Epic Fantasy writer, Laxmi Hariharan, is in the confessional today. Read below about an intriguing meeting she had with a stranger. Then read the excerpt to find out how that secret encounter played into her story.
My secret: How I gave birth to Tiina
The unerring precision of being caught in that act by him sends goose pimples up her arms. She plays it out in her mind, examining it from different angles.
These were the first lines I wrote for The Destiny of Shaitan. It was 2004. Wanderlust had led me to Hong Kong, where I lived in a tiny four-hundred-square-foot apartment (I kid you not! If you have seen pictures of the high-rises smothering the Hong Kong skyline, well I share a secret—they are all apartment blocks. I lived on the eighteenth floor of one such tower.) “Eighteen—lucky number,” the landlord had reassured me, as apparently, was the street address—Eight Hollywood Road. The belief in numerology runs deep in the Orient, with local businessmen shelling out millions of dollars for a car license plate which bears the number Eight.
But I digress, for I am here to share my secret with you.
One afternoon I was walking down Hollywood Road, wearing my favourite pair of thin cotton cut-off trousers, and a baby-T-shirt. In that eighty-degrees-heat the less one wore the better, and I had learnt very quickly that even wearing jeans felt claustrophobic in that climate. Cotton was best, to keep the skin ventilated. Rain had started pattering down, and a slight breeze rising from the sea crept up, enveloping me in its cooling embrace before fading away. I raised my eyes in delight and put out my hand to catch the drops of calm in the palm of my hand. “Thank you, one above!” My phone rang just then, startling me out of my dialogue with the greater force of nature.
“Enjoying your walk?” It was the man I had met last night at the salsa bar. Hong Kong—believe it or not—is a salsa hotspot, and most nights I managed to make it to the gym and then onto a salsa class to give myself over to the rhythm of my heart and the pure enjoyment of becoming one with the music. I was a novice and he was obviously a seasoned dancer. I was flattered by his attentions, and for the rest of the evening we twirled, sashayed and swayed together.
Seemed he was in the bus that had just gone by and seen me. “I saw you talking to yourself” he told me that night. I blushed, wondering why it felt like he had caught me in the act of making love to myself. Perhaps because at that very moment I had been one with the universe, in a very private place, wearing my heart on my sleeve and he had seen a vulnerable side to me that I had kept to myself so far?
There are no coincidences. So what was this? All it had been was an emotional exchange, yet the attraction felt wrong, it felt as if coming from a wellspring of hope which I had not known existed within me.
A gaze, lust. A touch, sizzle. A beat of music, caress. A drop in time, like the rain which chattered down while I had looked up and floated away. Why did it feel so wrong, as if I was cheating on my boyfriend of that time? When all I had done was look into his eyes and felt a connection?
About Laxmi: (In the author’s words) I am a writer, technophile & dare I say, a futurist, with a penchant for chai and growing eye-catching flowers. Wanderlust drove me out of my home country India to travel across Asia, and I lived in Singapore and Hong Kong before coming home to London. My writing is inspired by Indian mythology; I draw from the stories my grandmother narrated to me as a child. It is in acknowledging my roots that I found my voice. When not writing I love walking in the woods with my soulmate, and indulging my inner geek. I would love to connect with you:
If you like my writing and would like to be profiled in my Reader Avatar Series then please email me at email@example.com.
“I could see your ankles.”
The comment feels intimate coming from him. It wasn’t as if he saw me naked. A blush rises into her cheeks, and she is embarrassed at how her thoughts race so far ahead. “Did you like what you saw?”
“I liked that you put out your hand to feel the raindrops and then started talking to yourself.”
Tiina is speechless, like she had been caught in the act of making love to herself.
“I was in a transporter going down to the other end of the city. As we passed Hollywood Road, I remembered you saying that you lived there, and then there you were, walking along not four feet away.” Egreog stares into her eyes. “Do you know the odds of that happening?”
She shrugs, trying not to show how moved she is by the coincidence. “So that’s why you laughed?”
Just then, the music goes up a notch to the much faster salsa beat, and Egreog puts out his hand. “Shall we?”
The unerring precision of being caught in that act by him sends goose pimples up her arms. She plays it out in her mind, examining it from different angles. Every bit of attention he gives her sends her heart racing.
So why does it disturb me so much?
Because I feel like I am cheating on Yudi. I don’t even know if he is still alive, and anyway I’ll probably live to be sixty. So will I only sleep with one person my entire life?
With a shrug, she wonders why that still does not ease her conscience.
Face it; you still have feelings for him.
Yes, but it’s not like we promised each other anything.
About to burst with the war of emotions going on inside her, Tiina comes back to the present and decides to focus on the live band on the small stage at the front of the bar. The Wanch is one of the few places in the city that still hosts live bands; most of the other places prefer to play music electronically mixed by DJs. There are other places, which boast holographic bands and piped-in music, but she much prefers the real thing. It is another reason she loves this bar so much.
The Wanch is named after Wanchai, the most hedonistic of all the suburbs on Java. It displays peepshows, nudes, and neon’s. Various bars with names like The Groovy Mule and Joe Bananas serve liquor and drinks from all over the universe. One can find women with blue eye shadow, unshaven armpits, and greasy, shiny hair. Often, shuffling intergalactic sailors fresh off the spaceships, crew-cut and clean shaven, float in groups, sniffing hopefully for one-night stands. Others from galaxies unknown shuffle in anyway, own-country rejects with fifteen-year-old nubile humans on their arms.