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.
Brazen wisps of tandoori chicken snake sinously from the oven to duel with the tangy sassiness of makhani sauce on the stove. They will marry soon, overcoming the quarrels and barriers that have separated them so long, combining their finest qualities. Dressed in their wedding garb of carmine, like all good Indian brides, they will unite to the trumpet call of bubbling ghee.
I sit sweltering, legs crossed, feet bare, hands cupped in my lap, back bent. The cool black marble floor of the front room of my grandmother’s house chills my thighs through the thin fabric of my salwar kameez.
Carelessly tossed emeralds and rubies lie strewn across an ornately carved teak table, blinking their arrogance in the dawning light. A once opulent landscape, an abundance of crystal and silver pots filled to brimming with the most succulent foods, is lain waste. Bodies are scattered across the floor in various stages of undress, like dolls abandoned by a petulant toddler.