A short story by Chandrika Moka
Jaya looked at herself in the mirror. No matter what she did, she couldn’t seem to hide the tattoo on her neck – it was too hot for a scarf and she was fresh out of foundation. The giant yin yang symbol in anarchy colors had seemed a great idea a few years ago. She had been proud of it until she had received the in person meeting invite from her boss’s boss. No one had ever met the Big Sir – they were mostly a mythical figure used by every manager to whip their employees into shape. Meeting BS in person had never boded well – no one had ever returned after a meeting.
Jaya decided she didn’t care if her tattoo stuck out like a sore thumb. After all, isn’t that why she had endured hours of pain? So she could show it off to the world? Besides, if she didn’t leave now she would be late – probably not a good idea when meeting The Devil.
“All you have to do is deliver this letter to the Defense Minister. Not the secretary, not the supervisor of the day or the Assistant Defense Secretary. This has to be delivered straight from my hand to the DM’s hand.” BS paused for a minute to see if Jaya would say anything. Then “Do you have any questions?”
“Yes. What’s in the letter?”
BS didn’t say anything. Perhaps no one had ever dared answer their question with an yes, let alone asking a question. But if they had been stunned, they didn’t show any emotion on their face. To Jaya’s surprise, BS handed her the letter. No way was Jaya going to give up this opportunity.
“This is your last warning. Bow down and accept your sins. If you do not, I will have no choice but to unleash the entire force of The Baaz on to your land. As you are well aware, this is not a storm you can endure. Return your answer with our messenger. – Love, God”
If Jaya delivered the letter, there would be an Invasion. If Jaya refused to deliver the letter, there would be Genocide. Either way, it didn’t seem possible to save her land. She wondered vaguely if BS knew her true origins. But how could anyone? She had done absolutely everything to blend in. She had conformed at every step and assimilated with every tradition. Her past had been erased almost as effectively as erasure of the indigenous life. Whether or not her past had come to haunt her didn’t matter. Even with conformity and assimilation, she wasn’t going to betray her own people.
Was there a choice between doing her job and refusing to do her job? What if she got lost on her way to delivering the letter? After all, if her past had been revealed then it was clear she had no idea how to get from point A to point B. Even if her past hadn’t been revealed, no one would expect a rookie to find their way without error. If the messenger was lost, Code Virama would have to be implemented. That meant until the messenger had been found or definitively declared dead, no military action was allowed to take place.
Plot convenience or maybe Jaya’s luck but on her way to the shuttle to her homeland, there was another shuttle flying to Pluto. What an honest mistake – a rookie could easily confuse a shuttle headed to ****** and a shuttle headed to Pluto. Her uniform gave her something similar to a Diplomatic Status – she could access any door, demand any document and acquire any seat.
Sitting among the ice miners, Jaya could feel the beginnings of her annual sense of nostalgia. It was almost Christmas – one assimilated tradition she absolutely adored. It wasn’t about the religion or the commercialization. It was the one day in the year she could be her true self. She could dress in her homeland’s traditional attire and cook the food she had grown up with for her chosen family. She could even share leftovers with her coworkers. No one questioned anybody’s habits during Christmas. Everybody accepted that each family had adopted their own customs and developed their own yearly rituals. Jaya’s traditions had been removed from the collective memory of this land and so it seemed foreign rather than native to everyone around her.
Jaya had no idea she was, in fact, going home.
The reason for Jaya’s traditions seeming foreign wasn’t simply the ignorance of indigenous traditions but because they were indeed foreign. Anyone that knew the history of the land knew that the indigenous folks had travelled to Pluto. Most of the traditions of the Plutonians had seen their beginnings in indigenous traditions, they had simply been modified to fit their terrain better. What nobody knew was the secret Jaya’s parents had been harboring in their hearts. Jaya was not born to Nagajaa and Shloka; they had found her on the side of one of the ice miner shuttles. They had brought her home and raised her as their own. Jaya had retained all the memories of her planet’s customs and her parents had encouraged her to celebrate the differences.
Before she could lose herself (in her memories and not her way) she needed to take care of some important communications. The timing was slightly essential. She needed BS to know she had lost her way but not sooner than the shuttle reaching the point of no return and no later than having landed on Pluto. She needed to make sure she wasn’t forced to turn back or get back on the shuttle on landing. She decided to wait for three hours; a little over half way point. She dispatched a cursory memo informing all concerned parties about her “mistake”, confidant it wouldn’t reach them until it was too late.
Jaya wasn’t stupid. She knew she could only delay the inevitable not stop it. Any time she could buy for her homeland would be beneficial – not unless she didn’t find a way to alert them though. She had at least 12 hours before she needed to act – enough time to plan something?
They were still at least a few miles away and yet it was the unmistakable smell of Nihari accompanied by Sheer Kurma, if Jaya wasn’t mistaken. She had never known anyone else other than her who could cook either the side dish or the dessert. She had no idea how the Plutonians were able to find the ingredients – unaware that it was Earth importing these items. What awaited Jaya on landing on Pluto is indescribable in words and so, as the author, all I can say is it was her dream come true – her wildest dreams, something she had never ever believed she would see in the light of reality. It was everything she could have hoped for and more.
In her excitement and happiness, Jaya lost track of time. She lost track of her purpose and everything around her was surreal. She had forgotten she was trying to ‘lose’ her way, she was required to warn her people, inform her return plans to her boss – she had forgotten who she was. She had not realized she had spent an entire Earth’s week eating, drinking, dancing and making merry. She had not realized the war that had broken out. She had not realized the devastation that had followed. She had not realized the shoot on sight order on her. She had not realized that fascism had firmly sunk its claws not just on her homeland but all of the world. All it takes is a week.
Jaya boarded the shuttle back home – blissfully unaware of what awaited her on her return. The last thought Jaya had when she stepped out of the shuttle was how lucky she was to be alive.