Anyone who has a blog knows that one of the most interesting aspects of blogging is seeing what google searches have led people (often inexplicably) to your blog. For example, someone got to my blog by searching how to injure yourself on a woodshop planer. I’m afraid I can’t help you there — I don’t even know what a woodshop planer is, though I did take woodshop in 7th grade and was always a little nervous using the circular saw.
There are searches for a particular type of woman, most of which don’t really apply to me, like pakistani girl with biceps (well, I am trying to work out more) and desi girl lovely breast (who? Me?) and some that might, like sheba karim poser (I like to think I’m not, but I’m open to discussion). There are also a few searches relating to South Asian diaspora angst and identity, such as desi parents are the worst and difference between pakistani girls and pakistani-american girls.
And, since I’ve just edited the lit erotica anthology Alchemy, the Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories 2 (check it out on Infibeam here or Flipkart here), for the Indian publisher Tranquebar, a lot of the searches that lead to my blog are now related to erotica.
Some are simple, like asian erotica and erotic books from India, and some more imaginative. Someone searched for sensible erotic indian story, which begs the question, what is a sensible erotica story? Perhaps one in which the sex is within marriage, and the wife, having made her husband fresh chapatis and a vegetarian meal low on oils and fats but high on taste, artfully unwraps her sari in a dimly lit room so she may engage in pleasurable but non-kinky intercourse with said husband?
There was a search for pakistani high society rape sex erotic stories in urdu. I’m not even sure what to say about that. And a search for erotic stories about muslims kidnapping white girls which I imagine would involve a harem, and maybe opium. There was even a search for erotic literature involving women and household pets (sorry, Muffy).
There are depressing ones, such as show the hindi rape scene when the man is tight the hands and legs and remove all the clothes and the raped on girl /women.com and women who wear tight clothing only have themselves to blame–disturbing, and also sadly pertinent to the current conversation about rape that is happening in India, which, at times, can hardly be called a conversation.
And there was a search that made me smile. It was will sukhmani meet himanshu again by sheba karim.
Last winter, Femina, a popular women’s magazine in India, contacted me to see if I would write a story for them. But there were strict requirements – “The story has to be about 2000 words, and will be published in three episodes about 600 words each, in three issues of Femina. Each episode has to end in suspense, which will keep the reader interested and curious about the next installment.”
A story that would appeal to Femina readers with strict word limits and every episode ending in suspense – a fun writing exercise, I thought. All right, we’re on.
Will Sukhmani meet Himanshu again? I leave that up to you. But I thought I’d repost the story here (the installments were published in the June 28, July 12 and July 26, 2012 issues of Femina).
A Little Time for Yourself
For Himanshu, I dressed in miracles: a miracle bra, which transformed my small cleavage into deceptively more than a handful, a pair of miracle stockings, the kind designed to make all your post-baby belly fat magically disappear, miracle black heels that were two inches above my comfort zone but made my legs long and thin, an understated black dress, three silver bangles, expensive jasmine attar that wafted subtly from my pulse points.
Arun wrapped one arm around me, drew me close. He was as strong as he was when we first started dating, his exercise regimen of running and weight training unabated after all these years. “Biwi ho to aisi,” he said, kissing my hair.
My husband was intelligent, attractive, disciplined, and reliable. We had a lovely, good-natured daughter named Maya and a well-appointed flat in Defence Colony. Arun was a management consultant, on track to make partner at his firm, and I worked at a literacy NGO. We were a good balance of earning money and bettering the world. I loved him. Why, then, had I just spent two hours dressing for another man?
Not that there was anything to feel guilty about. It was normal to want to look good for an old flame, and Himsanshu wasn’t even that. He wasn’t anything, really, not even my friend. I’d only met him twice. The first time was at a party in Hauz Khas village. The friend who’d invited me hadn’t arrived yet, and nearly everyone was speaking French, so I’d gone out onto the terrace, which was empty except for a guy smoking a joint. He had the purposefully unkempt look of an artist, khadi kurta, sandals, jeans, beaded necklace, a thick leather bracelet on his incredibly sexy, dark, lean forearms.
“Want some?” Himanshu asked, holding up the joint.
