Every month, as if an act of penitence, Shunya hunches over the kitchen counter, but subtly, so her mother-in-law doesn’t notice. Her crotch never feels fully clean for those four days—always sticky. Sister-in-law comes, leading with her belly, swollen with purpose. Mother-in-law fusses, demands jilebi, garam pani. “For my only grandchild,” she says, waspish. Shunya sucks her teeth, tucks her uncoiling need into her trim, flat, waistband. She rolls out rotis, slapping them hard on the smoking tava. The heat sears brown scars onto the desiccated dough. The women devour them, giving her the empty vessel to scrub clean.
By Sumitra Singam