Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Mala and her husband rent one of those cheap, characterless apartments that crowd the suburbs of big cities... but to them, that is home and Mala strives her best to spread a bit of soul around. Her sage green panels have softened the harsh lines of the white blinds; the morning light streams through the sheer fabric of it creating a lovely effect. There is a hapless paisley sofa next to the window; piles of bright cushions give it a cheerful air. She and Dev often snuggle there together and look up at the sky while sipping their morning tea.. life does not seem so hopeless then! A painting here and a painting there breaks the monotony of the bland walls. A mosaiced tapestry reiterates the mix-n-match flavor of their lives. A stray mattress adopted by them sits wrapped in tripple sheets topped by a warm pastel bed spread. It invites Mala to roll and stretch on its yielding softness. But its a Saturday morning and a host of household duties await her attention and such indulgences will extract a heavy price every day of the following week. So Mala moves on.. She pauses a moment to sniff the pair of sandalwood elephants she bought from Calcutta on her last visit to India.

"The bills just have to paid this Monday first thing", Mala muses as she lines the washer with liquid soap and dumps the laundry quickly checking the pockets for stray coins or bills. Why cant Dev make sure his clothes are really soiled before putting them in the basket? This one surely has a couple of more wears left! Mala has put the dahl to boil on the stove before she left for this quick trip to the laundry room. That cooker might blow up if she doesn't hurry now. And then she has to resume the hunt for quarters for the drier. She is only one short and surely that'll turn up some place if she really looked.. but she's already looked almost everywhere and this bothers her a bit. Mala flops back to the apartment in Dev's slippers. The skimpy shorts and shirt she had carelessly donned compliment her smallish frame and beautiful skin. A mexican smiles an extra friendly smile as she passes by. What the hell!

Mala's favourite spot in the house is the little garden on her sun warmed kitchen window-sill. Lovingly tended, the thick foliage overflows the little earthen pots. The bright light green of sweet basil contrast with the more greyish and rough sheen of the greek oregano. The chives stand tall and thin with weedy little blooms. A mixed tangy-punjent aroma fill the air as Mala picks off the dried leaves and a few fresh ones for her cooking this saturday. Two cacti with red and yellow flowers and a pink graft stands stoically on the sides to balance the levity of its neighbors.

Mala has made palak paneer and sambar dahl and spiced it with home grown curry leaves - it emanates a delicious flavor as it is laid out on the table and she waits for Dev to get out of the shower. The air in the kitchen is a bit stuffy.. Dev has a wonderful voice and Mala can hear him singing some of her favorite songs. She hums along and pounds on the bathroom door. Mala is hungry and the food is getting cold. Dev's wet head emerges to placate Mala.... Feeling a bit wet but happy Mala goes to stand near the window.

On an impulse, Mala turns off the air conditioner and opens the dust clogged windows that remains tightly shut most of the week. Outside, a strong autumn wind is blowing and the nearby sprawling maple tree dances riotously to its rhythm. The spirit of it is touches Mala too. Suddenly she percieves a festive sparkle to everything in the room. The slight chill from the winds bring with it the long forgotten heady smell of Siuli flowers from another time and place - the white and the bright orange of it reminiscent of the red bordered white garod saris of durga puja celebrated at this time of the year. The azure blue skies and the huge flock of black birds specking it high above, beckon her to fly away with them and fill her lungs with a deep breath full of fresh air.