Category Archives: india

NOVELLA

(The story’s continuing…image is a picture of a ruined European fort in Mannar)


BALARAM
Again, the old man sighed loudly, wringing his hands and shooting the young lieutenant a weary look. Narasimha turned a corner and walked to the left, out of sight. His thin hand caught Balaram’s arm firmly as the doors opened out into the courtyard. Huge, battlemented walls rose up in all directions around the three men, and a light rain began falling. The inter-monsoonal rains were not everyone’s best friend. Balaram looked around nervously as the harbormaster groped the air.
“I can’t see that well. I’m fifty, though I may not look it,” he added and smiled warmly. “So, how well do you know that man, Ganathipathy? And must I say it’s an honor to be standing here with you? I never made it past being the captain of a few vessels during my best years. I wish I had your vigor and courage when I was young, because I regret every day at not being able to command a great squadron like you do now.”
Balaram gave him a look of pity, but at the same time was rather exasperated and embarrassed all at once.
“Like I said, how do you know that commander? I take it he is”-
“Strange?” echoed Balaram rather loudly. “He is known for his unorthodox methods on the field. Honestly, he prefers to be out on the battlefield than in a little office safe in a fortress or with a governor or the Emperor drawing up strategies. But by Krishna, his plans hardly go awry. Recently though he’s had a few disasters and near-misses as far as his career was concerned. But I’m sure you don’t want to waste your time on this? A busy man such as yourself?” His helmet came away in his hands as both he and Harihar supported the old man between them on the climb to his office.
“Oh, I adore long stories, my son!”
The office was small, but it looked comfortable enough for the old harbormaster. He caught hold of his desk as he pushed himself firmly into his seat. The silk cover of the little orange cushion felt pleasant beneath his weight.
On it were his seals, all with the carved image of a tiger, although there were one or two bulls and elephants around, and a small store of ink. His styluses were arranged in perfect harmony, beckoning his trembling hands. A flurry of tiny orange fruit flies buzzed around a small, perfectly cut mango on a little silver tray. An array of documents and a small, rather old but beautiful copy of Shakuntala
It was accompanied by a tiny, polished brass statue of Shiva-Nataraja.
A sheathed sword was placed against the wall, supported by two iron struts. Instantly, Balaram’s eyes flew towards the huge object. The heavy metal hilt of the mighty old weapon was inlaid with ivory; he guessed that this old man must be insanely wealthy from all his years of service.
“So tell me more about your friend.”
“Oh, right, my apologies, sir. Narasimha and I have been friends back in Rameshwaram since the day we were very small. He’s from a powerful and wealthy Brahman family, and his father was a trader in silk, and a retired military instructor, may the gods bless his soul.”
“We used to train together almost every day. He, my sister and I would play together for hours on end on the beautiful beaches there. I mean, it’s truly wonderful! I presume you’ve been there? It’s like a little slice of paradise on earth. No mountains of any sort! And I can tell that he loved it there, and given the choice, he would never have lived. But there was that one time…I knew that he had to be joking when he told me. We were twelve and his father’s friend, I think his name was some Kamalan, or something, had got a new horse from foreign traders who disembarked there. It cantered along the seashore at sunset. So beautiful, it was. That horse would shine in the sunset, its skin brimming with sweat. Of course, Kamalan was kind enough to allow us to ride his favorite horse. I used to love the horse, but Narasimha absolutely enjoyed riding it as well. Sometimes he’d circle the whole island until it was sunset. I loved that he was enjoying himself, and he soon learned to train horses effectively as well. But…in the depths of my heart…I felt like that bloody creature had torn us apart!”
“He was my only friend, you see,” he explained wearily. “And for three years, that creature was in his possession. I hated its sandy skin and its great power, so I…that night…”
His eyes were brimming with tears as he spoke. His mind wandered back to a moonless night, a night when the ghosts of the mighty guardian of the ancient forests, Hanuman, and his wild Vanara troops still scurried around the tiny yet sacred island. A long-buried memory, of darkness painted with blood that was forcing itself out through the edges of his mind. Balaram’s hands came together in deep thought. His fingertips trembled as he steadied himself. Thoughts of a terrifying scream shot through his memory.
Blood seeping onto the hay-strewn floor of the stable as the animal finally succumbed to the attack. In this battle between man and beast, it was a boy who had triumphed. The stench of his own vomit poisoned the air as the divine horse lay there, twisted and bloodied, its entrails spilled out on the floor in the manner of thick snakes.
His trembling young hands flung down the rusty-bladed weapon as he cried aloud into the night.
The animal’s face still bore the same mask of abject wide-eyed horror as the boy continued to hack away at its neck despite his tears. The madness in his eyes was cast in the faded black mirrors set in the skull of the poor horse, and the boy only knew one thing for certain; he was a now a monster in his little community. His words, though, were simple and cloaked with the same shroud of darkness:
“I murdered it. In its sleep.”
He saw Harihar and the old man staring at him and felt like a bull locked in the sights of a hunting tiger. Their eyes held a mix of pity and anger towards Balaram.
After a few minutes, his cheeks and lips trembled slightly. “But there’s…more to it.” His own eyes looked wearily at the two men.
“I thought I’d be welcomed by Narasimha’s tearful face, and perhaps some verbal abuse. But most of all, I thought that I could be his shoulder to cry on. I mean, I never left any indication that it was I who’d killed the horse! But the next morning, I got nothing.”
His eyes widened in fear.

