Agni’s Reluctant Body-Partner

Editor’s Note: This story contains footnotes to explicate some terms that might not be familiar to some readers. The footnotes appear at the end of the narrative.

Thirteen. ­­­­

I was blissfully unaware that Maya existed until the day we went to the temple on a hill. In the pay-and-use toilet, I stared perplexed at the bloodied panties rolled down to my shins. They were clotted red, smelling of iron railings and metal rods on the town bus.

Amma told me to hush. She dug deep into the trenches of her handbag and fished out something that resembled a tissue-pack. It seemed like a real-life version of an ad I had often watched on TV but seldom understood. “What should I do?” She let out an exasperated sigh and thrust the half-open Whisper package into my hands. “Read the instructions.” I was thirteen years old.

Amma was a dark, pudgy woman with fat fingers and almond-shaped eyes. Her hair sashayed at her hips as she went about her chores around the house. She wore a thaali with two embossed gold leaves conjoined into a single pendant in the shape of an M; it hung low, the locket pressed between her bosom, tucked safely into the confines of her blouse, only visible when she came out after a steaming shower and just before she draped her cotton sarees. I always thought that thaali[1] was much like her marriage to Appa. Appa, a definite presence in our lives, but whom we never saw except on his annual visits to Nagercoil[2].

Amma was a Tamil teacher. Independent and obsessed with the pronunciations of zha, na, and other tricky syllables in the language, she turned every cooperative student into a tongue-twisting Tamil typhoon. She was a reluctant mother, absorbed in her world of teaching, gardening alone, correcting her students’ papers, and cooking. Appa worked in Singapore, as a store assistant in a Tamil departmental store. He sent letters in Tamil that displayed neither affection nor curiosity about our life here. They were painfully factual, ending as soon as they began. The longest was eleven words.


Your exams are approaching.


You are turning twelve.


You are a woman now. I am coming this year.

There was no ‘Sincerely, Appa’, ‘Love, Appa’, ‘Best wishes, Appa’ on any of them. Despite that, I wrote detailed paragraphs about school and my friends, agonised over the right stamp to stick on the letter (B.R. Ambedkar’s or the newly released hummingbird stamp?), and sent them to Singapore. I chased after the postman every week for months until I realised that I would never get a response. And, I didn’t. By the time I was twelve, I gave up. I poured my heart out in my diary instead.  I wrote about what had happened at the temple on the hill and I gave her a name — Maya, the mystery.

In the days that followed, I graduated from wearing long skirts and blouses to cotton half-sarees[3], with an extra cloth that covered my upper body. This cloth signified who I was now. A woman ready for marriage. A woman ready for intercourse. I woke up one morning, and to my absolute horror, noticed a curly black string of hair on Maya. I couldn’t eat or drink anything. I couldn’t even bring myself to go to school. I feigned acidity and stayed back at home, examining it in the bathroom. Eventually, I bought a pair of scissors and cut it out.

As the months went by and Maya wept red, more hair appeared on my vaginal mound. And suddenly, it seemed she had hidden depths, layers upon layers of skin, loose and tight. I hated it. Every time I showered, I wished she would go back to the way she was. Smoother, cleaner, easier to navigate, not bloody for those five days.

It wasn’t just the blood — during my period, my lower abdomen would cramp in pain. For an average performer in school, period-induced mood swings meant that my internal debacles reflected on my report card in the form of poor grades in red.

Amma, without a second thought, would coldly call Appa and tell him. And he would send a terse letter. The latest one read, “Agni. Your mathematics grades aren’t good enough.” I crumpled the letter and threw it away.

Despite being independent, Amma always told Appa everything – disagreements in the staff room, the extra classes she gave before Tamil exams, my schooling, who we met at weddings, invited home for dinner, and held a grudge against. I never understood the need for her to report that we had drumstick[4]sambar[5] for lunch.

Sometimes I pitied Amma for having to relentlessly perform her role and live up to Appa’s expectations. The roles and rules were very clear. Amma and I were occupants of this house. Appa was the owner.  Amma was a tenant in their marriage, Appa, its owner. It didn’t leave me with a rosy picture of marriage.



I was sitting on the back porch, massaging my scalp, thinking about how happy my best friend Nila had looked on her wedding day. My married twin cousins Asha and Kali were with me, on a ‘break’ from their in-laws’ families. Nila’s wedding was the perfect excuse for us to congregate as adults. After an exhausting round of pallankuzhi[6]and evening coffee, we were lazing around. Asha drew kolams[7] on the concrete floor, using leftover chalk I had foraged for her from Amma’s drawer. Kali stared at the black cat that was attempting to jump off a ledge and onto a branch.

