• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 03
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Two minutes before his promotional meeting at the International Equity Derivative Structuring office, Avalok held in a fart. There was no time for the Men’s Room and the pressure to keep it in was causing him anxiety. It often appeared when he least desired it: in bed with a lover, stuck in a lift, at a crowed city bar waiting for a beer. Inside his fear of farting was his upper caste tight-skinned, light-skinned mother’s voice. Don’t you do that. That’s very bad! It’s disgusting. Now, as Avalok waited for his report to print, he felt his nails digging into his thighs. Stop it now. It’s purile! We’re a good family. Don’t you make a fool of of us.

Before she died, Ma had been the queen of the Dawalbhagta household. She was the lightest skinned in the family and could pass for white with her hair and clothes styled. In that town in the south of England where they had moved when he was six, Ma was always putting on airs. Praised for her ‘exotic eyes’ and newly cut English accent, Avalok's Ma learnt to walk straight-backed and glorious into spaces he could not. A free leg of lamb at the butcher’s, an invitation to the church fete, a wink from the market stall man. His father, admiring of and disconcerted by his wife’s easy assimilation, called her 'My Royal Blue Peacock.'

Avalok had a Harvard MBA, a first-rate Royal Bank of Scotland job, and Tina the good-looking accountant on speed dial, but he often felt the shame of not being like Ma. Now as he made his way into the all-white board meeting, he couldn’t stop her voice. Don’t you embarrass me. He was seven with a bad stomach, pulling at his mother’s cardigan as she discussed plant varieties with Mrs. Kendall. He had made such a bad noise that Ma twisted his arm and dragged him to the nearest toilets to slap him. Sorry Mrs. Kendall. So sorry for that. Sorry Mrs. Kendall. Then, How dare you do that in front of Mrs. Kendall? Don’t ever do that to me again. Chi! You dirty nasty boy.



Later, Mrs. Kendall’s son had backed him into a wall. Hey Paki, Paki. Does your bum smell of curry? Let’s smell. Fucking hell.

"The figures in this report are absolutely brilliant. Well, all that’s left to say is …"

He got the promotion. Handshake with the boss. Handshake with the boss’s boss. Handshake with the HR lady and then Prrrrrrft. The boss farted. Oh, the sweet release! Big enough to be heard, big enough for the HR lady to joke, full belly laughs and, ‘He that smelt it dealt its.’ He laughed too, ashamed at first, but then so mirthful that his body allowed a private contribution of its own. Avalok whistled and looked outside. Beyond the thirty-fourth floor of that boardroom window, a royal blue bird shimmered into being, sharp beak and beady-eyes, before disappearing in a plume of smoke.