A Cage of Desires by Shuchi Singh Kalra is the story of Renu’s  poignant journey of self-exploration and how she learns to stand up for herself. An excerpt:

Thunderous applause filled up the hallway as Maya walked through the entrance beside the stage. It was a moment hundreds of her readers had been waiting for. The place was so jam-packed that there was hardly any space to breathe. Crowds of people craned their necks to have a look at her or to click her picture. She looked resplendent in a translucent black saree and a bare-backed glittery blouse— just like everyone had imagined Maya to be. Her hair was styled in natural waves and even without too much makeup, her skin looked luminous. She walked in a confident gait to the sofas placed in the centre of the stage, but only she was aware of the nervous flutters in her chest. Leave alone addressing such a huge audience, she had never been on a stage before. But now was not the time to flinch. She was about to begin writing a new chapter of her life and give her destiny a direction she’d never thought she could.

Akriti squeezed her palm as she led her to the sofa, and Maya smiled at her. Even though Ravenhouse hadn’t published Maya’s book and for all technical reasons, Akriti wasn’t supposed to be there, but there was no way she would have left her friend alone at such a critical juncture of her life. She knew that behind that diva-like facade was a shy, nervous woman who hadn’t been out in the big bad world for a long time. And Renu wasn’t prepared to leave her either, not after what she had done for her. The frenzied applause from the audience did not die down even after Maya had seated herself on the sofa, with the session moderator on one side and Akriti on the other. She knew there would be difficult questions coming her way and she was prepared. There was nothing to hold her back now.

She knew there would be difficult questions coming her way and she was prepared. There was nothing to hold her back now.

‘This is an important moment in your career,’ the moderator said cheerfully.

‘Yes, even more so in my life,’ Maya replied confidently.

The crowd in front of her was now a noisy blur and all her attention was focused on the conversation. She was aware of the media covering the event and this was her big chance to establish her persona as Maya.

‘We are all very happy to finally meet the woman behind our favourite bestsellers. What took you so long to come out?’

‘Let’s just say, my reality was holding me back. I was someone’s wife, someone’s daughter-in-law, a middle-class woman living in a close-knit society. Now I am none of those things. I am just a mother to two lovely children,’ she said proudly.

‘Don’t your family members approve of your genre of books?’

‘No, they don’t.’

‘What if you have to make a choice between writing what you do and playing the various roles a woman is supposed to play? What would you choose?’

‘Like I said, I have already made my choice. I chose my craft. My role-play is done with, and I have only myself to be now.’ Maya’s voice grew more and more confident and triumphant as she spoke. Sitting beside her, Akriti was grinning with pride. She had known Maya would pull this off but never had she imagined that the timid, middle-class housewife she knew, was the same bold and confident woman that sat next to her on the stage!

She had known Maya would pull this off but never had she imagined that the timid, middle-class housewife she knew, was the same bold and confident woman that sat next to her on the stage!

Renu’s heartbeats had settled to their regular pace and she sat back while answering the moderator. She had passed the test, done the unimaginable. Until that moment, she hadn’t realized how far she had come. It sank in now, when she heard it from herself, not just in written words, but her voice too.

(Excerpted with permission from A Cage of Desires by Shuchi Singh Kalra, published by Penguin, MRP Rs 250, PP 232)

Feature Image Credit: Penguin.co.in

Also Read: The Aromatic Saffron, From Marryam H. Reshii’s The Flavour of Spice

Love books? Follow authors? Join the SheThePeople Book Club On Facebook. Click Here

Get the best of SheThePeople delivered to your inbox - subscribe to Our Power Breakfast Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook and on YouTube, and stay in the know of women who are standing up, speaking out, and leading change.