Monsoon Interlude Fiction

By Basila Hasnain

Everyone was taught Seasons using an anchor chart in her class. It showed a circle bearing all
four seasons inside it, each quarter of the circle neatly packed a season and on the outside each
fraction had an arrow, indicating from one to another a never-ending spin from Summer to
Autumn, Autumn to Winter, Winter to Spring and Spring in turn pointing back to Summer. She
was fascinated by this merry go round of human life divided in segments of seasons safely tied to
each other but never overlapping, never changing their course always predictable and pleasant,
offering a sort of consolation that every change will be reversed once the cycle is over.
Now that the cycle of her pregnancy too was almost over, she was more anxious than ever to
return to her old body, her previous routine, her earlier form. A new branded kurta lay hung on
the hook in her room promising the return to her original size, her real size. She was in her third
trimester, final fraction of the huge cycle. It was already the end of June, the most unapologetic
usherer of a long and scorching Summers in Punjab. As she boiled red lentils in the sultry
kitchen, she felt akin to the pressure cooker that was about to explode anytime. She turned the
stove off before pulling out the pressure cog, letting out steam. It dampened the air even more
making breathing harder for her as her lungs were pushed up to her throat or so she felt at least.
Her body, her mind, everything inside her was stretched to the end of its elasticity, as if the
stretch marks around her thighs, belly and bottom weren't proof enough. Even the sweat drops
trailing down her body seemed to dry up quicker than they could encompass one curve of her
plump body.
She opened the fridge, and a cool wave touched her skin as she took out the mangoes to slice up
and serve after lunch. Mangoes, one good reason to forgive this vindictive summer, she thought
as she sliced the ripe mango with a satisfaction, only she could understand. The sound of
squished slushy insides calmed her tense nerves, and the sweet virgin bite of season's first
mangoes brought her some respite from the heat. She kept pecking along to retain the pleasurable
sensation for as long as she can.
Summers were always there for her right under the thin layer of her tongue, in her desi taste
buds. She loved the abundance of mangoes on the fruit carts, in the fridge, at the juice stalls. She
enjoyed the bittersweet tamarind chutney her mother made in holidays to be served with fruit
chat and dahi bhalay and in case of early monsoon it served as ketchup with the rain hailed
pakora party. Summer slushes and juices were more fancy, brightly colored and sprightly in
tastes. The cotton and lawn cloth prints on display in markets offered more shades than any
winter cloth can dare to. Just the tie and dye dupatta she so loved to wear had so many darker
and lighter tones playing with patterns flirting with a dot a here and a blank there. But this
summer was different. The colors were all fiery in tone. The lentils she cooked, the gold bangles
she wore now a staple of married women and to her a handcuff burning her shackled swollen

She placed the sliced mangoes back in fridge and swallowed the last bite of the mango she was
nibbling happily until now. Suddenly, it has lost its cool sweetness. Was it the nostalgia of her
youthful summers spent at her parents’ house that was casting shade on her thoughts now or just
that, statistically speaking this year's summer was Record Breaking, but then they say this every
year, don’t they? She scorned at the reason. Maybe it was her body that was weighing her down,
her big belly brimmed to spill any minute now. The roller coaster ride from ‘bride to be girl’ to
‘married woman’ and now ‘a pregnant lady’ was bound to make anyone dizzy. Her head started
to thump; her legs got wobbly. She sat down on a nearby chair outside the kitchen, mistrusting
her body. If it’s a cycle then everything will be back to normal, she composed herself and went
back to the kitchen.
The fried garlic chunks were ready to go into the lentil pot now, skinned and chipped
beforehand. Pouring burning hot ghee over a bland paste of lentils is considered the most
essential part of daal desi. It gives an aromatic kick to the lentils making it special in its own
simple way. Today though, the strong whiff of ghee nearly made her puke. Her sharpened sense
of smell was easily triggered ever since she has conceived. It was something that has been
bothering her from the start, but the first few months were numbing with the autumnal winds and
frequent winter colds. Summer does that to senses and so lately it has become more challenging
than the terrible torture of accepting the new medicinal smell of her own sweat she has gone
through in the beginning. She missed the slightly lemony and tantalizing natural odor of her
Everything was changing within her and without too. Not just the colors, smells or tastes of
summer but the whole nature of its 24 hours. They were sprawling, dragging and expanding
every other day. Is it possible that the firmly filled numerical order secured in the round wall
clock over the kitchen door was betraying her? She was told she could go into labor anytime, and
that anything can happen once she’s entered that strange realm of unforeseeable events. She felt
a cramp in her lower abdomen at the thought of the horrors of labor or perhaps she's been
standing too long. She must lie down, there was still time before she's to serve lunch. She
covered the pots and went to her room.
The mound of fresh laundry was lying by the massive bag she was filling for many days now.
Every day she planned and packed some articles of use in her post-partum care bag, she felt a
little hopeful. For once she was glad that her parents in law were as traditional as her parents.
For once their expectations coincided with her own longings. She and the baby will spend the
nerve wrecking first weeks in her parents’ care, the despicable Chilla ritual suddenly seemed
more than desirable. She forgot how she championed the cause of girl’s parents. How she
condemned the oppressive and ignorant customs of dowry and other norms draining finance of
woman’s family. Now it seemed synonymous to Freedom, albeit a luxurious one. Freedom from
this role of a dutiful daughter in law and perpetually cheerful wife. It wasn’t like she had
complaints against her new life as a married woman, but she knew in her heart she wouldn't
mind shaking off this role from time to time, for a short while living like the girl she was at her
parents’ house. She felt a heaviness descend further down into her womb mingled with an urgent

