new to the area?” Matt could see she was trying not to look at Sudah. “Where are y’all from?”

“New York.”

The waitress stole a quick glance at the infant in the carry seat next to his mother. “Cute babe.” She looked back towards Matt. “Your… wife from New Yawk too?”

He narrowed his eyes in annoyance. “Why don’t you ask her?”

The waitress blushed. “Uh…”

Sudah kindly piped in, “Yes I also lived in New York.” She was dressed in a long skirt and modest blouse. Her clothes were purely American even if the style was reserved. She also wore a hijab, a flowing scarf that hid her hair from the public.

Nodding and smiling politely at Sudah and Matt, the waitress made a hasty retreat.

“Matt, why are you angry? Sudah shook her head gently. “She was just making conversation.”

“She didn’t even give you the courtesy of asking you the question.”

She shrugged. “They see the color of my skin and my scarf. I’m different. They do not mean any harm.”

“You’re my wife Sudah and I want people to respect that.”

“Maybe they worry I don’t speak English?”

“If they bothered to speak to you they would find out that you do.” His wife always made excuses for people; she never wanted to see bad in any of them. But even her positivity wasn't enough to dispel his foul mood.

Matt was feeling edgy all day. He was very aware of the hostile looks they received earlier in the day while touring some nearby towns. One old man even called Sudah an Aaa-Rab and made fun of her head covering. Matt almost lost his temper with the old man, but Sudah’s light touch on his arm calmed him. When she politely told the man she was Pakistani, the old guy guffawed and said “same thing.” Later, Sudah explained to Matt that she didn’t think it was worthwhile to argue. “We will not change a man’s mind unless he wants to hear something new.”

Earlier in the day he drove to the college campus with them so that Sudah could see the route she would have to take. He also wanted to see the area she’d be spending so much time in for himself and make sure that it was safe for her. That’s when he first got an uneasy feeling that they were being watched, but he didn’t see anyone specific. Matt convinced himself that it was just more of those hostile looks keeping him on edge. There was a small mosque in the student center and Sudah told him that she would pray there. Matt hoped she wouldn't be harassed because of her faith. The campus advertised that childcare was available but neither of them were impressed with the facilities. That was when they started exploring and finally wound up in the diner on their way back home.

Sudah fed Aden creamed corn from a small jar while they waited for their orders. The waitress put heaping platters of food in front of each of them. She made sure to thank the waitress.

Matt bit into an overstuffed club sandwich with turkey and ham Sudah chewed slowly on her grilled cheese sandwich while she helped Aden hold his bottle.

“I am happy the drive to school will not be long.” She took time to chew the bite of sandwich she just put in her mouth.

He nodded. “It’s a pretty direct route. That’s good.”

“Matt, thank you for bringing us here.”

He took a gulp of lemonade. “Oh baby, I hope you’re happy.”

“Yes, I am happy.” She smiled at him. “You give us a nice home. You are taking care of your family.”

The three left the diner with their stomachs full and his foul mood dispelled a bit by his wife’s optimism. Matt stayed off of the highway as they headed back towards their home in order to see a little more of the area. Driving along a street of one and two million dollar homes, Matt tried to imagine coming home to Sudah and their son in one of those luxurious estates.

“One of these days…”

“One of these days what, Matt?” Sudah asked about his barely audible statement. Her own voice was low because of the sleeping infant in the rear seat.

He chuckled. “One of these days I would love to afford one of these homes for you and Aden.”

She looked out of her passenger side window. “These homes, they are so big.”

“Yeah. They’re beautiful.”

“But Matt, compared to the house I grew up in, our home is a,” she paused to come up with the right word, “a… a big house.”

“Like a mansion?” He was amused by his wife’s naiveté about the language and expressions.

“Yes, a mansion. It is a mansion to me.”

He pulled the car to the side of the road and put it in park. A wisp of hair had escaped the scarf she wound around her head. Reaching towards her, Matt tenderly brushed it behind her ear. “Baby, I want to give you so much. I want to do so much for you and Aden.” He wanted to be the perfect husband and father, everything his own father wasn’t.

She smiled demurely. “You have given me everything. You are everything that I need.” Looking around quickly to make sure they were not being observed, Sudah leaned forward and placed a light kiss on his lips. “You have made me very happy. I never thought that I would find a man like you for me. I am so lucky.”

When Sudah looked at him like that, she made him feel successful. “I’m the lucky one.” He gently pulled her forward to kiss her again. “Would you mind if we went home?” He knew she wasn’t comfortable with public displays and it was a lot more than simple kissing that he wanted to do with her at that moment.

“I think that might be a very good idea.”

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks Rochelle, both Sudah and I appreciate the opportunity for this interview!