We recently published Rudri Patel’s lovely “The Day Her Husband Died.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) I love the use of repetition (which I have recently learned is called anaphora) here. Going into this story, did you always have the intent to repeat that refrain, “The day her husband dies”?
“The day her husband dies” was a line born out of a flash workshop. Initially, I tinkered with ways to tell this story in a traditional manner, but abandoned those efforts. I ultimately found the refrain carried a shocking, but quiet power, and the repetition allowed the widow to have permission to detail her journey and mourn her losses. Widows are routinely dismissed or cast out of the South Asian culture and my intent was to alter the narrative in a measurable way. Breaking the refrain at the end is a way to liberate not only the repetition in form, but also for the widow to reclaim her identity.
2) What really drew me to this story is that the husband’s death is both something to grieve and something that is a release for his wife, a freedom. Was it hard to balance that sense of relief with that sense of loss?
It is a struggle for the character to vocalize this sense of relief. I often think loss is equal parts sorrow and relief. It is acceptable to talk about grief, but most feel guilt speaking about the sigh of relief which emerges for the caregiver. When a loved one is chronically ill or terminal, the burden is shifted to his or her family in fulfilling all of the needs of the person suffering. But there isn’t a guidebook on the best ways to do this gracefully. When grief moves to the periphery, there is room for reflection and a window to move into a new self. That doesn’t necessarily mean the widow loves her husband any less, but she is trying to find a way to claim her new, independent self.