Peals of hysterical laughter rang through the courtyard. Tear-glistened faces looked on, as the person whose laughter had evoked smiles all but today, sobbed uncontrollably.
What had changed?
It felt like yesterday when he had reached out for her arms, only to slide those fragile ornate adornments across her slender wrist. She couldn’t fathom what had sparkled more, the light reflecting off the glass pieces, a rainbow-esque pattern on her forearm, or his brown eyes waiting for her reaction.
And yet here she was slouched in a corner, staring at his gifts to her, the shades and tints on her hand. The wailing had stopped only to be replaced by a deathly silence, not because the grief had passed, but because the tears seemed to have found a will of their own and would not shed anymore. Out of the corner of her bloodshot eyes, she detected the old one taking slow hesitant steps. She knew.
When the old one reached for her arms, she let her be; when the weak scaly palms, in a few swift motions brought one of her wrists over the other, tinkling all the while, she let them be; when the colourful bits fell to the ground, along with the crimson drops, a resultant of the shards piercing the tender skin, she let it be.
Awestruck, her gaze transfixed at the floor. She could never comprehend that something that’s broken could look so beautiful. She again burst into cries – of anguish or amazement? All just the same.
What had changed?
A death had wiped away the colour palette of her life. All the memories, still fresh; a young bride sacrificing her past for a starkly indifferent future. Clueless, confused, crying. The conditions today were the same yet different. What was contrasting were the colours.
It was the day, the day they circled the brick-red fire seven times, he smearing the scarlet vermillion across her forehead, marking her married life, her sister-in-laws joking about their brother going gaga over the beauty in carmine lehnga, the maroon petals-decorated bed; and more. Everything so intense, each sentiment so raw, the colour heralding good times ahead.
All of it gone. The red of vermillion, the saris, the bangles would no longer deem her auspicious and welcome among the society. The only instance of her possessing the colour would be in her veins. Love and passion will cease to mean anything.
She shifted in her position, dizziness coaxing her sleep-deprived eyes for slumber and yet with open eyes she dreamt on.
It was her first Vasant Panchmi in the new household. The joyous spring. He had bought her a lemon sari for the Saraswati Puja. All the family dressed in shades of yellow, cheerfully going about their jobs. The amber sun shining ever so bright. The wind caressing the mellow mustard flowers while they danced about their stalks. It couldn’t have been more pleasant.
Her bland world would never again house the brightness of yellow. Her gold jewellery will be hoarded away by the family, lest her mind wanders away from her simplistic life in search of prosperity.
Her train of thought was broken again when the little one who had crept silently beside her, tugged at the edge of her coloured sari uttering,” Dadi has asked you to freshen up and wear this.” Handing the parcel wrapped in brown paper, the playful voice continued, “And why have you been crying? You told me good girls never cried!” Before the forlorn figure being questioned could conjure up an answer, the little one’s mother chided her to stop wasting time. The little one smiled and ran away.
She wasn’t amazed to find what the parcel held. It was inevitable. Last time she had worn something similar was on Holi. Ah Holi! Characterised by colours but what she appreciated more was the myriad of emotions, the freedom from despondence. So many shades for expressions. It was during the festival that she knew she was an important cog in the family machinery. They celebrated their hearts out with hues of pinks, greens, blues, oranges, and yellows. His touch still lingers in her mind, how both of them had gotten even closer that day.
Alas, there was that day when white strengthened their bond.
Now the white sari lies at her feet. She’s supposed to be pure now. The memories in colour, bygone. The women of the household accompany her for her cleansing.
There’s nothing left but ashes, blackened grey ashes of belongings that used to be hers, blackened grey ashes of his funeral pyre. The death of her significant other requires mourning, one for life clad in white. She accepts that maybe it was her bad luck that led to it. The ashram awaits her. Her new life awaits her. The merciful lord awaits her. She will pay the price, a penance sans colour, sans prestige, a life sans life.