Sunday, 15 April 2007

5th September, 2006. 2030 hrs


Water – sacred elixir. The Ganges – saviour, wiping off our sins, condemning some to a lifetime of sacrifice.

At the age of 9, my eternal worry was the next game of hopscotch or hide-n-seek. At the age of 12, only the games had changed. At the age of 12, women had lost their husbands. At an age when I had not even fully grasped the implications of that word, some women had lost it without knowing the nature of their loss. It was not a husband they lost but their childhood.

A beautiful woman with hair as white as the mane of a stallion and wrinkled skin sits on a swing in the central room of an old mud house with a tiled roof in a small village tucked in south India. The house is a paradoxical structure. It shows some signs of modernity – a toilet, a tv, the roof tiles. But for that it is the same as the house she was born in.

She has lived there for 84 long years. Brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews – she has seen them all come and go. They are the breaks in her routine, the people she has dedicated her life to. She had cooked for her brothers, dressed her sisters, taken them to school, worked for their weddings, helped raise their children. But she has none of her own.

She is the eldest of 14 siblings, few now live that were born with her. She is the last link that I have with my roots, the last guardian of my forefathers’ heritage. The rest of us have moved too far, too fast. She remains a picture of the eternal in a world that like quicksand is ever changing, drawing everyone in. But she sits there, waiting for nothing and no one. Content in her faith, she brings a smile to our faces despite her loss. She is complete in her solitude, a picture, immortal, caught in eternity.

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