'Desire is a strange thing.'
'It wells up uninvited and goes missing when most needed.'
Mohua Chinappa's book Nautanki Saala And Other Stories took shape as 'little writings on Instagram'.
It features 15 stories inspired by moments that transpired in her life, and the people she met over the last two decades -- from the early 1980s to the 2000s.
'I had trepidation. It had my fear of not being read,' she says. 'It also had my thirst to tell stories of people I had met years back and had never left my mind since.'
Her battle with an autoimmune disorder, which left her immobile and handicapped for over a year, taught her lessons of endurance.
'After 15 years of being a housewife I had no place in the world of working people.
'Till I rose again, out of the darkness. My protagonists held my hands, nudging me to write.'
Her stories are as real as they can be, but Mohua has resorted to a few creative liberties "so that the stories stay in your heart long after you have finished reading them."
'I had to tell the stories of migrants, the crazies, the odd balls and the intellectuals I had met in my life,' Mohua says.
'Instagram word limit reduced them, and I had to write the details limitless.'
Presenting an excerpt from Mohua Chinappa's Nautanki Saala and Other Stories where a wife remains nonchalant about the lack of intimacy in her marriage.
The last sliver of the evening sunlight broke into her dreary existence.
Ranjana sat naked in her room, caressing her changing body, basking in the golden light.
The silver-white stretch marks on her stomach shone like the dunes in a desert.
The mirror reflected her curves and her hair rested between the curve of her back and shapely hips.
As she lovingly touched her stomach and her face, she heard the car pull up. She heard his footsteps.
Nervous to be naked in her room, she snapped out of her reverie. She hurriedly put on her bra, the hooks were half done and she picked up a worn-out kurta.
Within seconds, she donned the role of a dependable wife, doting mother. That was her refuge from desire.
When she bent, the kurta parted just enough to give her a glimpse of her curves. The same ones that had once turned men to jelly. A long time ago. She turned away.
There was no point in dwelling over the past. None of it mattered anymore. She urged herself to be grateful for the home, a family.
Her desires were for another life, which are now brushed under the carpet.
She greeted her husband Karan with a gentle smile as he entered the house.
"Hey, beautiful! It's been a long day at work. Would you pour me a drink? Did you see the e-mail from school?" all spoken in one breath.
Their house was the largest in the neighbourhood. Her room's window overlooked the lake.
It was a household of two cooks, two drivers, two cleaners, a gardener, and a guard at the gate.
The cook switched off his phone, the driver stood up, the guard lowered his eyes when Karan arrived.
Just like the airport luggage belt, everything was automated like a machine when Karan entered any corner of that large house.
All the things in Karan's hands were taken away like clockwork. Everyone spoke in hushed voices.
This eagerness to please begins the moment he returns home from work. Everyone hovered around him, eager to be all ears and eyes to his comfort.
When had this complete unspoken subordination become the norm? But there seemed nothing unusual about this system in place.
The cook had been trained to serve the tea at the perfect temperature to his liking. His rotis were done to his taste and preference. Karan could not be displeased. They understood that without being told.
Every time the cook handed Karan a glass of water in a tray, which he usually ignored, Ranjana recalled the day she returned home after undergoing a battery of tests at the hospital.
No one even noticed that she needed a glass of water. She got used to taking care of herself and never complained.
She kept reassuring herself that she had more than other women. She had a credit card with an unlimited credit balance.
Her wardrobe had the best designer clothing, the perfect yoga wear, and her hair was shiny and healthy.
The only thing missing was the spark in her eyes and no amount of mascara could camouflage the loneliness.
Despite all the material comfort, the sum of them all was as empty as a waterless well, hollow even to her existence.
Karan asked her again, "Hey beautiful, did you see the e-mail from school?" Ranjana smiled and said, "The net connectivity is terrible. It keeps buffering."
She had learned that word from her millennial child, her daughter Myra. She was immediately drawn to the word; buffering between spaces of reality and desire.
Myra was critical of Ranjana but very accommodating with Karan. He basked in his daughter's adulation.
Myra often chided Ranjana for her hair colour and how she must not forget how old she is.
Ranjana smiled when Myra slept peacefully in her room, watching her young daughter.
Myra wished Ranjana was like the other mothers of her school friends. But Ranjana knew Myra would understand her buffering. All the fluctuations and the smoothening that came with it. One day.
Before her marriage, Ranjana was an avid reader, and Freud's many theories resonated with her.
The truth was that most men desire the whore and worship Madonna. They marry a Madonna, but f**k the whore.
