Scented candles ignite into life, filling the air with wisps of an ambiguous flower aroma as she holds the lit match to the wick. The label proclaims “Rose”, but it’s enigmatic enough to be mistaken for any flower. Red rose petals scatter across the white linened bed, and march neatly, crocodile-file into the bathroom. Malika rises from the corner of the bed, feels the pinch of her new $150 lace bra and knickers as they nip at her body, and shrugs on her thin looks-like-silk-but-isn’t robe. She strides, out of practice, in her black stiletto heels, dug up from a forgotten corner of her closet, part of her armour from a past life, well worn and permanently misshapen, to turn off the bath. He’s clearly not coming.
We are Janus. We came into the world together, two faces one mind. I am she, and she is me. Our parents call us Jane and Jen, but they never know who they’re talking to. Jane and Jen born in June. We toy with them. We have played this game for as long as we can remember. We tried it first when we realised that they could not tell which of us was Jane and which Jen. Now, even they call us Janus.
Day 1: The thunder gods are angry. I can hear their rolling rumble, building to a climax of house-quaking booms. Everything pales next to their fearsome temper. Surely, they will punish our transgressions.
Priya, how will MummyDaddy react?
Radha, do you want me to go through with this arranged marriage and spend my life in misery? You’re my cousin-sister. I thought you’d understand.
We have maintained the lie till now, but we both know that by morning, I will be gone.
Om Ayim Hreem Shreem…
Eyes closed, palms together, I give in to the murmurings of the meditative mantra. Wisps of sandalwood incense invade my nostrils, transporting me to the innumerable other times that I have sat like this, blanketed in the bhajans and bell tolls of a temple celebration. Aromas of soap, talcum powder, hair oil, and human bodies band together with the usual temple smells, seeping into every pore until they become a part of my own odour.
Ayim Ka Ee Ila Hreem Continue reading “Durga Puja”
The cacophony of clamouring cars, inching and nudging slowly forward assaults my ears. Poised pluming tendrils of dust and diesel fumes lurk in wait for any exposed airways. I pull the edge of my sari tighter across my nose and mouth, then flick it over my head to cover my ears. An arm snatches out, grabs my elbow, and yanks me sharply backwards away from the barrelling lorry, horn blaring, tattooed in garish yellow-red-blue paisley prints, sign in three foot letters announcing its ownership.
Larni’s fingers grip the steering wheel, knuckles whitening. Nanna didn’t sound well on the phone. She sounded old and tired.
A large shape on the road catches her eye. A full-grown wedge-tailed eagle picks at the bones of a mangled carcass, the latest road-kill victim of a hurtling road-train. She doesn’t have time for this.
The old woman smacks her now toothless gums. It is her anniversary today. Forty years have elapsed since that fateful day when she left her family, left all she had known, for the man she loved. He had been kind to her, and loved her in his way. He had been patient with her, holding her as she burst into wailing, keening tears, her whole body quaking, as they made love.
Was it only ten years ago that he thoughtlessly died, leaving her childless and alone?
The rain falls unceasingly. Corpulent drops, ponderous with the weight of their watery load, tumble and roll from the heavens. They pound on the roof tiles dampening all other sounds, creating an impenetrable blanketing silence. A world devoid of look-here distractions.
I sit on the stone bench surrounding the central courtyard, hugging my knees close to my chest. Delinquent droplets ricochet off the pillars and walls, and pock my face. The beads band together at the peak of my cheeks, then streak their way down my face. Tears are hidden in their tracks.