Sunday, 2 August 2015

My latest short story 'Family Drama' in Eastlit, Volume 4, Issue 32, August 2015.

My latest short story 'Family Drama' features in Eastlit, Volume 4, Issue 32, August 2015.

An excerpt:

"I was the eldest among my siblings and helped Mother take care of the rest of the brood by bathing them, feeding them, cleaning their poop, etc. I even learnt to cook the waterydail and bhaat by the time I was ten years old. Which is why, I think, Mother found a confidante in me. She told me stories from her past while we washed clothes, made the beds, cleaned the house, or sang our prayer together – “Tumi Sitto Britti Muro” –  Mother singing from memory and I by following the words in the sacred text,Naamghosha.
“The Tipling High School was established by Gulok Chandra Baruah when we moved to Duliajan,” she told me one day when both of us were alone in the house. Father was away for a few days on work and my siblings were away at my aunt’s for a while. “Our house was right by the Tipling river. Father had a tiff with one of his brothers over land and he stormed out of the ancestral house in Jorhat, taking us with him.”
“How old were you then, Mother?” I asked.
“Hmmm 12 years I guess. I can’t say exactly,” she replied. The year she was born, nothing significant had happened, she said, hence no one remembered it.
Mother put some lentils and tomatoes to boil in a pot; I washed some rice for the two of us; Mother fetched some greens which she had cleaned earlier in the day and stored in a container in the fridge and continued with her story. “I was the eldest and the most hard-working like Ma. Ma used to get up before sunrise and sleep after everybody in the household had gone off to sleep. She would clean the area around the house, give fodder to the cows, feed the ducks and hens, cook food for all of us and the anxious guests who kept coming from father’s village to ask after us. I was the one up and about with Ma from sunrise.” Suddenly her voice became tender. She sniffed. “Ma worked so hard for all of us. And whenever there was fish or meat in the house, she would see to it that father and we got to eat well even if that meant she had to go without any.” A tear rolled down her right eye, which slanted a little more than the other eye, and she cried out softly, “Ma!” She closed her eyes and stayed still for a while, lips pursed as if that would keep the tears from gushing out. I didn’t disturb her. I quietly got up from the low wooden pira where I sat watching her clean the greens, and put the rice to boil on the stove. She got up in a short while and joined me with a bunch of little fish in her clenched hands. Saying move to the side, she deftly removed the hot lid of the pot where the lentils and the tomatoes were boiling with her bare hand and threw the fish into it. She then added the greens, some turmeric and salt and covered the pot once again. Turning to me, she whispered, “You have a beautiful face. Your aunt’s.” I melted and wrapped my arms around her and dug my face into her stomach, soaking in her familiar smells: of the earth, of garlic, of onions, of coriander, of fish, all mixed. “Had I a pretty face too, maybe I wouldn’t have been made to work so hard,” Mother spoke wistfully, “Meera has always been beautiful; she was a gorgeous child. No one made her work. Not even Ma.” My heart pained a little and I tightened my grip around her."

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