July/Aug 2020 • Vol. XLII No. 4 Temporary and Ongoing |

Help Me Help You

Soma covered her mouth so the American wouldn’t hear her yawn. Last hour of answering calls before hitting home, switching shifts with Ma to take care of Papa, prepping for college finals and returning to work the following night. She’d multitasked before, she’d done nightshifts for five years now, she could totally do this last hour, she told herself, while parroting the airline’s policy. “Yes, Sir, you may carry two pieces of luggage for free, each weighing fifty pounds or under.” “Are you from Bangalore?” he asked. One of those drunk customers again, smitten by exotic women. And Chaya, her supervisor at Voizone call center, was keeping a strict watch on her performance. One week left for the month of May, and Soma had already exhausted her monthly limit of fatal errors over calls. With a toddler and an infant at home, Chaya could relate to her sleep deprivation. That wouldn’t stop Chaya from barging into her phone conversations anytime. “From Mumbai, Sir.”

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Namrata Poddar writes fiction, nonfiction, and serves as interviews editor for Kweli, where she curates a series titled “Race, Power and Storytelling.” Her work has appeared in Longreads, Literary Hub, Transition, Poets & Writers, The Best Asian Short Stories 2019, Electric Literature, CounterPunch, and elsewhere. Her debut fiction manuscript, Ladies Special, Homebound, was a finalist for Feminist Press’s 2018 Meriwether First Book Prize and is forthcoming from Speaking Tiger. She holds a PhD in French literature from the University of Pennsylvania, an MFA in fiction from Bennington Writing Seminars, and an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Transnational Cultures from UCLA.

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