He’s drooling again.
Normally, I’d poke him to make him stop – or even to vent a little of my annoyance – but it won’t do any good this time.
Let’s talk about something else, shall we?
Which paper did you say you were from? Hmm. Photos? Well, everyone involved is long dead, I and my husband are the only ones left, so you can use our real names and take our pictures. I don’t mind.
Him? Ha, doesn’t really matter, does it?
Are you a religious person? I’ve never had much faith, myself. All my life I coasted by on a wave of privilege, I was never in such dire straits that I needed to pray to a saviour.
And now – well, I know that praying won’t do any good now.
Where was I – yes, I was telling you what led me here. From childhood to adulthood, my life had gone by pleasantly enough, without problems, and so it was when I got married. My parents found a self described ‘nice boy’ for me, from a good family – and that was that.
We moved into our own place after the wedding, which is unusual in Indian families, to say the least. He’d said he didn’t want to share me with anyone – not even his parents. I didn’t complain, it was a blessing for me. I didn’t want to repeat the daily dramas of a thousand soap operas in my house, thank you.
At the time, I’d thought his possessiveness was endearing.
That was where it started, of course, though I didn’t see it then.
He’d come home from work and ask me what I’d been doing all day. In that first flush of romance, I didn’t notice how carefully he listened, and if I did, I thought he was being attentive.
One day, in the course of conversation – naturally enough that I paid no heed – he told me the password to his computer. I remember saying only, ‘Okay,’ because I was busy making dinner and had better things to worry about.
‘Won’t you tell me your password?’
I frowned at him, but then, he had told me his password first, so I shrugged, and told him mine.
And three months later, he was picking up my calls, checking my text messages and reading my emails – all because he worried I would leave him for someone else.
You see, he wasn’t too bright, something I’d realised in the early months of our marriage, but never commented on – because, god knows, you never make an Indian male feel inferior to you, even if he clearly is.
He felt it, though, and perhaps I should have been more careful there. But it was difficult, to not talk about the books I loved, or to exclude entire areas of conversation between us because I knew he would not understand. I became a little snappish, a little condescending with him. I don’t think anyone could blame me.
Ha, you spook easy, don’t you? Those sounds just mean he’s hungry, but he can wait a little. The story’s almost done.
So, there we were – him feeling inferior and threatened and more and more scared of losing me by the day, and the tighter his arms got around me, the more I started to pull away, emotionally and physically.
I know what you’re thinking: didn’t you see what was happening? And the answer is, no, not really. Honestly, I didn’t think he was capable of all that he did.
But, as we all know now, he was.
I don’t know where he found it – you can try asking him, god knows I did – but he doesn’t remember, and even if he did, he couldn’t talk to you.
All I know is that one day, he came home and told me he’d brought me a surprise. He pulled a packet out of his briefcase, it had a picture of Shiva and Parvati on it, in their Ardhanareswari avataar. Perhaps that should have alerted me, but then, I had stopped taking him seriously months ago.
He told me it was a blessing from a swami, that we had to mix the powder in water and drink it, and all our ‘troubles’ would be over.
I didn’t really care, I thought it was another one of his silly ideas. I took the glass he offered me and drank it all in one gulp. He waited until I had drained the glass, watching me with hungry eyes, before drinking it himself.
I passed out, then. When I woke up, my head felt fuzzy, and dizziness lingered. There was a strange heaviness in my left side, as well, it took me nearly ten minutes to get up off the floor.
That was when I noticed something was wrong. My legs were strange to me, and it felt like there was a great weight on my back. I shuffled to the bathroom to wash my face, and it was when I turned on the light and looked in the mirror that I saw what my husband had done.
My left side was different, and it took me a moment to realise that my arm was bulkier – hairier – than it should have been. The watch on my wrist wasn’t mine, either, it was my husband’s. When I raised my arm, though, the man-arm in the mirror was raised as well. I pulled away the drawstring of my pants, looked down, and found that I had my husband’s left leg, as well.
Even then, I didn’t understand, I thought he had done something, worked some spell, to make me look unattractive – after all, I couldn’t leave him if no one else would have me.
If you’re wondering what kind of world this is, where I talk of computers and cell phones and magic in the same breath, I’ll tell you that this is the same world you live in. All around us, such things happen, but we’re too immersed in our own lives to pay them any attention.
Ah, the moaning’s getting to you, isn’t it? I guess he wants me to tell you his side of the story, how he was misled, how he never thought this would be the result, how it wasn’t his fault, and how he can’t be blamed, the poor, mindless, stupid little ninny.
Well, he can tell you his story when he grows a mouth.
Because you see, when he performed that spell, my husband fused us. He was so afraid that I would leave him, he bound us together – in flesh and mind – forever.
It didn’t work as it was supposed to, I guess, because I only have his entire left side. Even then, I could have worn full sleeved shirts and pants all the time and still had a normal life.
The problem was the rest of him – his face, to be precise – that had fused itself to my back.
Hah, I’ve shocked you. That’s nothing to when you’ll actually see him. You’re going white now, but you wanted photographs, didn’t you?
Why didn’t I try to reverse the spell? Are you as stupid as he is? Of course I did. Obviously it didn’t work. And well, after a while, I got used to it, and I liked the idea that this was his punishment. Having to go where I go, do what I do – I have complete control over him. The brain’s the most important part of the body, you know, and I’m the one with the brain.
Why didn’t the spell work?
Weren’t you listening? The ardhangini spell – when it works correctly – is supposed to be a meeting of equals – not simply husband and wife, and especially not owner and possession. When one of the two is obviously superior, the spell gets twisted around.
And as I’ve told you before, of the two of us, I’ve always had all the brains.
A/N: The Ardhanareswari concept is used in Indian mythology to represent equality of the sexes – Shiva is said to have considered his wife, Parvati, to be his equal in every respect, which is why they could be symbolically represented as two halves of the same person – but the popular pictorial representation has always creeped me out.
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[music| November: The Wilderness of Manitoba]
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