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Volume 7

Outside: Looking In - January 2011


Written by
Priyanka Hemanth Uchill

Priyanka Hemanth Uchill, also known as Piyu, is self-professedly one of the happiest people around. Her story, Ipseity, won in the prose category at DWL's Desi Awards in 2010.


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“What is ‘normal’ other than our perceived notion of it? And what is acting ‘normal’ other than our pretense to do, so as to be considered ‘normal’. Now, normally I wouldn’t be ‘normal’. I mean, who would?”

                                                      – Amy Birdsong

She was done for the day. She checked herself in the mirror, straightened out her clothes, smoothened down her hair, picked her stuff up and made her way out. At the exit, she hailed an empty cab. She couldn’t wait to get back to her comfortable single bedroom pad.

Her heart sped in anticipation of what was to come when she reached home. The very thought that this moment was still to come, had pulled her through all of last week. It was an unscheduled event. But intuition told her it was going to be today. She was undecided on why she wanted this.

He was only a kid. He had barely seen fifteen summers. And yet he’d seen enough. He knew he missed every measure of normalcy by a mile. He was proud of his deference from the norm. But pride, pride wasn’t enough. It was money he needed. There was no yardstick money couldn’t buy, nothing you couldn’t blindfold with green.

So he started doing small favours for big men. He charged them for the errands he did. And they paid him enough to stuff his mouth so it wouldn’t open. They needed him because he was good. He was good because he did it with his soul. He needed them as much as they needed him.

“That will be one-and-a-half madam,” the driver said.

She stood, undecided on whether to haggle with him or pay up and rush upstairs.

The phone could be ringing right now.

“How much?” she asked sternly.

“One hundred twenty-three madam,” he said coolly.

She opened the door with her set of keys. Marina’s bed was empty. The poor girl was still at work. Tehri was asleep. She felt the familiar upsurge of envy within her. Tehri was the epitome of all things feminine. She was everything Reeka couldn’t be, no matter how hard she tried. She was glad she was moving into her own flat very soon. She was glad she was leaving Tehri behind. She hated people who lacked the drive. A quick glance at the small digital clock on the wall told her it was two in the morning.

He knew it was time to make more money. It was time to go under the knife.

2:30:29 a.m.

She sat at the edge of the bed with a cup of coffee in hand, shaking her left leg vigorously, impatiently. She sat staring at the clock.

2:55:24 a.m.

Sitting Indian style, with the empty cup of coffee in her hand, she continued staring at the clock. Sleep evaded her.

3:15:15 a.m.

She sat propped up against the pillow, alternatively staring at the clock and the phone. She wondered if she’d miscalculated.

3:20:11 a.m.

She turned her back to the phone and the wall and made a vain attempt to fall asleep. She promised herself she wouldn’t look at the clock until it was time to wake up.

3:30:09 a.m.

Her resilience broken, she turned to check the time. Time? Clearly, it was time to forget. But she’d been so sure.

She tossed and turned in bed as she fought back her tears. She hated the feeling of hot fluid on her face. She hated the comfort that came with crying.

5:55 a.m.

The phone rang. She was wide awake but she let it ring a few times before she picked it up.




“I’m sorry. I know it’s kind of late.”

“It’s ok.”

“No, it’s not. Well, in my defence, I was a little busy and I didn’t want to rush this through.”

“Rush through what?” She knew the answer already. Suddenly she didn’t want it anymore. There was silence at the other end. She couldn’t have been more grateful for it.

“I want to marry you Reeka.”

She closed her eyes. She wanted to savour the moment.  It took her thirty seconds to get back to who she was. She had too many questions now.

“What is it that you feel for me? Pity? Don’t tell me it is love. I don’t understand love one bit. People buy it off the stands these days. I charge people for love and any distorted notion of it that they may hold. If I were you, I’d want a family. A family’s uncomplicated and more practical than love. But I’d choose from better options. I wouldn’t choose me. So, what is it that you feel for me?”

“You are as empirical as they come, you know that? And four times as hard. So much so that you’d snap into two if you got any harder. I care for you, feel protective about you. I want to stop you from breaking. I’m as incapable of loving anybody emotionally as you are. It drives any understanding I have of the word into oblivion. I have my own reasons, very selfish ones at that, for wanting to spend my life with you, your past notwithstanding. You understand me. You accept me for me, for my thoughts, ideas, opinions et al. You come with no baggage. I’m one half of the equation Reeka, a very selfish half. Reason enough?”

“Hmmm. What about my work? As in, after marriage, in case we end up there?”

“What about it? We’ve discussed that. I don’t like your work. “

“Talk about dignity of labour!” I’m one half of the equation.

“Your work. That’s all I ask of you. I have enough for both of us. Think about it Reeka, with your most analytical cap on. It will be your foray into a life understood as normal by most. You can have a real family. What’s more,you can lead a normal life. How’s that for a deal?”

She closed her eyes for a minute. She wondered if she was ready to enter the world of weird people. This life, this world of Marina and Tehri, was what was normal in her eyes.They were unreal. They wouldn’t accept anybody who was different from them, anybody who owned a head. The stakes were too high. Entering the stove circle would cost her her identity.

“So, what are my chances?”

“I wish you’d never asked.”

He used to love men. They gave him utmost satisfaction. Now he’d give them what they wanted. With the knowledge only man can have about man.

With a woman’s body. 



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