By Lopa Banerjee
A dash of turmeric, dollops of garam masala in the skillet. She cooks the crisp air of her desires that evaporates with the simmering, hot lentils. She scissors her desires into shreds, while a bird dances in her throat. She swallows its rebellious song along with hard chapatis and slaps. A mighty shout stiffens her, followed by cussing and thrusting, entering her in the dead hush of a cramped bedroom. Inside her, silence swells, grows out of her, seeking shelter in every cell of her body. The silence is the gulmohar tree of her long forsaken home, the rush of sunny faces, and the sweet soil of her childhood town.
Her mane grew irresistibly, along with her raging hormones. In the house, the buds resting under her flowery frock, the rippling movement of her limbs, the mole above her lips fueled dirty love. Eyes stuck to her body like clinging mud.
Blindfolded, stunned into stillness, her body was bustling that afternoon when rough male hands gripped and groped her. Those were the hands and voyeur eyes that followed her, peeping through secret holes to soak in her private moments; men who threatened her and slammed her shut when she roamed in the open fields, beautiful, whole, and free. Nobody soothed her when she let her folks know her pain. Her legs were limp, her body was sinking, rising, dissolving. “A half-eaten plate, a nibbled fruit”, became her names.
Washing away the dirt with soapy bubbles, she bled and whimpered. The tainted moon, lonely, despairing, was soon sold away in a lucrative negotiation of marriage. “What more can we ask for?” her mother asked, flashing a smile over sugary snacks and tea. “Ten acres of land, a house in the city, and no unmarried sisters. Big deal for a dusky, tainted girl.”
There was a young boy who had made her soar. She met him in glints of sunshine on her way to school. He talked of music and birds, trees and the deep blue sea, between her blackout and waking, flanking her like jolts of lightening, holding her together. He had once said, “There is a world in your eyes.” Their eyes had made love once. Those eyes met for fragmented seconds the day she left town, crackling inside, in her bridal finery.
Summer in her new ‘home’ spluttered with hot oil; vegetable broth and cups of tea zipped her in kitchen chores. The foolish lure of love that whispered orange autumn in her ears roared and raged as she sank in the abysmal darkness of the bedroom. The men, her husband, her father-in-law, brothers-in-law spun and spiraled around her. The women in the house drank deep their diktats, massive and shining. She shared the kitchen and the rooms with her sisters-in-law, while the men watched them with their primordial eyes.
A year later, a baby girl filled her with cadence and love. Her shrill cries, hunger and blabbering hovered around the rooms like sacrilegious texts, while she suckled on the milk of her love. The baby ran around the house in vigorous footsteps. But soon, they coerced her into silence. Her tumbling energy and her trembling spring songs were slapped into commonplace words. At night, the little girl cried in her mother’s bosom—mighty rivers, raging torrents only the two of them knew.
Gushing spasms of pain left her raw, wrenching, and writhing in a clinic they knew. The doctor’s hands worked on the jagged edges of her cervix and ripped a half-formed being apart, wrapped in the blood, mucus, and fluids of a mother she would never meet. Oh yes, it would have been another wretched female, had it been born. The doctor ran a couple of scans, pressing against the mother’s womb in the half-light of a silhouetted room. They fixed the ordeal in hushed tones and the papered sound of money, left her alone in the room, cracked open, in her memories and grief.
She returned, soon after, to the home where rituals and chores have been waiting for her since eternity. The women of the house surrounded her, grim, dark and crumbling with their own tales of submission. “You have to bear at least one male child soon if you want to stay around here, in this house”, she was told, as her mother-in-law squinted at her, making handmade quilts. Her sisters-in-law hovered around her in kitchen flames. The men of the house suspended her in unleashed wants. Her husband sliding up and down her pale body, relentlessly, every night, snored beside her in satiated sleep.
She floated alone like a weightless bubble in space. The moon became her pilot light; she danced to the softest of music, a quiet, unperturbed dance in her dreams, hand-in-hand with her unloved little girl. Together, they swirled and twirled, a wild fury of light, till the wake of daylight burned their fire away. Together, they drank the residual juices of the day until the wee hours of the night, when they reunited in the soiree of their shared dreams.
Author’s Note: This is my first modest attempt at crafting a poetic, fictional narrative of a mother and her daughter, their patriarchal trappings and their shared wounds. This is also my humble tribute to the battered women of India, suffering the pangs of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and the evils of female infanticide.
Lopa Banerjee is a freelance writer, poet, and mother of two beautiful girls. She is also in her final year of studying creative nonfiction writing at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. She has just completed her memoir, a book-length collection of personal essays and stories on her childhood and her internal journey titled, Thwarted Escape: A Journey of Migrant Trails and Returns. Her poetry, essays, articles, and book reviews have appeared and are forthcoming at Prairie Fire, 13th Floor Magazine, Fine Lines, Yahoo Voices, The Mind Creative, Incredible Women of India, and Ampersand Review.
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