Nahal Fiction - aaduna in exile spring 2021 issue, Vol. 10 No. 1


Meet the Author

Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP

Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP is a professor, poet, flash fictionist, and children’s writer. She teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. Anita has two books of poetry, one of flash fictions, four for children, two edited poetry anthologies, and one edited nursery rhymes anthology. Her third book of poetry, What’s wrong with us Kali women? is set for release in August 2021 by Kelsay Books. Two books of her works are prescribed in a course on multiculturalism at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. Originally from New Delhi, India, Anita is the daughter of novelist Chaman Nahal and educationist Sudarshan Nahal. She lives in the US with her son Vikrant, daughter-in-law Sumona and golden doodle, Cashew.  

For more:

Chapter 1 and 4 excerpts from


Anita Nahal’s


Finally, She Showered

A novel in onegin stanza and prose


{Circa 2017 and back and forth, and back and forth}



All morning it had been raining, except for the hour or so when the wedding procession danced towards the entrance of the hotel. Priya’s son, Avijeet was getting married. It had been fifteen years since she had decided to leave India with her young son to create a peaceful life for themselves.  She could feel her heart knocking as she placed her right hand on her chest trying to calm it, with the left adjusting her sari pallu making sure her midriff was not visible. Standing at the tall glass windows on the second floor of the hotel just before the procession began, Priya heaved a long sigh-- relief and apprehension amalgamated like an uncomfortable mixture of tea and coffee in the same cup. Pursing her lips, hugging herself she swayed side to side like a swing in a gentle wind. It was still drizzling, lightly…very auspicious omen…the rain that is… at least that’s what India’s old wives’ tales echoed no matter if everyone got drenched with the bride’s make up running and the groom’s turban dripping!

Folks were running around everywhere trying to complete last-minute stuff and her texts were endless.

“Do all the men from our side have their turbans tied?”

“Has the second pundit for the wedding ceremony arrived? Did he get some tea and cookies?”

“Did you order an Uber for the pundit who came this morning for Avijeet’s turban ceremony?”

“Did you pay the make-up women?”

“Mom, where are you? The photographers want all family members outside. Come quickly.” The last text from her blessing, brought her out of here revere, and she turned and hastened out picking the pleats of her sari. Her gold pencil heels sparkled through glass reflections. This Cinderella may not have found her prince charming yet, but her son could be a shinning one for someone.

Two Indians now Americans, who originally belonged to two Indian states, Punjab and Bengal were to be married that day. Well, also included was a bit of the state of Haryana from where Avijeet’s father was. Priya and her son were Punjabis, and she was reluctant to give the father much credit.

Avijeet, tall--six feet--broad shoulders, sensitive eyes, with a full warm smile was a deeply caring young man, who moved to the US with his mother when he was barely fourteen wanted to have all the bells and whistles of a traditional Indian wedding in the US, including sitting on a horse. America did not disappoint. The horse was a huge, light grey one decorated with ethnic Indian cloth embroidered with mango leaf motifs in gold and other colorful threads. Apparently, there were some farms in NJ, where they lived, that especially trained their horses to tackle an Indian wedding. The horse shook his head often, seeming to enjoy the sound of tiny brass bells sewn into a padded cloth that was tied around his head. H wase not wearing blinders. As the procession neared the makeshift gate of flowers and twinkling lights, Avijeet got off the horse and danced in joy and abandon. The horse owner followed, also swinging to the energetic bhangra moves. Dressed in traditional Indian attire of kurta and churidar, and a turban adorning his head, the horseman a White guy, was giving wide smiles. Folks were surprised and amused. But he was not shy and fitted right in.

            The hotel a bit outside the main town of Princeton, NJ where the wedding took place sat on sprawling acres of lush green trees with a circular road leading to the front. In the middle of the bend was a rotunda with benches and lights, and myriad vibrant summer flowers were in full bloom, especially of orange and yellow hues. The dhol players, three of them, were thumping on the drums in traditional wedding dhol beats and a sea of humans mostly wearing yellow, orange, and red colors were dancing in gay abandon like merry waves.

All men on their side, whether dressed in Indian or western clothes, wore turbans of kesari color and bandini print which Priya had especially ordered from Rajasthan in India. And women were in saris, salwar-kameez or dresses. Avijeet’s groomsmen were diverse…Indian, Indian American, White American, African American, and East Asian American. All wore matching kurtas and churidars in cream color and zari work, and their turbans were of a bright magenta shade, matching the saris of the bridesmaids.