“Agni! Where are you?”

Heavy anklets jangled. It was Nila.

“Come inside. Ukkarunga[8]” I heard Amma say politely. So Nila’s husband was here too. She might have insisted that they meet my family before leaving the town. She ran up to me and giggled, “Agni, won’t you ask me about my first night?” then hesitated, seeing Asha and Kali with me. Before I could reply, Asha said, “Of course! Tell us all about it…”

“I had sex!” Nila whispered excitedly. I was happy for Nila.

Jubilant. Curious.

“How did you do it Nila?” I asked.

“What do you mean how I had sex?!” she said indignantly, withdrawing her hand from mine. I was as confused as I was when my mother had waved the Whisper package at me. Asha chimed in, “I think she means the mindset. I was extremely tired on my first night after all the wedding rituals. But I wasn’t going to let go of the opportunity!”

I looked at them and resorted to sign language, pointing to Nila’s vaginal area. “Yes, but… how do you have sex?”

“Agni, you’re the one who used to stay back late after classes and loiter in the dark with Rana! Do you want us to tell you how to have sex?!” sneered Kali.

Awkward silence.

I wanted to scream and cry like a baby. Instead, I said, “Yes, but I didn’t have sex. I was too scared. Tell me Nila. How was it? Does it hurt…?”  “Yes, a bit…but it wasn’t too bad,” Nila said dismissively and went on to describe what had happened, now focusing on Asha and Kali. There were giggles and meaningful pauses and gestures from the three of them. I felt excluded.

Despite it being an arranged marriage Nila said she had no qualms in getting naked with him because he was warm and welcoming. Asha described how her husband struggled with unhooking her blouse, and Asha, not wanting to wait simply unhooked it for him. Kali was disappointed that she and her husband hadn’t been having sex lately because of his night shifts at work.

“Now do you get it Agni…? With that thing and this thing,” Nila said, pointing to her vagina. The girls roared with laughter.


Later at night, I wrote my thoughts down. How did all these girls have sex with a stranger they had met only once? How was it any different from my awkward fumblings with Rana that Kali and Asha had been shocked by? My words, scribbled in Amma’s red correction pen, sounded angry, confused, jealous. But this was all between the two of us – my diary and I, in an English Appa would never read and Amma would never understand.


I met Rana when I was nineteen. He was tall and dark, his hair wavy, his eyes peculiarly green for a Tamilian, and his angular jaws too sharp for his face. His features were a testament to his mother, who came from up north. Rana was nineteen too, studying to be a doctor in Madras. He was visiting his grandparents, our neighbours, for the summer.  Unlike me, he enjoyed mathematics and was hosting free classes from his grandparents’ front porch. Amma’s continuous nagging brought me there, to him.

Our relationship went from platonic to non-platonic very quickly, which involved me introducing Rana to Maya. Not that I ever told him I had named her. I diligently read English books that detailed the acts of intercourse and I was excited to try them out. But Maya, my loose and tight friend, was unrelenting. Every time we tried, I failed.

Rana said that as a medical student, he understood my discomfort and reluctance, and suggested that I meet a doctor and get myself checked. I choked with disappointment and anger. I scribbled away in my diary yet again.

“I will never be able to have sex!”

“Is something wrong with me?”

“I think it’s his legs. They come in the way.”

Two months later, I bid farewell to Rana and watched as the train chugged out of the Nagercoil station. Honestly, I was relieved.



Nila now lived in Dilli. I learned through Amma who was told by Nila’s mother that Nila was pregnant. If all went well, Nila would give birth in November.

“I cannot believe Nila is going to be a mother at the age of 21,” I noted in my diary in blue ink.

In the college library, I pored over numerous books about human anatomy and sex columns in newspapers. Weeks trundled into months, and each day I learnt something new about the female and male sexual organs. And then I discovered a process: masturbation.

That night I locked myself in the bathroom, peeled my panties off my hips, and let them droop and coil into a cotton mass on the grey, but dry bathroom floor. I inserted a finger into my obscure, mysterious, reluctant body-partner, Maya. I pushed my left little finger in, and it went up smoothly. I could feel my finger moving past a soft layer of warm flesh. The softness reminded me of coconut flesh in the summer and like the petals of a hibiscus flower.

