Four Sorties by Hiya Mukherjee

1.How to Wear a Fascist Regime Like it’s Nobody’s Business

‘Hurl the babies! Hurl the babies!’ we shouted in unison once we spotted the patrol van. Our cries ejecting from our frail vocal cords like bullets made out of butter and hit the wallpapers like an intoxicated wasp. The babies were giggling like satanic Centaurs once we started throwing them one by one to the nearby pond. They floated in the air like delicate lilac petals, without contempt, for a while; then slowly sank, prompting not even a ripple. The patrolling guy with his faux leather jacket and exotic cigar case stood underneath us pretending to look for a lost puppy. And we just stood there, motionless, like porcelain gargoyles, pretending to praise the clouds. The sun melted down like honey on our wheatish organs. We were so proud of having survived yet another doom. We felt like we deserved an applause. The sirens were fading with our sweet thuds on the staircase as we rushed to the kitchen for some celebratory pudding. Underwater, the babies were still giggling.

2. How to Follow a Forest into Oblivion without Rousing Suspicion


A gentle stroll through the woods is not always what you expect it to be. Partly because you left your mother’s glacial mouth in spite of her vehement warnings ‘Achtung honeypie! Beware of the strangers!’, and partly because of the soft creatures that lurk in the burrows, looking saintly innocent with their sharpened horns carefully hidden beneath those fury blossoms. But you were adamant and careless enough. You wanted to meet the Husband. Husbands often promise to meet in front of the gate of a certain reserved forest. Husbands often trade their wives in exchange for more attractive boons, like a vintage Harley Davidson or a bowl of stale onion soup. But you went nonetheless. And then the woods became quite expectedly dark and scary, and you started spotting fanged animals on your way, you finally come across the Husband in front of the gate. In the face of your awe, he strips you naked and ties you to a government check post. He ties colorful helium balloons to your hardened nipples. ‘It’s for the stray specters of the forest, you see. They’ll come and want to fuck you for eternity. I’ve made a pact with them.’ And you being you, a humble and dutiful daughter, comply by putting on your mother’s glacial mouth and wait for it to happen while the Husband disappears beyond the restricted area, whistling happily on his newly acquired Harley Davidson, looking for a bowl of stale onion soup.

3. How to Rightfully Whistle ‘Hangman, Hangman, slack up your rope, oh slack it for a while’ Even When Your Tongue Feels Completely Numb.

Embrace fine arts or homosexuality. Opt for the cheaper alternative. Smoke countless unfiltered cigarettes. Drink at least fourteen cups of espresso during your day. At night, shift to Moonshine or some equally obnoxious local variety. If anyone tells you that it’s not healthy, prudishly quote Jean-Paul Sartre. Choose your idols carefully depending on your sex. For girls, she should be Juliette Greco with her kohl-smitten eyes and untamed bird’s nest of a hair. For boys, there’s no use, all your idols are dead and so will you be, sooner than you expect. Your task is to listen to an impossible number of Miles Davis singles while crying uncontrollably and repeating the single phrase ‘la résistance’ over and over. Slowly, start resembling the frail foliage of your mothers’ torso and your fathers’ shriveled neck. Strangle your lineage. Shout obscenities. Fire the therapist. Fuck till your private parts are as blue as a dead rockfish. Lose your progenies to the famine. Tuck their minuscule dead bodies behind your ears like flimsy dandelions. Sigh as often as possible, preferably in public. Fashion a pair of blood-red tea-cup shades, even in the dark. Secretly, invest in a cloning facility. No need to carry a white handkerchief embroidered with the initials of some obscure lover. When the clock strikes, they are going to shoot you anyway

4. How to be a Dutiful Daughter despite the Drought.

She picks up the tricky remains of her Mother one by one and puts them in a mason jar. Mother has been in a state of pathetic disintegration for quite some time now. She picks up the pieces like a person possessed and waits for the Father to return. The Father never returns. The Father is always away on a business trip to some distant African country. She traces a makeshift map of Africa on the refrigerator door with her tongue. It feels cold and impersonal. Mother’s remains complain of back pain from inside the mason jar. She makes out tiny droplets forming on the outer layer of the glass. The sun makes them shine like coagulated rubies ready to burst out anytime. She sweats and tends to the cattle and wonders about Africa. Africa is going nowhere. It just stands there like a gothic window with its rusty panes and hazy glass panels. Nobody is allowed to peek inside. It holds the secrets of the Father like an envious concubine. The cattle become hostile to her touch. The Mother’s remains complain of a diarrhea infestation. The mason jar looks fuzzy. Her head spins as she keeps waiting for the Father. The days are getting longer out here. Nobody has dusted the furniture for ages. She tries the only thing that comes to her naturally. That is, tending to the cattle. Not once does it occur to her why it is always about the Father. The mason jar ceases to complain.




Hiya Mukherjee was born and brought up in Kolkata. She writes mostly in her mother tongue Bengali. She has published a chapbook of her Bengali poems. She co-edits a bilingual bimonthly blogzine called Agony Opera. She is currently pursuing her PhD in theoretical physics.

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