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Volume 7

Outside: Looking In - January 2011


Written by
Batool Habib

Hailing from the city of lights, the author prides herself on her profession as an ad-girl. With a masters in English Literature, her writing aims at capturing prized moments on reality and encapsulating them in little slices of life. They say one only writes about what one experiences - Using insight and sensitivity, the writer exposes the inner thoughts of her protagonist to help readers identify with their feelings, and understand how different feelings manifest themselves in different social situations.


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An old man coughed in the night. His hacking could be heard two houses down in the stillness of winter.

A strand of hair fell on her face; impatiently, she brushed it away.

Her hands were getting blue with cold. Lost in thought, she stared down at them and wondered what she was doing. Her right thumb was painfully swollen from where she had been chewing, biting the cuticle down to the quick. “Why am I even here?” she thought, looking at the lingerie models with gleaming thighs and bright smiles. Washboard stomachs bathed in sun-kissed skin, modeling exorbitantly priced, flimsy little nothings. She tried to picture the same thing on a plus-size model and smirked despite herself. The ‘cheeky’ must get swallowed right up between them cheeks.

A writer must be writing the script of her life. Yes, that must be it. Why else would she be subjected to grapefruit-like cellulite on her thighs? It just didn’t fit. A kooky writer must be writing one of those “10 ways to drive a man away” books. She looked down at her wobbly tummy.

Her aunts had tried to scare her into doing something about her ’baby fat’, as she liked to call it. (If you don’t lose some weight now, this is what you’ll look like on… you know, ‘that night!’ … Haan haan, you go on telling yourself you’re ok with how you look! We’ll see who’s laughing when he turns away in disgust! Sheee! Stubborn chhokri!)  Heat rose in a ripe, red blush to her face, lips ruby with being bitten in nervous contemplation.

She’d felt confident then, all bravado and many chins puffed out. She did not feel so confident now.

“Tell me what you want, na! I’ll get you all that you want from abroad!” friends had urged. This is how she’d come to be here, enthusiastically searching styles that might flatter her curvy figure. Now she just felt like an excited piggy with bulging eyes and a persistently runny nose, gleaming in the glare of the screen. What had made her think she could ever lose enough weight to make a difference? What had given her the right to look at ‘thin’ people?

Shame directed her dutifully to the plus-size section. Nervously, she clicked on the Valentine selection. The page began loading. She prepared herself for the worst. A black and pink teddy popped up on her screen. The model had wide hips, and fat but toned arms. This wasn’t so bad, she thought. Underneath the thumbnail it read, ‘scroll over to see back’. The little cursor glided over the dimpled buttocks, the undulating waves of fat, the shimmy shammy of jello on a plate, not moving – never, ever moving. A wave of repulsion lurched from inside, and her mouth filled the bitter aftertaste of acidic vomit. Is this what he would see? Is this what he would want? What if he turned away? The shame brought with it tears in big gasping sobs.

She fled the room before the first light of sun came up and displayed what she so desperately wanted to hide.


In the deep recesses of her closet, she had hidden a halter dress. In the darkness, her hands shook as she brought out the slinky but flimsy one-piece. A lone light shone from above. No one was home. Finally, a chance to try it on.

With fumbling hands and nervous glances at the locked door, she attempted to wear her treasure. One deep breath. Come on. One fell swoop. That’s all it’ll take. Her heart was coaxing her mind to do what she knew wasn’t physically possible. Frizzy hair framed blood red cheeks, strained to the hilt with the effort of holding her breath in.


Whoosh. It had come down. She let out her breath. Her gaze was fixated not on how it looked, but at the big tear in the side, where the fancy ruffles used to be. One tear slid down, a silent sadness for her loss. Her one prized possession. Slowly and carefully, she tried to slip it off. It moved half an inch. Prying it off like a second skin, millimeter by millimeter. Sweat trickled down her face, into her cleavage. Tickling. Itching. Anger came. Fury ripped the dress upward, not caring about the damage done.

Bang, bang!

She jumped.

“Wh- Who is it?!” she asked sharply.

“Baajiiii,” her brother sang, “we’re hoooome! We brought you ice cream! Come, come quickly!”

Her brows automatically knotted together, looking at the mirror, and then the door.

“Baaaajiiiii,” his plaintive whine went on.

Her eyes darted frantically, looking for a way out. She spotted a pair of scissors. Her mind paused for a split second, as if seeking permission to do the inevitable. Her heart nodded a sad, sad yes.

Snip, snip, snip. Off came her sheath.

“BAAAJI!!! What are you doing!! It’s melting!!”

Her wrath brought down the pointed scissors and carved the things she craved. The things she wanted. The sin of what she wanted. Cruel thoughts ran a marquee in her mind. “Condoms? What’s the need darling? He’ll never make it!” “Sex? You’re too funny, janu darling! He’ll go inside you and snap!” “Oh come on, come on – be realistic. Don’t bother with the body wax or anything. They’ll run out! (muffled laughter). We all know he’s only marrying you for your ‘green thumb’ – or should we say ‘Daddy’s green fists’.”

Stab. Stab. Stab.

Blood. So much blood.

“Put that bowl down outside my door and GET LOST! If I come out there, I’ll smack you!” she shouted. A vein in her forehead pulsed angrily. Her brother began to throw a tantrum. In between his taunts and rants, she heard the ‘thunk’ of the bowl against the door.

She opened the door carefully, and snatched the ice cream in. She fell against the door and ate, gobbled, inhaled the entire liter in its royal blue packing. Eyes closed and panting; an inhuman wail filled the air.

It was coming from her – and she couldn’t stop.



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