“I tried to look for the slightest trace of sorrow in him. Every minute of the day, my sister and I spent with Narasimha. We studied together, I sparred with him. His face was just as it always was! He smiled at us, spoke to us. No tears came from his eyes. The more I looked at him, the more terrified I was. Something must have weighed on his mind, but I saw nothing. It was like that horse had never even existed! It was as if he’d forgotten about the whole thing! And he even went to the stable that morning to take it to pasture. So he saw it, and…and yet, no crying, no care at all for the life of an animal he loved so much. To be honest, he’d never even cried at his grandmother’s funeral. I just thought that he was good at hiding his sorrow. But the more I think about it, it was like he has no ability to feel sorrow. It’s like Narasimha is a hollow shell, dead inside.” 
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NOVELLA

( I really can think of nothing else to post nowadays)

Govind’s little trip took him down to the little market sandwiched in between two large alleys that opened out onto the main street outside Ishwari’s house. He sighed at first, pausing for a while, uncertainty showing in an old puddle on the ground. Looking again, he spotted the poorer traders who sold their own people simple things, only those that they needed. The skinny little old man on the corner argued noisily with a customer about the price of his brooms. Noticing Govind’s eyes on him he waved, a smile spreading over his cracked lips.
Another man like himself, but younger with a large belly and a curly mustache swore and spat out a red wad of paan, enjoying the intoxicating contents within the leaf. His large shoe and slipper stall was a wooden contraption with a sturdy frame and a canopy of discarded sailcloth. Dutifully he and his assistants hammered away at the broken shoes that customers gave him to be repaired. One of the assistants tried to say something but the fat cobbler cut him off with one wave of his hand.

A beggar woman played with her young puppy as she squatted eagerly under her dusty and torn parasol.

