An Excerpt from: Moments in Life
An excerpt from The Emancipation of Anjali

Copyright © 2011 Shanbreen

All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.

After they finished packing, Anjali said a prayer for him. She held Raju’s hand while they waited for a cab, and then with a final wave of her hand at the fast disappearing cab, she allowed herself the luxury of tears. “Good-bye, my son, good-bye,” she whispered again and again, as she trudged back into the house.

Anjali had no idea what to do next. She wanted to talk to someone, but she did not know whom to call. She would have loved to call her sister in India, but she did not know the number. Ramesh never let her call long distance, and she had no friends in her own town.

For a moment, she looked at her reflection in the large mirror that hung in their living room. Under the cloudy distortion of her teary-eyed vision, she saw a once beautiful, young girl staring back at her. She remained in awe of her perceived reflection in the mirror, her hand reaching out to touch the youthful face, but the contact of her hand against the cold reality of the mirror made the apparition disappear and brought into focus the shriveled, undignified woman who stared back. She looked away in a hurry and labored her way back to the kitchen where she took two large swigs from the Jack Daniels and poured a generous amount in a glass. This time, she did not bother to refill the bottle with water or cheap whisky.

She sat at the dinette with the large four-finger-deep liquor in her glass, making no effort to conceal it. Her fragile body was shattered by the deep sorrow in her heart—a discarded over-used raggedy doll, pulled and broken, cast away to rot, confined within the walls of the garbage can.

She sat in the kitchen, nursing her drink. A smile teased her lips as if to say, “I have done it. I have dared to defy my destiny. I have climbed the highest mountain. Nothing Ramesh can do will hurt me anymore.”

She sat there for a long time in the dark, not bothering to brush her teeth, or use mouthwash, or braid her hair in a single ponytail. Other than the time when Ramesh and she had visited one of his friends for dinner, this was the first time in their thirty years of marriage she did not bother to cook for her husband.

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Excerpt from the story Marriage of Convenience

For a long time, Sonia sat, as if lifeless, just staring into space. Thoughts travelled around in her head at an unbelievable pace. She had to concentrate hard to hold one tight before it evaporated and another thought took its place. She didn’t understand where Satish was coming from. To her, it was the other way around. It was Satish who had nothing to talk about except their kids, money, and the TV shows he watched. He had, according to her, no interest in politics, or for that matter, in art, culture and history. But she still didn’t say anything, just waited for Satish to get everything out of his system.

Satish sighed when Sonia did not respond to his accusations.

Sonia caught his hesitancy, knowing he was confused. The way his gaze darted from her to the floor, not quite knowing where to rest it. But he continued, apparently deciding her silence was a green light, so to speak, for him to go on.

“Sonia,” he said, “you project sensuality, but to me you seem perched on a glass pedestal that would come crashing down if I approached you in an intimate fashion.”

Oh, thought Sonia, here he comes back to his main topic of interest, ‘sex’. This was not where she wanted the conversation to head. So far, in their lives, they had never analyzed their sex life, although she knew he would have, if given the chance.

“Sonia, for you, ‘sex’ is an obscene word. You have too many headaches and are forever tired. Tired of doing what, I ask? Every time I try to talk about it, we have a fight, and then we don’t speak to each other for days.”

Sonia was about to defend herself when Satish stopped her. “Over the years, I have conditioned myself to stop thinking about sex,” he continued. “It has taken some doing on my part to lie next to you and do nothing. At first, masturbation kept me going, but that did not provide me with the mental release I needed. Fortunately for me, I no longer feel the burning need for you,” he said.

Sonia stared at him, her mouth agape, saying nothing. How could he be so cruel? Her defences rose, she could give as good as she was getting, but before she could say anything he spoke again.

“After all these years, sleeping next to you with very few intimate moments, I can in all honesty say you have succeeded in making me, if not completely impotent, at least semi-impotent,” he finished with an audacious smile.

Sonia badly wanted to change the conversation, take it away from sex to things she believed were the real issue. But she could not bypass the opportunity presented to take a jibe at him. “Well, since that’s taken care of, let’s not talk about it anymore and get back to what happened today,” she said.

But Satish did not give up on it. “Tell me,” he asked, “do you have sexual needs or does the once in a while thing do it for you?”

“Oh, God! Sex! Sex! Sex! Is that all you can think of? Seems like that’s all you can talk about. For a person who has been made impotent by me, you still seem to be thinking about it all the time. Anyway, let’s get it out of your system. To answer your question…no, I am not frigid, if that’s what you mean.”

“Are you seeing someone?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Then what do you do for it? Masturbate?”

“Stop being crude. But since you asked, I have my ways.”

She didn’t tell him her need for sex was not that great, and when she did need it, it was he who took care of it. She knew how to arouse him when she wanted to. It was not that bad in a dark room, where in her mind, she could make her husband take on the guise of George Clooney or Saif Ali Khan.

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Excerpt from the story ...And the Old Man Cried

The old man was so thin it was easy to count his ribs under the stretched-out translucent skin that seemed to have shrunk in proportion to his flesh. His Dilentin levels were getting harder to control. The varying concentrate of the medicine in his blood stream had caused him to lose his balance a few times or have epileptic attacks in the most unfortunate places—when he was in the bathroom or in a crowded place such as a restaurant, a shopping mall, or a country fair. The results of his falling down had led to two broken bones and a hip replacement.

The irony of it all was his eldest son had also died and left him alone. After his son’s death, there was no one to look after him in Dubai. It had taken quite some doing, after he fell and sprained his wrist, for his other sons and daughter to convince him to come and live with them in America.

The old man could not understand this country. It wasn’t just the strange culture of “these people” that he didn’t get, but he also found it difficult to converse with them. He tried, but his English was not that good. Why did his children always ask him to say “thank you” every time he was given something that was his to have in the first place, and why should he have to say “sorry” for such trivial things as dropping the spoon while eating? He had not dropped the spoon with an intention to be difficult or annoying, and besides, was he not making an effort to eat with silverware instead of using his right hand as he was accustomed to do? To top it all off, there was this “tone modulation” his children insisted on. What was the difference in saying, “Please, give me food,” in a soft or a loud voice? It seemed that even when he said “please,” his Americanized children were not always pleased.

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