Pristine White

Pristine White

The sea reflected the full moon. A low tide hummed gently to lure the reflection. Women happily chirped inside the cottage. 

“The red saree, dear. Today is karvachauth!” The matriarch offered her the silks.

“Red or green? Which ones you prefer?” The glassy bangles slid her delicate wrist.

Beaming with marital pride, she applied the vermilion deep beyond the hairline. Her toddler watched the celebrations, joyfully. Her man stood tall by her. This was her identity.

Till one day.

***

Time and tide, definitely didn’t wait for any woman. 

The sea stretched like beginning of an interminable waterway. A haze rested on the high tide that ran out to the shore in vanishing flatness.

Swarms of people bathed in white whispered gloomy nothings to each other inside the cottage. The warm compound housed cold emotions. 

“Change her to a white saree.” The matriarch announced the protocol.

“Don’t forget to break those bangles!” without shifting the white matching handkerchief from her egoistic nose, an aunty alerted.

“No food for her till the pyre is lit. Poor man’s soul will not attend moksha.” Another heavily grieving soul laid her prejudice bare.

Everyone, literally everyone made a noise except her. Still, as a marble, everything flowed past her. That glare, fixed and steady, pierced none who could feel her.

 Anger? 

Repentance? 

Anguish? 

Worry?

 Disgust? 

Or all of it? What did the glare contain? To one’s subjective dismal, it contained nothing. Empty heart reflected in the vacant stare. Not a tear moistened her hazel-nut eyes. Not a crease adorned her bare glabella. Once a proud vermillion embellished it, but now the place was crisp white like her attire. She sat like Buddha in deep meditation. Nor a muscle twitched neither a cry winced.

“Make her cry or she will die!” A friend surfaced with true grief, wept. Since her man’s body was laid in front of that stoic glare, not even a sigh had escaped her adamantly pursed lips. Had she accepted the fate? Or given up on it? What had she exactly thought, none could decipher.

The crowd was getting impatient. The last rites couldn’t begin without the widow beating her chest and wailing in an utter cacophony. The young widow she was, maybe too modern to throw her emotions naked to the crowd. Yet, the vultures waited for leftovers of an emotional upheaval.

“Mamma.”

The raw scar above her left eyebrow spurted a red spot. A stray strand of hair escaped the taut bun. Her index finger quivered. The lips split with tenacious strings of saliva still bridging them.  

“Mammaaa.. You seem different!”

A lone tear glided down her smooth skin. Slowly she was coming to life. She hugged the confused toddler who had forever seen her in rainbow colours. She had to live for this joy that he had left behind; their joy. She wept like there was no tomorrow. Finally, the crowd was relieved. 

The last rites would begin soon. But she would seem different forever.
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Glossary: Karvachauth- an Indian festival where women fast for the long life of their husbands.
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