Next Chapter Award 2019: Samina Chaudhry
Samina Chaudhry was born in Manchester, and completed her Masters degree in Pakistan. Seeing first-hand the social and political strife – and one day being held at gun point along with her husband – Samina made the decision to leave. They originally did not plan to stay in Scotland for long, but the warmth and cultural diversity of the country changed their mind.
Samina is currently working on a novel, Half-Woman, which is inspired by her experience of growing-up in different places and the juxtaposition of different societies. The story is told from three perspectives: that of Jalal and Salima, a retired couple going back to their homeland, Pakistan; and of Shumali, a transgender woman who works part time as a maid in their house. The novel traces the marginalisation of transgender people as well as exploring the themes of belonging and loneliness. Her work has been performed at the Linlithgow Book Festival and Aye Write Festival.
Shumali doesn’t look so happy. She doesn’t want to take the gold home in case the others think she’s stolen it. When the wife says she can leave it with us for another couple of days Shumali stands up and starts singing. She kicks her shoes off, claps her hand and does a twirl. She throws her head backward, her long hair almost touching the ground and her scarf it’s lying on the floor. It’s like she’s been taken over by something the way she’s moving. The wife is also clapping and starts singing. She tries to sway her hips but sits back down. Then I see Samra on the roof standing with another woman, watching. She waves towards us.
You’re celebrating something? She shouts.
The wife knows she’s joking and smiles back at them.
Shumali moves fast then she slows down and does that thing where she holds her head still, and joins her hands together in front of her, and her neck the way she moves it forward and backward. That’s something special I’ve never seen her do before. This is what you call being fluid. She comes towards me, puts her hand forward, gesturing at me to join her. I hear Samra say, The old man’s too beautiful, Shumali you be careful. He might go home with you and not come back. They laugh and the wife joins in.
Very nice. Very nice Shumali, the other woman with Samra shouts towards us.
I keep my head down and walk towards the lemon tree. It’s covered with mini lemons that are still greenish yellow. I pick a broken twig from the ground. This year I’ve made my mind up, I’m not going to let the neighbour’s pick our fruit.
“I’m so honoured to be a recipient of this award. It feels like a new chapter has opened up, and I’m more than ready to make use of the time and gift money as well as the wonderful opportunity to work with my mentor, and to develop my novel to a publishing standard.”