The short story “Replacement” by Rimi B. Chatterjee was published for the first time in 2020 by Future Fiction within the anthology “Avatar. Contemporary Indian Science Fiction”.
Aiyzeh Dang wishes she could be slim and willowy like her friend Supiriya, who will find a good husband for sure. Instead, she can only hope she can go to New Singapore to study medicine with the man she admires for her contribution to the overpopulation problem. Her brothers, who run the family after their father’s death, only give her permission because she won a scholarship and they don’t have the money to pay her dowry to find her a husband.
Rimi B. Chatterjee has set various works in a fictional universe called the Antisense Universe. “Replacement” is the first work of this author I read, so I don’t know details of the great story she wrote other than the ones present in this short story. In the near future in which it’s set, Singapore sank and was replaced by New Singapore, the first floating city. If you’re not very rich, your only hope of living in New Singapore is to work for one of them or be able to study at the city’s university.
Advances in biotechnology are at the center of the story but the elements of that future are well recognizable. From a social point of view, nothing seems to have changed, and families like Aiyzeh Dang’s are still tied to old male chauvinist traditions. Aiyzeh is a girl with a talent for science to the point of having won a prestigious scholarship but she can only go to New Singapore after obtaining permission from her brothers.
The overpopulated world, the migrants victims of climate change, the glamor, and other elements of the story are projections of today’s situation. The themes are very serious but the author develops them with lighthearted tones. There’s a certain irony throughout “Replacement” that strikes Aiyzeh’s traditional family with her eldest sibling being described as an idiot and the glamor regarding certain models of femininity that constitute a product to sell. That’s especially true of the solution offered to Ramdhun Corporation to the problem that emerges during the story.
“Replacement” is a perfect case of a short story that leads the reader to have a few laughs and then think about the serious elements behind the humor. In a few pages, Rimi B. Chatterjee offers food for thought on various issues that are already important today, and for this reason, I recommend reading it.