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Teen Author’s Work Published Posthumously To Much Acclaim: An Excerpt

rudrakshi bhattacharjee

An excerpt from the book, This Is How It Took Place by Rudrakshi Bhattacharjee.

Imperium

I don’t remember my sister in the same way everyone else remembers her. I remember her as pinches on the sides of my thighs at the dinner table, sour breaths in the morning when she would crawl into my bed and whisper to me, her words falling on my face with the gentleness of a spider weaving its first web.

I can still see her at age four, her smooth brown hair in two ruffled pigtails, wearing a bright yellow shirt my mother dressed her in and crying because the other kids at school told her she was a freak.

The way that I think everyone remembers my younger sister is by her deformity, but even calling it that is an exaggeration. She was born with a small ball made of skin stuck to her ring finger. It was hardly noticeable; it blended in with the calloused finger behind, but nevertheless she was labelled before she could even speak. My parents tried to remove that small ball of dead skin because they couldn’t bear to think that she could possibly be bogged down by something so lifeless, that their second child, their last hope before Dad’s vasectomy, could be born with a defect.

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I can still see her at age four, her smooth brown hair in two ruffled pigtails, wearing a bright yellow shirt my mother dressed her in and crying because the other kids at school told her she was a freak. My mother stands there, like some sort of hopeless apparition fidgeting with those fingers, and finally kisses that small ugly ball of skin before retreating to my father and talking about meeting a doc the next day for surgery.

But that stubborn ball of skin grew back and sat perched on her ring finger, watching us with a sort of vicious pride. You can’t do it, it said, you can’t change her. My mother took the ball of skin on my sister’s ring finger as a sort of personal attack. Your daughter will never marry, it told her. Your daughter’s finger will never allow a ring, never
allow a man.

When I think of her though, I cannot see her in the way everyone else does. Eyes twinkling with smooth soft smiles as if she is hoarding a joke you just told.

In spite of all this, my sister was loved. No one pitied her, the ball of skin did not garner that; everyone liked her. It was impossible not to, especially when you met her for the first time. Clear face, thick eyebrows, eyes wide and crescent-shaped. It was like seeing a wayward child composed of an adult’s jaws and cheekbones.

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When I think of her though, I cannot see her in the way everyone else does. Eyes twinkling with smooth soft smiles as if she is hoarding a joke you just told.

When my parents speak fondly of her, and they say things like she had such a sweet face or her hair was so beautiful, I feel a sort of vehemence rise within me that wants to scream but her eyes were so far apart or her eyebrows were so thick or once I saw her slap a five-year-old.

But I cannot; see, it would be a form of sacrilege before her funeral.

Image Credit: HarperCollins India/ Rudrakshi Bhattacharjee

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Excerpted with permission from This Is How It Took Place, by Rudrakshi Bhattacharjee, HarperCollins India. This collection has been published posthumously.