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The brine beds are soaked with spume- overhead suspended in the sky of silvery ash. The wind announced forthcoming of an unknown storm- atmosphere here, is hyaline. Salt farmers working in continuity. Far in the landscape children were playing by the seashore. Mother spat the sappy red betel. Behind her was the panorama of our salt stocking ghetto. Something tickled beneath her skull. 

Father was not expecting to see her. He scorned. 

"I have come to see the haul," she made a shy excuse.  

"You shouldn’t have come this far. Sit here," slowly, he loaded the carrying pole with harvested salt. Mother observed with a nod. There’s an unloading point at a distance where all the farmers empty the salt-filled baskets. After a few minutes, father and his companions set off. Mother sat cautiously on the aisle of the salt bed. 

She touched the thick plastic stretched in the ground. A salt farm consists of 40 to 50 arrow beds altogether. Piquant seawater pours in these beds through a canal dug nearby. Mother caressed the smudgy plastic and raised the hand to the nose to smell it. Dopamine rushed through her veins when she slurped the moistened hand. She felt immense pleasure. Still, the delight was not complete. She wanted to lick it from the plastic.

“First, I was an amorphous lump- my spirit murky- my wisdom jejune- my feelings selective. I floated incoherent, uncertain between time and sentient. There was another with me, my twin. It was weak, and I craved strength. I asked if it was divine amalgamation. The twin denied. I devoured it when I got a chance. Now I have both darkness and light”.  

I was about to be born into a family of salt farmers. My grandfather, the chieftain, found a beautiful girl from the clan for his youngest son, who swore an oath to abandon school and follow the patriarchal pursuit. Mother fell in love with father on their nuptial night. The brutal and wild muscles of his salt made fists kept her thrilled for the first few days. Soon I came to be. Uncertain if it was for my arrival or continuance of a previous-life complication, an upsetting urge anchored in her consciousness.  

Mother had nasty imaginations. Her exasperations were peculiar. She wanted to go running to the yard and start dancing maniacally among the gossiping men. Imagined arousing an oomph in my uncle by stroking his mustachio and sitting on his lap. He looked flabbergasted and she smiled at him like doing him a favor. Sometimes, she wanted to yank out Father’s pajamas- wave it through the house like a winning flag- look for words of encouragement and pretend that she had made a funny scene. Mother was both ashamed and intrigued by her visions. She thought of them as nothing but phantoms of her juvenile mind. Often, she giggled at the images she contemplated, unaware of the alarming compulsion that would dribble its way to reality. As my eyes formed in the womb, her visions became livelier. She needed a distraction desperately. The distraction came in slow steps and brought along a shameful appetite. 

One night there was a great storm. Trees, houses, salt beds were swept away. Women and children were working to restore the houses, and men worked on the farms. Every salt farmer house had a warehouse containing bales of plastic sheets. Torn and rugged plastic pieces were replaced, cleaned, and shuffled after the storms. The area around the warehouse smelled of a tangy hollow substance. Suddenly, Mother was attracted to it like metal to a magnet. The aroma filled her stomach with an icy sensation. She sneaked into the warehouse stealthily, fidgeting and trudging in pace to decide if she must try it. Finally, the temptation won and Mother fixed her tongue upon the surface of the plastic. She tasted the sweet-filled texture of salty bounds and was shaken with shrill satisfaction; delighted and complacent. For any mysterious reason, this appeared like salvation from her obscene illusions. Every night of bewitchment, Mother began spending hours licking the plastic, inhaling a heavenly odor, and feeling fulfilled.

Although her concern wasn’t entirely gone, Mother was a philosopher. She was not rattlebrain and was aware of unusual eating habits during pregnancy. A lady in her village ate small crock pots used for lighting flames in local Hindu temples. Nonetheless, it was not easy, meeting the irrefutable thirst. Stowed up plastics were seldom exchanged with regularly maneuvered ones. Mother always wanted fresh supplies. She often visualized men working on farms, droplets of sweat sprinkling over the plastic ground, mixing firmly with sharp white molecules. Her scrutiny in every movement caught Father’s attention. He began keeping an eye on her. One night while Mother secretly made her way out, Father followed her. He was stupefied to find Mother hovering over a plastic sheet. Her knees bent, taking lapses of the frowsy plastic with her tongue in and out gradually. She looked nothing better than a lingering street dog. Fortunately, before he could let out a furor, Mother got aware of his presence. They both stood frozen to their spot. Ashamed and insulted, Mother began to weep, covering her face into the hem. Father stood aside the door to make way for her. Mother took the gesture. 

