Chapter 1

Summer days in Delhi smell funny. Everything swelters. The trees grow blisters. The buses and streets reek of sweaty stench.

The noise of the street is a monotonous, lifeless drone.

Haimanti hated the heat. Fifteen months in this bustling capital city, and she still hated it.

Today, she sat by the window, a bowl of grapes by her side.

“Everything looks so stark in this heat.”

Her seven-month fetus kicked from within.

“This city needs some color. Even the pigeon sings one lulling tune.”

Haimanti — her mother called her Mani — turned her attention back to the Bengali Desh monthly in her hand. Maybe, reading fiction would take her mind off the oppressive temperature.

The apartment was so tiny. Her mind wandered again. She hadn’t written a word in five months. A writer, she. 

Ha! Pregnant with her first child, she felt infertile. The usually writhing worms in her head that used to keep her awake at night had somehow died.

They said marriage did that to women. Killed the painful worms that made you dream.

But a writer … her stories would stop without those worms. Unimaginable!

The mirage heat of the asphalt streets dissolved into the lush green-black hills of the North-East.

Mani, her hair flowing, her sari awry in the wind, climbed the last leg of the hike.

She was going to meet the Dimasa women and children. These women never left their village and didn’t care for civilization. Exploited and forgotten otherwise. Mani’s heart cried for these sisters of hers.

Perhaps, she would convince them of educating their children?

She would spend her life in service of the poor, the less represented.

She would live by her own rules.

The cold mountain breeze ruffled the worms, they made her see her desires better. She felt so much hope when they writhed within her.

It’s almost as if they took her beyond her grandmother’s warnings, beyond her father’s responsibilities, even beyond her mother’s socially-conscious psyche.

A knock on the door jarred her back to her de-wormed world. Her husband was back.

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