Shee Candy Talks
Vyom stared at the simmering milk crawling up the walls. It threatened to crack open and flow out of its confining boundaries. A part of him also wanted to break free. Break the stifling norms and flow free like the mutinous milk.
He scrunched his eyes in disbelief. ‘What am I imagining! Chand has filled me with all these weird thoughts,’ Vyom mumbled to himself.
A crimson blush raced across his face as he remembered last night’s cruise* with Chand. The thought left his legs weak as a thrilling current sprinted through his body. Chand’s muscular frame, his manly scent, dominating stance, all filled Vyom with ecstasy. The feeling was not new, but the intensity and the permanence of it left him soaked with joy.
Vyom slipped into the dark realm of self-doubt again. A man in his early thirties, going all mushy at the thought of his burly, big-framed lover. Why must a straight-looking, supposedly happily-married man with a clean image and a settled career, fantasise about a life with another man.
The thought of Chand and him together made more than his eyebrow twitch. The thrill was so gratifying.
Sadly, for Vyom’s conservative parents, it meant devastation. A traditional Indian family, they blamed everything around them, including their fate.
‘Sissy, shhh how can you talk like this Vyom?
Dare you hang around with that odd friend of yours. He is such a terrible company for you. Look at these absurd-looking pants you are wearing! When have you seen any of us dress like this?’ Vyom’s father spat acerbic remarks with his forehead crimped angrily. He could not see Vyom like that. It made him sick.
‘I overheard the morning walkers gossip about you. Such a disgrace! ’
‘Ma! Please, there is nothing wrong with me. Can you stop doing this nazar* thing every night,’ Vyom protested as his mother did all possible tricks to ward off the influence of the evil eye on him.
‘I should not have left you with that cousin. He taught you all the wrong stuff,’ Vyom’s mother regretted the teenage years Vyom had spent with his still unmarried uncle.
Vague reasons, outside people and foreign situations, each faced the brunt of their wrath. Sadly, no one accepted Vyom’s uniqueness which was deep-rooted inside.
College life disillusioned him further. Closet! … Vanilla! …
Vyom still heard those jibes. The tormenting teenage years left searing blisters that challenged to bleed open at the slightest smirk or whisper from a colleague. Standing in front of the mirror, Vyom often heard voices. Amidst the cacophony of the stinging remarks, he also heard a voice that spoke differently. A voice that soothed his inner being.
The sound of tinkling anklets, just like some background music to his sob story. That sound wrapped him warm, caressed his frayed nerves, and calmed him with an amorous delight. Vyom often wondered about the origin of those tintinnabulations, but his vexatious thoughts denied him such indulgence.
Torn by body confusion, societal pressures, and identity crisis, Vyom hid behind the nerd image at college. It was hard. Very hard, for Vyom. He was lost and often badly hurt. First crush, first date, and many other firsts battered his ego and pride limp.
How hard he tried to confess his feelings to his first crush! Sadly, the Twink* turned out to be a Daddy Chaser* instead. Aah! Those words. Vyom too was naive. He learnt it all the hard way in life.
‘He is a disgrace, I wish he was never born to us.’ The caustic remarks deepened the divide between Vyom and his father.
Disgrace! Better be gone, tore through Vyom’s hurt inners. Through the blurring moisture flooding his eyes, he caught a glimpse of the apparition for the first time. He suddenly appeared, just in time to distract him from jumping off the balcony.
‘Who was that? Such a weirdo!’ Big earrings, flashy silk robes. He seemed to be out of the Mahabharata soap that Ma watched every Sunday. The apparition glowed. He gestured to him to stop. Vyom rubbed his eyes in disbelief and retreated. That apparition vapourized leaving a faint scent. Vyom blamed his hyperactive imagination.
However, that weirdo did not leave Vyom. He kept returning to his dreams. His yellow dhoti*, pink angavastram*, wavy long tresses.
‘Hey dude, come back. What’s up with all this finery man?’ Vyom often chased him for answers but he played hard to get. He just walked away suggestively. Vyom’s mind was distressed by his presence but deep inside he wished to talk to him. He often saw him walking away into darkness; his anklets tinkling, hips swaying, all speaking a language that entrapped Vyom’s senses.
