“Amma, amma, come, let’s light some ‘phooljhadi!’”
My childhood sings like a siren in my mind, with burning intensity
“Shush na, raaja, Amma is busy now.”
But her voice is sparkling bright and loud. A lot louder.
I see her squatting by the front door, eyes trained to her feet
Colour taints her sari. Red and yellow and pink and green.
She strings fairy lights like she does her rich beads
Invite light home she says, I invite her joy to my dreams
I see her bent over the lantern, her bentness the only thing I recall
Apart from the faint glow of orange that winds around her like a halo.
She lights the lamps, the oil mixing with her sweat after a day of toil
The glow hugs her, while I so badly wish to.
“Aiiyo Rama!” She curses at the mound of stubborn flour
The veins in her tired hands popping as she kneads it
She lights the stove, igniting her role as the nourisher
The flame licks at her, burning her snow crusted fingers, the pain somehow stings me
“Raaja, come na, let me comb your hair,” I go and sit.
She looks at me and burns the back of a spoon.
“To ward off the evil eye.”
I smile at her, the best beam I can afford
Her eyes light up to greet me, dulling sunlight and moonshine too.
“Amma is with you raaja, nothing is wrong. You’ll be fine. He’ll be fine”
The tears drown, the dripping kajal rivulets stain and bleed like tar
My glowing vitals on the gleaming monitor lock her until flickers relief
Her deep womanly laugh emits. It seeps into every corner of me.
In the night, I remember her perched by the sofa, almost clandestine
She waits for these moments that are hers, and hers alone
Her dusky beauty shines under the glare of the bedside lamp
She reads her silent novel, I read her silently.
The light of her soul warms me, its brilliance never fails to stun
Then fickle life ebbed and flickered, then the soul dimmed away
I greet her with the timber lit by the flame of grief
The fire engulfs her, her memory engulfs me.
Written by Rysha Sultania