5 (130).docx - She\u2019s still making up things to trick me like she did when I was smaller than I\u2019m now She doesn\u2019t know that every morning Pari and

5 (130).docx - Sheu2019s still making up things to trick...

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She’s still making up things to trick me like she did when I was smaller than I’m now. She doesn’t know that every morning, Pari and Faiz laugh when they see me and tell me I look like a joss stick but one that smells of fart. “Ma, listen, my uniform—” I say and I stop because there’s a scream from outside so loud I think it will squish the walls of our house. Runu-Didi gasps and Ma’s hand brushes against a hot pan by mistake and her face goes all sharp and jagged like bitter-gourd skin. I think it’s Papa trying to scare us. He’s always singing old Hindi songs in his hairy voice that rolls down the alleys of our basti like an empty LPG cylinder, waking up stray dogs and babies and making them bawl. But then the scream punches our walls again, and Ma switches off the stove and we run out of the house. The cold slithers up my bare feet. Shadows and voices judder across the alley. The smog combs my hair with fingers that are smoky but also damp at the same time. People shout, “What’s happening? Has

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