Moving from Partition-driven deserted ruins to another kind of deserted ruins: an archaeological excavation in India’s Deccan Plateau where, as Anika, our protagonist tells us, “there should have been no bones, where nearly everyone was cremated.” The prose here is languid and beautiful, drawing us into the dream-like world Anika lives in with her friend and coworker, Carine. They’re digging up ancient bones and tablets and piecing together the unique language and story of their female owners. Then, a male expert from “the institute” shows up and everything changes. Woven into the present-time story of these three characters, we have the myth-like narratives of that ancient community of women who lived in secret when they were meant to die. I hope this is part of a larger novel that we will soon get to read in its entirety because I want to live in this world longer than this piece allows.
First published in The Offing, 2019, and available to read online here