Following the advice of ‘The Madras Sexologist’ in the newspaper, I dabbed Parachute oil on my left hand for lubrication. With confidence brimming, I tried again but with my index finger. Halfway through, I felt an obstruction. A tougher flesh that wouldn’t move. I pushed it a bit more and nearly cried out in pain. Fear jammed my ears and deafened me with a shrill ringing. An inexplicable discomfort tugged my stomach as if a bomb had been dropped unceremoniously. My hands turned cold. I washed my hands with soap and wiped them dry.

I couldn’t talk about it with anyone, nor could I be silent. My married friends didn’t seem to have a problem with sex. My unmarried friends were too shy to discuss a vagina, let alone masturbation. Nila was an exception, but she was simply too far away from me.

No one knew what I was going through. I wrote. I fought my tears and buried my face in my pillow.


On my walk from the bus stand to my college, I saw newly plastered film posters on the wall outside True Blue Theatres, in which white women clad in black bikinis stood with their legs wide apart. Their hands were strategically placed on the chests of hairless white men with six-pack abs. For months I gawked at them through the scorching heat until the monsoon rains peeled them away leaving a few scraps of the posters and its tough glue on the mildewed wall.

On a breezy monsoon night, imagining the film posters, I decided to attempt masturbating again, but this time with more precision. I had read more and understood better. I unhooked the red palm-sized face-mirror from the bathroom wall and found a steel torch with a yellow light bulb from my stationery drawer. Raindrops pittered and pattered on my window. I drew deep breaths and lay down on the bed. I spread my legs and lifted the hem of my skirt. I held the mirror with my left hand, shone the torchlight into Maya with my right, and saw the reflection while leaning on the bedpost.

It was a tunnel that seemed very similar to the thoracic cavity but had not been used the way I did to eat food. It unnerved me to realise that I was thinking about food. I inserted one half of my lubricated left index finger while looking at the reflection on the mirror. I touched something and felt a bit of pain. But I didn’t withdraw my hand. I examined it.

It was a light pink onion-like sheath. I tried to move it around, but it wouldn’t budge. A sudden epiphany flitted around and perched in my gut gently like a butterfly. Was that my hymen? A pink onion sheath. Pink. Onion. I rubbed the thin film again with my fingertip and felt the familiar ear-jamming pain. I burst into tears, retrieved my finger, and shut my eyes as if looking at Maya anymore would turn me into smoke.


In the middle of my third year in Physics, Appa called to announce his annual visit. His exact words were: “Find Agni a suitable boy.”

My fear skyrocketed, not at the thought of my absentee Appa’s arrival, but at having to get married to a stranger and let him explore Maya and her vagaries. Even as I prepared for my final semester examinations, I thought long and hard about running away from home; but what good would that do?

Eventually, I decided to do the unthinkable.


Five AM. The morning was misty, and through the slats in the bedroom window, I saw Amma’s outline in the dawn light deftly moving between her plants, cutting this, binding that, plucking mangoes, and picking flowers. This was Amma at her gentlest. When she was in the garden, she cared for more than she did for me. Quickly, I splashed water on my face and went out to her.

She was squatting on the ground, her cotton saree draped across her shoulder and around it, covering her otherwise midriff, upper back, and neck. Modest, as always, even with no one around. My stomach tightened, and my throat felt dry.

“Amma, how does one have sex?”

She turned around and looked up at me as if she couldn’t believe her ears. Her kajal-rimmed eyes seemed to bulge in horror. She let go of the half-grown hibiscus plant she was replanting a couple of seconds ago.

“Wha—” she spluttered, punching a thick, ringed finger at me. “How dare you, Agni!”

A chill ran through my body and spread to my hands and feet. Suddenly, it all came rushing past. Appa’s two-sentence letters, Amma complaining about me. Loneliness and Whisper packages. Onion sheaths and Parachute oil-smeared fingertips. I wanted to shrink into an ant and crawl away.

My reaction seemed to compose Amma. She turned away and said offhandedly, “you will learn how to please your husband when you get married. For now, focus on college.”

I burst out, “Amma, I don’t want to get married. I want to study.”

“Oh? That’s what I said just now. Education it is!” she said splashing water on the new sapling from an aluminium mug.

“But Amma, why can’t you tell me how it is done, you know? Sex, I mean.”

