Romeo, in my short story, An Unlikely Romeo, is based on a young man I met in Vienna, while I was helping my husband, Saachi, film a documentary on human smuggling. The boy—he was little more—we met and interviewed over the space of several visits intrigued me. He had experienced so many horrors and so much rejection ever since he set out to cross continents that he had to cocktail nicotine, whisky and doda (poppy heads) to be able to sleep. Yet, he retained an innocent enthusiasm for life that was infectious—and touching. He stayed on in my head, long after the film was finished and released.
When I was asked to write a story for Indireads’ Love Across Borders anthology, the Vienna boy popped up in my head and refused to go away. I thought of his life and I thought I had to write about the futility of borders. People draw borders, but people cannot be confined within borders. Borders lose meaning when necessity and need draw people together.
My protagonists, Nafisa and Romeo, are underdogs, outcasts, rejects of their families, but they are determined to carry on. It no longer matters to them from across which border help and succor reach them. Survival is all. And in the game of survival, any hand that offers help is welcome.