“These are all your people, eh?” quizzed Govind, brushing his long, greasy hair out of the way as he gazed upwards.
 Crossing the street, he saw the old building that’d been converted into a complex of shops. Dark and dusty though these were inside, the outside was welcoming, with strings of flowers and flower petals hung just above the vendors. Any flies that landed on the vegetables would be whisked away briskly with a bunch of horsehair fitted into a hollow wooden handle. Govind wasn’t really interested in buying anything much though. Why would he buy anything from here, from this place of the poor and downtrodden. This was the shudra part of the city, the place of stinking sewers, rubbish and plagues. These were the kings of those scavenging, grave-digging chandala people, those who had been trodden upon by both men and gods for many a long millennium.
“I am not one of you…”
The very though of his unfortunate and accidental ancestry made his tongue feel like sandpaper.Clenching his fists against the rising negativity, he started to imagine the large beds, the enameled jewelry, soft silk attire and carved ivory lamps that Ishwari had shown him…and he ached for her again. Her light footsteps and beautifully tanned complexion always pulled him in her direction. But he remembered how she looked after her bath one night before a major festival. The oil made her freshly scented skin loose and supple; the lithe dancer’s muscles behind her limbs and stomach and the large flare of her welcoming hips and bosom looked like they belonged on a goddess.
And she had smiled gently and invitingly at this poor young fellow off the streets…
But he had seen the dark shadow against the wall. A huge and shapeless mass lifting itself in the manner of a horrid vetala rising from its grave. He looked at her in fear as the shape seemed to consume her. The vetala consumed human flesh and blood, that he knew. But Ishwari smiled at him in confidence as she walked delicately towards her sari and bodice. Still the shadow remained…his voice could barely say it…”Mistress…Ishwari…” and then he sank to the ground.
She had looked at him confusedly, but then his fear grew and he backed away from her as she came towards him. “What’s wrong with you?” she questioned, puzzled. He had lost all feeling in his throat…and earlier that day she had been screaming at some nonexistent thing…

“Govind! Oi, Govind!”

The rough voice was music to him, cutting the memory out of his head.
The two sunburned men waved to him with large smiles and he promptly went over to the roadside eating-house where they were seated. “How’s everything eh? Rich people! Give you the works eh? Eh Hari?” The first man’s rough hand slammed into the back of the other. The vendor smiled bleakly but kindly at the two shudra workmen. Looking down at his feet, Govind pursed his lips.
“So how’s it all, eh?” the happier of the shudra continued to jabber while ripping off a piece of his chapati.

 Govind had other things to worry about…

He finally walked on till he had to navigate through a very old part of the city, closest to the walls. He moved along the narrow path that lay in between the multitude of small, tightly packed, flat-roofed houses. His nostrils encountered a tender familiarity of sorts which tugged the strings of his heart forward. Running water was distributed throughout the city, that he knew. At least his people had that here.

NOVELLA

( Because I can think of nothing else to post!)

Minakshi stopped stirring the food in the pot for a second. She saw the steadily lifting mist, although the city still seemed dark to her, the Temple’s titanic tower like a black behemoth ambling slowly towards her house, only to be concealed from her view once more.
Shutting her eyes she told her maid, “Subadhra, send a message to my brother Vasudev. I want to meet him. And tell him to bring my son with him.”  And she lapsed into silence, with the middle-aged Subadhra flinging her broom aside and rushing off out of the kitchen.

Ishwari was restless. She had been lapsing between sleeping and waking for so long that she was now bathed in sweat, choli and sari sticking to her skin. Fanning a sheaf of dried banana leaves in front of her and her little daughter, she once more lay on the bed with a gasp. The girl was still half-asleep but she stirred anyway, the small size of the room and the throbbing amalgam of feelings welled up in her mother’s heart, crushing the child inside.
“Mother?” /the three-year old questioned innocently as Ishwari fanned the two of them faster. “Are you alright? Please tell me…” Her mother just kept fanning her, but then sat bolt upright, almost pushing the girl off the bed. “How in the world could I be alright…? I….” Looking at the child with a crazed gaze, she crushed the fan in her hand, reducing the dried leaf to nothing. But her expression then softened a degree when she saw her daughter’s wide-eyed look of fear.
“I’m sorry,” she continued, “but I haven’t been myself lately! I don’t know what’s coming over me! It’s like…I met that Minakshi today and she told me her husband walked off. I should be happy to hear that, and yet I feel like it’s crushing me to death, child! Why?” She grabbed the girl firmly, almost shaking her and making her scream.
“Why not? I could have any woman or man I desired, but the one I want the most, is still so far away from me! What’s wrong with you Minakshi, that you must stay forever far away? What makes you tick? What makes you shy away?”
She dashed to her dresser, with her kohl, oils, jewelry and makeup and turned her mirror towards her. Flinging the cosmetics onto her she then looked at herself in the polished surface of the mirror. “Why? Am I not beautiful enough my darling child? Am I not beautiful enough…for her…? Minakshi, Minakshi, what should I be to make you mine at last? It’s like I’m not good enough for you and yet somehow I must be, I’m, I’m supposed to be!” Thrusting the coconut oil away, she just let her hair droop as she lowered her head onto the dresser.
Ishwari was right. She had almost always been an extraordinary beauty, more than her peers. Her Brahman superiors has told her and so had her teachers. Shiny cinnamon skin, firm but soft, and a winsome dancer’s body with a slim waist and inviting hips, almost any sari or any other piece of the South Indian sari costume looked perfect on her. Men had desired her as a young girl and not just as an adult woman. It was only to be expected of course.

