Formations –A Short Story by Mona Dash - 2018 - The Asian Writer Short Story Prize 1st prize
Formations by Mona Dash gives us a deep look into generational conflicts in an Indian family living in London. In the household live a couple married for eighteen months, her father and her very dedicated to Hindu traditions mother. Chaya is their youngest daughter. Her mother invokes prayers in the hope this will induce pregnancy. Dash shows us the mother’s various explanations for her daughter’s infertility. Both have been checked and there is nothing medically wrong.
No daughter could be anything but very uncomfortable having a conversation like this with her mother:
“Don’t worry, it will happen soon.’ Rukmini wants to reach out and stroke her daughter’s face, so delicate, fine-featured, to hug her slim body, which she takes to the gym every other day, but her daughter stands a foot away, her shoulders slumped.
Chaya laughs cynically. Rukmini knows that laughter. The one Chaya launches into whenever she feels lost and it is so often that her youngest child feels like this. Quick to despair, quick to lose hope, as if the grief was only hers to bear, as if no one else could understand.
‘How soon is soon for you? It has been a year and half already.’
‘What does Satyan say?’
‘He is fed up, Ma. He says if it has to happen it will, but he can’t take this stress any more. He thinks I am being obsessive, and all this is adversely affecting his work.’
‘Why don’t you go to another doctor?’
‘He just said we should give it up.’
‘Another doctor could help, maybe an IVF…’
‘But my gynaecologist is the best, don’t you get it?’ she stomps away again.”
Earlier in the story we learned the mother fears their might be ghosts around their house somehow blocking conception.
The mother decides a change of diet and a puja might do the trick:
““She thinks for a while and decides she will do a puja to drive away the ghosts. She will cook Chaya meals with warming Ayurvedic ingredients, then her daughter will surely conceive. She needs to eat some food cooked with love, food from her childhood. She writes her list for the time they will go to the Indian area to stock on groceries”.
Of course one has to wonder what is going on in the bedroom-are serious efforts being made? We observe the couple’s conversations about sex. Chaya knows just when she is most fertile and insists they have sex twice a day then. Sometimes in a role reversal she insists on sex when he does not feel like it.
Dash has given us a very good look at Family dynamics. I enjoyed The food descriptions a lot.
Then plot takes a twist i never saw coming, a shocking Development. One that brings on a serious set of possible outcomes.
Mona Dash’s “Fourmations” shows us two generations of a family, bringing them vividly to life.
Hopefully much more of her work can be featured on The Reading Life.
This story is part of our Short Stories by South Asian Women Project
Mona Dash writes fiction and poetry and her work has been anthologised widely and published in international journals. She has a Masters in Creative Writing (with distinction) from the London Metropolitan University. Her work includes ‘Untamed Heart’ (Tara India Research Press, 2016), her first novel and two collections of poetry ‘Dawn- Drops’ (Writer’s Workshop, 2001) ‘A certain way’ (Skylark Publications, UK 2016) Mona was awarded a ‘Poet of excellence’award in the House of Lords in 2016. Mona has also participated in readings in venues such as Lauderdale House, Nehru Centre, the House of Lords, The Library, Yurt Café all in London and in literary festivals such as Leicester Writes, Durham, Rochdale and Wolverhampton Literature festival. Her short stories have been shortlisted and longlisted in various competitions such as The Asian Writer, Fish Short story, Strand International, Words and Women, UK, to name some. Mona leads a double life; she is a Telecoms Engineer and a MBA and works full time in a global technology organisation. Originally from India, she lives in London.