An exclusive excerpt from Sanghamitra Bose’s Unbelonging – Stories We Never Tell – A collection of South-East Asian tales (Published by Readomania, 2021), which narrates stories of loss, betrayal, and trauma that transform into conflicting emotions of guilt, longing, and sorrow to the extent that the protagonists are forced to re-examine the very foundation of their being.
An Excerpt from the story, Redemption
“The sand slipped and slithered through her fingers. Laughing, she tried to close her fist, but the sand was too slippery. Tiny sparkly particles left her hands and slid away towards the ground. She walked on, leaving a trail of black sparkle in her wake. Her feet moved lightly on the rocky path, up from the beach towards her attap (palm frond) roofed house on stilts. All the houses in her Kampung (village), were on stilts to keep the sea water at bay. During the dry months, livestock and farming implements would be kept under the house. The goat tethered under hers, bleated out a greeting as she bounced up the steps to her single room abode.
Her mother turned towards her with a huge smile. “There you are, Sayang. Look who is here to meet you.” Siti saw her maternal uncle seated on their single rickety cane chair. He worked in an agency in Jakarta, one that supplied domestic workers to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.
“Selamat Pak,” she bowed her head respectfully.
“My my, how big you have grown, Siti. Now sit down here, I have a proposition for all of you.” Her uncle proceeded to expound on his proposal, whilst her mother and grandmother listened intently.
Siti was confused with all the words being flung about around her. Singapore, job, dollar salary, were all strange and unknown for her. She had just finished school and wanted to study nursing at the neighboring town’s college, as soon as she could cajole her mother into paying for it. Now Pak was talking about her working in Singapore.
“But what about my nursing course?”
“Pah, you can do all that and more once you save money from your Singapore job,” her uncle said with a loud laugh
And so, it was settled. Siti was packed off to Jakarta with her uncle and in a few weeks to Singapore. But before she left home, her grandmother pressed a small drawstring bag into her hands.
“What is this, Nenek?”
“Our sand, Sayang. Our beautiful black sand. Our magic dust. To remind you of your Kampung, of your Ibu-mother and Nenek-Grandmother. And to always protect you from the world” her grandmother said, with tears in her eyes.
Siti awoke with a start. Where was that bag of sand? She pulled out her battered suitcase from under the bed and rummaged in it. Ah, there it was. She took the bag out and gently opening the drawstrings, put her hand in. The gritty sand felt welcome to her touch. It swirled around her palm and crept into the crevices of her fingernails with familiarity. Siti drew her hand out and found it covered with black sparkles. Bringing her palm to her face she drew in a deep breath. She could smell the salty air of her faraway beach. Siti felt an immense peace settle onto her being.
“Siti, you awake or not?” Sonya’s strident voice sliced the morning calm.
Hastily closing the drawstring bag, Siti slid it under her pillow and walked out of her room towards the kitchen. Then she stopped and turned back. Pulling the bag out again, she took a largish pinch of the black sand and put it into the pocket of her long shorts.
That day, as Siti went about her chores, she would periodically reach into her pocket and run her fingers through the black sand. Its gritty, familiar feel made her smile and reminded her of her carefree Kampung days.
Sonya took Piya to school and back. Piya was not happy with this change in routine. Mummy did not pick flowers for her and when she tried to chase the birds, Mummy chided her for being a baby. Sonya too was not happy with this additional task that she had taken on. Maybe she had been too hasty in her decision. She did not want Siti to step out of the house, but that meant that she, Sonya now had to walk in the afternoon sun, to fetch Piya.
Feeling hot and bothered, Sonya went in for a shower as soon as they reached home that afternoon. The cool water tempered down her angst somewhat. Reaching for her loofah, she lathered up and started scrubbing herself. Then she noticed it.
A fine sparkly black dust seemed to coat her arms and chest. Puzzled, Sonya looked closely at the loofah. It seemed clean. She pumped some more shower gel out. That seemed clean too. Sonya looked up at the shower head. There appeared to be traces of black dust on the shower head. She reached out and with her fingers swiped a few particles off. It was sand. But black in colour.
Where had it come from?”
Excerpted with permission from Sanghamitra Bose’s Unbelonging – Stories We Never Tell – A collection of South-East Asian tales (Published by Readomania, 2021)
About the Book
Un-belonging narrates stories of loss, betrayal, and trauma that transform into conflicting emotions of guilt, longing, and sorrow to the extent that the protagonists are forced to re-examine the very foundation of their being. Set against a backdrop of South East Asian communities, their unique nuances are interwoven into the fabric of each story as they explore the concept of emotional displacement brought about by life experiences.
Be prepared to be taken on a journey through South East Asia and a whirlwind of emotions as you read this book.
About the Author
Sanghamitra Bose lives and works in Singapore. An MBA from MS University, Baroda, she has held leadership positions in several industries such as Hospitality, Financial Services, Education and Travel.
Sanghamitra has travelled widely and lived in China, Singapore as well as various cities in India. A lover of history, people and cultures, Sanghamitra gave wings to her passion for writing in 2015. Her first short story was published in the anthology, Tell Me a Story by Penguin India. Since then her stories have been featured in anthologies such as Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas and When They Spoke, both published by Readomania.
Her travels in South East Asia have helped her experience different cultures. Her new collection of short stories, Un-belonging, reflects her deep knowledge of South East Asian communities and her nuanced narration skills.