Don’t sleep like that, with your book open on your chest. Don’t read till very late in
that library, it’s haunted, my grandmother used to say. She was a woman of many
stories; a woman of many beliefs, my grandmother. Her library, she said, was a place
where all the characters came to life. If you listened carefully at night, she said,
you could hear them talk. She believed that they were conspiring against her. One
time, she said, my grandfather left one such book open. Anna Karenina, that lonely,
miserable witch, stepped out of the book that night, and took my grandfather away.
My grandmother read the book every night, searching for her husband, Karenina’s
alleged lover. Karenina was the other woman, I wasn’t allowed to like her, or go near
her. She knows black magic, that evil Russian, she will cast a spell on you, and take
you away too, she would say. Karenina was always locked in my grandmother’s cup-
board. The day my grandmother died, I set her free. That lonely, miserable witch,
she lies open on my table now, stripped off her covers, her naked arched back faces
me. I long to touch her; hungrily, I wait for her to step down from the table and drag
me away, too.
M A N J I R I