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Lessons from the Lift Club … (part one…in progress) – Poems, Pictures & Prose by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee

Lessons from the Lift Club … (part one…in progress)

an attempt at memoir/nostalgic indulgence. crit most definitely welcome.


We were second-hand lions; Hash, Batman and me.That’s what Batman would say, after a long day capped with a handrolled cigarette – cherry tobacco swaddled in a liqourice flavoured Rizzla.
We’d lean against the car, watch the sun slip into Florida lake, spin semantics and swop objectives. Hash would tell how he ran up the stairs at Wartenweiler to give a note to the Library Girl, the one who glided. Batman would laugh then, and I’d think what i’d always think whenever he smiled – gosh he really does look alot like Robert Downey Jr.

We’d ask Hash, “So when’s the wedding?”, because we knew she was The One, like all the others. He’d shrug and squint into the promise of twilight, lost to himself, while Batman and I counted the number of times Hash had handed out his heart at lunchtime.

The war stories we’d tell; threads of loves and losses, each of us carrying enough to tip us over the standard luggage allowance.

And what was I, the third to this pair of odds? Sans car, sans license, the only route to my post-grad validation via these veterans of the Campus Lift Club.

Wearing their fathers’ vintage shirts, way before Hawaiian hibiscus print came back and left in a hurry, they’d sit sometimes on the concrete outside the cafe in Newclare, promising to quit smoking after buying loose Stuyvies and buddy Cokes. I’d nod in earnest interest, trying to learn how to speak Cars. Batman and Hash would laud the merits of angel-eye headlights and colour-coded side mirrors, while I carefully weighed up what this meant in the greater scheme of things.

Such was Lift Club.

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I am a writer and photographer (look up my work on based in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have an MA in Creative Writing from the university currently known as Rhodes. My writing accolades include winning the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize and the 2020 Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize for my debut collection, Zikr.

11 thoughts on “Lessons from the Lift Club … (part one…in progress)”

  1. Saals honey, I like it….BUT…I like as the beginning of something…

    I read the sentences, the way you describe the cigarattes, and using words like Rizla and buddy cokes, and Stuyv’s create imagary that is real and familiar, and it feels like you’re going to start telling the story of something. Something big. Something concerning the constituents of lift club. Somewhere something is going to intersect your the lives…..something life-altering.

    That’s just the impression…like its the beginning of a big story….

    Make it big.

  2. Yello Sal

    My crit…last night my mental notes on it were so intelligent-sounding. ah well.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the memoir. I read it with a Sin City-like voiceover to accompany the smokey visuals.

    What I loved about it is its supposed arb-ness. Just a little flashback with no apparent relevance to the greater meaning of life, yet it’s those random bits that colour in our existance. There may not be a meaning or purpose to them yet in their own way they make us who we are.

    Hope to see you when you’re down for the festival. I’ll not be going 🙁 but do give me a shout-out when you’re in the Friendly City.


  3. you are bringing back nostalgic memories.
    the days when “The logical song” by Scooter was all the rage amongst my friends-singing/screaming as we pass “Barbie Dolls”. Stopping to “dance” (more like an attempt) in the middle of campus square and getting weird looks from the RAU barbies.
    Lifting up windscreen wipers, leaving notes and running away like a mad thing…. (i need to write an entry about that!)

    saaleha, i have to agree with M.
    i’m waiting for that book and the day i can say, “you know saaleha bamjee? yeah, i KNOW her” and people will bribe me so they can meet you!

    i will be your first female groupie.

  4. S,

    I hope my crit didn’t seem mean, but when people ask for honesty about their writing I think it’s a disservice to ‘be nice’ and not state your truth. I have read your poetry and I know that you are an artist. This one is not bad, by any means, but my reaction was as stated. It’s a very healthy sign that you worry about being artfully shallow.

  5. i liked it.. very good, but sadly, i am no expert when it comes to writing, so i dont feel tht im justified to be critising u … a Journalist .. :>

  6. Thanks, to both polarities 🙂

    Brainhell- thank you, you’ve managed to hit upon a real concern of mine, that i may have nothing to say but i do have a nice way of doing it. the work is in progress and i hope to find the ‘meaning’ soon.

    any other thoughts? c’mon, i know more than two ppl read this blog – and i’ve got your ip addresses to prove it…

  7. ‘swap’

    Each sentence is artfully written, and obviously you are a capable writer, but the whole piece leaves me flat. Flat because you dwell on symbols that are supposed to mean something (e.g. the cigarettes), but whose meaning is never delivered. The main impression I get from this piece is: “Sigh, I am a dreamy young person hoping that my memory written here is … dreamy. Sigh!”

  8. Wow! as I said before.. where’s the book ??? hmmm?? Closet Pulitzer…

    and i told you this.. but your posts are too short.. I’m left irritated when it ends. 😛

    slms.. Write on write on…


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