August 28, 2009

They must’ve known my grandparents

divya rajan

I drive by narrow lanes called eda
in colloquial malayalam, the walls hoarded with large
posters of Mohanlal and some teenager heroine
(who won the National Award for Best Actress,
I’m told, for carrying on precariously well
as a mother of an eighteen year old, when
she herself had but known eighteen mango- textured
summers) with wisps of curls over elephantine
ears and a big, red bindi on her forehead. The car
rumbles over dead brown leaves, to be
composted; more leaves that’d borne
mid-life crises and just breathed last
beneath the tires and the smell of wet
earth rises to my nostrils. There’s
another smell that’s common in these
towns. The smell of unsmoked bidi leaves
caressed by nimble fingers of women, young
and old, in factories overloaded with
women, for they’re cheaper, more reliable
and don’t drink. All they do, is work
and smile and save money for their
daughters’ and sisters’ weddings to be
held under thatched, nameless roofs
with indistinct tharavad flavors. Their
smiles burst out, like pomegranates when
cut open. They must’ve known my grandparents.
Why else would they smile at me? My city
lips creak open like a two hundred year old
frozen fossil. A scarlet-less smile,
aching to be shed.


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