She's watching them, and they her, although it is two different things now. Her sons: the eldest, the middle one and the youngest. The fourth is far away: separated by time, distance, words and circumstances.
She'd cradled all of them once: bathed them, massaging them, rubbing hard against the hair to give them the creamy, hair-less, soft skin that is their surname: the fair one. The middle son is bathing her today: he anoints her with sandalwood, tags her with abil, gulal, kanku. There's a slow, methodical love in his hands: how does he know this, she wonders? It does not come naturally to his gender, and yet, he knows how to prop her head up, how to drape the clothes on her, how to arrange the flowers. He's chanting too: and she knows her husband is watching too, flushed with pride. The pandit with four sons, named after the Gods themselves: three atheists and only one believer. The other two are watching too: working in a tandem that beats age-gaps, egos and beliefs.
What are they thinking, she wonders. Do they remember my anger? Piercing words. The rolling pin, the kitchen utensils that were an extension of my arm, and my anger. Once, a hot pincer that had found its way to the eldest one.
But he bothered me so, the eldest one. A naughtiness and boisterousness that defied his asthma-racked body, malnourished from the hand-to-mouth existence that marked my youth, my middleage.
Do they remember the love? The going hungry to feed them food? The walking barefoot to chosen deities, scorching sun and blistered feet? The fasts, the giving up of favoured things, the countless nights spent, stroking, sighing, sitting? The warm, ghee-soaked sheera that I fed them before I offered it to my Lord?
Me, the shipping magnate's daughter with rooms of my own, watching the waves roll in from my window to the endless. Me, the pandit's angsty wife, raising four sons and two daughters and one more in a one-room house, designated corners to cook, to pee, to bathe. Me, the woman who put her youth and her beauty in the aluminium trunk I carried my wedding clothes in, and locked it in for mothballs and silverfish to enjoy.
Me, the creator of my own destiny. Me, the forger of my own fortune. Me, the mother of four sons. One who I drove away with my words. One who lived with me, but who still seeks a semblance of happiness from a life in which I weed-ed out love. Wife to a man whose malaise was generosity, whose curse was his concern for other people, whose gifts were only for the hapless.
Me, Prasanna Gauri, named after the Devi who is both happy and gracious, benevolent and serene.
to be continued...