Book Excerpt: ‘The Enclave’ by Rohit Manchanda

Book Title: The Enclave: A Sharp and Hilarious Portrait of Womanhood in India
Author: Rohit Manchanda
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Number of Pages: 348
ISBN: 978-0008713881
Date Published: May. 27, 2024
Price: INR 360

The Enclave by Rohit Manchanda Book Cover

Book Excerpt

THROUGH THE STORM-WRACK

Irked with herself, bothered faintly by the cobwebby rain that by turns films her skin and peels off it, she hastens up the street.
Her stride is palpably jerky: one leg is prey to a sporadic twitch, its ankle apt to catch. The drizzle has turned the macadam underfoot
into a glossy slate, lightly pinpricked. The street is bestrewn with the fresh corpses of leaves, twigs, sprigs: the wrack created by this
evening’s storm.

Not one of those journeyman little squalls during which little of note happens, she recalls with pleasure, but an hour-long apoplexy of
thunder, lightning, cloudburst. The storm had petered out a couple of hours ago but the sky, though no longer louring with menace, still
hangs low, fleecy as a kitsch ceiling.

In the wavy mirror the wetted tarmac makes, she catches downside- up glimpses of herself. Her pumps’ kitten heels tap out a brisk tattoo:
the wide, flowy maw of her skirt now yawns away from her shins, now snaps in at them, screening off the upper reaches of her frame. Deep below the tarmac there gleams a gibbous moon, just as much in a hurry as is she, scudding past armadas of ragged cloudlets.

How semisolid and malleable it looks, as if made of curd. Every bit as semisolid and malleable, she muses wryly, as she herself will be in
about an hour’s time, yielding herself up to another’s will.

Which flicks to the fore that inner voice she’s been trying continually to fight down out of earshot today: Caved in yet again. Spineless as ever. How much longer can this go on, how far…?

A sudden upcurl of music – no, not music, a species of muzak ubiquitous these days – causes her to start, then to misstep, her ankle
turned into a Diwali sparkler of pain. Her ringtone. Muffled yet insistent, it thrums out and up from the innards of her bag. Rummaging through her menagerie of late-evening necessaries, she fishes out her mobile.

‘Tell me.’

‘On your way?’

‘Started out.’

‘Can’t wait, you know.’

‘Sweat it out, Al.’

‘Make it fast.’

‘I’ll be there when I’ll be there.’

‘Have you … umm … you know…’ The voice at the other end is well-nigh frizzling, as if getting sautéed in the throat before it’s let out.

Yes, I know, she says inwardly, just get on with it. Which her caller does, in that exigent hiss again: ‘Have you deigned to accede to my
request? My trifling little…’

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‘Well,’ she says, snapping him short, his urgency starting to infect her, ‘you’ll soon be seeing for yoursel…’ She in turn is pulled up short
by the phone sounding a doublet of sharp bleats. Lowering it from her ear, she eyes the screen.

‘Of course I will,’ Alain’s words, damped now, are yet more crackly for that. ‘I’m holding my breath, as you can well…’

‘Listen. I’ve a call waiting. Can’t not take it. See you when I see you.’

Excerpted with permission from The Enclave: A Sharp and Hilarious Portrait of Womanhood in India, written by Rohit Manchanda, and Fourth Estate.

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