‘Tie the knot. Dry gears often give trouble. With some oiling all his gears will function fine,’ Vyom had never heard his mother so conclusive in her decision. She might sound confusing to the uninitiated, but her Indian idiom decoded, quite simply meant that she wanted Vyom’s wife to set her son’s oblique traits straight. She had just taken the ultimate weapon from her parenting armoury to fix the uneven sexual dispositions of her offspring.
Vyom succumbed to worldly obligations. What if his parents were right? He plunged in, hoping Aarti would bring an end to his identity crisis.
Aarti weds Vyom.
God, what fanfare was organised. Vyom’s parents faked normalcy.
An uninvited guest, that weirdo; the dhoti-clad guy was there too. Vyom wasn’t surprised, as now he shadowed him everywhere.
Vyom with his clean, tall, lanky frame and sharp features, resembled any clean-shaven God. His radiant skin glowed a teeny bit more than that of Aarti’s. All in all, they made a beautiful duo.
Indeed a special couple!
As feared hell broke on the first night as expectations crashed, disappointments rose and frustrations brewed. An unconsummated marriage with a hesitant commitment was stifling to both of them. Vyom looked for excuses to avoid any physical contact with Aarti.
It was tough. From lame to more sane ones, Vyom kept batting googlies to Aarti with his not so straight bat. It was awkward, to say the least. Once Aarti saw Vyom fiddling with her intimate wear. Poor lady, she brought out candle lights and wore her black lingerie only to find Vyom turn away with dispassion.
Vyom was confused. Aarti’s presence threatened him. She demanded a share of his personal space. A space he could never share with her.
Different cities, busy work schedules, irregular phone calls, all set the tone for the best possible agreement Vyom could think of.
It seemed just perfect with all the imperfections. That is when Vyom explored the world and Chand came into his life. Chand’s love fulfilled him. What Aarti could never invoke in him, those feelings manifested. Chand was the source of joy that lit up Vyom, the vast blue sky.
However lately, Chand and his demands for a permanent relationship threatened Vyom’s closet* existence. He demanded acceptance and commitment. Vyom could never find the courage. He tried to cover up that by physically attracting Chand.
Staring at his naked self in the mirror, Vyom doubted himself. ‘Shh…look at me! I wonder how Chand still loves me. I need to work out to be more deserving of Chand’s attention,’ he stroked his lean frame disapprovingly. Fantasising a toned body, Vyom resolved. ‘Gym. Chand also suggested.’ Vyom hoped carnal gratification would override Chand’s mind and he may not insist on formalising their relationship.
Vyom’s introspection of his current dilemma was constantly disturbed by that hovering apparition. He saw him once again at the gym, as he raised a toast of wheatgrass towards him and smiled.The truth is a bitter pill to swallow, and when served with wheatgrass juice even more so.
Was it a smile, a smirk, or a look of empathy? And dude, again those gaudy clothes. Come on, this is a gym. For heaven’s sake, don’t embarrass yourself here in that wedding finery. An orange dhoti with a bright pink long shawl.. or what is it called an angavastram covering his torso. Man, how did he manage those toned muscles? Is he a regular here? Vyom thought while screening him from top to bottom.
He sat across from him on the bench press. Bejeweled with a crown and pearl jewels. This guy sure needs some fashion orientation. He seems to be out of the epics. Vyom contemplated while still wondering if he was real or just an apparition. Am I hallucinating or what?
Vyom left the table feeling uneasy and flustered. However, he followed him to the restroom. Enough is enough. Exchanging a polite smile, and space on the bench press doesn’t forge a relationship.
‘Excuse me, but I need some privacy, I need to be alone here. Who are you?’ Demanded Vyom.
‘Oh! Is this the men’s section?’ Enquired the strange apparition.
‘Of course! Where do you think I shall go if not to the men’s section?’
His caustic laughter echoed in the corridor. Luckily, no one was around.
‘Vyom, you should know better. I thought our destination was the same.. you disappointed me.’ Vyom was puzzled by his words and more so by his sudden disappearance. This guy seemed to have made this his habit. Thankfully, none around seemed to notice his presence or absence.
Disappointed? And how did he know my name? Wondered Vyom, as he drove back home. He dialled Chand’s number, however, the continuous unanswered ring spoke volumes about their faltering relationship. Chand demanded proclamation of their love, however, Vyom as always wanted to hide in the closet.
‘Chand is being unfair. What am I going to tell Aarti and dad? My colleagues!’ Vyom reasoned out aloud to himself.