And she’d entertained them all.

“Yashodha,” she finally told her daughter, “my child, tell me why she and only she was my enemy!”

“Mother you’re scaring me!”

“That’s what I told her, damn it! She always pushed me down, beat me till I bled, half murdered me when I disagreed with her, she, my mother, she just never let me catch a break at all! Now she’s dead, I…I don’t expect you to know this Yashodha; whatever I, your mother, am going through, just become stronger and never hate me.” Her voice became dreamy as Yashodha nodded meekly, her own large eyes falling on a familiar scene. “It’s almost a reflection, isn’t it?” questioned Ishwari through gritted teeth, leaning against the wall, head in her hands as she sank onto the floor. “ISN’T IT MOTHER? I was the one on the bed, and you…you…”
How long she stared at the ceiling she did not know, but when she saw a hand stretching towards her she saw what it was. “I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming.” She shut her eyes so hard that they teared up, squeezing the salty liquid down her cheeks.
“If you are dreaming, then why am I still in this house?” The voice stung her directly, and she, through her blurry sight saw a huge manacle around her ankle, and holding the manacle was a handsome, stately woman with a sharp nose and hair flowing down her back. She was of dark complexion, slightly darker than Ishwari, but just as beautiful. However her beauty had a fierceness to it, like she was a cruel goddess who thirsted for blood, not just a woman. The sparkle in her eyes was twice as terrifying as an out of control flame up close. She consumed Ishwari just through looking at the other woman.

“Really Ishwari, we both made ourselves powerful through completely dominating all our men during sex, so much that they wanted punishment to be their pleasure. And is this the kind of image you present to your mother? THAT? My dearest….my dearest daughter, please tell me, how is it that this chain seems to become more powerful whenever you…”

Ishwari struggled to hold back her tears.

“SILENCE PARASHAKTI! I don’t want to have anything to do with you and your damned demonic punishments. The years under your roof were torture enough. Why did you build this accursed thing in the first place?”
“Tsk, tsk. I only came to see my daughter and my granddaughter, that’s all. Anyway let’s begin now…” Her voice became dangerously reptilian, taking on the sound of steel scraping against gravel.

And Ishwari felt that she was the gravel.

NOVELLA

(In the absence of any other posts, here I carry on work with the historical.)

He got up and stood by the window, leaning heavily against the sill. The Brihadisvarar Temple’s vast tower seemed like a distant giant to him, looming over the misty morning sky. It was chilly and he promptly put a cloak over his shoulders.
Then he felt warmth flooding the muscles of his back, as Minakshi hugged him, running her hands down his torso, gently drawing his cloak off.
He breathed deeply, “Thanjavur is covered in this wet, cold blanket.”
“I know. Come now my dear. You told me you liked…a certain type of women with a certain type of power…well,” her eyes glinted naughtily as she turned his head slowly towards hers to kiss him, “let me be that woman for just this morning.”

“Please no. You’re not that type of woman Minakshi. And you’ll never be.”

“What is with you? I mean, does that mean we’re now over?”

“When we married, our love was real, untainted,” he replied gravely, “but now there’s something else. You have to move on from me. Just…put your clothes on for now, alright? There’s nothing you can do to make me stay. She has put a manacle around my ankle, and her powerful chain is beckoning me! It’s a spell! I can’t live a day without seeing her.”
Minakshi’s look darkened as she sat on the bed, legs crossed, hands firmly over her breasts. She bit her lip so hard that she bled, and almost teared up. Yet she fought back all sense of feelings of the pain of separation. Brahmarajan saw her body shivering, but he battled the urge to touch her. Minakshi promptly covered herself with her the sheets and looked at him with the corner of her eye.

