An excerpt from

A House by the Sea
by Sikeena Karmali

My father has a beautiful voice. When he sings, his eyes swell up with tears, like my mother's. His voice is soothing, like honey. Clear and dense, thick, round and melodious. He sings very softly. I hear it like the baby who upon glimpsing water remembers the comforting fluids of her mother's womb. My proud father has so beautiful a voice that he becomes humble when he sings. He sings only in devotion: to Ghulshan, to Zahra, to Allah and Ali. My father sings very softly. Every time my father sneezes, he recites half the Qur'an, the ninety-nine names of Allah, his prophet and all forty-nine Imams from Ali onwards. When he sneezes in public it becomes an embarrassing liturgy. When one sneeze follows another I cannot control my laughter. And then I begin to hiccup. Between the ages of two and eleven I thought my father was King of the World, Master of the Universe. Seven breaths away from Allah, and only one breath short of the Imam.