by Shivani Mutneja


I don’t have a child, except that I do. It is just one of those things that is and isn’t, like climate change, it is for some and isn’t for others, except that it mostly is. I am not sure if I am getting this across clearly - I have a secret child. I don’t have him and her at all times, both of them recede and rush back like waves. They are conjoined, actually that is not the correct description, the girl is only the head sitting on top of the boy’s head. I am not sure how to describe this without it seeming false or delusional but I feel love for this child, acute motherly affection, my heart breaks when they recede, I feel a hollow in my chest when they are not around, but not so much really, I find that I can almost forget them till they reappear. My husband has nothing to do with them, he believes we have no children and when we got married we agreed that we would respect each other’s beliefs. My friends don’t acknowledge them, I mean to be fair to them I haven’t really told them about the children, except that I think perceptive friends would know what is going on or at least would ask about changes in my moods or skin colour, but my friends don’t pay attention to me any longer because they have normal, un-demonic children who will grow up to be responsible citizens. My child will not grow up, they will grow old like objects and someone, not me, will have to throw them away.


My twins play with the children in the housing society compound, the other mothers don’t understand when I tell them that my twins are tiptoeing around their children, they think I am crazy. So now I do not mention my offspring, I sit with the women as a childless woman for the fear that they might bring up any untoward behaviour on my part on the housing society whatsapp group. I talk to the twins through my eyes, I have to be there because they are mischievous, they put pins through cycle tyres, deflate footballs, push other children down the stairs. They bring dead rats on our floor and stink up the place, they kick the stray cat who frequents the neighbours’ house.

My twins are made of dense white smoke and have blackberry caverns for eyes. The eyes of the female head over the male head blink when her brother is up to mischief. They insist on receding into my womb for the night and sleep there. I have to drink three glasses of water before bed to cool the smoke in my stomach, needless to say I wake up at least twice in the night to urinate.

The twins squeal and squeak, some children downstairs can hear them, when they hear them they follow the direction of the sound, usually I have to alert their mothers to the precarity of the children’s positions at the top of the stairs or one foot on the other side of the railing at the boundary wall or just behind a car backing up from the parking.

My twins eat in my dreams, fruit with limbs, green arms of pears, orange nose of tangerines and blackberry eyes, the male part eats half and tosses the other half to his sister’s mouth. They sit on the kitchen counter when I cook and tell me that it should not be too difficult to love them, and that I am a cold-hearted bitch. I point the knife at them and threaten to reduce them to chunks of uterine blood.


The male part of the twin tells me that his sister is not happy and he can feel her sadness trickling into his head, he asks me if I can pluck her head away from his,

“She isn’t a fruit, you monster, she is your sister, you have to take responsibility for her sadness.”

Poor child looks genuinely confused, I wish I could make their childhood easier but there is only so much I can do as a mother.


My twins are disgusted when they see me masturbate. The male part says I am wasting the energy I can put into making him real. And why would I do that, I ask him, so that he can consume the depleting resources of our planet? He says he deserves this world like all the other idiot kids being born, I am not so sure. Anyway I tell him that my masturbation has little to do with his birth, it is not as if every time I come I waste seed that could go into making children. He tells me that my selfishness is revolting, “then why do you want to be born,” I ask,

“I could be your contribution to the world,” he smirks.


In the last few days children from the apartment building have wandered to my door, they ring the doorbell, stammer when they see me and ask,



They make up stories about paper planes, footballs and shuttlecocks that could have landed in my balcony all the while craning their necks to look inside the house, eyes searching for their illusory friend. Their friend hovers behind them, wrapping their bodies in smoke, they cough unknowingly, mothers worry, examine their mouths, their throats, their hands for invisible microbes and stretch their eyelids to detect foreign particles.


During summer my twins found their way into water-melons. I couldn’t have controlled that, the women looked at me accusingly, as if I were to blame for the bloody mess in their kitchens. But it was their fault , they should have tapped the fruit before buying and if you are an intuitive woman and a good mother, a tap can tell you if the water melon is sweet or if it is foetal. Oh it wasn’t as bad, it was just shock, they cut open and found bits of fingers or toes, or an eyeball in the red fibres of the melon. It was always the children who found the severed bits first, held them up and laughed out loud while squishing the toe or eyeball between their thumb and index finger. One girl swallowed a toe, that was all really, nothing serious, children ingest random things all the time. But the mothers, the mothers lost it.

Then a woman on the fifth floor gave birth to a water melon or I dreamt it. It is tricky to be sure when it is forty one degrees outside. The meteorological department had predicted drought, people were afraid that not enough rain would lead to water shortage and farmer suicides. But I was happy because enough heat meant good mangoes and my twins loved mangoes, that is how I knew that they were mine, there was no doubt about it. They slithered the juice all over their faces, then stuck to the walls, leaving stains over the walls, faded yellow maps of mischief. I had to scrub these maps because some of them were disturbing to look at, a head toppling down from another, a head standing on another head, odd shapes, though childhood warrants such shapes, my only fear was of the other mothers finding their way into my house for an evidence of their existence. My husband didn’t notice anything, not the walls, not my swollen or deflated belly, or my shifty eyes.


My twins have been dormant since onset of winter. In this city winter is mild, with chilly mornings and evenings, but afternoons washed in bright sunlight. I work unencumbered and masturbate, unwatched. The mothers in the housing society come out in mid-mornings and early evenings with the children. They carry water bottles which they put on the pink stone benches in the compound. While the children perambulate on bicycles, with and without training wheels, and scooters, the mothers play ‘Clash of Clans’ or ‘Candy Crush’ their phones.

My twins are a distant memory now like a meme seen three days ago on Twitter, though once in a while a child from downstairs appears outside my door looking for a paper plane, a scrabble tile or a crayon. Friends of friends post pictures of baking with their children, the children’s milk teeth gleaming behind the blonde crusts of pies. My childless friends critique this projecting of motherhood as a state of bliss on social media. To me it is obvious that motherhood isn’t the fantasy that it is made out to be on Instagram, except that a child like mine is perfect.

Shivani Mutneja

Shivani Mutneja works in Pune, India. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Radius Lit, Nether Magazine,The Literateur and Queen Mob's Tea House. Her flash piece "Ugly Husband" in 'Jellyfish Review' made it to the Wigleaf's Top 50 longlist for 2020. She can be found on medium, https://medium.com/@shivanimutneja