SHORT STORY: WHEN WOMEN WAKEN JOURNAL/ THE LIGHT

                                          


                                        The Light 








I first saw it this morning when I carried my extra-large cup of green tea out onto the veranda. It was standing poker straight from the big terracotta pot, its spiky, shiny leaves in counterpoint to the golden yellow ball. Was this fruit growing in a pot? No, it seemed to be a flower, a strange and beautiful flower. I made a mental note to Google it later in the day.

It had been raining all night and had only just let up. The air was still wet but softly so.  A fragrant wisp of steam curled up from my cup, tickling my nose in the most pleasant way. A good day to be alive, I thought, just before the old weight that is actually a new weight, came to settle heavily inside me.

Well, it was a beautiful morning. And I could not take my eyes off that brilliant blotch of gold at knee-level. A roil of happiness was slowly uncurling inside me. Yellow is not my favourite colour, actually; I prefer complex shades like mauve and purple. But there was something uplifting about this bloom.

I was  being “in the moment,”  as my father advised me to. Poor Dad. It’s rare that he is at a loss for words, my stout-hearted father. Right now, though, he seems to be floundering. As does Ma. “Why?” she keeps asking.

“It`s my marriage, and I’ll do as I want to,” I want to yell at them. But poor things. It may be my marriage and my impending divorce, but they have both been dragged by the undertow, trying to stay afloat as best they can.

Me, too. Trying to stay afloat as best as I can, I mean.

I ask Murthy, the gardener, about the flower.

“It’s The Light, baby.”

“The light of what, Murthy?”  I ask him.

He regards me sadly, the way the devout look at an unbeliever.

“This flower is called The Light, Ammu baby,” he says in a firm tone.

I finish my tea and go inside to get ready, have breakfast and leave for work.  Ordinarily, I’d have pulled out a dark shirt because it was Casual Friday at office. However, Ma had told me, stuttering slightly over the words, that I must stay off the colour black for a while.

Was I not to mourn the demise of my marriage sartorially? Was I to put on a brave face/shirt, and all that jazz? Strange, because there was a growing contingent (many of my own kith and kin amongst them) who were of the opinion that I had acted hastily in leaving my marriage.  Like Ma, they too went “why”? I would have thought sober colours would have been the thing to rouse sympathy in those quarters.

But I didn’t ask. I don’t ask anything these days.

That orb of mellow yellow stayed with me all day. It was a long day, with a couple of client calls and the usual mountain of dreary paperwork. And of course, negotiating the carpet of eggshells that appears to be covering the otherwise nondescript office floor of late.

When I made the decision to leave my marriage, I made it calmly, acted on it calmly, left as calmly as I could manage it. The calmness almost camouflaged the terror-inducing courage the move had called for. Today I appear normal to people around me—probably giving them the impression that either I’m the archetypal hard-hearted bitch or someone typical of my generation, who can walk out of situations and relationships sans any visible qualms.

Visible. That’s the key word. I will let people know only as much as I want them to know. The rest is mine, all mine. Mine to store away, to pick at like it’s a virulent scab, to bring out from the darkness, to examine and then return to its confines.

It`s my marriage or the end of it, and I’ll obsess about it as much as I choose.

I didn’t want to go back home for lunch, but I’d promised my grandmother, so I went. The Light looked even more lovely in the afternoon sunshine. I bent down to sniff it. Nope, no fragrance. Still, it was quite the most stunning flower I had ever seen. And it filled me with a sense of inexplicable joy.

It has been a week since I moved into my grandmother’s house. No one asks what my plans are; everyone keeps making plans for me. Keep her busy, keep her happy, keep her entertained. Not that I have a problem with that.

What I did have a problem with was Amma’s attempts to help me get over the demise of my marriage.

When I moved in, I told her I`d left my marriage. She looked sad but said I knew what was best for me. After a few hours, she asked me when I was planning to go back home. I had to gently explain that this was home. At which she had cried. And I had sighed.

Since then, she has decided I need to be fixed up with some nice boy soonest possible. One day, she asked me to “consider our Raj’s son.”  The next day it was, “You go to Delhi  quite often on work. Why don’t you find yourself a nice boy there?”

And last night, “I like Christian boys. Why don’t you find yourself a handsome Christian boy?” Poor Amma, she cannot help herself, and she really loves me a lot. But I needed a Plan.

It was still light when I reached home, and the garden was bathed in the late evening sunlight. The burnished ball twinkled at me. I twinkled back at it.

Later that night, I Googled the plant. The bloom was popularly known as Delight.

Four days later, it had withered. But I refused to feel sad. It was another beautiful day. And by then, I had my Plan.

Dahlia by Chris Durietz

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