She banged the mug on the floor and looked up at me, this time in real anger. Some water from it splashed and fell on the tomato roots nearby. “I am not surprised at all! You watch all kinds of nonsense on TV and read those disgusting western books in which they all do this, and now you’re rebelling against us! Your parents! You’re twenty-one years old Agni. Twenty-one!”

“Amma, first of all… When did I rebel? I asked you a question, and your answer wasn’t even related to it.”

“Why don’t you go back to your western books and movies?” Amma snapped, “I am a poor old Indian mother watering plants in your garden, trying to see if the mint would sprout two more leaves. What do I know of these things? These kids who read too much want to know everything, even before getting married. If you are in such a hurry, pesaama kalyanam panniko[9]—.”

“I haven’t even asked you the main question yet, ma,” I said as tears welled up and fell in salty rills down my cheeks. I didn’t want to cry, but there it was.

“What is it?” she asked suspiciously.

“Amma, I have a problem with my vagina.”

“Vag…? Chiiii[10]. Don’t say that word like that! Anyway…what problem? Come to the bathroom. Kaami[11]. Let me see.” she floundered.

“Amma, I am a grown woman! I want to show it to a doctor!”

“What problem is this? Is it that bad that you have to show it to a doctor? And besides, the gynaecologist who has come to the city hospital is a man.”

“I… I cannot insert my finger into it”

“Why are you inserting your finger there?” she nearly screamed. “Those bloody English movies I tell you! Once you get married, it will be fine.”

Something inside me snapped. I wanted to be out with it. I wanted to free myself from this predicament, even if it meant Amma had to squeeze her thinking into a differently shaped box that didn’t involve Appa, denial, or detachment.

“Amma! Getting married is not the solution to everything! And what English movies? I want to see a doctor. What if something is wrong with me? I do not want to worsen it by not acting on it!”

Amma shook her head and fell silent staring at her rosebuds. “No, I have to think about this. We don’t show our body parts like this, Agni.”


A few days later, she asked me obliquely, “Do your friends have this problem?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you ask them. They are your age. Nila has a child. Asha and Kali have two each.”

“I am not comfortable, ma,” I said truthfully. “They judge me a lot. By the way, I hope you haven’t said anything to Appa.”

“What makes you think I will tell Appa?”

“You always report to him about everything. Yesterday, I heard you tell him that Raja mama[12] has got a boil on his foot!”

She looked defiant. “Huh. I haven’t told him about this, and I won’t. Happy?”

Relieved, more like. “Yes, happy,” I said.


The days passed. The thick wall between us was crumbling, brick by brick. One day, as we folded up the laundry, still warm from the afternoon sun, she said, without looking me in the eye. “Agni let’s go to the doctor in a different town. I don’t want people gossiping about us.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. This was Amma rebelling Appa in her own small way. I sighed and agreed. Internally, I was terrified.


We were called into the doctor’s office. Dr.Rati was seated at her desk, her wiry silver hair twisted up in a knot. She was wearing a pale pink linen saree with turquoise birds along the border. Quite the kind Amma liked; I resisted the urge to ask her where she had bought it from.

I explained my troubles hesitantly. The nurse took notes. Amma fidgeted in her chair, seeming to not know how to react. I wanted Amma to know that this wasn’t a sensitive topic anymore. It needed to be spoken about and dealt with.

“Okay, let’s see inside you.”

I stiffened.

The nurse showed me to a changing room after which she demonstrated how I should sit on the chair. Dr.Rati smiled at Amma and drew the curtain, separating Amma from us. I lay down with my legs spread out, discomfited by the thought that I might unexpectedly get my periods or have bodily liquids flowing out of me.

The nurse handed the doctor a speculum from a sanitised white tray. Dr.Rati brought the speculum close to my vagina. I shot up and sat upright and crossed my arms around my knees. There was simply too much metal, and the device looked frighteningly huge.

“Agni, I’d need you to open your legs like before, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to see through your vagina. This doesn’t hurt. Trust me. Take a deep breath.”

My calf muscles and legs trembled as I sat back in position, my legs spread out like a cockroach pretending to be dead, upside down.

Upside down. Skin-side up. Open up. Onionskin. Parachute. Hush.

Upside down. Skin-side up. Open up. Onionskin. Parachute. Hush.  

I bit my lip and closed my eyes. I felt vulnerable and scared.

Dr.Rati inserted the speculum without warning.

I shrieked.

“What’s the matter, Agni?” she said, startled.

“I… inserting even a thin object like this hurts,” I said and looked at her helplessly.

