The Wait is and is Not
- Nitasha Kaul
You Don't Mess with Viru - Jayant Kripalani
The Last Journey Home - Siddhartha Gigoo
Family Trip - Mihir Vatsa
For the Longest Time - Mridula Koshy
The Tree's Passport - Sumana Roy
I Try to be so Buddhist - Robert Sugg
Oh God, My God - GB Prabhat
Stroke at Noon - KL Chowdhury
Unbroken Awareness - Tendair Mwanaka
Island of a Thousand Mirrors - Nayomi Munaweera
My Hungry Workers - Sourabh Gupta
The Stone - Anupam Choudhary
The Return - Shirani Rajapakse
The Unsent Email - Shyama Laxman
Poetry: Naseer Ahmed Nasir
(Translated by Bina Biswas)
Dr Bhikbab Changes His World - Sheela Jaywant
The Pillar of Society - Manju Kak
- Attia Hosain
London Company - Farrukh Dhondy
The Cripple and His Talismans - Anosh Irani
Their Language of Love - Bapsi Sidhwa
(Arjun Raj Gaind)
Silk Fish Opium - Jaina Sanga
The Blind Man's Garden - Nadeem Aslam
The Almond Tree - Michelle Corasanti
Nobody Can Love You More - Mayank Austen Soofi
Along the Red River - Sabita Goswami
Tales of a Journalist, Bureaucrat, Spy - Som Nath Dhar
Che in Paona Bazaar - Kishalay Bhattacharjee
The Unsent Email
- Shyama Laxman
Finally, she decided to write to her father. She had been putting it off for a long time, making excuses to herself in order to console her confused mind. She thought that things would work out eventually with a little time and patience; that she was being unreasonable. She also reminded herself of an observation one of her friends had made about her: 'You do not want to be happy and thus compulsively look for reasons to be unhappy even when there are none.' But this time she knew she was not wrong. She felt miserable, claustrophobic and sometimes scared, when she was alone with the man at night. When she pretended to sleep, shutting her eyes, tightly clutching the sheet around her, making a weak barrier between herself and the man, she hoped he would not see through the pretence; that even if he believed her to be asleep he would not turn her to his side to fuck her.
She took a day off from work. She needed to be alone in order to draft the letter. Every word had to be weighed before she put it on paper. She could express herself better when she was given the time to compose her thoughts. Whenever she was in a delicate situation involving those she loved, she could not put forth her views extempore. Words would fail her and in order to avoid a confrontation she would remain silent and give in. It was in retrospect that she would realise all that she could have said and wanted to say in order to protect herself.
She switched on her laptop and her mind was as blank as the word document in front of her. Her fingers played on the keyboard, her eyes scanned the expanse of her bedroom – a room which for her did not have associations with that which was warm, comforting or romantic. She tried to calm her mind and still her rapidly moving thoughts and typed:
...I am being raped.
She hit the backspace button till just the alphabet 'I' remained on the document. She could not use the word rape. Her mind was assailed by a number of thoughts. The word would shock her father. And upset him. The grief itself might kill him, giving him no time to reach her, talk to her, or help her. She shut her eyes and tossed her head back to get rid of the image of her father's death. Besides, the man, her husband, had not raped her. In the two months that they had spent together they had had sex just once. That night, they were not drunk, and neither had he forced her into it. He had also not attempted things that she found distasteful. As far as she could remember, he was gentle and patient, trying to engage her in it. It was she who had turned to her side and slept once it was over. The next morning she had washed off the memory of the previous night with a long hot shower.
They had breakfast, talked about mundane things, did not for once talk about the night and left for work without kissing each other. As far as she was concerned, the night was the result of a purely physical urge for a fuck. She remembered not experiencing an orgasm. Jolting herself out of her reverie she began typing again:
...I am scared I might be raped one of these days.
Once again she hit the backspace button stopping at 'I am scared'. After that night the man had not made any overtures. Both of them spent much of their time at work. For the little while that they were together, they both tried to establish conversation around the weather, politics and movies. He liked to cook and would tell her of his thwarted dream of becoming a chef. She allowed him to read the little pieces that she wrote clandestinely while at work or otherwise. On weekends, he would make his special spaghetti bolognaise and she would take a bite and say with a polite smile, 'It is really nice.' Though she admitted to herself that the dish was remarkable, it seemed too much of an effort to expend another word in its praise. Weekends by far were the toughest to sail through. They had tried to go out, once on his insistence, another time because she wanted to return the favour. On both the occasions, conversation was limited. The weekends that followed from thereon were spent sleeping and avoiding each other.
They had not taken to sleeping separately at night. But every night she would wait for him to go to bed first. Work was an excuse for her to stay up late and sometimes sleep on the sofa in the living room. She was glad that he had not questioned her on the anomaly of their living. She was relieved that he had not demanded sex. But fear, which was locked away in one of the pigeonholes of her brain, would come unannounced and begin gnawing at her innards. Unapologetic sex was one of the liberties that marriage offered. She was denying the man what was legally his right – her body. She remembered she had read somewhere that a divorce could be sought on the grounds of physical incompatibility. But she was worried that rather than seeking legal redress, the man might forcefully claim her. And she would be incapable to defend herself from his onslaught.
And then one night he had held her hand as she was passing by and asked her what was wrong. Was he ugly? Did she love someone else? Had she been forced into the marriage? Was she gay? Each question was followed by a pregnant pause expecting an answer. At the end she had looked up at his face trying to read his eyes. All she could see was a stranger, confused and helpless, though not angry. Agitated at her unresponsiveness, he had left her and gone to their bedroom. She had spent the rest of the night pondering over his questions.
Her phone beeped. The message was from the man informing her that he would be late coming home. She read the message and promptly deleted it. She looked at her laptop. The curser was blinking at 'I am'. She continued this time not stopping to hit the backspace button:
...I am not sure whether I want this marriage. I am not sure I want to be with this man or any man. I am not happy. I do not love him or care about him. I do not want to try or compromise any more. Two months have been a long time for me and him to try to make things work. I want you to help me, to tell me that it is going to be all right, that I am not alone in this. I am scared, Dad.
She stopped typing and read through what she had written. She tried to imagine her father reading her mail and the blow it would give him. To be intimated through an impersonal email that his only child was struggling and scared. That if he did not rescue her quickly, she might end up scarred. The realization that his best laid plans for his daughter had gone awry and had only led to sufferings would be too much to bear. She deleted the email and shut down her laptop. But she could not shut off the need to communicate. She just wanted to change the route. As though on cue, her phone rang with 'Home calling' flashing across the screen. She felt exposed – as if her father knew the contents of her email already and was calling her to interrogate, chastise or simply lament. She could not have said anything right on the phone to salvage the situation or handle her father if the need arose. She did not even know why he was calling. The call was disconnected after a while. When her heart had stopped pounding against her chest, she decided what needed to be done next. She would go home. And talk to her father.
Shyama Laxman has an MPhil in English Literature. Her first story, 'Mother' was published on a feminist blog called Ultra Violet. She has a special interest in issues pertaining to gender and sexuality. Writing is a cathartic experience for her.