We finished it and kept on talking. He was a photographer, but needed to make more money. One of his ex-girlfriends had also been named Sukhmani. “That woman made love like a storm,” he told me. “It wouldn’t be over until she’d completely destroyed you.” And, soon after, I found myself telling him how I’d been spending a lot of my time recently caring for my mother who was undergoing chemotherapy, how I felt guilty that sometimes I resented her for being sick.
He touched my shoulder, and just the weight of his hand made me delirious, weak-kneed. Was this what people meant when they spoke of instant chemistry?
“It’s not selfish,” he said, “to crave a little time for yourself.”
And, without thinking, I leaned in to kiss his smooth, thick lips, but my friend showed up and said we had to leave for another party, her mother’s driver was waiting to take us downstairs. I said goodbye, hoping he’d ask for my number. He didn’t.
I saw him again five months later, at an art opening in a gallery in Neeti Bagh, talking to a blonde, lithe woman who would never have a need for miracle bras or panty hose. A few minutes later, after I’d downed a glass of cheap red wine, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “I was hoping I’d see you again,” Himanshu said, and I could tell he meant it. “I wanted to ask for your number, but I had a girlfriend then.”
“And now I’m yours.”
We refilled our wine glasses and went toward a shadowy corner of the garden. We talked again, the conversation flowing easily, like old friends.
“Can I tell you something?” he said. “I’ve never wanted to kiss anyone as badly as I wanted to kiss you that night on the terrace.”
And, without thinking, I leaned in, and so did he, and then we were kissing, his arms around my back, his finger in my hair. I felt that kiss everywhere, small, joyous vibrations in my heart, the small of my back, even the tips of my toes. Then my phone went off inside my purse, and I knew without looking who it was.
“I have to go,” I told him. “My boyfriend’s here.”
I left Himanshu in the garden and went inside the gallery to find my boyfriend. Arun and I have been dating only three months, but we were already making half-jokes about our future, how many children we’d have, where we’d live. When I found him, in front of a black and white photograph of two boys flying kites on an old Delhi rooftop, my knees were still trembling, and, worried he’d notice, I kissed him right away, with such intensity that Arun said, “Let’s go home.” And we did go home, and I’d never doubted I made the right choice; I had sweet, responsible Arun. I couldn’t have given that up for some dark, mysterious photographer.
But I never gave Himanshu up completely. Arun and I had good sex, though less of it as the years wore on, but there had been more than a few times when I’d lain beside him and fantasized about what would have happened if I stayed with Himanshu that night at the gallery. Most of my fantasies involved us having sex. Sometimes he undressed me right there, in that garden, while people got drunk inside, oblivious to our moonlit passion. I kept tabs on him through google and facebook. I knew he’d done well for himself, that he’d started designing screen-printed t-shirts on the side that now sold at fancy boutiques in Europe for 50 euros. I knew what his old cat looked like, and his old girlfriends, and I’d stared at some of the photos he posted from his prolific travels, bustling Bangkok streets, stark Ladakh landscapes, the rich green textures of a Panamanian rain forest.
And then his status update mentioned coming to Delhi and without thinking I sent a message inviting him to our party. He replied saying he’d stop by and all of sudden, it became real. I was going to see Himanshu again.
The guests started to arrive. Every time the doorbell rang my stomach did a backflip, but it was my college friends, or Arun’s, or friends from work, or Arun’s junior consultant colleagues, who always drank too much and stayed too late, or my cousin Rashmi who’d returned from art school in New York with a lip piercing and a girlfriend. I told myself to stop listening for the bell, that he probably wouldn’t even show up. Why would he come to a party where he didn’t even know anyone?
I was two glasses of champagne in when Rashmi said, “Who’s that guy?”
I turned around and there he was, dark-eyed, lean, scruffy beard, wooden, tribal bracelets on his sinewy, strong forearms. He came toward us. He still moved with the same easy, sensuous grace I remembered, and had often wondered would be like in bed.
“Sukhmani,” Himanshu said. “My god.”
Arun’s deep, rumbling laughter rose from across in the room. Someone started playing Ek do teen on the stereo. Glasses clinked. I was frozen, the words trapped in my throat.
