pulitzer prize-luminary commended author
ROMANCES AND MORE
HOW AN INDIAN GIRL BECAME THE RIGHTFUL HEIR TO BLOND AMBITION, or, WHY AN INDIAN WOMAN NEVER QUIT HAVING BLIND AMBITION
published in: orion headless
Geetha wanted to be a star when she was young. Unfortunately for the little girl, she was not very attractive and most importantly, she was not talented, at all. Her greatest dream was to be a South Indian Classic Bharatnatyam dancer. When her mother tried to enroll her stubby, short, mahogany-hued daughter into a prestigious Mumbai dance school, she was rejected, and even worse, the dean of admissions laughed at them. That didn’t stop her parents from taking the would-be brown Shirley Temple for auditions throughout the city – for children’s shows, print modeling, television commercials, and everything in between. Geetha finally did manage to garner some success, getting a role as a before-teen in a before-and-after acne cream commercial. Still, she never achieved her real ambition of becoming a dancer: a classical dancer for theatrical dance performances.
As she got older, the untalented Geetha remained untalented. She ended up going to a two-year junior college, and became an administrative assistant for a pale, balding, quiet high school counselor named Simha Kapur. She married him after a year, and after a year of being his wife, she gave birth to a baby girl she named Neelam. Their marriage, dull and listless, came to a swift end when he asked Geetha for a divorce. Neelam was six at the time. It was a conversation as dry and uninteresting as their dispassionate union had been.
“I am leaving you, Geetha.”
“Why is that?"
“I’m not feeling love for you anymore.”
As Geetha had not worked, there was no settlement problem; he would pay monthly alimony. The divorce proceedings ended within a week. One thing kept her moving however: Neelam, of whom she received sole custody, was attractive and, better yet, talented. In dancing.
As is usually the case with most adults who brutally fail to become stars, she took out her aspirations on Neelam, who would become her only child, and was now her backdoor to stardom. A ruthless and overzealous stage mother, she was a tragic stereotype, taking the little girl to every little-girl pageant and go-see and audition in the city.
Neelam was ten the first time her upper lip, eyebrows, and sideburns were waxed by Geetha. Neelam was eleven the first time her hair was dyed blond by Geetha.
Geetha was obsessed that her daughter look perfect, that her daughter looked like a star, or at the very least, a star-in-the-making. In her mind, this meant that her daughter’s long black hair would not do, and her scant, barely-visible little girl facial hair would not do. Neelam was not hairy, not really. But Geetha thought she was a wildebeest.
“Where did you get such hairiness? I’m not that hairy! Your dad is a gorilla, yes, but girls should get their mother’s body hair! Cheee, so dirty!”
The pretty eleven year-old would just sit quietly when her mother went on these rampages. Although Neelam did get tiny roles in some television ads, and was photographed in two dresses for the Namaste catalog (picture Sears), Geetha wanted more for Neelam, and figured the wax and dye makeovers would get her more gigs. In a way, they did. She won four beauty pageants, and in two of them, Geetha didn’t even have to plaster her face with the makeup of a thirtysomething Avon saleslady.
Still, Geetha pushed her more. And waxed her more. And made her even blonder as the months passed. She thought blond hair on brown skin was sexy. She had a point -- RuPaul, or maybe a tan Pamela Anderson -- wore that look perfectly. But a little girl shouldn’t look like a tranny.
six word memoirs
"brain damaged for sins or virtues?"
burning word magazine
Setting: high school in small-town Illinois. Time: present.
Arun Patel and Greg Atkins are best friends at Bluefish High School, a commonplace small-town high school in a commonplace town in Illinois. They are eighteen, in the senior year.
Greg is a dumpy, plump, pale Irish American. Arun is a lithe, handsome, dark-skinned Indian American. Cue scenes of Greg standing up for Arun, who is taunted mercilessly by his classmates and given names like camel jockey, towel-head, and sand nigger.
Arun and Greg dream of becoming famous, world-renowned actors. Arun, however, has the talent. Greg does not. Both hope to go to NYC after graduation, and attend Juilliard. The school’s final theatrical show is announced their senior year: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.
The two chums cannot wait to audition, and know they are made for these roles. The far-more talented Arun, however, believes he is right not for Tom but of the main character, Huckleberry. After the auditions, held by the school’s frumpy middle-aged drama teacher, Mr. Wills, they are told that they will likely get parts, and would find out the results a week later. Although Mr. Wills does not specify what the parts will be, his demeanor (winks, smiles etc) suggest that they have won the lead roles.
Arun’s parents, like most parents of Indian descent, want Arun to give up his foolish dreams of being an actor, and do something ‘important’ like becoming a surgeon, engineer, or IT man.
When they discover that Arun has the chance to play a major lead along with his friend, they change their minds and throw a party with Greg’s family. Both sets of parents are delighted. The party, held at Arun’s small house, is a vibrant scene that evokes an embracing of Indian culture by contemporary White America. Here, at long last, Arun and Greg have gotten their parents’ permission to pursue their dreams.
Come Monday, Mr. Wills calls them into his classroom to personally tell them which roles they won. With delight, he tells Greg that he will playing Tom Sawyer! Arun is delighted, knowing that he has won the lead role! Observing Arun’s grinning face, Mr. Wills reassuringly tells Arun that he has an even more special part.
