The unending mystery

Meena’s mother and my mother were sisters, and our mothers had another sibling, Lakshmi. Meena has two sisters and I have four sisters. More than ever in my life, it was a time of sisters. From a triangle to a square and from a square to a circle, growing and growing. From there it became a pool, a lake, to an ever flourishing, deep, resplendent ocean of a relationship called sisterhood.

Meena was a shy, simple, ever-smiling, meek girl when she graduated from college at age 20. She was smart and wanted to pursue higher studies; perhaps a Master’s in Physics, her favourite subject. But my aunt had other plans. She wanted Meena to get married right away. “Too much education (like in my family) will scare away bridegrooms,” she said. So, when Guruprasad came on the scene, the marriage was settled. Meena became a happy wife.

I remember this one thing about the time Meena had to go to her husband’s house for the first time. She was packing a pair of her husband’s pants in her suitcase. I don’t know how or why it was there, maybe he had forgotten it on some visit and Meena had to take it back. My aunt Lakshmi had joked, “So, Meena will have a man’s clothes among her own in her suitcase.” That to me had sounded so wonderful that I had envied the situation with excruciating pain. I was myself not married then.

Later, when I was to leave India for the United States for higher studies, and to get married, early one morning, I went to Chamarajapet to visit my grandfather’s house. There was excitement in the air, and everyone was running to and fro the house on the 1st Main Road and the nursing home down the road. Meena had given birth to her first baby boy.

I went to see Meena. She was lying happily with her newborn all wrapped up by her side. I picked him up and sat staring at this brand-new life. There were tiny dots like pinheads on his nose, fresh from birth. I was amazed and thrilled for Meena, myself and all humanity!

Meena seemed apprehensive and lay staring at me. Finally, she haltingly said with a voice dripping with superstition, “Indu, can you hold him like that? Isn’t there something like a ‘soothaka’ for 10 days?” “What?” I thought, remembering vaguely the version of untouchability honouring birth and death in Achaar families, but a practice that had all along been ignored in my own family.

I turned to her feeling like I had taken shower under some thunderous primitive waterfall. “Meena, babies like this are like gods. Pure. If we have them, we touch them for it is like touching a god.”

It was a divine moment of truth that Meena and I shared for a brief while. Yet it has turned into an everlasting shimmer me. I have since had three children of my own and nine grandchildren. The mystery never ends.

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The unending mystery

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