Debut Fiction Five0020

Mannu, we love you!

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The posters of cute babies, quotes on motherhood, and a large mirror with the tagline, ‘You’re beautiful!’ were overwhelming. I looked round and heavy. The pink gota-patti odani accentuated the pink in my cheeks. Had Mannu seen my state, she would have laughed and, till now, might have enlightened me on the process of going into labour with all the sounds and drama.


The waiting lounge was full of expectant mothers. The mayhem of discussions on do’s and don’ts, past experiences, and guessing games about the baby’s gender; everything looked surreal. I was new to the place and felt lonely in the crowd. 

I missed her. 

We were the bumchums who discussed everything under the sun. She knew details beforehand: periods, pubic hair and tenderness. Mannu was a Pandora’s box of forbidden knowledge that had solutions to my silly figments of self-doubt. She aspired to become a doctor.

Known to be the firebrand, everyone avoided confrontation with her except Dadisa. Perhaps Dadisa found a piece of her in Mannu. Beaten up and locked for getting lost in berry shrubs, stealing sweet imli and sour kairi, or fighting with boys, I had seen Mannu creating din while claiming her place equal to Bhaisa. 


Bapusa often warned, “Laddo! You’re heading for doom. Take care!”

And then, one day, she was nowhere to be found. Our home reverberated with her name, ‘Mannu! Athe aa, tanne main bataoon!’ was quiet forever. 

We lost our pride, and I, my best friend. 

Wished someone had told her we love her!

Only unanswered questions and stories remained!



I saw a woman rushing inside, “Baisa, hurry, there’s an emergency.” 

I froze. Tears streamed out of my eyes. I kept staring at the woman. She continued saying something frantically and darted back to the gallery that led to the nursing home.

Realising it was her, I screamed, “MmMmMmmMannuuMonika…”

I dashed out, caught hold of her and hugged her from behind. 

She shivered, squeezed my hands, sat down, and cried, “Kannu, so long! I almost lost hope.”


We hugged, cried, wiped each other’s tears and giggled like teenagers.

I wished to beat her, but instead, I uttered, “Chudail! Where have you been all these years?”


“It’s a long story.” 

“But tell me? You’ve grown up so big and beautiful. All without me?” 

“Weren’t you married in Barmer?” Mannu asked.


“We recently shifted here. But how do you know?” I was surprised.


“Bapusa meets me, sometimes.”


“But, why didn’t he tell us?”


“I was raped while loitering in the kikar jungle and left to die. Bapusa found me and brought me to Udaipur. Everything changed.”

“Na, Mannu!” I hugged her.

“Don’t Worry! I’m fine now.”

“I’m a trained nurse and work in a women’s welfare home associated with this hospital.”

“I missed your marriage and so much more,” She choked.


 “Not anymore. It’s time to come out of the Kikar forest.” 

“Let’s go home. Everyone misses you!” 

“Besides, who’ll tell me about raising babies?” I held her tight and called Dadisa.





Gota-patti – a type of Indian Rajasthani embroidery of zari ribbons sewn on fabrics.

Odani – Shawl

Dadisa – Grandmother

Bapusa – Father

Bhaisa – Brother

Baisa- Elder sister or madam

Laddo- A term to lovingly address a daughter

Imli – Tamarind

Kairi – Raw mango

Athe aa, tene main bataoon – Come here, I’ll sort you out.

Chudail – Witch (here it is used lovingly to abuse)

Na – No











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