Is it because of the child?” Father asked the next morning. 

Mother uttered something in a faint voice. 

“Do not attempt the drama again. I'll make arrangements for you.” 

With these words, he left the room.  

The monsoon was over. It was time to celebrate the crimson autumn with warm convivial festivities. There was a custom in my village, "cook with the heat, eat with the catkin". Women and girls cloaked the indoor lobby with fresh manure. The halcyon air dismissed the dampish atmosphere. Dozens of paint coats imbued the courtyard as little girls made round pattern mandalas. Feast, frolics, and tympanum went on with overwhelming hospitality. This year, my mother was the center of the Jollus, and she was expected to follow flamboyant customs. She was in her last trimester. It was time she ascends the Dheki every morning, threshing rice grains from the outer husk for increasing the mental stamina. Elders said this process eases labor pain. They built a homestead with hay and timber near the outhouse pit where Mother will give birth to the offspring, ME. The house became much crowded and it was difficult for Father to feed her addiction. So, Father made a strategy. He cut the used plastic sheets into pieces and wrapped pickles in them. A confection enveloped with love everyone assumed. Little ones in the house ran to Mother to deliver the packaging. Mother threw away the pickle and kept the plastic, carrying it with her all day. My father was not a caring man but not cruel either. The reason why he was putting up with Mother's delirium was me. I felt so precious!

Mother waited for me too, but she had different apprehensions. In moments of turmoil, one day her water broke. The tickle in her head increased with the level of pain to make my bearing night herculean altogether. 

“My lips were tight. I was wrapped in embryonic blood. The suture between my nave and mother's umbilical, delicate. The cold southern breeze rushed through me, eyes shut. I was expecting to hear earnest cheering from the ladies present in the shed. I must be quite a sight for them. And that I was. Except they let out a cowering gust, my grandmother renounced. I felt no warmth of fondling. Is my mother unconscious still? I whimpered my first cry. There was no one to embrace me”. 

I was stuck halfway down from the shoulder. The octogenarian midwife performed an episiotomy to bring me out. I was shaded vertically in different complexions. The iris of my both eyes was of different colors. They laid me in the crib, unclean and unwanted. When my mother woke up, she found only the midwife sitting beside the cesspool. She observantly handed me over to Mother and waited for a reaction. It was a joy when our eyes met. I wanted Mother to encapsulate me in her bosom. For me, the moment was dulcet. But for my mother it was not. She looked puzzled, then horrified. 

She asked the midwife what happened to me. 

You tell me”, the midwife warranted. “Have you been a minx?”

No, I would never”. Mother shook her head. 

The midwife gave a huge sigh. “This child is evil,” she said. “She has half her father and half the demon”.  

“Is she possessed?” Mother asked.  

No, you are,” glared the midwife. “They will be arranging an exorcism for you. However, that cannot decide the fate of your daughter”. 

I noticed everything was quiescent outside. All the clattering had swapped into the tranquility of disappointment. I moaned to get Mother's attention. She was staring at the blank. There was no thrill in her eyes- no bonding- no connection. Fear and uncertainty had shadowed her endearment. 

When I was inside her, I could see the visions she imagined. I used to hear voices whispering in her head and I knew her aberrations. 

I could surmise. 

Oh, how she could put her daughter in this misery! 

Mother didn't want me. 

The nearly fainting midwife started reciting verses from the Holy Scripture. Never did she witness anything so horrific. Mother was forcefully trying to push me back into the womb. Her imaginations are now alive. She is now oblivious to reality. My helpless yelp gathered a few ospreys outside. Only the verses segued to darkness. 

Bio: Tanha Emita is an aspiring author and activist from Bangladesh. She teaches STEM to children and writes for the government innovation agency of Bangladesh, a2i. 


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