Most of the wedding clothes were bought in America, where major urban cities catered to the growing demand of Indian weddings. Showrooms with exact replicas of the wedding mandap exist in quite a decent number in New Jersey. Also, decorators, musicians, DJ’s, crowd hypes, of course restaurants, all prevailed to provide the full gamut of services for Indian weddings. Inside the huge hotel ballroom, it was sometimes easy to think they were not in the US. It saddened her that her parents were not there.  After it was all over, and Priya was back in her hotel room, satisfied though exhausted, she wanted to stand beneath the shower and cry…let it all out. “I’m not going to feel guilty this time for wasting water mama…” she said out loud while smiling and beginning to take off her clothes.

She’s tired, Priya’s tired

Needs to take a shower

And stand neath the torrent

Of water

That falls from above

No need to shove

Your energy

Or electricity

Its already been done for you

Set up for everyone

But how grateful is everyone

Not to have bathing blues

Most sway and move around like zombies

Carrying their stagnated lives as in unwired movies.


Priya was barely nine when her parents first moved to live in Princeton, New Jersey where her father received the prestigious Clearbright grant in Environmental Studies. They traveled a lot within the nation, and one of those visits had been to the picturesque Washington, DC during the Cherry Blossom festival. That is when she set it deep in her heart that if she ever came back to the US, she would live in, or near DC. Fate would surely plan such a reality, for her…who knew…

The shimmering monuments

In the night lights so strategically placed

Welcomed everyone regardless of “isms”

The city was open hearted

And cheery

With tender flowers nodding their velvety berry

Colors in the wind,

With delicate almost paper-thin leaves intricately twined

Priya loved DC and also, kind of, Princeton

Discovered new ideas and thoughts

And there she made many new friends

And much to the chagrin of her sweet mom who in a baritone

Whispered, “Oh, no, not so soon”

When she got her first period at eleven.


She also gained tons of height

Cycling all the time after homework was done

And running around among endless fields in sight

She had this friend from Japan

And the two became inseparable

In school she was reasonably popular

Many admired her very long, heavy hair

And really long, thick eye lashes. Everywhere

She went, she became a mini celebrity

That girl with a tiny waist and huge hips from India

Who loved music, dance, French and algebra

Had her first crushes while comprehending the changes in her body

Discovered infatuation and masturbation

Along with watching the back of her dresses during menstruation.


India seemed an exotic land with funny accents

A country that most only knew

As one of snake charmers, kings & elephants

Folks asked really weird questions. “In India is the sky also blue?”

“Do you have flowers there?”

“Do you live in houses there?”

She was tempted, wickedly

to say, no to all. And especially

When asked, “Where did you learn to speak English like that?”

She wanted to reply what her father had taught her to say

“I learned English… and you …well you picked it up.” “Say

what?” The kids couldn’t stop giggling. That

And other things became the many reasons

Impacting Priya in life’s coming seasons.


Princeton, in New Jersey

Where they lived in childhood

Had very little diversity

Though pretty with trees of redwood

But Priya was insightful

Saw all, and asked questions mouthful

Her parents knew just one family

African American, in Trenton, a city forgotten and lonely

They lived with a young boy of theirs

On whom she had her very first crush

With flurries in the heart’s blush

He was older than her by a few years

Childhood flirtations are enjoyable

And are at best indefinable.


She found it very funny

That some boys and girls

While chewing gum they said was yummy

Hid in classroom cupboards

During lunch breaks

Or sports breaks

To kiss and make out

Once she was going about

Her work in the classroom during lunch

And two of her classmates came and told her to watch

The door as they quickly went inside the cupboard to smooch

She just nodded her head with blank eyes, eating her lunch

Many times, she did not know how to react to American making outs

Of school youngsters.


Her parents only allowed her to watch

Family friendly shows and movies

They’d quickly the channel switch

When came on some adult scenes

But you know how it is

The young have a way of learning tit bits

By reading books like Mills and Boon

Or watching on TV the manner of spoon

Or so it seemed to them

And Priya came to believe that only

American men could kiss well. Only

They could show romance…others just slopped around like a thrum

Added on Bollywood’s immature approach to romance

That built her beliefs of loving is many a times just chance.


Anyways, that was also the time

She began to learn about African Americans

And Native Americans and other minorities, and the divide paradigm

That brought forth unknown realities, and stark comparisons

She went on later to study in her Bachelors


And Ph.D. focusing on American Studies

And post-doc studies

On African American women’s history.

“We are women of color in two different continents--

and while there are many differences

based upon our specific history

there are many similarities as well due to shared experiences.”

