It's a tricky thing, writing this collection with all these Sri Lankan women. I'm worried that they all sound the same to other people. They're pretty distinct to me...at least I think they are:
- Chaya - who falls bewildered into love and then out the other side
- Savitha - lost in sex and history and the unbearable demands of family, her own body betraying her
- Shefali - trying to subdue love and sex and convention to logic and practicality, which causes all sorts of trouble
- Lakshmi - who plays by all the old rules for almost too long
- Lekha - confidence in motion, the only one who always knows exactly what she wants
- Laila - who manages to find freedom, and wisdom, in compensation for what she walked away from
- Samiksha - trapped in a twisted fairy tale
- Medha - an ugly duckling in love, an old woman satisfied with what she has made of her life
- "Mary" - driven right around the bend
- Sushila - a pretty pretty girl, in the wrong world -- but she seems content enough
- Riddhi - who played by the old rules, and didn't get out in time
- Himali - taking what she needs, despite the cost to others
- Raji - who was only fooled by the fairy tale for one wrong moment -- but who manages to create it again for herself, for real
- Minal - who never really thought she loved him, but learns to take care of herself as a result
I'm not sure how I ended up writing a collection full of people (the men too) who try to ignore their emotions, or lock them up into little boxes, or are paralyzed by them. Though there are also some who throw themselves into emotion full-force. Sometimes the same people, at different points in the story. And at the same time, they're pretty much all strong -- even when they're trapped, even when they don't find their way out of the traps. They're still fighting.
It was very satisfying, drafting the story yesterday (I'm pretty happy with it right now, though I suspect I may (as usual) have rushed it a little). But a little bit sad too, oddly enough. There's only three stories left in my current plan for the dissertation -- after that, it's all revision. And many of the stories are already revised. I've been working on this project, off and on, for at least five years, and you can count it as closer to a decade if you start with "Season of Marriage" (which isn't actually in the collection). I do, very much, want to see it as a finished book. It will be deeply satisfying.
But at the same time...I love these people. They're beautiful and strong, and sometimes a little broken, but still trying so hard, I have to cheer for them. I made these women up, and the men too, and I'm hopelessly in love with them all. How the hell does that happen?
I want to keep telling their stories forever.