Saturday, 29 May 2021

Jignasa Parikh, Prose 500 2021 Longlist

Aamras

It was 2.30 AM and he awoke from a deep sleep by a smell. A smell so strong to wake him up and inspect. With half sleepy eyes, he puts on his slippers and opens the door of the bedroom gently so as not to disturb his wife. He walks into the living room and takes the smell in with a deep breath in the dark.
He is 12 years old. He lies on a hammock made of an old sari tied to the two pillars under an arch. On his right is a verandah with black and white flooring placed diagonally and the pistachio green walls adorned by old Tanjore paintings and brown windows. On his left is a courtyard bordered with trees of all kinds. He is wearing little brown shorts with tiny sailboats on it and his t-shirt is tied around his head. The afternoon is passing by gently as he lies on his hammock. He makes binoculars of his little hands and follows a brown lizard on the wall across. He turns on the hammock making it swing gently to him. And the afternoon just passes by. 

Just then an old lady comes and stands towering over his hammock. She is wearing an aubergine purple sari with tiny yellow circles on it and a border along with a green blouse that merges with the walls behind. Very unlike his own mother, who always wore matching blouses with her saris. She has kohl around her eyes, probably the same one that she made that morning while lighting the lamp. Although towering him physically, her eyes are soft and her smile full of glee. 
He sits up on his hammock at once and asks her, “Is it time, Grandma?” Holding the same glee in her smile she nods in a yes. He gets off his hammock and she wraps her arm around his shoulder and they walk towards the room at the end of the verandah. She takes out the keys tied at the end of her pallu and unlocks the door. The warm sunlight enters the room before them. He steps into the room and looks around. He is in a castle of mangoes. He walks around the room, gently touching each mango like a treasure. She stands at the door watching his delight that elates her immensely. She finally walks in the room and after careful observation chooses a mango. She gently presses it between her fingers and softens it and hands it to him. He bites the stub off and sucks on the delicious juices of his first mango of the season. Although his eyes are shut to capture the taste of the mango, he knows that he is being watched with love by the woman in front of him.

He opens his eyes in his living room. His house, on that moon less night, smelled of that afternoon, of his grandmother, of mangoes.

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