On reaching home, he banged the door shut. Retracted in his shell, Vyom had built the armour of marriage and home to protect himself from the worldly insecurities designed by himself.
‘Manners Vyom! You seem to have lost all the discipline inculcated into you by your father, except one lingering fire.’ The angavastram clad guy was back again.
Now Vyom lost all control. He bellowed, ‘Who are you and how are you in my home? I will call the police right now.. leave!’
‘100, guess that’s the number, just in case you are flustered enough to forget it. However, it’s a futile exercise as I am here to meet only you. See, I am on an official errand; The Acceptance.’ The apparition cleared his throat, preparing for a long introductory speech.
‘Please be patient, Vyom. See, I am Shikhandi for the world, but Shikhandini for myself, just like you are Vyom for others and Vyoma for Chand. Isn’t it?’
Shikhandi’s words stung like silence.
Blood drained from Vyom’s face.
‘Shikhandi? The .. one who killed Bhishma? The guy from The Mahabharata! Do you really think I will take this crap? Leave right now or you shall be in trouble. You have been chasing me for a long time. I even have some recordings of your anklets for proof to get you behind bars.’
‘Om Shanti, shanti! What a pity, your generation is so weak at history. I didn’t kill Devrath or Bhishma Pitamah as most of you call him; acceptance of my true identity did the honours.’
A familiar hurt of a common wound bled open. ‘Vyom, we, The Cursed Brigade, as they call us, traverse the world to discover troubled souls like you and lead them to the right path.’
‘Cursed Brigade?’ Vyom was puzzled.
‘Yes, we who were never accepted by the living or the dead, not by family or friends; the hidden people. You are one of us,’ explained Shikhandi.
Vyom’s mouth gaped open without a sound.
‘ I know all about you. I have been tracking you with our digital sensors since an associate’s soul was assigned to you. Close your mouth Vyom. It’s more fitting for a man ..er sorry a woman in your case,’ Shikandi dominated the conversation.
Vyom followed instructions, ‘ Listen, Shikhandi ji, my mother’s Mahabhartha lessons haven’t gone to waste. I know you were a woman in a man’s disguise. A cheater!’
‘Aren’t you one as well?’ Shikhandi was quick to add.
Truth does hurt most. Vyom retracted, ‘if you are from another dimension then you must be all-knowing. Tell me what should I do?’
‘Vyom, you shall do what I did. I was born a girl, however, my father raised me as a son. So much so that I lost my identity. I even married a girl to please my father and the world. I had to become a man for one night, to fulfil my marital obligation. That one night drowned my life into a fake existence forever.’
Shikhandi went silent, as if his soul still repented his doings.
‘Shikhandi Ji…’ Vyom prompted.
‘Vyom, do you know what happens to the little rill that has just acquired its virginal form? It gushes down from its mother’s lap, but at times a crevice engulfs it and bores it down. It purloins the innocent rivulet of its chance at existence. The crevice devours it and condemns it to a lifetime of darkness and silence. The innocent brook succumbs to a life of oblivion.’
‘Similarly, the world that I lived in didn’t embrace my reality. They bound my deceiving body in corsets so tight that my mortal body wreathed in pain. My bosom that could have nurtured life was encased in metal armour to compress its budding existence. I was made to hate myself. I had to be the son to avenge, not the daughter to nurture.’
Shikhandi’s despair was evident in his eyes and the pain still throbbed alive.
The similarity of their lives, numbed Vyom to a trance as he introspected. I too had accepted my destiny and married a girl. I too sinned against mother nature and she punished me . Cursed me to be a man forever. So here I am, a woman trapped in a man’s body.
Shikhandi clicked his fingers, breaking Vyom’s chain of thoughts.
‘So now you know. Shikhandini .. that was the real me. Believe me, my friend, had you been the man you project yourself to be, I would have certainly made a .. what do you humans call it a “one night stand” with you. Hahaha..’ His charming smile accentuated his fair nubile face.
Vyom blushed at his implication. ‘How did you fight the odds, Shikhandi Ji?’
‘The purpose of my life was to facilitate the killing of Devrath or Bhishma as your world calls him. I wasn’t a man enough to kill him in war but certainly a woman enough to stop him from attacking me. That’s what I did. Accepted my inner self and faced him in my true form. What bliss it is to be free! Bhishma bowed down to my existence on the battlefield, as I was a woman, and thus, I got my revenge and liberation of my soul.’
