She wakes up everyday in a mire of ignorance. Her tangled hair flutters against everlasting wind that picks up pace as it approaches her: it could be a warning, it could be trying to break her fall. The woman, however, walks ahead, her eyes on the ground, her neck the shape of a sickle: no writer with any shred of dignity could ever describe her endowments, for she is the idol that was never made, a bronx statue that never left the sculptor’s head.
Dogs on the street bark at her–in veneration or in chagrin, we do not know. And under the giant willow tree where babies cry and mothers sing lullaby, she walks straight with her hopes torn asunder, a new leaf turned over. Could it be about her prince charming she meets on the bus, his white horse tied to a post neighing as the conductor blew his whistle? Could it be the windows that slap against her concrete-wreathed balusters as she lay whispering the name of her thimble-headed unborn baby? Or could it be the raging, tail-twisted little swimmers that still are floating in her womb that do not belong in her biology, winter come or gone, that were forced inside: like an extra swirl in floral patterns she draws everyday in her brahmin street with her brahmin hands?
We draw borders first, Meghala [name changed]. We draw them first so we know where to stop drawing.
Memories of yesterday flooded past her–the converging faces of men standing over her like a completed arch symmetrical from both ends. The soot-adorned corners of the dark room, the green-colored tupperware that had a broken base… the come-winter bhajans in the air, the croaky stereo-recorded voice of Unni Krishanan… the strange voices whispering her name. And she whispered his as she lay under the leafy-bed of great trees of which stories were written. Her hair fluttered no more, there was no wind for half-a-mile radius; her face was fresh, bright, with no sign of turmoil. She was breathing fast and any moment now she could surface, save only the iron-clad hands around her neck. She doesn’t reach for the surface anymore.
She doesn’t even make an effort.
The brahmin street were filled with brahmins yesterday. Men and women in different stages of sleep were in the shared stage of curiosity for the Girl That Never Came Back Home. Whispers were exchanged, windows trained open. Girls in their houses slept sound, their slumbers unbroken by their relief that it’s only The Other Girl. The widowed mother came running out of the house, shielding her daughter’s face, as though it were the face of the crime itself. She poured water on her head. Merciless and ice-cold. She slapped her daughter at every chance of opportunity presented. The mother’s insides were broken, like china that could never be mended; she felt excluded from the society she trusted, learnt to love. Where was Azadi when women of shared aristocracy giggled in curiosity? In a moment of blink, she had become Kashmir that never obeyed, her family stood by Bharkha Dutt with multiple muslim husbands, her nationality was now Pakistan: she and her daughter became everything that was anti-national. In the blink of an eye.
She palmed her daughter’s face as though it were lotus. The places where she had slapped had become ripe and angry. Her daughter’s eyes begged for more beating. The same human, the way that was born to her the same way as it had happened for a thousand years. Ten months. Ten grams of saffron a day. Ten o’ clock. Tenth street. The girl who was still a child to her, but a woman to the world. And the mother said this amidst whispers and maundering and fragility and with utter humiliation:
Oh, know this, my daughter, borne of fiery tongues to withered blues… Mayflower eyes and mellifluous music: Impurity is in your beating heart, the very blood that flows in your veins. With every breath you take, with every muscle you pull. Gaze upon a stone unturned, every bread you break. You are the walk of shame, you shall never make it to your grave. Oh, my daughter, thimble-headed, with ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes, a nose, little bosoms, eyebrows of wake, you are handicapped, nevertheless, for something is broken that could never be mended.
Oh, my daughter, my love, my hundred grams of bundled joy, not all is broken, gather ye rosebuds. For you will promise your mother that this news will never slip away. Not in your sleep, not during wake, sit until the rise of sun on this secret like it’s your lifeline. When tides come, don’t slip away; when rain comes pouring down, don’t buckle. For this is your rope of hope, smudge not.
Promise me, you will not tell a living soul of what happened of late. Promise me, too, that you will not forget of this. Walk by the roses, with thorns under your feet. Yelp at men here more, no matter how weak. But do not forget, my earnest, for forgiveness comes hand in hand with forgetting. You shall not forgive, you shall not fade away.
“Oh, sweet daughter, you can only lose, but it can’t be lost,” she ended.