Beloved Rongomala (An Excerpt) by Shaheen Akhter

Published in the South Asian Literature in Translation issue of 91st Meridian, co-edited by Daisy Rockwell and myself.

The squabble resolved Raj Chandra’s doubts about intercourse. But it was Phuleswari Rai who paid dearly. At three months she lost the child; the blood flowing out of her was unceasing. Heera could barely keep pace, changing the bedclothes and washing her clothing. Phuleswari had grown so pale her skin looked like chalk. Heera fed her hornbill fat from tiny clay bowls, and fresh pigeon blood. Amulets and talismans covered her. The physician from Lamchor sent by Kali Charan Guha had gone back. It was a battle between the god of death and human strength. Old wives’ remedies and brews were their only hope now. After completing her daily ablutions, prayers and offerings to the gods, Mother Shumitra came to sit at Rai’s bedside, careful not to touch her in this state of impurity.