‘So you hated him so much that you took multiple births just for revenge?’ Vyom felt proud of his analysis.
Shikhandi guffawed, ‘Devrath .er.. your Bhishma was my elixir. He was the only one in our world who accepted me for who I was. Rest mocked and abused me. Devrath respected my existence and honoured me by folding his hands and keeping his bow down. That’s what a true man is! Shikhandi seemed to have been transported back to the battlefield.
‘The ones who jeered at me were neither a man nor a woman. They were the real ‘Hijras’; the real incapables and impotent; as they implied us to be.’ Shikhandi seemed agitated but continued, ‘I was fortunate to have Devrath respect my existence before the entire world in the greatest battlefield and make me immortal in history. He made the world accept my true identity and I, in return, granted him passage and deliverance from his troubled life.’
The human mind is a sea of conflicting emotions, Vyom wondered, stupefied.
‘Are you suggesting it’s time to declare before my family my true identity ?’ Vyom asked haltingly.
‘Yes, you live in a much-liberated world. Why waste your life as I did? Embrace Chand before this prejudiced world. Declare your love and live, the way we couldn’t.’ Shikhandi added.
Shikhandi was calm, ‘Remember Vyom, the gushing stream that frolics its way down the hilltops doesn’t cease to the dictum of silence. It announces its arrival irrespective of the decorum of the surrounding serene escarpment. Bigger the boulder it strikes, the higher the rill pirouettes. Eroding on its way old establishments and chiseling its way through. So does life.’ Shikhandi ignited the faltering flames back.
‘Vyom, does your family want to see you happy? If the answer is yes, then they will eventually come around. You have given them thirty years of your life. It’s time to break through and emerge out of those drowning crevices. Announce to the world your orientation as Mother Nature made you.’
Vyom felt at peace. For the first time, he heard what his heart wanted to hear.
Suddenly a beep sounded, ‘I need to go, someone else needs my help too,’ said Shikhandi.
‘Just a question…’ quipped Vyom, ‘Your associate… the one you said was assigned to be me, did he call for you? You often appeared in my dreams, why didn’t you talk to me then?’
Shikhandi smiled, with a lowered gaze he said, ‘I gave you several chances to revolt but you didn’t relent. Finally, I couldn’t see you wasting away your life. Vyom, no Vyoma, free yourself, my friend. Give your soul a chance to live, to experience bliss. It’s up to you now.’
Shikhandi’s voice trailed as he walked away.
‘Shikhandi ji…one more question. Will I ever meet you again?’ Vyom stopped him.
‘Certainly,’ he chortled. ‘However next time I want to meet you inside the correct changing room- ladies restroom!’ His mellifluous laughter echoed in Vyom’s home and life forever.
Written by: Aradhna Shukla and Shweta Mathur Lall
Team name: Realistoons
Shikhandi is a character in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. He was born as a baby girl, named Shikandini, to Drupada, the king of Panchala, but was raised as a boy. Shikhandi struggled all his or her life with the sex assigned at birth. Shikhandi fought in the Kurukshetra war for Pandavas and played an instrumental role in the death of Bhishma Pitamah, avenging his insult.
Devrath:Bhishma Pitamah of the Mahabharta epic was also known as Devrath.
Nazar: Indian belief for effects of the evil eye.
Dhoti: a kind of wrap around bottom worn in India.
Angavastram: a cloth covering the upper part of the body by men.
Cruise: casual gay sex encounters-usually in restrooms, pubs or even by the corner streetlight.
Vanilla: Somene who likes his sex as much as he likes his family values; traditional.
Closet: A gay man who has not told anyone that he is gay.
Twink: A younger, smoother gay man.
Daddy Chaser: A gay man who likes his partner older, richer, not necessarily wiser.
Team Realistoons- You’ve tried to portray a realistic story relevant in today’s times. And kudos for the attempt.
Although the writing is good, I would have liked more dialogues in the initial half as it became too monotonous. The plot was predictable, but the message was loud and clear. Well done, team.
My rating 7.5
I am familiar with the style of both the authors.
And this story has THE stamp.
I knew somehow it was Shikandi. The cover pic was a giveaway. But I guess the intent was more on the interaction and Vyom’s trying to ‘come out of the closet’.
A poignant take on the prompt, indeed.
You hit the nail right. The acceptance was the purpose. Glad you enjoyed our creation .thanks