The Sleeping Sister-in-law

Writing practiceLife nowadays is like a baton race, and I’m terrified I’ll drop the baton, let things slip through the cracks, and generally make a mess. My blog, of course, is the first to suffer in such cases, then my appearance, then my home, then my writing. In that order, when the muse is cooperative. Writing practice is priority.

Yesterday I got down about 1200 good words on a short story, but today promises to be a long day— I’ll be writing more in my head than on paper or computer. I’ll be spending most of it on my feet.

A quick bit of writing practice, in the meanwhile, based on a prompt:

Dona wonders why they never find out.

This girl sleeping in the afternoon on the sofa, for example, tired after her long train journey from Darjeeling to Mumbai. She sleeps wrapped in a red saree, a streak of vermillion in the parting of her hair, her small eyes closed, her face cradled in her left arm, her right arm dangling towards the floor, a dozen red glass bangles on her forearm. Her lips move as she dreams, of her new husband perhaps. She’ll never find out before it is too late.

Is it because this girl is from the northern hills of India, where stealing is considered the same as murder? Or because her poor family was too happy to marry her off to an army officer-on-leave, without bothering to verify he was who he said he was? Dona does not know. All she does is host these girls at her place, and pretend to be their sister-in-law.

He comes every few months, her ‘brother’ Bikram, bringing his new bride to stay with Dona for a few days before he can find better accommodation. He leaves to make arrangements.

Dona has a large flat in Mumbai’s Bandra district,  but she never hosts the girls there. Her employers have given her a separate apartment, a small one, nothing fancy. Discreet. All she has to do is make the bride relax for a day or two, make sure there are no knives in the place, nothing that could be used in self-defence, because hill-women are a sturdy, brave lot, who would defend their honor.

Dona leaves the apartment at night, after lightly drugging the girl asleep so she would be able to walk but not resist, and passes the employers the keys. In the morning, the girl is gone, and Dona makes up the room the girl was in, locks the apartment, and goes back to her life, till a call from her employers begins the cycle again.

Lately though, in her dreams, some of her sisters-in-law chase her, in their hands the glinting scythes they used to gather the brushwood for their mothers’ kitchen fires. “You’re our sister, a hill-woman, and you betrayed us,” they wail, and Dona wakes up in shivers. No more girls, she resolves, no sisters-in-law.

But now there is this girl, sleeping, a little drool dripping from her mouth on the sofa. Dona gets up, walks to the kitchen, where the food delivery sits. Dinner for the girl. She opens a folded piece of paper from her jeans, takes out the white powder, but does not put it in. Let them take their chances with this one.

Are you a short story writer? Do you write free-form, for writing practice? What form does your writing practice take? Finished a story or published it? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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  1. Shalzmojo

    Wow! your story telling is so real and full of emotions. I loved the feeling of mystery you were able to generate in these words without describing too much and my imagination painted the scenario in my head as I was reading it!

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Thanks, Lata. I write so many of these stories in so many notebooks, they’re scattered all over my home.

  2. Deepak - Tuubol Blog

    Beautifully written story… But some of the content of this story reminds of the trafficking of girls from Nepal or for that matter Bengal and Bangladesh too.

    The inequalities in the society and some ill minded people’s actions lead to agony for these girls that they have to embrace as a lifestyle for the whole of their long lives ahead.

  3. Priya

    Beautifully written, Damyanti.

    “Let them take their chances with this one”.
    There couldn’t have been a more fitting ending!

  4. bronxboy55

    You keep proving that writing and time are on separate planes.What you can create in minutes might take someone else hours, or even days. The result is what matters, and your results have the sparkle of polished pieces. It’s always a pleasure to visit here, and to read your work. If this an example of dropping the baton, I encourage you to keep dropping it.

  5. aubrey

    This was rather thrilling!

    I like the style of narrative – blunt, almost cruel…noir-ish, even. The sentences rushed one after another into a perfectly rounded story.

  6. Damyanti

    Lol Gladys, you’re too kind! I rushed this off before I hit breakfast, and have spent the intervening hours on my feet. Thanks for liking my post, it inspires me to write more:)

  7. Gladys Hobson

    THAT is a bit of QUICK writing? Amazing!
    I don’t read many short stories or poems on the web. Every one of yours is not only readable but full of interest to the extent that the reader is instantly drawn in and left wanting more!