13: Hearts of Glass
Tongues wag. They do so for various reasons but the most substantial among them is because they don’t want to adopt a state of dormancy–that’d be akin to ringing a death knell!
Over the past few weeks the busy tongues along a serene and conservative street of the upscale beachside Chennai neighborhood of Besant Nagar were having the time of their lives. They were reaping a golden harvest. From dawn to dusk, in the courtyard of the Ashtalakshmi temple along the shores of Elliot’s beach, even under the Banyan tree of the renowned Kalakshetra Academy you could eavesdrop on the following prattle:
‘The elder Mishra girl has run away and wonder of wonders she has shunned the match of a lifetime- Anand Vaidyanathan! Now who in her right mind would even consider flirting with such an option?!’
‘ The girl is definitely not all there!’ This was the foregone conclusion accompanied by a sympathetic head shake.
‘Poor Srinivas and Komal Mishra.. They have committed no sin by coming forward to take care of their orphaned niece. How were they to anticipate the ungrateful girl would pay them back this way?’
Therefore on a pleasant Spring day in April when a brand new shining ‘phoren’ sedan came to a screeching halt in front of this infamous Mishra household, the aforementioned tongues wagged and twisted themselves into a feverish frenzy.
Dressed in a simple yellow and green raw silk salwar suit with the crinkled shawl drawn over her elegant head and across the lower portion of her face so to appear as innocuous as possible, Khanak entered her former home and rushed at once to find her cousin.
She stood outside the room which not so long ago had been to her as familiar as her very own and hesitated. She felt like an unwanted intruder.
It was packed with women talking in loud voices creating a happy din, one that is so prosaic in a house preparing for a wedding.
She stood there for several moments and listened, catching random phrases enunciated in lilting tones.
“Ahhh Savitri amma..aapke haathon mein jo jaadoo hai..Dekho…Dulhan ke kesh…kitne khoobsoorat lag rahe hain na? .(there is unique magic in your hands.. Behold..the bride’s tresses..how lovely they look..don’t they?)
“Kya? What..? Tamil mein (speak in Tamil)..I don’t understand!”
A trill of amused laughter. “Never mind! You are the best Savitri amma!”
Khanak smiled too. Yes, Savitri amma was the local expert on hair design, especially when it came to braiding it with fresh flowers. She inhaled deeply, the sweet aromatic fragrance of jasmine, rose, and marigold, fresh from the fields and it brought back bittersweet memories.
“Look! The Henna’s color shows up so deep! Shreya beti, don’t you worry , you’ll have no problems holding your husband’s interest.”
So it was true, her cousin was indeed getting married. She needed to talk to her.