Published in Issue 24 of Fourteen Hills, Shobha Rao's, “Pink Ruin” is a tender story with raw brilliance that touches on women’s role in Southern Indian society, their sexuality, and the grandeur of nature that is enraptured when connected to their presence. We chose this piece, for its excellence in interweaving the past and future experienced presently by the reader due to the specific imagery and sensory details that grounds one in every single moment. The main character is changed by the world around her, and yet holds consistent to her inner desires and what she deems beautiful and meaningful.
“Pink Ruin” is a story about a woman named Satya, who upon hearing the death of her similar newly-wed neighbor then turned into affectionate companion, Roopa, recounts the memories from her childhood and so on to what adventures the two women both experienced, all intertwined with the recurring symbol of pink: celebrating the woman’s body and grand imagination in resilience to what savage and demeaning treatments befall upon them from their husbands as well as the oppression of their in-laws.
The strong suits of this piece consist of the fascinatingly fresh and natural dialogue, variant and honed to each individual character, as well as the personification. There is a scene in which Satya remembers an incident from her childhood— knocking the door of an armoire open, resulting in a rose-colored sari that falls, and it “unfolded its wings, moan with pleasure as it spread before her— its long-forgotten lengths uncurled, reclined, waiting and breathing, unbearably pink”. Rao demonstrates ownership of grammar here and consistently throughout the piece, crafting vivid actions and striking momentum. Later Satya holds up the sari to her chest, where her heart beats hard, “but then, of its own accord it seemed, the silk slid down, down, down and found the heat between her legs”. The subtlety of this sexual awakening, is a gorgeous introduction to the rest of the pink and desires that will further expand into a remarkable, spiritual outlook, deflecting any scrutiny meant to attack the material body.
There is no instance, of one particular message diminished throughout the piece, that Rebellion is Beauty. Satya’s mother-in-law among others look upon Roopa who does nothing— no chores no cooking— by the riverbank, as a disgrace: “daughters and mother’s in the village were hard at work, [to Satya] why, it was wasteful. It was indecent. It was electrifying”. Continuously, both Satya and Roopa are infused with nature, Roopa is “the yellow of pollen. Unbound, carried and coveted by the wind” with a bruise like “a lake of blue and green”. There are generous moments of tender affection between both women when they ruminate on bigger ideas about the river, and of the world, of what are not named. Satya remembers how she took Roopa’s hand so close to hers, “the hand: warm, damp as if with dew”. These elements of nature blends into divinity. At the height of the coined term— “pinking”, joined with them and the Godavari River, there comes “a pink so soft and tremulous it must’ve lay inside the first seashell, warmed the first stone, caressed the first vestal body, aching for the first fevered hand”. Warm and ardent language are blended into a grander creation story, empowered by not what we can officially see happening with the women, but simply the essence of indulging and initiating on the female sexual desires. This excellent craft not only praises women loving women, but also, shows their big, beautiful minds, that women are superior to the perceived accomplishments of what is considered honorable and right in materialistic, patriarchal society.
Years after Roopa’s death, Satya likes where she has decided to be, as she has done all her life. She does so in forgoing to run away with the admirable rocking horse from her childhood, she does so in defiance of Roopa’s husband who beats her right in front of Satya, she does so at the end of the piece, where she nearly drowns herself in the Godavari River, and when her son pleads for her to return home, she answers—though changed and aged by circumstance with nectar in her eyes— “No, I like it here”. Reaffirming again, ever so strongly and infinitely glorious, the righteousness of a woman’s desire in all its horizons and forms.
The recall to the oppression of self-expression and freedom women still face in India’s society as well as in other countries, groundbreaking imagery and power of the imagination painted with new beauty, are just some of the reasons why we are proud to have published “Pink Ruin” in Issue 24, where dreams are essential to our lives and illuminating all of what we possess, what we are and could be. We hope you read it and from then on, in the face of those who would tear them down, envision your Self and Body as mystical and honorable.