She would later on enunciate in her lectures and classes.


In Princeton, her father worked two jobs

As the grant money wasn’t enough

And in cold snowy nights

her mom drove to the train station to pick him up. It was rough.

But Priya also had some great memories

Of her middle school days and crossing unique territories

When the school declared she had music aptitude, and had her trained

And prepared.

“Select an instrument and we shall teach you.”

She chose the piano. “No, please, chose one you can take home.”

So, it came to be that she learned the violin. Soon she shone

And was recruited to the school orchestra. Through

And through, Priya came to love America

While also taking in its negatives…she got that it wasn’t totally angelica.


She and her mom

Took many walks

When dad was at work and got to know the town

Woolworth was on Nassau St and many other shops

Including Sears and Singers, just driving distance away

Some things between her parents gave it away

That all was not agreeable between them

And from which did stem

Small and big fights

The big ones were over mom’s relatives

Whom dad thought had no rights

Over their married daughter. Kind of odd about rights

As Priya thought her dad was a progressive man

But on some things, he was a very traditional one.


“Why are we going to the post office right now, mummy?

Around lunch time? You think it will be open?”

“Yes, yes, it will be….” “But mummy I am hungry!”

“Yes, sure beta, soon after we’ll go…the university café will be open.”

Her mom had this PO Box

At the local post office. And Priya learned about the paradox

In their lives… dad loved her but not her family

So, she had in the local post office this facility

Where she could receive her family’s mail

And she’d read the letters and there itself respond

For Priya this became their secret bond.

Both made sure they left no trail

Till one day her mom’s dad passed away

And their secret in tears was given away.


“Hurry, hurry,” said her mom that day, walking very fast

Reaching the post office fifteen minutes before two

There was a letter waiting for her mom. “At last…”

She seemed panicky, and the cold air outside into their eyes straight blew



Mom almost collapsed

Catching hold of Priya’s hand she ran home. Time lapsed

Was killing. She went and shouted at her dad, “You forced us to come to the US-

and now my father is dead. I shall never

see him again.” Saying which her tears were

Unstoppable. And my dad just held us

In his arms and cried too. “I would not have

Asked you to come, had I known…never…would not have…”


“But how did you learn about this?”

He looked at her. “Hiding

From you, I had this PO box…”

She went on, not stopping

That day from any fears

Nor a dripping nose and tears

Watching her prevented dad

From saying anything more but he seemed sad

That she’d hid the truth.

Oddly, not once blaming himself for forcing her to do so

See, in anger, self-reflection doesn’t offer a winning bow

Neither does it soothe

The sense of a lie

Even if it was a self-encouraging lie.


Their family planned to go back to India soon

As death and nostalgia pulled them

So, they returned that June

Though Priya didn’t want to go. Wanted them

To stay in her America which she loved. But they went back to a new house

In New Delhi they’d bought to start a new phase

But at times tales are difficult to mend like broken glass

And crying decreased her mom’s eye vision. New eye glass

She got fitted upon return to New Delhi

Priya too found herself changed, quite emancipated

At 12, on issues of liberalism when they returned

And her mom got immersed in her work at the nursery

And dad in environmental issues. Priya missed her American life

And a bit of a misfit she felt in her returned native life.


Local boys would poke fun

When she rode a bicycle

In a skirt, leaving her frozen in action

And her accent, a bit American, was not very likable

They laughed at her, leading her to form opinion

About rules about men and women

Little did she know

That decades later in the US flow

She would seek answers

To immigration, hers and others

To single women, hers and others

To domestic violence, hers and others

Questioning began young, as parents

Treated her as they would boys, not girls.


“Oh! God, please give this family a boy--

they already have a girl.”

Priya’s father’s father would pray

Besides many nicknames, Deep-Sea Pearl

That Priya’s father had lovingly

Named her would watch them all quietly

One to the other. Mom would beseech “Please, stop saying

that…please stop praying

as if something is wrong

with having a girl or one child--

we are grateful that we are blessed

with such a lovely daughter. Please stop making it seem its wrong

for us to think our daughter is like a boy--

anyways, a girl is better than a boy.”


Priya’s dad would pull on his dad’s hand

To prevent him from repeating gendered statements

And so Priya grew up with an erratic band

Of words playing around her. Which statements

Were correct?

Were straight?

She spent much of her time pondering on this

Grew up very strong and independent. Remiss

Was from her thinking any kind of discriminatory

Feelings as her parents had set clear that all are the same

Different religions, faces or places, but same

Transparent and participatory

Was the manner in which she was brought up. Parents

Took her to temples, gurudwaras, mosques and churches.