She had grown adept at making Karan feel like he was in control.
The sex was lukewarm, but they were both used to the pretense so it made things easier. She was demure like Madonna.
Like all usual evenings, Karan had his single malt and played his favourite tracks. His new venture was growing and it made him happy.
Ranjana did not drink that evening -- Myra had school and she had to be up early to get her ready.
Karan pulled Ranjana closer. Alcohol mixed with the recent business win makes for a heady cocktail.
He opened her blouse and groped her breasts. Ranjana did not feel desire, but she allowed him to touch her.
She gently nuzzled his ear and purred, "Will you wait for me to be satisfied too?"
He did not listen, nor did he register. He poked a finger into her tummy with his manicured nail and said, "You have not been working out?"
"Yes, I have, just that the PCOD messes with my hormones." He didn't reply. He went at it.
She lay under him recalling the new recipe she had learned from the new cookery show on television.
When he was done, he rolled off her. Her legs were sticky with his semen. She got up from bed and wrapped herself in the sheet.
As she got up, she saw Karan's paunch resting on the side, his hair over his shut eyes with the blissful ignorance of Ranjana's desires and wants. Karan snored.
The house was quiet at this hour. Ranjana changed into her nightdress, combed her hair, and sat on the couch in her bedroom.
The evening was still and the stars were burning in the clear sky ahead.
Ranjana opened the window allowing the cool air into the room. She was glad to be undisturbed in her thoughts.
But fear gripped her heart as she sat by herself and asked questions in the silence.
Ranjana pulled out her laptop and wrote to her best friend: Why is it that desire is so patriarchal? Why are orgasms reserved mostly for men?
Why is a man allowed to be fat yet desirable and a woman not?
As she closed her laptop, Ranjana remembered Murad. She had first met him in the first year of college. He was her college senior.
They had sort of bumped into each other. Ever since then, he followed her around, till she gave in to his relentless pursuit.
Murad couldn't keep his eyes off her, desire was writ large on his face whenever they were together.
He had the most innocent eyes with a voice that made Ranjana weak in her knees.
He chose not to pursue academics and become a musician. He paid for his college fees with the money he earned playing music in small cafes and bars.
His earnings were meagre. Ranjana attended all of his gigs. After the gig, they both would go to Murad's one-bedroom home.
They cooked, listened to music and he would touch every inch of her body and heart with his undying quench of loving her.
Ranjana was happy with Murad. But she knew her mother would never accept a Muslim boy.
To top that, he was also a musician -- one who did not earn enough, not for himself, let alone both of them. They had to end it sooner or later.
Ranjana still remembered his strong hands that had held her the day she told him she was getting married to a businessman who her mother said would look after her well.
That day remains like a photograph in her memory, when she told Murad that it was over. He sat quietly.
In a feeble tone, he said he would go back to his hometown in UP.
As Murad kissed her for the last time, he held her head against his chest and then slowly let her go, his eyes brimming with tears as he said goodbye.
Desire is a strange thing. It wells up uninvited and goes missing when most needed.
Ranjana decided to quell her vagrant thoughts for the moment, tied back her hair, slapped on some lip balm, and chose to, for the moment, hide behind the veneer of normalcy in her home.
Her breasts had grown softer and her belly was thicker, but, in her head, Murad desired her just the way she was, invading her thoughts when she least expected him to.
How do you voice your desire in a household so firmly patriarchal?
She knew her home would fall like a pack of cards if she embraced her desire that still longed for Murad's touch.
The torment of all these questions made her uncomfortable and simmering anger made her body warm on the cold winter nights.
To calm her raging mind and the innumerable unanswered questions, she quietly walked out of her bedroom.
She put her feet in a puddle of water in the manicured garden of her large home. The cool water calmed her head.
She decided to not think of things that won't change ever. Murad won't be back again.
Karan was too dry to feel the expanse of her emotions. She closed her eyes and let the water heal her.
In the many years of her marriage, Ranjana could not decide if she was the Madonna or the whore to Karan.
But for this moment, she felt safe as she juggled her dual identities, trapped at one end but free to live an alternate life in her head, far from the reality of her drab day-to-day living.
Her perfect life where unhindered thoughts must be bridled from not running amok.
Ranjana knows that a happy home is the onus of the woman in it. Whores don't make homes as her mother says. Murad and orgasms must wait.
According to a survey by a medical portal, 72% married Indian women said they were dissatisfied with their sex lives.
Excerpted from Nautanki Saala and Other Stories by Mohua Chinappa with kind permission from the publishers OakBridge Publishing.