My husband gave me everything, including his kidney. He built me a house on a small hill that looked over the paddy fields and the stream and the road that ran right between them towards the Bazaar. A two-storey house from where in the mornings and evenings I could watch happy children in their colourful uniforms rush to school and return home. From where I could watch the progress of Burhan’s flashlight as he approached my house at night like a secret.

It’s the strangest feeling. This curious fate of having to carry inside me a vital organ of a man I hate to call mine. Is there a stranger bondage? It has none of the comforts of an unknown donor. A hockey-stick scar etched into the right of my abdomen. Its pain is to conscience what phantom pain is to limb. Injecting a sense of indebtedness into an otherwise endlessly dragging drama of apartness. It’s the guiltiest feeling, too. Capable of incarcerating you in the very place you don’t belong. But I couldn’t have refused, could I? Our small-town doctors discovered what I was dying from too late as usual, after the routine half-a-dozen misdiagnoses and months of mistreatment, and there wasn’t much time to think and wait. Besides, I was too young to die.

I was too young to die.

If someone were to commit my life to words, they would have to spend page after boring page on my kidney predicaments. This, the existence of a foreign kidney inside my body, purifying my blood, was the only philosophical question in my life. Did I want to die? No. Did he want me to die? No. Did I want his kidney? I was conflicted, I would say. My conscience sparred and ached, but I had no choice. Did he want me to have his kidney? Yes. Yes. Yes. One of my cousins with the same blood group and matching kidney was ready to donate hers, but Sadique wouldn’t let her. I suspect he even blocked a possible donor and bribed the doctor to make sure that I lived the rest of my life on his kidney, not on someone else’s, in debt forever. And it turned out to be a miraculous kidney, too.

The body knows nothing about the mind and its hundred predicaments. The doctors counselled me through the possibility that my body might reject the organ and the disease might recur. The frankest among them even gave me a trial period of six to sixteen months, promised me ten more years of life in case of a success, pointed out the inevitability of years of continuous medication and dietary regulations even if things went fine. And then they sent me to sleep. When I woke up, I was on his kidney. My life had changed and I felt like a foreigner in my own body.

My miserable life was made hellish by that single haunting knowledge. It made liquid the very air I breathed. But my mental agony had no bearing on my physical health because my body didn’t reject his kidney even though it had more than enough reasons to do so and I ate anti-rejection capsules and blood pressure stabilisers and my physical health improved steadily and, three years after the transplantation, I was three years younger again, astonishing the doctors. But the improvement in my physical health in no way corresponded to my mental health and my mental health declined. Steadily. Eroding even the remotest consolations of this unfortunate matrimony.

To allow yourself to marry a man you don’t like: that’s the wrongest morality. To not have the will to break free from its bondage is a sister shame.

Lack of love in itself is not an unendurable burden. No, I don’t think so. Not that it’s unimportant, but one could live with lack of love, or learn to. I would have been just fine if my husband was just boring and innocuous like Doordarshan. But he was a suffocating presence, an unsettling shadow that hovered at the back of my mind even through deep sleep.

I was tired living his life and I had to violate it in some way.

When you are immured in an unhappy marriage, crippled by your own immense lack of will to break free, what better half consolation than an unemotional, irresponsible, liberating affair? I wanted to do it at thirty and I began doing it finally at forty, exactly two months ago, when I sweated it out with Burhan, in a bed that reeked of my sleepless years, and each night was like a private revenge on Sadique CT, my husband.

What was I revenging? Just unhappiness? I can’t tell you more than that. I can’t tell you what exactly I loathed about him aside from his dark skin and his brushy moustache and his weepy dependence. But resentment towards him has long been absorbed in me as smoke is by lungs. It clings to me like a tenacious layer of mud I can’t wipe off. And yet I can’t tell you what I hated in him so much. After all, my husband did give me everything. He gave me not only a beautiful house and a great kidney but also two daughters, twins who looked so much alike that the sight bewildered me when I first laid eyes on them after I had pushed them out of my womb, twenty-three years ago.

Excerpted with permission from Chronicle of an Hour and a Half, Saharu Nusaiba Kannanari, Context/Westland.