Tuesday 10 August 2021

Sneha Gaud, ShortStory 2021 Longlist

Daughter of the Heart

A silver Timax watch is the only embellishment, decorating my faded but warm and sturdy wrist. But my heart is full, with the perfect adornment of gratitude, a woman must feel when she ties the knot – to be able to walk without falling short of faith in her partner of spirits.

The parcel ordered through Jaya’s phone App, arrives just in time and I change into a garb of a 21st century bride – prompt and firm in her decision, with an impeccable support system that she weaves through years of nurturing, flowing directly through her heart. The young bridesmaids tear the wrapper apart, giggling and circling it into a close entrapment, as if their excited hands cannot wait to unfold the joy in it. It opens into a beige silk kurta and golden pants that I change into, a few moments later, from my business suit. Jaya’s friends do my hair and touch my face with light shades of make-up.

“Aunty your skin glows so much, you don’t really need all this powdery stuff!” muses one of the bridesmaids as they gush and dote over me, like a bunch of innocent maidens arranging their play Doll’s marriage. It reminds me of the same bride who was me, all husk and rind, 30 years back; whose soul I discovered, a few years back through my daughter of heart. She feels not the marriage but rather an utter complacency with life that doesn’t really need any endorsement from the outer world. I know this bride pretty well now. She sits into the mirror and smiles back at me.


Jaya was a chance addition to the family. A chance that landed upon the earth of my world like the charming moon outside the window of my maiden home where I used to live with Shikha and Maa.

Shikha was my younger sister, 4 years apart. My father had died of Dengue at a young age. Impoverished conditions didn’t allow us to get the treatment on time. But Maa never ceased our education with saving whatever she could through her meagre salary.

We merited academics and held our degrees with pride. Our mother gushed over her two splendid daughters but also felt a little worried about Shikha as she wasn’t only intelligent but also a bonny lass. Many times her college projects would cause her to be with the boys and girls long hours after the class. Once a boy had come to drop her home on his bike, and Maa stayed worried since.

Once came an evening of ceaseless rains and the evening sky made the time appear drearier and slow. Maa grew apprehensive and after immense convincing slept on an empty stomach waiting for Shikha.

I remembered when Shikha finally got home late in the night, long after I have had my dinner. Her wet clothes sticking awkwardly to her body, an extra shade of brightness on her face and her mannerism extremely sheepish, she had crept straight into her room without meeting my eyes.


I had just put the receiver down and felt a chill run down my spine; an anguish never felt before, not even at the naivety of an age when I witnessed my Dad’s untimely demise. I had called to inform Maan’s mother about my sister’s pregnancy with him out of wedlock. I always thought Maan was a suave, sorted gentleman. Mom never approved of him, but I had wished he marry Shikha one day, looking at his fondness towards her. It was bewildering to know how a man of such swagger and standing could behold to the enslavement of a skewed ideology of considering a human with a womb to have remained more responsible in the heat of the moment, walking all over her, guilt-free!

The agony of Shika’s betrayed love, caused her to become one with God. She tried her best to smile through the blur of her tears in the hope of seeing the baby’s face, but her strength gave in during complexities of delivering the child and her sorrows were put to an end forever.

The baby was born and just as she was beginning to be fond of her grandmother’s love, (Maa had this magical quality of accepting any curveball life threw at her with a savage determination.), another tragedy avalanched. Maa suffered a stroke and it took her away from us at once.

Maan’s mother came once to see the child, but knowing it’s a girl, she and her son, never turned up our street again.

Maa had named her Jaya, after Goddess Sita, she idealized. She proffered teachings of Sita’s life to us and cried at the passages of literature where she confronted the Goddesses’ miseries in the confinement of Ravana.

I understood, she strived to replace her agony of impoverished atrocities with her intense passion to see her two daughters who were without a dad, independent.

I was resolute in giving wind to the dreams which had fallen unconscious in the middle of the night. I saw Shikha in Jaya and vowed for not letting my mother’s sacrifices break into shards.

I only feared catching a glimpse of Maan in every guy I met eyes with and saw my Jaya howling in pain at seeing me disappear at the corner of a street with another man. And I vowed never to marry.

I remember Jaya, standing up to the stool to peck my cheeks and wipe my tears when I returned from the court signing the last documents of her adoption. Her little heart couldn’t fathom the meaning of those happy tears. It was a big fight to get an official seal for becoming a single mother.


A beautiful young woman in her early twenties, dressed in a golden bordered Orchid Pink Saree, walks into the hall of our home where other young maidens - the pearl petals of Mogra drizzling from their ‘Gajaras’ as they shake in their silky mane – are whizzing past me like small flashes of lightening pulsating across the floor.

I see my loving sister, Shikha saunter towards me. Her thin lips curving into a smile, eye-lids darting towards the walls and to the girls, one by one and then her gaze, of a sudden falling at me. My heart pounds.

“Maa!” she calls.

“It’s time!”

I sit enchanted, amid the air charged with these fragrant sprays of Mogra and Roses decorating the nooks and corners of our cherished house. Yes, I say ‘our’. It’s the only other of this ‘our’ who has walked into the hall in the guise of a charming young lady, the daughter born out of heart, my Jaya! Her striking resemblance to Shikha, inside out cannot be ignored – a suave, strong woman, features carved like a goddess, charged by an independent mind - only, much more devoted than the latter in cherishing her life, come what may!

I look into the mirror. Strangely with all the light freckles accumulated on my skin, the crow’s feet plainly visible as I smile at my reflection, I remind myself of the promise I made as a young woman, as a younger Brinda, in spite of being sucked into the vortex of a gathering storm, devoid of any wonder, I once lived in - “But maybe as I get older, I begin to see beauty where I least expected it before.”

And as the beauty of this past hope unfolds in my fingers and they entangle with my daughter’s, I fall truly in love, with the bride I see in this great reflection of mine, oozing in self-esteem, crimsoning in the tumult of a wild delight that she would live with, now and ever after.

“No more sacrifices, Ms. Brinda. C’mmon, your groom can’t handle all this waiting anymore!” Jaya whispers from behind to break my musing to the mirror. We laugh a laugh, as unadulterated as our conscience!


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