I felt my lips twitch, and a hot liquid poured through my eyes and nose. I cried.

Dr.Rati didn’t react. She handed me a couple of tissues and waited for me to wipe my face and calm down.

“Have you been sexually active?” she asked.

“Yes, and no. He couldn’t enter me. He was able to finger me though. This was almost three years ago,” I said, blood flushing across my face. I felt Amma’s presence on the other side of the curtain. My secrets were spilling and flowing across the room like milk from a pan on the stovetop at home. Secrets that would stink if they weren’t cleaned immediately.

Dr.Rati brought out a smaller speculum. I spread my legs out once again. A few teary attempts later, she could see inside me.  She asked me several questions about my sexual health and history, my partners, my knowledge of sex, and my idea of marriage. The hour-long session felt never-ending and I was relieved when Dr.Rati led me out.

I returned and took the seat opposite the doctor’s, next to Amma.

“This is a clear case of vaginismus.”

“What? What disease is that?” asked Amma, even before I could react.

“It is a condition where the vaginal muscles tighten out of stress and impede sexual intercourse. Calming the person down is not going to help.” said the doctor, looking straight at Amma.

“It will be alright if she gets married,” said Amma without missing a beat.

“No, no, it isn’t that simple,” said Dr.Rati and shook her head. She turned to me. “I am sure you have questions, Agni.”

I gulped.

“Is this like a… a sexually transmitted disease?”

“No, not at all.”

“Is that why I am unable to…masturbate?” My heart was pounding.

“That could be one of the reasons.”

“How do we fix this? Will I forever have this…this vag-in-ismus… problem?” The familiar feeling of being choked came back to me. The more I tried to hold myself together, the more my chin quivered, and the ends of my lips trembled.

The doctor said “Don’t lose heart, Agni, there’s nothing in this world we cannot fix. I could teach you some vaginal exercises.”

Unexpectedly, Amma gave me her handkerchief with scalloped edges, and the nurse handed me a steel tumbler of water. I took a swig and wiped my tears, but they wouldn’t stop. I snuffled and tried to regain normalcy.

“Is this..n-no-normal? Does this happen to everyone?”

“I haven’t had many patients with this issue, and each body is different from the other. That said, it is happening to you now. Let’s focus on that.”



In the six years since my visit to Dr.Rati, I transformed from a twenty-one year old wary of inserting an oiled index finger, to a woman who could insert two fingers into her vaginal cavity. Amma began loosening up too. She accompanied me on the monthly visits to the government hospital and took notes for my vaginal exercises. She never questioned me about Rana. Although it made me uneasy, I was comforted by her silence. It gave me the space to grow, like an untamed creeper in her garden, spreading its vines, clinging on to railings.

The vaginal exercises were working, and I was making slow progress. Every month I examined Maya; I was filled with newer inspirations. A dragon fly’s gossamer wing. A piece of saran wrap. A swimming jellyfish or the body of a wiggly-sweet palm fruit.

I was teaching English at Amma’s school. We were a fine balance. Our worlds met in the thick dictionary both of us sought for help. Tamil to English, English to Tamil. It collided in the language staffroom at school, in the drama clubs between characters of Shakespeare and Bharathiyar[13]. It reared its head in the garden when I said ‘Hibiscus’, and Amma said ‘Chemparuthi’[14] in Tamil.

I embraced the changes my body was going through. I stood against the mirror, turned around, and let my long mane, now as long as Amma’s, oscillate at my hips. I walked like her. I related to Amma and understood her in a way I had never thought I would before.


Amma didn’t tell Appa about the vaginismus. He treated me like a contract he had to work for. Initially, there were numerous marriage proposals but over time, they dwindled. Some found me to be well-read, some considered me old. Some were convinced that something was wrong with me because of the previous rejections.

As brief as his letters had been, anger and disappointment flowed out of him when he spoke. I became used to his long tirades. “Twenty-seven is too late. You should be a mother to a six-year-old already.” He would mutter, “Look at Nila. Her daughter is already six, or seven… Your cousins, Asha and Kali, they both have children too. Boys, that too—”

“Podhum[15]!” said Amma suddenly, one day. “Is it her fault that people find her intimidating, well-read, or confident? We have to wait and give her the hope that there’s a life beyond and outside of marriage. These days women achieve so much. She is not one of your contracts – is she?” Her rebellion was unexpected. It startled me and shook Appa.