Rashmi stuck her hand out. “I’m Rashmi.”
Say something. Stop acting like you’re fourteen again. Himanshu watched me for a few moments, then said gently, “How are you?”
“Shall I show you the bar?” Rashmi inserted, and, finally, I woke up.
“That’s okay—I’ll show Himanshu the bar,” I said. Stepping past her, I gestured for Himanshu to follow me out of the room, and we made our way through the crowd of people dancing and singing to the music. Tera karoon din gin gin ke intezaar, aaja piya aaye bahaar.
I led Himanshu to our expansive, elegantly manicured garden. He let out a soft whistle. “Lovely home you have. And lovely daughter—I saw a photo of her on the shelf.”
“Thanks. She’s with Arun’s mother tonight. Should we sit?”
We settled into the jhula’s plump cushions. Himanshu picked a pink blossom from the kachnar tree and presented it to me. “You should wear it,” he said, and I stuck it behind my ear.
“Stunning,” Himanshu declared. Was he talking about me, or the flower? I watched as he emptied his pocket and began to roll a joint with his long fingers. How many times had I imagined those fingers on my own skin?
“You’re quite the success with your t-shirts,” I said. “French Vogue!”
“It pays the bills, allows me to pursue my two loves, photography and travel.”
“What about women?”
Himanshu brought the joint to his lips, licked the paper, all the time looking at me. And it was just like it was before, electric, as if you’d get shocked if you touched the air between us. It was only a matter of time before someone came out to the garden. But I didn’t dare move. Besides, we were doing nothing wrong.
“And you?” he said. “Still saving the world?”
“You really do look stunning.”
“That’s because I’m wearing more than one item of clothing that has the word ‘miracle’ on the label,” I confessed, and once again I marveled at how easy it was to be with Himanshu, to open up to him, as if we’d been close friends in a past life. Himanshu lit the joint. We smoked, listening to the crickets, painfully aware of the distance between us. If I just moved my hand a few inches, it would touch his thigh. But who was I kidding? I would never do it. Would I?
Emboldened by the hash, I broke the silence. “Himanshu, do you ever think about—“
I didn’t respond. Himanshu turned to me, and said, casually, “About making love to you?”
I sucked in my breath. “Yes. Us—about us.”
“Close your eyes,” he told me, and, without thinking, I did. “You’re at an art opening, and you see this woman who’s been on your mind about since you met at a party months ago. She has the same warm, smart smile as your 6th class teacher you had such a crush on, and eyes you could drown in. You go up to her, and the two of you go outside and talk, and then you kiss. Her boyfriend calls, but she stays with you, and you keep kissing, and it’s fireworks, Diwali in your heart, and you take her in your arms and take her home and make love to her all night, make her come again and again. You start seeing each other, and she breaks up with her boyfriend for you. The problem is that you’re very good at the beginnings of relationships but terrible at middles and ends. You don’t like to stay in one place to long, you’re frightened of commitment, there’s too much to see, to explore, to photograph. And she finds out the sad truth about you, that you’re a passionate lover but a terrible partner. Even though you tell yourself you probably won’t find a girl as smart or sexy or charming as her, but you still end up hurting her, because that’s who you were, in your 20s, and it’s only recently that you’ve started to change.”
He stopped. I opened my eyes, and he grinned at my expression. “Buzz kill?” he joked. I smiled, uncertain if I was happy or sad.
“Arun’s a lucky guy,” he continued. “This is what happens to boys who turn into men too late—they miss a lot of the good ones.”
My eyes were suddenly damp. It’s amazing, how tears can surprise you. “And whoever you end up with will be lucky, too.”
“Let’s hope.” Himanshu stood up. “I better go. I have two more parties tonight. This city is a social time suck. It was good seeing you.” He took the flower that had fallen out of my ear and set it on my lap. “Goodbye, beautiful.”
Arun would come looking for me soon, but I stayed for a while anyway, rocking back and forth, thinking it was better that life worked out like this, that the things that might have been were also the ones that were never meant to be. Then I heard Arun’s happy, hearty laughter calling out to me from the kitchen, flicked the joint butt into the grass, and, wiping my eyes, headed back to the house to rejoin the party.