Lakshmi Arya Thathachar is Associate Professor at the School of Law, AURO University. She earned a PhD in Modern Indian History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Her academic travels since then have taken her out of her home discipline, and into other terrain such as philosophy and law. Her current research reflects this trajectory. She often writes from her point of arrival at unforeseen destinations; her academic research traverses history, philosophy, law and gender studies. She also writes creatively. Her poems have appeared in Pratilipi and in Eclectica Magazine. “Sasha and the Secret Gift” is her first published short story, and CUSP the Journal takes pride in featuring it in this issue.
” Sasha and the Secret Gift” is a retelling of myths and fairy-tales, from a feminist perspective. The story re-visits Baba Yaga in the deep forest, and the mermaids in the ocean, through the protagonist Sasha. In re-telling the stories of Baba Yaga and the sirens -- women who are not bounded by home and marriage -- the story also becomes a reflection on the nature of love and the institution that is marriage. The story moves between what is bounded and given a name -- marriage, home, family -- and that which is not given a name. That which roams the streets, ambiguous and ambivalent. That which is secret.
The story moves through the mystery of desire -- the wanting of that which is elusive, the longing for that which one can never have. Sasha wants to be eternally young and beautiful. The mermaids long for men of the land, of deserts and forts. Married men long for the stray caress, the indiscretion, even as they disown it.
Eventually, we are left wondering if Sasha had imagined it all -- her encounter with the mermaids, with Baba Yaga. Was she always mad, as her townspeople seem to think, or is she driven mad by her inability to conform, to fit in, be like everyone else? Is she the typical 'hysteric'?