He retreated into the guest room and stayed silent for the rest of his visit, only coming out to have his meals. Six days later, when he left, he suddenly grabbed Amma’s hand and said, “Sorry, Indu”. Before she could react, he had climbed into the Ambassador that drove him to the airport.

Amma cried afterwards. Her stiffness decreased, like a droopy flower in her garden. She showed me all the flowers he had given her when they were newly married, carefully pressed between Tamil storybooks and fat cookbooks. She let me read their letters, written by Appa to her in chaste Tamil. Appa sounded like a true romantic.

“What happened since then, ma?”

“Appa had to find work in Singapore because we did not have any money. But his boss, Muthaiah forced him into signing a thirty-year contract to work for him. Paavam [16]Appa.”

“Muthaiah sir?” I gasped. I felt bad for Amma and for Appa too.

“Yes. We stayed here — he was there, and we just…grew distant. I told him everything that happened every day, in the hope that it would make him feel closer to us…but it didn’t. At some point, I grew weary too. We stopped writing to each other. You were still growing up and I was so lonely…We are still together because…we are expected to be together. He visits because he does not want anyone thinking he left us in the lurch. Is there love between us? I don’t know anymore.”

“Amma, have you spoken about this with anyone?”

“No, Agni. This is too personal. In this town, even the walls have ears.”
“Oh, Amma, but…”

“That’s how things are, Agni.” She said, her old brusque manner returning, “I can talk about this to you because I see you in me. Anyway, do you want tea?” She got up and made her way to the kitchen.

I sat in silence as I processed this information. Amma, Appa, and I had all been lonely in our own miserable ways. At least, I had had my diary. And now, Amma.

After Appa returned to Singapore, he stopped calling entirely. Amma spent most days in the garden for a few weeks. I gave her some space and took charge of the household.



I sat in my bedroom on a gloomy evening draped in the twilight. Sheets of rain slid across the windowpane. Sweat trickled across my neck and into my blouse. I had just masturbated. I attempted it four more times, just to be sure. I could insert more than three fingers into Maya, my vagina. I cried out loud and writhed in feral pleasure, disturbing my neatly made bed.

It was cathartic. My tears were a salty mix of joy and sorrow, confusion and clarity, worry and relief, neither overshadowing the other. I showered and waltzed back to the living room, like an intoxicated teenager.

Amma entered the house drenched in rain. Her peacock blue saree was muddy and wet at the hem. She smiled, wiping her bare feet on the doormat. Something was different about her too.

“Agni, your Appa wrote me a letter,” she said, waving a slightly damp inland letter in her hand.  It had been four years since we saw or spoke to him.

“After all this time…” I smiled.

Amma blushed as she slipped a finger in to open the letter.


[1] Thaali – An auspicious thread sometimes worn in yellow or in gold by Hindu women in Tamil Nadu to signify that they are married.

[2] Nagercoil – A town in the southernmost tip of mainland India.

[3] Half-saree – A traditional dress worn mainly in South India by young girls between puberty and marriage.

[4] Drumstick – A long, slender vegetable of the Moringa Olifera tree.

[5] Sambar – A lentil-based vegetable soup cooked with tamarind broth and spices.

[6] Pallankuzhi – A traditional Tamil game of mathematics, played on a wooden board with circular pits,    using seeds or shells as counters.

[7] Kolams – A Kolam is a geometric line drawing composed of dots, lines and loops, often drawn outside homes as they are thought to bring prosperity.

[8] Ukkarunga – (pl. with respect) Please be seated.

[9] pesaama kalyanam panniko – Just get married, in Tamil.

[10] Chiiii – An expression of disgust, in Tamil.

[11] Kaami – Show, in Tamil.

[12] Mama – Mother’s brother is addressed as mama in Tamil.

[13] Bharathiyar – A Tamil poet

[14] Chemparuthi – Hibiscus, in Tamil

[15] Podhum – Enough, in Tamil

[16] Paavam – Poor, in Tamil.


Swathi Sriram is a Berlin-based freelance writer and editor. She writes poetry, prose, personal essays, short stories and flash fiction. A children’s book she edited is forthcoming. Her works have been published in Commonwealth Writers (a poem about the coronavirus), New Asian Writing (a poem about summer), Berlin ArtParasites (a poem on hope), and YouthKiAwaaz, (a personal essay on living with parents as an adult). She loves to read and write about the nature. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s gardening or browsing Goodreads for, well, good reads. She writes short stories on her blog at and would love it if you subscribed to it.