Finding Ravana by Nabina Das (Indian Short Fiction, May-June 2015)

I wonder if Prof. Valmiki would have approved of this as a fitting way to tell a story. Or even tell his story. But what can I do if I don’t take matters in my own hands? Even if it means taking up a kitchen knife. Sleepless and embattled as it is I am with so many problems that have fuelled my insomnia. Which is why now I’m set on my uber-smart ‘brain-gain’ mission. I, Sita Devi, am not a super heroine or Batwoman. I’m sharp and intuitive, a twenty-first century woman. And in my Ramayana, I’m also seeking love as an unclaimed woman. I do, I do, I want to tell the new guy (they say his name’s Rama) on the newly built Ayodhya block. But he appeared in five different shirts over the last three days (gosh, a feminine trait, would you think?) whenever I passed him by. Never mind. A nervous sort, he’s always reading or pacing up and down the driveway. Quite different from the ‘nightly intruder’. Oh, yeah, there IS one, although he has not paid me a visit yet. But he’s been after many beauties they say. I read about him at the newspaper stand: WOMAN REPORTS BEDROOM INTRUSION. An idea immediately formed in my head. What better way to script a new Ramayana! Perhaps Rama would notice me better if the intruder (let him be named Ravana too…) came to me. “I’m fine, don’t you worry,” I said on a recent visit to my shrink who, I could tell from his longish ambivalent comments, was giving his best shot to get me back in control. Confidence, he suggested, is the key. I have it. It’s a knife.

Well, now I have to tell you all about it.

Let me make one thing clear though. I, Sita Devi, admit that getting inside the head of an insane person can drive you nuts. However, that’s the teaser. That’s why, even at a friendly event like the annual book fair the other day, I ‘seemed’ uncomfortable locking eyes with anyone, especially men over six feet. They hovered over me intentionally, or I made myself think so. I’m puny. That doesn’t mean every tall man, or even woman, with his/her gait should have created any turbulence in the little invisible shielded space I wear around myself. Maybe I overreacted. My eyes sometimes betrayed my mood. Hesitant. Willing to seek out nevertheless. At times they darted over the faces that came towards me in a careful scrutiny. For those that came from behind, I turned around to explore them, cumbersomely, but I gave the impression I had perfected the art of walking sideways, occasionally glancing backwards. I’m quite sure they looked at me momentarily and ignored me, or maybe wondered – why does this woman walk awkwardly? Then they went on about their business. I particularly found it hard to examine those that suddenly appeared from over my shoulders. To turn full face at them, I had almost to twist my body in an ‘S’. That way my neck hurt. Others who saw me in that looped posture likely presumed that I suffer from a nameless muscular disease that forces the human body to take all kinds of strange shapes. But I, Sita Devi–twenty-three, almost always dressed in hugging T-shirts and wide-cut denims secured with broad studded belts, pale-complexioned and thin down to my bones (I am pretty proud of my size) had this two-headed feeling. I wanted to see as well as flee a face that ‘supposedly’ haunted me. When books of all sizes and bindings stared from the makeshift stalls and tables, and the aroma of hot chocolate at the café corner had kids excited on that moist cool afternoon, all that occupied my mind was a man, a six-foot tall intruder.

from Pocket

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