(Minakshi’s memories are brought to us…I wonder if this should’ve been….shorter….?)
“My darling Sivapalan, aren’t you supposed to”-she lifted the giggling child and let him nestle up against her chest-“be in bed? Come on now, do you want to sleep in my room?”
He laughed again as she rocked him gently in her embrace, then planted a gentle kiss on his head, ruffling up his little cowlick as she did.
“Mother! Mother, I wanted to play!” he squealed, squirming in her arms. Minakshi just held him up and looked at him again. Sivapalan was so small, she thought. Tiny, light enough to get blown away, it looked.
“To play? No, the nighttime is when little boys should be asleep, tucked away, not playing with, well, the instruments.”
He looked a bit sulky. “But you sound so lovely when you play, and so pretty in your blue sari. Could you wear the blue sari and play for me if I can’t play if you told me I can’t play?”
“It’s not…that simple, my baby. But tell me, you father, is he anywhere around? I haven’t seen him here for a long time now. I’m a little, well, worried,” she explained as they went back to her bedroom, “and Sivapalan, you really need your sleep!”
But the more she let herself think about it, the more it nagged and ate at her.
Once more the world blurred out…
Minakshi thought the entire room was spinning out of focus, and suddenly she saw herself looking slimmer, during the happy days after Sivapalan’s birth, but still close to what she was now. Then she went further back, as the Brihadisvarar Temple seemed to consume the whole house, and reveal the rooms the dancers used to retire in.
Desirable, teenaged, innocent, adventurous. In short, herself during the good old days. Not that she had changed so much.
All around her, she saw captivating young ladies who laughed and talked, getting up in sari and moving away from their rooms. The day’s special ceremonies and dance lessons at their master’s house were over.
Only Minakshi saw herself changing, breathing heavily again as she took off the complicated white and blue dance costume off. She stood by the water trough, dashing water on her body and rubbing herself liberally after a while. The only other person was her friend, her only good friend, it seemed.
“Ishwari, tell me,” she began, “do you like living with secrets? Because sometimes I feel like throwing up, you know? Late at night I get up suddenly, then I want to know what my husband has been doing, and lately I’ve been sensing all these….things. Heavy weights on my chest, Ishwari…it’s not pleasant.” Ishwari stood at the end of the small room, a room with broken bronze oil lamps and old, random trays on which pujas to the gods were offered during ceremonies.