desire to be free from this unbearable weight of her own body, the big round belly she was still
not able to identify as a separate being, an independent individual, a little person, a Baby.
She zipped the bag and picked her cellphone, checking the dates marked on digital calendar and
stole a quick glance at her reflection in the mirror frame of still shiny dressing table. There was
to be a day she would be slim as she used to be. When would that be? No one knows. Not even
her gynecologist, a person she's been visiting and obeying religiously for past 8 months. How
ironic? She felt a new surge of frustration and a pang of pain around her waist. She hoped it was
the notorious labor pains. Up until now no amount of home remedies have been able to induce
labor, she has listened to everyone and has done everything to speed up this final phase, but it
only aggravated her irritation. She was far more excited in the first two phases of her pregnancy
to hold her baby, to name him, to put a face to the tiny heartbeats, to see the child she was
carrying. With summer heat getting more and more oppressive and her body swelling up into a
red-hot balloon, oozing with new fluids she was unable to see the dreamy side of this whole
business. She just wanted to be over it.
After lunch she had a little argument with her husband probably because it was very humid
outside and suffocation inside the rooms apparently bothered only her. With a squabble and
unscheduled electricity load shedding things got more stressful. She stepped out in the porch, but
everything was burning making the lonely tree in their lawn look pathetic and useless. Around
dusk she felt awful and was having unusual pains. When she was eventually rushed to the
hospital, she thought that’s it. After examination, the doctor in her typical stoic tone inquired
about the water bag, the duration and the intensity of the cramps. The EDD and LMP were
consulted again. In a resolved and rather bored tone she was told to go back home and take some
“It was False labor”, her doctor declared casually.
“What's a false labor”, she asked openly agitated now.
Her doctor smiled understanding her annoyance, “It's like a false alarm. Nothing really
happened.” She said in her good-humored style.
“Your body was testing how ready you are.” She added.
“Oh I am ready, doctor. I am so ready and tired. I am only 3 days short of my EDD. And you,
yourself said that expected delivery date is just an accurate guess.”
“That's true, it is. And we never know maybe it will exceed the given date you see. So have some
patience. When it' time it's time.”
“I am so tired Doctor. I really can't take it anymore. Tell me something, anything that I can do.”
“You must wait patiently my dear”, the doctor said calmly and with her perfectly slim fingers
grabbed a pen and started to write some prescription.
“Is there any other option?” She asked taking her hands off the doctor's table, embarrassed at her
sausage fingers pushed out of her pulpy palms and hand.

