The Flood, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, November 2018 (read by the actor Indira Varma)
The Breakdown, winner of the second prize in the Bristol Short Story Awards and published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology: Vol. 6, 2013
The morning something snaps inside Medha, she ignores the guards chatting outside Locarno Estate and pushes open the front gate from which hangs a signboard: ‘NO ENTRY for servants’. For years she has obeyed this sign, not said a word about how it disgusts her, and taken the track cut through the grass to the bungalows where the floors are paved with marble and the bathroom faucets are finished with gold. But today she won’t mind a fight. If Sonaali Didi wants to fire her, let her.
‘What are you doing?’ a guard shouts as she hurries down the main road, but he doesn’t chase after her.
A flock of cattle egrets rises from the umbrella-shaped canopy of a rain tree on the roadside, leaving behind white feathers that drift towards the ground. She picks up a feather and tucks it into her hair. Above her, the October sky is a hazy blue.
Medha hears Bunty’s screams well before she reaches Sonaali’s bungalow: Won’t go to school. I won’t. I won’t. Can’t make me.You can’t. You can’t. She’s about to knock on the door when Sonaali opens it and drags Bunty out. The door slams shut behind them. The water-bottle hanging around Bunty’s neck thuds against his chest as he kicks and bites. Won’t won’t won’t.Mama bad bad bad.
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The Elephant in the Suitcase, winner of the third prize in the Asham Awards and published in Once Upon a Time There was a Traveller: Asham Award-winning Stories, 2013
Nirmal whistled as he shovelled, but he was not feeling cheerful. His head throbbed from the summer heat and his spine ached from bending down. He had hoped to dig a six-foot-deep trench around his house by nightfall, but a day’s work had only resulted in blisters on his palms and a shallow ditch that even a child could cross. His mouth tasted of dust and disappointment.
A Malabar thrush picked up the feeble notes of his whistle, as if telling him not to give up. It was an old habit of his, this looking to the forest for signs. In his first year as a forest guard, a pair of mottled wood owls had kept him awake with their eerie howls one night and, the very next morning, the deputy ranger had turned up outside his quarters with the news of his mother’s death.
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This Could Be a Love Story, Wasafiri, Vol. 33, 2018
Madam Shine sits on a wooden bench by the front door of the police station, listening to the chatter from the teashop next-door, thinking about how the professor is now only a corpse in the morgue. The previous week, a washerwoman found his body floating face down in a canal, his skull cracked with either a stone or the handle of an axe, the police say it’s still too early to tell.
The professor had been her first lover in the village. He had aged in the twenty-two years they had known each together, his hair thinning and his cheeks sinking into his almost-toothless mouth so that he looked gaunt and ill though he was perfectly healthy except for the one problem that not even Madam Shine had been able to fix. Each time he came to visit her, the professor had sat down on the grey sofa in her drawing room, his fingers worrying the tufts of foam peeking out of the shabby cushions, and exclaimed over the smoothness of her skin, not a crinkle around her eyes even when she smiled, and the blackness of her hair that fell in thick curls all the way down to her waist. And now he is dead and all she knows is that everyone in the village had a reason to kill him.
Read the rest of the story here.
The Memsahib and the Panther, Asia Literary Review, Winter 2016
The Thieving Outsiders – A Temperamental Memsahib – The Dog-Lifter – Another Narrow Escape – More Than a Talisman
In the summer of 1875, exactly a year after my wife died, an English hunting party set up camp by our village in the Satpuras. I was twenty years old, and woke up each day hoping it would be my last. My parents thought me mad. Every year, all across the hills, people died of ailments for which we had no names. We buried our dead, and then we forgot about them. But I could not forget. My fingers were still stained yellow from the turmeric my wife had applied on her skin; I heard the clatter of her bangles as I ploughed the landlord’s fields. Men whispered as I passed them, and plotted exorcisms with my parents. I took to walking on tracks that had known only the hooves of deer; I learnt to summon clouds of quiet in my head that softened the shrillness of other people’s voices. Then the English arrived and I made up my mind to leave with them.
Twenty-two years have passed since then, but how dreadful this confession sounds even now. If I kept it cooped up inside my chest all these years, it was because I was ashamed of it. But now I look at the smooth scar that curves like a panther’s tail on the back of my right hand; I think of my elder brother who has laid himself open to penalty by calling for a rebellion to oust the English from our hills; and I know the time has come for this story of a hunt to be told.
To read the rest of the story, follow the instructions here.
After a Hijacking, winner of the Dastaan Award 2015, and published in the Desi Writers’ Lounge website and Papercuts magazine, Vol. 16, 2016
My father doesn’t belong in our house. Except for me, no one else seems to have noticed this. He always sounded the happiest when he phoned us from Apapa or Shuwaikh or Fujairah, ports with names that made me picture old men with long and soft white beards. Instead of asking us how we were, he would talk about something he had seen: the dark sea’s belly glowing an electric blue at night or a pair of dolphins staging high jumps in the white bubbles trailing behind his ship.
He hasn’t been able to call us in three years. Our phone hasn’t stopped ringing though. It’s mostly aunts, uncles, Mother’s friends, colleagues, the journalists she befriended with tears and tea. One of them called Mother on her cell phone last week to say that Father was finally FREE-E-E-E!!! so loudly that even I heard her. I expected Mother to whoop but instead she started to cry.
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Easy to Forget, Easy to Remember, winner of the Asian Writer Short Story Prize and published in Five Degrees: The Asian Writer Short Story Prize 2012
When the woman with a stern voice announces the imminent arrival of the Swarna Jayanti, Rashid rolls up the sleeves of his only red shirt, revealing a series of matching red cuts running the length of his hands. For a second it worries him that he does not remember how he acquired the marks. Then he laughs at himself. Over the past few days, he has plunged his hands into dust-bins, stacks of rubbish, and a drain under the pavement where he sleeps. Anything could have caused these cuts. He should be grateful his fingers are still intact.
He spits on his cupped right palm and, with the bubbly saliva, polishes the already-gleaming ‘licensed railway porter’ badge tied around his left bicep. The badge belongs to Kareem Chacha, who bought it in the black market for sixty-thousand rupees five years ago. Once in a while, when Chacha’s back snaps like a dry twig after he has balanced one too many suitcases on his head, he loans Rashid the badge until his pain ebbs. They share the money Rashid makes, which is embarrassingly not much, because though he is younger than Chacha, he tires easily.
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