“We are both in power when we make love, and…”

“Shut up for just a moment, would you? If you want so badly to see this woman, why don’t you get out at this moment?” she snapped, crying. “Just….go to her without rubbing in my face the fact that our relationship was doomed to fail! Get out! And don’t tell me you and she have a child”-she glanced briefly at him and he looked away-“oh damn you! How long have you been doing this?” Minakshi was screaming now, voice at a fierce, shrill pitch as she bared her teeth and her eyes glowed with anger.
He shouted, “Three years, alright? I met her three years ago! And now, a month ago you became pregnant with our second child! But no, I’m sorry I won’t be around to see it. And I won’t be around for Sivapalan. I must leave so that I can be there for my new family. Let me go Minakshi! If you really love me you’ll let me go.” She was stunned. So this was what love was, to love a man, to be with him and to have a family with him.

Were all men the same?

Were all…people the same?

This was not the Brahmarajan she knew. She felt a slight glow of warmth shining through the mist covering the city. The Temple’s spire dominated the skyline, somehow calling her back to it, to immerse herself once more in dance and permanent devotion to gods she didn’t even believe in. She covered her face with her hands as she sank into heavily onto the bed. Her own deity, her beautiful Bodhisattva, had been no help at all.

Minakshi didn’t say a word  all through the morning. She did the daily tasks even after her husband had left. She tried to be the proud, fierce and powerful woman she knew herself to be as she lifted her head away from the steam of the cooking fire on the clay hearth.
But the chickpea masala-the meal for the afternoon, which she felt like making now to distract herself-felt to her like something out of time. She saw no sense of beauty in it, the rich tang of spices that her maid had brought in when she came to work in the morning. Thus Minakshi stared eternally into the pot, and then remembered something.

Sivapalan!

No, he had been at her brother’s house.
The ex-Brahman priest.

“So we’re all giving up something in our lives,” she mused as she dropped the black peppers and cardamons into the pot, sprinkling them liberally over the chickpeas. The same way that the memory called Brahmarajan used to have them.

NOVELLA

(Hi there Internet! Now as you can imagine, we’ve been in a state of hiatus and inactivity, but we have by no means closed shop! As proof here is something to work with. Tell me if there are any continuity issues and I’ll fix them. )

“You’re impossible, I mean…most women would be quite okay with this! I don’t know Minakshi, you’re just not normal. Most men I know, some of them are of high status in this city, and they have more than one wife. They’ve had more lovers and mistresses, harems in fact. Are you telling me that it’s impossible?” He was stabbing her repeatedly with his questions as he pushed away the plate and rose from his seat.
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me…” In his heart he felt like he was losing battle, something unlike what he had trained for. She now felt like a powerful shield, iron in frame with many firm leather covers stitched together, doubling and tripling the protection factor. No sword could pierce that, he knew. Quickly he turned to look at her darkened face.
Minakshi said nothing to Brahmarajan, instead sitting down with her fingers toying with a wooden spoon. “And here I thought I knew you. But I don’t care how many bigamist friends you have. I don’t car how many women these so-called lords and commanders keep in their houses, in fact I don’t care if the Emperor himself has hundreds of women in his house. You, Brahmarajan Narasimha, you married me, and you live under this roof, so you’d better start acting like a normal man because a normal man is supposed to be loyal to whoever he marries. Because…I’ve never been with anybody else except for you! It’s…it’s…harder for me…”

Her hand went close to her mouth and her voice felt choked.

He tried to look at her again.

