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Authors: Antara Ganguli

Tanya Tania

BOOK: Tanya Tania
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Born in Kolkata, Antara Ganguli grew up in Bombay. Her interest in India-Pakistan started with the 1992 riots when she wrote down the names of the girls in her class to identify who was Hindu and who was Muslim.

Antara has written for
The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Times of India, Indian Express
and others. She is a 2014 Asia Society Young Leaders Fellow and a 2015 Sangam House Fellow. She works in international development and currently lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh.


A novel by

Antara Ganguli

First published in India 2016

© 2016 by Antara Ganguli

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers.

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The publisher believes that the content of this book does not violate any existing copyright/intellectual property of others in any manner whatsoever. However, in case any source has not been duly attributed, the publisher may be notified in writing for necessary action.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.

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E-ISBN 978 93 85436 50 5

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for my father Ram Shankar Ganguli

















February 4, 1996

New York, NY

Dear Tania,

Last night there was a snowstorm that made my window disappear. I woke up thinking you had died. This is my first letter in three and a half years. First letter since I left Pakistan. First letter since Nusrat.

I am going to keep writing to you. If you never reply, you'll still get my letters, slipping under your door like you had said, in the middle of somnolent afternoons, right before the perfect time for tea. You will not be home. You will be at college. And then one day, you will be in an office somewhere. And then who knows where, perhaps not even in India, but my letters will keep slipping under the door. Until you forgive me. And after then.

Uncurl your lip, dearest. I am not assuming you will forgive me. I don't even think you should forgive me. But I will keep writing to you. I have to write to you. I have to keep writing to you.

It is the deep dark centre of winter here in New York. The worst part, really. Days go dark by five and my grandfather died over winter break. I have trouble eating and lost eleven pounds somewhere in the snowdrifts. It is my last semester and truth: I love seeing my ribs in the mirror. My body beautiful.

It is impossible that I used to think summer in Karachi was unbearable but I did according to my letters to you. I crave the sun now, I crave sweat. I go to the gym and run and crank and pull and push just to feel it form over my shoulders and down my back. I push my tongue into the crevice of my upper lip and lick the drop there. Secretly, always secretly because otherwise people will think you're crazy.

Everyone has so many secrets. I never knew that before. Afterwards, I saw secrets everywhere. Streaming out of noses, rising above heads, disgorged and smeared on lips like a drunk girl's lipstick.

Here's a secret! You were right, Ali IS gay! He came out to me when I was in the hospital for mad people. We are all weird, he told me.

How prescient of you, T. How very clever. Here's another secret. What I really want to say:

Dear Tania,

You were right. I was wrong. Now please forgive me because I'm hoping that will make it stop.



What do you think? It doesn't matter. I will still write to you. This is only a first letter.

Feb 14, 1991


Dear Tania,

Hello. My name is Tanya Talati and I am the daughter of Lisa Talati, your mother's friend. They were at Wellesley College together. In college, my mother was Lisa Wilking. You must have heard of us.

It is at my mother's suggestion that I am writing to you. I broke my leg playing hockey and have to remain in bed with an immobilized knee. It is stultifying. I am reading my way through the American classics so that I will be well prepared for writing college admission essays. I'm reading Hemingway right now. He is alright. Not quite as dark as Dostoyevsky, who is my favourite.

I thought perhaps you'd be interested in exchanging letters with me. Not in the manner of pen-pals as we are not strangers. We have a picture of you and your brother in our living room. You are a baby in a yellow dress sitting on your mother's lap and your brother's hands are around your throat. Congratulations on his admission to Princeton.

Which American colleges are you going to apply to? I am going to apply to twelve colleges, including three backup colleges. My top choice is Harvard. You don't have to tell me yours if you don't want to but I should tell you though, that everyone in school comes to me to help them pick colleges. They phone me in the evenings and ask me about their chances of getting in. Sometimes I get two or three phone calls in one night.

I have formulated a recuperation strategy for the three months it will take for me to be mobile again. Writing to you is on the list but its continued place and rank depends on you. Right now you're Number 2, right above Chhoti Bibi and right below getting a handle on the family finances.

I hope you will write back. My mother seems to think that we will become best friends. I have explained to her that this is unlikely but just so things are transparent between us, you should know that I left it a little vague. I don't like to upset her.

Anyway, it would be nice to hear from you. This broken knee means no hockey championship for me this year (and with Natasha at the helm, that means no hockey championship for anyone). No summer in Boston at my grandparents' with a shot at winning the Breaststroke 400 metres next year. No internship in a lawyer's office. My room has a sick person smell. Although Chhoti Bibi says it doesn't smell and she's the only other person who has been in it.

I hope you will write back. What's life in Bombay like? Is it anything like the movies?

Yours sincerely,

Tanya Talati

March 2, 1991


Dear Tanya,

A movie about Bombay teenagers? BORING! I mean, not me. My life is really hectic. Between school and keeping my mom off my back and trying to keep my boyfriend from having sex with me (or anyone else), I really don't have time to write to you.

From your letter you sound like a Boring Person. But you play hockey. Do you play hockey in a salwar kameez? Because my mom said you wear a salwar kameez to school. That's cruel.

In my school, which is like the best school in Bombay, only boys play hockey. My brother says I should force them to change the rules. He says it's sexist. Now that he's left and gone to college in America, suddenly everything in India is shit.

Yeah, my mum talks about Lisa Aunty and you and your brother all the time. What's it like having an American mother? Does she like living in Pakistan?

What's it like having a twin brother? Sammy is two years older than me. He's cleverer than me but I have more friends. Like when I broke my leg, there used to be a line of people outside my bedroom. My dad put up a super cute sign saying VISITING HOURS FOR THE STAR. My dad does really cute things like that. My mom gets mad at him for doing things like that. A lot of things make her mad.

Your brother is cute in the pictures your mom sends us at Christmas. Is he cute in real life?

By the way, you are OBSESSED with college. If I was even half as obsessed as you, my mom would love me. Actually she's the one making me write back to you but she told me not to tell you that. But I'm super honest.

I can't believe you actually want to go to Harvard and actually want to LIVE there for four years! I hate Harvard. My mother made me visit over the summer. It was like the World Conference of Boring People. I wanted to laugh about how everyone looked like a Boring Person but there was no one to laugh with because EVERYONE was a Boring Person. A BP. If you say BP really fast it sounds like a fart except it's an oil company.

Are you really good at hockey? I'm good at all sports. Like really good. I've won a shitload of awards. There is a whole shelf in the school prize cupboard right when you enter the principal's office that is just full of prizes that have my name on it except this one prize that is for Hindi debates. I keep waiting for them to throw it away but they haven't yet.

BOOK: Tanya Tania
13.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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