Essay written by 2007 DPDF Black Atlantic Studies Fellow Nandini Dhar, featured in Cream City Review, Volume 38, No. 2:
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:
My sister reads the openings between petals: hints of yellow, thread-thin mud lines on white petals. Last night’s storm had shaken off the branches, had given them an effulgence different from that of the sun. It is not light yet, and we have left behind the adult demands for absolute obedience behind the half-closed doors of our home. The courtyard is neither home nor street. A threshold to write against what’s inside: walls, dining tables, beds, closets, porcelain tea sets and the claustrophobia of familiar faces in every corner. Here, with the dampness of the last night’s rain in between our toes, I repeat to my sister what I have heard from grandmother. How in the olden days girls used the orange shiuli stalks to dye their saris marigold yellow. My sister shakes her head: no. Angry, dry as winter. Mother’s finger-marks on both her cheeks. It is not light yet, but I know how and where to trace those lines. Discontented, Mother calls her. Mother does not know. Could not guess. How my sister is holding another story beneath her skin: the unseen next. A form that no one has memorized yet. We are prohibited to leave our rooms before sunrise. But here we are. The air smells like old shit: the fumes from the tannery nearby. A stink even the dampness of rain and white petals of monsoon flowers cannot hide. Three-years-old, and we thought, fairies came down in our courtyard at dawn to collect the flowers from the grounds. Their dresses glinting like mothwings. Eight-years-old, and we know: fairies are no one but the children from the slum across the canal. As old as us. Younger. The glinting wings their kerosene lamps. Picking up flowers on the ground. Flowers sell. Bring money. Our maid’s daughter Saraswati amongst them. It is not dawn yet, and my sister’s hairs smell of carfumes.