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“And so I told him, ‘not unless the eggplant is as big as your head!’”


Chortling cracked around the room. Mrs. Sheemi raised her visage in a benign smile, her hand tightening imperceptibly around the cup of fragrant tea. She detested the society events of her bourgeoisie friends, who were certainly characterized by their wealth rather than any true companionship they afforded her; entire evenings wasted away by the dredges of self congratulatory wit and shallow, ostentatious displays of wealth were not her idea of enjoyment. In the summer, from dusk until the archipelago of stars allowed her to fabricate an excuse of fatigue, she sat among the chuckling hens in overstuffed dining rooms and dinner parlors. Or perhaps it was the poultry themselves that were bulging with vain self-importance, adorned in spun silks with malevolently glinting jewels gracing their stubby fingers. In her opinion, they lent themselves to an entirely new definition of “well dressed chicken.”


Despite her revulsion, she sat among them, nodding at their unfunny jokes and sipping overpriced tea—but then again, she always did what she was told. Mrs. Sheemi, docile, obedient, Mrs. Sheemi, the doctor’s wife, whose name no one can be bothered to remember, the poor dear, whose existence was only validated through her surname—Mrs. Sheemi, unassuming, dutiful, Mrs. Sheemi, the doctor’s wife, whose name nobody can be bothered to remember…


Little did they know the maelstrom of her thoughts, shuttered behind perceptive brown eyes---the suffocating dove, unsuited to the company of her flightless, egg-laying peers. When the pressure was too much, the crushing expectations of her family too great, the dove would transform, molting her feathers while onyx tipped horns sprouted upon her head.


It was as if evil spirits possessed her, slashing though the gilded cage that served as both her sanctuary and prison, reducing her façade into a crumpling heap while bolstering her tenacity; revealing her true feelings while witling away her rationality. She knew not what her red banner was, but as soon as her temper snapped, the bull would charge, shattering years of careful pretend.


Recently, her youngest daughter Neena had been gorged; after the clumsy child tripped on the stairs and refused to get up and join the party like a proper young lady, Mrs. Sheemi reverted into her basic form with ferocity that shocked even her, and lashed out with a vicious tongue.
“Neena, good little girls do not cry over circumstances they cannot control. Good little girls do not complain and scream and rage until their beautiful little china-doll faces turn blue, because, not matter how well you pretend, no matter how loudly you appeal, no matter how desperately you yell, no one will listen.”



“Good little girls smile and avert their eyes when gentlemen speak to them and are full of wit and joy and sympathy and light and can serve tea without spilling even a single drop. They do not journey away from their gilded cages, because the world can be such a frightening place when you are as defenseless and gullible as a snowy white dove. Stay inside, little bird, away from the harsh rays of the sun (they’ll turn your perfect little complexion dark like a common crow) and sing sweet birdsong….”


After her rage had subsided, she left her sniffling child on the landing and transcended, in a hazy torpor, into the grand ballroom. And there she sat, drinking her tea, laughing at unfunny jokes, surrounded by fakes.
“And then I told Pradeep, this is silk , not organza!”


As she stirred her tea, Mrs. Sheemi prayed her daughter would never be a good little dove.





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