7 April 2013

A Journey of Discovery II

I am exploring writing lengthier pieces. This is a continuation of the "A Journey of Discovery" I wrote before. You may enjoy the characters more if you read the first piece and are familiar with Rukmini from A bar called Shantam Pappum and Thanks Ma.

It was an overcast morning; shafts of light punched their way through small gaps between the clouds, their soft light bathing the city. Despite the chaos of traffic, animals, garbage and pan stains, Varanasi, also known as Benaras, featured high on the list on any pious Hindu, for a pilgrimage to this city is considered mandatory for entry to heaven. To bathe in the ganges was to be purified. Never mind that to bathe today meant a dip into unholy sewage and willing exposure to industrial effluents, rued Rukmini.

After a noisy breakfast, all the women had gathered in the hotel foyer, making conversation with their tongues and passing judgement with their eyes. Everyone noticed Loopey's arrival, for with a pretty green salwar suit she had matched pink slippers with a furry bunny on the top. Her slippers clapped against her heels as she walked across the foyer towards Rukmini.  In unison, everyone's sight followed her trajectory. "Did you intend to step out in pink slippers?" she asked Loopey. It was then that Loopey realized her mistake: she had descended in her house slippers. "A gift from my granddaughter." replied Loopey, trying to blink away her embarrassment. "Hold the bus for me…" and she rushed out with the echo of her slippers following her. Huffy, who stood nearby remarked indignantly to no one in particular, "What is the guarantee that she will come down with the right footwear?"

Luckily Rukmini did not have to face the wrath of menopausal women, held up in a cramped bus. Loopey returned on time, with the right footwear. Their first stop was the Kashi Vishvanath temple. The bus could only take them up to a point, after which they would have to navigate bye-lanes by foot. The clouds has dispelled by the time they started their walk. A radiant sun shone down on the cobbled path. The more beauty conscious women took out umbrellas from their hand bag. It always surprised Rukmini: the vast treasure trove of items that women carried in their handbag. A remedy for every situation was contained in it. They were walking on a narrow lane, constricted on each side by two story buildings, with wooden double doors that either led into a home or a school for vedic sanskrit chanting, interspersed with small shops. People moved about in file, adjusting occasionally to accommodate cow dung or a cow. Rukimini tried to keep track of the direction they were headed in, but soon had to declare being lost in the labyrinth, realizing that without a guide she would not be able to find her way out. She had also taken it upon herself to become Loopey's keeper.

By the time they arrived at the temple, the number of people had increased such that single line strands of people traffic had formed - each strand going towards a different direction. Sometimes, Rukmini felt someone bump into shoulder or step on her foot, but she never knew who it was for to pause in the traffic was impossible. The umbrellas had to be put away now, and handbags were tightly zippered up and clutched tightly to the breast. Slippers had to be left a few meters away from the temple entrance, by placing them in a bag and receiving a token number in exchange. Rukmini quietly put Loopey's footwear with her own, in anticipation of a token loss if Loopey were to be left responsible for this transaction.

They were hustled through a narrow entrance to the temple. Their guide counting them as they went past him in single file. People were present all around; a nightmare for a claustrophobic. At moments Rukmini felt small hands grasp her pinkie; a child lost in the melange of tall people, only to lose it and see a pink frock trail away. The sheer volume of people pushed the crowd along a proscribed path. Many of the ladies broke out into chants, some in a whisper with only moving lips as evidence and some loudly, trying to convince the resident idol that they had come, and were offering prayers as required.

In seconds, darshan was over. The line moved along the hundi where devotees were pouring out their pockets; hoping that their donation would nullify all their accumulated sins. Of course, no one considered pushing and shoving fellow devotees or stamping on their toes a sin. These rupees were for bigger crimes, which they would have committed without their knowledge, for to admit to a crime, would make you a criminal while to beg for forgiveness for acts done unknown was modesty. Amid the out pouring Rukmini was surprised to see what Lily did: she took off her mangalsutra, her finger rings, toe rings and earrings, and put them all in. Believing that Lily may have not realized what she was doing, Rukmini stuck out her hand to stall her, but Lily looked at Rukmini defiantly, with a determined conviction radiating from her eyes. Shocked, Rukmini withdrew her hand. Why would a woman, to whom family meant everything, drop off all symbols of her marriage, into a bottomless pit?

2 comments:

  1. Interesting.... Can we make up the end if the story? That's the beauty of a short story, isn't it?
    Love, Shoots

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  2. Absolutely! I don't have an ending anyway and have been struggling with good ideas for this. the series business is harder if done piecemeal.

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