Tube Lights, Udders and Noses

I remember the hot Sunday afternoons. After gobbling fried Nang fish, we laze around in the front yard. The sky is blinding blue. A strong gust of wind sends seeds of the nearby tree twirling down. We try to catch it as they race to the ground. I hear a voice. Later I see the aluminium-utensil-studded TVL XL chugging along the road. He stops near the house to see if we needed any. Some of the utensils have tiny circular patterns with a mirror-like finish. I run my fingers over them and feel the textures change underneath. Smooth. Rough. Smooth again.

Back in the day when tube light was not working, it used to flicker for a long time. We danced under it. We imagined being at a club like the people on TV. Between moments of darkness, I see the smile on my brother’s face. His body is frozen in a weird dance position. I hear and see my cousins laughing. It is dark again.

With rapt attention, I listened to my grandmother. She spoke about things that happened many years ago. I sat on the floor. She was on the chair. On a Sunday her mother had told her to clean the udders properly else the cows would feel itchy. And the next Thursday her mother had passed away. Grandmother held her hand to her eye level to indicate the height of books my great-grandfather had. Meanwhile, in the background, Doordarshan was playing Shree Krishna. Disguised as a brahmin Lord Krishna was having a conversation with Barbarik. Sensing the threat he poses for the Pandavas in Kurukshetra, Krishna convinces Barbarik to donate his head. The program ends, credits roll and the title track plays in the background. Mom comes to switch off the TV. But she doesn’t turn it off. She stands beside the TV with an outstretched hand over the switchboard and waits until the song is over.

The other day I heard someone say how in their family people rarely hug. They hug only in extreme circumstances like when somebody dies. I could relate to that. I have never seen my parents or aunts or uncles hug anybody except babies. We never have explicitly told that we love each other. Even the thought of saying it feels unnatural. Love is expressed through food and favours. Last time I travelled home I came back with ground spices, salted Dharepuli and ginger garlic paste carefully enclosed in Banana leaves, tied not with threads but fibres from the banana plant.

After multiple days of festivities, my brother’s marriage was finally over. We came back from the function. I got into my home clothes. And sat on the porch steps. All the decorations had fallen and were being carried away with the wind. The flowers which were so fresh in the morning had started to lose its colour. Balloons were deflated. A few burst and only the remains hung on the wall. It was quieter. Mother prepared lime juice. All my aunties sat around the dinner table still wearing their shiny sarees. They discussed everyone who attended the ceremony – Her son is all grown up now. He looked so handsome! Oh yes… I saw her! She was wearing such a nice saree. It seems he got married and now they are in America. Who? Oh her! She did not come I guess. I did not see her. Ah right! Their parents are not well. How can they leave them at home and attend the wedding? You always need someone to look after them. So sad. Yes! Yes! I saw her too… She married outside the caste, right? True… The food was amazing. Did you eat the holige? Why didn’t you? It was right beside the ice cream! But they had put lots of ghee. They said he never found a good match. He has seen tons of girls. He likes nobody. That’s all he does… he meets them and says no. It seems they bought a new flat. I had gone there. They had a swimming pool and gym also! Oh… I had gone to their wedding. More than 1000 people had attended I think. So many items for lunch! Yes… I too observed it. She looked very sick. I didn’t ask her anything. What is this new fashion of growing beard and having long hair? It looks so ugly… True, she didn’t even look at me! She was so smug. I too didn’t care. Yes! That kid is so cute and so fair. It was so plumpy… But the nose is growing a little too fat. The mother should pinch it every day to make it thin. I had the same problem with my daughter. I kept pinching it. Look how is it now!

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