“Never? Even as a young girl? Well, fine we live in a city with a deeply religious outlook and everything, but…it’s not like everyone prays to the gods and does pujas every waking minute of the door. Did you think that that was what Thanjavur was like when you were in the Punjab are up there?”-he raised his arm to indicate the north-“or did your….I don’t know, your…ancestors or something? Because that is not how it works for us! Look, religion doesn’t watch over us like an eye in the sky, alright? There are always exceptions to every rule, and”-
“Shut up! I don’t want to hear about this stupid philosophy, I’m, I’m tired of it!” Minakshi drew in some phlegm suddenly. “And why bring it up? It isn’t even our damn religions that matter. It’s the kind of person we make ourselves to be in front of our child! And he’s five! And you, you go out drinking, probably sleeping around”-

“Enough!”

“What, did I strike a nerve there? Guess I’m not as stupid as you think! So this was it huh? Ishwari was right you know, and now I feel like such a fool for not listening to her,” she continued through gritted teeth, shaking her head as she did, “and, and I…” She choked again, angrily attacking her tears, not even looking at Brahmarajan’s back which was turned towards her. What was wrong with her? She was proud, proud being a woman and a strong rebel against even her own culture, against his culture. She was supposed to embrace and worship him-sure, lots of women did, but even more didn’t, that much she knew-but she knew that she had to have a word in between.

What now? Hands had reached out of the walls and caught her in their powerful, unbreakable net, so she thought.
“You…will…stay…” Minakshi could feel her own slender hands working on her sari, rhythmically unwinding it, the lengths of soft cloth falling off her in a heap. Putting on a giant stream of cloth was not the simplest thing in the world but she always enjoyed pulling it off. Now Minakshi didn’t feel as constricted as she always did. It was like there was a difference between the powerful, domineering south and the heavenly north that she never truly knew.
And now the gap was to be bridged.
A moan erupted from her in a cascade of passion as she held herself against him. Brahmarajan glanced back at Minakshi and saw, from the corner of his eye, her large, perfumed breasts and soft, firm belly open upon him, her navel and nipples gently brushing against his as she turned him around for an embrace.
She started to kiss the powerful form of his neck as she pushed deeper into him, letting him drown in her body and its heavenly aroma. “You will be with me Brahmarajan,” she murmured as she swayed her hips to an unheard beat, gently moving him onto the soft carpet.

“What are…no, no please,” he replied in anguish, trying to move but not touching her, although he couldn’t help but stroke her body slightly, fingertips struggling against temptation and yet screaming out for her now heated skin.
She looked stunned for a minute. “Why?”
“Because of her strength! She is a terrifying force, Minakshi, with a terrible god she chains within her walls. He gives unto her pain and pleasure all at once,  partner and torturer all in one. A being against whom there is no defence. Minakshi, I’m trapped. But I can’t help it. If I were saw a tigress would I want to chain her? She is sensuous, fearsome graceful, a wild and dark dancer with blood on her nails and lips. But this tigress is also a witch….a force with the power to shake the heart and turn the minds of men unto her…I…I….”

Minakshi silenced him with a long,drawn-out kiss as she locked her arms and legs around his body. “Speak no more of this,” she crooned softly, “and let’s finish this in the bedroom. We can forget her completely.”

Anguish kept rising in him. “No Minakshi, no, no.”

She guided him slowly, allowing him to hold her body as they both lay down on the bed,
Minakshi lay down first, legs open in invitation to him as she pulled him onto her. For a few minutes she kissed him, then fumbled with his dhoti eagerly. Yet he brushed her hand away gently and sat down on the edge of the bed, head in his hands.

Novella

(I love posting these up…..it’s the shortest novella post I’ve ever done due to being so busy and lacking time to type these in)

“Why are you doing this? Why would you invite me to a meal after last night?”
“And every other night too? I still have the scars,” she replied simply, “plus I think the nightmares still keep coming back. You”-she got up here-“beat our son almost every night, you’ve scolded him, hurt him so much. Is that how far you would go? You…you would draw the blood of your own wife and child…”
He kept his back turned towards her.
“But,” she continued, “are you willing to explain yourself? Your actions?”
“Actions…Actions are such strange things. The acts you wish to commit, the choices you make in life, sometimes you feel as if everything really matters. But what if it all didn’t in the end? I was told somewhere that we all take our deeds with us, trailing behind us, with a chain of actions peppered with a million desires. Some of us want to burn this chain, or else wish that our chains could just strangle us in our beds to put us to rest at last. Or to swamp our souls and bodies, to have our being disappear forever….actions,” he flirted with the word for a minute or two with a strange glance in his eyes and a smile that looked like he was still  under the effects of drink, “actions are so, so strange.” Laughing drunkenly, he ran his hand through his hair and leered at her. “So what will my next action be? What will yours be? Or our son’s?”
He glanced at her once more quickly.

