Title: ‘SHE’ Unveiled
Point of View #1 – Akhila
By Preethi Warrier
I tiptoed into her bedroom and strained my eyes. Ammamma (grandmother) was fast asleep and I could finally fish it out of her trunk, as she enjoyed her afternoon siesta.
The trunk opened without a creak. I rummaged through some old newspapers, albums, and viola, there it was. A saddle stitch book with ‘SHE’ inked on the cover.
I had been itching to do this since the day I spotted it, hidden away with her important documents. She had no idea though.
Picking it up carefully, I placed everything else back and dashed off. I latched my room. Finally, I’d got my hands on the book which hadn’t seen the light of the day, authored by my estranged aunt. A woman infamous for her outrageous life and scandalous writing. Amma would say, such was her younger sibling’s conduct, so gross was her work, that the family had severed all ties.
I had always been curious to read her, but as a teenager under the parental radar, I couldn’t be caught with her notoriously adult novels. Amma mentioned, that when aunt’s first book was rejected by many a publisher, she had desperately turned to erotica.
And Ammamma, who had been most vocal in ousting her, had secretly preserved the draft. Hypocrites, I scoffed.
A few pages into the book, I was hooked. Engulfed in some flowery language, was the story of a girl. A clumsy nitwit. Far removed from all worldliness, weak in academics, lost in her world of stories and poems. ‘Potti’ (idiot), she’s named by her siblings and playmates.
The narration of the protagonist’s adolescence was ornate, vividly describing her blooming body, desires, and the perils that came along. Lecherous glances, lewd comments, and forceful fondling. Often from those she thought were friends. But one night, her innocence is violated, and her world is shaken. She is deflowered, by a predator in a drunken stupor. She realizes, his touch is familiar. The demon, her wasted father.
The girl is sent packing, not the patriarch. At a distant relative’s, she births a baby girl. Her childless sister gladly adopts the infant. But in return, demands she disappears for good.
I liked the bold story, and as I wrapped up, I chanced upon a handwritten note under the cover.
‘Thank you for taking her in Amma. I’ll forever await your blessings to publish my life’s story.’
Point of View #2 – Ammamma
By Lamiya Basheer
I hadn’t realized Akhila was in the room when I unlocked my trunk. She had excitedly brought me her short story; I hope she wasn’t looking. An avid reader and a budding author, she is my daughter’s replica. My Shobha, the dreamer.
A few years after Akhila had gone away with my elder daughter, I received a parcel from Shobha. A stitched paper book titled ‘SHE’, accompanied by a letter that she was moving away to the gulf for a job. And that, she was entrusting me with her book, that I be her first critique and get it published.
My eyes welled up, my daughter’s first title, her sweat and blood.
I sat up all night, and by the time I was finished, I knew. That her book was a best seller. The story of a simpleton, a naïve and innocent girl who lived in her fantasies. The story of Shobha.
I reminisced about the day I realized she was carrying. By the time she confided in me, it had been too late. And I, like all Indian women, stuck with my pedophile husband and sent her packing. Much as I hated the man, I did what I did for the sake of my other children, to salvage the family honour. A little money and those people kept her safe.
Shobha had taken no names in her story, it was all in the third person. But then, the secret she had revealed in the end was ours. Her and mine. A scandal too risky to be exposed. Something which was best left buried, never to be let out.
I lied to Shobha. That writing wasn’t her forte after all. That her manuscript wasn’t good enough. So much so, that it had been outright rejected by publishers all around. Perhaps she didn’t trust me entirely, or she wanted to give it another chance. She requested to have her work back.
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