For the first public Worlds of Possibility piece from the August issue, my subscribers voted on releasing a science fiction flash story. Here's a lovely and emotional story by Keyan Bowes. You can read the story below, and you can also hear Keyan read it and talk about the process of writing it and her creative process in general in the podcast episode. A full transcript of the podcast is here.Listen to "Bidaai ki Chicken Curry: a story by Keyan Bowes" on Spreaker.
Bidaai ki Chicken Curry
by Keyan Bowes
Chop the tomatoes.
Lots of activity around the space-port today. From my kitchen window, I see vehicles come and go, people like tiny dots moving among them in an intricate dance.
Chop the onions.
We're used to losing our daughters, back home in India. We get them married, hope they'll be safe and happy and cared-for. The wedding is as huge and wonderful as we can achieve with our savings, and our borrowing capacity, and the jewelry passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. They walk around the sacred fire, reciting vows. Then they leave, carried off to their new home, the home with a husband in it, and often more of his relatives. There's a lot of weeping at the bidaai, the ceremony of departure. Adjust, we tell our daughters. Learn to fit in. They belong elsewhere now.
The onions make my eyes water.
Chop the chicken.
That was how it was for my mother, Nani to my darling Sunaina. But I'd left all that behind when I left the land of my birth. My child grew up in a different world, a world where she'd pick her own spouse, make her own home, where she wouldn't be taken from me.
Arrange the spices.
She was bright-eyed and eager almost from birth. She was an explorer, a risk-taker, which to a mother is both joyous and terrifying.
Caramelize the onions as the layer of oil shimmers in the pan.
Preschool. Grade school. College. Her inquiring mind was drawn to the sciences. She worked summers at the hydroponic farm, growing foods we couldn't get otherwise. Then her eyes sought wider horizons and larger projects. More college, the Academy, and she joined the terraforming group.
Add the coriander powder, the cumin powder, the turmeric, the ginger and the garlic, and sauté until fragrant.
Some people blend the curry to make it smooth, but that's not how Sunaina likes it. Outside my kitchen window, a rocket takes off with a percussive roar, standing on a massive, sudden column of flame. It's the sacred fire of this new departure.
Turn up the flame, add the chicken, stir until it's a little brown. Add the tomatoes, let it go back to a boil, add water and salt. Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender and the oil separates.
Tomorrow, there'll be another rocket, and Sunaina will be on it. Going back to Earth, a shattered Earth, to start rebuilding. But tonight, I'm making her favorite chicken curry.
Mix a little garam masala into a spoonful of the gravy, and stir it into the curry to finish it.
It's simple and tastes of the home we once had, where tomatoes and ginger and garlic weren't carefully bred in hydroponic farms on the surface of other planets. Perhaps someday her grand-daughter will grow a kitchen garden somewhere in India, when Sunaina and her team have terraformed the planet.
And there she is! My eyes are still watering from the damn onions. I wipe them on my scarf, and go open the door.
Keyan Bowes is a peripatetic spec-fic author, currently to be found somewhere on the West Coast of the US. She writes when inspiration bites her in the ankle, and organizes various spec-fic things – mainly virtual now, due to Covid. Her work can be found online, and on paper in a dozen anthologies and magazines. Clarion graduate, SFWA member. Website: www.KeyanBowes.com