Study Guide

Beneath a Marble Sky Rotten Fruit

By John Shors

Rotten Fruit

If you hadn't noticed, Jahanara's marriage to Khondamir is pretty terrible. He's abusive, both verbally and physically, and he treats her like she's dumber than a box of rocks. In fact, the two of them can't even have breakfast together without him inserting some verbal jabs. Observe:

"Damn these oranges," my husband said, his beady eyes shrinking. "Must they be so small?" Glaring at me, he added, "Must all my fruits taste so bland?"

I knew he referred to my listlessness in bed but pretended not to catch his meaning. "Perhaps your fruits," I replied, "deserve more care."

"Are you, woman, an expert in such matters? Is your experience so vast?"

"What matters, lord? I know only that your trees are dying." He turned in his chair to stare at his orchard. Many trees—mainly apple, orange, pear and cherry—dotted his land. Though summer was in full stride and each branch should yield a substantial harvest, all held sickly fruit and yellowed leaves. "Do you have a gardener?" I asked, suspecting he was too tightfisted to employ one.

"What good are gardeners? How hard is it to water and pluck?" He belched again. "Too hard for you, I imagine."

I rose from the table, my heart hastening. I had spent countless afternoons in gardens and believed I understood why his trees ailed.


The servants moved to the tree, which was no taller than they, and carefully withdrew it from the soil.

"Come here, my lord." I said, walking to the sapling. I knelt to the ground and inserted my finger into the wet soil. When I smelled my finger I was reminded of a decaying beast. "Do you smell that?" I asked, sticking my hand before his bulbous, vein-infested nose.

Khondamir grimaced, stepping back. "What does it mean?"

"It means, my lord, that you water the trees too much and that their roots rot."

"Well, woman, must I put words in your mouth? What can be done?"

Isn't it obvious, fool? I thought, savoring his ignorance. "Stop watering them. Stop for at least ten days. Then, if Allah smiles upon you, they should recover."
(4.49-55, 60-64)

Yeah. We gave you that whole thing because, wow, that's pretty much how all their conversations go: one jab after another jab after another jab.

But wait a second. Correct us if we're wrong, but Khondamir's not just talking about, like, actual fruit here, is he? Yeah, no. Innuendo alert. Watch how we break it down:

Khondamir: This orange is yucky—like you are in bed, wife!

Jahanara: Well, maybe if you were nice to me…

Khondamir: What do you know about fruit (a.k.a. sex)?

Jahanara: Well, I know that women are like fruit trees, and that you shouldn't overwater them.

Um. Yeah. Talking about sexy things in terms of fruit has been pretty standard business since Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, so it's doesn't really surprise us too much here. What's more important is that Jahanara and Khondamir are talking about their relations in terms of rotten fruit. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that Jahanara and Khondamir are both, for different reasons, saying that their relationship is nasty.