All these she took with them

When Avijeet and she

Left for America in 2002. Rule of thumb

For them became to remember that she and he

Had to fend for themselves

And five things

She repeated to him. Goals

Money, health, be aware of surroundings

And take care of each other

These five became their mantras

Churning on their forefingers like chakras

As immigrants don’t get second chances. Mother

And son leaned on each other

And carried forward each other.


Pride swelled up in Priya as she looked at her son’s note. Bowing her head, she knelt to pray…she did that often. Holding her hands up high in the air, joined in prayer, she begged… she does that often too… this time to give her son and his wife a blessed married life. When Eloise had told her about envisioning in California, she had chirped in, nodding her head vigorously. “You know, Eloise, I totally agree. Folks keep saying we shouldn’t ask God for what we want because God knows. But hey, God is busy…and we must ask God, must beg of God…who else? I mean, I don’t know who the God is… man, woman, androgynous, another species, a light… I don’t know. I just believe in something bigger than us. And if we don’t ask, and if we don’t constantly throw out into the universe what we want…how will we get it?” Persistent light peered in from the partially drawn curtains spread upon her. And the table lamp near the bedside was also shimmering and smiling, “Wedding done, Priya. Your son now married. How do you feel?”

“How do I feel? Elated! But kind of sad… the planning had taken many months, and there was this sheer exhilaration jumbled with trepidation, admixed with overwhelming exhaustion…but it was kind of like I was floating in time silly-puttied with emotions…You know what I mean? And it’s all over now. I suppose that’s good…I mean it’s the best! Just, I’m so tired…”

The bed was quiet and neatly spread with open arms inviting…and she wanted to sink into the covers. But before sleeping, she wanted to shower and have a drink. A drink? Priya was saying, a drink, instead of a glass of champagne or wine… that was a change. How some words, some folks, especially women, are unable to say, and then start saying with an ease as they grew older, or when circumstances changed. Like, drink, or sex. Or, how about some words that in one’s native language sound cheap which educated folks, especially educated women would never be caught saying…definitely not in public. For example, the Hindi word for drink is sharab… Priya would just not say, “Let’s have some sharab! Home country cultural socializations and hesitations follow us regardless of a new country, now home.  Anyways, her adrenaline was running high from the merriment and contradictory happenings of the last two days, and she needed to settle her jumping heartbeats with some exercise, meditation, a shower, and a drink…

The AC setting was on 67, and she reduced it to 65, wanting the room to be extra cool before she slipped into a warm comforter. Yup, I tell ya, we humans, we are never satisfied, are we? In winters we crank up the heat and do not wish to wear sweaters in the room, and in summers we crank the thermostat down, making it over cool so that we can feel snug under a heavy winter comforter! Fickle?

Opening the fridge, she looked for the bottle of champagne that one of her friends had left there to be chilled. “What can I do for you, ma’am…any help that you need, any help…just let me

know…” Shreya, actually a former student from Priya’s teaching days in India, who now lived nearby, was like a sister and friend to Priya. She, her husband, and young son were there, all the days leading to the wedding, helping in every way they could. “You are not to worry…at all…” said her husband, Sameer.

“Thanks so much, my dear…there are just so many things that we still have to buy…little odds and ends…don’t know when we’ll find the time to do everything.” 

“Tell us what is left to be done…and we’ll do it,” said Sameer again.

“Oh…wow…I mean, like we still haven’t bought the air mattresses for the guests, and some chairs to rent for the day of the henna ceremony. Also, not sure what the pundit will sit on during that ceremony…I suppose a pidi or maybe we need two pidis because Avijeet also needs to sit on a pidi….”

“We’ll get all those…not to worry.” Sameer and Shreya said together hugging her. 

Family and close friends from India and elsewhere started arriving two weeks before the wedding. And everyone’s sleeping, food, and sightseeing arrangements had to be planned. Two days prior to the wedding, everyone was moved to the hotel of the wedding venue, where rooms had been booked for them.

On the day of the Sangeet ceremony, a day before the actual wedding, Shreya came to her again, “What more can I do for you ma’am…any help that you need, any help…just let me know…” Priya was tired but terribly excited. She had just sat down after dancing for at least an hour without a break … and taking hundreds of photographs too!

“Ma’am, your lehenga is so beautiful…kind of magical!”

“Thanks!  Do you see the hints of pink and green in the hem?”

“Yes…it gives a wispy feeling.”