Last scene: The play’s opening night performance. Greg is giving, as expected, a bad performance as Tom Sawyer. Arun, onstage, is on a makeshift raft.
But he is not playing Huckleberry; a nameless young blond White boy is playing the lead role.
Arun, instead, is playing Jim. The Runaway Slave.
His dark brown skin has been made-up to look even darker in the bright lights.
pulp metal magazine
weirdyear: journal of experimental fiction
Lakhan knew he wasn’t supposed to fall for monsters anymore. Well, not since that embarrassing incident of 1987, at least. But he couldn’t help lusting after the one in front of him. The beast was, he believed, obviously male, although there was no discernable bulge. He was lusciously dark, the result of deep-chocolatey South Indian genetics, with, of course, long hours toiling in the hot Indian sun, Lakhan assumed. His face was as delicious as his build, with full lips and wide-set black eyes framed by thick charcoal eyebrows. His nine arms were muscular, sexier than the arms of any two-armed man. The horned tail was to die for. With his lengthy nose and prominent chin, both geometric in their sharpness, the beast’s face was as angled as Lakhan’s was round.
Lakhan’s intense desire for his object of lust stopped abruptly when his object of lust charged towards him, his claws stabbing, his mouth drooling, growling and roaring.
DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK FAT?
a story of desperation
new wave vomit
“What?” she inquired.
“I said, you look nice today,” he answered.
“I heard what you said the first time. I just like hearing it.”
He was exhausted. Every time he complimented her, she asked what he had said.
Only to tell him that she heard the compliment the first time.
Of course, there was no woman standing before him, or no woman on the phone, or no woman on skype.
Just the brick façade above his fireplace.
TRUTH BE DAMNED, CREMATION BECKONS
new wave vomit literary journal
“Please open the door," Nee said to her maid, as the doorbell rang. Nee's blind date had arrived, and surprisingly, he was two minutes early. Nee, however, had never told this prospective lover how obese, and how unattractive, and how old she was.
Didn’t matter to her though; she was expecting Death to arrive at her door. She was 98, after all. It was time.
BUCKETRY, OR, ON THE COVER OF A MAGAZINE, OR, YOU SAY DEM-EE
I SAY DEE-MI
Vinay knew the drill. Many Indian bathrooms didn't have bathtubs. This was due to the nation's historical disuse of non-stop spraying faucets. Of course, this had changed and modern faucets were aplenty. But that didn't stop the ceremony, which had developed into a tradition, a choreographed exploration into self-sensuality. This was called a “bucket bath,” a rather elaborate production not unlike the most sophisticated Broadway shows.
Hot and cold water from two main faucets affixed to the bathroom's wall were sprayed into a large bucket. Next to this was an empty bucket in which a small pitcher hid. Bars of soap or bottles of foamy liquid body wash or bottles of shampoo lay next to the buckets. The bather luxuriously scrubbed his body with the soap or body wash, mixed the foam with the water, then used the pitcher to pour the soothing water all over his body, hitting every nook and cranny. Rinse, lather and repeat. Same went for the shampoo, except the water was poured specifically over the head. The bather's shoulders, arms, thighs, backside, all got a delectable workout. Soapy suds on naked skin. It was do-it-yourself erotic water yoga.
As Vinay walked into his aunt's glamorous guest bathroom upstairs, he saw the oft-used Indian-style washing area. But this was the biggest one he had ever seen. Instead of a small flat space, this was a circle of recessed marble flooring akin to an ancient Turkish bath.
The requisite bucket and pitcher were there. The only difference? They were ludicrously large, metallic and intricately detailed.
It had been a while since Vinay directly examined his naked body. After removing all his clothes and shutting the curtain, he poured hot water from the faucet into the bucket. There was already a huge bar of Amla soap (the Indian version of Dove ) next to the bucket. He lathered himself up. Vinay was surprised that his body wasn't as bad as he fretted it would be. After scrubbing his smooth, dark body, he looked around. Every wall was mirrored, even the ceiling. He could watch himself touch himself all over in the water. Vinay smiled at this revelation. His nude body was reflected at him, from all angles possible. That's when he decided to have fun with the situation the best way he knew how.
Other than his smoothness and sweatiness, Vinay was always conscious of his boobs. Yet, after he washed his hair, he stared at himself and thought his jugs looked hot. Sexy, even. Maybe it was the neighbor's uber-masculinity that brought out his feminine side. Whatever the reason, he felt comfortable with his bustiness. At least for that moment.
So as he postured wet and unclothed, looking at his breasts and sizable gut, he did the ultimate pose that best captured those attributes: Demi Moore, pregnant and glowing and nude and holding her tits, on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. It was an iconic magazine cover, and he was an iconic, wet, just-cleaned Vinay. He did the pose for a few minutes, rotating his stance so he could face all the mirrors while clutching his bosom.
After cleaning himself with suds and more suds, he luxuriated in his own reflection, feeling good about himself for the first time in a long time.
"Brilliant storytelling. Rajamani deftly mixes dark, Sedaris-like comedy with surreal drama, thus capable of being funny and brave (especially when it involves cultural taboos) -- while also remaining emotionally authentic."
-- Jason Michel, Paris, Editor-in-chief, Pulp Metal Magazine and author of "Confessions of a Black Dog"