Source: Pahari painting
My sister and I drooled
over the aluminium box
which my grandmother finally
opened last summer.
The box knows all the secrets
of my family. It has become
a legend now. before we saw it,
we often questioned its existence.
But there it was, in metal and space.
My grandmother had decided that
the secrets were not important
So she would distribute
them all equally. I was asked
to choose first. If allowed, I would
have taken the whole box
but I settled on her green silk saree.
It was the first silk he bought me
when we both went to a South India tour in 1976.
Bangalore or Madras.
I don’t remember anymore.
My grandmother said, in a dry,
matter of fact tone.
The green silk saree is
a symbol of love, that could not be.
Now I know why she didn’t want
to keep it anymore.
The pallu tells me the story of
the first time she wore it
anticipating a compliment.
Instead she was handed over,
‘you look so fat’ and ‘stop eating all the time’.
The fall tells the story of the time
when she accidentally tipped over
but no hand came to rescue.
The hand was busy stroking
someone else. The oil stain
on it tells the story of the night
when he didn’t come back home
on her birthday. She ate alone,
finding comfort and love
in deep fried pakoras.
As I examine the oil stain
She tells me I can get it dry-cleaned
I decide not to.
When I wore it that night, she told me
That I looked beautiful.
I told her she too would have.
She smiled and her face lit up.
I am dry-cleaning the stains,
one yard at a time.