“Yes, so know, I had bought another one but last Tuesday, one of the visiting relatives dropped tea on it.”

“What…was it intentional?” Shreya did not trust the relatives from her ex-husband’s family who’d suddenly showed up after all those years.

“No, no…I don’t think so. Well, in any case, I had to get this one at the last minute…and I think it worked out pretty well, actually… don’t you think?” she pulled up her shoulders in glee, as if she’d achieved something special.

“Yes, it did, ma’am…very pretty! And, all those matching earrings and necklace, and bangles…where did you get those at the last minute?”

“Same place…it’s a one stop shop for Indian weddings!”

“Nice, ma’am, very nice…”

“I want the photographer to take a few images of me twirling in this lehenga…but he’ll think I’m silly or something…”

“Why silly…not at all…it’s your son’s wedding…you enjoy yourself, ma’am! I’ll go and call him…”

The numerous layers in the lehenga gave it a buoyancy which showed well in the pictures which Priya later shared on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtags, dervish, dancing, whirling, joy.

“Okay…I think I need to go and greet the guests. Gosh, my feet are pinching!”  Just for a few minutes she took off her gold stilettoes and sat down on one of the ornate sofas in the ballroom.     She hardly ever wore open sandals, even in summers, even with Indian clothes, as stilettoes or pumps gave a certain stylishness when walking…tick, tick, tick, tick… making the body feel smarter, she used to say.

“Tired, ma’am…?”

“A bit…but that’s not going to stop me! Hey, listen…if it’s okay, I’ll take you up on your earlier offer…do you think you can get a bottle of my favorite almond champagne from Trader Joe’s and put it in the fridge in my room?  I’ll have it later tonight, or tomorrow after the end of the ceremonies.” The actual ceremonies ran for two days…the first day there was the Sangeet evening with family and close friends, and the next day was the actual wedding followed by a reception that (night, concluding two days of merriment. Two days were really not too many as in older times in most weddings in India the celebrations ran into several days! “Done, ma’am!” Shreya gave one of her brilliant, dimpled smiles.

Snapshots of Priya’s life

Some etched bare

Out of joy and strife

Some drawn rare

Like a woman on fire

Alicia Keys, “…Walking on fire…”

A woman searching peace

Trying to get the keys

To where we came from…

To whence we’re going…

A life-long of doing

Mixing and then some

Priya thought of the hours-emotions gone into many miles

And twirling her hair, with a tear just waiting to fall, she let out smiles.


Preparing to sleep, Priya let her lehenga fall

And stretching her back

She let down her arms in yogic stall

She wanted to hit the sack

But rest of her clothes were still on

Flowing was her choli in chiffon

And jewelry tugged at her skin

As did the big black bobby pin

Holding her bun up

Along with hundreds of smaller

Pins in metallic color

And then, having a peanut buttercup

She pondered over the day

With some thoughts trained, some stray.


She checked her breasts

Pressing them all over

For any signs

Of a lump or bump over

Near the center or at the edges

She noticed the hundreds

Of dark spots, increasing

Under her breasts and all over her body. Releasing

A sigh, it’s just many beauty spots

She thought or why would

Her mammogram be clear? Should

She seek another opinion? Spots

Could indicate something?

Or nothing…


In the looping of her thoughts

Her eyes went all over her body

Noticing other marks, spots, and knots

Some like stale toddy

Like on her arm the10-year-old sun tattoo

Noticing loss in the orange hue

She rubbed it, trying to get the color throttle going

Like a lawn mower moving

Needed to be renewed? Re-filled? 

It seemed time had dulled it

Heat was not like earlier lit

Also, maybe time for more tattoos on her body to be spilled?

Sometimes she felt she’d been a hippie in lives before

Or a gypsy distributing hopes, fulfilling the folklore.


Glossary, listed alphabetically


Bandini: Tie-dye textile

Choli: Blouse worn with sari or lehenga

Churidar: A tight pair of pants with gatherings of the fabric at the end. It’s paired with a Kurta(tunic)

Dhol: A big drum used mainly in Punjabi folk dances or at weddings almost all over India

Kesari: An orange color, like that of saffron

Kurta: Tunic, paired with a churidar or Salwar

Lehenga: A flowing gown worn with a choli and dupatta(stole)

Pallu: The end part of one side of a sari

Pidi: As employed in the novella, it means a low stool. Can also have other meanings

Salwar-Kameez: A loose pair of pants paired with a kameez (tunic)

Sangeet: Music

Sharab: Alcohol

Zari: Gold or silver thread work on South Asian garm




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