Well, the doctor contemplated for a minute, then carefully and judiciously said, there's C-section
but you need to think this through and discuss with your spouse and family. Most people have
reservations about operations even as harmless as optical laser treatments, you see. C-Section is a
very common and safe procedure so if you like I can recommend that much. But you must
consult with your family first because in your case it’s not a necessity but just an option. A
The muted hum of the air conditioner in the small office of the obstetrician became a vacuum of
emptiness in that instance. She felt nothing but blankness. Her mind was completely silent.
Despite the temperature outside she felt frozen in this tiny white room. A choice, not an obvious
“I’ll talk to my husband”, she said in a tamed voice. Not mentioning her parents, parents in law-
a possible long debate of defiance and resistance. Something her extremely refined doctor might
not understand. In this moment with her authority, her delicate form and beautiful hands she
seemed above all of this.
As expected at home unlike the clinic, there was no way to silence the commotion. It was a total
chaos. There was no decision, only discussion. Everyone was talking animatedly in the TV
lounge, even the anchor person was seen making loud statements in the backdrop while someone
has considerately used the mute button. There was no consensus despite hours of arguments and
aggression. The temperature in the lounge rose with every new turn in the conversation.
Exhausted after hours of lecturing and in her case listening, finally all of them retired to their
rooms. Everyone was lying asleep deep in the night when the electricity went off, as per schedule
this time. She wasn't sleeping but kept the pretense of sound sleep to avoid more exasperation.
She lay there burning in her own skin, resenting everyone for not supporting her, ruminating the
consequences of a C-Section, her own parents’ opinion, her husband's permission. She kept
following the sound of clock hands in utter silence. It felt like observing a sacred vigil of
incantation. The air conditioners, coolers, fans, hushed dins of fridge and machines every single
thing was lost and forgotten in absolute darkness, as if with loss of visibility they have lost their
presence too. Their voice was subject to their being, but their being was possible only through
their sound.
She knew her back was drenched in sweat and once she'd manage to turn to her sides, her back
will be momentarily exposed to an unpleasant chill. But this will be only a few seconds. Then
her body will be able to restore an overall temperature. A slight discomfort in shifting her
position must be dealt with, or her back will be broken. She struggled and managed to lie on her
left side. She must act. She decided to check into the hospital first thing in the morning. She can't
go on waiting, even another day seemed like an eternal condemnation. And what about the
consequences? Wasn’t she the one carrying all the burden?
With morning a fresh debate on her choice for C-Section ensued upon the breakfast table. A lot
of emotional blackmail, some polite some crude statements, left her overwhelmed by the heat of
family discussions. Everything turned toxic and nasty. Where is all this going? She couldn’t
understand the whole situation. She wondered when will things cool off, what were the weather

departments forecast? Was it the second heat wave? Was there any rain prediction? She just
wanted things to be back to normal. This final stage must have a smooth and speedy transition.
The circle will spin back to a complete turn, like the season chart she has learnt from in
She kept staring at everyone around her as the callous commentary, the negativity, the humidity
rose beyond her tolerance. She was no more the feathery being floating in the air upon the wings
of her will and winds of her whims. She was a rock, heavy, immobile and shapeless, stuck to its
position that has nothing to do with changes in seasons or weather conditions, a load of dead
weight. She pushed forth her thoughts. Rescuing herself from yet another outcome. “I am not a
rock. My body is not my limitation.” She must confront, put up a resistance. Speak.
Right then, with her will to rebel she felt soaked in all sorts of waters coming out of her, defying
the stagnation. A suffusing liquidation. The tiny pearls of sweat sprouting on her forehead, her
upper lips started to trickle down her entire face blending with the rush of tears running down her
cheeks with her wet palms she wiped her face and then grabbed her belly as she felt water
rushing down her legs with a deliberate fervor. She felt as if the slow thawing has ended into a
complete melt down. Her body wasn't an inflexible slab of rock anymore, it felt comfortingly
tender, soft and liquid.
Everyone went silent. Her own lone voice rang in her ears, “My water broke.” Outside it started
to pour.
In the first shower of monsoon, she held previously mysterious weight, now with a face a name
in her arms. Her first interaction with this new human came with a blissful recognition that
monsoon was part of a long warm summer season, a life nourishing touch upon the heat burnt
creation. The predictable cycle of seasons brought a pleasant little surprise, she was gratefully


Published on November 1st, 2022


About the Author:

Basila Hasnain is Lahore based aspiring Pakistani writer. Her stories explore the potential of a moment in the long narrative of life experiences. She hopes to express a range of characters as embodiments of their socio-political and ethnic identities. She is currently serving as a faculty member in Gulberg College for Women, Gulberg Lahore and was previously offering her services in Lahore College for Women University and Government College University Lahore. She has M. Phil degree in Literature and Masters degree in English Literature from Punjab University. As a researcher, her area of interest in Postcolonial Feminism and Role of Language in the contemporary literature. Her research papers on different themes have been published in multiple volumes of the Research Journal of Language and Literature (RJLL).




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