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PART ONE: In Which Techie Meets Deshpande

The straps tensed. Shehnaz Tanaka dropped into a crouch. Her shoulder blades raised above her spine, lifting her thin jacket off her back and letting it’s tattered edges shimmer in the wind. One wrong step and the platform would come crashing down. Her eyes itched to flick sideways and check the straps. One little second was all she’d need. But it was also all he needed to make a move. Her fixed marble gaze was the only thing she had to hold him in place. Chin up and hand in one pocket he fingered the Szchwitsaki blade. Considering.

All around them the Sighters watched on in silence. Looking through their windows, down at the platform that hung in the narrow alley between clothes lines crackling across from one fire escape to another. One watered a plant. Another chewed on a stick of Awix. A third picked its nose. It suddenly occurred to Shehnaz that all the clothes hanging stiffly around them were pale pink. The Szchwitsaki blade lashed out, missing her sucked-in lungs by a wisp of frosted breath and tearing through the strap. The metal shrieked and she felt herself thrown back, off the edge of the platform as he grabbed for the belt around her waist. She saw his eyes for the first time, flung open as if in absolute horror.

Inside the Community Kitchen of Shaheen Bagh

(Originally published on Goya, food journal)

On December 19, 2019, I stood outside Town Hall in Bangalore, packed in among hundreds of other people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). As Indian flags were waved, and posters of Ambedkar and Gandhi held up to the sky, a glint of plastic caught my eye. At first we didn’t know what they were; little packets rained down over our heads and into the crowd. …

New Delhi, India. 2019

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I didn’t know what to do, so I asked Nithila. She said it was too much for a voice note, that I should wait instead for her next email. “Why do you write?” I expected her to ask, checking my pockets to make sure I had my Gaiman and Didion quotes ready. But no, she knows me too well to simply ask what I want her to. “Why do you share what you write?” reads her email. Eugh. I can feel my nose crawling up my face. What a galeej question.

I want to say that I share because I’ve always shared. What else do you do with your writing? It’s like playing hot potato. You create something, it burns, you fumble around with it for a while, tossing it from hand to hand and then you just chuck it at someone else. Eugh, here take this piece of me and begone! Not my problem anymore, the words have left my body and I never want to see them again. Nithila would be amused with this one, hmm. But the word ‘always’ in that sentence doesn’t quite sit right. …

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