On the eve of Dussehra, Karthika witnesses, clearly for the first time, her grandmother silencing her mother with The Spray. In a story of tradition versus liberation, “A Taste of the Silence” by Ajay Kumar Nair challenges the old guard and argues for giving a voice to those who have been historically silenced.
My life philosophy for this week was that everything is cyclical, not karma and rebirth and shit my parents talked about but a feeling that everything flows in a loop, experiences fattening each other at the expense of the experiencer, and therefore it was inevitable that the state of my sleeplessness would form a relationship with Rohit’s wakeful existence and that I had no choice other than letting it happen.
What a Bollywood move, I tell myself, waiting at the gates, watching Rohit melt into the F-block building, his red-checked school uniform floating up its lime green insides, reminding me of the tutti-frutti melting into my pista-almond ice cream at the then newly opened Baskin Robbins on the old highway. Rohit was gone, and I wonder why I remembered that even though it had nothing to do with him. It had been Mumma and Papa, beaming at me when the tutti-frutti melted into the pista-almond ice cream, telling me to eat it before it became soup.
Maybe it’s the weather, the October calm with a drizzle always teasing about. Maybe it’s the sense of that perfection which was now either gone or going away.
As I think about that day, the breeze puffs my skirt to the side and I feel one with the grass being blown the same way. It was just after Papa became the manager at the textiles he had worked most of his life at, a buoyant time with things looking up, when he rushed home one evening, saying, “There’s a new ice-cream parlor I saw on my way, get dressed quickly,” so free of his usual stiffness that Mumma couldn’t get dressed for half an hour, whispering, “Will the sun-god sleep in the east today.”
I stand there gelled to the gateway. Behind me, some distance away, is Gandhi Park, where a giant effigy of the demon Ravana is being propped up. It’s the festival of Dussehra, celebrating the victory of Rama over the ten-headed demon king. The effigy stands tall, unaware of the burning. The breeze twirls each of his ten haystack mustaches. Some tarpaulin tents wave about like blankets drying on an airy terrace, just in case of a drizzle.