The saffron colour draped her frail body, gliding softly around her waist. You could see hints of gold, glittering around the border of her sari. It was bright and beautiful, just like she was the first time she wore it. Her jet black hair was twisted into a bun, fashioned with a jasmine garland, on that day. The kajal made her almond eyes even bolder. All her sisters were jealous of her beauty. She was tall, slender and had a sharp nose. Her father used to call her Cleopatra.
The sari was to be worn for Diwali, just like she had done fifty years ago. Though she had changed with time, her sari didn’t. They were kept in safe conditions, away from her conniving bahus. They had their hands on most of her jewelry and all of her kurtis. She had saved her saris though for she loved them. She showered them with love and affection, perhaps more than she did on her family. The saris reminded her of all that she loved. Her family reminded her of all that she had lost.
She looked at the vanity mirror that was placed on her almirah. She had barely any time to look at it. She made sure she was busy so that she didn’t have time.
Today, she made time. She opened her long hair, which was once pure black but now, pure white. It flowed over her shoulders, down to her waist, softly and gently. She had forgotten how beautiful her hair used to be. As a young girl, she would run around the fields with her thick mane flying behind her. Now, her knees groaned with each step she took and her open hair would irritate her.
She touched her face. It was once soft and long. Now, it was harsh with wrinkled lines all over. Her eyes were draped with loose eyelids and her once smiling lips were set in a thin line. No matter how hard she forced them, they stayed in their severity. They didn’t smile when she got married, didn’t smile when she had her children and they didn’t smile when her family laughed. They stayed in their solitude.
She wondered if he would still find her beautiful, if he could make her smile? Would she have aged differently, had she aged with him?
She would have. She knew she would’ve.
Today, she would allow herself to remember him. After fifty years, she would bring him alive.
She moved towards the dark corner of her room and placed herself on a rocking chair. It once belonged to her husband. It used to be placed out in the courtyard and he would sit on it all day. He even died on it. She moved it into her room and placed it in a comfortable corner. People would pity her, thinking that she would sit on his chair as she missed him. Truth be told, it was simply comfortable.
She closed her eyes and let her memories flood her eyes.
She saw the day she met him, as a child.
She saw her younger self being completely enamoured by him.
She saw him, in his teenage years; tall, well-built, fair with dark black eyes. They always used to sparkle, especially around her.
She saw the day he confessed his feelings for her. She wore the same saffron sari. It was under the banyan tree, near a lake in the rain. She was so happy.
She saw the day when her father slapped her, angry at her for having a relationship with him. How could an educated girl fall in love with a village pandit?
She saw the day she married her father’s choice- an accountant. Smart man but nothing compared to her choice. Her choice was philosophical. She used to call him Tagore.
She saw the determination in his eyes. Determination to marry the girl he loved and not let her go. She saw her determination too.
She saw the day she was pushing through the crowd that surrounded the banyan tree, next to the lake, in the rain.
She saw her Tagore, painted red with his wounds. His eyes were closed in serenity as if he were just asleep.
She saw herself let go of all her tears. She saw herself hating her family; her brothers for killing him, her father for ordering his death and her mother for standing silently in the sidelines. She never forgave them. She stopped laughing with her brothers, stopped sitting with her father and stopped dancing with her mother.
She knew they missed their daughter but she didn’t care. She missed her Tagore. She’d dream of herself dancing, laughing and talking to him.
She suddenly shot up and went to the mirror. Her legs ran even though her knees cried out.
She closed her eyes and opened them. She saw her Tagore.
He played with her white hair, she saw him kiss her wrinkled face and pull her lips out into a smile, reminding her he had never left.
NAINA ATRI follows the philosophy of U Soso Tham: all rules are scattered bones that do not feel. It is the heart that feels and hence, writes. She’s always been interested in the human world, especially in things that she cannot touch but feel (mainly, psychology). Her favourite books include The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan, Deathly Poems compiled by Russ Kick and the works of Devdutt Pattnaik.