“You’re abnormal.”

NOVELLA

(Because I can’t stop putting these up)

Her chants of “Om mani Padme Hum…” rang through the little shrine as she placed bits of camphor in a clay lamp, filled in oil and lit it. She kept up the chant, the lyrics of her prayer felt to her like a comforting and paternal voice and she was thrilled by her own tone. It was this supernatural being who had always kept up her hopes whenever she felt like bowing, felt like avoiding her pride.
“Last night wasn’t the first night,” she whispered. All hopes of reconciliation with Brahmarajan seemed remote to her now. The mantras now felt to her as distant as a mountain echo, shooting off quickly but then dying off in a series of clamorous repetitions.
Just words.
“I believe in me,” she whispered under her breath. Avalokitesvara now seemed to shine softly as she kept looking into his sightless eyes. Her own eyes were going into a trance-like shimmer. Time felt like an ocean of liquid metal to her, dense around her body and unforgiving to swim through.
Nothing more than the pre-dawn drone of cicadas, gentle breaths of breeze rustling fallen leaves as they kissed the ground and the young light of the morning moon, peering through the distant mists.
She sighed, then continued, “Passing out would be best. But what would you do, Compassionate One? How would you get about this? I tell myself every day that I am a proud woman, a woman no less, who would never bend down to anyone”-she bit her upper lip-“not even to you. But you are my last hope. And…I need some help.”
Clapping her hands together and finally lighting a stick of incense, she continued the mantras. Mahayana prayers and chants thundered softly from the depths of Minakshi’s soul. Something in her subconscious was lifting higher into her heart’s higher atmosphere. A ray of enlightenment, struggling to break out of a seething cloud of doubt.
What of it?
Pride, rage, whatever it was, it was all she could think of doing.
She had to know.
It was a quiet breakfast.
Minakshi glanced uncomfortably as Brahmarajan took his place, facing her directly as she put the plate down slowly on the long wooden bench. It was barely even dawn, and the only light in the sitting room came from the misshapen and corroded metal Narasimha lamp. The man part on the reverse-sphinx held two flames in his hands, and she crushed a bit of camphor into each flame, and got to serving herself.
The fires fell gently onto their faces.
“Flame,” she breathed delicately, “burning rich and poor alike. Illuminating the lamps of all, Shudra and Kshatriya, isn’t it? What a fascinating thing.”
“I thought you’d given up dreaming years ago,” he replied dryly, but then added, “and you have no reason to do this, to do any of this. Let me be in peace.” His eyes shifted uncomfortably from his plate of rice and dhal, his hot South Indian lentil dish, to the little bowl of peppery rasam.
“Oh right,” she laughed, “I’m sorry.”
Brahmarajan looked up at her for a second. “It’s good.” His movements felt, for a few moments, alien to him as he brushed absently at the steaming turmeric-infused rice on his plate.
“You’ve barely even served yourself.”
“I know.” His lips pursed as he made a sour face, then clutched his head. He had no clue of what he was doing at the moment. The room felt like it was spinning, and he looked for a bit. Brahmarajan now found it hard to even look at Minakshi. He stood up.
“No please.” Her hand gripped his upper arm, and he looked at her with red-veined eyes, forehead creased as he turned forcefully away.
The warrior tried harder to break away, but his wife’s fingers felt more like iron pincers to him.
They seared into the skin of his upper arm, and she felt his veins push against the surface as he phased between tenseness and relaxation.

“You can have some chicken if you want to, you know,” she continued.